Interview with Metal Priest of Cosmic Jaguar by Dave Wolff
When did you start Cosmic Jaguar and in what ways do you differ from your old outfit Bestial Invasion? Does the new band have the same members or different musicians?
Cosmic Jaguar started very spontaneously in April 2022. It was a random jam and we first decided to record one song, then a couple, and then eventually an album. Since there was a war going on in the country we didn't know what would happen tomorrow, so we didn't plan anything and did things as we could. There are three people in Cosmic Jaguar, me on vocals and bass guitar, the old Bestial Invasion guitarist Maestro and the new Bestial Invasion drummer Denis. By the way, I called Denis to play in Bestial Invasion after creating Cosmic Jaguar because we need such talented musicians in the main band. What is the difference between Cosmic Jaguar and Bestial Invasion? First of all the vocals, because the vocals are more straightforward and typical thrash vocals, they don't play as much of a role as in Bestial Invasion. Secondly, the music, because there are folk instruments and different atmospheric samples to enrich our concept. Cosmic Jaguar's music is not as technical as Bestial Invasion's, but more avant-garde. And the third thing is the concept, Bestial Invasion has no narrowly focused concept, and Cosmic Jaguar has Aztec culture and mythology.
What is the name Cosmic Jaguar intended to mean and how does it represent the direction the band is taking musically? Did you set out to do something different from Bestial Invasion or did it come about naturally?
Cosmic Jaguar is from Aztec culture, as it sounds very strange for metal bands and is catchy, so we decided to use it. Now it's very difficult to come up with an original name for a band, but I think we did it. When we started out we didn't have any affiliations or plans to be like Bestial Invasion, because it doesn't make any sense. Cosmic Jaguar is a self-contained band!
Do you know of bands from other countries who incorporate Aztec culture into metal, or is it a relatively new concept to you?
Yeah, I know a couple, but they didn't influence us, because they play in a different style. For example, I like Amocualli, Cemican, and Maquahuitl. For thrash, of course, this is new, so I decided to take advantage of it!
What subgenres do those bands play, where are they from and how did you hear about them? Can people stream them online?
They play very different music, but they have that very Aztec spirit that I liked. I saw them on YouTube and you can do the same! Cemican even played at Wacken! They have very cool music videos!
How much of Aztec culture and history are you studying to incorporate into your lyrics? What mediums are you turning to for study?
I read a lot of different articles and books and find interesting information in them that inspires me with the concept. I also dream of going to Mexico and seeing everything with my own eyes and I think I will in the coming years!
How often did you have random jam sessions before starting Cosmic Jaguar?
Not often, because at that time there was a very active war phase and we didn't know what to expect next from the situation, so ideas were already exchanged over the internet.
Where in Mexico are you planning to travel to? Are you in touch with any bands based in Mexico you would hook up with to go to live shows, or are you just planning to see some of the sights there? Where else would you travel?
I would like to visit the Pyramid of the Sun, it's about 40 km from Mexico, in a northeasterly direction, and I would also like to visit the Yucatan Peninsula. I don't have any connections to Mexican groups, but I'd fix that if I wanted to. I would just like to go as a tourist and enjoy the culture of Mexico.
Was the entire album written and composed in that one jam session, or was it completed over a series of jam sessions?
I had a lot of ideas and blueprints that didn't make it into my other projects, so we started with those, and the guitarist had a couple of good ideas and we basically made an album out of it all, but we worked it all out in terms of concepts and arrangements. We didn't rehearse much, but we did a tremendous job at the rehearsals.
What folk instruments do you write with? Are they instruments other bands have recorded with, or are you writing with instruments other bands haven’t tried? Describe some of the atmospheric samples included in your material.
Some percussion instruments are available from our percussionist Denis, and some we took from different sound libraries because we have no place to find these instruments and record it all ourselves. We used Death Whistles, flutes, and other wind instruments. We have these elements in all of our songs, so it's hard to isolate anything.
What is the Death Whistle, and how often did you record the album with this instrument?
