Sifting frontman Eduardo on making it as a Venezuelan prog metal band in the US

Progressive metal band Sifting, fronted by guitarist Carlos Eduardo Osuna Gil (Eduardo to his fans), got their first big break in 2011, opening for Bullet for my Valentine during their Latin American tour.

An opportunity to play at Austin’s South by Southwest festival in 2013 would inspire the band to move to the U.S from Venezuela, where their following grew. Along with Gil, Sifting includes Winston Jarquin, (bassist/backup vocals), Joey Aguirre, (drummer), and Mo LaMastro on guitars. Their latest single, Silent Acquiescence, is on major streaming platforms, while Eduardo has racked up Emmy Awards for music composition and cinematography.

He opens up about his creative journey, loss, influences, and the irony of a metalhead winning an Emmy for a Christmas song.

You began writing music as an outlet after losing your mother and grandmother in a plane crash. How has loss found its way into your music?

That was surely the hardest stage of my life. But you can always channel that energy towards something you are pursuing or something that makes you a better person. So, yeah, that’s what I was trying to do.

My mother sat me at the piano when I was six. She wanted me to learn Elton John songs because she was a big fan. At some point I got corrupted and started playing guitar. [Laughs.] I think it was because I wanted to be able to jump around on stage — keyboard players usually don’t get to jump! So, I picked up the guitar and started learning Metallica songs or whatever I was hearing. This was during that beautiful era of MTV playing music videos. So, that’s how everything started.

What was your first big break?

We were very lucky to meet this booking agent who really believed in us. She started getting gigs for us, and in less than six months, we were playing things like community events in Caracas in front of 6,000 people or more. We’d play covers, songs like Smells Like Teen Spirit would make the crowd go crazy.

What were your biggest musical influences during this time?

I would have to say Metallica and Megadeth. There’s also a band from Argentina called Rata Blanca, and I highly recommend them. On a totally different vibe, Dream Theater and Marty Friedman. My tastes were and are all over the place

There is a large, devoted fan base there both for home-grown metal and international bands. I was working in producing concerts for quite a while, and we brought a bunch of metal bands to Caracas including Lamb of God. The venues were always packed.

What made you move to the U.S.?

Before we moved to L.A., we got invited to play South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. We just flew over there and played three nights. It was crazy. We sold out all our merch. It was our first gig in the U.S., and it was crazy. People loved us, and we started picking up sponsorships. We were like, “This is so different from the way we’re used to it working. We’ve gotta move here.” And we did.

What is the meaning of the name Sifting?

The four of us have such different backgrounds. I don’t only like metal. I listen to so much different music from Venezuela and Latin America. Puerto Rico, Cuba … all those different styles. I could name all the genres, but it would be a long list! So, the name refers to us sifting through all this rich material to find inspiration for a sound that’s still metal at its core.

If you choose something just for the money, it will sustain you for a while but eventually you’ll burn out.

You won two 2023 Emmy Awards. Tell us about them…

I got nominated for five, actually! [Laughs.] So, most were for cinematography because I also do that. But one was for music composition for a special commercial we did for Telemundo and NBC. [NBC is the parent company of Spanish-language TV channel, Telemundo]. It was a Christmas spot for the network itself.

Usually for this sort of spot, they just have the anchors, the TV personalities saying, “Merry Christmas!” But I had this idea to have the entire staff of the station on screen: grips, I.T. people, ad salespeople, the janitor, their children ... Because Telemundo’s brand is being a channel for everyone. There was resistance, but in the end the president approved the idea, and we went ahead. It was so much fun!

it’s funny that I’ve been pursuing recognition for my rock music all my life, and I receive it for this project.

Tell us about the music aspect of this commercial?

I didn’t want to use library music, you know? I wanted it to be special. My boss said, “You’re a composer. Why don’t you write something?” My wife, JesyElen Veitia, and I wrote it together; she wrote the lyrics, I did the music, and also won two Emmys.

We wanted it to be about coming back from the pandemic and being able to hug each other again and all be together at Christmas. The song is called Acercarnos Como Antes.

Is it ironic as a metal-head to win an Emmy for a heartwarming Christmas ballad?

