(In this post, Andy Synn interviews The Demonstealer (Sahil Makhija), frontman of India’s flagship metal band, Demonic Resurrection. As you’ll see, he has a lot of irons in the fire.)
Your last album The Return To Darkness was released back in 2010: it’s had amazing staying power and continues to attract new fans and positive reviews even now. Stupid question, but just how proud are you of what you have achieved with it?
I would say I’m quite proud of what we’ve achieved with it. We got signed to Candlelight Records to have it released, so that was kind of the biggest payoff for us. Musically, we’ll obviously aim to better what we did. We’ll probably say the new record is our best work to date (which musician doesn’t? :P). So yes, I’m quite satisfied with the way it’s gone, but there is a long long way to go yet.
What was the compositional process for the record like? How do you write, either individually or as a group?
Given the instability of the band’s lineup I’ve always remained the primary songwriter in the band and Mephisto has been the second key contributor musically. I started writing songs in 2007/2008 for this record and that was about the time Virendra Kaith joined us as a drummer, so jamming with him had a huge influence on my riff playing because while our previous drummer was more straight-out death metal, Virendra bought a different style of drumming to the table, which was influenced by bands like Meshuggah, Sikth, Textures. etc., and we had to kind of get him up to speed to the death metal style. So I think that’s how we got most of the sound for the record.
Daniel Rego joined us in 2008 as a lead guitarist and he contributed mostly the solos and some riffs on the record. His lead playing in my opinion was absolutely stellar and exactly what we needed. So the songs were written and then jammed on and edited and changed around til we got the best possible result. We tend to record everything and then we have about 5-6 versions of each song and there is an evolution process involved with the tracks so we can get the best out of it.
Would you like to say anything about the lyrics or the overall themes of the album? Although I know some lyricists don’t like to talk about it, I wondered if there were any songs you might like to talk about specifically and expand upon their meanings.
For me the first DR album Demonstealer was very personal stuff, needless to say. When we had a new lineup in 2003 the band told me to stop being EMO and write about other stuff and that is kind of how the fantasy-based lyrics were born. After A Darkness Descends I kind of wrote the lyrics for our EP like a story, so it continued from the idea of A Darkness Descends and made it into a story that completed with The Return To Darkness.
So the lyrics outline the story of a warrior/hero who leaves the earth after it has been overrun by darkness and evil forces and he tries to escape only to return to save the world. Not as cheesy as I might make it sound right now, but if you read through the lyrics and the booklet it will put everything in perspective.
You recently asked fans to pledge donations to help you get a video filmed for one of the songs off The Return To Darkness (expanding its shelf-life even more) and you reached your target in under 48 hours! What’s the plan with the video shoot now then?
It was absolutely amazing that we covered the pledge amount so quickly, our fans are amazing. The video is now in pre-production stages, we’ve kind of finalized the song, the story, and we’ve had our first meeting with the director and production house and are looking at filming end of March 2012 and look to release it in May 2012 sometime.
You also just appeared in India’s edition of GQ magazine, am I correct? How did that opportunity come about?
Well I got a call from one of their writers/editors, Michael Haydn, who said he wanted to meet me to discuss doing a piece on Indian metal as a subculture and it just took off from there and became a story on DR. I should mention that Indian metal gets a lot more mainstream attention here in India. Probably because it’s more interesting in the Indian context.
People may not know it, but you also run Demonstealer Records, India’s only dedicated metal label. How did you get that set up and established?
When DR was all set to release A Darkness Descends, that is when I set up the label more professionally, and once I did a fairly good job releasing the DR album I felt it made sense to give other Indian bands who I believed made great music a platform to release it. I released Acrid Semblance, a melodic death metal band, shortly after DR and it just took off from there. I have released 13 albums so far and while it’s been a very hard operation to run and I’ve often lost tons of money, I’ve always kept it going. However last year I shut the label to all projects that were not my own simply because I needed to focus on what I was doing, and maybe if things go well in the near future I’ll open the doors once again to other artists.
And what’s going on with it at the moment (feel free to publicise anything you’re releasing or distributing!)?
