Thursday, 30 May 2013

Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass - Passages (1990)

Pandit Ravi shankar, whose mastery over the sitar helped rejuvenate the classical instrumental tradition in India and popularize Indian music in the West through concerts and collaborations with well known artists. In “Passages,” however, the recording project in which Shankar collaborated with Philip Glass, the collaborators exchanged compositions, themes and melodies they had written.

"A brief examination of two of the tracks from the album will lend the listener an idea of the processes involved in the making of the album. The opening “Offering,” written by Shankar, is treated by Glass in a manner that steers it away from any immediately audible raag roots. In some ways it seems more like a Philip Glass piece, touched by his minimalist approach.“Sadhanipa” the four note theme written by Glass, loses it minimalism in the arrangement scored for it by Shankar. Within a minute of the statement of the theme at the beginning of the track, the arrangement moves towards Panditji’s trademark lush linear orchestration, marked by a virtual absence of harmony and counterpoint, but replete with sitar, sarod, tabla, mridangam and a host of other instruments, often in the call and response format. The use of paltaas or melodic patterns used in Hindustani classical music are recognizable, as are tabla and mridangam patterns over which corresponding melodic parts are placed. The music of the album is undoubtedly born of a commitment to collaboration".

Friday, 10 May 2013

Interview: Chaos (Ind)

Chaos, a straight forward thrash metal band from Kerala, India. This Indian act started in 2005 when two kids made the clear choice to play aggressive metal, those young boys were guitarist Nikhil and vocalist J.K. Their influences at that time included the bands such as Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, etc. 2013 - they released their debut album entitled Violent Redemption which sounds very good. The more I listen to Chaos, the more I like them as the more I listen to Violent Redemption, the more I notice some memorable riffs here and there. This album is a worthy listen and it shines well through Keshav Dhār’s production. I have decided to interview Chaos to get them attention worldwide through Imhotep Webzine. A band which deserves way more recognition.

My first question is that any particular offers already from any labels?

Nikhil: Nothing as of now. We've recorded the album on our own.

When you started Chaos in 2005, I think that there was not anything comparable to your type of bands in Kerala. Was it difficult to find thrash metal fans at that time? What kind of kids came to see a Chaos show back then?

When Chaos was formed back in 2005, Trivandrum had a few bands that we could look up to. And most of the bands including us were playing covers. We were heavily inspired by bands like 'Transmigration', 'Rubber band' and 'Rage'. They had already gained a small but very passionate crowd who would never miss any of their shows. Of course that crowd included us too. As far as finding an audience is concerned, the music that we played was so rare at that time that the people who loved it, did show up, no matter what. And I'm not just talking about Chaos; it was the same for all the bands back then. And, yea we obviously didn't sound the way we do right now.

How hard or easy was it to find like-minded musicians from your area to collaborate on Chaos? Would you like to go a little bit more in-depth about the band’s history?

I met JK back stage at a local college fest. He saw me hanging around with an electric guitar in my hand. He walked up to me and we started talking. In fact, the first thing that he wanted to know was if I'm a Metallica fan. And the funny thing is that the next thing he wanted to know was whether I'm interested in starting a band with him. But all jokes aside, finding a stable lineup for the band has always been a pain in the ass. It's very difficult to find like-minded people who share the same kind of passion that you do for the kind of music that you play. We've especially had trouble with finding the right drummer! We've had over a dozen drummers over the years, and no I'm not exaggerating. And why did we form a metal band? Because we love the music!

The debut album 'Violent Redemption'. You have maintained a level of thrashiness and speed on each track. Is it important for you to keep that aspect of the band? I presume, Chaos have highly influenced by early 80s iconic albums of Slayer, Megadeth, Vio-Lence, and Pantera etc. How have your feelings toward this music evolved?

You are spot on! We idolize bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Pantera, Anthrax, Testament etc. And when you extensively listen to a bunch of artists so passionately for so many years, you can't help but be influenced by what they play. For me personally as a guitar player, when I got hooked to Pantera, Dimebag Darrel just opened up a whole new sonic buffet that I was never exposed to before. And all these bands did play a major role in shaping up the sound that we have right now.

Violent Redemption is an aural delight for thrash metal aficionados. It has the best vocals, some of the impeccable riffs, and definitely the catchiest songs even Violent Redemption is not perfect album, but far, far better than the usual. My question is do you think the idea of thrash metal is changing or losing its priority in these days? Because “Thrash metal aren't dead motherfuckers“ is one of the best comments for Game on YouTube as the track sounds inevitability. If I am not mistaken, you created this track years back and played at Kerala Rocks 2008 in Cochin.

Thank you so much! Yes the metal genre as such has been evolving and taking different forms and that's a very good thing. At the same time, the straight forward raw and aggressive sound that used to symbolize the metal genre is slowly disappearing. Complex song structures, unconventional time signatures and impossibly unorthodox drumming/guitarring styles are more and more appreciated by most of the listeners now a days. May be because most of them are musicians themselves. Chaos still sticks to Old school thrash because we love listening to simple, old school straight forward music and we love playing it too! And gladly, there are still people out there who enjoy the kind of music that we play. We were really happy to see that you tube comment!

We did play the song 'Game' at Kerala Rocks 2008, but that was an older version. We came up with this version while in the process of recording 'Violent Redemption'

Ungodly Hour is the introduction which sets a good way for the rest of the album. I believe that all good-minded musicians retain that contemplative mood in their music to hold the attention of the listener. Any comment?

Well it depends on what you’re trying to do with your music. Some prefer some foreplay, and some don’t! It’s as simple as that.

