Wessamuni Fonseka and Naga Yakka of Funeral in Heaven
Interviewed by Marko Guevara
Honestly, I must say that I’m really surprised to find a black metal band from Sri Lanka. There are so many things to ask and say about this Funeral in Heaven – can you imagine an extreme metal band in such an extreme environment and the whole cultural history behind them? Funeral in Heaven speaks to us by way of front man Wessamuni Fonseka and Guitarrist Naga Yakka.
Hello, thank you for taking time for Metal Rules…
Naga Yakka: It’s a pleasure.
Wessamuni: No problem Marko, thank you for your interest in FIH.
Well tell us about how this band came forth. Many think that is very unlikely that a metal band arises from these lands.
Wessamuni: Well, we initiated this project back in early 2003, the local metal scene wasn’t really much when we did start out although there were a few bands that were really making an impact. Getting into Heavy Metal wasn’t that easy as we were first exposed to all kinds of music through the media which never played Heavy Metal music as the music in general is still being stereotyped in our society and almost none of us had Internet facilities back in the day unlike today where most Metalheads gain instant knowledge about this music along with so many other things. So things were pretty primitive back in the day we (I) started exploring Metal. Although we found ourselves into discovering some amazing music in the process.
Funeral In Heaven has had a few lineup changed since we first began. The unit currently consists of Dimuthu “Dimmu” Fernnado on Bass, Rogger Schales on Guitar, Shamika Makalanda as session guitarist, Kasun Nawarathna on drums/percussions, Naga Yakka, Ayesh Perera on guitars and myself on vocals.
Are there difficulties that you face being in a metal band in a part of the world little known and typically unfriendly towards extreme metal?
Naga Yakka: We had a lot of trouble when we started off. We had criticisms from various humans. It is very evident in our band page at Rock.lk. But we did have a few demonic creatures that supported us all the way. The criticisms never did affect us; we molded music for our own benefits. Our mud was our spectators. The wind rumored our tunes to other demonic mortals.
Most of the humans are very pious Puppets and always were an enemy towards our creations. But it’s sluggishly changing. We don’t have as much criticisms as before. We do get support now. And I am personally relieved that some humans are morphing into demonic creatures.
Wessamuni: As Naga Yakka said, we have had our fair share of shit flung at us when we started out. We have no one to blame here of course, it’s just human instinct to judge a person on sight. We were stereotyped as a band who worshiped Satanic deity’s and all that bullshit but it really didn’t affect us. Actually, we in Funeral welcome negative un-constructive criticism as a part of us tend to thrive on it. We still do actually.
What about playing live shows there???
Wessamuni: We are mostly known as a live band rather than a studio band, which by the way we have decided to get away from for a while as we are currently focusing on getting our material onto physical form at Empyre Studios.
Playing live here in Sri Lanka is amazing. These things of course have their negative aspects of course, mostly when it comes down to sound technicians, venues and so on because putting a show together is Sri Lanka is no walk in the park. But all of these doesn’t matter when we get on stage and see our fans in front of us enjoying the same music we do. The fan support here is just unbelievable.
Have you ever thought to relocate to some other country to do some tours, promotion and stuff?
Naga Yakka: Relocating? No. I would prefer to fabricate my tunes in my own forest. But I would tour in other realms. It’s my contentment to perform to other demonic creatures.
Wessamuni: Sharing our music with people of other regions is of course something we support 100% but relocating is something we will not do. Our music is influenced by what we go through as Sri Lankans, our surroundings and the situations we find ourselves in (this is in regard of the current situation Sri Lanka is going through due to the 30 year running war against Terrorism). The country has everything we need to make the music we are regarded to produce, without it, we would be nothing.
I see that you play a genre called “Hela Black Metal” please explain us this concept.
Wessamuni: To the world, Sri Lanka was known as ‘Heladiva’ before the arrival of the aryan prince ‘Vijaya’. ‘Heladiva’ simply translates to ‘the land of the Sinhalese’. ‘Sinhala’ is derived from four tribes which existed BEFORE the invasion of Vijaya. Naga (Serpent worshipers), Raaksha (Demon worshipers), Deva (Tribes who worshiped godly deities) and Yaksha (Demon Worshipers).
Our music is inspired by bands from the 1st and 2nd Wave of Black Metal as well as units such as Absu, Rudra, WITTR and local artists such as Premasiri Khemadasa and Gunadasa Kapuge. We tend to base our music and theatrics on Sri Lankan culture. Our lyrics speak of the darker side of Sri Lankan History as we dedicate some of our tracks to historical war figures and also Sri Lankan folklore and Demonology. As regarding our theatrics, we embrace Sri Lankan clothing such as the sarong and we incorporate Sri Lankan oriental instruments into our music. The Term Hela Black Metal is a rejection of all other labels of genre’s which tend to limit our musical outputs regarding influences and while acknowledging our basic roots in the genre Black Metal.
