Amanda Flores, aka DJ Flores Negras, founder of Mictlan Productions

Amanda Flores is a Chicago musician, DJ, event promoter, and licensed massage therapist. While fronting metal band Rosaries in 2017, she launched Flores Negras Productions to help create new inclusive spaces in the local music community. Soon after, she began DJing, also under the name Flores Negras. During the pandemic, she’s grown a following for the eclectic taste she showcases at events such as Necropolis (which focuses on dark electronic and industrial sounds) and Cumbia y Los Goths. In August, Flores announced that she’s rebranding her company as Mictlan Productions, while continuing to DJ as Flores Negras—a separation that she hopes will allow both to continue to grow along their own paths. The production work has become increasingly collaborative as well, and she wants to share more of the spotlight with the team of people who are helping her celebrate diverse identities, music, and art in Chicago’s nightlife scene.

As told to Jamie Ludwig

My family’s from the border of Texas. It’s a complicated thing when you’re from Texas and you have to assimilate. So my dad got really into American pop culture. He was a music and movie nerd, and he introduced me to a lot of different music at a very young age. My grandma had a weird old organ in the house, and I’d play with the keys as a toddler. 

My dad bought me my first guitar when I was 11; he worked three jobs, so it was a lot to be able to get that guitar. But I couldn’t afford lessons, and I was also a visual artist. So in school, when I had to choose if I was gonna take an art class or music class, I chose art. I never really was trained in music; I had more of a spiritual, emotional connection with sound. 

My youth was spent going back and forth from Chicago to Texas. My family didn’t want us to grow up there because we were right on the border, and there was all the cartel stuff going on the other side. And also at the time there was more work up here.

My dad started taking me to concerts too. I saw Joan Jett and wore a leather jacket when I was like five. My family sometimes dressed us up like little rockers, but then they got a little scared when I got really into Korn and stuff. There was a little bit of conflict, or restrictions and censorship of my expression. They blamed a lot of my sadness that was more the result of a true trauma on the music, and I had it taken away from me a lot. 

I started to find fake IDs at 15 and go out to weird raves, and I did a lot of drugs. I overdosed at 17, and then I said, “I can’t do this anymore.” I stopped listening to techno for ten years—I just didn’t wanna fall back into it again—and I just focused on more metal and rock music, like the stuff that I grew up with.

I used to dream about being a DJ when I was a kid. Back in the day it was a little harder—I didn’t even have a laptop. So I gave up on that for a minute and just kind of wandered. I drank a lot—I was an alcoholic for most of my life—so I didn’t play music for a good chunk of time. And then I was in a very abusive relationship, and that took a good chunk of my life too. 

Rosaries kind of saved me. That [abusive] person said, “You have to choose—either that band, or having a life with me.” I chose music. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Rosaries play, but I don’t speak onstage. I don’t say, “Hi, this is Rosaries.” I have anxiety. If I don’t have to speak, it’s fine, but otherwise I feel awkward. So [performing] is a way to just feel or express myself. I’m going through a spiritual experience and just really belting out what I feel. I throw my body around. A lot of it is just how I project my anger and sadness, instead of projecting it into drugs and alcohol.

Rosaries released this three-song EP in 2020.

Rosaries started in 2016, and I started the productions in 2017. It was kinda hard for [my band] to find shows. There’s a lot of gatekeeping in Chicago, and that person I’d been with was also a musician, and I didn’t feel safe in a lot of places. They pulled the whole thing: “She’s a liar, she’s doing it for attention.” And there was a group of people who believed it—even though there were photos and things. 

That’s a tale you hear all the time. I notice that repetitiveness throughout punk and different scenes, of people going through the same thing with these men in power in the music world. So you never feel safe in certain spaces, because “Oh, that’s so-and-so’s friend.” You feel like you have to watch your back, and you feel like you can’t comfortably dance or be yourself. That’s why I started doing productions, and that’s why I put my name on it. It was like, “Hey, motherfucker—you can’t be here.” 

I started throwing events on weekdays, which was tough. The [club bookers] were like, “Oh, I guess I could give you a Tuesday in the middle of winter.” 

[At my events] I never ever said, “This is only a safe space.” There’s always a lot of resistance. There are a lot of weird people who just like to bother you and get you mad on the Internet, and I don’t like dealing with them. So I didn’t post much about that, but it was always my intention with booking. If someone was problematic, I never booked them again. 

Mictlan Productions presents NecropolisPart of Mictlan’s residence at Subterranean on the second and fourth Fridays of each month. Fri 9/23, 10 PM, Subterranean downstairs, 2011 W. North, $10, 21+

So I intentionally created these spaces. It was a lot of friends and community, and giving people the space and platform that few others would. I understood not fitting in a genre or a stereotype. Rosaries has that problem too; we’re not your basic doom metal, or we’re not your basic psych, we’re just really weird. And that’s the thing—I’m really weird, and people are really weird. Nobody is just one thing. 

I like to accept everyone’s form of creation, basically, because I get it. Music has evolved from so many different influences that when somebody says that [they only like one type], like they’re only a metalhead and they don’t like other things, I’m like, “You’re actually a poser.”

