Saturday, November 2, 2013

... Interview with DJINN and MISKATONIC

For our greatest aural pleasure, the world is turned upside down since a long long time, so I don’t think I'll surprise you anymore with one more great doom band from India!? Yet, after Bevar Sea from Bangalore which you have read about in the last Doom Quiz and probably have heard the great self-titled album, here's now band’s former bassist Jayaprakash Satyamurthy new project - Djinn and Miskatonic which choose the path of traditional doom with an addition of hypnotic and devilish elements from other sub-genres that can gather fans of Sleep/Om and Celtic Frost in a sabbathian playground !!! “Forever In The Realm” is the first full-length album of Karnataka’s doom-heads and a damn brilliant first release for the Indian branch of Transcending Obscurity ! Know more about this great band, read now this interview (by Aleksey) with Jayaprakash himself.

Hail Jayaprakash! How are you? I see that Djinn and Miskatonic is pretty young band, how long does it exist and where did you start it?
We started jamming in 2011, while I was still a part of the stoner/doom band Bevar Sea. I’d been jamming on riffs and grooves of my own with their original drummer, Sriranjan, before band rehearsals, and I wanted an outlet for my own songs. I already had Gautham in mind for vocals, but things really started moving once we found Siddharth, our drummer. All of this happened in Bangalore, of course!

Please introduce band’s members – who you are and how did you learn your path of doom?
The singer, Gautham Khandige, is an old friend of mine, we first met as teenage metalheads. He’s always been into a wide range of music – all sorts of extreme metal, power electronics, singer-songwriter stuff, just a crazy range of music. We’ve always shared a love for 70s horror films, epic fantasy and hardboiled crime fiction, and I think he ventured down the paths of doom via Black Sabbath, with some Candlemass, Type O Negative and Cathedral along the way, but he brings in a lot of influences from diverse sources.
Siddharth Manoharan, our drummer, probably never imagined he would wind up playing in a doom band – he’s into superfast, technical stuff – his other band, Nihilus plays out-and-out tech death! But he isn’t a closed-minded ‘tr00 kvlt’ type, he’s willing to listen to any kind of music, including some stuff that even I don’t like, and he really gets into the groove of our music and uses his technical background to think up interesting fills and patterns that you don’t always hear in doom metal.
Sriram K is another old friend. He shares my love for traditional metal with great vocals and for Lovecraftian fiction and good old sword & sorcery tales. Djinn And Miskatonic actually played live for a whole year before he joined us! He’s a huge fan of Reverend Bizarre and his love for Iron Maiden (he also fronts a Maiden tribute act called Killer’s Breed), Judas Priest, Slayer and a whole lot of old school death metal has helped him find the right approach to laying down guitars over what used to be a bass-driven sound.
As for me, I’ve always tended towards dark, not-so-cheerful music, whether its doom metal, or something like Nick Cave or some of John Lee Hooker’s songs. I love a lot of metal, whether it’s trad, thrash, black, death or sludge, and doom metal allows me to dip into a bit of all these textures as well as the alternative sounds of bands like The Tea Party or early Soundgarden. I read a lot of fantasy and horror and classic literature, I love horror movies and I’m also a writer of weird fiction, so this band is an expression of all my deepest obsessions!