Hah! That’s life, my friend. We’re all “sifting” through different possibilities all the time. As I said, I’m also a cinematographer, and I spent six years studying telecommunications engineering. But yeah, it’s funny that I’ve been pursuing recognition for my rock music all my life, and I receive it for this project.

Your journey from Caracas to Austin to L.A. should inspire all up-and-coming rockers and creatives. Do you have any parting advice for them?

First, pick something you’re passionate about. Long term, it’s the only force that will keep you going. If you choose something just for the money, it will sustain you for a while but eventually you’ll burn out. Second, when you start to feel your strong points, get better and better at them. If you have this weird technique where you play with only two fingers, be the best in the world at playing with two fingers.

Finally, be bold. After about two years in the U.S., I literally knocked on the door of ESP Guitars with a DVD I’d made with all my videos. I had edited it very carefully, like a movie. I said, “Here I am from Venezuela with my broken English and I’m nobody here yet, but I’ve played in front of 6,000 people. They said, “This is the first time we’ve ever done this” and took me on as an endorser! Be persistent and trust yourself.

pick something you’re passionate about. Long term, it’s the only force that will keep you going.

When did you discover Audix mics?

We were showcasing at the Viper Room in Hollywood. This drummer in one of the other bands brought his own set of mics. I think it was the DP7, one of those kits that has every mic for drums. We all thought it sounded amazing and it got us sort of pumped up. So, I started looking deeper into Audix.

I think it was at the NAMM Show a few years back that I went to the Audix booth and got demos of a lot of the different mics. I fell in love with the OM11 for vocals, almost on the spot. I got one of those as well as an i5 for my guitar cabinet. I’m very old-school about my guitar rig, about miking up a cabinet and being analogue. I play a lot of one-off gigs around Las Vegas, where I now live, and sound guys are always like, “This sounds so good! I really miss the punch of this kind of thing.”

For the guitarists reading this, what’s in your guitar rig?

I use an Engl E530 preamp and [E840] 50/50 power amp. They drive a 2 x 12 super cab that looks like a 4 x 12. Managers at the venue are always like, “Hey, don’t explode my bar with that thing!” I always tell them not to worry, that I can play softly, and have my in-ear monitors.

Let’s get into some more detail about what works for you about various Audix models, starting with the OM11.

The frequency response is just huge. Live, I used to sing into a certain mic that nearly everybody uses, and the difference is night and day. The OM11 also has this dynamic response, this immediacy, that I just love. I pair it with a TC-Helicon processor that’s like a pedalboard for vocals — reverb, delay, compression.

The OM11 really gives the TC the input it needs. Everyone is always asking me about my vocal sound, and that wasn’t happening with my previous mic. The result is that nothing is left to chance with the sound engineer. They basically need to turn up a fader and they’re happy. I’m very particular about my vocal and guitar sound because I studied sound even more than I studied guitar itself.

I’d heard a dynamic mic might be better for loud, screamer, metal vocals. The results were perfect.

How about the i5 on your cabinet? What does it do for you?

I get similar comments from the front-of-house people: “Dude, what’s up with that guitar of yours?” It’s just my mic and my amp. I should mention that Audix turned me on to the CabGrabber clamp, so I don’t even ask for a mic stand or bother anyone. They just plug in an XLR cable and go.

Has your drummer said anything about the drum mics he uses? The D-series?

Yeah, Joey [Aguirre] has a huge set of Audix drum mics, and we’ve been touring with them since 2018. In all seasons, from desert festivals with triple-digit heat to rain to freezing weather. They have never failed. Neither have mine. He just got a second pair of ADX51 for overheads. He had a pair already, but he wants to do this crazy quad-overhead thing.

Have you used Audix in the studio as well?

It’s funny. I just used my OM11 to record Silent Acquiescence, our most recent single. I thought everyone was going to say, “No, that’s a live mic! You can’t do that!” But I’m screaming a lot in that song, and I’d heard a dynamic mic might be better for loud, screamer, metal vocals. The results were perfect — a very different vibe than a studio condenser, but the right vibe for the song. We also did this on Nemesis, a cover of a song by Arch Enemy. I played the tracks and everyone was like, ‘Hell, yeah!’”