"Latin music [in Cali is] the normal thing, but if you're a rock or metal fan, or have a band, you are almost like an outcast."
Red Sun Cult are a Stoner Metal / Rock band from Cali, Colombia. Recently they were on Channel Thirteen, in the Resonantes program, but also were placed #17 on the top 25 chart on the Colombian radio station Radionica FM. All of this is a huge achievement for the band, but we wanted to find out what the band is about, what life for musicians in Colombia is like and whether it's a safe tourist destination for music lovers... this is Red Sun Cult's story.
Tell us how you came up with the band name, Red Sun Cult?
"Well with the first line-up of the band, we were Stoner Rock fans and Kyuss was the band we loved the most, the 2nd album by Kyuss was called 'Blues For The Red Sun' and so that was the inspiration for our name."
How did you get into playing Stoner Metal / Rock in the first place?
"We were huge fans of Classic Rock, especially Blues Rock and Jimi Hendrix, Cream, that kind of stuff. But when we started to jam, we also like heavy music and so it's kind of a result by mixing the two genres together."
What was it like growing up as Heavy Metal / Rock fans in Colombia? What challenges do bands face?
"Well it's really hard... well the city (Cali) is very well known as the salsa capital, here the rumba is like our religion, everyone on the weekend goes dancing. Being a heavy metal / rock fan is kind of hard because there aren't many venues, bands, etc., so it's like a group of friends in the city who owns 2 or 3 bars, 1 venue and that's the scene here.
Well I think there are two big challenges for being a rock / metal band in Colombia, the first is the size of the public, filling a venue of 50 people here in Cali is like a big event... 50 people is considered a lot of people at a gig here in Colombia; especially in Cali, in Bogotá it's quite different but not that different. The second challenge is travelling from city to city as roads in the country are in a bad shape, for doing 400km you will spend like 12-13 hours risking your life.
Colombia has so many mountains and so with the roads you have to go up and then down, so driving 400km takes a lot of time because it's very hilly / mountainous / curvy road. In fact once we were travelling from Bogotá to Cali and we almost died.
Rock / Metal music here in Cali is niche, so in a city that likes Latin music, it's the normal thing, but if you're a rock or metal fan, or have a band, you are almost like an outcast. So you need to find that niche, this is one of the biggest challenges."
With that in mind, do you think that for metal's profile to be raised in Colombia, there needs to be a band tapping into Latin music?
"That's an interesting question, there are some metal bands who did that... Sepultura from Brazil I think is one of those bands who tried to mix Latin rhythms with metal. We try to incorporate let's say the Latin aspect to our music, especially in the lyrics; we are in the jungle you know?"
Tell us about the music consumption in Colombia, do metalheads prefer the physical or digital copies?
"People are listening to music by streaming or YouTube, so there's a small culture where people buy merch, but everyday it gets smaller you know. People are turning more towards vinyl production than CD, it's growing everyday. Mainly though people are consuming music by streaming.
I think things like CD's and vinyls are becoming more of a part of a collection, you treat yourself... when people go to our gigs, they say the music was great, the gig was good and then ask do we have any CD's. Unfortunately we don't have any more CD's, but they ask for CD's and vinyls. But for the mainstream things like Spotify and the streaming platforms are the main methods of music consumption.
In terms of consumption we need to put a lot of effort into our marketing strategies and we would, if the chance arose, to have maybe around 100 CDs or 100 vinyls in order to satisfy a particular segment of people who are really into collectibles."
Streaming has enabled bands to be heard worldwide which is a great thing, but do you feel it is killing off parts of the music industry in some aspects?
"I think things are changing, for us as a band the platform Bandcamp has worked very, very well and we have seen people from all over the world buy our music and merch. So I think we'll just have to adapt, especially for bands like us where in our corner of the world there is no real industry - I think this change is beneficial for us because before there were no big labels in Colombia.
But now bands like us with the DIY ethos could sell our music in places like Australia or the UK, so maybe for us it's a good thing. As part of the music business we have to adapt to these changes, there are a lot of perks - people from around the world can listen to Red Sun Cult; but on the other hand from my personal opinion, I think that streaming has depleted that experience of waiting for an album to come out, going to a record store, buying it and taking it home to listen throughout.
Now it's the singles, that's why our experiment this year is to release singles each month, instead of EP's or albums. People just want a couple of songs and that's it, you need to be releasing a lot of music constantly."
What plans does Red Sun Cult have for the rest of the year (COVID-19 dependant)?
"We will be working hard this year, we as a Stoner Rock / Metal band want to experiment, we've got other sounds such as playing keyboards, we have a new singer / frontman and navigating the challenges of the Colombian music scene in terms of consumption, because it's really hard. We are releasing one song per month in the form of a video clip, engage with the people on the radio stations - national and international, try to release music as much as we can; the band has been working for the past 1.5 years in writing new music and recording it.
We're trying to include electronic music in some areas and by singing in Spanish we hope to capture more of a fan base here in Colombia, as well as singing in English to capture an overseas fan base."
