Metal music has made landfall in Kolkata. Having captivated fans all around the world for nearly half a century, metal is filled with youthful vigour and enthusiasm that would make even the stars jealous. And the fire has not died out, it burns ever brighter! Now the torch has been taken up by the city's youth in droves, who've formed their own groups and organizations to host shows and support bands, both local and foreign. Among the torch-bearers is Putrid Ascendency, who along with the Kolkata Deathfest group have made a reputation in the underground to host shows at regular intervals, working extremely hard to support the scene and bring in foreign bands such as Impiety, Defiled, Manzer and Malapetaka and at the same time supporting great local bands and scene by putting them on the line-up.
This time our city will be host to Funerus, Death Metal veterans from the USA, formed in the 90s, featuring John McEntee (INCANTATION), who is one of the most iconic and legendary names in USA's Death Metal History. In the run up to the event, BongRong caught up with the man behind Putrid Ascendency and co-conspirator of Kolkata Deathfest, who goes by the mysterious name of "D", to discuss the journey so far, the Kolkata Deathfest II to be held in September 2015, and the future of metal music in Kolkata and beyond.
BongRong: The Kolkata metal scene has been extremely active in recent times, with a string of successful shows. Tell us about the state of the scene, is metal music finally catching on in Kolkata?
D: You are right, but let me rephrase it - "extremely active in a productive way, heading towards being one of the most active live metal epicenters in the country", and it would be the key to scene growth. Any geographical location that has been cited as a major exporter and brewer of great bands also has a great live music culture!
See, Metal music (the loose idea of this genre) was very much there from the beginning - around 2000 to 2005 - in the form of college shows, campus rock idols and other assorted band competitions and then later on, DIY culture caught on and a few events were really successful but they gradually stopped with time and there was a big lull period, which was the worst time for the Kolkata metal scene. Then in 2011, Putrid Ascendancy was born officially, and it was no less than a boon for us in every possible sense and it helped shape the loose ideas into a concrete structure, sharpened the objectives and established a vision - be it in terms of promotion, ideological foundation or initiatives about live extreme music culture. So yes, from then onward everything started coagulating into order and in 2015, you can say that we are on very stable ground, mainly with our ideas and how to get them manifested in reality while opposing adversity.
BongRong: We hear that it's very difficult to arrange metal shows in the city. There is a lack of venues, lack of quality sound solutions and also a lack of sponsors. In this difficult scenario, how do you manage to organize show after show in such quick succession, like in the last few shows, you've featured a number of foreign bands, like Impiety (Singapore), Defiled (Japan), Manzer (France)?
D: It's extremely hard to host a festival dealing with extreme metal music anywhere in India. In Kolkata it's bizarre and almost uncanny.
We can organize a gig in a year but that will never make any significant impact on the growth of the scene. It's always better to organize a couple of gigs than just one in case you are truly looking forward to bring change. The idea was always about Kolkata having a crazy and dedicated metal underground and the weapon to expose Kolkata metalheads to this live music culture, like in metal countries! And of course it's hard for us to organize fests in such quick succession, but that step we had taken knowing the costs from the very start, knowing that it won't be a fun ride always! So I would say it's our ability to walk the talk. That's what could have kept us going!
BongRong: Your brainchild, Putrid Ascendency, organized its first show back in 2012. It's been three years and now we have Kolkata Deathfest, which you have co-founded. What keeps you going? And how has the journey been so far?
D: Putrid Ascendancy was formed in 2011, January 1st, officially, over a meet at the famous Oly Pub! What keeps me going are many things. I think mostly it's the creativity in metal and my endless appreciation for the same. This is some serious artistry. To be able to be moved by intriguing artistic work is no less than a virtue. And not getting enough of it is an add-on! So yes, I think it's my unending and unapologetic need for metal music that plays the role and I think it's same for any profession. If you love what you are doing, you will never grow out of it, as long you have "The Need" for it inside and have "The Will" to stand by that need. (This last sentence is however borrowed from my mentor/friend/philosopher).
