Hypoxia – Roaring With Defiance

Thursday, 21st March 2024

While the death metal genre has been evolving into multiple sub-categories, there’s nothing like a strong old school sounding act like Hypoxia that remembers to write solid songs beyond the impressive musicianship or technicality that can be displayed by many others. Defiance is the group’s third full-length – ideal for those who love bands like Sinister, Monstrosity, early Death, Vader, and Suffocation where the brutality meets the heaviness in catchy ways. We reached out to drummer Carolina Perez who brought us up to speed on her journey from Columbia to the USA, the lineup changes within Hypoxia and differences recording this record versus the previous two, thoughts on the heavy metal movement, her work as an extreme metal drummer, important albums in her life, as well as future plans.

Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us about some of your earliest memories surrounding music growing up in childhood? At what point did you start gravitating towards heavier forms of music – and eventually want to pick up an instrument to perform yourself in bands?

Carolina Perez: For me, it was different from what everyone else experiences here in the states because I grew up in Columbia. I was raised with Latin music, salsa, boleros, different kinds of music, a lot of romantic stuff. Spanish, different beats, a lot of dancing, I was raised in a dance household. I always loved music and I was surrounded by it. Then I became a teenager, the rebel spirit, and I lived in a tumultuous household, so I gravitated towards being rebellious, and with that came listening to punk. Wanting to go to shows, hanging out with the cool kids.

When I was 14 my family decided to move to the United States, I had just asked my mom to buy me a drum kit because I wanted to be a drummer. My brother was playing guitar at the time, we had just started jamming. But my brother was a year older than me, so he came to the states first. We migrated and started a band together, we were actually able to buy a drum kit, and it became our obsession. We formed a band in high school, it was metal and pretty cool. We did a couple of shows, and from there we played more and more, we wanted to play heavier. I definitely like extreme metal, I wanted to play as fast as I could and show that I was as capable, it became a challenge to be as a bad ass as any man could be.

Dead Rhetoric: Did you end up taking any formal lessons at the drums when you got to the states, or did you just pick up stuff by ear and learn through self-taught methods?

Perez: I took a couple of lessons in Columbia when I first started. I didn’t really take lessons from anyone after that, I’m a very curious person. If I see someone doing something cool, I’m going to ask them about it. I’m very good at reaching out to people and asking them, can you teach me? There weren’t formal lessons, but a lot of advice from other drummers and friends.

Dead Rhetoric: Hypoxia started in 2008 – what do you remember about those early days, and did you know what sort of elements right away you wanted to establish style-wise or did it take some time to jam, rehearse, and get to know each other as members to discover where you wanted to go?

Perez: We definitely wanted to sound like old school death metal. Carlos (Acboleda) the guitar player, he has a very unique style of riffing. His playing is unique, and he used to play in another band called Secrecy, and that’s how we met. They were way more superior than we were, because they were older and way more seasoned than us, because we were just teenagers, trying to learn. Secrecy broke up because the band members moved away, he wanted to play something similar to what Secrecy was. I decided to try, and it became it’s own thing. It evolved to be it’s own thing.

Dead Rhetoric: Defiance is the third full-length for the group. How did the songwriting and recording sessions go for this set of material – and where do you see the biggest differences in this album compared to Despondent Death from 2015 and the follow-up Abhorrent Disease released in 2019?

Perez: Defiance was written in a very different way. First of all, the pandemic happened, so everyone had the time to work on music. Especially during 2020, we had a lot of time to do what we love, we got to develop everything way more, these riffs and songs into advanced music. We have been playing together for a while, so we have a style and know what we want to sound like.

The recording process was interesting because we were all living in different cities. For Hypoxia, that’s another thing that changed. Carlos and I always got together and jammed; we had the rehearsal room. And then I moved to Ohio, and everything became long-distance. He would send me songs and riffs, and we would email back and forth. Work on an idea until it was fully developed. He did go out to Ohio with me one weekend where we did a lot of ideas, took videos and stuff like that.

I’m super proud of this release. The production is awesome too. The production is very organic, and we decided to go with a different person, because Despondent Death and Abhorrent Disease were both done in Full Force Studio, which we liked, but we wanted to try something different. It’s definitely our best album yet.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you think the additions of guitarist Ryan Moll and bassist Michael Poggione have changed or improved upon the sound and outlook for Hypoxia?

Perez: Ryan and Mike are both seasoned musicians. Ryan plays in a lot of bands, and he has his own style of soloing. It’s huge to have someone that has a defined sound and add that to your own recipe. It’s crazy, his solos are total chaos. Mike is an insane bass player, we really loved how he recorded his parts. For us, the bass is like the last element added to the songs. He does more through with the riffs and really makes them his own, which is really hard to do.

Dead Rhetoric: You worked once again with Ukraine cover artist Daemorph for this third consecutive album. What do you enjoy most about his work, and how did the idea develop this time around?

Perez: He is great. He has his own style, and he’s a metalhead, that’s very important to us. We want to work with someone that actually knows the music and gets it. It’s hard to express an idea like that and make it into a drawing or a painting. Our singer Mike is also an artist, so he’s good at explaining and getting ideas through as well. The two things together, that’s why the album artwork is great. We didn’t really have to go back and forth about it, we saw this and thought it was amazing.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Hypoxia when it comes to your live performances? What do you hope the audiences are able to get through your work – and what have been some of the more memorable or standout performances to date?

