Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Interview with Arelys Jimenez of MATIANAK by Dave Wolff

Interview with Arelys Jimenez of MATIANAK

Matianak is taken from an Indonesian folk tale/Malaysian mythological tale about a vampiric ghost, also known as a pontianak or kuntilanak, said to be the spirit of a stillborn child. What about this legend inspired you to choose this name for the band?
As it can have different interpretations, it is also a woman who died from being pregnant. I have always been into folklore and mythology. Doing research of and possibly aiming for a single-word band name was tricky. I had a few listed but most were taken. Matianak really stood out to me. It sounds evil, the meaning behind it sounds creepy and I wanted to represent my vision of a matianak as an evil native witch queen that looks like it came from some evil cult. I wanted a unique creative name but anyone can interpret their own version of what it means to them. There is no wrong or right way to view Matianak.

How is the band’s concept visually represented? Aesthetically the band is taking the imagery of black metal several steps further. Is it to give your performances a cult like atmosphere, or just for shock value, or a means of representing the folk tale?
My view of how I look on stage is to look like a powerful, evil, creepy witch like queen that has risen from a bad past, filled with much darkness and out to seek revenge. I’m inspired to give the audience a full show of visuals and storytelling in a disturbing and hypnotic way. The band is evolving little by little in our overall feel and look. It will take much time and work but Matianak will never be on the exact look; we aim to look disturbing and to tweak and improve our look. Having an artistic background as a child, my art consisted of much hate and anger, and what better way but to twist it into the genre. My goal is to give an overall view of experience. I want the audience to feel, see, and hear the art of the band. Every element has a meaning and a purpose. We aim to be an artistically creative, disturbing black metal band. We are a band that will give you a show, not just musicians playing instruments. Our music and shows will possess you.

How much has black metal come musically since the early 90s? Is there still room for the genre to continue progressing and growing on its own terms?
There are many underground bands but I don't think many are as good now. I am sure the genre has room for growth, but it seems it is dying and losing its touch. The bands well known from the 90's might be as good as it got and some of the great ones are not around anymore. "Black metal" has been changing and incorporating other styles. There are so many crossover genres and subgenres, and variety that interests me. Many bands sound the same but when the genres are mixed I think it makes an interesting concept. Such as blackened death metal, grindcore mixed with death and black metal, symphonic black metal, crust black metal etc. It is evolving, but as far as raw 90's black metal not many new bands I know of have that same touch. I am into a variety of music and styles; black metal is only one.

What other genres have you been listening to of late? Many bands naturally expand their influences but many other bands try to force it and it comes out sounding fake. How do you make an effort to tell the difference?
I like creative music. I listen to also acid jazz and trip hop like Portishead and CocoRosie. I listen to a lot of orchestra, classical, opera, Latin music, native music… I also am into Wardruna and really love their creative ways of using Nordic instruments. I love music that is inspired by art and passion. You can tell from the way they sound and perform that they actually spend time with and are true to the music. Examples are being spot on and in tune. Few to no errors when playing live. Giving good energy and audience interactions. The chemistry you get when you tell them "they did a good show." Creativity in their music and/or stage persona. Fake bands will be very egotistical and are not pleasant to be around. They try too hard to the point of annoyance and have such a horrible stage presence make several errors and are completely off tune. They do not take it seriously and are just merely a joke. They make the profession seem like nothing but just fun and games and not take it seriously.

How much research did you undertake while you were searching for a fitting band name? How many folk tales did you research before finally settling on Matianak?
I was always into mythology, especially mythology from Greece. I have a background in art and studied art history as well. Looking for a good name that rings a bell, and portraying some sort of mean woman figure was rough. Most names didn’t sound good enough for a band. It didn’t take too long, but it took a few weeks to discover countries with their own folklore stories. I didn’t think of trying to pick a name by my liking. Curiously looking around, the name Matianak came to me naturally. It really attracted me and I knew this was going to be the name for us.

What is the extent of your background in art, and where did you study art history? How far into the past did your studies take you? Are there any artists whose work particularly enamored you?
I am attracted to different cultures. I am mixed of Puerto Rican, Mexican, Native American, Spanish and Nigerian. I find culture beautiful. I loved art as a young child. I drew, paint, did crafts, graphic design, web design, flyers, business cards, made some cartoons and 3D character designs. I went to the Illinois Institute Of Art and transferred to finish my Fine Arts degree in Flashpoint Academy for 3D character design for video games. I only use my art for my band and just a hobby for flyers for now. My favorite artists are Guillermo Del Toro and H.R. Giger, I'm a huge survival horror game fan and Silent Hill is a huge influence.

