INTERVIEW WITH MARCOS LEAL AND SEBASTIAN ELIZONDO BY JEREMY SAFFER
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEREMY SAFFER
Shattered Sun has been through a lot in the past year, with the departure of two longtime members, separating from Victory Records, and narrowly missing out on opening for Metallica. As with all things, the pendulum swings back, and it swings back just as hard as the band’s new music. Now stronger than ever with Sebastian Elizondo (Darkness Divided) and Juan “PB” Hinojosa (Shaping the Legacy, ex-Upon a Burning Body) joining the fold, a refreshed sound, and a new outlook on all things, Shattered Sun is back and ready to take on the world with an album waiting in the wings to be unleashed. Like a Phoenix, Shattered Sun has re-emerged from the ashes, reignited and ready to set the world ablaze. Vocalist Marcos Leal and guitarist Sebastian Elizondo take us through the new and improved Shattered Sun and the band’s brand new song, “Shades of Melodie”
WATCH THE EXCLUSIVE “SHADES OF MELODIE” MUSIC VIDEO PREMIERE BELOW.
Robert Garza (drums) just announced his departure from Shattered Sun. How has that affected the band?
Marcos: We’re all still growing accustomed to the changes and getting used to it, but we started reassessing the band and making these changes all the way back when we first added Sebastian. As soon as Bas came into the band, I knew things were going to be on a different level. So, we had to make some changes internally to get there, and though some of the decisions were pretty tough to make, in the end we are a better band because of it.
How did the addition of Bas last year help the band move forward?
Marcos: Bas is fucking amazing. He’s a great guitar player and vocalist. I’ve been following him and crushing over him since the Darkness Divide days, and to finally work with him, it felt like everything lined up in the right direction. I’m very happy to have him on board. As soon as we got into the writing process, I knew immediately that this was going to be a different outfit, a different band, a different everything, and he’s brought a lot of hope and energy to the group.
Bas: Most of the guys were together for so many years, working with the same people. The band already had a sound of its own, and to have a guy coming in from a different angle and not having the history with the band, I just had a vision for the way Marcos sings and I wanted to write songs for his voice. I think that helped change things, and it gave a new perspective to the band.
Marcos: Previously, we were known as new age thrash, integrating radio-ish vibes into thrash, and to have Bas come in and wipe the board clean was very refreshing. It felt like we could start from the ground up without any history or anything from the past holding us back or weighing us down. That was really refreshing for everybody.
What about PB, who has replaced Robert on drums?
Marcos: He goes by PB, but his name is Juan Hinojosa. He’s currently in a band called Shaping the Legacy. He was a founding member of Upon a Burning Body, and he’s somebody Bas has worked with in the past. When things started coming up with Rob and the band going in a different direction, he came in and was an absolute pro. He understood where we were at and his position. Obviously, things were still a little shaky, as we were going through a member change, and not only that, the member change was someone who had been with the band for 13 years. I really thank PB for coming in and not making that a tough situation for us. He is an absolute pro, and his drumming style has really woken up the band, woken up the fire that was there previously, and it dumped a whole gallon of gasoline on it and turned it into something new. We are really excited to have him as a part of the group.
“EVERYTHING THAT WE ARE DOING FROM THE LIVE SHOW TO THE SOUND, TO THE BAND MEMBERS, TO EVERYTHING IS ALL CULMINATING TO A NEW ERA OF SHATTERED SUN.”
It seems like it’s all reinventing the band into a new era and stepping things up.
Marcos: Most definitely.
Bas: The live shows are going to be more impactful. Not just because of the drums, but we’ve started integrating things that I was familiar with in my old bands, like using a click track to be consistent and adding backtracks and little things to flare up the set and change it up that are going to make it sound bigger and more impactful.
