Hailing from Mexico City, 5-piece brotherhood BEZTl∆, release their long-awaited full-length debut album “In Tlalticpac (Here in the Earth)” that blurs the lines between Post-Punk, Psychedelia, Folk and Noise Rock in an immersive listening experience from beginning to end, weaving sharp and crystalline guitar melodies with serpentine bass lines and intense proud and strong male vocals of compelling emotional prowess, all swept in the pace-setting ritual drum beats to ascend in a fluttering swirl of primal passions.
The core of Jhair Rodríguez “El Jaiba” (drums, percussions), Rodrígo “El Negro” Hernández (bass), Ren (voice and shouts), El Tona (guitar) and David Axayacatl (guitar) musical essence is the fusion of ancient and modern techniques found in the whistles and flutes of their ancestors, used to harness the Earth’s wind energy into a positive, life-enriching up-flow of past and present reflections.
I had a chat with the band to celebrate the new release and talk about the mystical and enigmatic elements of their distinctive music style!
Tell us about the origins of BEZTI∆.
BEZTI∆ was born out of apparent chance. We met in elementary school, before the new century fully entered the world, with no internet everywhere and a slower pace of life. As children, we shared the game, at school or at home, but it was until high school and the transition from adolescence to middle age that all the parts fell into place. We started playing covers of the bands that we liked; Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Iron Maiden, Nirvana and more to the south, Soda Stereo, Fobia, Caifanes. The truth is that we grew up in a paradigm where alternative music was pigeonholed into these referents, classics for some previous generations, who in one way or another inherited their tastes, however, with the passage of time we began to get more in the music from the ’80s and 90s up to the contemporary. For a long time, we listened to bands with a more noise sound like My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive and more current Ringo Deathstarr, Weekend and Young Prisms, who influenced our sound a lot, although we never covered them. At that time it was also when we approached the post-punk of Joy Division and for a couple of years, their songs were very present in our repertoire. I think that it helped us understand how to generate something complex with very simple ideas. Our first original compositions faded in time but in 2012 we recorded our first demo, where curiously there are already certain elemNahuatlents that are still present in the music we make today. In 2014 we recorded our first EP, entitled ‘Otrora’ (“another time”) which is currently very significant since it truly refers us to a time that will never return.
I think there is a very nostalgic feeling that has marked us and that somehow manifests itself in what we do. It was in 2016 that everything began to take a more defined course with the launch of “Nemontemi” (“Vain days”) which is a concept that comes from the Nahuatl voice and refers to 5 days that do not exist within the ancient calendar and that is considered auspicious, obscure days of reflection.
It could be said that, in many ways, this EP was a preamble to “In Tlalticpac” because it was there that we began to explore this subconscious part of being and relate it to a broader context, although the reflections refer to existentialism more centred on the individual. It was in that EP where we experimented with the fusion of past and present times by integrating certain aspects such as the use of the Ocelochichtli (Jaguar whistle) in one of our songs but also in the lyrical figures or in the sense of the questions that we ask ourselves through the compositions. I think that these gestures occurred in a subtle way since they happened very intuitively, almost without planning them, but they definitely marked a before and after in our conception of sound and the feeling that causes it. Sometimes people ask me why the name Beztia? Why with “z”? The answer was never clear, it seems that everything was a product of chance. However, when I look closely, the passage of time made sense of everything. Being born in Azcapotzalco, seeing the new millennium born and with it the deterioration of postmodernity, looking for a place in this reality, finding ways to relate to our primal aspect. Now I understand that all the elements were already there and were revealed little by little until it became an all-encompassing vision, which gives us a meaning to live by. For us, Beztia is a clan, a brotherhood, a destiny.
Your debut album ‘In Tlalticpac’ (Here on Earth) is being released today. What is the significance of the title in reference to your Spirituality?
Here on Earth, where we have been born, loved, erred and forgiven, where also one day, we will die. The songs that make up the album are loaded with reflections about our earthly condition. I believe that for a long time, there has been a concern in us to discover our way and in this journey, we have lost and found ourselves, we know that our time is limited and that gives us a certain awareness that we exist. On the other hand, this search for meaning has led us to seek a relationship with ideas or knowledge that over time have eroded, turning into ghosts, which somehow lie buried in our subconscious and under our cities. Returning to earth is a metaphor for what we long for within us, to return to time without hours, to days without explanation. It sounds like a dream but it becomes real when we leave the scheme that conditions our routine, when we go to the countryside, to the mountains, to meet the elements and thus achieve, even briefly, some contemplation.
