Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview with Kathir from RUDRA

Interview by EvilG, Lord of the Wasteland, and Los Muertos

What does the word “Rudra” mean?

Rudra is the God of Storm in the Hindu Pantheon during the Vedic times (BCE). In modern Hinduism he is known as Lord Shiva, the God of Destruction.



With the band’s use of Sanskrit and the ohm on their webpage, are you devout followers of religion and if so, how much of an influence is it in their song-writing?

We are very much inspired by the Advaita philosophy as taught by the Vedas, one of the oldest known mystical texts. Our songs present this ancient philosophy as revealed by the Vedic literature in the Sanskrit language. This is the relation to the OM and the Sanskrit strewn all over our albums and our WebPages. I would not call us followers of the Vedic Religion per se. Please bear with me as I wish to digress here for a moment….. Personally I abhor the word 'religion'. If anyone were to look at what religions have done & doing to the world, any sane person would be ashamed to call oneself religious. Religion has been the cause of violence and bloodshed all over the world in the past 1500 years. From the theological standpoint, a follower of religion is expected to believe in some Creator God or a Supreme Being sitting up in the skies and also the promise of a paradise. These concepts happen to be the conventional traits of any religion. I find these beliefs completely foolish, repulsive and childish. Hence, I prefer to use the term Spiritual Philosophy, which would mean a school of thought that transcends phenomenon without having to speculate or believe in any concept or theory. For this reason we are very wary of calling ourselves followers of any religion. And from this philosophical perspective alone proceeds the song-writing of Rudra. Our lyrics are basically the arrangement of words as seen from the eyes of this transcendental wisdom.

There seems to be a lot of philosophical and spiritual themes in your music. Which philosophers or schools of thought have most influenced the band?

As mentioned earlier we are very much with the Philosophical perspective of an ancient school, which is as old as the Vedas (2500 BCE), called Advaita Vedanta. It is also popularly called Non-dualism. These teachings can be found with slight variations in many other schools of thought like Zen Buddhism, early Taoism, Gnostic Christianity, Sufism & also neo-Satanism. The Advaita philosophy has been the inspiration for all our lyrics since our first album. In the absolute vision of Advaita, the Self is the Absolute Reality while the whole universe is considered an Illusion. When the Self is known, everything is as well known. The objective world, which includes concepts like Heaven, Hell, Evil, Good and a creator God are reduced to ashes at the dawn of self-knowledge. Having such a vision, it naturally opposes all forms of beliefs. Our lyrics primarily point out this mental slavery to non-verifiable beliefs and sublate the erroneous notions about oneself. In our absolute vision there is no difference between a prophet's utopia and an ignoramus' castle in the air. Even the concept of a Creator God is destroyed with mere reasoning! I have also discovered that Morbid Angel, Aghora & Cynic (RIP) too have expressed this vision in their albums. But we are different in the sense that we take a traditional approach to this philosophy in the light of the Vedas. One particular philosopher by the name of Shankara has been the chief inspiration for me particularly. Other philosophers who have inspired me through their works are Lao Tzu, Immanuel Kant, Bertrand Russell, Nietzsche & Alan Watts.



A few band members list 'black' metal bands like Bathory, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, etc. as favorites. Though Rudra aren’t Christians, do your vastly different religious beliefs clash with those of black metal bands (Satan, church burning, etc.)?

The beauty of Subjective Philosophy is that we don't have to be at each other's throats to prove the integrity of any school of thought. We can always agree to disagree and yet have a glass of beer together. Moreover, I can appreciate the diversity in the many ways philosophies can be expressed with one common goal in mind: which is to uproot the sole enemy of a rational mind called 'popular religion'. With this vision, we are able respect other black metal bands which have their own views. 'Our' philosophy gives us the ability to respect and recognize the value of one's personal freedom to express Truth in diverse ways.



