Demonic Resurrection Interview
Whilst most of the interviews we’ve completed are with bands playing in the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage, we also managed to sneak a bit of time with Demonstealer, real name Sahil Makhija, the driving force behind India death metal legends Demonic Resurrection. Demonstealer started Demonic Resurrection when he was a mere 17 years old, and 18 years later the band is returning to the scene of their triumphant UK debut on the Sophie Stage in 2012. I started off with some of the background.
Paul: You’ve been around as Demonic Resurrection for 18 years. Congratulations on the longevity. Whilst many of us are now familiar with you and the band, for those who are not, can you give us a quick history of the band and introduce us to the current line-up?
DS: I formed the band way back in 2000 when I was 17 years old and I had been writing my own music for about 2 years. I was always looking for musicians to play along with, but I had no luck till I finally decided to get on stage with my computer and just play along. That was when I found my first set of musicians and the band kicked off. As you could guess the line-up changes have been a regular feature of the band with me being the sole member from the original line-up. The current band line-up is just me and drummer Virendra Kaith. We have sessions musicians filling in on bass and lead guitars. In India we have Leon (Zygnema) and Vignesh (Albatross) who fill in and so far for our overseas tours we have Arran (De Profundis/Virvum) and Shoi Sen (De Profundis) who are touring members.
Paul: You released your first album Demonstealer in 2000 and your most recent, Dashavatar last year. Your sound has certainly progressed between those albums, with Dashavatar a fabulous release. You’ve been labelled many things, from Blackened Death Metal to Symphonic Black Metal. How would you describe the band’s sound and how has it changed since the early days of the band?
DS: Honestly even back then we were a melting pot of many sub genres of metal and that’s why I chose to call ourselves ‘Demonic Metal’ and of course I took cues from many famous bands who gave themselves a custom genre label. I remember Immortal being called ‘Holocaust Metal’ or something to that extent and I said ‘yeah, we’re going to be Demonic Metal’. I think the essence of the band is still the same, it’s a sound that doesn’t really limit itself and pretty much anything goes. I would say that ‘death metal’ has been the consistent element in our sound but then again, it’s not the very traditional sort. I think for easier labelling we generally stick with Symphonic Death metal.
Growing up in India, I wondered who were the main influences on Demonstealer, especially when originally forming the band?
DS: It’s quite a huge list but obviously Metallica, Iron Maiden were the bands I started out with and then I got into a lot of Fear Factory, Pantera, Sepultura, Marilyn Mason, Devin Townsend. I followed that up with Dimmu Borgir, COF, Emperor, Ancient and lots of black metal along with Vader, Nile, Cryptopsy, Cannibal Corpse and then I had a power metal side which was Blind Guardian and Nightwish. As you can see there was such a wide variety of metal that I liked that it was all part of what influenced our sound.
Paul: And which current bands continue to influence you?
DS: Right now, my playlist is mostly technical death metal like Obscura, Beyond Creation, Augury, Inferi, Archspire, Persefone and then there is a lot of stuff like Leprous and Agent Fresco and of course I love the symphonic death metal bands like Septicflesh and Fleshgod Apocalypse and I also listen to a lot of Ihsahn’s work. Just too many to mention really.
I moved on to explore life in India and the metal scene in particular.
Paul: I’ve read many interviews with you over the years about the scene in India. Many of those reading this may be oblivious to it. Could you give me your view on how challenging it is to be a metal musician in India and describe how the scene is doing at present.
DS: Being a metal musician in India is an expensive hobby and that is pretty much what it will always be. The audience is very young here with many of them being 18-24 years old. It’s also for some reason very much a phase that they go through in college following which they grow out of the music or just leave the country. This results in an audience with not much disposable income and pretty much every metal head wants to or has their own band, so we’ve just got struggling musicians who eventually grow out of the music. Of course, not all is bad, it’s a much bigger improvement than say in the 90s when cover bands were the only ones around, you got booed if you played original music and everything from the infra structure to the equipment was rubbish. Now you have the best gear in the world and the music venues that exist have state of the art gear. The fans that exist look for original music and cover bands are a rare occurrence. So, some good and some bad.
I thought Dashavatar was the band’s best release although The Return To Darkness holds a special place for me as that was the first Demonic Resurrection album I heard. Were you happy with the response to Dashavatar?
DS: I think the fans really enjoyed the album and I think it got a great response from them as well as the press. I have to say it was well received.
Moving on to the Bloodstock Festival, you played here in 2012, which I recall was your UK debut after you were unable to get to Sonisphere that year. I remember the show well, and I recall how busy the tent was and what a great reception you received. What are your memories of that gig?