I’m currently up to my ears in writing music and recording it. I’ve got 4 albums of my own planned over the next 1 year or so. I’ve got my humor metal/rock band called ‘Workshop’ releasing their 2nd album, Reptilian Death my solo death metal project where I play drums is live-recording the 2nd release as well, Demonic Resurrection will soon get busy with album number 4, and my 2nd solo album after all this is over and done with. So as you can see I’m going to be busy!
How would you represent the Indian metal scene to our international readers?
I would say the Indian metal scene is vibrant and going to be a force to reckon with soon. We’ve got a truckload of awesome bands and music and people should definitely lend us a ear.
What are your plans for the rest of this year? You’ve been gigging pretty well for the last couple of months already after all.
Like I mentioned earlier, I’m going to be busy recording 4 albums as well as touring with all 4 projects wherever possible. I’ll also try and do more episodes of my show Headbanger’s Kitchen, and all this while I manage my day job(s).
You’re also traveling overseas in the Summer, having just been announced for Bloodstock here in the UK. What other festivals on the circuit are you aiming for (or can’t you say anything yet)?
We’re talking to every festival possible, but we’ll announce anything only if we confirm, makes no sense to say anything before that. We are however planning some more dates in the UK so we’ll definitely do a small tour for sure.
What were the key influences that shaped the Demonic Resurrection sound in the past, and are there any new elements coming into the mix for the next record?
When I started the band there was a definite influence from Dimmu Borgir, Old Man’s Child, Cradle Of Filth, Emperor, and also a lot of bands with female vocals like Lacuna Coil, Theatre Of Tragedy, Tristania, etc. I got into a lot of power metal after that and then death metal. I think our influences keep changing. but I think now it’s less about the influence from the music we listen to and more about the ‘Demonic Resurrection’ sound and how that is going to evolve. Even in our playing it’s more about ‘our’ individual styles and bringing that together.
How far along are you into the compositional process for the next album?
I’d say we’re about half way through, having about 6-7 songs done and probably look at writing 4-5 more at least, and then picking the best 9-10 songs and then hitting the studios.
Any provisional titles or such you might want to share exclusively here?
Well nothing at this point except that we have one track named ‘Speed Demon’ which I’ve been told is the working title I always give the first new song I write after an album, so I think there was a ‘Speed Demon’ on the previous record and the one before that as well. I guess it will be called something else finally, but yeah working title ‘Speed Demon’ FTW!
Outside of Demonic Resurrection what occupies your time?
I’m gainfully employed at Furtados Music as their artist relations manager as well as handling their entire social media and also filming and creating content for their youtube channel. I run my own PR and booking firm, I have my home studio called Demonic Studios where I record and produce other bands, my label is chilling out right now but yeah that exists too. I have an online cooking show called Headbanger’s Kitchen, and like I mentioned earlier I’ve got 4 projects recording albums and all 4 will be playing live as well.
Can you tell us more about plans for the new Reptilian Death material?
As I said, we’re recording our 2nd album, and I’m privileged to be working with a very talented vocalist/writer who has written a sick story and is recording some sick vocals, a designer who’s done an album cover that will blow minds, and Ashwin Shriyan on bass, who also plays for Demonic Resurrection, who is a monster. So once I find two competent guitarists the band will be ready to hit the stage. It’s going to be an experience is all I can say at this point.
Is there anything you want to recommend to our readers, musical or otherwise, and not necessarily connected to metal, that you’ve found particularly inspirational or moving artistically? I’m thinking places people should visit, things they should see or read before they die, etc
I’ve hardly got time to experience things given how busy I am, but definitely check out my bands, my music, my cooking show, eat some good food, listen to some metal and make sure you enjoy life.
So, any last words you want to share with everyone, on any topics (AW-related or otherwise), that come to mind?
Thanks a ton for this interview, looking forward to tearing it up at Bloodstock!
Cheers & Stay Demonic!
EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s humbling enough to see in this interview how much The Demonstealer does with his time, but it turns out the story is still incomplete. Turns out he also films and edits music videos. Take this one, for example. It’s a studio play-through by the whole band of an instrumental version of a song from The Return To Darkness called “Dismembering the Fallen”. It features the band’s new bass player, and it’s evil fun to watch and to hear.