Interview with Ariel Maniki & The Black Halos by Tzina Dovve

Photograph by André Olivetto

Tzina: As l understand Ariel Maniki & The Black Halos is your creation. What prompted you to form the band and what is the current line-up?

Tzina Dovve

Well, I’ve been with different bands for about 20 years now, so a new project was the natural thing to do after my previous band got dissolved. What was different is that AM&tBH started as a solo/studio project and it was not intended to become a “band” or to perform live at all. I was a bit tired of having to deal and work with other people to make songs, and also I was putting together my own home recording studio at the time; so you could say the project came about as an act of selfishness and self isolation, but then, as soon as the first bunch of Ariel Maniki songs were released I started to flirt with the idea of going back on stage, so then I contacted some friends and the whole Black Halos thing came together in a matter of weeks.

The line up has varied a few times since then. As “official” members I would say is just Janice, who plays the keyboards live and in most of our recordings, and myself, but we also have Eva, she’s the lady behind the bass in all of our shows for almost two years now and who also has collaborated a bit in recent recordings.

As the ‘mastermind’ behind the songs what inspires you the most to write music? What triggers a new song?

I’m easily inspired by life itself. It can be anything, you know, an idea can come from listening to a drilling machine in the street or from a very crazy deep conversation around some drinks with a friend. I have both the blessing and curse that I never stop thinking about music, and this is great because it makes it very easy for me to write new songs at any moment, but sometimes it’s not that great because it messes up my sleep. It is like a radio in my head that I can’t turn off.

What are your musical influences?

I believe my biggest influence of all time is a Mexican rock band called Caifanes that I listen to since I was a kid. But then also a lot of different things like Bowie, Bauhaus, The Cure, Joy Division all the way to the very gothic-ish bands like The Mission, The Wake, Love Like Blood, Nephilim… ufff so much music has inspired me at some point. And probably a bit of Salsa and Spanish romantic music too. These were very significant growing up.

If you had the opportunity to choose which band would you like Ariel Maniki and the Black Halos to tour with?

Hmmmm… since we would spend plenty of time together I would go for any band we are friends with. For example Das Projekt from Brazil, because we always have so much fun with them, or maybe Severance from Mexico. When thinking about European bands, I would say The Spiritual Bat or Two Witches.

photograph by André Olivetto

Your latest album ‘Jade’ was released just a couple of months ago. What feedback are you receiving on this album and what makes this release different from your previous six?

I have received a lot of compliments and nice comments about very specific songs from the album. I think the album as a whole is a bit more difficult to digest and understand, but all in all it has been very positive.

There’s an exploration of pre-columbian cultures, mythology and imagery that we started on the ep Teargarden, carried on through to our album Ritual and reached it’s peak on this new album Jade. I’m not sure if Jade is a culmination of some sort, but as of now it feels like that, I believe this album may close a chapter, though yet I’m not very sure how.

Some highlights of this album are the collaborations from very good and talented friends. Jyrki and Marko from Two Witches participated in one of the songs, and Fabiano from Sacred Legion (ex-Chants of Maldoror) plays guitar on another track. I think they have made the album much more interesting and fun.

Are there any cover songs that you would like Ariel Maniki and the Black Halos to do? What is your opinion on bands doing cover versions in general?

We have done plenty of cover songs, and we love to play at least one of these in our live sets. We have done covers of The Cure, Joy Division, Christian Death, Rosetta Stone, The Sisters Of Mercy, INXS, Killing Joke, David Bowie, and many more… we try not to repeat ourselves in that regard. And have also recorded two of them, just for fun. I love it when a band takes a song from another artist and translates it to their own style, it gives you a different perspective of the song. A full live original set with one or two cover songs is great. But what I’m not into at all are cover bands or tribute bands. I don’t like that idea, I do not attend their shows, I don’t understand why would you do that… well of course because of the money maybe, but I believe no artist should spend such a huge amount of time, effort, energy and talent making carbon copies from other artists. Then again, that is just my personal opinion.

Ariel Maniki & The Black Halos participated in the third edition of Deepland Festival in Brazil this year. How was that experience? What do you enjoy more about playing festivals?

It was our second time at Deepland Festival and both times have been awesome. To start with, I think Brasil is where we have the larger amount of supporters, so the audience was really great and warm with us. Secondly, we got to share the stage with very good friends from different bands, including Two Witches which is one of the bands that brought me into goth. I think that’s the most enjoyable part of playing festivals, spending time with other artists you like and admire. We haven’t played too many festivals yet, just 2 times in Deepland and last year’s Prague Gothic Treffen, but we are absolutely looking forward to any more chances like that.

As an active live band do you have any other upcoming shows? As the frontman what ambitions do you have for Ariel Maniki & The Black Halos?

We have a few shows in Mexico this October but no plans after that. Most likely I will continue to work on new music for my own band and other local projects that I record and produce. Honestly I would say my ambitions have been way surpassed by now. I’ll just continue doing what I do and enjoying it.

As a music artist how do you see the dark /goth scene evolving over the years? How much do you believe it has changed since you started out back in 2013?

It is hard to say from my perspective in Costa Rica, where things haven’t really changed much except for the fact that now there are more active dark music projects than ever before… still less than 5 (LOL), but you know, I like to think that being an active and consistent musician for nearly 20 years has had some positive impact on the way things are here now. As for the bands and the scene out there in the world, I don’t know, everything is still somehow new to me, even though I have been making music for a while it is only recently and thanks to technology that I can strive for a broader audience and have a closer look of how things really are for other bands and in other countries.

Do you believe there is a goth revival  at the moment? How strong is the scene in your home country Costa Rica? Do you believe it is much different in other countries?

It seems to me that there is some fresh air and exciting things going on, some new bands coming out and even old bands getting back together again, but I don’t quite understand where is it coming from. I don’t see many new kids starting to get into gothic music for instance. Maybe it’s old fellas getting divorced and back on the game? Ha… no… I don’t know to be honest. My country is a very small country, therefore our underground scene is by default limited like to a few hundred people, but other than that I don’t think things are too different out there. The more I travel and make friends all over the world the more it looks the same to me.

Photograph by André Olivetto

What is the most memorable experience Ariel Maniki & The Black Halos have had so far?

Wow, that’s a very good question! Everything has been memorable so far, but well, if I have to choose I think there are two moments to mention: one was our first gig in Mexico, in Guadalajara, during our first tour outside of Costa Rica. It was the first time being away from home and having an audience singing along to a couple of our songs, something I wasn’t expecting at all. Then they wouldn’t let us leave the stage and we were forced to repeat a few songs. That gig was so great that it has a very special place in my heart. Second memorable moment was in Italy, we played a gig in Frosinone in the summer of 2018. The gig was cool and then afterwards we got to our hotel, no one else was staying in the hotel at the time, so we were given the keys to the main door because there was no personnel staying overnight either, this place was so isolated, in the middle of a storm, away from the main roads and from every sight of civilization, a big old cold two floor building with very large windows, we couldn’t find where to turn on the lights, lightning after lightning we managed to navigate through the darkness, it was the perfect setup for a horror film. I loved it! We won’t ever forget that night. 

Anything else you would like to share with you fans? What can they expect in the near future?

Yes! Very big thanks! So many people has been so nice to us in person and on the strange internet. As I said I’ll get back to recording soon, maybe I’ll put together something fresh and a bit different from what we have done so far, I think that’s the way it should be, so let’s see. And some good news too, there is a good chance of us coming to Europe again in 2020, so if anyone who would like to see us in their city go ask the local promoter to get in touch, I think it’s fair to say that we are kind and easy to deal with, so I’ll be expecting your emails!

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