Marcos: What a lot of people don’t know is when Bas got in the band, we were very much a plug and play band, like we didn’t do click tracks and we didn’t do backtracks. We just showed up, played and practiced four times a week as a band, and didn’t really need much help from outside assistance. And to now have Bas, who was completely involved with those things, bring it to the forefront of the band, it opened up so many doors. Not only in the live show, but in the writing process. Everything that we are doing from the live show to the sound, to the band members, to everything is all culminating to a new era of Shattered Sun.
You guys are currently recording new music. Can you tell us about that?
Marcos: The majority of the record is complete. When we first started writing the record, when we first got back as a band, we wanted to try out people that we’d worked with previously or someone Bas has worked with. We didn’t want to close too many doors as far as what our future was going to be with this new outfit, and once Bas brought Chris Mora into play—he sings for a band called Charcoal Tongue, he’s an amazing producer from San Antonio, he just did the new Upon a Burning Body record—we were already smitten by him just from what he’s done with his work with Darkness Divided and Charcoal Tongue. Once he came in and we saw the way Bas and Chris work together, it was a game changer for us because we no longer had to take a week to write this amazing, impactful song. We’re seeing these two guys that are like the engine, and we’re all chipping in and reworking the sound and reworking things from a cellular rate. It re-awoke feelings from when we first started and re-ignited the passion that we had, which was dying towards the end of The Evolution of Anger .
“NOW, WE FINALLY SOUND LIKE THE BAND WE ALWAYS SHOULD HAVE SOUNDED LIKE.”
How would you compare the writing process for the new material to the last record?
Bas: Chris and I have been working together for so long, and the things we like to hear in music is always in sync when it comes to metal songs. We just vibe off each other really well when it comes to songwriting. That’s why I think we’re able to work so fast, and if we do have differences or if we ever have egos, we hear each other out and realize what’s better for the song really quickly. I don’t wanna make it sound like me and him did all of the work or anything. There’s stuff I wrote or he did or we both did, there’s stuff that we all co-produced on our own ideas and stuff. But as far as the songs that started from my idea, we were always able to build off of each other really fast, and PB is the type of person that I know whatever I tell him or ask him to do, he’ll nail it and do exactly what I was thinking in my head or that someone else was thinking if they were there. You’re just able to get him on the feel of the song or add something crazy or chill. Little things like that really helped a lot.
Marcos: I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus. I love everybody that we’ve worked with in all of our past, but this was the first record where both of our guitar players worked together, and that was monumental. You’ll be able to tell in the music. Previously with Shattered Sun, you would always be able to tell who wrote the song. Now, we finally sound like the band we always should have sounded like. I definitely don’t want that to come off the wrong way, but I mean it when I say it. This is a special outfit of guys, and this is a special project. I’m just really looking forward to everybody hearing it.
When can fans expect to hear the new stuff?
Marcos: Our plan is to release our first single independently, called “Shades of Melodie.” We are very excited about it, and we didn’t want to wait any longer because there is a lot of behind the scenes business stuff going on that has to happen before projects can start rolling. We are currently searching for a new home right now with a record label, which we are very excited about, but we didn’t want to make the fans wait anymore. We wanted to put out a track. We aren’t operating under any rules right now, so we are, “Fuck it! Let’s put out a great song, and let’s do it for the people that have been following us since the very beginning.”
Has your sound changed from the last record to the new material you’re doing?
Marcos: Absolutely, in many ways. It’s a philosophy change from top to bottom. From the way we wrote, from the way we got together, from the way we produced the music, from the way we recorded it, everything was done differently than we have ever done it before, and that definitely shows in everything that we are about to do. I’m just excited for people to see this new era of Shattered Sun.
“PARTING WAYS WITH PEOPLE YOU’VE BEEN FRIENDS WITH SINCE YOU WERE KIDS IS TOUGH, BUT THE WAY THINGS ARE NOW, IT JUST FEELS SO GOOD.”
Since you’re a father now, does that change how you approach Shattered Sun?
