What is Indian Doom Metal

Interview with Nolan Lewis from Kryptos (India)

Part 15 of our special "Metallized World - on the trail of a subculture" is devoted to the questions: How many Metalheads are there among the approximately 1.3 billion inhabitants of India and what about the scene in the country where sacred cows already exist bring traffic to a standstill? Nolan Lewis, singer, guitarist and band founder of KRYPTOS provides information.

Your band KRYPTOS was the first band from India to perform at the Wacken Open Air. Do you remember the moment when you found out that the gig was over?
Yes, I remember that very vividly. When we were young, we always read in the metal magazines about the big European metal festivals and especially about the Wacken Open Air and said to ourselves: "Man, it would be great if we could play there one day." But we couldn't imagine that one day that would actually happen. When the gig was confirmed, we really had to tweak ourselves first - it was like checking one of those “impossible” items on our list of things we still wanted to achieve. (laughs) That was really an experience.

What was your first impression when you got there? Was everything as you had imagined?
I had already visited Wacken Open Air in 2005 and 2010 as a fan, so I knew roughly what to expect. But the festival had grown again when we played there - that was fascinating. What I found most interesting was to see what goes on behind the scenes at such a huge festival, how it is all organized and coordinated. It was really amazing. We also had our first meet & greet session there, which was pretty fun: Meshuggah had their meet & greet right next to us. They had a huge queue, while our "queue" consisted of two friends of ours who brought us sandwiches and a few other people who looked at us curiously. (laughs) But it was still cool. We managed to drink all of the beer out of our fridge in those 40 minutes. Anyway, the gig was great. We played on the WET stage at midnight and it was really packed. The crew was super cool and it was really impressive how quickly they changed between the bands. That is lived German efficiency!

Have you been disappointed with anything?
Not really. The only difficulty was the incredible heat that really got us down. For everyone who thinks we are Indians and therefore have to be used to the heat: Sorry, in our hometown Bangalore it is pretty cool all year round - so we are not used to such scorching heat. (laughs) Of course, when we visited Wacken again last year, we wished the sun back in the ice-cold mud, but all in all it was still fun. I can not complain.

Was it easy for you as a band to return from the biggest metal festival in the world to the everyday life of a metal band in India?
It's never easy to come back to India if you've played in Europe before, because everything here is so incredibly different from yours. We play quite often here in India, but we have nothing like the big European festivals and of course nothing that can be compared with Wacken. In this respect, after what we have experienced, it was already a setback to return to everyday life. But after a few weeks you can find your rhythm again ... lots of traffic, long working days and poor pay - there is no time to dream. (laughs)

How difficult is it to assert yourself as a metal band in India?
I think it's not much different here than anywhere else in the world. Sure, sometimes people look at us crookedly because we have long hair or because of our clothes or something like that, but all in all it's not that bad. It's a little struggle, but that's different everywhere.

Are there enough rehearsal rooms, recording studios and the like for young bands?
Not really. Finding a good, but above all affordable, rehearsal room is quite difficult - so if a band does not have a suitable room of their own, it can be quite difficult and costly to get a good room. There are many good recording studios all over India, but they are also very expensive. But these days you can basically record an album in your bedroom as well, so that's not too much of a problem. We only go to the studio for the drum recordings and the vocals, a few days are enough, which makes it a lot cheaper.

And what about performance opportunities?
It's not that easy because there aren't as many metal concerts or festivals as there should be. Because of the enormous size of our country and because there are too few locations, it is quite difficult to tour India. In the big cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chennai and Delhi, there are a few clubs to perform in and even some locations that host comparatively large rock and metal events, but overall they are rare. That's why we've always focused more on being able to perform in Europe.

Are there concerts by international artists in India?
Yes. When Iron Maiden came to India in 2007, that kind of opened the gates for other international metal bands. Since then, many big bands such as Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Kreator, Iced Earth or Cannibal Corpse have played here. There are even a few smaller festivals like Bangalore Open Air or CultFest that also bring in a few big international metal bands, while festivals like Trendslaughter bring some of the best underground metal bands from around the world.

Do the fans in India support local bands, for example by coming to underground concerts?
Yes, but not as many as one might expect. The internet has made people really lazy and most of them now prefer to sit around at home and listen to music on YouTube or the like. Sure, we don't have that many good metal bands here in India to support, which is one of the reasons why fewer and fewer people go to concerts. But in general there are only individual nests with die-hard metalheads scattered all over India.

