From the Chilean vastlands Siaskel came... and damn, it is another truly awesome band from this country! Check out their CDand support them! Here's my interview with Alfredo Perez!
Hello there guys. How are you doing? I suppose that it may be the first interview for the European fanzine for Siaskel, so I hope we’ll manage to make a detailed autopsy of Siaskel! Ready?
R: Hey there Panzerfaust zine, yeah, we hope to be full eviscerated on all the questions you may want to ask…
It is obvious that Siaskel is a band, which differs from the majority of the death metal scene… The music is an old styled attack, but it brings some awesome patterns. Most importantly though, lyrically you introduce the concept on “Jatenentolpen Thejin”, which is something totally uncommon. So, I must ask first, how and why did you come up with the idea? Am I right that you also used the traditional language of Selk'nam? And here I must ask, how did you know it, as I read it is a dialect, which extinct with the people.
R: Yeah, as you say, we don't do the typical structure of the death metal, in fact, we try to get away from the style… The association with "a so called rare death metal sound" it's maybe because we play very fast and use downtuned strings, but we have never wanted to do a particular style of music. Speaking about the concept: since the start we wanted to do something different. In Chile, as in other countries, we have many bands talking about different concepts and some of them base their "style, lyrics or/and imagery" in cultures from other sites of the world and just a few uses their own historical references. In our country there are a lot of underground bands, some more well known than others, talking about the Mapuche culture, so that theme is kinda usual in here. Taking this on the table, the Selk'nam stories always called our attention, because of the brutal, ahead of its time mythology and overall, inside their cosmogony, the cultural parallelism that exists with other ancient cultures, even with Sumerians. We use some words and phrases of their language, but sadly it's impossible to write all the lyrics in Selk'nam since there's not much information about. For that reason we had a lot of biography to study and discuss, thanks to the poor information which usually is mixed with the own interpretation of the different authors.
Tell us something more about “Ona” people, Selk’nam… who were they? What was their mythology, cosmogony and beliefs of Temaukel? What do you find inspiring in this people? Is it just to show the heritage and tribute to ancient cultures or something different and deeper?
R: The thing is, "Tierra del Fuego" (Land of Fire), an archipelago at the south end of Chile and Argentina, was occupied by tribes like the Selk'nam, Kaweskar and Yamana, between others, but the Selk'nam people always occupied a wider extension of this territory or "Haruwen". This people were adapted to live in a very hostile place, not only the clime, but isolation, long periods of darkness and short time of daylight, etc. They normally used the bow and arrow for their hunting activities. They believed in giants living at the south of their territory and most of their activities were related to magical rituals, like the Hain, a ritual initiation from youth to adultness. Selk'nam were used to handle astronomy and between some other heavenly bodies, they used to worship Sirius, inside this point appears the figure of TIMAUKEL, or the "one we don't speak about", a supreme being, who had all the power of creation, it can even be described as a "God's creator" if you want to correlate it with other forms of beliefs. Between their stories was possible to deduce they used to believe in the duality of universe, like the eternal conflict between the Sun and the Moon, explained by their own tales. Other information talks about their beliefs in man being reborn and even mummification (but no mummies have been found yet), and some other issues maybe you'll spot in our lyrics. With the brief information described previously, it was impossible for us to get away from such a rich culture, and moreover, going deep into it and internalize it as own, with the natural idea of re-interpretate it in some way…
Maybe it is a common question, but what does the band name and album title mean? Can you also describe more closely the lyrical content of every song? And I ask this simply because it is impossible for us to understand a single bit of them, you know!
R: Well, about the band's name, Selk'nam people used to believe in an antagonist, SIASKEL, who was a giant capable of terrify every being on the Onaisin (territory occupied by Selk'nam people). He was the incarnation of evil, an unmerciful sadistic being, some stories even describes him by wearing his victim's corpses as trophies, hanging on his belt, specially kids and women. The name of the album "Jatenentolpen Thejin" means "obscure hate", based on this deep feeling reflected on our music, a title that matches perfectly with the stories told on the album. To talk about every single song is very difficult, but we usually picked a specific topic or story, and made a lyric about it. This album in particular, deals very much with some of the characters described on the creation of the world according to Selk'nam mythology. It has by example the story of a flood, which was created by a mad Xoón (shaman)… another one describes the giant Siaskel between some other dark stories.
Why did you choose death metal sounds to illustrate the lyrical concept of the Selk’nam? I mean, was it a natural and instinctive that Siaskel sounds as it does or maybe it all was a deeply thought through process, when composing “Jatenentolpen Thejin”? I mean, some may think that maybe more ethnic and traditional music would illustrate such concepts better?
R: We always wanted to make extreme metal music. The sound related to death metal is just a coincidence, since we use a lot of black metal resources. Basically no member of the band is too adept to play folk/ethnic music, except for Gorrge our vocalist, who experiments on his voice by doing some throat tuvan singing (not for the band though). The first album has some hints of the last living Selk'nam person, Lola Kiepja, who's chants were recorded by an ethnologist in the sixties. But, coming back to the point, it never crossed by our head to create or mix our music with folk or ethnic music like many other bands have done before. Our goal is to represent death, hate, blood and destruction, so playing beautiful melodies was not an option to consider.
