(Recently Ro of Reavingblack conducted an interview with Tantrum from Sri-Lanka. Here’s how it went)
Javeen Soysa, The bassist/vocalist of Sri Lankan Prog Metallers Tantrum, discusses the new album Rebellion, and confirms my suspicions about competitive shredding, the South Asian underground and, err… jazz.
There’s so much going on in your music that it’s hard to know what to call it. How would you describe your sound? Who are your main influences?
We have a load of influences, and maybe that’s why it’s hard to categorize our music cus we listen to different types of music and even we find it hard to describe our own music lol. But if you talk about influences I guess it would be Megadeth, Metallica, Opeth, Death, Lamb of God, Pantera, Dream Theater, Meshuggah, to the more new bands like Periphery, Gojira, Decapitated, Animals as Leaders etc, as well as Jazz & classical musicians too & of course the classic heavy metal bands. So all of these bands do influence us in different ways, and when it comes to writing our own music I guess our influences come out in different sections as we don’t sit down and say ok we are gonna write a song that is Thrash metal or Death metal, or not to satisfy the audience, but more to satisfy our selves. If we think its cool it stays kind of a thing instead of trying too hard to make it sound conventional or even unconventional you know. Just let it flow.
You mentioned Jazz and Blues. Do you get inspiration from a lot of music other than metal?
Yes we do. Different music inspires us, from Jazz, blues, classical, eastern, industrial, even electro and trippy trans music.
Are there a lot of metal bands and fans in Sri Lanka? How easy is it to find an audience for your shows?
Yea there are a few Metal bands in Sri Lanka, mostly young starting out bands and only a very few recognized names that draw in a big crowd. There are quite a few metal and rock fans in Sri Lanka, but in comparison to the listeners the attendance for shows are not great but is decent. However for big rock/metal events there are quite a few fans that show up and do fill up big venues. So im guessing it’s the lack of funds and sponsors that affect in advertising these events and reaching the whole of Sri Lanka as bands here do everything on their own. So if the right financial backing was there for us we assume we can definitely advertise better with more awareness and have solid gigs that will draw in quite a no. of people in.
Do you ever get to play outside of Sri Lanka?
Yes we have played outside Sri Lanka; we’ve played in New Delhi, India for one of the biggest festivals in South Asia in front of 10,000 people which was truly an experience. Apart from that myself (Javeen) and Taraka have performed in Australia, Malaysia & the Maldives with other projects.
Is there a sense of a unified Metal community between Sri Lankan bands and bands from neighbouring countries like India? Do you play a lot of shows in these countries?
As mentioned above, yes we got an opportunity to play in India at the South Asian Band Fest with bands from all SAARC nations like Nepal, Maldives, India even Afghanistan. Apart from that yes we have had opportunities & requests to perform in clubs and pubs even in Australia and the UK, however our financial levels are pretty low and we cannot afford to pay for air tickets etc. and we are not under any label or any kind of support but just the 4 of us in the band. So it makes it really hard to get out there. But a community between countries, not so much but is slowly happening I guess and should happen for the benefit of all of us metal musicians.
Are there any record labels in Sri Lanka or are you hoping to sign to a foreign label?
Nope! None. Only for Sinhalese language music over here as it is the mass music, so therefore yes our only choice is to sign up to a foreign label. Lol.
Why did you decide to sing in English and not your native language?
Since it’s the universal language? Lol. I guess we didn’t want to limit ourselves, and wanted all people to relate and understand our music from around the World.
How has Tantrum’s sound progressed from 2006’s The Destruction Begins to Rebellion?
Its progressed quite abit actually, back in 2006 we were just starting off, didn’t have much experience & knowledge when it came to song writing etc. So I guess we could say “Rebellion” has evolved, and we still are I guess and now we are sounding more like what we want to sound, than just experimenting.
Do you think there’s a sense of competition involved in playing technical or progressive metal in terms of which band has the most skilled musicians?
Not for us really, im not sure how other musicians take it, but for us it’s not all about the technicality, in fact in today’s age our music is far from technical. I mean nowadays you get bands that do crazy shit with their instrument skills as well as off tempo stuff etc. So we are far behind on that lol, but we don’t mind it either since we focus on making somewhat unique music that makes you feel something with a theme and maybe even a story to tell. So yea don’t think technical music should be a competition but rather a display of talent and take you on an experience.
What inspires your lyrics? There’s quite a variety of different themes on Rebellion
Yea there is, but if you notice it’s all related to the social system we live in & everyday subjects, but expressed in different metaphors and themes. So what inspires me to write? Well everyday life.
How does your songwriting process work? Is it difficult to structure songs when some of them are over 10 minutes long?
Well we don’t stick to a process, but it’s usually like one of us brings in a few riffs and then we start structuring it and then may be add the vocals and when that comes in sometimes re-structure the music and finally add the drums. However on all these stages, changes happen as everyone brings in their ideas and as we go along new ideas come up. So parts add in or get cut off along the process. Im guessing the 10 min songs are the ones parts just get added on & don’t get cut off. Lol!
As a music fan do you mostly listen to music from the UK and Europe or is there enough of a musical culture outside of Europe for big bands like Metallica & Maiden not to matter so much?
Oh there’s a load of music outside Europe and USA. & yes we do listen to quite abit of them & indeed a change of musical culture too. I think the Asian movement is really making a mark on new tunes. But overall I think a lot of underground band’s sound really good even in the European /US region and hopefully will be taken of notice, cus there are instances we feel that those underground bands are way better than some of these mainstream acts. Give them a million dollar stage and sound they will surely rip things up.
Well, that sounds like a challenge to me. If any A&R men happen to stumble upon this website on their smartphones, Javeen’s talking to you. Give Tantrum a million-dollar stage and watch them rip it up
-Ro McNulty (Reavingblack)