We had the opportunity to talk with guitarist extraordinaire of Idle Hands, Silver Talon, and Leathürbitch out of Portland, Oregon.
MIRP: First of all, I want to say welcome home. You had quite the adventure. Can you bring readers up to date on your extended stay in Europe and your re-entry to the USA?
Sebastian: Thank you very much! It’s pretty surreal to be back. So, what happened was that I left for our first European tour in February 2019 and I knew that I probably wasn’t going to return so easily. We needed to file for an Artist Visa in order for me to return to America, and that’s a whole crazy ordeal on its own. So in between our two European tours, I spent some time in my hometown in Mexico with my family, and then I also spent quite a bit of time in the Netherlands with my girlfriend up until my return. I actually took my Visa interview in Amsterdam, so that was quite awesome. The re-entry went surprisingly smooth, at first when my visa was approved, I was hesitant on celebrating because there was still the visa interview, and then once the interview was cleared, I still didn’t want to celebrate, because even if it all goes well, you could show up to America and the Customs agent can turn you away, even with an approved Visa and all. So, once I heard the Customs Agent say “Welcome To America’ and he stamped my Passport, then it was celebration time hahaha!
MIRP: Tell me about accommodations. There must be a handful of people who you are extremely thankful for.
Sebastian: Oh, definitely! I am extremely thankful for my family in Mexico who hosted me and cared for me while I was going through it all. They were all very supportive and hopeful of my return. They are very religious, so they would all tell me that they are praying for me so everything turns out okay. Also, my girlfriend and her family in the Netherlands, she was also super supportive and very helpful whenever I needed to do Visa stuff in Amsterdam, plus her family also took interest in my situation and they were all rooting for me to return safe and sound.
MIRP: Had you ever returned to your original home country of Mexico since your arrival here in the USA at age 10?
Sebastian: Not at all, I stayed in America for 14 years consecutively.
MIRP: How was that after all of these years?
Sebastian: It was different and also the same at the same time, if that makes sense. What I noticed while I was down there is that all my relatives still lived in the same houses as they did when we left Mexico. So every time I would walk into their houses, it was a huge nostalgic trip. But it was also different because Mexico has been a country that’s been hurting lately. Lots of crime and drug related killings have made Mexico into a very dangerous place to live. I actually was unlucky enough to experience it first hand when I almost got robbed twice while I was down there. It was wonderful being in Mexico for the memories it holds in my heart, but I don’t see it as my home anymore. I felt like an outsider, especially because my Spanish is now different than the Slang Spanish they spoke down there.
MIRP: Were you ever fearful?
Sebastian: Yes, I was actually quite fearful pretty much all the time, especially on the second European tour. I think that’s where the reality of me possibly not returning to the USA started to sink in. I remember just sitting quietly in the van, not really talking to my bandmates, then when we arrived at a different place, my bandmates would go explore and I would stay behind just being sad and crying, missing my family back home, while also missing my family in Mexico. The whole time it was an insane emotional rollercoaster, I can say without a doubt, 2019 has been the year where I shed the most tears haha.
MIRP: The GoFundMe and petition for an artist visa had to be a huge blessing. Would you say that was instrumental in allowing you to come and go?
Sebastian: I am extremely thankful for every single person that donated or shared the GoFundMe. It showed me that there is a lot of people around the world that actually care about me. With the GoFundMe, we were able to process the Visa Application in January, and while we were on tour in February overseas, we were hoping it would be approved so I would just have to take the visa interview and come home. But unfortunately, the visa application was denied and we had to come up with ways to try to start over. It was horrible, I was sitting in my hotel room in Amsterdam, and then I received the news that the application was denied and I sat there thinking ‘Well, what now?’ I felt hopeless and alone. But also, I tried to keep my head up because I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and I think that I was put through this tough time in order to learn a thing or two.
MIRP: Congratulations on 1 million streams on Spotify. What do you think it is about Idle Hands that is resonating so well with fans?
Sebastian: Thank You! We are all very happy about that! I think people are drawn a lot to the band due to the vocals. I think it is the defining factor of the band, because while most metal bands out there are doing super high pitched or super low growls, Gabe just has a very mellow medium with his voice that is able to touch a lot of people, not just metalheads!
MIRP: Opening for the mighty King Diamond is coming up next for you. You are also in the tribute band for Mercyful Fate/King Diamond, Lucifer’s Child. This has to be a dream come true for you.
Sebastian: Absolute it is! We are all very excited and can’t wait to tour alongside the King! I remember we got the news sometime in April or May and we couldn’t say anything because it wasn’t announced yet and it was so hard sitting on that secret for so long. People would ask us “How about a US Tour next?” to which we would only reply with “Soon” hahaha!
MIRP: Do you remember the first time you heard KD or MF?
Sebastian: Yes! It was while I was watching this skateboarding video called ‘Cataclysmic Abyss’ the opening sequence started with a small part from a Bathory song and then it kicked into ‘A Corpse Without A Soul’ by Mercyful Fate. I was hooked! The riffs, the shred, the super cool satanic lyrics and those vocals! WOW! I would always listen to Mercyful Fate prior to going out and skate because it would get me so hyped up.