Can you provide examples of Del Toro’s and Giger’s work that were inspirational to you?
Giger’s alien design in the Alien movies, and Species. The majority of his work is mechanical and abstract. The work of Del Toro on the character designs for the movies Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth was just gorgeous. Creatures, dragons, demons and dinosaurs always fascinated me as a young child.

Were you studying Greek mythology where you studied art? Is Greek folklore incorporated into the band’s concept, visually or lyrically?
Greek mythology only interested me. I love characters and creatures of all sorts. I find the back stories for each character interesting. As far as concepts based on Greek mythology, none are in the band. The lyrics are all about the insane events that have occurred and gave me inspiration to tell them onstage.

Besides Greek mythology, do you read the mythology of other cultures (Roman, Norse, Native American etc)?
I know of them but haven’t recently read any. I randomly see films and video games with these cultures in to get a visual feel of the look and style. 

It has taken a long time for female artists to be taken seriously, especially alternative models and any models who express themselves in a non-mainstream friendly way. In your view, how much have women taken control of themselves in the art world? How important do you consider alternative expressions of beauty?
I don't look up to a lot of female artists as most seem fake and just attention seekers who use their sex as an advantage to succeed. I wanted to break the cycle of how women are viewed, not being viewed as sex objects onstage. I like to keep audiences guessing; no one really knows it is me doing the vocals which I admire greatly. They are judgmental at first, but then they hear my witch like chanting and screams and their jaws drop. Instead of looking like everyone else I wanted to look disturbing and creepy, and hypnotize people. Not with my looks but the art, hard work and thought I put into the visuals. Women should be equal to men, but in the music world it is hit or miss. In reality most women will attract more men or be judged as not having talent. Sadly! I have a good balance of women and men that admire what I do and that means a lot. Whether others like what I do or not I respect people's opinions. I haven’t got many negative followers.

How long did it take you to develop your onstage persona for your performances? Do the other members of the band have their own stage personas?
It took me only few weeks to make mine. I do change and tweak it as time goes by. I am still working on how I want the rest of the band to look and I am taking my time on that. I do want them to match me; I am looking for a style similar to Shao Kahn from Mortal Kombat. So far it is getting there but it will still take time and funds to pull off. All the stage gear is made with real animal bones and mixed with other fabrics. I am aiming for them to be creepy part of my cult on stage.

Being that the band is based in Chicago, Illinois, how active do you see the local metal scene these days? Has it been growing band and club wise the last ten years or so?
I honestly don't plan to play shows often. We play once to twice a year here due to people getting bored and ending up not caring if you play too often in your local city. We don't have many black metal bands here. I love to keep people waiting, as they will be much more eager to come see and support you. I like to change things every show so the audience doesn't expect what’s next unless they show up. The scene is dying and seems to be all about popularity and who you know. I have supported many bands and shows for many years. It looks like no one likes going to shows nowadays and supporting bands. They pick their favorites and their friends. The younger bands struggle the most. Many I have seen for many years suddenly do not do well playing shows now next to ten years ago. I think people just need a show, and not just to see musicians play onstage. This is why I wanted to form my band. Every show will be a performance. I try to always change something.

What do you think can be done to improve the underground scene in Chicago? How many print zine and webzine editors have active publications there?
It’s hard to say. I’m not sure if every state is like this. I do not think there's much you can do but promote hard, pass flyers, connect with and support the local bands, promoters and networks. I don't really know many Chicago zines. All the ones that have reached out are from outside my city.

Describe a typical Matianak show. Are you mostly playing the Chicago club circuit or have you made any local fest appearances? Has there been zine coverage since you started performing?
We have only played locally and, as explained previously, just once or twice a year. We have not done any shows out of state or any festivals yet. I am asked often to play other states and countries, but we got much to prepare before going on the road. Since our first performance about four years ago we have had great support. We have been in online magazines, news articles, blogs, and several other pages made by fans.
A Matianak show starts off with creepy sampler intro. The microphone stand candles are lit. I slowly crawl up stage and stare at everyone with a death like stare, without blinking, and then we all start. There is full eye contact and audience interactions. Sometimes I drag people randomly by their shirt and yell lyrics at them. Sometimes I crawl and move very creepily. I let the music take over me. I don't practice what I do; I just go with what I feel in my soul and gut and give everyone a hell of a show with great energy and passion.

