A Candid interview with one of India’s most popular extreme metal bands, “Demonic
Written By Christy Lee
As you all know, it is not easy to succeed in the music arena and the industry has been on a steady decline now for many years. There are many different factors that add to this equation but the main reason is music being readily available on the internet for downloading and sharing. Record sales have plummeted and that used to be the main source of income for both musicians and labels. The rock and metal genres have always had their challenges when it comes to success. The degree of difficulty for success in the music industry is multiplied when you’re music is in the rock or metal
genre. Demonic Resurrection like many other bands out there has gone through the vicissitudes of the music industry.
Demonic Resurrection, a blackened death metal band formed in March 2000, are now one of India’s most popular bands. Fourteen years later the band is about to embark on a European tour for a month including Wacken Open Air Festival, one of the biggest metal festivals in the world. They will be promoting their fourth full-length album, “The Demon King,” slated to release in India in July. They also made the cover of this month’s “Rolling Stone” cover in India. “Demonic Resurrection” is an extremely talented band, has released three studio albums, one EP, have signed with Candlelight
Records and have had their video, The Unrelenting Surge of Vengeance aired on national television in India. The band is on the verge of future success but this wasn’t always the case. They have had their share of difficulties. They experienced a successful 2010 year, winning the Golden God Award, playing Inferno, Brutal Assault etc, making their first video. Then in 2011 the tides turned.
Demonic Resurrection has been steadily gaining fame and popularity in India. I’m talking to Mumbai extreme metal band Demonic Resurrection’s frontman and founding member Sahil Makhija, also known as The Demonstealer.
C: How hard has it been for you collectively as a band trying to succeed with the current state of the music industry?
DS: We got booked for Sonisphere in the UK and spent 1200 Pounds for the TIER 5 Visa which is required for the UK and about 2500 pounds more on our tickets. We managed to book 4 more shows in the UK. Our visas did not come on time and when they did we got rejected and we lost around 1500 pounds in the process. We spent over a year trying to earn that back. We had 2 lineup changes after that. Husain and Daniel left in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Our album sales outside India were not good since we couldn’t tour. Candlelight was going to drop us from their roster. Our merchandise did not sell outside India so we’re pretty much off OMERCH as well. We had an offer to tour with Krisiun that was going to cost us 10,000 EURO despite it not being a buy
on but that got cancelled. Anyway finally with the new record our label decided to give us a show and release the album so we’re hoping this album does well. Right now on this tour we’re investing close to 5000 euro to make it happen. We don’t know when or how we’ll earn it back but it’s almost double of what we individually earn in a year, it’s tough.
Demonic Resurrection – “The Unrelenting Surge Of Vengeance”
C: Do all of you have regular jobs to support your music careers?
DS: Ashwin the bassist is a producer on the side, he just finished a course in sound engineering a year ago so right now he’s just recording and producing bands at his home studio. Nishith is only 19 but he has a day job as a sales executive in a music distribution company. Our drummer used to work in a call center till 2012 and he’s now been trying to be a full time drummer and drum teacher since 2013. Our keyboardist was a creative director in an advertising company till about a year or so ago he quit everything and has his own website/startup called Freejinn http://www.freejinn.com. So yeah everyone is busting their hump basically.
C: Tell me about your experience with this month’s RS cover.
DS: Well in India Rolling Stone isn’t like it is abroad, it is very tied into the local Indie scene and that scene includes the metal scene. They have their own metal awards show so it was not new that they write about DR regularly. So they were aware about what has been going on with the band and they’ve had another Indian hardcore band Scribe on the cover last year for their metal issue and this time they felt we were the ones that should be on it. I should mention that they do only 1 metal issue every year (sometimes 2) around the time of their metal awards.
C: I love the outfits you guys wore on your cover photo for the Rolling Stone cover. Did the magazine provide the clothes and did you get them?
DS: Oh, the clothes were ours and only the black jeans were from Levis which yes we did get to keep. We got these clothes custom made for our new stage look. Since that kind of clothing is not available in India we went to an online store in the UK found the outfits we liked, took them to a designer friend of mine. She does mostly commercial work and isn’t a metal head but she has her own workshop and makes clothes for commercials, movies and has her own line as well. She had them made for us according to what we showed her.
C: Very cool, she does great work. Who is she?
DS: Arunima Majhi. Her company is Whimwit Designs
C: Tell us about the inception of the band. Was it a planned decision or a result of experiments? How did you come up with Demonic Resurrection?
DS: I think the passion that metal brings out in the fans for the music generally steers them towards playing an instrument and forming bands. A friend of mine from school, one who introduced me to metal suggested we start a band and we had a 2 man project called ‘Slaves Of Pain’ inspired by the Sepultura song. The project fizzled out soon enough but I had the desire to form my own project and I thought of the name and Demonic Resurrection seemed the perfect fit. For starters there was no other band with the same name and it sort of fit the kind of sound I have envisioned for the band. I used to write my songs on the computer using a drum machine and I searched for 2 years to find members but I had no luck until the year 2000 when I managed to put together the first line-up.
C: With a band name “Demonic Resurrection” Is your music considered too controversial?
DS: No not at all. No one really cares about metal here because there is no money. There is millions of rupees to be made elsewhere and people to harass. So metal is too small to bother anyone. Most of them just think it’s noise or some rubbish that is going down. The only controversial thing due to our name would be a few Christian folks assuming we’re a satanic band and I’d clarify that we are not.
C: What is a Demonic Resurrection song? Do you conceive of a song as melodies and riffs or as an abstract idea? How do you build on it?
