Chile is probably one of the most peculiar countries in the world. You need only look at its shape to get a good idea of its diversity and differences. From the Northern deserts to the southern wilds, a place that would evoke something in men. It definitely evoked something in César Godoy, who is the sole member of Temaukel.
Temaukel is a black metal band, inspired by the ancient past and traditions of the Selk’nam people, an indigenous people who embedded their surroundings into a dense, complex mythology. The Selk’nam lived in the south of Chile, the place called Tierra Del Fuego (land of fire), named by Magellan for the fires he saw burning on the islands.
People that were being driven to near extinction in the 19th century, their culture destroyed by the rampant capitalism that still sets fire to parts of the world. This period is now known as the Selk’nam genocide. Luckily, there are artists who dig through the forgotten bits of our past. Temaukel brings back a bit of the wonderful culture and tradition of the Selk’nam people. The debut album has just been released. Time to find out more.
Let us start with the beginning. Who is behind Temaukel and how did you get started with this project? What other projects have you been involved with?
César: Hi, Temaukel is a solo project of mine, César Godoy. I’m a graphic designer from Chile, with a “normal life”, and all the free time I have I use with music and martial arts. I started with Temaukel 7 or 8 years ago, with another name, Thanatos. But after a while I’ve decided to change the main content, and I chose the new name according to the message I want to pass on.
Yes I have other projects. Thanatos and Kloketen. Thanatos is my side project of noise music, and Kloketen is a post-folk project with a friend Andrés Alday in main voices.
How did you get into extreme metal? What inspired you to go in this musical direction?
César: I got into metal when I was a kid, 13 or 14 years old, with Metallica (Master of Puppets), after in High school I got a cassette of Nocturnus and Pestilence, more death metal. After that I knew Paradise Lost and similar acts, and I discovered Dimmu Borgir, and all the Nordic black metal. After that I got into Behemoth, Vader and all that kind of extreme metal.
I have always loved the music, and I think that every style is related to a specific message. I want to transmit feelings about force, energy, but force in a spiritual and emotional way, the intensity of the feelings inside man, the free expression of the emotions, and I believe that metal is the way it can be put into words.
Can you tell a bit more about the Selk’nam people and Temaukel. Why did you chose this subject matter for this project? For people who have not heard of any of this before, would you like to give a brief overview?
César: Well, the Selk’nam were the indigenous people in the Patagonian region of southern Argentina and Chile, including the Tierra del Fuego islands. They were discovered by Europeans in the late 19th century. They were murdered in 20 years in the rush for gold. Their land was conquered by Europeans who also imposed Christianity on them. They and their language are virtually extinct by now.
In their worldview, they had some gods of which Temaukel was the main entity. He is shapeless, speechless, he just created the universe and the world, but he doesn’t live in it. He lives in Wintek, the main mountain chain. Selk’nam believed in four sacred mountain chains in the sky for each season. In Selk’nam language, this mountain chains are named like sho’on:
Wintek: Eastern sky. It is considered the most important of the four sho’on, being the residence of Temáukel and source of all that exists.
Kamuk: Northern sky.
Kéikruk: Southern sky.
Kenénik: Western sky.
I chose this subject matter because I’m Chilean, and here we don’t respect in any way our ancestors. There still exist a lot of indigenous people, Mapuches are the main, but what about others? I think we have to talk about our past, the people, the genocide and their vision of the universe and the world.
I found this in the Nordic metal. They talk about their gods, their world vision. So, why can we here talk about the same, but in our way? I think what everything we do affect to each other’s. So it’s important to show my culture to the world, that’s the reason Temaukel is in English, with some words in Selk’nam and other in Spanish. I think it’s time to talk about Selk’nam culture, our original culture, not the culture that Latin-Spanish conquerors imposed on us.
What is your personal relation to the topic and what are the goals you have with this record?
César: I’m Chilean, I don’t like ignorance, the ignorance of our land, our traditions, so it’s time to talk about it, that’s the main relation with the topic. My main goal is to talk about the culture of my land, my traditions, to the entire world, I’m not interested in money or promoting myself as a musician, I just want to show the world the culture of Chile and our ancestors.
Can you maybe take us through the record as the story that is being told?
César: The record is the history of a concept, the relation between two visions about the world, the “industrial – impositive” and the “nature – respect”, the first one the vision of the Europeans who came to South America, the second the vision of the indigenous people.
I noticed some folky passages, for example the track ‘Fires in Karukinka’. From where did you get the inspiration for those parts?César: Yes!, there’s a lot of folk inspiration in the music of Temaukel. Some influenced by my young musical background and with relation with the folk music from here in Chile.
I have done a lot of research about folk music and in the whole world you find many similarities. But answering the question, the inspiration came from the concept. Like I said before, every style represents an special message. Now, these two songs are folk, because I want to bring to present the emotion of being in the countryside, surrounded by nature, silence and wind in the cold south forward. The guitars, are the things and feelings of the Selk’nam, looking for the horizon, searching for food or just contemplating the nature itself. Now in relation to music my main influence is another Chilean band who anyone knows much more about them, more than the name, Uaral, they have 2 LPs, and 2 members, Caudal and Aciago. They’re similar to Empyrium, or Ulver’s Kveldssanger folk; dark sounds, but with reminiscence of the Chilean countryside.