Are your intro samples borrowed from movies, or was an instrumental piece composed as an intro by the band?
The instrumental piece was made by sound design guys I hired from Mind Exchange Music. I told them the lyrics and wanted intros for each of the six from our album and a hint of the Silent Hill feel and a creepy ambience.

Were you in contact with Mind Exchange Music before contacting them for the instrumental piece? How easy are they to work with?
I wanted samplers to go in between songs for our live set, so I posted an ad looking for sound designers. They were pretty easygoing guys. I was the picky one and they had to redo a lot until I approved. They were patient and finished the samplers quicker than I thought, within a couple weeks before our third show.

In which online magazines and blogs has Matianak been featured? Are reviews of your music mostly favorable? How much material has the band released to date?
We are reviewed and featured in several areas on the internet. If you Google our name you will see them. We are in Metal Archives, Chicago Reader, Metal Messiah Radio, Narcoleptica Productions, Busokchronicles, The Metal Experience, Youtube, Adrenaline-Armory, Metalarea, Realmofmetal, CMF, Spotify, Bandcamp, and several metal Blogspot and discography pages. The reviews are very informative and favorable. I got no negative feedback on my end. Very little reviews were by people not digging the style, but they seemed they were not metal fans. I know the music isn't for anyone and I respect that.
Non Compos Mentis is our first album. You can listen to it on Bandcamp and Spotify. We are currently working on our new album. We will hopefully ready to record between 2019 and 2020.

Are you the band’s lyricist? Describe the songs appearing on Non Compos Mentis, what they’re written about, and what inspired them. How much input does the other band members have writing and recording for the album?
I am the lyricist and everything else for the band; basically manager too. I write all the lyrics, all the titles, and do all the creative visuals and crafts, costume and make up design, all by hand. I am in charge of shows and promotions. The band mates have freedom to create songs; I approve or not and point out where they needs to be tweaked. So we all work together as a team.
As far as lyrical content, it is based on real events and real people. Our first song ever “The Last Cry” is about my old neighbor that killed her seven month old granddaughter by cutting her with a power saw across her throat to stop her from crying. “Domesticated Sacrifice” is about an African American lady that walked in my job carrying a bag with a dead cat wrapped in plastic and lace inside. She kept saying Satan killed her cat; and white witches from the Roman Catholic Church beat it and killed it. She refused to give it up, and left.
“Hypnotic Torture” is about the serial killer David Parker Ray and the disturbing tape recording he played for his victims. “Touch Of Silence” is about a lady that sold a deep freezer on Craigslist with her dead mom’s remains inside of it. “Non Compos Mentis” is about the mental disorders de-realization/depersonalization. “The Woman In A White Dress” is about the matianak. We have two new songs not yet released. "Tumba Noxus" it is about another U.S. black metal band that spread rumors of us and had us booted off a show we were supposed to play. I do not know why they have issues with me. I don't even know them at all. So I mocked them and showed my statement that nothing will stop me from moving forward. "Black River Falls" is about a city in Wisconsin where in the late 1800's to the 1910s there were disturbing murders, suicides, and other disturbing events.

Where did you research the serial murders and the other disturbing events covered in your songs? How do you convey those incidents so they’re felt by your audience?
I knew three of the events since I dealt with them. Randomly browsing online for disturbing incidents and occurrences I looked for disturbing stories to use as inspiration. The intro samplers for each song give the audience a feel for what the songs will be about. I use hand and body language expressing the action and emotion of the lyrics. I have a range on vocal patterns and reenact the stories on stage. Eventually I want creepy videos to be played, along with more stage acting with live actors.

Is Non Compos Mentis exclusively available in streaming format? Has it been released on compact disc for people who prefer physical copies? Do you collect CDs and vinyl as a hobby?
Non Compos Mentis is available as a physical CD. We only have thirty copies left at the time of this writing. They may be purchased through our Russian distributor Narcoleptic Productions. They will be very rare CDs to own, as they will not be made again once they are gone. The label has less than 300 copies at this time. It will also be released on vinyl. We are talking with an underground label at the moment so the vinyl release will be available possibly this year. I collect some CD's and some vinyl, usually from bands I enjoy at shows or traded with bands I connected with. I don't have much of a collection but I’ll possibly want to collect more in the future.