It is widely known that heavy metal, especially black metal, is censored and has actual government/religious banning in many Arabic or Muslim dominated countries. Has this ever been something that caused problem for Rudra?

Yes. We had a good fan base in Malaysia after our debut album was released there. We sold a few thousand units there. But due to the recent censorship and ban, our subsequent albums didn't reach out to our fans there. Most record labels fear of being prosecuted and refused to take our albums. In that sense our marketability has gone down in those regions. But here in Singapore, which is a multi-religious & multi-racial country, we don't face any such problems. It is quite a harmonious place.



Reading your lyrics and other interviews you have done, your English seems very good. Why do you choose to write lyrics in English rather than your mother tongue?

Our mother tongue is actually Tamil, which is another language from the Indian continent. However, in Singapore where we are 3rd generation Indians with English as our 1st language, we are more exposed to English and we speak English most of the time. However we did study our mother tongue as 2nd language in the school curriculum and do converse in it where appropriate.


RUDRA - The Aryan Crusade (2001, Trishul Records)

What does the title of your album “The Aryan Crusade” refer to? Typically here in North America, and I assume in much of Europe, when we hear the term Aryan, we think of Nazi Germany and their associated racial beliefs in the supremacy of the Aryan race. I assume being in a non-white band, and from Singapore, this is not how you meant it to be taken at all?

I would say that the ONLY way to look at the word 'Aryan' would be through the way the Vedic peoples have looked at it, since the word 'Aryan' happens to be a Sanskrit word. I sincerely do not wish to appear fanatical here. But what we have seen is a total hogwash when you realize that the whole world has been deceived into thinking that the word Aryan means a chosen pure and strong race. What a shame that the perpetrators of such a ideology have chosen to use a word alien to their culture and language to justify an ideology that is alien too to the culture from which the word originated. And to know that such an ideology was popularized by a politician as a political tool makes the whole thing even more ridiculous. The Vedic culture looks at the word 'Aryan' in a very sublime manner, which is contrary to the current popular interpretations. The word Aryan appears in both Vedic and Buddhistic texts but all such references do not refer to a race. And we have the textual evidence to support this viewpoint, unlike the NSBM and Nazis. The early definition of an Aryan would be someone who leads a highly structured life performing Vedic fire-rituals to be in harmony with an all-pervasive order called Dharma. Therefore, the Vedic perspective only refers to a noble quality born out of an appreciation of this Order and NOT something inherited genetically. Later day Vedic literature looked at the Aryans as wise men alone. So along these lines alone we named our album as 'The Aryan Crusade', implying the destruction of Ignorance. Racism can never be a product of wisdom. An Aryan, who is a wise man, cannot have such notions of superiority or inferiority because it would mean a self-contradiction. Therefore, in my opinion, people who call themselves Aryans without this understanding are hardly wise, only otherwise.



Did the band have anything to do with the new artwork for the DemonZend re-release of your debut album, RUDRA?

We have given the creative freedom to Demonzend to propose the artwork. Ultimately the decision will be based on mutual agreement. We are very particular about the way Rudra is presented to the world. Every picture and word in our album matter to us.



How has the recording of the new album differed from your past records? Is there a bigger budget, better studio, etc. this time?

Definitely. We have a bigger budget, a more versatile engineer and more time. We started working on this album since last December and we have incubated the songs long enough for it to be mature enough to be recorded as an album. We will be commencing our recording sessions in the last week of September.



Is there a reason why you left your previous label Trishul Records?

It wasn't a bitter separation. Those guys have been more like friends to us than a record label actually. The switch to Demonzend was natural, as we wanted to expose ourselves to a bigger arena. And the guys in Demonzend are very hardworking and inspiring. Enough reasons for us to switch.


RUDRA - Kurukshetra (2003 Trishul Records)


Will the new songs follow the same themes as the rest or will the band branch out from the spiritual themes?

