By the year 1978, with José Linfa [my brother] and Luis Spósito, we had the dream of being a rock band, where we could express our feelings and our rebellion, by that time Uruguay lived the darkest pages of its history, the military dictatorship, from 1973.
I always thought that GRAF SPEE was a great choice as a band name, why did you choose it?
Fate decreed that the band's name was chosen by me. At that time I worked in a button factory, the owner, a very cool Italian [Dario Zanolli] was a toolmaker. One day he came to work with a lot of irons, to make their matrices, and said "Luchito”, come to see this, it is steel from the GRAF SPEE, you never meet a harder metal than this." Time passed, we bought the instruments, we started rehearsals and the name was already defined before birth.
Which bands and musicians you would name as your musical influences and were important to your musical development? Personally, which bands got you into Metal as a youth?
In the beginning we listened to Led Zepellin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath.
What are your memories of the first rehearsals? Did you play cover songs?
Many cover songs, of the bands that you mentioned as influences. Later with the arrival of Victor Rueda [vocals] to the band we changed all the influences, he made us listen to Metallica and Megadeth.
Not really, they had the idea of making a metal album, we had a demo on the street, and people spoke well of that. ["Autodestrucción" y "El Lugar de los Asuras"]
Later that year, in 1989 your debut full-length "Reincarnation" was released. Orfeo already had released a 7” EP of the band Ácido and two LPs of Alvacast, both heavy metal bands. Did you feel proud to have been chosen by Orfeo to be the first extreme metal band in the Uruguayan scene to record an LP?
With Äcido we never had any treatment, and Alvacast had already played several times with us, maybe they did not like too much the idea to share a little of market with Graf Spee.
Before the recording of the album, you used to sing in Spanish, there were not many bands singing in English, was a natural change, an easy decision for you?
It was very hard, there were many followers who sang the songs at our gigs, and when we started to sing in English we saw some faces of frustration among the audience.
Why the [cult!] song "El Lugar de los Asuras" wasn't re-recorded and included on the LP?
I do not even know, it was a song that opened many doors. I think we didn't arrive on time with the translation.
Song titles like "Kali-Yuga" or "Of the three Gunas Tamas" were quite unusual for a death metal band at the time, If I´m not wrong, Victor wrote all the lyrics, which was his source of inspiration?
Victor wrote all the lyrics, the theme of the songs was an opponent cry to the system.
The sound on the album suffered a poor production; do you think that the lack of specialized producers or engineers was the cause that the band couldn't achieve the right sound that the songs deserved?
Yes sure, the sound is pretty weak. In Uruguay we only knew about Marshall equipment by photos, and there were no producers or sound engineers suitable for this style.
Despite the bad sound, the music on the album is powerful and original, many distinctive melodies such as in "Perfidy", and even non-metal influences like the intro of "Self-Destruction", featuring an extract of Isaac Albeniz "Asturias". Were those influences exclusively incorporated by you or other band members were open to different influences outside metal styles?
Generally, I composed the music, and often the cold and intellectual mind of the band. Diego Garcia [drums] provided very good ideas, or some arrangement.
Graf Spee had many followers, and also a few people who were against the band, and when I say "against" I mean that they not only criticized the band, they even despised the band in concerts and tried to sabotage some of your shows? What's your view on that and what did you think back then?
Look, I can´t say that, maybe it happened to other bands at the time, but neve to us. The crowd never threw us anything while we were on stage, our audience was always respectful with us. There has never been an incident with the crowd and us. Perhaps we had a bit of hostility with some band, but never with the audience. [I do remember one disrespectful incident with a t-shirt, but yeah they were three or four blockheads and there´s no point to talk about the incident - Chris]. Regarding the bands, some were responsible for the posters of some concert, and ooh surprise…the logo of their band was bigger! Or sometimes they talked shit about us in interviews, but little more than that.
I always felt the Uruguayan metal scene has been very poor in all this, much lung, guts, courage, but poor. I always had the image that it could have done more, but money was needed, and then we leave it that way.
What were the activities of the band after releasing “Reincarnation”? What kind of reactions did you received from abroad?
Very positive, without doubt the LP put us in other status. We played abroad to present the album. For instance, in Argentina there wasn´t an extreme band with an album released.
Your drummer Diego Garcia had his brother Alvaro playing drums in ANGKOR VAT, along with Graf Spee was considered by many as the leading bands, or the bands that were a reference to the scene at the time. How was the relationship between both bands? Was there brotherhood and "healthy competition" or rivalry between both bands?
Brotherhood and competition always. A friend band, always ready to give us a hand and vice versa. Any good idea was well accepted by the other band. There was never rivalry but always good competition. Besides, thanks to the friends from ANGKOR, we are talking about the reissue of our material. They were the ones, along Federico de PHERETRUM, who get in touch with Ader from Dies Irae Records.
