Monday, July 8, 2013

Transcending Obscurity Label and Webzine Interview: Metal Music Without Frontiers

Kunal Choksi porpoise
Will. Hi Kunal, what up, life is good? 
Kunal. Hey Wilhelm! Life is what you make of it man! Thank you very much for this interview and your interest in Transcending Obscurity label and webzine and its activities.

Will. From what I have understood the Indian metal scene is really booming right now, what is it like?
Kunal. You've understood right, my friend. It's better now than ever before, with most of the bands recording their music for posterity unlike before when bands just played live and disbanded.
Thanks to the internet, more and more people are discovering bands from all Metal-related genres and it's catching on pretty fast. I was surprised to learn that things are not too great in terms of turnout at shows in Sweden. On the other hand, we get 150 people at good shows on an average. For international bands the turnout is much more and we've got Iron Maiden (thrice!), Metallica, Slayer, Opeth, Megadeth, Kreator, Enslaved, Satyricon, Iced Earth, and even smaller underground bands come and play shows in our country and that's becoming a norm.
The people here however need to learn more about supporting original music because they think just because it's available, it's meant for them to have it. Regardless of the format, more and more people need to learn the importance of giving bands their due by buying their music otherwise they simply won't be able to afford recording albums and releasing them.

Will. Recently you resurrected your label and webzine, can you give the full story behind it all? Rise, fall and then the rise again! How come that you moved your operations to the US and how come that you moved back to India. And what kind of idea is behind the old name and the new name? And why the change?
Kunal. Yes, I resurrected my label and webzine this year. We've been around as Diabolical Conquest since 2005 but last year I was overwhelmed with too many personal problems because of which I had to painfully discontinue my activities. 
When I got back, I thought with a new site, it would be better for me, for my conscience, to come up with an original name more significant of my intentions with the label and webzine. Transcending Obscurity goes perfectly well with that. We've always been promoting lesser known bands and that's what we intend to do. It's a challenge to leave a mark like before with the name change, but I'm prepared to hang in there for many years to come. 

Will. You have some killer releases under your belt, can you give me the down and dirty about them?
Kunal. I've signed bands keeping in mind what they can do in the future. It's not a one-album deal. I encourage my bands to take the sound forward in their own unique way and that's what I love the most. 
The Dead's 'Ritual Executions' is my first release. It's a very unique and highly acclaimed mix of Death Metal and Sludge/Doom. The song Death Metal Suicide is unparalleled in its expression. It's one of those albums that will standout in your collection and will grow on you every time you listen to it.
Preludium's 'Impending Hostility' is my second release. I was blown by the sheer power of this release and more so by its potential. It's level of heaviness and no-bullshit attitude was what captured my fancy and it gets the job done better than most. In my eyes, it's far better than the mere emulators of the old school Death Metal style or faceless brutal bands.
Drug Honkey's 'Ghost in the Fire' is my third release and it's the only one where a band has recorded something new after I've signed it. This was against all odds and people warned me not to support a band like this which very few people would get. But I'm very glad to see the result of supporting a band like this and see it take the sound where no other band has gone before. It's truly a unique and very fulfilling release that unfailingly raises eyebrows of everyone who has heard it. It's Doom Metal that's original and that's something the genre badly needs. It's a massive grower too and I can't get tired of it. 

Will. What is in store for you now, with releases and the likes?
Kunal.The Dead's new album 'Deathsteps to Oblivion' is up next along with Preludium's 'Redemption'. The Dead has, as expected, taken the sound ahead and pulled off some tricks of its own. Preludium is the real surprise - it too has taken the sound forward with there being a change in the theme from war-influenced once to an insightful spiritual one. I've always encouraged my bands to do something innovative if not original and both of them have done very well in this regard. They should see the light of the day in around October this year. 
Before that, I will have an important announcement to make - the launch of a new sub-label called Transcending Obscurity India. As the name implies, it will be a label catering to the Indian bands and geared towards supporting them in every way possible. For too long, Indian bands have been denied the support of an international-level professional label and I will give them that. They will have international press coverage and distribution, like all Transcending Obscurity bands.

Will. Are there any Indian bands that you would like to promote a bit extra?
Kunal.The ones that I like are Devoid, which has grown tremendously since its debut release. The new EP titled 'The Invasion' is just massive and the band has the chops to pull it off live as well. I like its shift from a more Thrash Metal approach to a Death Metal one. It's immediately effective. 
Orion blew me away with its debut EP titled 'On the Banks of Rubicon'. It came out of nowhere. It's Progressive Death Metal influenced by Opeth but more heavier and intricate and I like the Indian Classical strains. It will be very interesting to see where the band goes from here. It's a strong live act too, intense and passionate in its performance.
Djinn & Miskatonic is another promising band, a Doom Metal one with a horror theme and strong bass lines. It started off as a bass-only band but added a new guitarist to its ranks. I was there at the band's jam session in Bangalore and was duly impressed. Its song that made it to the Indian version of the Motorhead tribute compilation was easily the best from what I've heard. But without any release under its belt as of now, it remains to be seen what the band is capable of. 
Grossty is one more band that is highly impressive. I enjoyed its debut self-titled EP but more than that I was floored by the band's live performance which was super-intense and fast and whack. Being a Grindcore band, it's too easy for it to sound uninspiring, which is why it's very important for the band to focus and improvise if it wants to leave a mark on the international scene. 
I like Bevar Sea too, especially after watching its live performance. It's Stoner Doom but played very well. 
Shepherd is another promising band playing Sludge/Doom but it's too early to tell. 

