(interview originally published on Total Death Fanzine, Turkey)
Ugra Karma is an OSDM band hailing from the Himalayan nation of Nepal and are responsible for starting Death Metal movement in the country. Formed in the year 1999 the band released their demo ‘Himalayan Metal of Death’ in 2000 and then shocked everyone with their single ‘Chandaal Shaitaan’ which was featured on a Pop-Rock compilation called ‘Music Isles’. In 2001 the band released the much acclaimed and Nepal’s 1st Death Metal FL ‘Blood Metal Initiation’ but then quickly went to a decade long hibernation. The year 2012 saw Sunil (Vocals, Bass) and Prateek (Guitars, Vocals) reforming the band with few new faces in the line up with Bikram (Bass, Vocals) and Bijay (Drums). Since then the band is regularly playing shows and right now are in course to release a new record soon.
We caught up with the founding member Suni Dev Panta for a very exciting interview which you can read below:
Zivon: Hails, so nice to have you with us in Total Death Fanzine. How are things in UgraKarma?
Sunil Dev Panta: Hails TDF! Welcome back into existence. UgraKarma is doing pretty good, busy with gigs and recording our new stuff.
And what about other bands that you are involved with (Anthrovore, Shroud of Heretic etc). Are you still involved with them?
Anthrovore is my solo project and I do it anytime I am not busy with a real band. So for now Anthrovore is in deep slumber. Shroud of the Heretic is on the verge of releasing its 2nd album soon. Since I am in Nepal these days, I am not actively playing with Shroud… I will rejoin them later, though.
– It was indeed great to see UgraKarma unite after almost a decade. What eventually enthused the band to reform?
I have always wanted to come back to Nepal and do a UgraKarma reunion. Much as I enjoyed playing in bands in USA, UgraKarma has always been special for me. This time when I came to visit Nepal, I decided to stay back and do new UgraKarma material, play live, record stuff etc. The fire was always there but I was only able to ignite it now.
Reformations are not quite the same especially when it is done after such a long hiatus and with some added new members. How does it feel playing in the band now compare to when you first started?
It feels great. Of course it has not been possible to have the original members into the folds this time since they are scattered across the globe. Aayush is in the US, Subash in Australia, Prashant in England and Roshan in Korea. All of us are still in touch with each other through the interwebs, though. We have Prateek (Binaash, ex-72 HRS) back in the band and I have been playing with him since our college days. It’s awesome to be able to write new songs together again and play the old ones. UgraKarma lets us get back to our roots. I think that UgraKarma has a solid lineup now with the rhythm section handled by brothers Bikram and Bijay (ex-Taamishra). All of us have been actively playing death metal in various bands in USA and Kathmandu and the transition to UgraKarma has been a smooth one for all of us.
It was great to listen to ‘Dang Dung (Disorder Lust) and now people are really looking forward to a new UGRA KARMA album. When can we see a new record coming? If you could give a little insight on it.
We are starting to record our new stuffs. The new material is to come out on a 7-inch vinyl slated for release through Legion of Death (France) worldwide. We’re are also going to release a CD version for Nepal only. Considering the pace of things here, it might take a few more months to come out. But definitely before the end of the year.
The new single has almost all the elements of the earlier UgraKarma that we like and love. Can we rest assure that other coming up new tracks will have the same essence of the earlier releases?
We’ve been playing our new stuff live, almost all of them. So, people already know what they are going to hear, to a certain extent. There might be a track or two that we haven’t played live yet in the upcoming release. However, the old-school death metal influence will always be there. It would not be UgraKarma if it wasn’t aggressive fucking Death Metal. We haven’t forgotten our roots and we refuse to change our style. People that are into aggressive, fast, old-school death metal might enjoy our stuff. However, people that are trying to find something “new” and “modern”, will be disappointed pretty badly. Unfortunately for metal hipsters, we have no technical wizardry, no drum triggers, no slam breakdowns, no effects-laden vocals, no guitar solos, and no studio trickery of any kind. Just death fucking metal in the raw.
And what are your thoughts on ever improving technologies on Music? You’ve been playing and recording music in US too and you have seen the Death Metal scene evolve with technology. How different is the recording, playing live etc in terms of tech now and 10 years back, especially in Nepal?
This rapid progress in technology has made very little impact on the band’s writing process. Sure we have better gear and better sound quality at gigs but that has nothing to do with the creative aspect of death metal. We still write the same kinda shit. However, technology has made a lot of things possible for extreme metal bands that was not possible when I was growing up. Live gigs have better sound quality now than it did 10 years ago, recorded stuff is better sounding and the advent of social networking over the web has revolutionized the way we disseminate information. Concert flyers have become almost extinct in Kathmandu because of Facebook.
The band has been continuously playing live, both big and small shows, ever since the reformation. How does it feel to finally being able to play live and tour various cities (Grinding the Mountains Tour ‘2012)?
“Grinding the Mountains Tour 2012” was incredible. Our tour started in Pokhara, where we had never played before. We went on to play Dharan, and later Butwal. We did a whole bunch of shows in Kathmandu – small bar gigs and huge open air festivals. It was great to be able to play for so many different audiences from different places. We are planning to play even more cities and towns across Nepal.
Your personal preference; big fests or small pub like gigs?
I personally prefer small bar gigs coz there is so much more energy. Big stages separate you from the crowd, you are way up there and the rest of the folks are quite a distance away. Big stages feel like a show, while small bar gigs feel like we are actually playing in our practice room, except with an audience of headbangers and mosh-heads. Lots more energy at smaller venues.
There are plenty of New Death Metal band in Nepal right now. Are you keeping an eye on them?
Binaash is my favorite local band. Narsamhaar, Dying Out Flames and Broken Hymen are pretty damn good too.
How do you see the evolution of Death Metal? It has undeniably changed a lot these days and new more extreme sub genres like pornogrind, goregrind etc. has evolved. What’s your take on this?
Some good and some bad. As far as grindcore and its variants are concerned, I listen to a lot of em, even experimental ones. I love Grind/Death bands like Assuck and Gorerotted. Truculence, one of the pioneers of pornogrind, hail from Portland, Oregon too and I love their stuff. Goregrind would be cool if it was not overflowing with bands that sound just like the other bands in the genre. Cenotaph (Turkey) is my fave in the Goregrind/Brutal DM division. A lot of the newer brutal death metal bands coming out of places like Columbia, Indonesia and Japan are pretty awesome. Technical and melodic death metal have never been my cup of tea, with the exception of Necrophagist and Gorod. Some newer Death Metal like Antediluvian and Mitochondrion is pretty fucking amazing. However, Deathcore and Slam death are not my favorite at all. It’s hard to get impressed with 5000 bands playing a variation on one riff out of “Liege of Inveracity”. I’d rather listen to old Suffocation.
People see you as a person who is much devoted in this genre. I would like to know if the music you listen to or make reflects or actually affect the way you live?
It does, to a great extent. What we write about is not mere fantasy, it’s our perception of the world. Playing live is not a show, it’s an expression of all the hatred, anger, bloodlust and wrath that we have within us. Having played in Death Metal bands continuously since I left high school, I would say that DM is a big part of my life. It certainly takes priority over many other aspects of my life.
Well thank you for your time. It’s been pleasure to have you with us. Anything that you want to share with us in the end or just some shoutouts?
To all who are reading this: support your local Metal bands, wear their shirts and go to their gigs.