Spurn the Light

2/11/22 | J. Proust

Manuel Garcia of Blattaria

For eight years now, Manuel Garcia has occupied a most remote, rather neglected corner of the underground with his own mutant breed of strident and psychedelic black metal. More than just the sole musician behind Blattaria, Garcia takes care of everything from recording himself to executing the consistently bleak and minimal cover arts for his releases. This dedication to his craft puts him in an elite class—yet even in this small standing, Blattaria sticks out as an anomaly.

Since Blattaria’s first release, Spectraphobia, in 2014, the sound of the Oklahoma City-based solo act has seen its various shifts in moods, otherwise that unsettling attack has only evolved to become more formidable. Now, looking back across the staggering discography released by this true loner, it’s remarkable how Blattaria have successfully avoided the spotlight and circumvented anything resembling trends. Fallen Empire put out their debut album on all relevant formats a lustrum ago now, but Blattaria would have to scurry out from the rubble of the once-prominent label’s collapse, remaining as true to that disgusting pest from which they take their name as ever.

Last year, Blattaria delivered yet another October release, their latest in a three-year run of releasing an album per year. The release, an EP called They Seek Power, should have surprised no one and yet who among us wasn’t floored by its maniacal and anxiety-inducing intensity? For my part, I took the occasion of this new release to do something I had always been meaning to do. I dissected Blattaria...

First of all, what originally made you want to start a black metal band based around the idea of cockroaches? What spawned Blattaria?

Well, when I first started writing songs for this project in 2008, I was actually using a different name. At the time it was Trepidation, which was inspired by the maligned album from Striborg. Then in 2011, I started using the name Spectrophobia. Fear of mirrors, it sounded very Xasthur-esque to me, that's why I chose that one. Eventually someone else ended up using that name, so I needed a new name. I've always had somewhat of a phobia of roaches. Roaches DISGUST me. So I thought something involving roaches would be a good idea for a band name. That's how I came up with the name Blattaria. I ended up choosing that name in 2014, a couple months before I released the Spectrophobia demo. Also, roaches are a good metaphor for people. We're all filthy roaches infesting this dumpster known as Earth.

Blattaria's notes, chords, riffs and compositions at large are all on a completely different level and, really, from a different realm entirely. What's your musical background? What training and experience did you bring into Blattaria?

Everything is basically self taught. I actually started playing keyboards first, then started playing drums, which is the instrument I'm best at. I then picked up guitar and bass afterwards. The only band I was in before Blattaria was Rituals of a Blasphemer (drums). Basically, a few friends and I were jamming, wrote some songs, and rehearsed, with no vocalist. We then met Neil from Unhuman Disease. He had just kicked out the guitarist in Rituals of a Blasphemer. So a vocalist with no members, fused with a band with no vocalist. Anyway, we recorded the 2008 demo A Sacrifice for Satan, named for the Sacrifice of the Nazerene Child fest which it was released at, and also played live at. We eventually had a falling out with Neil and that version of the band split up a year later. I also did one live show on drums for Thornspawn.

Cover of <i>Spectrophobia</img>

Looking back on Spectrophobia, how do you feel about it? You release a remaster of the album in 2020. What motivated the remaster reissue?

I originally "mixed and mastered" Spectrophobia on my own, and it sounds like shit. I hate mixing, I suck at it, and I always end up making the drums too loud. Jacob Buczarski did such a great job with the self-titled album, I had to have him remaster it. I recorded that back in 2011, I get a little nostalgic thinking about the recording. It was definitely a learning experience, as it was the first recording I did on my own. Alot of the instruments were poorly recorded, too much effects on the guitars, side a and b have different snare drums, different guitar amps, it's a mess. I also wrote the album at a time when I was listening to alot of Arizmenda, the band blew me away at the time. My only regret was not releasing [it] until 2014. It took me awhile fucking with the mixing, tape layout, etc.

There's a terrifying, four-storey house or barn-like structure on the cover of the Spectrophobia demo and I've always wondered what it is. It's perfectly terrifying.

Well, my girlfriend and I went to the Salt Plains in Oklahoma, and we ended up leisurely driving around in Cherokee, a small town nearby. She asked me [to] stop to take a picture of this old mill, it was almost like the centerpiece of the town. I had kind of forgotten about it, until I was scrolling through pictures and found it, and forgot how cool it looked. I decided to add some filters on photoshop, and it ended up looking OMINOUS, so I had to use it as a cover.

The songs are all much longer on the debut. Why do you think so? What made you want to write shorter songs for the self-titled album?

I wanted to do everything different compared to Spectrophobia. I always end up making long songs if I don't catch myself. I wanted the vocals to be more unique, a bigger bass presence, no effects on the main guitars, less Arizmenda influence, more rhythm changes, etc.

