Greetings Sahil, how are things a couple of weeks after the release of your new album?
Greetings! Things are good so far, I’ve already started work on the new Demonic Resurrection album and at the same time I’m promoting the new Demonstealer album and creating some new videos for it.
Can Demonstealer be considered a full line-up band (a trio nowadays) or rather a one man operation?
Demonstealer will always be a one man operation, it’s me, my solo avatar. I did get musicians to play on the album and I do have a live band as well but it’s essentially a solo gig, pretty much like what Ihsahn is doing.
How did you get on board with George Kollias, maybe the most hip drummer in Today's Extreme Metal? Will this be a one time collaboration or do you plan something more permanent?
I met George Kollias back in 2011 when he came to India for a drum clinic, which was organized by the company I work for. It was during that visit that I met him and interviewed him on my cooking show Headbanger’s Kitchen. We have remained in contact since then and when I was working on the album I asked if he’d be interested in playing drums on it and when he heard the songs he quite liked it and agreed to be part of the project.
What about Ashwin Shriyan, the bass player on your new album, what can you tell us about him?
Ashwin is actually the bass player from my other projects Reptilian Death and Demonic Resurrection. He’s an amazing fingerstyle bass player and ever since he joined my projects I’ve been a huge fan of his playing. I would have normally tracked the bass myself but honestly I felt with someone like Kollias on board playing drums I should get a proper bass player to do justice to the album rather than me putting down ‘bass’ just to get that job done.
Let me congratulate you for an excellent job, I am familiar with the band's previous album, too, and in my opinion this is clearly and by far your best work, from the more mature and catchier compositions, to its production, everything is on another level, but please tell us your honest opinion on it. What went better, what are the main changes from your previous material?
Well the debut album ‘...And Chaos Will Reign...’ was just done on a whim and it was me waking up one day and saying I’m going to write and record my first solo album in 19 days and release it on my birthday and I did everything in that time. With this album I started writing material since 2008 after releasing the first album and I just let this album develop because since 2008 I have released 2 Demonic Resurrection albums, 2 Workshop (my comedy rock band) albums and 1 Reptilian Death album. So my plate has been full with music work and this was the final chapter. So you can say this album has been some time in the making, it’s been refined and then of course having amazing musicians just take it to the next level has sort of made it the best work I’ve done till date.
I find the new album also more opened to other sonorities, to more influences, and somehow, although this sounds uncool to the underground, more commercial. Do you agree with this?
I’ve never understood the use of ‘commercial’ when describing music. Even the most brutal grindcore band that sells merch and music is technically ‘commercial’ but yes this album is exploring a side I wanted to for a long time. I basically led with my heart on this one. I love to sing, I love melodic music, I love great hooks so I did not hold back, I had no restrictions on what I can do or cannot do. So yeah I guess it made the music the way it is but I was ready for that. This was meant to be this way.
How was it working with this trio line-up? I guess you relied mostly on file-sharing services to work on the tracks, right? Or was it all composed by you and the guys brought their own touch in execution only?
I wrote and recorded all the songs at home first with a drum machine and I sent them over to George and he spent some time learning and working on the songs. Once he was ready he recorded the drums and sent them back to me. Ashwin just dropped into the studio and over 2 days we finished recording his bass. After that I worked on my own in the studio. I also had Nishith Hegde (Demonic Resurrection) come over and record some guitar layers and 2 solos and also had Daniel Rego (ex-Demonic Resurrection) record a guitar solo which he recorded at his studio and sent over to me. So it was an interesting way to put the album together.
Who took care of the cover artwork and what does it represent? Is the artwork closely related with the lyrical side of the album? What are its lyrics about?
The cover artwork was done by Michal Xaay from Poland who has done artwork previously for both my projects Reptilian Death & Demonic Resurrection as well as bands like Behemoth, Nile, Vader etc. The art is almost a literal representations of the title ‘This Burden Is Mine’ where this figure holds a giant weight on his shoulders, similar to Altas holding the world. It does relate to the lyrics which are all quite personal. Pretty straightforward though. Life, it’s hardships, hope, failure etc are the subjects the lyrics deal with.
The album was mastered by Victor Bullok (Triptykon, Dark Fortress) at Woodshed Studios in Germany, how come you chose him and how are you satisfied with the final result?
Victor did an incredible job. I don’t think I will ever master my own music the results are so good. I wanted to get another set of ears on the project and since I do the mixing myself I felt he was the right guy to master the album. I absolutely loved his work on the new Obscura album it’s so clean, refined, organic and that’s just what I wanted for this album. So it was a great choice I feel.
Is Demonstealer also a live act? How do you plan to promote this new release?
Yes I do have a live line-up and we do plan to play where it is possible but most of my promotion is online via social media and youtube as touring outside India is extremely expensive and given that the musicians are all sessions players and I have to pay them it probably will not work out for me to tour much outside India. So most of it will be online promotion.
