When I got into contact with cool people with similar interests (and very widely conscious, when it comes to global extreme Metal underground) from India, and was recommended a local Death Metal band, I had no expectations in any direction, since I didn’t remember ever hearing an Indian Metal band of any kind properly. Of course I found myself in a world of amazing old-school Death Metal with strong Indian influences, musically and lyrically. After the great experience of listening to their first full-length album “Sthoopa”, I had some questions to the brilliant guitarist Somesha Sridhara of one of India’s leading Death Metal bands, Dhwesha.
Greetings! How is life today in the area where you live? Could you give us some information about your home-city, and the daily life there?
Greetings Antti! Well, I would say it’s the same as every day, nothing unusual. The city we live in, Bangalore, has the best weather as compared to any other city in India and life here in general is somewhat moderately paced.
How did the three members of the band meet, and decide to form a Death Metal band? Is it hard to find likeminded people in you part of India?
Ajay and I knew each other since pre-university college and had a band then. Eventually the drummer and bassist of that band went their own ways after our course but Ajay and I stayed in touch, started writing music and formed Dhwesha in 2008. In 2011, we decided to start playing our songs live and that’s when we started looking for a drummer seriously. Our search ended when we met Tushar with whom we started practicing the songs we had written already and also started working on new songs which led to our album ‘Sthoopa’.
There is such a strong early nineties Death Metal feeling to the music of Dhwesha, I must suspect you have been into underground Metal for a long time, am I correct?
Well, the bands we are mostly influenced by are from the 90s and the late 80s/early 90s was the time when some of the most iconic albums of the genre were released. Bands like Bolt Thrower, Gorement, early Amorphis, Sentenced, Unleashed and Desultory have been our biggest influences in creating this kind of music.
You are all very skilled in playing your “Western” instruments. How did this come about, when thinking of your childhood? Are you just as much trained in traditional Indian music compared to Western styles of playing and composing?
Well, I was always fascinated by the guitar as a kid and really wanted to learn the instrument. I started learning when I was about 13-14 years old I suppose. I’m quite sure it was the same case with Ajay who started playing the guitar when was 15-16 years old or so. We picked up these instruments as we started listening to a lot of hard rock and metal music, being fascinated by the guitarists in the bands we were listening to then.
Unfortunately, we have never learnt any traditional Indian instruments. However, I’d like to explore more in that direction eventually but I doubt we’d ever incorporate those instruments in our music. We just want play plain old death metal with a certain sound of our own.
How about the Metal-scenes there in general? Looking at your gig-posters, I got the feeling there are quite many bands, as well as gigs in your area, or did I get wrong impression?
The metal scene in India has improved immensely in the past few years especially in our home city Bangalore and in the city of Kolkata. We have had great underground metal bands like Impiety and Blood Division from Singapore, Abigail from Japan, Orator from Bangladesh, Genocide Shrines and Serpent’s Athirst from Sri Lanka to name a few.
Which is the dominating music style – Black Metal or Death Metal – when it comes to underground music in India, or are they usually enjoyed and performed by the same people?
Well, there is a good mix of both. In Bangalore, its mostly Death Metal but in Kolkata there are some really great sounding young Black/Death metal bands like Necrodeity, Tetragrammacide, Banish and Thrash metal bands like Deadbolt and Armament.
Do you ever experience any problems from any local authorities, because of the music styles of your choice?
Well, we have not had any issues in our shows so far. There was a deadline of 11PM for shows to end or pubs to close in our city and since everyone’s used to it, shows start in the evening and end by about 11-11:30 PM but nowadays they tend to go on a little longer as they’ve extended the deadline by a couple of hours.
Your amazing first album came out through Dunkelheit Produktionen in September of 2014. How did this happen, did they approach you or vice versa? How has the response been so far?
I was aware of Dunkelheit Produktionen as they had released Funeral In Heaven and Plecto Aliquem Capite’s split, Pathogen’s ‘Miscreants of Bloodlusting Aberrations’, but when we discovered that the label was going to release Exhumation’s ‘Hymn to Your God’ we realized that they were also looking at signing more death metal bands and thought we’d give it a try by sending a promo copy of album which was yet to be mixed and mastered. Bernd from Dunkelheit Produktionen contacted us as soon as he received the promo CD and expressed his interest to release ‘Sthoopa’ and have Dhwesha on their roster.
The response to the album has been quite great so far and we are really happy about it.
What does the name “Dhwesha”, and the name of your first brilliant album “Sthoopa” mean? How about your lyrics, what are the general themes in them?
‘Sthoopa’ in our language Kannada translates to a pillar or a tower and that is what the album title track is about. Our lyrical themes are mostly concentrated towards mythology and Indian history. The ‘Hoy! Sala’ is about how the Hoysala Empire got its name which according to the legend talks of a sage who was meditating with his disciple Sala when a lion attacked the sage and he called on his apprentice to strike (Hoy!) the lion. ‘Ugra Narasimha’ is based on a story from Hindu mythology, of Hiranyakashipu, an ‘asura’ (Demon) who seeks immortality and during his attempt to kill his son Prahlada for opposing him in his thirst for power, is decapitated by Narasimha (half-human half-lion avatar of Vishnu). These are stories most people in our country are familiar with and as children grew up hearing/reading about. Magick and rituals have always been practiced in parts of India since the ancient times of which some are documented. The song ‘Sabhe’ on the album is a generalized take on this subject about a coven of witches congregating in a forest around a ritual fire.
What can you tell me about your religious backgrounds? Do you all share similar childhoods in this matter, or are the Metal-heads in India a collection of different stories when it comes to cultural upbringing?
Well, the 3 of us are Hindu by birth but I’m not a religious person really. Yes, most people in India, depending on their upbringing are religious and as kids follow things that their parents and elders tell them. While some choose otherwise when they are old enough, some choose to continue.
What do the ancient Traditions, Philosophy and Spirituality of your culture mean to you? Is it mostly a source of inspiration to your music, or something more deeper in your daily life?
They are definitely a source of inspiration for our music. Some of those traditions which have continued from the ancient times are part of people’s daily lives here.
How do the younger generation of India today view the ancient reality tunnels and thinking, such as the Caste-system or extreme devotion to Religion and Spirituality? Is there a difference there between the perhaps more educated part of the people in the cities versus the rural folk?
The younger generations in the cities of course detest caste-system and blindly following religious beliefs/customs. Although, there could be a very small percentage of people who still do. But, the numbers would be higher in the rural areas because of lack of education.
Thank you very much for this interview! What are your future plans when it comes to your band?
The plan for now is to play shows in most of the cities in India to promote the album and also start working on some new material!
Thanks a lot!