Cover of <i>Blattaria</img>

2017's self-titled release, what do you remember about recording this album?

I remember it being a way more difficult process. The drums were more intense, the vocals required more energy and always end up with me losing my voice after recording is done, I wrote different bass lines as opposed to playing exactly the same thing the guitar does, and then finally, that's when I started recording four guitar tracks instead of two, which creates twice the amount of work. All of that was worth it in the end, it forged a better sound in my opinion.

This album really put Blattaria on the map. What was your experience releasing an album on the now defunct Fallen Empire Records?

It was cool, Mike from Fallen Empire is a cool dude and easy to work with. He took a chance putting out a release from a strange, unknown band at the time, that not alot of others were willing to take. It was also nice just getting my music out there and heard, and on vinyl. Really sick label with killer bands, it was a real privilege being a part of it.

If Blattaria were ever to perform live, do you think "The Eggs are Hatching" would make the set list? Would any songs on Spectrophobia or Blattaria make it into the set?

Definitely, that song's great for a live show. I'd also close with "The Sewers Beneath Us," that's probably the only song I've ever written that comes close to being "perfect." No Spectrophobia songs, because I lost the lyrics I had written down, and I forgot them, haha. Doesn't matter, the lyrics were kind of half assed anyway. Honestly, besides those two songs from the self-titled album, I'd only perform newer material. Of course I'd need live members first, which is easier said than done.

You exist utterly beyond the trends, but what are some of your enduring extreme metal influences?

Well, 2000s USBM really seems to have shaped my sound. Bands like Leviathan, Xasthur, Arizmenda, Weakling, Vrolok, Ibex Throne, etc. Ibex Throne doesn't get enough credit, very hateful Black Metal. Also 2000s Black Metal like Katharsis, Funeral Mist, Deathspell Omega, Blut aus Nord. I basically mix all that with shit like old Swans, Godflesh, Sonic Youth. Also, basically whatever inspires me at the time. For example, the last riff in Spectrophobia was inspired by a Lycia riff, a good portion of the song "Visions of My Corpse" was inspired by Swans and Ulcerate. I also draw some influence from the new wave of dissonant bands in the past 10 years. Namely Aevangelist and all other Matron Thorn projects, Prava Kollektiv bands, Mystiskaos bands. Also Pogavranjen, very underrated band, their 2014 album is crazy.

What bands inspired you to make black metal?

Burzum is what inspired me to start a one-man band. Just how compelling the music is, even though it's so minimalistic. I was already playing drums for a few months, long enough to play simple Burzum-esque beats, and I realized I just need to learn guitar and bass and move on from there. When I first started playing guitar in 2004, the riffs I made were very different, basic 2nd wave Norwegian type riffs, very basic and similar to Darkthrone. Then hearing more atmospheric and unique one man bands, like Leviathan, Xasthur, Striborg, motivated and inspired me even more.

Cover of <i>They Seek Power</img>

Despite the complexity of your songs, you remain intensely prolific. What keeps you going?

More ideas, more influences, there's always room for improvement. Despite having a release in 2019, 2020, and 2021, there was actually a three year gap where I didn't record any Blattaria, 2018 to 2021. Sitting on material made me seem more profilic than I actually am. I also didn't want to be one of those bands that just had one album and nothing else. Also, the more music I make, it increases the chances of it getting heard.

In 2019, Blattaria reemerged, from the rubble of Fallen Empire, with Life Is A Disease. The music here sounds fueled by fight-or-flight adrenaline. It stands as your most unhinged performance so far. What can you tell us about this album? What do you remember about its creation?

I actually recorded both that album and Dream, Dwell, Die at the same time. It was originally meant to be one long album, just called Life Is A Disease. However, at 77 minutes, I felt that it ended up being too long of an album, so I split the tracks up into two albums. I basically chose the tracks I thought sounded the best for Life Is A Disease, and all the leftovers went to Dream, Dwell, Die. I had a lot of ideas when writing those tracks, that's how I ended up with so many songs. Recording those albums was definitely the most challenging, and took forever, April to August 2018, shit took almost half a year. I tried a lot of new things in those recordings.

The lyrics sound like you're clawing your face off and ready to stab someone. "I live in filth, /I feast on rats, /I bathe in sewage"—what a precursor to the world to come.

That song is basically about being a homeless, filthy, misanthropic degenerate, haha. I just wanted to write something hateful and disgusting. My lyrics have kind of been random up until They Seek Power. Every release besides the EP, were recorded before the new world order went into effect, and the lyrics reflect this.

Dream, Dwell, Die represents some of your most experimental work within the black metal genre. A song like "I Hear the Insects," for instance, is very far from the typical stuff one hears under the genre tag. What inspired the music behind this album?

