About summer and goth in Costa Rica, inspirations from pre-Columbian cultures, ridiculously long band names, keeping one's sanity through musical hyperactivity and other interesting topics from the farthest guest of this year's PGT.
SANCTUARY.CZ: HEY ARIEL, HOW ARE YOU? I BET SUMMER IS QUITE INTENSIVE IN YOUR HOME COSTA RICA AT THE MOMENT, ISN’T IT?
Ariel Maniki: Hi! Well I’m doing quite good, thanks, and honestly I believe weather here is not as much intensive. You guys are having a much harder time with the heat in Europe I think.
SANCTUARY.CZ: I AM ASKING BECAUSE THERE IS LIKE 35 DEGREES HERE, WHICH IS QUITE UNUSUAL SO MAYBE THE TEMPERATURES ARE LOWER IN SAN JOSE. BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, I GUESS THERE’S A WET SEASON IN COSTA RICA AT THE MOMENT, RIGHT? COULD YOU DESCRIBE HOW IT IS TO THE FELLOW CENTRAL EUROPEAN GOTHS?
Ariel Maniki: That is correct, in Costa Rica we don’t have the four seasons as you know it, we call it “rainy season” right now, which is pretty warm but with lots of rain specially in the afternoons. And then we have the dry season from January to April, but here in San Jose it does not get too hot. We have a very privileged weather here... in the other hand if you go to the sea side, man, that is actual hell on earth anytime of the year.
SANCTUARY.CZ: WHEN WE INTERVIEWED EMILIO FROM LA CALLE MORGUE HE SAID THAT ECUADORIAN GOTHS USUALLY DON’T WEAR BLACK THAT MUCH BECAUSE OF THE WEATHER. IS IT THE SAME FOR COSTA RICA?
Ariel Maniki: Well we do wear black. So maybe we deserve some extra goth points for that.
SANCTUARY.CZ: ACCORDING TO EMILIO, THE “DARK BANDS” FROM LATIN AMERICA SCENES SEEMS TO SUPPORT EACH OTHER (ESPECIALLY AMONG COUNTRIES LIKE ECUADOR, BOLIVIA AND PERU). IS COSTA RICA ON THIS MAP OF MUTUAL DARK COLLABORATION AS WELL OR IS IT MERELY SCENE ON ITS OWN?
Ariel Maniki: These are south-American countries that are very close to each other geographically. Costa Rica is a bit isolated but on recent years we also have support from people on these countries. We actually started our current “Ritual” tour in Lima - Perú back in February, playing there by second time. We also get a lot of support from Mexico and Brasil which are countries with a huge scene on its own.
SANCTUARY.CZ: SO FIRST OF ALL – TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT THE GOTH SCENE IN COSTA RICA. IS IT ALL ABOUT ARIEL MANIKI AND THE BLACK HALOS OR ARE THERE MORE BANDS RELATED TO THE SCENE?
Ariel Maniki: Right now there’s a great gothic rock band named Last Dusk too, and I believe that’s pretty much it as of now. Is a very small country you know? I would dare to say that instead of a goth scene there is more like an alternative scene with a few goths in it, and there is where we have nested and nurtured. There have been many other dark music projects in the past but the members kind of alternate among bands and are more or less the same people, which is not something I like, I would rather see more and different projects from other people but well, is not the case.
SANCTUARY.CZ: COSTA RICA IS PRETTY FAR AWAY FROM EUROPE SO… HOW DID YOU PERSONALLY GET TO THE GOTH SCENE?
Ariel Maniki: Well again, is a very small scene here so we have this need for pushing our music as farther as we can in order to prevail and grow and challenge ourselves, we can do so now thanks to the internet and social media. Just posting and sharing our music here and there wherever we can.
Our mates from Last Dusk have got a good amount of support from UK and other European countries too, so they had actually set the ground for us in some places.
SANCTUARY.CZ: HOW INSPIRATIONAL ARE YOUR ANCESTORS AND THE ORIGINAL CULTURE OF COSTA RICA FOR YOU AND YOUR MUSIC? I THINK IT COULD BE A HUGE ADVANTAGE FOR YOU THAT YOU ARE COMING FROM ANOTHER ENVIRONMENT SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO REPEAT THE THOUSAND TIMES USED HORROR CLICHÉ LIKE IN EUROPE OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
Ariel Maniki: I am pleased by the fact that you guys noticed that. I am very interested about what is called the pre-Columbian cultures not only from Costa Rica but also from other Latin-American countries, I have found a lot of inspiration in it and continue to find it by learning and discovering new things, in the past there were tons of different tribes isolated from each other, each one with its own art, traditions and beliefs. But honestly it does not come naturally to us because we people in Costa Rica are very ignorant about these ancestral cultures, there’s practically no trace of these in our actual modern environment.
