Rudra’s latest opus, Brahmavidya: Immortal I displayed a slight shift in the musical direction of the band, presenting to fans a more brutal face. Having kick-starting their Immortal I tour recently in Malaysia and Singapore, we catch up with the band to learn more about the thought process in the band, find out who’s the strict one, and… The verdict on axeman Vinod!
Hi Rudra, thank you for giving us this opportunity to talk to you again! The band recently came back from the first show in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. How did the show go?
Vinod: The thing that we actually were looking forward to was meeting the fans. We do have a following in KL and while waiting for our slot for us to play, the fans were all so excited to see us, so I guess that was one of the main motivating factors for us to be on stage and play in front of the fans.
It is also your first time playing with Rudra overseas. What was the experience like, and how is it different from playing in local shows?
Vinod: I guess it’s a bit different because I think in Singapore the community is so small and almost everyone sees each other at shows and are friends, whereas in Malaysia where they have never seen us before they are more like fans.
Kathi: And they worship him [Vinod].
Shiva: He loves to flex his arms.
Vinod: I didn’t do that on purpose!
So he’s saying that he got big arms naturally!
Vinod: No no no!
Kathi: But it was a good show. The last time we were in Malaysia was 6 years ago and to be back, we saw a new group of fans.
Shiva: Can we actually disclose how many CDs and merchandise we sold there?
Kathi: No, no, cannot! [Laughs]
Shiva: We sold quite a fair bit of merchandise and our shirts were sold out.
Kathi: This shirt [Brahmavidya: Transcendental I shirt] is completely sold out, so it is officially out of print.
Will there be stocks later at the show?
Kathi: Yeah, in fact we are officially launching the merchandise for Immortal I today.
The reception for the new album has been generally positive so far. Was this expected on the part of the band?
Kathi: You mean the reception? Actually it was a shocking surprise because we thought that people may not like this album as much as the last ones, because for obvious reasons. I mean, you reviewed the album and you found that it was quite different from the last one. There were no interludes, there were no fusion songs and we were honestly a bit surprised when it was so positively received. In fact, some of the fans on their first listen asked us about what happened to us and that the album was awful! But by the time they have had a third listen, they changed their minds and told us that this is a classic. We also saw the reviews that were positive and encouraging, and that was very good actually, better than the last album [Transcendental I]. So we were surprised that this actually works!
In the previous interview you stated that this album will be more straightforward death metal and it certainly shows in the music. How is the songwriting process different from this time from previous albums?
Shiva: This is the first time we have Vinod who has actually contributed quite a fair bit for the songwriting. As you can see, he’s a big fan of slow death metal. But somehow or rather we forced him to play faster, and made sure that he play fast and still he is struggling to play fast.
Shiva: I mean, the process was more or less the same.
Kathi: But it was an easier task, because the interludes were not there.
Devan: The interludes were a pain!
Kathi: Not really a pain… It was more of…
Devan: A labour of love!
Kathi: The interludes actually take far longer than recording a song because we work with other musicians, so in a way, writing Immortal I was a slightly easier task.
Vinod: I would say that this album is solely a full band effort.
Kathi: Yeah, a collective effort.
This is the first album that features Vinod and the influences he brings to the band’s music are obvious, from the lead guitars on the songs. How has his involvement changed the band dynamics, and what are your experiences like playing with Rudra so far?
Vinod: Experiences… Initially I had a tough time coping because they use a lot of Indian scales in their songs, while I was more experienced with the western scales.
Kathi: Yeah, he was born in the west, you see… Western part of Singapore I mean.
Vinod: It did take me awhile. We had regular jam sessions and I was always a fan of Rudra before I joined the band so I managed to pick up the style of playing and the scales. I mean the speed that to play at the speed that Shiva mention was initially a bit tough, but eventually I managed to cope with it.
Kathi: But we must acknowledge the fact that he brought a lot of ideas to the table, so that also helped us to reinvent ourselves, as you also mentioned that you can see his influences on the album, and we found that very good!
Shiva: In fact, at this point in time I don’t want to say a lot of things because we are actually expecting a lot more from him. So if we were to say that he’s good then he’ll stop improving.
Kathi: Because we are Asians, we can’t praise too much!
Shiva: But please don’t discount our man here. His solos and leads are awesome.
Let’s talk a bit about the design of the artwork. What is the thought process of the album art of Rudra releases?