Perez: Definitely playing Rock Al Parque a huge festival in Columbia – we were invited there, and it was an amazing experience. Fans in South America, Latin America, they go crazy there. They have the old school mentality, which is great – we are still old school death metal, we are not techy. For us the main part is for people to like the (live show) and enjoy it.

Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the state of the heavy metal movement globally – what do you enjoy most about the scene these days, and what changes (if any) would you like to see made for the greater good of all parties involved?

Perez: The music industry is very different now, and that’s all because of social media. It’s hard to go to a show now, everyone has their phone out and up, nobody’s really enjoying the show, it’s a bummer. There are good things and bad things, unfortunately. I would like to see people be more present, don’t worry so much about recording things and just live in the moment. Giving 100% on stage, and when you are entertained by your phone you are not going to enjoy things as much.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you think metal as a movement may be taken for granted in the United States compared to other parts of world, because there are so many avenues of entertainment available to consumers compared to what you grew up in during your time in Columbia?

Perez: Definitely, it’s weird. It’s very saturated here. There are so many bands, and there are shows all the time. No matter what city you are in, it’s always saturated. People don’t go to as many shows as they used, it’s definitely changing. In South America, everything has it’s good and bad. There are bands that are the exception, but the genre is culty in a way. The community aspect of it, it’s dying. It used to be a metal community, but it’s not like that anymore.

Dead Rhetoric: From what I understand, you are also a part of the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise crew. What have you enjoyed about this festival?

Perez: That’s the one good thing about 70K, it brings the metal community together, no matter what bands are playing. You can enjoy each other’s company and just bond in metal, which is a great thing. I do love it, for me it’s always work as I barely get to enjoy it doing the merch. It is a good thing, especially now that it’s been happening for over eleven years. It’s a great community now.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you assess your development as an extreme metal drummer? What are some things you try to incorporate to keep your chops up or expand upon your technique?

Perez: Always practice. You have to get out of your bubble. Not just play metal or blast beats all the time. You have to explore other styles of music and drumming, dynamics. I am known as a death metal drummer, but I try to play everything, because that is what makes you better. When you stay in your little bubble, you are not going to grow.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you also feel that you are learning a lot because you have another death metal drummer in your boyfriend, who plays with Immolation?

Perez: Absolutely. Steve is super imperative in how much I’ve grown as a musician and a person. He is a great partner, always supporting me, and likewise. He inspires me every day, he’s super badass. He practices every day, he is super hard on himself, so I have no excuse. I have to keep up with him.

Dead Rhetoric: You have your own project with him as well.

Perez: Yes, we started it during the pandemic. I started playing a lot of guitar. I lost my job, and we were in a long-distance relationship together for three years. He said come to Ohio, so I thought it wasn’t so bad. And I’m still here. Since we are both drummers, we were lacking the melody part of music. I decided to play guitar, I learned Sepultura covers and then we found our own sound, which I am still learning and discovering. The singing just came naturally, we really enjoy working on this. It’s written from a drummer’s perspective; we try to come up with weird time signatures. The main focus of the band is the drums.

Dead Rhetoric: What are the biggest concerns you have about the world that we are living in currently?

Perez: Everything is terrible. My biggest concern is how much xenophobia is happening. People are okay with xenophobia, and to me that’s insane and unacceptable.

Dead Rhetoric: Are there times that other people seek out advice either on a musical or business side from you – and if so, what words of wisdom or ideas do you try to impart upon them?

Perez: Oh yeah, it happens here and there and I’m always happy to help when I can. I’m always going to speak the truth. If somebody asks me for my opinion, I’m always going to be honest about it, that’s important and a lost art. People can be fake. If I asked somebody for advice, I want honesty, so that’s what I will give. Stay true to yourself. If you want something, you have to go and get it because nobody is going to give it to you. You have to work hard towards what you want – don’t be lazy.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider three of the most important metal albums that helped shape your outlook on the genre – and what’s your favorite concert memory, attending a show – and what made that so special to you?

Perez: There are so many. Three main albums for me. Let’s see – Death – Spiritual Healing. I don’t know why; I know it’s not everybody’s favorite album from them. Not even for the drumming, but for the whole concept of it, that album is great. Beneath the Remains – Sepultura. Huge for me. And then – Deicide – self-titled, Steve Asheim is a huge influence for me. And then about concerts… um, I don’t know. There are so many shows that I’ve played, one time we played with Obituary here in New York City, I’m here now visiting my mom. I can’t believe we were playing with them – we played, put everything away, and then I got into the pit and stagedived. That was a crazy show, I had so much fun. I had never stagedived, that night I did.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel like you have the support of your family when it comes to your music career?

Perez: Not really. I’m Columbian, my family will never understand, but they understand that I am an artist and I need to do this. They wish it wasn’t death metal, because they know I’m always going to be broke. Death metal, you aren’t going to be rich playing this style, but it’s not what your family wants – they want you to be stable financially.

Dead Rhetoric: What is on the agenda for anything related to Hypoxia or your other band Castrator over the next twelve months or so?

Perez: Castrator, we are working on closing a deal with a show in the middle of May in the Midwest. We are working on a new album, that’s our main focus. With Hypoxia, we are going to promote this album as much as we can, see if we can get any good offers for shows. We want to play shows, but we want them to be worth it. I know that sounds weird, because the scene has changed so much, you have to be a little picky about what shows you play. We don’t live in the same city anymore. We have to travel, hopefully we’ll get to play some shows. We will see how well we do with this album.

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