Did you listen to other bands of the scene back then? Were there good vibes with other bands?
With the guys from INNER SANCTUM, we were good Friends.
Yeah sure, dedicated to the mediocrity of the environment, the cover defines much the concept of the work, the hand coming out of the grave, tangled in the weeds, that does not allow it to emerge. Nothing was random, we wanted to go out, to emerge but there were obstacles all the time.
How would you describe the sound, music and lyrics on “Mother Fucker” compared to “Reincarnation”? Would you say that musically it was a step ahead, a natural evolution? In fact, it sounds far better than the album…
The sound was very good, we give thanks for that to the sound engineer, Daniel Blanco, a true master. “El lugar de los Asuras” was also recorded with him. The differences with the other works are evident. In addition, we made a concept recording with very long songs in the genre.
Guitarist Pablo Minoli joined the band before the recording, why did you decide to add another guitar?
We needed another guitar for a more “tight” sound onstage. Pablo popped up, a “tremendous” guitarist and a great guy, and good vibes appeared instantly.
When and why the decision to split the band was took?
We never took that decision. Victor and Diego had the idea to move the band to Spain, where we thought that could be a strong and interesting place for the band. Bur due to different circumstances, Luis "El Barbas" [bass] and I couldn´t emigrate.
Yes, a few years ago an Uruguayan zine called "El Lado Oscuro” [The Dark Side] told me about the proposal for the event they do every year, but if we are not four, we are not GRAF SPEE, so we decided not to be there. Currently our material has been completely re-released, and there are some plans that we are evaluating, perhaps the possibility of a third album, or a tour. Some of it is still on hold.
Are you aware that over time “Reincarnation” is considered a cult album with a great value for the South American metal scene, even a collector's piece highly demanded by collectors all over the world, and that the vinyl reaches really high prices on eBay?
That makes me feel very proud, to think about that work we did with friends, from the heart, lungs and sacrifice, nowadays is highly appreciated, and it makes me very happy.
Some time ago there was a vinyl reissue of “Reincarnation” [limited to 200 copies] through the label Chalice of Blood Angel in cooperation with Baphometal Records, were you involved in that reissue? Are you satisfied with the result?
No I wasn´t involved, neither I knew about it. I didn´t listen to it so I can´t give my opinion. I would have liked by them, they considered asking our consent for that, and I'm not talking about money, just our permission, or a simple “what do you think”…
Yes I am involved in this project. I gave my consent, and I also provided photos, demos, interviews, etc. The result is a gem for collectors and fans, all our material in two deluxe releases. The sound has been remastered, and both releases include complete info, pictures from our gigs, flyers… I´m definitely satisfied with the label and their proposal.
A Swedish band called TERRORAMA did a cover version of “Of the Three Gunas Tamas”, [my favorite GRAF SPEE track by the way] did you have the chance to listen to it?
I got to know the song and listen to it thanks to you. I love it, they did not lose our spirit, the song fits them perfectly. I listen to more stuff from the band and I can tell you that I like them.
What are your favorite GRAF SPEE tracks?
The Songs are like our sons, It´s difficult for me to choose one rather than other. No doubt the one that had a big impact among the audience was Kali-Yuga.
What are your best and worst memories with GRAF SPEE?
The best moment was the release of "Reincarnation", a showcase of our main avenue was decorated with photos of the battleship, military stuff and our LP, awesome.
The worst one, the unscrupulous pass of time. 25 years without wield the guitar onstage with my soul friends.
If I could go back in time, I would try to record the songs in Spanish, I do not think we made clear our message. My life without Graf Spee would be meaningless [cliché but I feel that way]
Do you follow the current Uruguayan scene? What´s your view about it?
Yes, I follow the scene, last year I was jury of one of the most important event in the Uruguayan metal, which rewards you with a gig in Germany. I was pleasantly surprised, many bands with good sound, good image; I saw great bands with a promising future.
Three questions in one: What bands are you listening to nowadays? Do you attend to gigs often? Which is the best band you ever seen on stage?
Next April 17th Baron Rojo will play in Uruguay, a great legend that undoubtedly I won´t miss. The best concert I saw was long time ago, IAN GUILLAN BAND, awesome. There was not a great light show, the sound wasn´t perfect, but his image and his voice was something memorable.
What´s the strangest place and the most shocking place you have been?
With “El Barbas” and some Argentinian fans at the edge of a dock in Mar del Plata [Argentina] totally drunk, five minutes before one of our big gig. We narrowly arrived, almost "by chance", and totally drunk haha.
For this reissue of our stuff, we had the invaluable unselfish collaboration of Federico from PHERETRUM, without him I do not think we could make it possible. I really enjoyed your interview. Thanks very much.
Thanks to you Luis! My huge thanks also to Fede from Pheretrum and Extreme-Resurrection-zine for all his help and support, Death Metal To The Grave Brother! Big thanks to Ader From Dies Irae too.