Do you still buy CDs?
That is actually one of the main problems here. Because of the internet, most people no longer buy CDs from local bands - or even metal albums in general. Everyone is riding the YouTube or torrent wave. Even so, there are still a few die-hard metalheads who support the bands they like - local or international - by buying their albums and merchandise. All in all, underground bands don't sell much here.

What is the general state of metal in India? Do you have a flourishing scene with bands, bars, concerts and fans, or do metalheads lead a shadowy existence in India?
Something in between, I would say. There are hundreds of bands in our country, but only a few have existed for more than a few years. India by its very nature is not conducive to a thriving metal scene. The social structure here does not help a music scene to grow, let alone a metal scene, and for such a large country the number of fans, clubs, concerts and festivals in the metal sector is extremely low. But people can't be blamed for this because they have to see that they can lead a decent life and get by on their income before they really get into music. In this sense, India is almost like a black hole of creativity.

What role do the enormous size of the country and the comparatively poor infrastructure play here? Is the scene networked or is it more on its own in every city?
The whole thing is rather divided into clusters that are spread all over the country - especially in the larger cities, of course. Most of the people in the metal scene here know each other more or less well, but actually every city has its own scene that stays more or less to itself. Bangalore, for example, is home to more traditional metal, while Mumbai and Delhi are home to modern metal and metalcore, Kolkata is more about thrash and death metal, and so on.

How did you come into contact with metal yourself?
That happened when I was ten: up until that point the only music I heard was the 50s and 60s music that my father played on his turntable - and believe it or believe it 'not it, hymns. That all changed the day I visited a neighbor in our house who was much older than me: We knew each other from playing football and one day he invited me over to hang out a bit. I remember him playing some "loud" music, and I remember wondering why someone would listen to such "noise". When I asked him about it, he just gave me three tapes and told me to listen to them for a few days and see if I liked any of them. That was AC / DC's "The Razor’s Edge", Def Leppard's "Pyromania" and "Piece Of Mind" by Iron Maiden. I took the tapes home with me - and although I enjoyed (and still enjoy) the AC / DC album and Def Leppard, it was “Piece Of Mind” that really blew me away. I remember like it was yesterday, the moment when the drum intro to “Where Eagles Dare” started and I got goosebumps all over the place. When the opening riff set in, there was no turning back. That's it for me. But the band that made me really love metal was Judas Priest. I heard “Defenders Of The Faith” a week later and was utterly speechless. This album actually changed my life and has remained my all-time favorite metal album to this day.What was it about metal that fascinated you so much?
It's hard to explain, but I would say that Metal is the only genre of music I've come to know that can touch every single emotion we can feel: Metal can make you burst with strength in a moment and immediately into undreamt-of depths pull. I also think it's great that no topic is taboo in metal, just as the fact that there are really no limits to the imagination of the individual in metal. But the crucial point for me is that metal is a kind of refuge from all the shit in everyday life. Metal is always there for me, through thick and thin. It's like a calming hand on my shoulder that encourages me not to give up and to keep fighting the good fight.

You yourself have been active in the scene for a very long time - how would you describe the development over the past ten years? Is the interest in metal growing in India?
In some ways, the scene has grown incredibly quickly in a very short time. But personally, I don't think that it has developed in the right direction. Metal was a totally underground thing in the 90s and a scene naturally developed in different cities ... tape trading, word of mouth and so on, you know. But since the internet came here and became the standard in India, everything has gotten a little more superficial. That's why the really passionate metal fans in India are people who started in the 80s and 90s, while in the last decade a lot of casual listeners have come and gone. Unfortunately, there is currently no sign of any change in this regard.

Metal is very much shaped by the western lifestyle in many ways. How well does metal fit into the Indian “way of life”?
That's actually a problem over here. In general, metal is a peculiarity in everyday Indian life. Metal flourished in Europe or the USA because it was given the freedom to do so. Let's be honest: music can only spread as far as the immediate environment allows. In India there is no targeted action against metal and rock, as is the case in some Arab countries, but metal seems to have adapted itself to Indian customs: Indian metal is mostly very "diplomatic" - it tries, not too many To step on people's feet. In other words: everything is a little too polite. (laughs)

Keyword “Metal Lifestyle”: What is the difference between a metalhead in India and the average citizen?
Hard to say. For me, metal means freedom, be it physically, mentally, or both. Physical can mean being able to wear what you like, being able to look how you want and being allowed to do what comes to mind, as long as you don't bother anyone else with it. In this sense, yes: Many of us have long hair, tattoos, wear bomber jackets or leather and so on. But we get laughed at by normal people for it because it's so different from Indian culture. But while freedom is important in terms of outward appearances, I think it is even more important to be free in one's own mind. That's what I think sets us apart from normal society. To be free in your own mind means always questioning things and not following any religion, government, politics or whatever is trying to control you. That’s what I think the “Metal Lifestyle” should be about.