How much of a listenership has Narcoleptic Productions helped generate for Matianak in Russia? Can you disclose the label that may be releasing Non Compos Mentis on vinyl?
They have really promoted us online and fans spread our music through blogs. Anything we post they will share on social media. The label we are talking with to release the album on vinyl is Suicidal Melancholy Records. They are a fairly new underground label. They mainly have a lot of DSBM bands and unsigned underground black metal bands. We haven't decided yet if we want to be officially signed to the label.

How many bands have you been trading CDs with? Do you prefer trading for well-known underground releases or rarities from obscure bands?
I'm friends with a lot of bands here. I have not traded with many of them, just some I'm close to here. I have given some away to those that helped me or my band in some sort of way. Also promoters or anyone that it might be a good idea to connect with and let them have a CD. I don't care to make a profit I just want Matianak to be exposed out there, and slowly be discovered. So I sometimes give merch away.

Did you design the cover artwork and packaging for the CD release of Non Compos Mentis? If so, does the artwork represent the songs appearing on it?
I designed the album artwork. It was all photography and I edited it by Photoshop. The pieces in the booklet are all photographed at live shows. Our distributor put it together. I actually plan to make a lyric magazine and have photography done to match the lyrics. I’ll possibly get that started this year or next year. 

Do you have anyone in mind to hire as a stage actor for your performances? Are you partly inspired by any theatrical live bands such as Alice Cooper, Misfits or King Diamond?
I am friends with all sorts of artists, and I'm sure they wouldn't mind helping out. I am actually a big King Diamond fan and do enjoy their live shows. I respect when bands put out an amazing stage show. I am inspired by different cultures, styles and looks. A mix of all the music I like and movies based on different looks and costumes will inspire me as well. 

Frank Garcia of Blood Of The Wolf has filmed some of your shows for posting on Youtube. How good of a job did he do capturing the essence of your performances?
He is a dear close friend to me and a master behind the camera. We have known each other for about four years. He captured well on not only the expressions but the live video vibe and feel but still keeping it natural. We work well together so he totally understand what I look for. I respect him and admire him greatly.

Where can Garcia’s uploads of your live shows be viewed, and how many hits have they received up to now?
If you Youtube search Matianak you will see several live videos. The more professionally made videos are his. Looks like total views are about 2,000 for the older videos and about 1,400 for recent videos from two years ago. 

You and Garcia recently worked on a photo shoot; the photos can be viewed on Facebook and Youtube. How did they go? Are any future collaborations planed for the near future?
I did a model photoshoot in the summer of 2018. He has never photographed a model in his career; he asked me and I agreed to help him fulfill his dream and passion, and to experiment with natural lighting, shadows and camera lenses. You will find the shoot on Facebook, Youtube and Instagram along with the rest of his work and music career. It was really fun and we both had a great time. He spends most of his time downtown looking for great locations to shoot; we went to those areas and found beautiful spots for pictures. We plan to do more photography work. Several ideas have been mentioned, such as the magazine that will display my lyrics and have disturbing photography to tell the story from Non Compost Mentis. I also got creepy photography of me and some photo shoots of me and my dog. Kind of experimenting and helping to expand his portfolio with different ideas.

Do you have any ideas in mind for another full length album? Or perhaps a live release of some kind? How soon would you expect to start working on something new?
We are working on our new album this year. We want to record and release it this year but only time will tell. I want the images to match my lyrics on the booklet, to aim with nothing but photography and continue using realism. I do not want drawn artwork as it’s much easier to accomplished and overdone. I want to go into more of an interesting, creative way to express art. I have a few friends to collaborate on this type of project to be accomplished. I’ll hopefully get it started this year 2019 and be ready for 2020.

Anything you want to reveal about this new art project before it gets started? What sort of statement do you intend to make with it?
They are based on the same concept of real events and stories and capturing the overall feel of the psychotic and the insane. No statement is given besides showing and expressing of the corrupted, insane, psychotic people that have committed the most disturbing and creepy events. I will continue my search on the most disturbing stories I am able to find or witness.

How many songs are you currently working on for the next album? Will they be more intense and creepy compared to the last one?
We plan to have about six songs for the next album. So far we have three new ones. We always plan to step up our game and continue to be even more intense and creepy. It will be a slow progress but little by little Matianak will take its full form.

-Dave Wolff

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