Hailing from Singapore, Rudra are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. Their latest album “Enemy of Duality” has been the main reason for Pest to have a nice conversation with the band’s members.
There aren’t many underground metal Asian bands... why?
Vinod: I personally find that there are many Asian underground bands out there. Most of which do not have an EP or album out, making it harder for those bands to gain recognition. And because the scene is saturated with bands, you’ll probably need a good label or luck to get the band name known internationally.
The band used to be called Rudhra and rebranded to Rudra after a breakup due to musical differences. Was this to separate the sound of the 2 bands and start afresh?
Kathir: Not really. We continued from where we left off. If you had listened to ‘The Past Demo’ you would have realised that the song ‘Dwelling in the Unknown’ had started to introduce the Vedic Metal vibes. In fact the lyrics too had similar ideas as well. When we resumed from a short hiatus, we decided to correct the spelling of the band name because by Sanskrit transliteration standards, the word ‘Rudra’ should be without a ‘h’. It was merely a matter of convenience. And also perhaps an excuse for the ex-members to not take us to task. ha ha.
Shiva: Yes. Thank you for answering the question for us.
Rudra is the name of ancient Vedic Storm God. Did he inspire you?
Kathir: Yes, the very idea that Rudra was an aggressive god in the Vedic pantheon was so apt for an extreme metal band. Also that Rudra was also seen as a non-dual reality in the philosophical texts (Upanishads) made this a perfect name.
Kathir once defined the band’s sound as “extreme metal mixed with Indian classical modalities propelled by the Vedic Philosophy”. Do you think this is still the best definition for Rudra’s 2016 sound?
Simon: By far, it is still the best definition for Rudra.
Only Kathir and Shiva have been in the band ever since its formation. How do you recruit the other members every time there’s a need for a line-up change?
Kathir: We recruit by looking at people who can first see us as friends rather than musicians. It has always been this way unless something bad happens that breaks the trust or the mutual respect we have for each other. So far I am very happy to say that all of the ex-band members are still in touch with us.
Shiva: If given a choice, we never wanted a change in our line-up. But changes are inevitable. It is very difficult to see a band member leave. So far, we have been lucky to get a replacement each time a member leaves.
So Kathir and Shiva have been putting up with each other for 25 years now. How’s your relationship? Don’t you hate each other sometimes?
Kathir: I have never hated Shiva because there was no reason to. In fact we have become best of friends or perhaps even family. Interestingly we somehow end up having a similar vison for the band and that helps too.
Shiva: We are band mates and more importantly great friends. Generally, we do not have any problems or issues. If there are, we always listen to each other and then come to an agreement amicably. That explains why we have been around for a quarter of a decade.
The band has been quite active when it comes to releasing full-lengths. Last year you’ve released “Enemy of Duality”… what’s the reaction to it been?
Simon: This Album has been well received everywhere. We were quite surprised by the reaction received. Far more than what we expected.
Vinod: Amazingly it almost appears to be one of our best albums released. We’ve constantly been receiving great reviews and we’ve got many people writing to us, sharing how they feel about the new album. So far things have just been extremely positive.
The band deals with Vedic themes, Hindu philosophy, Mythology. The Vedas which basically means knowledge and its texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism. What attracts you to them?
Simon: You have pretty much summed it up for us. The Literature, Knowledge and Philosophical text, but above All, knowing Ourselves in the Vedas.
Kathir: To me it is the non-dualistic philosophy of the Vedic Upanishads that attracts me. The very fact that I am the cause of the world phenomenon is something abstract and yet realisable for me.
The title of the album is “Enemy of Duality” and according to Kathir “The theme of the album is a Sanskrit text called mandukya karika. It is a polemical text on non-duality”. Care to elaborate on that?
Kathir: Mandukya Karika has always been reserved as an advanced text for spiritual reflection. Primarily for the reason that it takes very extreme positions in the way reality of the world is seen. In the eyes of the Madukya Karika, the creation does not exist. Here is a quote from the text: “There is neither dissolution nor creation, none in bondage and none practicing disciplines. There is none seeking Liberation and none liberated. This is the absolute truth.”