Are you getting bigger problems because of your appearance in India?
No, this does not cause us any major problems. Sure, a lot of people look at us strangely because of our long hair, clothes or our general appearance. But that's actually not a big deal, because it generally stays with prying eyes or occasional laughter and pointing at us - not much more usually happens.

Are there any government regulations that restrict you as a band?
No, there is no such thing - metal is just too insignificant in India for society to notice. There are a few bands that have provocative album covers or lyrics, but nobody really cares. People are too busy getting through the hours of traffic jams caused by the cows here: Here in India we have stray cows all over the cities. They then walk through the traffic or simply lie down in the middle of the street so that nothing goes on. The cows here don't give a shit about people. (laughs)

Do religious fanatics pose a real threat to metalheads in India, as is the case in Bangladesh?
As I said: In India the metal movement is simply too small to be a worthwhile target for any religious group or political party. They are too busy robbing the country and brainwashing the people to worry about Metal or its fans. We barely appear on their radar, so we don't interest them.

What do you think about religions in general?
I despise all forms of religion. I was raised Catholic and was somewhat religious until I turned 18 or so. But then none of it made sense anymore. It still doesn't make sense, especially when you look at the staggering number of crimes that have been committed in the name of religions. Sure, it's fascinating how religion manages to completely stifle an individual's ability to think logically and delicately, but all in all, religion is a plague that should be wiped off the face of the earth. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that religion and politics are the two determining factors that kept India trapped in the Middle Ages.

Do you think metal and religion are automatically mutually exclusive?
For me personally, metal and religion are incompatible. The basic idea of ​​Heavy Metal is to live free from control mechanisms like religion - so it just can't work to combine both. But that's just my opinion.

You play old school metal with your band KRYPTOS. Which bands inspired you to do this?
Mainly bands from the 70s and 80s. I would say our biggest sources of inspiration were Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Thin Lizzy. These bands were our foundation while other bands like Mercyful Fate, Accept, Candlemass, Coroner, Kreator and the entire NWOBHM movement also inspired us to play the music we play today.
Your band name comes from ancient Greek - so you refer not only musically, but also in your name to western culture. Why not mix metal and Indian culture?
Simply because we can't really do much with “Indian culture”. There is no such thing as “Indian culture” anymore. There is only a mishmash of everything that nobody can really explain what it actually stands for. Anyway, we were all raised differently: Most of our parents were into Elvis, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, jazz and country, so we grew up with them. I don't think a band has to make an effort to represent their "culture" in their music. Everything that music and metal in particular is about is to play what you really feel inside you - and not what everyone else wants or expects from you. That might sound western, Indian, oriental, African or Martian - it doesn't matter. As long as it is done with passion, with conviction and the endeavor to satisfy yourself and not everyone else.
Oddly enough, I get asked that a lot. I'm not sure why, but bands like Nile are never asked for such a thing, even though they are from South Carolina in the US, but write about Egyptian mythology. I have never read the question why they don't let American culture flow into their music. (laughs)
Be that as it may - we chose the name KRYPTOS simply because it fits who we are and what we do. KRYPTOS means “hidden” in ancient Greek and this reflects us very well as people: As Metalhedas in India we are always on the edge of society. Even if we are part of this society, we are not part of it at the same time, if you get what I mean.

One last question at the end: What does the metal symbol, the “Devil Horns” mean to you?
Well every time I see the sign I have to think of Dio. He was so much one with this sign that I can't really relate it to anything else. I grew up watching concert videos in which he raised his horn so often that it just reminds me of him to this day. Which is kind of great.

Thank you for your time and answers - at the end a brainstorming session:
Beer, beer and more beer.
Cows: Delicious, but they can be annoying if they bring the traffic to a standstill here again. (laughs)
Lemmy: The personification of rock ’n‘ roll. If ever there was a man who lived by his own principles, it was him.
Bollywood: Quite possibly the most mindless form of entertainment on the planet.
Traditional Indian music: Interesting, but not particularly entertaining at a tequila party.
KRYPTOS in ten years: A little fatter, maybe a little bald, but still rocking!

The last words are yours:
Thank you for the interview - it was really fun. For all of you who have read this and who are now wondering what kind of music we do, I would like to add: Our new album will be released in Europe and the rest of the world at the end of this year on the German label AFM Records. I can assure you, it will tempt you to put on your leather jacket and rock out really hard!