I know only two Indian doom bands besides Djinn and Miskatonic, they are Bevar Sea and Dormant Inferno, what can you tell about local metal scene? You know it’s very unusual to know about such bands as yours, so I wonder how does your scene evolve through last few years?
There is a thriving metal scene across the big cities in IndiaBangalore, Mumbai, Calcutta, New Delhi (I don’t know if Chennai has a lot of metal, they usually had more hard rock, prog and funk bands back when I was in college). Calcutta and Bangalore tend towards old school bands while Mumbai and New Delhi have more core and new age bands – but it isn’t a hard and fast rule. Orchid, a very interesting young ambient/prog metal band is from Bangalore, while Albatross, a ‘horror metal’ band who play a mix of power metal and traditional heavy metal with thrashy touches and lots of melody, are from Mumbai.
Bangalore has had a thriving metal scene forever – in the 90s, India’s first metal band to get on MTV, Millennium, was a Bangalore band! There were a lot of pioneering acts in the late 90s and early 2000s like Dying Embrace (death/doom), Threinody (thrash), Myndsnare (tech death) and Kryptos (melodic thrash). Kryptos kept going over the years, and Dying Embrace and Threinody have both reformed and are writing new material. In the meantime, the scene hasn’t stayed still – it’s bigger than ever before with bands in all sorts of metal subgenres, like Dwesha (old school death metal), Dark Desolation (black metal), Shepherd (sludge) and just so many others.
I think the doom element was always there in the music scene, but the last 6-7 years have seen a lot of focus evolving around this subgenre. There isn’t a huge dedicated doom scene, but I think an increasing number of metalheads are open to the idea of having a doom band take the stage among the faster styles of music they are more used to. We still get 2/3 of the moshers retreating to the bar when come on stage, though!

You play solid and heavy doom metal in it’s traditional form with some death doom touches, yet I feel no any authentic elements in your songs as if Djinn and Miskatonic are Western band. Why do you refuse to use any subjects from your national culture in your songs?
A lot of bands here use Indian elements in a very half-baked way, claiming they are playing ‘Vedic metal’ (no offence to Singapore’s Rudra, who deserve the following they have worked had to build) or ‘Sufi rock’. I used to compose with a lot of Eastern scales and odd timings, and I might start doing that again, but I didn’t want to just do something that would be a shallow fusion or that would only have novelty value. I am immersed in Western music, from baroque and classical to metal and rock, and it would be pretentious to deny that.
As for subject matter, we’ve written about the things that have inspired us, and still have a lot more songs waiting to be written! Our singer has come up with the idea of a trilogy of songs based on some grisly and doom-laden episodes from the Mahabharatha, one of our national epics, and I already have some music written for that song-cycle!

Any ideas to do a sludge song for aghori rituals? Is it a popular cult nowadays?
We leave cannibalism to our friends in Albatross! But maybe we’ll write something about Shiva sometimes, he’s the most fascinating god in the Hindu pantheon, a frequenter of graveyards, with a pack of monsters at his beck and call, a pot-smoking ascetic dressed in animal skins and ashes – a very dark and compelling divinity!

Once we did an interview with Indrayudh Shome of Queen Elephantine and he tells that Indian folk music has a lot of true doom and drone elements in it, do you agree with that? Because most of us know Indian music only because of Bollywood soundtracks and sitar-based stuff.
That’s true. Not just folk music, even Indian classical is fundamentally built around the drone, which can be a one-note drone, a two-note drone or can incorporate more complex intervals. The tanpura is a common drone instrument. As for doom elements, Indian scales or ragas include intervals that are considered dissonant in the West, but are a common part of melodies here, and sound ominous or doomy to ears that are more steeped in Western intonations. In a way, you could compare Indian classical to the kind of Modal Jazz Miles Davis was playing on Kind Of Blue, where only a groove and a mode are established and the musicians build melodic structures over that, but the comparison only goes so far because there are rigorous rules governing the structure and playing of the largely improvised songs in Indian classical. By the way, Indy is a friend of ours and he and I almost played together in a very early avatar of Bevar Sea!

Djinn and Miskatonic singer Gautham has a most suitable voice for such music, you play ideal  doom riffs and the band itself sounds in traditional way. But how do your colleagues from the job and relatives did react when they hear it for the first time?
I haven’t had a job since 2010! But I think my colleagues wouldn’t put anything beyond me, I’ve never hidden my love for heavy music. I’m not really certain what my family thinks of the album, I don’t think my mother and sister have heard it yet, but I hope they enjoy it. My mother introduced me to rock music when I was a child and started me on the long road to doom and damnation, so hopefully she will appreciate it.