Marcos: Yeah, it definitely fueled me in the decision to make some really radical changes to this band, and it started all the way back when I was courting Sebastian. I knew right then and there that as soon as I got him into what we were doing that everything was going to change, and it’s been a bumpy road. I’m not going to lie. Parting ways with people you’ve been friends with since you were kids is tough, but the way things are now, it just feels so good. It fueled me to look at things in the long-term rather than look at things like, “Fuck it. I don’t give a shit! Let’s get in a van and let’s fucking play till we fucking die.” Now, I gotta look at things a little bit more in the long-term, and again it goes back to the music, especially with the song “Shades of Melodie.” That song is written for her. That song is a big piece of my heart, and in the song I talk about what I would tell her and how I’ve done things to show her how to not do things. That wasn’t who I was a couple of years ago, and now that is who I am. I am very proud of that, and I’m very proud of that song.
As you mentioned, the band is searching for a record label. What didn’t work for you guys with Victory Records?
Marcos: I could turn this whole interview into just talking about that. It was just a relationship that neither side could gain from anymore. In this business, you have to remind yourself—especially being a small town kid that came into this with everybody’s arm around him telling him that we were family—there is no family in this business other than the ones in your band, other than the ones you hold close. That was a hard lesson to learn, but we learned, and I think both sides are happy in the decisions that were made.
Bas: I had a band on Victory as well, and they did great for us while we were there. Everyone at the label was nice, but there were just certain things you can’t work past while being on that label.
Are you guys now clear to do whatever you want?
Marcos: Yeah, at the moment we’re shopping labels with some of our new music. There was a lot of back and forth whether we wanted to wait, and I think as a band we felt like people have waited long enough. I think they deserve a great song, and that’s what we’re going to give them.
Do you have any touring plans?
Marcos: We have things that are in the works right now that we plan to announce when we drop the single, and we have some other cool announcements that are going to come with the single. We’re just excited to get the ball moving. It’s been a long transition period, and it’s time to finally unleash the dogs and let us loose.
You’ve put a shirt on sale to help complete the new record. Is crowdfunding going to be your go-to option while you’re between labels?
Marcos: For the moment, yes, because our goal is not substantially high. The great thing about our situation is we funded this record ourselves, and our manager, Chuck Billy, believed in this record, we believed in this record, and we’ve been funding it solely. We wanted to put out a song for people to hear, but we also wanted people to know that we are between labels right now and we’re searching for a new home to release this record. We just need a little bit of time to complete it, so that’s what we are going to do.
How have all of the situations you’ve been through the past year changed the band’s perspective?
Marcos: We’re more focused on how to make, not only this record, not only our live show, but everything we do as a band more impactful and more monumental than anything that we’ve ever done in our history.
Shattered Sun has been working with metal veteran Chuck Billy of Testament. What advice is he giving you in this era of reconstructing the band?
Marcos: When I first went to Chuck about this, he already knew we were in a tough spot. The beauty of having somebody like Chuck is that he has been there. He has kicked out members, he’s fired friends, and he’s been on like 30 different record labels. He’s done it all. He’s definitely there in my ear through a lot of tough times that the band has had and a lot of really great times that the band has had, things like how to tour properly and how to budget and how to order merch to how to take care of myself as a vocalist night to night. He’s always there to be that mentor to you. Once we did make the change, he needed to come to Texas to see Chris and Sebastian together. We just hit him all at once like a bunch of really excited teenagers, and he came down here to see what was up. And he wound up spending a week with us to write the record and be there while we wrote the record, and he helped contribute to the vocals. Having him come in, definitely helped me as far as vocals and the change in my vocal style. It’s amazing to have him in our corner.
Not too long ago Shattered Sun almost had the opportunity to open for Metallica through a contest. What’s your take on that whole experience? Was it worth doing?
