Interview: 3AM / Chino Burga


I have been smitten with the sounds of Chino Burga / 3AM, ever since I discovered him on the split release ‘Disappear / Waves‘, with Sula Bassana.

I then went on a vinyl mission of amassing his output, culminating in a live show in Zwolle with The Dead-End Alley Band, at the Sociaal-culturele vereniging Eureka.

Here is a conversation about what makes this man tick…

Tell me about your early influences?

I guess my father was a huge influence cause he was a hardcore fan of classic music and opera. Then I started to listen to heavy metal when I was about 8-10 years old. After that, I found the Ramones and got into punk and hardcore (around 13-14), but I guess it was when I found Loop (Fade Out album) and Sonic Youth, that I realised I needed to play for real and make a band as soon as possible. I was very bad at playing guitar, I couldn’t learn any song, couldn’t do any cover, so that’s why I started to make my own music and to experiment with the guitar and pedals, and that took me to noisier bands (shoegaze and 90s post rock). Finishing the 90s I was determined to learn to play more guitar, so I started to listen to a lot of blues (and Spacemen 3!!!), and after a while started La Ira de Dios, highly influenced by krautrock and Hawkwind.


I grew up in provincial Aberdeen, I vividly recall scouring the small print in Sounds, searching for the hidden gems and sparse commentary, on the obscure bands no one was writing about – how easy was it for you to access the bands you grew up listening to in Lima?

Back to the pre-internet days! Oh my…sounds like prehistoric hahaha. Well, back in those days it was really hard to get albums. Also during the second half of the 80s, here in Peru, all imports were banned. So believe me when I say it was hard! But when you are a melomaniac you find your ways. Friends in high school trading tapes, even I remember walking the streets and if you saw somebody with a t-shirt of a band, you could approach him/her and talk about music and trades, something totally lost nowadays – you see lots of kids with Ramones, Joy Division or Misfits t-shirts who have no idea what they represent.


John Peel was the saviour of my teenage years in many ways, did radio play an important part in your listening curve?

Not really. What was more important to me was a couple of TV Channels that were on UHF signal (not the typical free signal), these channels broadcast videos that somebody recorded on vhs or betamax from MTV, you could even see the logo on the top of your screen, it was really pirate and illegal but super cool. They played Siouxsie, Iron Maiden, Sisters of Mercy, Pink Floyd, The Clash, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, etc. That’s why the opening track of ‘Transmissions’ is named ‘UHF’, a tribute to those Peruvian TV channels.


Your tone was the elemental force, that called me like a moth to the flame! In much the same way that “Geordie” Walker did in my youth. Did you find your tone or did it find you?

Its funny cause here in Peru, you play in a concert with whatever gear the promotor gives you…sometimes there are cool amps, sometimes they are shitty as hell. So I learned to get my sound (or tone) with whatever amp you put in front of me. Now, I have a very clear idea of what I should sound like, but of course it´s something that I have learned over the years, most of it by testing and testing.


Do you have a different equipment set-up for each project, do you have a favourite?

It’s kinda the same but with some variations. One more pedal on this, one less pedal on that. I’m pretty comfortable with the 3AM or Ande set-up…not too many pedals but good enough, so that means you don’t have to carry too much weight, which is something I hate.


You have a prolific input with many projects and a corresponding output, tell me about that creative urge, does each project scratch a particular itch?

Yes, there’s too much music to listen to that I like, so it’s difficult to stay in one style. Instead of doing it all in one project and make it weird (at least to me), I prefer to have different options to play whatever I want.


Where does the inspiration for the riffs come from?

I have no idea! Maybe Lima has something to do with it, cause it’s a very loud, noisy and chaotic city. And there you have 3 of my favorite words, loud, noise and specially, chaos (I even have a tattoo of it). Also Lima is grey most of the year, about 9 months of non sunny days…god bless that sky!!!


Can you give me a little insight into the gestation of ‘Transmissions’?

Well, I was looking for a way to record with no budget at all, cause the guy who helped me to record (in my house), the ‘UFO Blues Tapes’ couldn’t work anymore. So the guys from Dead End Alley Band offered me some software, a mixer and a microphone. I asked the guys to come to my mother’s house, cause she was on a trip and the house was empty, so we could make some noise there. They helped me the first day showing me how the software and the gear should work. And then I just kept recording for 4 or 5 more days, and then continued at my place for some more days. I finished with about 30 recorded songs, and then I started to think in ‘Transmissions’, making many setlists and trying to find the right one.


Is there a frustration in the delay between the birth of an album and it’s eventual release?

Instead of frustration I would say anxiety, to see your work finally pressed. When I finished the recording sessions I have a vague idea of what the album is gonna be. It’s around the first mixed tracks that I start to see an album, and at that point I’m really enjoying it, I mean the mixing process. It’s something that I really like to do.


Who are you listening to at the moment?

Always Siouxsie and the Banshees, but lately I’m going back to Neu, Harmonia, La Dusseldorf and some 80s minimal techno.


You have just completed a European tour, does Peru ever feel isolated, if so is it in a good way?

When I was younger I always felt isolated so I wanted to move to Cuzco, cause I thought it would be awesome and have more freedom. Eventually I moved there and found myself again isolated. Then I though “ok, let´s go to Europe, seems like it’s more my thing”…so I went there, and again the same feeling. I think that it really doesn’t matter where you come from or where you are now, but just because you are in this kind of music or choose this kind of life, it’s gonna make you feel different all the time. But what is cool is when you are in a squat or a dirty bar or some place related with underground culture, it doesn’t matter where it is, you feel like home. Priceless!!!


I despair when bands grow soft, choosing financial security over vitality and relevance, who for you has stood the test of time?

I guess Dead Moon. Impossible to beat, impossible to change. I think they are kinda (and sorry for this expression), like a role model to every underground band or musician. Always DIY, always down to earth, always passionate. That’s truly rock’n ‘roll.


How do you decide what is up next, or do you prefer to go with the flow and roll with the punches?

It’s more about what I’m listening to right now, that’s what guides me through all my recordings. I’m always looking for new sounds that can be found in new bands or old bands that I don’t know yet. Like I said, right now I’m more focused on the psych part of old school electronic music. Let’s see where we can go with that.


You can read a review of the album ‘Transmissions’ here and a review of the gig in Zwolle, here.



2 responses to “Interview: 3AM / Chino Burga”

  1. Bob Avatar

    Great in depth interview there, so interesting ! Loving the videos, and the music of course, goes without saying !

    1. chromaticism Avatar

      Me too Bob – can’t get enough of this!

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