DS: I was extremely nervous about that gig especially since we also filmed it professionally with 6 cameras and multi-track audio. So, it was a big one for us. The crowd response was what calmed the nerves and it really felt good to receive such a warm reception from the UK crowd. It made us keep coming back all these years J
Something that we often moan about is bands who don’t seem to tour the UK often. Perhaps it is because of more than just poor promotion. I asked about the challenges the band face just getting to the UK.
Paul: You have since played in the UK several times but each time you face issues just to get here. We take travel for granted here so I’m interested to know what are the challenges that you face getting across to Europe from India.
DS: The biggest issue with the UK has always been the cost and process of getting the VISA. We are required to get work permits even though we lose money on each tour and these permits require something called a CERTIFICATE OF SPONSORSHIP from an A Grade company in the UK who must claim liability for you. In the even they do not, you need to have £1000 in your band 3 months prior to travel. This is per person! Each visa costs £220 plus the COS is another £40 (it went up to £100 last tour) and this is again per person. So, we were out £1250 in VISA costs each time and over this the flights. So, it’s a massive loss. However thankfully there now seems to be an option of a cheaper visa which we’ve been able to get for this trip but whatever we had to spend for the previous trips was a huge hit for us.
Paul: Your most recent UK tour was with Wretched Soul, who are a great band. I had the pleasure of meeting you and watching the band play at Eradication Festival in Cardiff in May. How was that tour overall?
DS: The tour was so much fun! I mean doing 10 cities was a big deal for us and the guys in Wretched Soul are super chill and fun to hang out with. We bonded really well, and it was fun driving around the country and playing places that I’d never even heard about before. Financially as well it wasn’t too bad for us. If we’d gotten a cheaper visa we’d have only lost the flight ticket money which wouldn’t have been too bad.
Paul: Coming back to Bloodstock 2018; you weren’t initially on the line-up although I know that the band has been keen to return. With Bio-Cancer pulling out, how did you get the call to play?
DS: All credit to our agent Stephen Moss from Artery Global who called me said do you want to do this. I thought about it, seemed to be worth doing. We said let’s do it.
Paul: So, once you were confirmed for Bloodstock, what are the logistics that you face to get here? I was pleased to read that you had your visas which means you will be there, but what do you have to go through to get to the Sophie Tent on 12th August?
DS: Well on the bright side this time was much less stressful. The UK has another visa called the PPE (Permitted Paid Engagement) by which we could come and play the festival. It costs much less than the work permit. We had to make a pretty solid application and case for it but nothing that was too painful. So, we managed to get everything well ahead of time and applied as soon as well could so no stress about anything. We’ve booked our tickets as well, so we fly in a few days in advance, have a few rehearsals and then see you all at the festival.
Paul: You play on the Sophie Stage on Sunday 12th August Will you guys be at the festival for the entire weekend or just the Sunday?
DS: Since we’re coming all the way we’re going to come and have a good time at the festival. Such an incredible line-up on all 3 days so I can’t wait to check out some of my favourite acts and meet a whole bunch of people.
Paul: I’ve seen you twice and know what your live show is like. For those who haven’t seen you before, what can we expect? Why should those who are undecided come and watch?
DS: Well I think we put up a good show and if you like your metal heavy, with a bit of melody and a touch of tandoori then come on down to the Sophie tent. I promise you’ll leave with a smile on your face. I’d like to think we’re just good honest metal.
Paul: For anyone who has yet to experience Bloodstock, why should you go?
DS: It’s an incredible festival, a stellar line-up of bands, stages that aren’t miles away from each other. The atmosphere is electric, and the fans are friendly. It’s really just something to experience. And fingers crossed the weather is good.
Paul: I know at times it has been a massive struggle for you as a musician and as a band. Let’s focus on the good times. Give us a couple of highlights of the career of Demonstealer and Demonic Resurrection.
DS: For Demonic Resurrection it’s been the amazing shows we’ve had at festivals like Inferno, Brutal Assault, Bloodstock and many others. Getting to tour India and play to packed houses and some of the biggest festivals. Getting signed to Candlelight was a huge deal for us when that happened. On my personal musical front being able to have George Kollias (Nile) drum on my 2nd solo album and the incredible line-up of musicians I got to work with for my 3rd solo album. These are all the best parts of doing what I do. Most of all the constant love and support from the true fans. The ones who make all this possible who support everything I do with more than just a ‘like’ on facebook.
Paul: And finally, after Bloodstock, what does the future for the band look like?
DS: Right now, it’s just darkness I see but I will see where this road takes us. I honestly am tired after 18 years of doing this and if something good comes along, I’ll take it but otherwise for now, I’m done.
Well I for one hope that there is some light for Demonstealer and his band. I have total sympathy for the exhaustion that he must feel. 18 years battling for what you believe in must be incredibly tough. If this is to be Demonic Resurrection swansong, you owe it to them and all who fight for metal across the globe to get in the tent and cheer them to the fucking rafters. Many thanks to one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet.