Heavy metal musician reflects on tours, local practice spaces

By Carl Nadig

DeKalb | Ben Gonzales, 28, of DeKalb, learned how to play piano at 7 before studying the viola.

Now, his musical interest is grindcore, a subgenre of heavy metal. His band, Minimum Wage Assassins, released a split record July 5 with hardcore act Rexus.

The Northern Star interviewed Gonzales Saturday.

Northern Star: What were your musical influences growing up?

Ben Gonzales: I had an older brother. Growing up, we would listen to Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers [and] Alice in Chains. I think those were the first three modern musical influences I had. [But,] I think Metallica was the big one for me. I definitely started off with traditional heavy metal.

NS: Your first record, “Corrosive Audio,” is under half an hour, but the sound is intensive. How do you fill playing time for live performances?

BG: It’s gotta be loud. It sucks when you don’t have a bass player. I used to run a bass amp into a guitar amp just to get the low [frequencies]. We make sure to play loud enough … . It depends on the show.

NS: I read Minimum Wage Assassins toured to Mexico earlier this year. What’s the major difference between playing there in Cancun vs. here in DeKalb?

BG: It’s definitely a different mindset down there. One thing I noticed is that I was signing CDs. I mean, these are just kids that met me or heard my name for the first time. It’s a big deal for these kids to have a live band, especially from the United States. Whereas we’ll play a club up here in the States and sell merchandise, but it’s rare somebody will come up and ask for an autograph. Down there, it’s common … especially in heavy metal.

NS: What is it like practicing at the Seventh Street Space and other venues like it?

BG: It’s a little more low key and laid back. I like house shows, preferably, especially easy-access house shows. If you get connected to the DIY circuit anywhere in the nation, in any city, there’s always a house that somebody rents out or owns … a living room, a backyard. Those are always fun … . You just got to go with it. It all depends on the condition the house is in.