The Aztec whistle, which makes an eerie sound, was immediately given the name "death whistle". Exactly what these whistles were intended for, scientists still don't know exactly. One plausible theory is that they were used in rituals - the Aztecs had a great many of them, so it is difficult to determine which one. A second hypothesis has it that whistles with frightening sounds were used to intimidate enemies. Indeed, if you hear the shrieks of an Aztec whistle in the dark, and even more so in the dense jungle, you can literally shit in your trousers! We've used it a couple of times on some songs.
What sort of an effect does the death whistle have on Cosmic Jaguar’s material? In what ways does it influence the atmosphere in your songs?
It's a very specific sound that makes you wonder, what was that? It influences the atmosphere a lot because these sounds give a concept to our music! When the album comes out you'll know what I mean!
Did the lyrics come with the material you completed in rehearsal, or are those still to be penned at some point? How much do the lyrics differ from Bestial Invasion’s?
I wrote the lyrics for the finished song, which means that we had the instrumental part of the song, and then I took the demo home and came up with the lyrics and the vocal line there. So everything was done one at a time. Bestial Invasion is a completely different band in concept, so the lyrics are different.
What books would you recommend to people who listen to Cosmic Jaguar and become interested in Aztec culture?
To begin with, at least, “Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs”. Also: “The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya”, “Deciphering Aztec Hieroglyphs”, “The Aztec Empire: An Enthralling Overview of the History of the Aztecs”. This is actually a very complex topic and requires a lot of time and attention to be fully immersed in it. And for the very lazy I can recommend the film “Apocalypto” (2006).
What is the movie “Apocalypto” about and why did you recommend this to the readers?
The film shows the life of the Aztec/Maya civilization before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors: brutal wars with neighbouring tribes, human sacrifice, and mysterious mystical rituals. One day, the world of an Indian named Paw Jaguar collapses. His village is overrun by a neighbouring tribe, destroying huts, and taking the locals captive. He is led into town to be sacrificed to the gods. Faced with imminent death, Lapa Jaguara must conquer his worst fears and make a desperate dash to save what he holds dear... Why recommend him? Because it is watchable in the same breath and reveals everyday life and culture very well.
Name some of the songs you composed in your initial jam session.
They were “Chimalma, Mother of the Quetzalcoatl” and “The Harbinger of the Sun”. The album “The Legacy of the Aztecs” has been ready since September and was handed over to the Dutch label Metal Warrior Records.
How do the subject matter and lyrical content of “Chimalma, Mother of the Quetzalcoatl” and “The Harbinger of the Sun” reflects your research on Aztec Culture?
“Chimalma, Mother of the Quetzalcoatl” is a goddess in Aztec mythology. Considered the wife of Miskoatl and the mother of Quetzalcoatl. The name Chimalma means ‘shield of the Earth’ or ‘with a shield in hand’. According to one legend, Chimalma had no children for a long time. She prayed on the altar of Quetzalcoatl and the priest said that she had to swallow a small precious stone, a jad. After she swallowed the jad, Quetzalcoatl was conceived.
“The Harbinger of the Sun” song of Sholotl - in Aztec and Toltec mythology, the god of thunder and death, the “dark” twin brother of Quetzalcoatl, one of the two sons of the maiden Coatlicue. In Aztec myths, usually represented as a formidable deity of thunder, the underworld, and various disasters and mishaps, was considered the lord of the evening star and the dark side of Venus, but at the same time was a patron of twins and the ball game, in Myctlan (the realm of the dead in Aztec mythology) accompanied the dead, also accompanied the sun at the beginning of the day on his way to the firmament. He was depicted as a skeleton or as a humanoid monster with a dog's head and crooked legs. In some depictions he is armed with an axe and has a spot of light on his back.
How did you hear about Metal Warrior Records? How well-known is this label in Holland, and why did you decide they could best promote the band?
I met their boss Mario by chance and we got to know each other to re-release the Bestial Invasion albums, and then I suggested to him to release our new project and he said yes. I love the fact that this label does a really good product in all aspects and because of the war we don't have the possibility to do it on Nocturnus Records, where the last two Bestial Invasion albums were released. Also, Metal Warrior Records has a good distribution worldwide!
