Stigmata are the pioneers of Heavy Metal/Hard Rock in Sri Lanka. The ensemble stands proudly as one of the most respected creative forces in the region and a phenomenal live powerhouse, earning them a reputation as one of the most sought after bands hailing from Asia.The quintet will celebrate their 15 Year Anniversary next year, with plans to commemorate the mammoth occasion by releasing their highly anticipated Fourth album in 2015.
On their 15 Year Anniversary celebration list, there’s a place for Resurrection Dubai. We are looking forward to welcoming you to Dubai.
How did you guys introduce the Heavy Metal scene to Sri Lanka?
First but not least, thank you for having us in Dubai, we are irrefutably stoked surreal. Colossal thanks to Vinod, Hani, Sary, Studio 77, The Music Room and everyone who’s making Resurrection Dubai a reality! There were tribute and cover bands of the secular and commercial variety that played some Hard Rock and Metal on occasion. Rattlesnake and Venom(SL) were particularly influential in the local scene throughout the 70’s and 80’s with their performances of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Iron Maiden covers. We were the first band to really emphasize on originality. We formed the band in ’99, played our first gig in Feb 2000 and it was tedious as we had to introduce a platform for originality and Metal back then, but also build an infrastructure in the industry that was both lucrative and steadfast. We started performing at pubs and clubs island-wide – every Friday, Saturday, Sunday for 2-3 years building a loyal following. The hardest part was changing the mind set of club proprietors, media, sponsors and the audience because they did not take to originality with open arms as it were. We used to play 50-60 songs a night and we used to cover everything from Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple to Disturbed and System of a Down butwould strategically slip in an Arch Enemy, Iced Earth, some early Metallica, Pantera, Iron Maiden etc., into the set getting audiences used to heavier stuff. We used to perform our own music interspersed throughout the set as well. After some time the audience just grew and people insisted on hearing our own tunes at shows which baffled club owners and managers more than a little. It doesn’t do well to have a narrow minded manager who can’t tell a tone from a semi-tone see his regulars with a disposable income determined to hear something new, unique and original. And as they say, the rest is history.
When did you guys start playing your own music?
When we were back in college, the trend in the mid and late 90’s in SL was Alternative Rock and Pop. There were very few Metalheads, let alone people who dared to listen to Metal. It had such negative connotations here and that is something we also changed. We changed society’s perspective of Metal music and how we were judged or viewed. With our own music, our perseverance and persistence we earned the respect of people in our country and showcased that we had substance, depth and something of value to say. We never set out to get this far or to become a cultural fixture in our country and the region. Right from day 1 we set out to do one thing: create our own music and have fun playing the kind of stuff we weren’t hearing anyone else performing. In a way we didn’t realize we were the founders of the Metal scene here. We just shared chemistry and a similar mind set and wanted to make our own music no matter what the cost. Of course the fact that we were a bunch of hot headed, obstinate and determined bunch of youngsters probably helped in the long run. There’s something to be said about stubbornness if endorsed at the right point of time.
How has your style evolved through your 15 years as a band?
Stylistically we have evolved rampantly. Exponentially is another word that springs to mind. You can hear the growth on our records. Hollow Dreams our debut (and Sri Lanka’s first Metal album) came out in 2003; it contained tunes that were composed by us while we were still in college. That record revolutionized the music scene here. It still stands as a cult classic in the region. Our second effort Silent Chaos Serpentine that was released in 2006 was leagues ahead of Hollow Dreams in terms of song writing, performance, musical dexterity and production. That was the album that gained us international recognition with a string of international reviews, international concerts and was voted as one of the Top 10 Metal Albums around the world in 2006/2007. Our third record Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom released in 2010 showcased a band at a peak of our experimental and creative prowess, it really shattered boundaries. I say ‘at a peak’ because we believe that we still have tons of creative fuel to ignite our creative fires yet! It was a holistic effort incorporating myriad styles and sonic textures, an intricate album with epic musical pieces not for the faint of heart or mind. POCM received great recognition even drawing the attention of the legendary Ian Wright and the Discovery Channel to feature the band on some of their programs. It was picked as a Top 10 contender for Album of the Year in the US and in parts of Europe. We are inspired by so much of different types and genres of music and sub-genres in Metal itself that we’ve always sought to push ourselves as players, performers and song writers. We have never been intimidated to expand our musical ground, to try new things and explore new sonic passages without compromising our Thrash/Technical Metal backbone. If anything, we’ve never been predictable. Our 4th record will see us incorporating jazz, baila, funk, fusion, eastern arrangements and drive the ‘Pure Sri Lankan Metal’ factor to every corner of the globe.
Where do you all draw your inspiration from?
Fundamentally, from each other. Be it literature, theater, art, film or music… all these things inspire us too. Being overly reliant on external influences can at times take away the authenticity and aesthetic essence of what you create. We say be inspired, not influenced. There is a difference.
How evolved is the Sri Lanka Metal Scene?
