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- Putting the university to the test
The Rock and Roll Melting Pot
As U.S. policy makers and cable network talking heads debate over the age old problem of immigration, Monte Negro may very well be the musical zeitgeist of such a conflict.
Lead singer Kinski, who culled his moniker after German actor Klaus Kinski, grew up in Venice, Calif. while his older brother Rodax spent his youth in Mexico. Soon they found their niche in the multicultural communities of Los Angeles, and also found music,
“[Los Angeles] has a beach culture. You know? Reggae, ska, punk.The city gave us a different take to how we assimilate with each other as musicians,” Kinski said.
It wasn’t soon after that Kinski discovered different music along with the variety of new cultures. “I was growing up on Pink Floyd and The Cure and didn’t understand it, but the music itself was magical, like a different language. Music, like learning language is something you feel more than you understand,” he said.
The local Los Angeles music scene throughout American pop culture history has always been a hotbed for cultural change-from the Doors to X to Steely Dan. Yet Monte Negro seems to share a common passion for eclecticism unheard since one of Los Angeles’s most beloved and radical rock bands, Jane’s Addiction.
The band formed out of the remnants of the brothers’ first group, Anima, a falling out that was difficult on the brother.
“I wasn’t happy we were falling apart. I was trying out for a small band at the time Hybrid-Theory [now Linkin Park], and I happened to go to this high school talent show in LA,” he said.
In a sort of collision of fate, Kinski would discover future guitarist Jason Li Shing at the competition.
“We wrote a song in five minutes, I swear it was instant chemistry, we had an immediately good vibe like when you meet someone you love for the first time: it’s never forced it just happens,” Kinski said.
Those initial rehearsals gave birth to much of the material for the band’s debut album Cicatrix. Its title, a Spanish medical term for “scars,” is another linguistic play on the multicultural motif that separates Monte Negro from your garden variety American rock band. “I love to play with language and the ambiguity it creates,” the UCLA graduate with a masters in language said.
“Some scars show, some scars don’t. They’re your experiences. We’ve gained people, lost people. At the end of the day, you thank them for making you who you are, for your scars,” Kinski said passionately.
If Monte Negro does bare any scars they don’t blemish the band’s dance-club grace or anthematic grandeur. Perhaps more accurately, Monte Negro is a melting pot of experience and that unimpeachable cool that is the right of passage of a rock band. Not unlike a reflection of America, they are a recipe of those pioneering characteristics championed by four characters from very diverse backgrounds.