Interview with YAOTL MICTLAN



Satania: Hello! Present the band. You found the group almost 18 years ago, but I’m not sure that many people know about you.

Yaotl Mictlan: YM was founded by my brother and I when we were in high school as a two person band for many years. We did not want to sing about anything else but Mesoamerican themed lyrics. Shortly after we send a demo to different labels and one day we got a call from Juan Brujo from the band Brujeria. He financed our first demos called “A Batalla Vamos” and got going on the band.

Our idea was to definitely not sing in English but Spanish, add Mesoamerican instruments. Also did not want to sing anything political and decided to only talk about history before 1521 pre conquest/contact date.

S.: What does Yaotl Mictlan mean and what language is it spoken in?

YM: It can be translated to Warrior(s) from the land of the dead. The language is Nahuatl which was the Aztec/Mexica language, about 2 million people still speak it today.

S.: You say that your lyrics are in mayan and aztec language. Actually how alive are these languages and how many people speak them today?

YM: Our goal has always been to use Mesoamerican languages, but really we want Mexcian and Central American metal heads that would listen to our music to understand the lyrics, as a history lesson, to raise consciousness about our past in order to move forward with strong roots.
These languages are alive and well, but like always many young people prefer Spanish since they don’t see any real use for their native language in modern life.

S.: You say, that your music and ideas are a mixture of the mesoamerican cultures. Although, tell me what culture do you feel you belong to the most – Mayan or Aztec?

YM: Within Mexico’s borders you have Mayans, Mexica, Zapotecos, Olmecs, and many more we belong to all these cultures and peoples that is what makes us so historically rich. Aztec/Mexica and Maya are the most famous.
Mayans were never really conquered like the Aztec/Mexica so their buildings are rich in glyphs, the popol vuh (creation book) that reflects all Mayan star-wars, glyphs on buildings, codices etc. They invented the only original form of writing in the whole continent, so we know more from them because of they left written for us.

S.: How many of the ancient traditions and rituals of both civilizations are kept until present day. Tell me more about some of them.

YM: Many traditions are kept from Mayans still putting incense in Mayan temples (incorrectly named pyramids) to the food and traditions in Mexico. This answer can be very long, but even Mexican Spanish uses many Nahuatl words, day of the dead, etc.

In a village in the center of Mexico all its inhabitants grab all jugs and containers they place thousands of them everywhere, the outside corners from their house, doorways, streets, and sidewalks. When the celebrations starts neighbors, and people go around to fill all these containers with water this is called the new water celebration that was practiced by the Mexica to honor Tlaloc the god of rain, with purpose of making Tlaloc happy that humans were worshiping him correctly so he can give them water for their farming.

S.: Both civilizations were Sun Worshippers, this suggests to „lighter“ rituals and gods, but history proves, that this is not true. Tell me more about the most bloodthirsty mesoamerican gods.

YM: Well in the first few days of contact, Spanish documented human sacrifices from Mayans to Mexica, but for hundreds of years after the conquest no one could talk, research , or worship the old ways. Our history erased in a matter of years, we were like chickens without heads running around with no purpose but to be free from Spanish rule. Later in the 1800 and early 1900 European archeologist started to research the temples and thought that the Mayans were peaceful , and they published that all over the world for decades ‘til about 50 years ago they found all the evidence that they were very violent, war mongers, and my favorite they performed human sacrifices to the gods.

All gods were blood thirsty, but once the pre classical and classical Mayan period was well established with its “divine kings” human sacrificing went full gear since it was politicized. For example a king finished construction on a building, to inaugurate he or she would sacrifice someone, next king to be better than last king would sacrifice 20 and so forth.
It is rumored that for the god of war Huitzilopochtli they sacrificed anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 people which is probably a huge exaggeration just to show off the king’s power to the newly arrived Spanish.

yaotl-logoS.: You have a song about the warrior-jaguar. Did the myths about the Chavin culture inspired you about this song or this is just another local myth?

YM: Garra de Jaguar / Ocho Venado is a track on our album called Dentro del Manto gris de Chaac, and it talks about a warrior from the Mixtec región who ended up unifying all the independent city states in that área to make one big city state. The story survived in a codice which is a pre conquest history book, it was deciphered so we wanted to tell his story as our ancestors wrote it.
Our paternal grandparents were from that region were the great Ocho Venado – Garra de Jaguar was from.

S.: What is your theory about the disappearance of the Mayan civilization? :)

YM: There were many factors in why the inhabitants of the big mega cities were abandoned. There is evidence with carbon dating that many of the classical and post classical cities were burned. Every city was at was with each other for generations. Also weather patterns mainly droughts made it unsustainable to farm for huge cities of 100, 000 people. In Mesoamerica there is not many fresh water rivers or lakes, so drought took a toll on everyone. Devine kings just could not provide for everyone, etc.
In the end people abandoned one huge city, for another one, they would pick up their belongings and walk to the next one. They did not disappear like you hear or see on tv, there is 160 million of us in Mesoamerica (6 countries)

S.: What folk instruments do you use in your music? I suppose that with them you are trying to re-create the atmosphere of the ancient rituals.

YM: Exactly recreate the feel. Sea shells, flutes, handmade native drums that are replicas from codices, murals and carvings that our ancestors left for us literally written in stone!

S.: How did the idea of mixing and creating this kind of genre come to life?

YM: My brother and I loved black and death metal when we were pre-teens so when we started the band we wanted to sing about Mexica subject, and adding flutes and those instruments came naturally.

S.: Why do you use Spanish in your lyrics? Aren’t you afraid, that by using it you might lose part of your mysticism and your image (after all Spaniards are the main fault for the fall of the Aztec empire)?

YM: We want Mexicans and Central Americans to understand what we are talking about, we all speak Spanish.

S.: You have two albums and the last one is from 2010. Do you have new material and are you planning a new album?

YM: Yes we just recorded our new album that will come out in a few months. We are playing about 3 or 4 new songs in this tour.

S.: Are you coming in Europe for the first time? Is there an ancient European culture, that you’re impressed by or you haven’t been interested in our history that much?

YM: We have been here on vacation before , first time with the band. We love all history from ancient to more modern. One of the reasons we started the band was because the official history books provided to students in Mexico are very Eurocentric , even when telling Aztec/Mexica history, it told it in favor of Europeans and not Mexicans, so we will play a song tonight called “Noche Triunfadora” (Victorious night” because in Mexico they thought it to us as the sad night because the Spaniards lost a battle against the Aztecs/Mexica. We re wrote it with our point of view, we won it was the triumphant night not sad night!
To your question all we learned was European history so we are impressed with all European history.

S.: Final words. Thank you!
YM: Thank you so much!

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