So if you are interested you have to research and learn it by yourself, read a lot, go to museums, and do some traveling to the places where that knowledge is preserved. I’m quite sure that most people in our country that supports our music haven’t even noticed about the influence we took from our own cultural history because they know very little about it and don’t recognize it. So in truth is not an advantage because we are not really exposed to that; maybe we as a country are yet more consciously related to the western horror cliché, which also has a lot of influence in what we do.
Ariel Maniki and the Black Halos – Spectre
SANCTUARY.CZ: LET’S FOCUS ON YOUR BAND – IT SEEMS THAT THE BAND IS MOSTLY YOUR KID SO TO SPEAK. ISN’T IT TIRING TO DO ALL THE INSTRUMENTS, COMPOSITION, SINGING AND LYRICS ALL ALONE? WHAT GIVES YOU THE ENERGY TO KEEP GOING WITH SUCH A HUGE LOAD OF WORK?
Ariel Maniki: I try to dedicate at least one or two hours every day to my music or any other project that I happen to be involved, and I have the advantage that I sleep very little - thou I’m not sure that’s an advantage at all - but I think this is actually what keeps me sane and helps me to navigate through the day to day stress from day job and life and parenting and bills to pay, etcetera. It has become a need for myself, for my own sanity.
SANCTUARY.CZ: AND APART FROM MUSIC, DO YOU DO ALL THE OTHER WORKS AROUND THE BAND YOURSELF? I MEAN MIXING, MASTERING, PRODUCTION, PR, GRAPHIC…
Ariel Maniki: Yes I’m pretty much a control freak. But I enjoy it for the most part. And of course there are people I can reach out for help whenever I feel the need to.
SANCTUARY.CZ: TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR MUSICAL BACKGROUND… THE BANDS YOU HAD BEFORE THE BLACK HALOS AND SO ON…
Ariel Maniki: Well my first serious band attempt was some sort of dark psychedelic post punk project called “La Marioneta” (the marionette) back in 99 to 2001 or so, where I did keyboards and vocals, it was a very experimental band.
After that I formed a gothic rock band called Draconian Incubus together with my friend Julio Salazar who is an amazing and very talented singer and musician, Also Carfax from Last Dusk was part of the band. I started in Draconian Incubus as keyboard player but because we felt there were no guitar players in Costa Rica that would really understand our vision of gothic rock then I swapped to play the guitar. I was in this band for 7 years and then I left in 2010.
The band continued for a few more years and then they broke up, but few years ago two albums by Draconian Incubus were released in Europe on Gothic Music Records label.
Then in 2011 or so I formed Maniki, which was more like a batcave/death rock sort of band. Maniki never got officially dissolved but we all went too busy with life, work and stuff like that, so this was what moved me to start working solo, not having to depend that much in other musicians, and that’s how the whole Black Halos thing started.
Besides that I also have been involved with other local bands in composing, recording and producing, not just gothic but all sorts of garage, indie and alternative rock too.
Draconian Incubus – Black Widow
SANCTUARY.CZ: BY THE WAY, ARE “THE BLACK HALOS” SOMEHOW RELATED TO THE TITLE OF THE ALBUM OF AMERICAN POWER METAL BAND KAMELOT? WHO OR WHAT ARE THE “BLACK HALOS”?
Ariel Maniki: Hahaha, no no I don’t even knew about that Kamelot album until now that you say it... well there is no special meaning behind the name and I‘m happy for that, is just a band name for the musicians that collaborate with me, and there is a story of how we got to that name...
Back in 2013 I started this as a studio project only, I was not even planning to release music at the moment, I was just putting together my home studio and making songs to play around with the different pieces of hardware and software, different types of recording and mixing, so just trying to learn the basics by actually making songs. Honestly I just wanted to record other bands but I needed to have some material to show them before they agree to work with me.
So I publish the first bunch of songs as solo artist “Ariel Maniki” only to attract bands, but then some people liked the songs and some friends that are also musicians convinced me that we should go on stage and play. Then when we were preparing our first gig I told them I was not comfortable by standing on a stage only as Ariel Maniki if there were going to be other musicians joining me too, and one of the guys came up with The Black Halos idea, we simply liked how the whole thing sounded all together “Ariel Maniki and the Black Halos” and that’s it. Later, when the project became a bit more serious, I thought I should stay with “The Black Halos” only and remove the narcissistic part, but I found there is a punk rock band in the U.S. called like that, and that’s how I got stuck with this long ridiculous band name.
