The music that stays with you, that actually lives as a part of your life, that shit comes from the heart. It’s probably a real “duh” statement but you have to put your heart and soul into something to make it last. How many disposable pop albums that all sound the same are released in a year, listened to a few times, then forgotten? To make something that really connects with people, that grabs them by the throat and forces them to pay attention, that worms its way into their brain and takes up permanent residence…that requires an artist to really care about what he or she’s making. When it comes to making records from the heart and soul, Isataii knows exactly what that’s about.
If you haven’t checked out any of Isataii’s three LPs yet, get on board with one of the most exciting new faces in all of black metal. Founded in 2021 by Little Wolf Galarza, Isataii has spent the last several years pumping out high caliber releases that showcase Galarza’s Native American heritage and his love of classic black metal. Since forming, Galarza has stayed incredibly busy, including putting out two killer albums in 2022, Invoking in Darkness and Garden of Rot. This year may be barely over a month in, but Isataii has already started 2023 on fire with killer new single “Destroy the Missions.” I recently caught up with Galarza to chat about Isataii’s prolific start, that pulse-pounding new single, and how his heritage defines his musical output.
First off, how did Isataii get started? What made you want to form this kind of band? What does the name mean and how did you decide on it?
Little Wolf Galarza: Hail! Isataii got started during the big COVID scare pandemic. I started Isataii simply to create a Native American heritage focused black metal band since there weren’t many doing so. The name is taken from my Comanche name, “Isataii,” which in Comanche means Little Wolf. The name was given to me at birth as I was named after a Comanche Medicine Man with the name as well. So I thought what better name to give my solo project then my own in my language.
How did you initially get into black metal?
Little Wolf Galarza: Originally, my first intro to black metal was when I was about nine and my dad took me to this festival where a few extreme bands were playing. During this festival a particular event that took place was when I had walked into this dark room where I had heard blast beats for the first time and saw the singer take off his bullet belt and ring it over his mic stand like a machine gun. My immediate interest was captured, especially hearing the music and seeing the band in full corpsepaint, bullets, and spikes. Come to find out the band was a band called Nokturne who were the first pioneers of Los Angeles black metal. My biggest inspirations to black metal early on were Sargeist, Satanic Warmaster, Cirith Gorgor, and Thunderbolt.
Being that it’s mostly just you, what benefits does that have and what disadvantages come with that? Do you ever think about expanding it out to a full permanent band?
Little Wolf Galarza: The big benefits are the fact that I can control everything with the band. I can make all the decisions and decide the direction and look of the band. Disadvantages would probably just be missed opportunities as far as playing with fellow Indigenous bands. And I have been asked on several occasions if I would make this a permanent band and always come to realize I am completely happy with this being a one man project.
You’ve had several people do vocals for you. How do you find your vocalists and what do you look for them to bring to the table for an Isataii album?
Little Wolf Galarza: I always look for uniqueness…recognizable style and sound. And depending on the sound of the music is when I make a decision on who fits the best.
What’s the process for writing music for the band like? Is it a set process or does it depend song to song and album to album?
Little Wolf Galarza: Honestly, it always starts with one riff. Once that riff is finalized, the rest of the song just falls into place and it’s pretty much been that way from the start.
What do you use for inspiration when it comes to writing the music? What do you try to do with the words to an Isataii song?
Little Wolf Galarza: Inspiration usually comes from watching Native movies or thoughts of Culture related visions. After I get the image in my head, the riffs usually flow once I pick up my instrument. The words and song names are always easy as I already have an idea that inspired the song.
You’ve put out three LPs, not to mention EPs and splits, in a really short span of time. What is fueling your creative fire at the moment. I’m going to assume writer’s block isn’t much of an issue with you!
Little Wolf Galarza: [Laughs] thank you. The fuel has always been my hatred and anger toward colonialism and religion. So once I get that going and my thoughts are in that state of mind, I pump out songs usually pretty easily. I’d like to think my Ancestors play a huge role in the music I produce and why it’s such an easy process for me.
What was the writing/recording process like for the two you put out last year, Invoking in Darkness and Garden of Rot? Do you feel pretty comfortable recording for Isataii at this point or are there still specific areas that you’re looking to evolve in?
Little Wolf Galarza: Both albums were definitely a huge learning process for me. A lot of trial and error. But I feel Garden Of Rot was my defining moment to what is now my perfected craft, as far as writing and recording. Of course we always have room to improve as with my current writing I’m still evolving to get satisfied with my sound.
I wanted to ask about a few songs from those two albums and get your inspiration behind the creation of them. What’s the story behind “Lucifer’s Tears” from Invoking in Darkness?
Little Wolf Galarza: Ah yes. That song is a metaphor for how one can be so evil in life and thoughts of chaos and destruction. But after being this way emotion can still overcome anyone into driving them to be completely vulnerable and humanize.
Also on Invoking in Darkness, “Death of the Physical Body” really stood out to me. What’s the story on that one?
Little Wolf Galarza: That’s one of my most heartfelt ones, as it came from me in a dark time. Basically, I realized that when everyone dies it is only your body that dies. But your spirit lives forever. As in my Ancestors, the calvary and missionaries thought they had defeated the people in attempting to kill them. But they didn’t know that their Spirits would carry on in us and future generations to come.
How about “Serpents Dance” on Gardens of Rot?
Little Wolf Galarza: “Serpents Dance” comes from how life is like a snake and even though it stays in a slithering motion as we live day by day blinded, it can easily snap and disable you when you least expect it, taking you by surprise and ultimately ending your life with its false illusion of happiness in your path.
You also just put out another kickass single, “Destroy the Missions.” What’s the origin of that one?
Little Wolf Galarza: That song is a huge one for me and my culture. In old times, missions and boarding schools were basically death camps for innocent Native children who were forced to lose their language, culture, and hair and conform to modern colonized society. So this song is about taking revenge and burning down these walls of torture and murder, in turn eliminating them from their further polluting and killing of our Indigenous youth. Leaving the missions in nothing but ruin and ashes.
What’s your local scene like over in L.A. for you and do you get to play out a lot in it? Do you feel like it has shaped the growth and evolution of the band?
Little Wolf Galarza: The scene here is strong and we’ve got a lot of strong acts out here representing us well. And what mainly shapes my band is more Culture and past stories of Native victories and conquests as Isataii is a studio band. What’s helped as far as the scene is my ability to promote my band through fans and local bands through shows and word of mouth.
Lastly, what’s next for Isataii? What are your goals for the future of the band?
Little Wolf Galarza: Mainly just keeping putting out albums and promoting till the band can be remembered in time representing Native American Black Metal. Encouraging future Native brothers to start bands and make a mark in this powerful genre because we have a lot of heart and soul to offer this genre and need to make a name for it.
Thank you for honouring me with this interview and I am completely grateful for this opportunity.
Also I wanna shoutout Adirondack Blackmass Records, Blackbraid, Ussen Productions, Charon Kruk, and Mario Gutierrez.
Photo at Top: Cover art for “Destroy the Missions.”