In fact this album is saturated with philosophical & spiritual themes. We decided to immerse every song in the nectar of Advaita without straying into the usual occasional outbursts and criticisms on other doctrines found in our past albums. There are 10 ancient texts called the Upanishads, which are used as a tool to communicate the vision of Advaita. Each of the ten songs in this new album will be based on one of these ten Upanishads. It is definitely going to be a conceptual album.



The U.S. tour got cancelled but are there any further plans to try to secure visas and come to North America (and hopefully Canada ) later this year?

We would love to do a promotional tour in North America after the release of the new album. We were quite excited about the US tour that got cancelled. The security situation in most countries is on high alert. And this makes things like touring so difficult for us. We really hope things would get better and we could play shows real soon in North America.



What countries have you played in so far and what ones offered the best places to play in terms of attendance and reception?

We have played in Malaysia, Indonesia, India & Thailand. In terms of attendance and reception Indonesia & India were the best. We played to about 2000 people in India and about 700 people in Indonesia. It was really nice to see people knowing your music and lyrics to the songs in those two countries.


Kannan - guitars


For the (now postponed) U.S. tour, how did the band end up working with Raising Kubrick and Not Common Records?

We have a very good friend who is presently studying in the US. He made the link for us to Joe of Not Common Records. Raising Kubrick is signed to Not Common Records and Joe made that choice. Joe really worked hard in getting us there but sadly it all failed.



After the band briefly broke up in the mid-90s, what inspired you to get back together again?

After the break up, I was still writing songs and ideas were oozing out. The reason being that I didn't see the whole affair as a break up. I still wanted to pursue the idea of incorporating the Vedic elements in Metal, which didn't go down well with the rest of the members at that time and that resulted in the break up. I always felt at that time that we had something to contribute to the world of metal with the cultural dimension added to it. So that prompted me pick up the phone to call Shiva about 10 months after the break up to ask him if he would be interested to get back together to continue with Rudra but with the Vedic elements. Had he not agreed then, there would not have been the Rudra of today.



Rudra appeared on a Death tribute album that was released in 2003 and performed “Forgotten Past.” Why that song and how big of an influence was Death on Rudra’s music?

To be honest, Death's Leprosy was technically the first Death Metal album that I listened to. After the first listen, the only thing that impressed me was Chuck's vocals. I found the music mediocre. I shelved the tape soon after. And then a few weeks later, because of the lack of new tapes in my collection, I decided to load the tape into my walkman and then came the revelation that Chuck was God! Hahahahaha. I got converted instantly when the track Forgotten Past got me goose pimples. Immediately I became a missionary of Death. I converted Bala (ex-guitarist) and Shiva within weeks. And we decided that this was what we wanted to play……Death Metal. Chuck's lyrics too influenced me on the philosophical outlook I had towards life as a whole at that time. I remember my first strong distaste for life in general when I read the lyrics to 'Open Casket' from the same album. The lines that had a great impact on me were;

'People come to pay respect
Taking pictures of the dead
This is what life comes to be
Once they lived, now they're deceased'

These lines made me look at life in a very dispassionate manner. It kind of planted the seed for my insatiable appetite for seeking knowledge from all directions. I still love the Leprosy album. Every song is a classic in there and Chuck was truly a genius. What a sad morning it was when I received news of his passing.


Shiva - drummer


Rudra seems to be the leader in the Singapore death metal scene. How much competition is there?

Not much I would say. Singapore is a very small island. All Death Metal bands know each other very well and it is a very friendly scene. So we support one another. Competition is a taboo in our scene. Coming from a tiny island with no noticeable presence in the Metal map, it is only natural for us not to compete.



Is death metal big in Singapore or are there other types of metal that are dominant?

Death & Black Metal occupy the biggest chunk in the Metal pie. But slowly progressive metal is catching on.


S. Selvam aka Luke  - guitars


Are there any other death metal (and any style of metal) bands from Singapore that we should watch out for?

Check out Narasimha, Vrykolakas, Melting Snow & Az-rael.