DS: The song writing for the band has primarily been done by me with all the members who bring all of their input to the table. Mostly it’s either a riff idea or something Mephisto writes on the keyboard that will form the base of the song and we generally finish writing the songs ourselves and then sit with the band and work on it collectively. In the earlier days Mephisto would jam with the drummer JP at the time and write sections and parts. For me as well some ideas are born from jamming with the drummer. So there is no fixed formula but we just know when we have something DR worthy.
C: Tell us about the new album you have coming out?
DS: For starters the album is called ‘The Demon King’ and it’s a fresh story, we’ve closed the door on the darkness trilogy for now. Each song is a chapter in the story which roughly is about the resurrection of The Demon King. Musically I would say the album is more concise and focussed. We’ve kind of found our sound a little better with this record. The orchestrations on this album is more grand I feel, the riffs more technical, more blast beats but still being melodic. So hopefully people will enjoy the record.
C: What are your thoughts about the metal scene in India? Do you think metal there has any validity as an artistic movement which questions societal standards and norms? Or are its values purely musical?
DS: Each artist is different. Some of them question societal norms, some write stories like we do, others take inspiration from local pop culture and so on, heck we even have a Viking metal band and I’m sure no one in that band is of Viking descent. The scene is still small but growing quite rapidly.
C: Do you send political messages through your music?
DS: Not with Demonic Resurrection or Reptilian Death. I do have a humour rock/metal band called Workshop and we’ve sung about some issues so to speak with the music but I don’t get very specifically into it.
C: What adversities if any do you face as a metal band in India?
DS: The same stuff that affects bands outside India I guess, lack of venues, lack of infrastructure, piracy, lack of fans attending local shows etc etc. It’s a pretty elaborate list.
C: How is the metal scene in India growing as far as large scale festivals and big names in metal touring in your country?
DS: Well no metal festivals have survived the test of time so we have nothing that we can count on at this point apart from a few small club ‘festivals’ that are now getting regular. We do have 1 proper music festival that is regular since the last 4 years called the NH7 festival. For almost 15 years we had the Great Indian Rock Festival hosted by the Rock Street Journal a local magazine until the founder and editor, Mr. Amit Saigal passed away 2 years ago. In more recent times our 25 year old Independence Rock Festival didn’t take place last year for the first time in 25 years. So there are many that come and go but nothing stable.
C: Do you think that metal as a form of art loses its ‘purity’ when brought out of the underground and exposed to the masses, many of whom might not be able to relate to the ideologies and the technicalities of the genre?
DS: I don’t believe so. I believe everyone has a right to listen music of their choice. If a particular band has a mass following it’s because on some level a larger number of people are connecting with that music. Tomorrow if Blotted Science sells a million copies it won’t make them any less technical, instead it would mean more people are connecting to that style of music. So in my books the purity is ruined by intolerant people.
C: Quite a few present-day metal bands say that they do not have any ‘musical goals’ as such and make music solely for the passion. What does Demonic Resurrection seek to accomplish in the near future?
DS: My personal dream has always been to make a living from my music. Not to be a rock star, not to have a mansion and a fancy car. I just want to pay my bills, make music and tour. I Just want an honest living with my art.
C: Congratulations on Wacken Open Air 2014. How big a leap is Germany?
DS: Thank you. It’s a big thing for us. It’s the world’s biggest metal festival. We’re looking forward to the experience.
C: Is there any bands you’re looking forward to meeting or listening to during your experience at Wacken Open Air?
DS: For me it’s the entire festival experience I love. I am looking forward to seeing Behemoth and Emperor. I’ve met Ihsahn about 3 times already but it’s always a pleasure to meet him and have a conversation, he’s such a humble and down to earth guy. I also look forward to hopefully meeting Nergal finally. I released Behemoth’s Evangelion in India (and I lost a ton of money on it) but I had hoped to meet him at Bloodstock in 2012 but that was not to be. Maybe this time I will get the chance.
C: I’ve never seen you guys live, so in terms of your live sound as compared to that of the studio albums, what is the difference? Do you think the album’s capture the live sound or is it more the other way round?
DS: My philosophy has always been to keep the studio and live as separate entities. What you record is something that stays forever and we work first for the song and how it sounds and then figure out how it’s going to turn out live. I think though on this album apart from the
orchestrations in terms of how much layering I’ve done on the vocals and guitars I think it’s probably closer to the live sound than the last album. I think live is many other factors which you don’t have when someone sits with an Mp3 or a CD and listens to your band.
C: You’re mainly categorized by people who seek sub-genre labels as a blackened death metal band. In your opinion, do you think there’s more to your music than that?
DS: Yeah of course but labels are needed because everyone wants to have an idea of what you sound like. For me we’re a Demonic Metal Band. We have elements from black, death, thrash, power and some other sub-genre. But it’s much easier for people who would enjoy our style if they have a known sound to relate to. So we’ll live with whatever people tag us as.
C: Do you have any plans to tour in the United States in the near future?
DS: We would really love to but the financial burden is tremendous, however we do hope that at some point in the next 5 years we can find our way there.
C: I certainly hope you meet your goals and have the opportunity to tour in the Unites States in the near future. Thank you for talking with me Sahil, it’s been both very interesting and a pleasure. Good luck on all your future endeavours. Any last words you would like to say to your fans out there?
DS: Just ‘thank you’ – we’ve come this far because you’ve been there to keep us going, your words, your messages, your bodies flying in the pit when we play, the horns you raise at the gigs. It’s the force that keeps us going. Cheers & Stay Demonic! \m/
By Christy Lee