Is the album released on your own label? I've seen you also released a limited edition BoxSet, how come and what does it contain?
I have released the album under my own label which is actually shut since a few years it’s basically just there as a name now. At least in India selling CDs is very tough and even the biggest bands struggle to sell more than 500 copies so it just makes sense to make everything limited edition. I’ve released these boxsets in the past for Behemoth, Dimmu Borgir, Demonic Resurrection and I personally love buying boxsets myself because they are awesome, it’s great to get more than just the CD so I decided it made sense to make one for this album. The boxset has the CD, a poster, a sticker, a guitar plectrum and a certificate of authenticity and it’s limited to 250 copies only.
How are things with Demonic Resurrection at the moment? It's already 2 years since your latest album, how are the results so far? How is the deal with Candlelight, are you going to stay with them for the next album, too?
Things are good, we are touring on and off and we’ve already begun writing for the next record. We hope to try and get it done this year and release it either by the end of this year or early next year. I’m not sure about our deal with Candlelight because they are not bought over by Spinefarm and we are in talks with them so once we have some concrete info I’ll be able to say something about that.
Speaking about the next Demonic Resurrection album, I know you were planning to record it at the beginning of 2016, right? Is it recorded? Can you tell us a bit about what happens on this upcoming album?
We have just started writing the music so it’s composing and pre-production going on at the same time. I’m hoping to have the entire album finished by August this year. It’s the fastest we’ve ever worked on an album so it’s going to be quite a challenge but I’m up for it. It’s a bit too early to divulge the details but we’ve closed the chapter of the Demon King and we’ve started fresh with some new ideas and new lyrical inspiration. Needless to say it’s evolution baby!
Being signed to such a high reputation label as Candlelight might lead some fans to believe you're doing quite well as a band financially speaking, but yet you posted a video on social media where you talked about a high investment from your side and even a bank debt. So what's the situation?
I’m always puzzled as to why people would even think being signed to a label means anything these days. We are doing horribly when it comes to money. We’ve never taken a penny home from the band. Every cent we earn is either invested in recording a new album or touring. The thing with labels is even if you are a big band who is getting an ‘advance’ to record or tour most of the time it’s nothing more than a glorified loan which gets recovered against your sales. For us Candlelight is great because it gets our music out in stores across USA, Europe and UK. However that’s a far cry from earning us anything substantial unless we were selling 5000-10000 CDs which we are not. So right now we’re not in debt but we’re not making any money either. We’re what I’d like to call a ‘break even’ band.
You're involved in the Indian Metal scene since its inception days, how was the situation 16 years ago compared to now? Are there more metalheads in India? How the Metal "infrastructure" (labels, zines, radio/TV shows)?
There is a huge difference in the scene back then and now. When I started it was a lot of cover bands, very few opportunities for bands etc. Now bands start writing music from the word go so we have more albums, more bands, more music. We also have more festivals and venues. I think overall in terms of labels we haven’t grown much because music sales are nonexistent. Everything else has definitely evolved. We still have a long way to go though.
As far as I know you also run your own studio and it's among the best in India. Is that your main source of income? How does a Metal veteran like yourself afford a comfortable life from his activities related to this genre?
Thank you for the kind words but no my studio again is not my main source of income it’s actually one more of my ‘break even’ ventures. I actually earn a living working for a music company called Furtados Music as their artist relations manager. To be really honest my metal activities have not really earned me any money. I manage with what I have, thankfully my only real indulgences are food so I don’t really spend money on anything else apart from my music. I hope the scenario changes soon. I’m constantly working to make things happen and I do hope I can turn it all around before I hit 40 :)
Your YouTube vlog is hilarious and at the same time constructive, and I know you also have a couple of other fun-based projects, so how do you blend the two sides of Sahil, the fun one and the menacing, demonic one?
I’ve always had a fun side and I had a comedy rock project Workshop where I let that side run wild and I find that in my youtube videos I can do the same. I keep the RD and DR Sahil more serious though, occasionally the fun one gets out too and cracks a couple of one liners at a gig. You never know ;)
Tell us a few up and coming names of Indian Extreme Metal bands we should check out or/and be aware of.
I would definitely tell people to check out bands like Albatross, Primitiv, Kryptos, Undying Inc, Bhayanak Maut, Zygnema, Inner Sanctum, Gutslit etc. I think there are great Indian bands irrespective of whatever sub genre of metal you listen to. Whether you like black metal or nu metal or groove metal or death metal there is an Indian metal band playing some great music.
Sorry for the long list of questions, you're an interesting person, I came up with them in short time. To conclude this interview I'd like to ask you what do you know about my homeland, Transylvania / Romania. :)
It’s no problem and thank you for the kind words. Well my knowledge of Transylvania/Romania is limited to Dracula. Hahaha. But of course I would love to play there someday and also try all the local food. It looks very interesting.
Thanks a lot for your time and hope to talk again soon!
My pleasure :)
Interview by Adrian