What feelings do you have towards the extinction of Selk'nam and the European invasion on the South America? I mean, does it bring some hatred or just an interest how someone strange and new to the land can cause the extinction of the natives so quickly?
R: Well, the whole history of mankind is full of blood; you can see the obvious rooted instinct of self destruction everywhere. Since primitive small tribes invading other territories to survive, to contemporary countries using religion as justification of greed for money and natural resources… Hatred and disgust will be always present as long as this exists, not for a specific group of people / race / countries / continents but for mankind. Certainly, talking specifically about the South America invasion by European hordes, it brings back an ancient anger and rage when you read about the abuse, tortures, massive murders, robbery, the use of native-slaves as circus monkeys, and even the paycheck for each amputated ear of Selk'nam natives… that's part of our history as humans and there's nothing you can do about it, I think that after reading my words, you'll probably might feel the same as me: a whole civilization being packed up by just a group of people who doesn't care about the ancient elements, mysticism, human art and the own mind development of the different cultures on this earth… everything must disappear from the surface of Earth!
I also wonder how the present people of Chile and other South American countries see the XV and XVI Century European expeditions of people like Columbus and Magellan? For some it may be seen as a beginning of the new era for these lands, while some will see it rather as the end of the ancient civilizations, end of the old era and old tribes?
R: For the European eyes and minds, of course, the western "civilization process" started with this events. But, in America there were huge civilizations back in time, before that. All this "new" history that was written by outsiders sounds like a paradox. Europe as the nest of modern civilization, is where they teach you, in childhood, that "history of mankind" was started. What was forged by the Great Greek Empire, by philosophy and the "Republic" concept, followed by the Roman Empire, and what anglo-saxons built up along their existence and so on, finishing in the crusades, deeply created by the Catholic Church, which finally in the subsequent years developed in the non-asking-questions-training of the world's population/zombies dictatorial religious scam. History would have been different if this supposedly-heavenly enterprise in the name of a supposed god wouldn't reach the importance it had and has in this era. South American native people in ancient times, and even now, were and are very naive in thinking all this expeditions came as "friends", when almost all of them just came to sack the so called "new" lands. About the question, yes, it became a new era for this vast lands, but an era of eradication and end of a precious and rich culture in the whole continent.
Do you visit the places with remains of the ancient civilizations? What feelings do they bring to you?
R: Oh yeah, some of us had the chance of being in different places where ancient civilizations developed back in time, like the wide-distributed Inca ruins in Perú and the ones that are present in our own country; the Mayan, Tolteca and Azteca remains along Guatemala and México; the ruins and Moai along the Easter Island; and clearly we cannot forget the legacy of our own belonging cultures distributed in Chile from north to south, which we have visited as well. The ancient power you can feel in each one of 'em is indescribable, but it's impossible to do not feel a deep quote of melancholy by learning the way those places became ruins, mostly between the XV and XVII centuries. Sometimes, you can even imagine you can feel the screams of suffering people and the smell of ancient blood spilled under your feet long time ago, but it also make you stronger as a thinking human being, opened to always learn and question everything you are taught when you are in the process of creation of self consciousness.
We spoke about the lyrical influence, but what about the musical? From one hand Siaskel is deeply rooted in the classic death metal, but on the other I don’t see you as a common band, so tell me which bands / albums are the most influential for you?
R: As we explained before, we try to get away from death metal since we believe we don't match exactly with the style. Each of us has different influences and taste of extreme heavy metal music, which obviously has been reflected in the compositions and in the final result of the songs created. Some people have told us our album has a raw sound and that's probably because the main idea and focus was recording it the way traditional metal has been recorded years before us, and that's with no extremely-hipster-overproduced-new technology with even a big amount of over-polished mixing and mastering. When the band started, we were very influenced by bands like Dissection, Dark Funeral (old), Marduk (old) and we share the taste of the sound of bands like Infernal War, Thunderbolt and a list that goes on....
How does the artwork reflects the lyrical content of “Jatenentolpen Thejin”? What is the map behind the lyrics? Is it Patagonia or just a random place in South America?
R: That's a very good question, you are the first one in taking that topic to discussion… in fact it is not just a random place of South America. The map in our album corresponds to a very old map, which contains all the world upside down, at contrary to all we have been taught in the past (north hemisphere up and south at the bottom). To us in this case, the map represent South Hemisphere as the dominant one, and going beyond this, it is a truly homage to the Selk'nam people who inhabited Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) specifically, a land which is insert in the vast Patagonia.
Siaskel was formed already in 2003, but the first demo was released only in 2010 and now the album was spawned only few months ago… What took you so long to come out of the shadows? And what can you tell me about the demo? Finally, it also took you three years to put a recorded “Jatenentolpen Thejin” on CD… What problems have occurred that it made you self release it?