Kathi: Sometimes we use photo manipulation, so in that case we will pick photos that will depict what the album is all about and we choose the photo that we want to use.
Do you find them, or does the artist approach you?
Kathi: Most of the time we look for the artist, and we still try very hard to find local artists.
The band recently filmed the music video for “Now, Therefore…”. What was the reason behind choosing this particular song, and what can fans expect from the new video?
Kathi: The choice of song was collective, and we thought that this song is good because it wasn’t too fast and it was mid-paced. So we thought that we should do it. Most important was the theme as well, the storyline behind it. Of course, it is not a major storyline, but it is something to make it interesting, so we could actually weave a story into the song. Therefore we chose it and spent about two days shooting it. What fans can expect is something different, because the last time [Hymns from the Blazing Chariot] there were a lot of effects, this time it is different, we recorded the song live, and apart from that there is a story behind the video. The video will be like a journey.
What was the filming experience like?
Devan: A lot of bats and bat shit.
Kathi: We recorded the video in a former abattoir, and when we played our instruments they started shitting and it stank.
Devan: The experience is different from the previous video. Here, each of us had a certain task to do, unlike the previous one where we just went there and everything is done, do our stuff and that’s it. Whereas for this video, right from the start we had to organise everything. Basically the credit goes to the band, plus all the volunteers who came down to help us.
Vinod: I think the way the crew worked was very professional and they did a really good job because we saw some of the stills and they looked really great.
Recently the band announced a collaboration with Agni Productions for the release of the LP version of Immortal I. How did this collaboration come about?
Kathi: Actually the owner of Agni Productions is a very big fan of the band, and he has been following us for the past few years. So he felt that with the release of Immortal I it’s a good time to approach us and release something special and he planned to do a special double LP edition for this album.
What was the reason behind going for an LP release, after so many albums?
Kathi: The thing is that we never had anyone who was interested to release our albums in LP, and finally someone came forward and we thought it was good. Another thing is that Shiva and I are big LP fans, so it’s cool and it’s nice to hold a gatefold and we can finally release a gatefold!
Shiva [to HMT]: Why are you laughing when Kathi said that we are big fans of LP? Is it because we are old? Have you ever seen a 12” record? That’s what I call an album.
Kathi: I mean it’s nice to see and hold a big piece of art, then you pull out a nice black vinyl. But for the Rudra LP, we don’t know the details yet, but Agni Productions are trying their best to do something very special for us.
The album was released under Sonic Blast Media, which is your [Kathi] label. What made you decide to set up a label and release the new album under it?
Kathi: I think one of the important factors was the models that we use to conduct business in the music industry. There are a lot of models that are being used all over the world, but somehow because bands in Asia are geographically disadvantaged, such models do not help in sustaining the career of musicians in Asia. So the reason we opened the record label is to look at sustainable models. We look at models in the business that can help sustain Asian musicians’ careers, especially in Singapore where we can’t make a living making music, but at the same time we want to run a business such that bands also don’t give up playing music. That’s the goal of the label, so we started with Rudra.
What does it take a band to get signed onto Sonic Blast Media?
Kathi: Hard work, and bands should never give up, and you have to tour. Hard work, passion and you got to tour.
But don’t you think in Singapore it’s quite hard for bands to tour a lot?
Kathi: Definitely, touring a lot is definitely not possible, but the band should at least try to tour a little.
Finally, the band will be starting the Canadian tour in May, so before the tour starts are there any message that the band wants to give to fans in Canada?
Shiva: This is the first time we are going to Canada. The last we experienced weather in a very cold country was in the States and we were freezing. And we are going to freeze again. I mean for the fans, we want to give a good show of course and we are looking forward to meet more fans and sell more CDs, sell more merchandise. More importantly, to spread the message of Vedic metal across. [Laughs]
It’s hard to explain what Vedic metal is.
Devan: Once they see us on stage, they will understand. Haha!
Define Vedic metal, so it’s easier for us to explain to foreign fans in the future.
Kathi: Vinod, explain.
Vinod: I think Vedic metal is best experienced on stage.
That’s all that we have for the band, we wish you all the best in the upcoming Canadian tour!
Shiva: That’s a very short interview eh? [Laughs]
Kathi: Thanks a lot, and we’ll be back with a lot of stories from Canada!
-Hong Rui (HeavyMetal Tribune, Singapore)