Describe the Asian metal scene in general. What place do you believe Rudra has in it?

The Asian Metal scene is still virgin. I would say the floodgates are not opened yet, partly due to the lack of sufficient interest from the European & American audience. The value of Asian metal bands lies in the ability to impregnate Extreme Metal with the colourful cultural background, which is unique to this part of the world. In this context we (RUDRA) have carved out a genre and a place for ourselves as a representative of Asian Metal.



Are the members of Rudra involved with any side projects?

Shiva & Selvam play in a Melodic Death Metal band, Kaliyuga with our ex-guitarist Bala. Shiva, Kannan & I play in a New Age Ethnic fusion band called Ananta.



What does the band do for “day jobs”?

I work as a Technical Executive. Shiva works as a Land Officer & Kannan is an Electrical Engineer. Selvam is Logistics Specialist.



Why are there no sound clips available on the band's website? Are you not fans of mp3s?

We will be introducing that very soon. I am personally not a fan of Mp3s. I love original Cds with all the artwork and stuff.


RUDRA - RUDRA (1998 Candlelight Productions)


Your band is sometimes compared with Nile, insofar as blending ancient and traditional themes with modern death metal. What do you think of that comparison, and would you say Nile has been an influence on your style??

I would say the comparison is legitimate since we are both digging ancient cultures with modern metal. But Nile has never influenced us in our path. During the time when we were experimenting with ethnic fusion in Metal, we hadn't known any other band that was doing the same thing. Only after releasing the debut album did we realize that there were two other bands (Nile & Orphaned Land) doing something similar.



Assuming Nile is an influence, who else would you name as an influence?

Our influences have been more of a mixture of Metal artistes and New Age/Ethnic artistes. I would attribute the traditional music influences to artistes like Ravi Shankar, Jai Uttal, Dr L Subrmaniam, Loreena Mckennit & Krishna Das among many others. Our Metal influences are Slayer, Death, early Sepultura, Bathory, Obituary & Kreator among many others. Shiva & I are also big fans of Glam Metal. We are big fans of Motley Crue.



Your use of traditional instruments seemed to decrease on Kurukshetra from your previous work. Does that trend continue with the new album??

Actually it is going to be the reverse on the new album. Kurukshetra was sort of an experiment. We wanted to see if we could produce an album without incorporating traditional influences. But this won't happen in the new album. The new album will have lots of traditional parts and lots of chanting. For a change I will be doing most of the Sanskrit chants myself.



In your opinion, what is the most interesting or compelling story from Vedic mythology?? (There's so much to choose from).

There is an interesting dialogue between a small boy and the God of Death, Yama in a text called Katha Upanishad which is part of the Veda. You would find that story interesting as it reflects the Vedic wisdom beautifully & succinctly.



How are your CD sales in Asia compared to North America and compared to Europe?

It used to be better in Asia but now our sales are steadily increasing outside Asia, especially North America & Europe.



I understand you’ll be entering the studio in September. What studio will you use and who will be doing the production/engineering?

We will be recording at two studios this time around. The drums will be recorded at Music Zone studios and the rest of the tracks will be recorded at a yet to be named new studio. We have hired our good friends Joshua & Sean as the engineers for the new album.



Who does the website, www.rudraonline.org – the band?

A friend of ours designed it but my wife maintains the site.



With each release Rudra have become a name spoken amongst “in the know” metal circles. Do the think your next album could be the one that really breaks the door down for you in terms of international recognition?

Yeah. We are really hoping for that with the new album. We have faced too many obstacles throughout our career and this is the biggest one. Hopefully this album will break down those barriers. Let's see how it goes.



Is there any other things going on with the band that you'd like to pass along to our readers?

Nothing much, but we would like to thank Metal Rules for this honour. I am a fan of Metal Rules and what a privilege it is to be interviewed by you guys. Thanks a million.

Band Website:  www.rudraonline.org

Label: www.demonzend.com