You have a cool song “Vulcan’s Forge” and it’s about heavy hangover, but as I know man alcohol isn’t too wide spread in India, at least in Kerala state. I didn’t see drunken people on the streets, I didn’t see a lot of bars and pubs. Do you really gather together and drink till last man drop?
Dude, Kerala is full of sodden rum-heads! Where did you go?
There’s as much drinking in India as anywhere else, I suppose (although the British seem to have made it a national sport). Bangalore is sometimes known as a pub city, but truth be told most of the band aren’t really regular heavy drinkers anymore. I’ve done my share of boozing until the last man drops (great way to put it!) but this song isn’t reflective of my daily life anymore! I just started with that bluesy bass groove and then I thought to myself ‘right, this song’s got to be about drinking, but let’s find an interesting metaphor to arrange it around’ and that’s how Vulcan’s Forge came to be.

Look man – you have song about Witch (“7 Years Witch”), about Booze “Vulkan’s Forge”), about occult stuff (“Book of the Fallen”) and about Conan stuff (“Weird Tales”). Where’s bloody song about Cthulhu dude?
Actually ‘Weird Tales’ has some elements from the works of Lovecraft in it – there’s a reference to Shub-Niggurath and to the Randolph Carter stories. But before we get around to Cthulhu we probably need to write something about Nyarlathotep, maybe Dagon!

Can you name necessary elements of your music? What is the basis of your songs?
It’s important to me that a song is given space to breathe – that’s why we tend to longer runtimes. I like having variety in a song, I am totally in awe of how Tony Iommi could fit so many riffs and interludes into a song like Into The Void, and that quest for the next riff, the next melody drives my composing.

Your first full-length album “Forever In The Realm” was released by new label Transcending Obscurity India, how did you start to collaborate with these guys? Is it enough comfortable to work with them?
The label owner, Kunal Choksi, is someone else we’ve known for a long time. He’s released bands from abroad before: The Dead (death/doom), Preludium (death metal) and Drug Honkey (noise/experimental/doom). He has been keen on releasing something by us for a while now, and when we told him we’d finished recording our first album he jumped right in and offered to release it for us. It’s a very friendly, informal working relationship and although I burst several blood vessels waiting for the CDs to made I have to admit they’ve come out very well! Having them available for shipping all over the world is a real advantage, and something that would be hard to organize on our own.

Man, I see that you also took part in Indian tribute to Motorhead! Just as your mates from Bevar Sea did! Was it really one of first bands which did influence upon you? And how do you enter in a world of metal music?
Of course, Motorhead was a part of my metal initiation, along with all the classics – Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Dio, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica, Megadeth and the rest. I used to watch MTV when I was 12 or 13 years old and at first I didn’t care much for these long-haired guitar bands, but after a while I found there were songs by Iron Maiden and Metallica that I just had to keep listening to. I think the first few metal tapes I owned were Fear Of The Dark by Iron Maiden, Ride The Lightning by Metallica, Painkiller by Judas Priest, South Of Heaven by Slayer, Dehumanizer by Black Sabbath, Diamonds: The Best of Dio and Countdown To Extinction by Megadeth. I was attracted to the sense of power and menace, the darkness and aggression of the music as well as the way the songs went beyond a trite 3-minute pop format to tell epic stories and conjure up vivid atmospheres. And that’s what listening to and playing metal music still means to me: the amazing worlds of magic and imagination that a great metal song can open up for you.

Okay, got it! Jayaprakash, that was my last question, bring it on any info about your future plans and we finish interview! Good luck comrade!
Well, we want to tour as much as we can and to get our album heard and reviewed all around the world. We have enough material for another album, maybe two, so we’d like to get this one sold out as soon as we can and move on to our next recording! I’d love to put out three albums in two years the way Black Sabbath did in the beginning but I don’t know if people will buy the damned things, I believe it takes years for even a small 500-CD run of an album from an independent label to sell out these days.
As I sometimes like to say: ‘No groove. No melody. No progress. Your doom is sealed.’

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