Some people thought [what I was doing] was weird, on the metal side. I like to DJ, but I also like to DJ cumbia and other stuff because my identity is very complex and comes from all these different pieces of my life. A lot of people are the same—we just constantly feel like we need to conform to fit in. But I don’t want people to feel like they have to conform in my spaces. I want them to be whoever they are. 

I quit drinking in 2018. I collect vinyl, and right before the pandemic, I did a couple vinyl events with my friend and bandmate Ivan Cruz [also from Of Wolves], who has very diverse tastes in music as well. So I did the vinyl DJing for a little bit, but vinyl is really heavy, and it’s more expensive if I wanted to continue DJing. 

I eventually got a laptop, and my first gig as a digital DJ was sadly like the last gig I had before the pandemic, on March 7, 2020, at SubT. When the pandemic happened, I was alone, and I had a lot of time to think. I started to really embrace every single part of my past and really dive deep and reminisce about the music I used to listen to back then. I think I did three online events, and then in the winter of 2021, I did this online cumbia goth event, and someone randomly shared my flyer. This big artist called NoFace shared it, and a bunch of artists from LA began following me and hitting me up.

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Last month Amanda Flores renamed her production company after the underworld of Aztec mythology. Credit: Pedrick Hales

Cumbia always sounded really hard to me—that beat always seemed like a heavier sound. I knew from growing up that new wave and dark music is really big in Chicano culture. I throw it all together, and it’s the best party ever. We can be in both realms, from one side of the spectrum to the other, and find our in-between. A lot of DJs love that they can play whatever they want because it’s an expression of identity and that spectrum has no limits. 

I also love writing music, but when you can’t get together with your band, like during the pandemic, you’re all alone. Rosaries wasn’t really practicing, and once we were able to work again, we were all like, “OK, we have to work.” So we didn’t get to see each other. 

Now we’re looking for a new drummer, and we’ve already gone through a lot of drummers. But I told my bandmates I really want to focus. I really want to take us to play on the west coast and do some other things, to give us some goals. I miss playing a lot. It makes me sad sometimes that I’m not able to sing, but it will happen again. 

Last month I DJed twice in LA, and I’m in Texas next week. It’s all DIY. I plan to let music take me to places that I never thought it would. I constantly find myself feeling like I’m in a really cool indie film, where everything looks cool and the vibes are cool. So wherever music takes me, I shall go if I can afford it.

[Outside of music] I’m a healer. I’ve been a massage therapist for ten years, and I have my own wellness studio. I use sound therapy as well and integrate it into my work on the channels. I study acupuncture as well. I do a lot of things, and this is how I stay sober.

I believe that sound has feelings and can create feelings and emotions. A sound can also be a form of nostalgia. I do love soundtrack music a lot, and the way that it can be used to create a mood. So I do have a lot of intentions with sound. It’s cool how sound is a vibration, and we’re bodies of water and we can conduct those vibrations very well and feel that energy inside.

With Cumbia y Los Goths, I’ll bring out songs that you’d hear when you’re a little kid, then bring out songs that maybe you heard with cousins in high school, and then mix in something current. I’m activating parts of our memories. I’ve had people come up to me, thanking me for creating these spaces. It means a lot to me to be able to create a healing space—because we’re seen, we’re present, we exist. 

A lot of times the “other” is looked past, and we’re not represented in spaces. That could mean Chicano, Latine, people going through troubles, people who are nonconforming, nonbinary. We all have different memories, different problems, and different paths in life. My events are for whoever feels like they’re being called; that’s what I’ve noticed as it’s been growing. 

I’m pulling people out of the woodwork, people I’ve never seen before, and I love it. Maybe it’s a place where—instead of just being at home listening to your headphones—you’re like, “Oh wow, someone is gonna play all this stuff that’s weird too.” That person could like half the stuff, and their friend could like the other half of the stuff, and everyone’s vibing anyway because it flows.

If you think of how music has evolved, in general, metal comes from the old blues stuff, and if you go back further, it’s really native music. It’s OK to listen to different sounds. I think you can become a better musician by listening to different types of music and seeing how different music styles have evolved and influenced each other. I could dive deep on that all day.

[As Flores Negras Productions grew], a lot of people were honestly confused. They knew the productions, but they thought that other people were me, and I thought that was unfair to the other artists [who work with me]. Like my friend Angie Delvalle, a great local artist under the name Lucid Is Dreaming who curates dark arts market pop-ups at the events, and resident DJs Faith Betinis (Necropolis) and Maddjazz, aka Jorge Ortega (Ratchet AF). 

I don’t want to turn the productions into something where it’s all about me. I also want to make sure the people who are going to help are dedicated to the whole concept of it all—which is creating those spaces and understanding that diverse mix of music. 

So I was on a plane, and I just decided, “This is it. I’m changing it, ripping off the bandage. It’s over.” I had the party Necropolis, which I still do, but something happened where there’s a huge Necropolis party happening in Chicago, and they took that Instagram [handle]. I decided to use Mictlan because it’s the Aztec version of the underworld, and we’re like the lost souls. So all the people who feel lost can come to Mictlan parties.

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