Will. Being a musician myself, what is the best way to get my music out in India?
Kunal.That's a good question. If it's physical distribution, you can contact me at Transcending Obscurity which offers Cash on Delivery service throughout the country and is the only one so far with a professional store. There are a couple of other distributors too but it depends on whether they'd be interested in carrying your release.
For online release for example through Bandcamp, that's possible directly, but you will need to do a lot of promotion through Indian webzines and word-of-mouth campaigning for it to reach the Indian audience. 

Will. Are there any Indian bands that are incorporating Indian melodies in their music, something like the European folk metal craze?
Kunal. Hardly. There's Orion which I mentioned which has but mere stains of Indian Classical music and I hope it does more of that to stand out from the saturated Death Metal scene around the world. 
There's this band called Dhwesha which has its lyrics in a local Kannada language for its Death Metal, but that's about it. It's a good band too. 
For Extreme Metal, that's more or less it. I'm sure there are more bands playing Rock and such stuff incorporating more of Indian Folk elements. Check out Agnya which is a very good Fusion/Ambient band with an Indian instrument.

Drug Honkey's 'Ghost in the Fire'
Will. What big metal bands from around the world have played in India? 
Kunal. It started with Iron Maiden in the last decade and since that many international Metal bands have come and performed mostly to a good response. We've got Slayer, Kreator, Testament, Machine Head, Megadeth, Iced Earth, Meshuggah, Amon Amarth, etc. where the big Metal bands are concerned. The smaller ones too such as Wormrot, Putrid Pile, Bloodsoaked, Abigail, Rudra, etc. find their way once a year or so by way of smaller organizers at indoor shows. It's looking good so far and we hope we become an important country for Metal bands to tour in the time to come.

Will. In your distro, what kind of bands do you carry? And what does it take to get included?
Kunal. Thankfully I'm open-minded and knowledgeable enough to know what's good from various extreme metal genres be it Death Metal, Black Metal, Doom Metal, Thrash Metal or Grindcore. It helps that I'm running an international webzine since 2005 so I have a fairly good idea of what I'm dealing with. 
All it takes is good quality, that's all. Frankly speaking, my taste is favouring the original-sounding bands and ones that are unconventional, but unfortunately, the Indian audience wants something familiar and safe. Some day they will realise that the generic stuff in their collection will lose their value and it'll be the original ones that stand the test of time. 

Will. I saw that you recently started to print shirts with your bands, which bands have you done so far and what is in the works?
Kunal. You've got a good eye man! I've printed Preludium's T-shirt which looks fantastic if I may say so myself. It's in line with the war-theme of the Polish Death/Black Metal band's album 'Impending Hostility'. 
Up next, I've got T-shirts of The Dead and Drug Honkey lined up.  
Later on, after the official signing of contracts with the Transcending Obscurity India bands, I will be supporting them in every possible way, including bearing the cost of printing T-shirts for them.

Will. Is there a big bootleg scene in India?
Kunal. Unfortunately very much so. Not so much for CDs or tapes (earlier this was true) but it's terrible where T-shirts are concerned. And the fans couldn't care less which is a crying shame. It's because of their selfish motives that bands are not going to get a dime but dishonest shopkeepers and peddlers of bootleg T-shirts, who often don't have a clue about the bands, are laughing all their way to the banks. 
Nowadays official merchandise is available for purchase directly from the bands and labels, and the fans, if they truly are that, should make an effort to procure them online one way or the other. Resorting to buying cheap bootleg T-shirts is not an option. 

Will. Have you thought about pressing vinyl, and speaking about vinyl is there a big scene in India for vinyl?
Kunal. When our operations where in the US, we had plans to press vinyl, but it's too expensive and not feasible for me to do that now. I think it's not practical to do so from a country like India where the handling is too rough and there are no places where you can even buy a vinyl player. It's always going to be a limited people thing and those with lots of money to spare and bear exorbitant shipping costs can only keep them in their collection. 
But I can always do a tie-up with a good label specializing in vinyls for my international bands. 

Will. What does it take for a band to impress you so much that you you would consider signing them? And what kind of deals are you offering?
Kunal. Originality, if not innovation. A band has to do something different or do it at least very well to be a part of the Transcending Obscurity label. I could very easily do licensing deals of big bands/releases but the pleasure of honing the skills of an upcoming band would be lost. Same applies for merely reissuing old school music recorded a couple of decades back. 
Presently, I'm interested only in signing bands for full-length releases. I don't want to promote a 3-song album because for me, it takes the same amount of effort to promote a full-length which is far more satisfying and a perfect representative of a band's sound. My terms include advance royalty for studio recordings, royalty after the album's release, royalty in terms of physical album copies, as well as that on digital sales. For bands signed to Transcending Obscurity India, I will make sure they get live shows too and may even organize gigs for them in the future to make that happen. 

Will. Any thing you want to add my friend?
Kunal. Thank you very much Wilhelm for your interest in Transcending Obscurity! This interview serves to throw light on my activities and development ever since its return under a new name and therefore it's very much appreciated. I hope I can do justice to the bands I've committed to and keep doing this for the upliftment of the Indian Metal scene in particular. Thanks again!

Kunal Choksi porpoise

By: Sweden`s Wilhelm Lindh*, "Portuguese by adoption," guitar player,  composer and owner of the Doom / Death Metal band The Gardnerz, for"The wisdom is found in the extremes, all extreme Metal here!".

Transcending Obscurity webzine and record label (formerly known as Diabolical Conquest, online since 2005!)

Transcending Obscurity releases:
The Dead (Australia) - Ritual Executions (Sludge/Doom Death Metal)
Preludium (Poland) - Impending Hostility (War-themed Black/Death Metal)
Drug Honkey (US) - Ghost in the Fire (Mind-altering Doom Metal)

The Dead (Australia) - Deathsteps to Oblivion (Sludge/Doom Death Metal)

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