The ancient flute known as ‘Tlapitzalli’ creates unique tones and adds a fresh twist to the composition of your Post Punk sound. How was it used in the past, present, future? In your local culture and in your music?
In our ancient Mexico, there were different types of instruments, from percussions and bells to those that work with the wind. The uses that were given to these are mainly related to ritual dances, ceremonies and offerings and even for war in the case of the Ehecachichtli. For our ancestors, the “flowers and songs” were very important elements in their worldview and daily life. We have integrated the Chichtli and Tlapitzalli, whistle and flute respectively. The chosen instruments maintain a close relationship with the energy present in our reflections; Ehecachichtli or wind whistle (also called death whistle), Ocelochichtli or jaguar whistle and Tlapitzalli Tezcatlipoca or Obsidian smoking mirror flute that are associated with this evocation and that refer to the concepts of justice, cycles and death. For us, this integration symbolizes our connection with what transcends through time and allows us to emphasize the most dramatic aspects of the perceptions that our compositions evoke. This is also a way of claiming the influence that we have had of sounds that are universal today but with external origins, towards a hybrid sound typical of our time and culture. It would be useless to assume ourselves as legitimate descendants of something that we hardly know, but we can inherit the legacy of those who have been before and have presented their vision of life. All we know are cultural reminiscences, mere clues of other times, other people and other lives, but the essential remains and that is what we appeal to.
Currently, there are people interested in the preservation of ancestral instruments, from master craftsmen who are dedicated to researching their structure and operation to reproduce them using ancient techniques (the wind instruments are made mostly of clay) and create new instruments from present knowledge. In this way, there are also people who have sought to generate fusion music using the wide range of ancestral instruments such as Tribu, who have been working on the subject for more than 40 years, and our contemporaries Los Cogelones, who have also experimented with the fusion of ancient and modern visions through its music and the use of pre-Hispanic instruments. I think that in the future this can become a whole movement where more people are interested in taking up these aspects and in this way, we can enrich ourselves not only musically but also in our way of life.
How do you create songs that stir the subconscious realms of shared global experience?
We currently live in a global paradigm where, at least in the metropolitan area, we find ourselves in a certain synchrony. This has been demonstrated with the social events that have developed around the world; Catalonia, Hong Kong, Chile, Palestine, Brazil, Mexico and the United States, to name a few, are at very high points and it seems that we are on the verge of collapse. On the surface, we might think that thanks to the fact that the internet allows us to access information and news from around the world, we may be able to understand other realities, it is true, but I also believe that there is something more subtle that connects us. I think of the similarities that exist between ancient cultures that are notorious in terms of myths, religious practices and even architectural techniques. All these apparent coincidences occurred at a time when interconnectivity, as we live in today, was unthinkable. So the fact that ideas flow between time and space remains a mystery. I believe that if we look towards what can relate to us, beyond situations that over time lose their validity, we can speak for those who are now and for those who will be. As Victor Jara used to say: “A song that has been brave, it will always be a new song.”
What distinct nuances does each band member bring to the development and richness of your sound?
In many ways, our sound was born out of constant experimentation where each song we make leads to the other. I would say that individually, Jhair’s drums always endow the compositions with firmness and at the same time ease, energy and security, passion. They contain the joviality that only the youngest of the band could exude. El Negro’s bass has always given us a solid base but never monotonous, sometimes it seems as if the bass is leading the song or at least setting certain guidelines, it is vigorous and temperate, full of character. Tona’s guitar has always provided a very powerful dramatic element and tends to generate melodies that play between the song’s structures and free and spontaneous improvisations that manifest the uncertainty, the nostalgic aspect of our sound is largely due to him. David is the one who generates a kind of story through the melody that develops progressively from the beginning to the end of each song and that seeks to highlight emotional elements without falling into repetition, it is decisive and forceful. For my part, I focus on making the lyrical message worthy of what the music expresses and consistent with our beliefs, in the instrumental part my interest is to contribute with atmospheres and know how to recognize the precise moment to integrate the Chichtli and Tlapitzalli in such a way that we can emphasize the meaning of the pieces.