R: Many years passed before finding a final line up for the band, which was formed in 2003 by K'mah Jauke on bass and Sinn Hayek indrums. Some years passed until we added the female guitarist Ma'hai Jippen as lead guitar and another guitar player as well, who used to do vocals as well. With that line up we had some live gigs and when we were prepared to record a promotional album, we ran out of a vocalist, a job very hard to fill up. In 2008, Oblimink was added in the rhythm guitars and Mortal Sorceress (a female vocalist, actual vocalist of Intenebras) did the vocal work. With her, added to the line up, it was possible to record a promotional CD, which was released at free distribution. After that time, we were preparing to record our first full length album in 2011, moment when we decided to do not keep the work with her in vocals. In that moment, after the music of "Jatenentolpen Thejin” album was already recorded, Gorrge was added to the final line up, so we kept waiting for a couple of months so he could learn and digest the songs, adding finally his voice to the mix. The mastering of the album was finished on October 2011. After it was finished, we started to look for a label so we can release the album and between that search we got in touch with a French label, which was offering a vinyl release deal. Time passed and passed until finally this label told us it ran out of money, so the release wouldn't be done. It was in that exact moment we decided to release our first album in an independent way. We thank our vocalist, Gorrge, because without his support, the release would have taken even much more time.
And well, in all this time we haven't stopped, and new songs were created along the last 2 years. Right now we have recorded at least the 95% of the second full length album tunes and very soon we are starting the compositions of a third album. Our creativity and development as musicians has grow deep into the underground, thanks to the self-imposed discipline to rehearsal every week, so new creations and vomits will come up into a very close future. We hope to work with a good and professional metal label in the future, since the job of being a self-released band is very fucking hard.
How do you feel about being a part of the mighty Chilean death metal scene, with some of its truly awesome bands like Demonic Rage, Unaussprechlichen Kulten, Magnanimus, Thornafire and Godless?
R: The death metal scene in Chile has been very prolific! In fact our first gig was shared on stage with Unaussprechlichen Kulten. All of the named bands are exceptional bands of the underground metal scene of Chile, except from Thornafire, a band we wouldn't say belong to this sac of great bands, usually they are in other kind of scene. Anyway, back in time we have shared more gigs with black metal than death metal bands, and our first live gig after all this years in silence will be with a couple of black metal ones in about 2 more weeks.
Is there a continuation of “Jatenentolpen Thejin” in works? And if so, I wonder which way do you plan to go, from the musical point of view?
R: As we wrote before, we are ad portas of finishing our second full length album. On this one we took the freedom of experimenting more into melodies, rhythms and vocal range, clearly it will have a more black metal sound. We hope to do not fall into previous errors, but taking that aside, we think this album will be WAY more interesting and brutal than “Jatenentolpen Thejin”.
This time you spoke about “Ona”, but what about Mapuche and their mythology then? Is there going to be some more features on the ancient Chile in the future? Which concept do you plan to introduce to the future Siaskel albums?
R: Oh no, we are not really interested in bathing ourselves in more cultures and finally become some kind of exponent of ancient cultures of Chile and South America. Our songs will remain deeply rooted into the Selk'nam culture, there are a lot of more stories to describe, some darker than others, which are mixed up with our own interpretation and some lethal doses of death, hate and destruction, insert in deadly compositions. We don't want to show the world what they should already know by self initiative, we don't want to transcend by exposing primeval cultures, we won't show any weakness nor laments about what happened in the past. WE ARE SIASKEL, THE OBLITERATING COLOSSUS, PREPARE YOURSELVES TO BE CRUSHED BY THE BLEEDING MOUNTAIN!!!
Siaskel still feel like a mysterious band for me. Why? First off, because there’re no official band photos or something… Then you also hide yourself behind the pseudonyms. Tell me, what role those names have? What do they represent? Finally, only recently Siaskel made a Facebook profile, which is OK, as many bands nowadays use this tool for promotion and communication. Tell me, how do you see this tool’s role in today’s scene? Does it have more positive aspects or negative ones? I sometimes feel like most of negative opinions on it are caused more by a pure nostalgia for the old days rather than they’re having any rational and reasonable explanations…
The names are a way to show respect for what we do, they represent the dark side of ourselves in connection with those who are already gone, plus, we feel like we need to keep our real identities out from the project since we are only a media to get into the final product which is the music and it's own concept... By the other hand, for a band like us and many others out there, it's really impressive how this "tool" can help you spread your art, whatever it is, since many people uses it and as an spider web, all of the possible people who might be interested in your stuff, can get into it easily, instead of randomly catching a bandcamp, soundcloud, website, of your project...all of this is good for those bands, specially if you are not backed up by a label, which usually makes me the job easier. So, we see it as a really powerful and positive tool to work with, and about nostalgia, yeah, it is there, but mainly in the heart of those real black hearted metalheads who are still fighting to keep the underground alive after all this years, in all the forms of support they can do, by buying records or going to local gigs... history begins with those people who are constantly searching for victory!!!
Thanks a lot for answering this interview, I hope you enjoyed it and that it will help maniacs to find out about Siaskel!
R: Thanks Panzerfaust zine!, it was a very historical but necessary interview for all the maniacs out there who share the taste of dark, occult and sickening vicious dose of extreme metal!!!!