You’ve translated this concept to a record, titled Spirit Of Wintek. How did the writing and recording process go for this record? Did you do things on your own or did you meet people to find sources and information?
César: Yes, I did and it wasn’t an easy process, but it was very useful. First I did was study a lot, investigate about original cultures from South America, after that Chile and finally Patagonian cultures without boundaries between Chile and Argentina. Then I introduced myself into the Selk’nam culture, and how they were exterminated in a short time with the arrival of Julius Popper, a Romanian, with the support of the Chilean Government in the 19th century.
After that I began to search for the sound, the feeling, and finally I mixed it, I made a lot of demos, different versions, rhythms… I don’t want to sound like a typical black metal band, and after a while I found the sound I was looking for. After I sorted the “history”, I wanted to retell the story with the music. So I thought about the worldview, their god and beliefs, and I crossed that with the “reality” of the genocide. So that’s the reason of the names of the songs. ‘Wintek’ – the Origin of everything, where lives Temaukel – The Creator. ‘Kenos’ – The son of Temaukel, the creator of the world – Terraformer and creator of life and the Selk’nam people. ‘Howenh’ – The gods-human like of Selk’nam, the human representation of the nature.
With that I had the context of the Selk’nam worldview. This followed by ‘Fires in Karukinka’. When the Europeans cross the The Strait of Magellan, they observed fire in the land from the sea. Fires: fire they observed (the European vision), Karukinka: That’s the name Selk’nam gave to their land. So, the name is a mixed vision of both. ‘Fires in Karukinka’. Final track is ‘Tierra del viento’: A main thing there in Patagonia is the Wind, so that’s the name of the environment the Selk’nam lived in. So that’s the name (land of wind).
As you can see, I tried to mix both visions from the feelings in one concept. Everything was done by me. There was a little work of mixing and mastering, because a want a raw sound, and everything that was recorded is what I am able to play.
You’ve recently got a label, which is good news, so which label is it and what sort of release are you aiming for?
César: Yes, a Polish label, but I left it, it’s too expensive for me for now. So I now have another contract with Sepulchral Silence from the UK for digital distribution (Spotify, Apple Music, etc). I think in about a month the music will be online on those channels. I know that recently the EP was available on torrent sites.
You’ve also released a video, which is a powerful bit of footage. Can you tell a bit about that? All the visual work looks very cool and specific. Do you have a background in that?
César: The video was the first idea for promotion of the EP and the concept of the music. I tried to use explicit images, with some conceptual elements, for both levels of understanding, some explicit, some implicit. Selk’nam had a powerful graphic universe, so I tried to use it.
I’m graphic designer, so I work on visual merch, I understand visual communication, but it was the first time I made a video clip. Also my mother tongue is Spanish, so my pronunciation may not be the best, so that’s the reason I prefer to make a lyric video, so the vocalization can be clear for everyone.
Can you perhaps tell me a bit about heavy metal music in Chile? What sort of scene is there, is it all mixed up or divided by genre?César: Here in Chile there’s a lot of metal bands of every style you can imagine, from rock to extreme metal, and it’s clearly divided by genres, there’s a lot of pubs or bars for playing, the metal was very underground before, but now it takes its place in the national scene. Every weekend you can get access to a lot of bands playing alive.
(((o))): How did metal get started in Chile? Which bands were particularly influential?
César: I’m not really sure how the metal get started here, but in the 70s and beginning of the 80s, there were a lot of rock bands. Metal became visible much later, with bands like Pentagram, Dorso, Massakre, Necrosis y Rust, the first bands of playing thrash metal. The genre emerged in the capital Santiago, but later Valparaiso got involved too. In the 90s the metal was underground, but always present. Like I said Criminal is one of the main bands, and Dorso plus Pentagram.
What other bands from Chile do you think people should really check out (and why)?
César: Chile is the land of metal, jajaja, there’s a lot of good bands here, some old bands like Criminal, Andragon, Betrayed, Dorso, Poema Arcanus, Mar de Grises and some new bands like Kuervos del Sur or Crisalida. It’s really interesting to listen to those bands because they show Chilean metal from different points of view, from old thrash, to death metal, and some playing more the “Chilean metal sound”. I recommend to listen to Andragon, because they’re a band with a very good sound, they got a new LP, Del Interior, they have now video clip for ‘Puzzles’, which you can check out on YouTube.
What does the future hold for Temaukel? What plans do you have from here? Will there be more Temaukel?
César: The future for Temaukel is an LP. I have been thinking about the next step, and I seriously believe it must be at least 12 new songs, maybe opening the main subject matter to other cultures from Chile. But yes, there will be more Temaukel in 2017.
If you had to describe your music as a dish (food), what would it be and why?
César: I describe it like “Paila Marina”, a traditional seafood soup. That’s because this soup contains several seafoods, so it’s like my music with several influences, mixed in a single sound style, and a special taste. Rustic, but complex in the mixing of the single pieces, not a gourmet dish.