As of now The Black Halos are Janice who plays the keyboards and Eva who just joined us as bass player for our Europe shows. We use sampled drums and I do vocals and guitars.
SANCTUARY.CZ: IN THE FIVE YEARS OF EXISTENCE YOU MANAGED TO RELEASE THREE ALBUMS, ONE EP AND ONE BEST-OF COMPILATION. THAT IS QUITE A LOT! IS THERE SO MUCH INSPIRATION OVERPRESSURE THAT DRIVES YOU TO MAKE MUSIC ON AND ON OR IS IT MORE LIKE THAT YOU DECIDED TO PUT A LOT OF EFFORT TO THE BAND BECAUSE YOU WANT TO HAVE A BAND THAT WILL BE SEEN ON THE SCENE INTERNATIONALLY?
Ariel Maniki: I think it comes from that need of keeping myself working and distracted, you know, my daily anti-stress self-therapy. With the years I’ve learned that it doesn’t make any sense to play very often here in Costa Rica in such a small scene, is totally counterproductive, and one does not have the chance to travel to other countries all the time, so if I am not playing live then by default I spend lots of hours in the studio, hence the results. Thankfully the inspiration has been there all that time.
I have reached a point where I need to hold myself back a bit to stop releasing too much stuff and instead let our audience digest what is already released. Actually, if I can tell you a little secret, we have a new ep ready to go and loaded into Bandcamp just waiting for me to press the “publish” button, but I do not want to do it until we are done with the “ritual” tour. It’s been there for over a month now and I think it will stay hidden until the end of October.
SANCTUARY.CZ: ON YOUR OLDER EP “TEARGARDEN” WE CAN FIND AN UNUSUAL AMOUNT OF ELECTRONIC ELEMENTS IN YOUR MUSIC. WAS IT JUST AN EXPERIMENT OR CAN WE EXPECT ANY OTHER EP THAT COULD SOUND A LITTLE DIFFERENT THAN YOUR TRADITIONAL MUSIC IN THE FUTURE?
Ariel Maniki: I really don’t know what exactly our traditional music is by now. There is also a strong presence of electronics in some of our much earlier songs included in the album “The Descending”. I do aim to keep some sort of subtle electronic beat vibe without walking too much away from goth rock. What happened with our last album “Ritual” is that I pushed myself to finish it to quickly and I did not spend that much time experimenting to add electronics to the songs. I guess I’m still trying to find the proper balance.
Ariel Maniki and The Black Halos – Blood Residuals
SANCTUARY.CZ: WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO EBM AND ELECTRONIC MUSIC IN GENERAL?
Ariel Maniki: I like a small portion of darkwave and synth wave music that has some really cool electronic beats and sequences, but that’s all, EBM is not something I dislike but I’m not into it, is just not my thing. I probably wouldn’t even distinguish it from other electronic genres.
SANCTUARY.CZ: YOU ARE GOING TO PLAY AS A SPECIAL GUEST AT THE PRAGUE GOTHIC TREFFEN. I GUESS YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC, RIGHT? AND HAVE YOU EVER PLAYED IN EUROPE BEFORE?
Ariel Maniki: Well I’ve been to several European countries as a tourist but never in Czech Republic, and indeed Prague Gothic Treffen will be our very first gig in Europe. It is very exciting for me and the Black Halos ladies.
SANCTUARY.CZ: WHAT COULD WE EXPECT FROM YOUR SHOW IN HERE? AND WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?
Ariel Maniki: So even this is our tour for the album “Ritual” we will play a selection of songs from all of our discography, therefore it’s going to be really varied musically speaking. Usually I put a lot of energy on stage so I hope I can connect with the audience and have some fun together. This is actually the very first time I come to any sort of goth festival so I know I will enjoy a lot. Is a bit sad we cannot stay for longer in Prague. Also I’ve heard amazing things about Czech beer so I have very high expectations on that.
SANCTUARY.CZ: ANY LAST WORDS OF WISDOM?
Ariel Maniki: Well I would like to thank you and all the people behind Sanctuary and the Prague Gothic Treffen organization for making us part of it. It means a lot for us and I believe is also significant for the latin-American goth scene in general. Maybe this can motivate much more artists and musicians to put out their material and make their way out of their boundaries. There’s a lot of amazing music been done on this side of the world. I invite you all to explore it, you might be nicely surprised. See you soon fellas!