Compared to what it used to be? It’s grown leaps and bounds. From an era where anyone sporting a Metal T-shirt, piercings or tattoos is rendered at the receiving end of ridicule, prejudice and petty judgments… there is acceptance for Heavy Metal as a lucrative and serious art form in Sri Lanka now. It is accepted as a lifestyle and a community that is thriving. Yes there is drama here and there, like in any scene but for the most part the standards of the musicians have improved. There are over 70 Rock/Metal bands in SL but of course only a handful is serious enough to work relentlessly to take it somewhere. There’s some great talent here though. Sri Lanka has a proper infrastructure now; there is electronic and print media support for gigs and events, bigger and better venues working with us and sponsors who have caught the scent of this growing scene. Yes FM which is the biggest radio conglomerate in the country recently dedicated a 2 hour program to us, with the last hour being the ’15 Year Anniversary Special’. They played our tunes, had some overwhelming voice cuts from Nervecell to Chitral ‘Chitty’ Somapala to some very important people here in SL wishing us, people that have been part and parcel of our journey from day 1. We were moved and honestly blown away. For a radio station to take these steps, it’s incredible. Thanks to YazminYousuf for the unbelievable effort. Point is this – there is room for growth. Of course there is room for enhancement, greater sponsor opportunities and further means of acquiring awareness in 2015 – with social media platforms and artists having a stable ground to stand on – we will get there in time. Right now though, the Sri Lankan scene is in a good place. Can it be better? Of course. Will it get better? That’s what all of us are working towards – is it not? In all our respective regions, to create a steady ebb and flow, a touring network and propagate awareness for Metal. There are gigs in SL almost every weekend and Metal Heads are invited to judge musical contests and talent shows, to give out awards at ceremonies. TV and Radio are taking bold steps as well, some of them. Something interesting happened earlier today. I had a couple of presentations in the afternoon, which after a company director and myself walked into one of the globe’s biggest fast food joints in the city, they seemed to recognize us and immediately switched their radio station off and started playing Creed’s Human Clay album. The entire album! There were a few people who looked slightly stumped what with the kids and infants there. Ok… so it isn’t Morbid Angel but you see where I am going with this? There is far more acceptance and respect for Metal now. Things were very tough with the previous government for musicians and artists. Things will hopefully improve. Also our instrumental ‘Andura’ is used at carnivals, talent contests, schools, colleges, universities, corporate presentations and even at weddings. Yes, you read it right. There are more than a few cases that the bride and groom have walked the isle for Stigmata tunes. That is beyond cool.
Who preformed in your previous gig in Dubai?
Suresh de Silva – Vocals/Lyrics
Tennyson Napoleon – Rhythm Guitar
Andrew Obeyesekere – Lead Guitar
Lakmal Chanaka Wijayagunarathna – Bass Guitar
Roshan Taraka Senewirathne – Drums
Amazing reviews on your 2006 studio release Silent Serpentine Chaos – can you tell the names of your albums throughout the years?
Stigmata’s albums have received stellar reviews worldwide. The first Heavy Metal/Hard Rock album ‘Hollow Dreams’ in Sri Lanka was released in August 2003.
The second album ‘Silent Chaos Serpentine’ was released in 2006 which and was dubbed a contender for Metal Album of the Year on international sites www.tmetal.com and www.themetalforge.com to name a few.
‘Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom’ was the band’s third album and was picked as one of the Top Ten Albums of 2010 on mammoth US site Metal Insider.
How do you guys market yourselves as a metal band?
We’ve created brand value for ourselves throughout 15 years by practicing what we preach and vice versa. You can’t build credibility and longevity for your brand if you aren’t prepared to break the rules a little, utilize your strengths and weaknesses and figure out how to convert your weaknesses to strengths. We know we are one of the most sought after live bands in Asia, so naturally we have used that to our advantage. We have a wealth of material to perform off our discography and our charm and enamoring disposition must have helped!! Haha! I jape. About it, helping that is. We are charming. We were the first band in SL to embrace social networking media platforms; customizing Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Reverbnation etc., and broadening our reach and scope to disseminate awareness about our music. More of than not the music does speak for itself. We have always had a unified vision, we have grown as individuals and as musicians and we know what to take serious, and what not to now after all these years. A band is a family. You need to establish a sense of equilibrium with the right balance of hot and cold. We implement our marketing strategies systematically with a plan that supports our album cycle or our performance cycle. It varies depending on the continent and demography we are reaching out to. Personally I don’t think we have even grazed upon the apex of what we can do marketing wise. There are constraints and limitations – but things that have feasibility we utilize. We are very precise and sedulous in our goals and objectives. To this day it’s about the music, everything else is secondary. We created a brand called ‘Pure Sri Lankan Metal’ which has garnered us much repute but it isn’t a fancy moniker to draw people’s attention. Our music does fit the label. We have a powerful brand, evocative music and a method to organize our madness. We have a budding team of experts and aficionados that aid us in implementing our marketing strategies. One of my most treasured moments was getting our logo tattooed on my forearm… I am a brand consultant by profession in any case and when I lecture or am invited as a guest speaker I always show the tat and say branding starts first and foremost with ourselves. If we do not believe enough in the brand to bleed for it… no one else will.
Where have you played internationally? How often do you play in Sri Lanka?
We are based in Sri Lanka, so we perform on a monthly basis back here. We have headlined festivals internationally in Australia, Malaysia, India and Maldives, We performed for 30, 000 + at the Army Stadium in Dhaka a few months ago. We have a unique and wicked plan for our 15 year anniversary. We will choose only the 15 most unique and special gigs this year be it international or local shows. We’ve nailed down 2 gigs in that plan; Guitarfest 2014 in Jan in SL and Red: Festival of Love at the Viharamahadevi Amphitheater in Feb. Resurrection Dubai is the 3rd gig out of the Top 15. We have plans to tour New Zealand and Australia (fingers and assets crossed), gigs planned out in regions in SL we have not performed in before, a concert with Soul Sounds (the foremost all girl ensemble choir in Asia), an unplugged gig (after 11 years) and of course the highly anticipated launch concert of our 4th album. With every gig this year, we will avail our saints and fans to come out and celebrate our 15 year anniversary with us. We won’t be here today if not for them. If all goes well – we will be blessed with the opportunity to spread our music and sonic sorcery to more parts around the world.
Interviewed by: Natsky D.
Edited by: Nehal A.Ali