When I wrote Life Is a Disease/Dream, Dwell, Die, I had a lot of ideas. Basically, stuff I wanted to try that I hadn't got a chance to in the self-titled album, I tried in these albums. Because I had it in my mind that I was writing a longer album, I felt less constrained, and because of that it ended up more experimental. The amount of time or tracks on a release affects how the songs turn out. Longer songs usually have more depth, but shorter ones are usually more aggressive, less experimental. I did create an intro, outro and interlude for Dream, Dwell, Die. I took excerpts from the song Life Is A Disease, and slowed them down, and used them as an intro and outro, similar to Hellhammer's Satanic Rites. I took the interlude "Downwards" from Life Is A Disease and reversed it, and called it "Backwards." Without those tracks, the album would've felt like random tracks thrown together.

Cover of <i>Dream, Dwell, Die</img>

What does it represent that this time around there are three dead cockroaches on the cover?

Nothing at all, haha. I just wanted a cover with dead roaches, found one on Google, then edited it in Photoshop. I wanted a black on white cover, in contrast to the white on black cover of Life Is A Disease. I'm really satisfied with how that cover turned out.

They Seek Power is truly some of your best work. What made you want to release an EP this time around instead of pushing for a few more songs?

Thank you, I like how the EP turned out. Well, I originally was going to include these songs on a full-length, but the songs ended up being kind of long. I also wanted another release in 2021, I decided at the last minute that I want to have at least one Blattaria release a year. So, I realized I could achieve this goal by releasing an EP, because I wrote these songs in 2021, and I didn't have enough time to write a full-length by the deadline I gave myself. This also gave me the opportunity to flesh these songs out, I didn't have to worry about keeping these songs short. Also, it's good to mix it up every now and then, can't just only have full-length albums.

What can you tell us about recording these tracks. Did you attempt anything new, production-wise?

Faster drumming, it's definitely the most intense compared to my other releases. This is also the first release where I recorded two layers of vocals, as opposed to one. This is probably my most straightforward release, least experimental and weird, probably the most melodic too. I also recorded each instrument both digitally and analog. I fed a Fostex x14 into a Zoom r24, I used the internal mic of the analog recorder, makes it raw. I mixed the analog tracks with the digital ones, gives it more depth. This release also marks a lyrical shift. I criticize the global authoritarian takeover in the past couple of years, and the insane cult that supports the overlords. Filthy roaches and their slaves demanding you submit, disgusting. I felt nothing but hate when I was recording these vocals, and you can really hear it.

You also have a dark ambient project/horror synthwave project, Stray Filth. How would you explain this side of your creativity?

Well, I'm a big fan of minimal synth bands, like Pavillon 7b, Martin Dupont, In Aeternam Vale, Deux, Das Ding, etc. Not sure if you can hear it much in the music, but I'm also inspired by stuff like bauhaus, lycia, asylum party, clan of xymox, and also the trees, xmal deutschland, kraftwerk, skinny puppy, Depeche mode, the cure, siouxsie and the banshees, etc. Anyway, back in 2013, I was fucking around with a drum machine and a keyboard, and ended up wanting to make a project out of that idea. I always have a lot of fun making Stray Filth, and it's EASY for me to make new songs. Less thought required in this project, the creativity always flows. If it wasn't a side project, and all I did was make Stay Filth, I'd have twice the amount of music, easily.

What have you been working on since releasing They Seek Power?

A new full-length album. I started writing new songs right after I released They Seek Power. I have a cover and title ready. It's definitely a continuation of the style found on They Seek Power, with shorter songs, like the self-titled album. I'm really looking forward to releasing this one.

What's the driving philosophy behind your work ethic? Do you see your work as a shelter from the public?

I try not to succumb to clichés, especially after seeing so many bands do that in the 2000s. Whatever sounds cool to me, I'll use it for recordings. Even if people might think a certain riff is dumb, weird, too experimental, I don't care, if I like it, I'll use it. I don't know if I view my work as anything in particular, I just want as many people as possible to hear it, even if they hate it, I just want my creations heard.

Finally, it's great that you continue to push the boundaries beyond the spotlight, keeping underground black metal not only alive but paranoid and fucked up, too. Please take this opportunity to include any shout outs you'd like to extend, or not, but any closing sentiments you'd care to leave.

I have shirts available at I have tapes available on my Bandcamp. I also have my music available on Spotify now, and Bandcamp as always.

Thank you for the interview, and for the interest in my music. Shout out to Mike from Fallen Empire for getting my music out there, A Fine Day To Die Records for releasing Dream, Dwell, Die on CD, and all of my fans, I appreciate your support.