BongRong: The next instalment of Kolkata Deathfest is due in September and is featuring Funerus from the USA. How has the response been, and how is the preparation for this monster gig coming along?
D: Oh god-damn, INTENSEEEEE ...and highly positive and well, it was expected. Its FUNERUS haha! Preparation started from March itself and is so far under control. We have a very small workaholic team and everyone is working extremely hard for this. Really excited and longing to meet Jill and John McEntee, true legends of death metal that we know and love! It’s such an honour, not only for PA/KDF/all who are related to this event but for all metalheads of Kolkata, because KDF belongs to death metal lovers of Kolkata. So hosting FUNERUS would be a matter of pride for the city.
BongRong: To the layman, metal music is a far cry from the usual music scene of Kolkata or India in general, yet metal music is spreading all over the country, including our city and it is drawing in many supporters, especially the youngsters. What do you think is the reason for this slow but steady rise of metal frenzy?
D: Metal music is not just a genre. For its fans or followers, it might be the whole universe they live in, or even sometimes they see it more or less as their identity. This kind of emotional and passionate involvement or attachment successfully places Metal beyond casual interpretations of the Musical Genre, beyond Profit/Loss, Success/Failure, etc. The underground (for any art form, Metal being one of them) would be for a few. I am not saying Metal would not or should not become popular. All I am saying is that the real pulse of any creative art force/form is located at a certain epicenter - which is definitely what we call - the underground. It’s the source of everything and shall always be headed by a passionate/creative/enthusiastic few.
BongRong: Is metal music here to stay? With the main audience base being mostly college and school goers, the buying power is quite limited. Local bands have a hard time finding solid ground and usually have to manage with their own money.
D: Metal has no threats as far I know. It can certainly evolve into something even better and many times into something worse, but Metal as we like it would always be relevant. True art is timeless. Genres that are threatened to go into oblivion (like many did) are not an art form but a mere FAD.
In my opinion, no scene can be very successful unless and until you have senior musicians performing that style of music. In Kolkata, we are yet to hit that stage. If ever in the future we see senior bands playing metal, I will take it as a sign of a better future.
Also, I personally feel that you can be 30 and play metal better than before and obviously make better music. You can get married and have kids and still find time for your band. You can work and still manage time for your music. Everything is possible if you have the WILL and that WILL is always ignited among a few. Though all who love and love to play music have it inside them, they just need to flame it up! That can be possible through inner confrontation with their own 'self'.
BongRong: While crowd appreciation for well known foreign and outstation bands is easily understood, are the local bands from the city catching up? What are some of the city's metal bands that you think we should look out for?
D: I personally prefer a mix of both things.
Foreign bands always inspire us, the local bands and fans, be it with their musical eloquence or professionalism or just a performance that we could not see sitting here in Kolkata. I am sure many would not travel abroad to see bands such a DEFILED, FUNERUS, IMPIETY or MANZER because they can’t afford to and may be they won’t get time even if they could afford it. So it's more logical to get these bands to our city instead so that metalheads of the city can have the rare opportunity to see them live in their own respective city/country. And local bands are the future and present pulse of the city...if you put them together on the stage I guess it’s the best combination. So yes, personally, I like to put together the best of both things - local bands and outstation/foreign bands.
Regarding local bands it will be very partial of me to take one or two bands’ names. But you can definitely count those bands we have featured in our gigs before (RAFs, Order of the Heretical Trident, Pictavian Necromancy, KDF1) and those that we will feature in KDF2.
Kolkata Death Fest II to be held on 12th September, 2015, will be featuring FUNERUS, a Legendary Death Metal band from USA and co-featuring NECRODEITY, a Death Metal band from Kolkata.
The full line-up will be revealed shortly. For more information check out their Facebook Event Page
DEFILED (Japan) live at Kolkata Death Fest I
MANZER (France) live at Pictavian Necromancy
IMPIETY (Singapore) live at Order of the Heretical Trident (feat. Desecrator)
MALAPETAKA (Malaysia) live at Kolkata Death Fest I