Violent Redemption seems to mark a fresh phase in Kerala metal oeuvre as Torn is a thrashterpiece. It has an excellent lead work and splendid vocals to go with it. And Merchant of Death has a fantastic start. I think Chaos have become matured with this album. How satisfied have you been after the release of the debut album and before composing songs, are the riffs ideas already in your mind?

Glad you like 'Torn'. Right after we were done with composing 'Torn', we had a feeling that this song will connect to those who love old school metal! We are more than just satisfied with the way that things are shaping up right now. The album sounds exactly like what we've wanted it, thanks to Keshav. And from the reactions and reviews that we're getting, I guess the album has been well received! As far as our song writing process is concerned, every song starts off with a discussion about the topic that we're handling with that particular song. It turns into lyrics, and the riffs come afterwards!

War Crime is a deft presentation and it emphasis on War. Violence is as old as the story of humanity. Take the history of the last one hundred years or so and we realize how bloodlust has come to define our age. Indian subcontinent too has been fertile for the harvest of hate. Politics and religion built the biggest graveyards in this part of the world as elsewhere. What were you trying to achieve with this track or album? And what does the band really want to express through Chaos?

Exactly! Most of our songs revolve around what you've just mentioned. Politics, religion, violence and what not. Living in this particular era where it's impossible not to come across the story of a murder, rape or bloodshed almost on a daily basis, you tend to think a lot about these things. And when you do, you form opinions, and as artists, the things that we think about, our opinions and our perceptions come out as art! And I don't think any other genre of music would do justice to the kind of topics that we're dealing with. 'Violent Redemption' is an honest depiction of events that left a mark in our minds over the past few years, told from our perspective.

I think Chaos have provided a good example of creating an enjoyable and worthy thrash metal record which doesn't go bland and monotonous as some of the bands in this genre could get after a few plays. Tracks like Saint and Blacklash provide a good reference of what I am talking about. Saint is one of the best songs on the album that main riff and that solo from Nikhil are simply beautiful. That intro makes it more interesting.

Thank you so much. Glad you liked those tracks. 'Saint' and 'Blacklash' did appeal to a lot of listeners. We're happy that people are able to connect to our music.

The album has been produced by Keshav Dhar. Is that why Violent Redemption shines well? The guitar riffs show an adherence to Vio-Lence or Slayer philosophy, in some ways, while also possessing some of the vocals structures that can be found in the early Slayer material. Tell me the way Keshav Dhar treated your musical abilities.

Keshav has been amazing. He became the 5th member of the band during the recording process. He's an absolute genius. He knows exactly how to get the best out of an artist.

Who came up with the idea of cover art for Violent Redemption? A Skelton reaper, blessing like Jesux Crust who stands with a scythe in the left hand and a nocturnal moon in the back ground.

The credit for the cover design goes entirely to an amazing artist, Mr Amar Pradeep. He came up with the concept and he developed it.

It’s quite old but I ask that Sam Dunn, an American anthropologist who portraying an utterly ridiculous image of Indian metal on his so called Global Metal Documentary. What I am upset about is the portrayal of the un-necessary marriage scene amidst the gig venue and ass-shaking dances of Prabhu Deva. My only concern is that he should have researched more properly before making a documentary of that level. Do you agree with me? Besides, do you feel that the metal scene in India currently is in a new phase that shows promise?

To be honest, I did get a good laugh out of it. I was in fact very thrilled to see the Indian scene being shown in an International Metal documentary, and the only thing that I was disappointed about was the fact that he has left out huge bands like Millennium. Yes, I do feel that the Indian scene is evolving into something huge.

In the last 5, 6 years, things have changed so much in India. Many new and promising bands come out every year and there are several zines and blogs to promote bands. Besides, in B’lore, there are so many gigs are happening in a year whereas in Kerala, things are not smooth as no events are happening regularly because there is no growth in sponsorship. Do you feel that it will affect your band?

It is true that in Kerala, it's very difficult if not impossible to find sponsors for events which have anything to do with Rock music, let alone metal! They do not expect people to show up at such events. Hopefully things will change in a few years' time. 

Mortar are a promising band hailing from Kolkata and probably a well-known group to us. Very straight forward Thrash metal. They are good in what they are doing. Do you have anything to tell about them or Nuclear Winter from Bangladesh? The sheer anger and aggression portrayed on the releases of Chaos, Mortar and Nuclear Winter are magnificent and relative. Damn, what's with all the good releases set to come out this year!

They’re both amazing bands. Straight forward, no nonsense, in your face metal. That’s the kind of music that I enjoy listening to. I hope more bands come out with this kind of music.

After writing debut album, I guess it’s not difficult to come up with new ideas. So can we expect another album in early 2014? I know it’s difficult to think about the future right now but I believe the future of Chaos is bright. Talent, passion and courage are essential for musicians and Chaos have that. Ok man, it ends here. This was my first interview with an Indian band for Imhotep Webzine.

We are already half way through with our next album. For us, making music is a continuous process. The band is together all the time and we're jamming all the time so it's pretty much impossible not to come up with new material. Early 2014? Now that's something which may or may not happen! If things work out the way we want them to, it might just happen.

Thank you so much for the great interview. See you at our next show. Cheers!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Rest in the abyss Jeff Hanneman (1964 - 2013).

"Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. Whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursue". 

The almighty has fallen. No god to rule the vacant throne. Undeniably, for a thirty years beginning from the early 1980's, Jeff did have a dream run in world metal scene. His impact on the metal scene was truly huge. A great guitarist, who passed away on May second, 2013 near his Southern California home. On a Wednesday night, his driver drove him to an area hospital and Hanneman died the next morning suffering liver failure. I am not a huge fan of Slayer/Jeff but this news is completely unexpected. His maddening guitar playing was an influence for many. But fans of Slayer could never ignore him for what he was... whose death will create a void in the world of metal. 
A masterpiece created by Jeff.