KRYPTOS vocalist & guitarist Nolan Lewis
Interview by Luxi Lahtinen
India obviously isn´t one of those countries that one expects great metal to com from. This of course has pretty much to do with people´s sheer ignorance and prejudices that way too many of us have about India, about 80% out of all population living there, being Hindus.
Kryptos, one of the most leading metal forces coming out from that country, got a lot of good response internationally for their debut album SPIRAL ASCENT that came out in 2004. The band´s 2nd album, THE ARK OF GEMINI, which is schedeled to be released worldwide through Old School Metal Records on June 13th, 2008, will hopefully bring Kryptos on another level of success that they would truly deserve.
The band´s frontman Nolan Lewis explains further about the making of the THE ART OF GEMINI, also giving a very insightful view into the the current state of heavy metal in India, as well as cutting down some of those strange prejudices that at least one poor, somewhat misleaded reporter obviously had about a relationship between the government of India and heavy metal in general, prior to this conversation (poor me – an ignorant fuck).
THE HISTORY OF KRYPTOS
Kryptos started 10 years ago, in 1998. As 10 years is a long time, would you tell us how it was to start a metal band in India back then? I mean, India really isn´t known for its metal bands…
It’s true India isn’t know for its metal bands just yet but I think that could change drastically in the next 5 years or so. When we started Kryptos there wasn’t much of a scene to begin with. There were just a handful of bands that mostly played covers and there weren’t many gigs to speak of. Those were the days when everyone used to trade tapes because they couldn’t afford CDs, not to mention the internet was still a few years away from becoming a regular part of life in India. So yeah, it was extremely difficult for us back then but we always knew where we wanted the band to go regardless of how tough things might be. No pain - no gain after all, although I think we’ve had quite enough of the former, ha-ha!!
When did the line-up you have nowadays in the band, became a steady line-up? I noticed that you have changed some band members over the last few years…
The current line-up has been together for more than a year now. We’ve had a few members in the past who have come and gone. I’ve been with the band since its inception while our original bassist/vocalist, Ganesh K. was with us for 8 years before we parted ways and we’ve also had a couple of other people who have been in and out of the band. Right now I think we’ve got our strongest and most stable line-up so far.
In 2004, you released your debut album, SPIRAL ASCENT, which was well received amongst the global metal community. Was that album also the one when you started gaining more recognition and attention with for Kryptos?
Yeah, that album did quite well for us considering the fact that we weren’t signed plus there wasn’t any real promotion done for it. It just spread through word of mouth and through the underground circuits in different countries. It did quite well here in India too despite the fact that the sort of music we play wasn’t really the ‘trend’ at the time. Actually it still isn’t, ha-ha!!
You originally released your debut album on your own label, Clandestine Musick. What happened to your label?
That wasn’t really a label actually. We were just having a bit of fun with that and we created an imaginary label just for the hell of it. Which is why it’s ‘clandestine’. We did have plans of one day starting our own label but as with all great ideas they rarely leave the pub.
Many people have compared your sound to a mix of Maiden, Priest, Coroner, Dark Tranquillity and a few others. How would you see yourself that all of those influences come through your music? Obviously you at least owe a thing or two for Maiden for all that melodic stuff that you have managed to suck from their thing into your own stuff. Do you agree?
Of course. Sabbath, Priest and Maiden are basically our blueprints when we write our music. If there’s one thing those bands understood it was a great song writing, which is why they’re such legends. Hell, you could play a gazillion notes per second but if you can’t write a good song then I don’t really see the point. A single Iommi riff can still flatten a million ‘virtuoso’ guitarists to this day and it’s this philosophy (for lack of a better word) that we stick to when writing our music. It’s all about crafting memorable riffs, solos, songs, etc. for us. Bands like Coroner and Dark Tranquillity have influenced us quite a bit as well, mainly in the way they take traditional metal and inject it with something more extreme but at the same time keeping it melodic and accessible.
GETTING SIGNED TO OSM RECORDS
In 2006 you signed a deal with the Californian-based Old School Metal Records. Would you tell something about that one how you eventually ended up signing with Patrick´s (Ramseier) OSM Records?
We sent our debut album to a bunch of labels and OSM happened to be one of them and they really liked our music right away. As strange as it sounds, I really do think it was fate that we ended up with OSM. We loved their entire outlook on bringing back the old school metal vibe and their ideas and beliefs completely matched ours. Patrick has been extremely supportive of us and we really couldn’t be happier.
What could you tell about making and recording the songs for your 2nd album, THE ARK OF GEMINI? Presumably you had set a bar of getting everything done even better and in a more perfect way for this album than on your debut album, SPIRAL ASCENT?
It was a tough process recording the new album because things didn’t exactly go according to plan. Initially we spent a lot of time and money in the studios to get things right but we were still unhappy with the results so one day we just said ‘Fuck it, this is going nowhere’, so we ended up mixing and mastering the album ourselves. We knew exactly what kind of sound we wanted and we got it in the end, which is pretty much a great balance between the early Bay Area thrash sound (Testament, Forbidden) and the traditional 80’s metal sound (Priest, Maiden).
Could you still honestly say that you are proud of all of those achievements how well you succeeded with the songs on SPIRAL ASCENT?
Oh yeah, definitely. Spiral Ascent really broke us through in a big way here in India as well as in a lot of other countries. Considering that album was recorded on a shoestring budget and took nearly 3 years to complete, it really exceeded any expectations we had.
If Kryptos are one of the most known and promising metal acts coming from India, also such metal bands from India as Myndsnare, Shrapnel, Pin Drop Violence, Acrid Semblance and a couple of other Indian metal acts, have quite made themselves known outside of the country. Do you think the Indian underground metal scene has just started blooming over the past recent 2-3 years or so, or would you rather like to see this that it´s the people from abroad that have started to pay more attention to the Indian metal scene for the last couple of years, just realizing and understanding that India has some really cool metal acts to offer as well?