Aside from the usual instruments, the band also uses sitar, table and flute. How difficult/ easy is it to incorporate them in the music?
Vinod: As we composed the songs for the album, we kept in minds of having some of these instruments in the songs. And after the main guitars were recorded, we reviewed the songs and once more and decided on what instruments goes into which songs. The musicians we worked with had been amazing.
Rudra has almost as many albums as deals with record labels. The latest album has been through Transcending Obscurity Asia… how do you get these deals? Do you contact the labels or do they contact you?
Kathir: It all depends what we feel like at a particular phase of our career. We have worked with different labels over our 25 year existence and now we felt that it is time to hand over the reins to a good and reliable record label. And when I had informal conversations with Kunal from Transcending Obscurity, it just happened naturally. He is a great guy. He keeps to his promises. And he works hard. I love his work ethics.
Your logo is quite interesting and it kinda reminds me of an Indian symbol... who designed it?
Kathir: I designed the original logo that appeared on the debut album. After which our good friend and owner of Trishul Records, Arul Magesan improved it to what it is today. We have changed the design since then and I guess it will be so forever.
The band’s Indian influence might be what sets you apart from all the other bands... it’s nice to see bands inspiring themselves in their heritage. Do you think one’s roots/heritage are special? Do you intend on passing it on to your kids/nephews in case you have them?
Vinod: In general, I feel it is important for anyone to know their roots. For sure with my child, I would want him to know and learn the culture and roots of our origin.
Simon: Everyone’s Roots/Heritage are Special. Being in a Multicultural Country, you get to experience how each individual’s thought process is based on their Roots.
Is the band planning to tour with this album? Does the band play often live in Singapore? Have you played outside of Asia? Is there somewhere you’d like to play live and haven’t yet?
Vinod: We’ve currently working on doing some tours to promote the new album and also this year, 2017, is our 25th Anniversary, we have some things in store. We don’t play in Singapore too often. Usually to try to do a couple of shows in a year. We have done numerous shows outside of Singapore. Some places we’re keen on playing will be Europe and Japan.
Shiva: We are currently negotiating with the organisers and show promoters. Hopefully, we plan to do as many shows as possible to promote the current album as well as our music. We play in as many shows in Singapore as long as we get invited. We never turn down shows as long as it doesn’t clash with our time. Outside Asia we have played in North America, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Malaysia. We would really like to conquer Europe as well as Japan and China in the next 5 years!
Do you think the travel ban that Trump imposed will affect Rudra and bands in general?
Shiva: Is there such a ban?
Simon: We don’t think the travel ban will affect us in any way.
I think Shiva, Kathir and Vinod also play in other projects. How do you manage to cope with all the bands and activity?
Kathir: Sometimes it’s a struggle but I guess we just to do what we can outside of Rudra. Rudra is my primary band. I love other forms of metal/music and other bands become an outlet for that purpose.
Vinod: Days when we don’t rehearsal with Rudra, I’ll find those other times to work on the other project bands.
Shiva: Seriously, I have limited my playing in recent years due to my work and family commitments. Currently, I am fully committed to Rudra only.
How strong is the metal scene in your country? What bands stand out and should be known?
Simon: Would say the scene is getting stronger and it is a well knitted scene here. There are so many great bands here and it is impossible just to name a few as most bands have really something unique about them.
Kathir’s idol used to be Nikki Sixx. Were you a fan of Motley Crue’s as well? Did rock n’ rol have an influence on you? Which rock bands had an impact on your music and yourself?
Kathir: I am still a fan of Nikki Sixx and Motley. Nikki is an awesome songwriter. Yeah my early influences were Santana, Def Leppard, Skid Row, Guns N’ Roses (before the departure of Adler), Aerosmith etc.
Share a message with your fans and Pest’s readers.
Shiva: Keep the metal flame burning. We metalheads are special \m/.
Simon: Thank You All, for the Support & Motivation. Hails \m/
Vinod: Thank you for the interview. To our fans out there, thank you for all the support and without you guys, we would not have made it this far.
Interview by Sónia Fonseca