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In Memory of Cachorro, Peru Punk Pioneer

Espirales in 1993. (Photo: Richard Nossar Gastañeta)

I met Fernando ‘Cachorro’ Vial in the mid-'80s via the international tape trading scene. I’d gotten into punk/hardcore while growing up in NYC and to discover that there was a vibrant parallel scene in Peru was incredibly moving on a personal level, having lived there in my pre-teen years.

Cachorro was one of the most ardently passionate music aficionados I’d ever met and soon came to realize that he had been one of the prime movers in the early punk wave in Lima, known as "Rock Subterraneo." 

Poster for a 2018 tribute concert celebrating Cahorro's musical work

From playing in two of the iconic bands from that era (Narcosis and Autopsia) to forming the first post-punk bands (Feudales and Pompeya) editing fanzines (Pasajeros Del Horror), as well as synth wave projects (Paisajes Electronicos) and going on to the garage rock revival (Espirales) in the '90s.

I eventually got to meet him in person and he was exactly like I pictured: endlessly excited to talk about music, whether it was his beloved garage rock, classic pop from Spain, or his obsession with all-things Madonna.

Espirales in 2003. (Photo: Richard Nossar Gastañeta)

Back in those early days it was incredibly hard to come across original LPs and Cachorro’s bedroom became the epicenter for meticulously curated mix-tapes from his extensive record collection; several generations of subculture fanatics procured these cassettes and later cd compilations along with a dose of his prodigious musical knowledge.

The last time I saw him in that bedroom was in 2008, as always I’d brought him a stack of LPs he’d requested: anything related to high energy Detroit rock 'n' roll or retro roots rock sounds.

His favorite expression, as a record he loved played on the turntable, was, "eso es una joya," which translates to "that’s a gem" in English. 

Cachorro winkin' in Arequipa, Peru. (Photo: Richard Nossar Gastañeta)

The benefit of hindsight makes one realize what a precious and constant presence he was, there’s always a central figure in every scene that connects all the divergent strains of the original manifestation; Cachorro played that role with utmost humility and persistence of vision.

I’ve listed in chronological fashion below some highlights of his musical trajectory that’s left a profound and lasting influence. His untimely passing in October of this year has been hard on family, friends and fans but his enduring legacy will live on.

Cachorro tu eres una joya and we’ll never forget you.

Narcosis

Cachorro got the name Narcosis from Herman Hesse’s novel Siddhartha and their ‘85 demo is arguably the most duplicated cassette in Latin American punk history. This is their signature song; a damning indictment of the notoriously vicious and corrupt local police force, known by their distinctive green uniforms.

Autopsia

Formed shortly after Narcosis’s dissolution, Cachorro joined this all-star project with other luminaries from the Rock Subterraneo scene.

Their amazing Sistema y Poder demo has been reissued in LP/CD format, and this particular song’s lyrics always struck me as a spot on observation of certain segments of society in Lima and their obsession to conform to whatever’s in vogue, sung with righteous indignation by Espatula, who went on to front the great Ataque Frontal.

Feudales

Cachorro’s restless spirit led him to leave Autopsia and form this post-punk project, the first in Peru, heavily influenced by early Cure/Joy Division, as well as bands from Spain like Decima Victima and Paralisis Permanente.

He’s on vocals/guitar and this ‘86 demo, plus a live set was reissued a couple of years ago as the No Vayas A Olvidar CD/LP.

Paisaje Electrónico

The flip side of the Feudales demo from ‘86 featured a solo project by Cachorro playing everything on a Casiotone portable keyboard.

This is one of the earliest expressions in Peru of electronic/techno sounds and the split Feudales/Paisaje Electronico cassette came out on Pasajeros Del Horror, a record label Cachorro started with the visual artist Jaime Higa, who also designed the cover of the iconic Narcosis demo and Autopsia’s.

Pompeya

Pompeya is a project Cachorro did in 1986-87 featuring melancholic, introspective instrumentals that recall the UK post-punk and goth groups he loved.

Espirales

Anyone that knew Cachorro was aware of his obsessive love for Iggy Pop & the Stooges and he formed Espirales with the intention of recreating that high energy rock 'n' roll vibe mixed with garage sounds both from the original ‘60s era and its subsequent revival in the ‘80s.

The band was formed in ‘92 and collection of their songs was recorded in 2000, released as Malas Companias on his Pasajeros Del Horror label, that includes originals as well as Revillos and Narcosis cover versions.

Freddy Alva w/ Cachorro in his bedroom, Lima, Peru, 2008. (Photo: Heidi Alva)

Here's a cool tribute by the SubteRock website.

Descansa en paz viejo amigo.

Thank you to Richard Nossar Gastañeta for the photos.
Freddy Alva 2020

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