What bands besides Cosmic Jaguar are Metal Warrior Records supporting at the time of this writing?
The label doesn't have a big list of bands, but there are a couple of cool ones, like Feonor (Featuring ex-Manowar guitarist David Shankle), Vultur, and Invictus.
In what ways has the war with Russia affected metal bands and underground scenes in your country, as far as corresponding together and with bands and fans elsewhere?
Very much, because the war changes your priorities. The Ukrainian spirit can't break anything, so after Ukraine's victory everything will be back on track and I think there will be a new creative boom! Part of the metal community is fighting, another part is volunteering, and another part is working for the country's economy. Personally, most of the fans of Raven, Type O Negative, Poltergeist, and other bands supported me and that's very cool!
Has your immediate neighborhood in Ukraine been affected by the war? How often have you had the chance to tell listeners outside your country what’s been happening?
Of course it has, I've had a lot of people write to me from Europe and the U.S. asking what's going on because they don't always trust the media. So at first, I spent a lot of time answering everyone. Everyone who wants to know the truth should know it.
In your view, how much has the media been getting things wrong when it comes to covering the war? How do people react when you present them with your accounts of what’s happening? Where else should people go to get the full story?
It all depends on where the media is coming from, if it's pro-Russian, it's all rubbish, so sometimes people get it wrong. I, of course, tell the truth as an eyewitness. It's very difficult to find a single source that would reveal the whole truth, so I'm afraid to take such responsibility to advise anything.
Since the war started has it become more difficult to correspond with Russian bands you’re in touch with? How is the internet connection between Ukraine and Russia of late?
Before the war, I didn't keep in touch with almost any Russian groups, because after 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and caused a massacre in Donbass, friendly relations deteriorated.
Tell the readers a few things about the recent video you released on Youtube covering a song by the band Sadist (Italy). Is this one of many songs you were considering doing your own rendition of? Why was it chosen to showcase the band?
We recently released a cover of Sadist – “Escogido”! This is our second cover, the first one was for Babe Ruth's album “The Mexican” and now we're recording the third one for Cynic. We all really like Sadist's album Tribe and decided to do a cover as a tribute. This song suits us very well in terms of atmosphere and concept, as well as musically. And the most annoying thing is that almost nobody has done covers of Sadist, so we decided to stand out. Also, we did it in our own way, which was very much liked by the founding guitarist Tommy and the former drummer of Peso.
Are you planning to produce more videos to promote Cosmic Jaguar? And what has Bestial Invasion been up to of late?
We already shot a video in the summer for “The Northern Underworld” in an old-school format. It's a black-and-white video in the old 4:3 TV format without any fancy gimmicks. It was on a zero budget and I shot and edited it myself. That's why it's made from the heart and out of the trends of our time. We plan to unload the clip next year before the album is released. As for Bestial Invasion, we have already composed a new album and are recording it now and we will have our first single soon! Stay tuned!
What is the next Bestial Invasion album going to be like? How long did it take to complete it and is it an improvement from your previous releases?
The next album will be more like the third “Monomania” album because there won't be the same dense concept as on the previous album on “Divine Comedy”. There will be a different sound and more cheerful stuff. We've already composed all the material and we're recording it now! The album will be released in autumn 2023 I think!
Which song will be the first single to showcase the new full-length? Is the taping and production of the video being completed at this time?
There was already the first single on 15 October, “Our Lord the Flayed One”. The next single will be just after the new year and might be "Temple of the Feathered Serpent" and the video clip will most likely be just before the album release. The clip has been ready since August).
How often do you expect to promote the new material from both your bands by performing live? What local locations or countries do you and the band have in mind?
Bestial Invasion isn't planning to play with us yet, although we received an invitation to Wacken 2023 and Cosmic Jaguar is likely to go there, so we're in talks. While there's a war going on we're not planning anything apart from studio records, and time will tell!