The video for ‘Mirror’ draws from the current social and environmental struggles we all share. What inspired you to make this video with such compelling imagery?
“Espejo” was thought and composed in a very different time from the one we are living in, however, the situations that afflict us relate us to others in a very narrow way, both the lyrical part and the musical aspect reveal an uncertain but somehow serene feeling, perhaps a halo of hope for the future. The current situation that we are living was what gave it a more forceful meaning, at first, the idea of the mirror refers us to see ourselves, to confront something that we do not want to recognize or of which we are not aware, the evocation of Tezcatlipoca is manifested in the metaphor of the obsidian mirror and in the brief gesture where his Tlapitzalli is used within the song. It was for this reason that we decided to publish it as a single, we felt that it was the most appropriate for the current moment and also necessary. After the song was released, the associations came together very organically and the images began to unfold. Taking as a starting point the concepts that I have mentioned, the idea developed into a critical commentary about the situations that were exacerbated by the crisis. Digital surveillance is something that has allowed more precise control of individuals and this does not stop reminding us of the cyberpunk stories of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the video takes place in a possible scenario that is nothing more than the exaggeration of what we are already living; a garbage prison (built from real garbage), an individual totally dependent on his connection to the machine, eyes that do not see, the air that is not breathed, senses anaesthetized, sounds familiar? The oneiric part is where the relationship with our internal world is found, where we wanted to symbolically suggest the character of our perceptions and what we believe can generate a balance.
What artists/bands are you listening to lately?
Our musical taste is quite eclectic, we could talk about music that we like but that is not directly related to what we do, however, everything tends to show us some aspect that enriches us and that finally becomes part of us, I think some of the music we have heard together are Los Saicos, Rockdrigo Gonzales, Ytpo. If you ask each of us there would be different answers; Radiohead, Tool, Larsen, Kamasi Washington, Parálisis Permanente, Killing Joke, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Mystery Lights, Mephistopheles, Atahualpa Yupanqui, Daniel Viglietti, Brian Eno, Harold Budd, Clan of Xymox, Cocteau Twins, Linea Aspera, Dead Can Dance. Mexican bands such as Soledad, Trece, Erebo y la Juventud Psíquica, Lorelle Meets the Obsolete, Sunset Images, Futuremen, Los Kowalski, Monotonía, Zeit.
It would also be worth mentioning some referents that are not exactly music but that has had a certain contribution to our vision, such as José Revueltas, Leopoldo Zea, George Orwell, Byung Chul Han and Eduardo Galeano in the literary field. In cinema, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, as well as some animation works such as Ghost in the Shell, Princess Mononoke and The Animatrix.
The year 2020 has been a spectacular year with the uncertainty of COVID19 looming around us. What are some of the current socio-political themes that reveal themselves in your EP?
‘In Tlalticpac’ was recorded in November 2019, which in my opinion was a very convulsive year, it seemed that everyone was waiting for 2020 with high expectations, but the blow of fate hit us head-on and many people did not know how to react, nobody expected to experience a crisis like this. However, at the time the songs were created there were other critical situations that are still there but under the shadow of the disease that is cornering us, and I’m not just talking about the virus, I’m talking about indifference, the corruption to which we are exposed since that life is sold and bought, to our environmental problems that have no solution, to the violence that conditions us to live in fear, to hatred. When this situation fully entered, we asked ourselves how to continue with the ideas that we had and above all, how to maintain the momentum that was generated from when we recorded the album. We decided to go ahead trying and looking for how to stay current in the paradigm that was implemented as soon as public spaces were banned. For better or for worse, this meant understanding the logic of social media and staying active in one way or another. Now we are in limbo, the lack of certainty that has plagued us forever has become more noticeable in every aspect of our lives. So we decided to release the album at this point in the year. “In the Tonalpohualli” (The count of days) our ancestral calendar, 2020 is a year 8 flint. The flint is associated with death, the culmination of a cycle. I feel that these relationships are not casual.
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