It’s a bit of both actually. In the last few years there have been a lot of metal bands coming up from all over the country plus with India fast becoming one of the rising economic superpowers a lot of people from other countries have started to take notice of a lot of things here, like Indian metal bands for example. It’s just a matter of time before bands from here start to make serious inroads in other parts of the world.
What are some of the most promising, new Indian metal bands that you would recommend people to keep their sharp eyes for in the future?
There are quite a few but some of my favourites would be Bhoomi who play traditional 80’s metal with a lot of cool vocal harmonies, Extinct Reflections who play an extreme technical metal with some really unique song structures, Inner Sanctum who play a really cool melodic death metal and Slain who play fantastic hard rock/AOR.
Please name at least 3 things that make you proud of your band, Kryptos?
Hmmm… let’s see. Firstly I’m extremely proud that we’ve been doing this for close to 10 years without a shred of compromise and we’ll continue to do so regardless of what happens down the line. Secondly, coming from a country where bands face incredible difficulties, I’m really proud of the 2 albums we’ve recorded and that we’ve signed with a great label. And finally I’m most proud of the fact that we don’t take things too seriously and can still grab a drink at the end of the day and have a great big fucking laugh about anything under the sun.
PLAYING METAL IN INDIA: TOO MANY PREJUDICES
What about doing gigs overall in India? Is it easy to get them arranged, keeping in mind that your country is heavily a religious country that probably isn´t that keen on ´advertising´ any metal bands´ outside the country?
We’ve done a lot of gigs in India but on the whole it’s pretty tough for bands here to get a lot of gigs. The main problem here is the lack of real promoters as well as decent venues to play at. Some of the more popular bands get a couple of gigs a month but that’s about it. Unfortunately we’re a long way from getting a touring circuit up and running here in India.
I bet neither you can write lyrics about killing and dismembering a holy cow the way that kind of lyrics could come in public for example in your home town Bangalore, simply because of Hinduism? As people are aware, in Hinduism, the cow is a sacred animal that cannot be harmed…
Umm… yeah, heh, but we have a lot of other things to write about than cows. We’ll leave the killing and dismembering to Cannibal Corpse, ha-ha!!
Sorry for my stupidity and sheer ignorance about the relationship between the government of your country and heavy metal, but what are some of the international metal bands that you have managed to see playing in your country for the last 2-3 years or so? Is it actually easy for metal bands overall to come to your country and play gigs there?
Actually the country has only recently started seeing international metal acts play here. So far Iron Maiden have been here twice and recently Megadeth, Machine Head and Sepultura also made their way here, so I’m pretty sure we’ll see a lot more bands come here in the future.
Do you have any plans to get some gigs organized outside of your country in the coming months once your 2nd album has been released on OSM Records? What countries would you love to come and play with Kryptos anyway?
Yeah definitely. Our main aim is to eventually gig abroad and get our music out to as many people as possible. We’d love to play in countries like Germany, Greece, Finland, Sweden, etc. and also hit some of the festivals in Europe as well. We’re pretty confident that we can give just about any live act out there a run for their money.
Are there some other restrictions in India regarding heavy metal music that are sort of written in the laws of your country?
Not really actually. I think you have India mixed up with a few Arab countries, heh. There isn’t really any restriction as such on the type of music we can play here. It’s just that rock/metal music isn’t yet a genuine part of the Indian musical landscape. Even if there were laws restricting metal here I doubt anyone would follow them, ha-ha!!
I´m also curious to know how easily some major metal releases are available at record shops in India? Are these stores allowed to sell heavy metal in general?
A lot of the stores here stock the really popular metal bands like Maiden, Priest, Sabbath, Motorhead, AC/DC, etc. There was a time when a few select stores used to sell a lot of death metal and other extreme forms of metal too but it’s dwindled in the last few years because of the internet.
Have you known of any physical attacks against some of these record shops that carry heavy metal items in their stores, put through by some strongly religious groups?
Umm… nopes, not at all. I think some of that stuff happened in some Arab countries but not here. People in India are way too busy getting to work and getting back in time to watch cricket to worry about stores selling metal, ha-ha!!
Are you Hindu yourself? Excuse my sheer ignorance and stupidity once again, but don´t you feel like you´d kind of bathe in sin when you play metal even if your religion would be heavily against it, and calling it to play this type of music?
I’m catholic actually but none of us in the band are particularly religious either way. If it’s a sin to play metal then we’ve already got reservations for a couple of suites at Hotel Beelzebub. The rooms have a great view of the lake of fire and a very charming tour guide named Judas, ha-ha!!
Could you tell next what are some of those bands that you have enjoyed immensely to listen to lately?
Lately I’ve been listening to the new Mercenary album. It’s fucking fantastic. They’re easily one of the best bands on the planet right now. Death Angel’s KILLING SEASON is pretty kickass too and so is the new Whitesnake album. Other than that I’ve also been listening to a lot of Solitude Aeturnus, Manilla Road, Vicious Rumors, Jag Panzer, etc. Stuff like that.
I wanna sincerely thank you Nolan for your precious time by going through this conversation with me in order to shed some more light on Kryptos and about some prejudices that people may have about India as a metal country generally. Thank you and all the best with Kryptos in the future. May the closing words be yours…
Thank you very much. It was a pleasure for us as well. Hopefully a lot of people will look at India for some quality metal rather than snakes and elephants, ha-ha!! If anyone wants to check us out they can visit www.myspace.com/kryptosindia. Our new album THE ARK OF GEMINI releases worldwide on June 13th through OSM Records, so don’t forget to grab your copy and some beer while you’re at it. Cheers everyone!