By Gazala Anver
It’s almost time for one of the biggest rock concerts of the year: featuring two Asian heavy metal giants from Singapore, Rudra and Absence of Sacred (AoS), as well as three Sri Lankan bands, Fallen Grace, Hollow and Mass Damnation, and CR & FC Grounds is the place to be on April 30. The Sunday Leader this week caught up with the two Singaporean bands touring Sri Lanka for the first time, to discuss music and what it takes to play in a band.
Q: This is your first gig in Sri Lanka, what does it feel like coming down to perform here?
Rudra: We are very excited. We have always wanted to play a show in Sri Lanka but all previous efforts failed. So it was a welcome surprise when we received news from our management that our appearance at Colombo Open Air 2011 was confirmed. We love playing in lands that we have an affinity with. The ideology of Rudra has always been South Asian and therefore Sri Lanka is naturally one of the cradles of civilisation that we revere. So it is indeed an honour more than anything else to be playing there soon.
AoS: Well it is a region of the world we haven’t been to before, so it will definitely be an eye-opening experience. We’re excited and hyped up to play over there, and we hope the audience will enjoy the show and that things go as planned. This is the first show with our new guitarist Kadir who is taking over from me and I’ll just be doing the vocals, so this is something new for us as well.
Q: What would you label your music as?
Rudra: We label our music as ‘Vedic Metal’. It is a form of Heavy Metal that takes inspiration from Heavy Metal with interpolations of South Asian traditional music. We also sing in both English and Sanskrit.
AoS: Death Metal, with Melodic and Progressive sensibilities.
Q: What is it that makes your band stand out musically?
Rudra: We are not a standard run of the mill type of Heavy Metal band. We make our presence felt by presenting Metal with a unique cultural twist. And again we are not a band that keeps recycling our ideas. We are progressive musically and visually. For example, in the case of Colombo Open Air, we are going to present a contemporary dance performance along with one of our songs to accentuate the experience of Rudra on stage. We will be bringing along dancers from the reputed Singaporean dance company, Maya Dance Theatre, to articulate one of the songs. We keep our fans and audience engaged holistically by evolving constantly.
AoS: We always improve over our last album and this being our third is our best work in terms of playing and song writing techniques. Our band stands out as we have pretty much perfected our own sound and craft, and we don’t sound like other Death Metal bands out there.
Q: How did you guys get together as a band? A brief history as a band?
Rudra: We were formed in 1992 when we were students at a local polytechnic. Since then we have been writing songs and producing albums. We have released six albums to date with the last one released last month. The original members left in the band are Shiva and I. The last four years have brought Devan and Vinod into the fold. We have had an active presence for almost 19 years.
AoS: I (Mike Priest) formed the band in 2005, had a few line-up changes over the years. Hans (ex-drummer, now in Draconis Infernum) was there from when we recorded our first demo all the way to our second full-length album. We changed a number of bassists, but we settled on Mike Kalember who mixed and mastered our second full-length album.
I got Darren C. to join the band after our first album because he played killer lead guitar, and now after recording our third album, I got Kadir to join the band as a second guitarist recently, as I encountered nerve problems which disabled me from playing guitar and doing vocals live on stage. Ziyang is our current drummer for live shows but he might be doing studio recording in future, depending on the situation.
Q: How was the idea of a Heavy Metal band received when you first started out, and has that changed since?
Rudra: The perception of Heavy Metal was negative at the time we started out. But as the years passed the perception has changed gradually when Heavy Metal bands started to enter the mainstream music charts. So today we are not perceived as an underground band anymore. We have become commercially accessible as much as we abhor that fact. But we have no complaints as long as our fans accept us the way we are.
AoS: We had to build our name, work hard, play many shows, record albums, submit our material to magazines and labels to get reviewed, etc.
I knew it was hard work, so I knew what to expect. My [Mike Priest] views have not changed at all. We’re not some ‘hobby band’ fooling around and talking about stuff that will never happen. We’re dead serious, and we intend to stay that way.
Q: In what way do you think the Asian Metal scene differs from the Western scene?
Rudra: I can list many differences. One primary difference is that Asians are often disadvantaged by their geographical location and hence it makes it very difficult to build a scene. Unlike the West where the industry norms are so different, in Asia those same norms don’t work. Bands have to think and work differently to be successful or to even have a sustainable career as musicians. That’s about it.
AoS: There is definitely a difference due to the contrast of conservative Asian culture and the more liberal West. Metal, although coming from a Western perspective, does bring people of different cultures, races and creeds together. With the advent of the internet, being exposed to Metal music is not a problem if you have access to a computer with a modem.
Other than that, the Metal scene is just one scene. There are Asian bands influenced by Western bands and Western bands influenced by Asian bands. There are intelligent people, writers, racists and posers in both Asian and Western scenes, so I don’t see how that differs aside from obvious factors.
But it just doesn’t stop at good music: the open air concert is also the launch of the SKZIN T-shirt brand, which features a line up of unique T-shirts designed by doctor/artist Dr. Milinda Salpitikorala. In addition, there will also be a meet and greet party, where fans can meet all the bands personally, to be held on April 29, at the Heist Bar, Ceylon Continental Hotel.
Sounds courtesy Dynamic Audio Visual promises to be out of this world and food and beverages will be taken care of by Commons Burgers and Harpos Pizza. Official sponsors of the event are: SKZIN, Dynamic Audio Visual and Ceylon Continental Hotel and Heist Bar, Commons Burgers, Harpos Pizza, The Sunday Leader, Your Radio, Art TV, Kenzo Auto Paint Centre, Ilovecolombo.com, Sarinta Travels and Studio666.