Marcos: Looking back, it was great. It opened a lot of doors for us, and showed me that the people that follow us from down here in South Texas that they’d run through a fucking brick wall for this band. So many people came together to help the band. It was amazing seeing that after the fact, but during, it was definitely a tough loss. Three thousand bands entered, and we wound up being in the final eight, then, from what I understand, placing in the top three of the contest. That was just huge. So, it was worth it. It opened up a lot of new fans and new doorways and new everything for the band, but at the time, it was tough to lose. At the end of it, I just had a breakdown. I was very upset about it, and we had worked really hard. I remember I called Chuck and I called the band and I was just like, “I’m taking two weeks off. Nobody call me.” I was just being a Debbie Downer. Chuck called me a couple days later, I finally answer, and he’s just like, “Yo, dude, you done crying or what?” And I just laughed, and that pulled my head out of the sand and made me realize what a really awesome experience it was. Getting to meet Lars Ulrich and have my moment with him and give him the first actual copy of Evolution of Anger was pretty awesome. Definitely an experience I’ll never forget.
Did Lars have any advice for you when you met him?
Marcos: No, but he did know who I was. He knew me by name, which was really cool, and he took the time to take the CD, open it, go through the booklet, and listen to me talk for a second. Regardless if he kept that CD or not, just the fact that I was able to put that in his hands was definitely a memorable moment in my career.
What should your fans keep their eyes and ears open for, aside from new music?
Marcos: Definitely some show dates. We plan on putting some dates out soon. We will be dropping a music video pretty soon. We have a new logo, we have a new merch store, we have new everything. Like I said, it’s a complete reinvention of the band, and we wanted to start from the ground up, so we started with the logo that has been there for many years and said we are putting that era of the band to bed and we are going to start new. We are going to drop a new music video, drop some new dates, and get Shattered Sun back to full steam ahead.
What’s been the most important part of this reinvention?
Marcos: The music we have created, because going into it, when you tell everybody you’re going to break everything down and start again, that’s not a very popular resolution to things and a lot of people were upset about it. But now that I hear the songs, I know they were tough decisions that needed to be made. When I put on the music, I know that I made the right decisions and the band made the right decisions. That’s what’s important to me, that and giving the fans our absolute best effort with this third record.
EXCLUSIVE: SHATTERED SUN “Shades of Melodie” Music Video Premiere
“This song is particularly special to me given it’s about my daughter Melodie. It’s safe to say that becoming a father changes a man – it becomes your every living and dying breath to be the guide and protector to your child. I know a lot of people can relate to the message of this song and I’m excited for you all to get a taste of the new era of SHATTERED SUN!” ~ Marcos Leal
While SHATTERED SUN are in the midst of preparing for the release of their new, currently-untitled album, many aspects of recording and other requirements still need to be completed. As the band is currently working independently and without label assistance, they’ve turned to their dedicated fans to contribute to the finalization process with new album pre-orders and bundle purchases. 100% of these funds will go towards the completion and release of the album.
The pre-order and contribution campaign has been launched via GoFundMe, and can be found here: https://www.gofundme.com/shatteredsun3
The GoFundMe campaign not only includes an instant download of “Shades of Melodie” upon contribution/pre-order, but also allows fans to hear the album in full a week before its pending release date. Many more one-of-a-kind perks – including limited edition t-shirts, autographed posters and even cameos in future music videos – are available and can be found at the link above. All contributors will have their names included in the new album booklet as an additional thank you, and the band plans to release a new song once they reach their goal!
The band says about the GoFundMe campaign: “We are currently in the process of finishing our new album, as well as shopping for a new label home. We have decided not to wait – we’re ready to share our new single with all of you and introduce you to a new era of SHATTERED SUN. As we’ve prepared to release this album independently, we have exhausted all our funds – personally covering all costs on the production of this album. We ask that our amazing fans consider pre-ordering our album via our new GoFundMe campaign, which will in turn help us finish the album and bring you new music with the remaining funds raised. We are nothing without our fans behind us! Thank you!”
SHATTERED SUN is:
Marcos Leal – Vocals
Jessie Santos – Guitar and Vocals
Sebastian “Bas” Elizondo – Guitar and Vocals
Joseph Guajardo – Bass
Henry Garza – Keys, Samples
Juan “PB” Hinojosa – Drums