MIRP: Have you met King Diamond before?
Sebastian: No, I have not!
MIRP: If yes, how was that meeting? If no, what will be the first think you’d like to say to him.
Sebastian: I don’t know what I will say to him, I mean, what can I say that he probably hasn’t heard a million times before. I came to this realization when my girlfriend and I met Alice Cooper a few weeks ago. She asked me “What are you going to say to Alice Cooper?” and then I pondered, what am I really going to say to him? So, when I shook his hand, I just said the first thing that came to mind, which was, “I never thought that I would get a chance to meet you” hahaha. So, it will probably be the same for the King. I will just let my words flow out of my mouth and not think too much about it.
MIRP: I’m a huge Mercyful Fate fan. Hank Sherman is one of my all-time favorite guitarists. Please tell me your favorite Mercyful Fate or King Diamond album.
Sebastian: Favorite Mercyful Fate album is ‘Melissa’ and my favorite song is ‘Into The Coven’. My favorite King Diamond album is ‘Them’ and my favorite song is ‘The Invisible Guests’
MIRP: Obviously, knowing you may not be able to return to your home in the United States, you made the tough decision to pursue your dreams. Was it worth it?
Sebastian: Yes, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I believed in Gabriel and the band since the beginning and when the opportunity for the European tours came up, I couldn’t say no. I had declined previous offers to tour Europe and Japan as a fill in guitarist due to the same issue, but I felt that Idle Hands was destined to grow. Even if I wasn’t able to return, I would have been content knowing that I was part of the beginning process of the band, and I would have been happy for my bandmate’s success.
MIRP: All things considered, would you do it again?
Sebastian: Absolutely. The whole point of life is to find something you are willing to sacrifice everything for. If not, then, what is the point of being alive?
MIRP: At what point do you comfortably say you are a national/international band rather than a local band? What is the marker for that to you?
Sebastian: When the hometown crowd begins to talk bad about you online, but will ask you for ‘guest spots’ every time you come through town haha. I’ve seen it happen with such bands as Red Fang, Toxic Holocaust, etc. People in Portland will be ‘Too Cool’ to listen to those bands and will even say mean things online, but when the sold-out shows come through town, some of those same people are the ones asking for free tickets. So maybe there will come a day when our peers become ‘Too Cool’ for us, so until that day happens…
MIRP: What is the best thing about being in a touring band?
Sebastian: Sleeping! I can sleep in the morning, afternoon and night! I literally just have to play guitar for 30-45 mins and then load in and out and then it’s sleepy time for me!
MIRP: Worst thing?
Sebastian: Your diet habits go out the window. Sometimes, you eat what you can and sometimes you don’t eat because you missed dinner time. So, it is important to try and eat healthy and regularly.
MIRP: Let’s talk about love. You have a beautiful girl in Europe. Can you tell me how a relationship with a fellow musician is different than with a non-musician?
Sebastian: Yes! Her name Is Sonia Nusselder and she is the lead guitarist in the all-female Swiss band Burning Witches. Being with another musician is the best, because we practice together, we write together and we both geek out over guitar shreddy stuff and Jackson guitars! We are even endorsed by the same companies! It’s also very nice to have someone who is reaching for the same goal, that way, we both help each other achieve our dream. Plus, it’s super cool to just be side stage or in the crowd and look at the stage and realize “DAMN, that’s my girl up there shredding and melting faces” It’s amazing, there’s not enough words to describe it!
MIRP: How do you make the distance work?
Sebastian: So far, we are just starting to figure that out, but now that I have this Visa that lets me go in and out of America, it will be much easier. We will fly to each other as much as possible and with Idle Hands playing Europe so much, it won’t be that difficult for us to see each other. Plus, we call every day, and message each other very frequently, I used to hate calling people on the phone haha I would never answer calls or anything from anyone and just the other day I realized we had been talking on the phone for close to 3 hours! Stuff like that is easy when you really care about someone. That’s how love should be, it should be natural flow that you do something for your partner, not because you have to, but because you want to.
MIRP: Do you foresee a partnership in music anytime in the future?
Sebastian: No doubt about it!
MIRP: I’ve seen you play quite a few times. Your stage presence is exciting to watch. Do you remember when you first knew you wanted to be a musician? No…rock star I mean!
Sebastian: I remember it very clearly! I knew I wanted to be a musician from the first time I heard Guns N roses, I used to think slash was so sick and cool! But my moment of truth came when I found out about Steve Vai and Hide from X Japan. These two guitarists are the most influential in terms of talent, fashion and stage performance. My belief is that I never want anyone to pay money to come watch me rehearse. The stage is reserved for ‘Performers’ and if you are not taking command of the stage, rocking out, spinning, doing kicks, guitar tricks, engaging with the audience and your bandmates, then why are you onstage? You will NEVER see me stand still during a performance, no matter how difficult the piece of music is, and you will NEVER see me in just shirt and jeans on stage. I love dressing up, and wearing makeup and having crazy hair colors and such. It’s part of the performance, and the performance aspect counts just as much as the music being played!