Now with all this really important matters in religion and politics how was your demo ‘Blasphemy is our Throne’ recorded and released?
Naga Yakka: It was fully funded by us. We had our concept and captured it on cd. Every time, trekking into the studio is a bomb blast away. We would never know when we would be a victim of a brutal attack by a suicide bomber or an explosion.
What about metal heads in your country? How would you define your scene in a few words?
Naga Yakka: They are like our kin’s. The scene is breeding. Concert turn ups are ever-increasing. Each creature supports the other in everything. In every concert, there is a noble bond between the performer and the witnesses. It’s a brotherhood of the demons.
What other bands do you know there in Sri Lanka?
Wessamuni: The Sri Lankan metal scene is a very small scene yet a strong one. The scene is currently dominated by some of the best bands who are taking their music in directions never imagined elsewhere in the world, and also bands who have been there for years on end. Among notable bands are our brother band, Fallen Grace, who are an amazing Melodic Technical Death Metal act who have been supporting Funeral In Heaven and it’s cause from day one. I label this band as a supergroup. Other bands who have been doing a lot for the scene and FIH are, Merlock, Siblings Of Hatred, Cannabis, Karmic Sulphur, Plecto Aliquem Capite, In Lieu Of Fault, Forsaken, Whirlwind, Paranoid Earthling. These are bands who have been brewing an independent revolution with their own styles of music, yet to be heard by the rest of the world.
I felt in your music a very raw and very deep feeling, aggressive and fearless, like Black Metal was born to be. If you have the chance to be signed by a major label with you know tours, fans, records… but with the condition to change your style to a more catchy thing… what would be your reaction? The true one I mean…
Naga Yakka: I would not alter my style to the needs of another. This is what I loathe about many bands. They sign up for a record deal to make music for money and so they alter their creations to satisfy the mass. We mold our music from the energy we retain.
Wessamuni: As Naga Yakka said, we will not change our style of music for anyone. This is the music our souls represent, this is what we love doing. We do not play this music to be popular or to earn financial rewards. This is of course a fact that most bands state and abuse to prove their “trueness” or faithfulness to the music, sadly. We have been doing this for a long time and we stand by our ideologies a 100%. We are quite happy with the shows we get to play, and our brothers and the fans as I said, are unbelievably supportive.
What is up next for Funeral in Heaven?
Naga Yakka: We are currently recording our debut album which will hopefully be released a couple of weeks before the sun is directly over Sri Lanka in 2010 (Month of ‘Buk’ or April, according to the Gregorian calendar).
Wessamuni: The album as Naga Yakka said is being planned as it will be a concept album based on Sri Lankan History, Demonology and Folklore and it craves 100% dedication and concentration. So far 6 tracks have already been written for this release.
Other plans also include a Vinyl release from Legion Of Death Records, France which should be released within the next few months as we have already commenced recording for this release. And Split EP’s with Fallen Grace, and another 3-way is being discussed with Tony of Salute Records, Sweden.
Have you ever thought about traveling to some country in America to call the shots? I mean it is well known that many bands just left all behind to rock the world… one of the best examples Krisiun, what are your thoughts?
Naga Yakka: It all depends on what the future hides from us.
Wessamuni: We haven’t had the time to consider playing in another country yet, currently we’re just focusing on what’s ahead of us.
What are your terms with Internet Metal Radio, or Commercial Radio? What do your local media say about your band… or metal bands in Sri Lanka?
Wessamuni: A lot of Internet Metal Radio stations have played our music including Grave’s show ‘Journeys Through The Black Abyss” on Brutal Exstence Radio and ‘In Deaths Embrace’ hosted by Buddhika of P.A.C. on Galactic World Radio. We don’t of course get any support whatsoever from national radio stations, I don’t expect much from Sri Lankan radio stations who don’t even have the balls to play Metal music. Our music is not intended for commercial purposes anyways, so we really don’t give a fuck. We produce music for ourselves and we share our music with our fans and such.
Is your demo still available for all freaks like us who want to get this extreme stuff from this part of the world?
Wessamuni: Indeed brother! We will be releasing our first demo CD, only a Limited Edition for those who missed it, this will be available on Throned Asian Oath, Holland, soon. And our latest single “Janaani Janmabhumisca Swargadapi Gariyasi” will be available to you if you want to get your hands on it, on Nigrum Serpentis Promotions Slovenia and Salute Records Sweden!
I’m very proud to have this interview with you and is always will be a pleasure to support bands with true metal heart. So this channel is open for you with news and stuff… so in order to more Metal Heads catch your band, give us your webpage, MySpace, or contacts…
Naga Yakka: It’s my pleasure to have an utterance with Metal Rules. Eswah.
Thank you for your interest in the band brother! We will not forget your support! Eswah!