Do you have any greetings, thanks, etc that you wish to send out to friends, fans, family, etc?
"The guys we work with in the band as well as yourself for the interview, I think it's these kinds of spaces that are so important and amazing; more so since we first spoke in London and I know you are very interested in metal all over the world and how the cultures influence the music, it's very interesting how all these different cultures have something in common which is the love for rock and metal music. That's why I loved the World Metal Congress, because you got to meet so many kinds of people with the same passion and to be interested in music from all over the world.
It's very cool that you're calling us in Colombia from the UK with 5 hours difference. Thanks a lot for other people who look for music from all over the world. Thanks to everyone who listens to our music wherever you are; making our dreams come true."
"The most exotic (for us) places, where we had watchers, were definitely Uganda and New Zealand. Metsatöll has not yet managed to perform there, but maybe we should!?"
Metsatöll, arguably the most successful metal band from Estonia performed a concert on 20th March 2020 with a unique twist, there were no concert goers... at least physically. The band played a concert to people all over the world by streaming their set through Facebook and YouTube with only the band, tech and venue team in attendance.
What a surreal experience that must have been and yet the band that celebrates 21 years this year, certainly felt taken aback by the overwhelming response they had, even if a vast swathe of viewers do not speak or understand an inch of Estonian; the band sings in their mother tongue. Irrespective of the language barrier, the band gave it their all in what could be described as an event that they ironically hope never happens again, that is, playing a concert to no one physically present because of a global pandemic.
Both lead vocalist / rhythm guitarist Markus "Rabapagan" Teeäär and vocalist / guitarist / instrumentalist Lauri "Varulven" Õunapuu spoke to GMA about the concert, the challenges for non-Estonian speakers in singing to their songs, their quarantine and end of year plans.
Hi guys, firstly it's a tough time for all of us with COVID-19 savaging the world and so how are Metsatoll keeping in touch with each other?
"I live in a really separate country house in the middle of nowhere, a four-hour drive from the others, so there really aren't many opportunities to meet with the band. However, given the current situation, it is not a very wise thing to meet someone at all. Of course, if there are issues to discuss, we will contact using all sorts of 21st century tools.
And to be honest, communicating with the rest of the band over the Internet seems to be one of the few possibilities of communication for several more months. Because at the moment organizers are starting already to cancel festivals and concerts, that were supposed to take place at the beginning of the summer. For a freelance musician, it's a hit below the belt - even during the war, the musician has a job, but now..."
"The internet does wonders these days. So we keep in touch every day. But that internet concert gave us a little boost and we are thinking what to do next."
Are you generating new ideas from your own homes whilst the lockdown in Estonia carries on? What are your restrictions?
"Restrictions are pretty strong and I'm happy that our people take it seriously for a few weeks. We hope that things will get better. Until then we make new ideas and things from our homes. You can record a riff or melody and send it to others. Somehow we deal with music everyday."
"As it is currently forbidden for more than two people who are not related to each other to meet in Estonia, it is, of course, difficult to rehearse. But a musician never rests, of course you have to write music and lyrics, not just for Metsatöll. Just play music, give music lessons over the internet, compose. Record demos, think through your friends' musical ideas, and give advice when needed. It is also possible to dig out your own old demo recordings and listen again, recompose, rewrite new words, etc .. There is always something to sow for yourself in the wide field of the music."
You played a live stream over Facebook last week, what was the reception like? Where were your most views and obscurest (country wise) views from?
"The reception was very good. Although we might have hoped for a little more audience. Because, look, the total number of views on YouTube and Facebook is currently about 80,000. However, calculating the number of minutes viewed, and figure over the Facebook and YouTube calculation widgets, the actual number of viewers may be around 10,000.
The Metsatöll concert was watched in about 30 countries. The reason I say "about" is because we still have countries in the world where Facebook and YouTube are banned and these channels are explored through other countries' VPN. The most exotic (for us) places, where we had watchers, were definitely Uganda and New Zealand. Metsatöll has not yet managed to perform there, but maybe we should !?"
The event itself must have been a surreal experience playing to an almost empty hall; technicians and venue staff aside?
"For me the experience was exactly like a real concert. I was nervous and I went to feeling all alright. Maybe because the RGB team and our own crew are so professional, I didn't feel any difference. It was 100% LIVE so LIVE will always be LIVE for me. I think we all felt that."
Arguably Metsatoll is Estonia's most successful metal band, what bands are following your footsteps in terms of getting international attention?
"In fact, there are quite a few bands around the world that tour and give dozens of concerts a year. Compared to the total number of bands. In this sense, it could be remarkable that in one small country there could be, for example, ten touring bands. But of course there are good new musicians coming up who want to play all over the world. For example, a trio of my good friends: “Trad Attack” - it would be worthwhile for every Estonian ensemble to learn from them something in terms of production and organization. At the moment, however, it still seems that many good technical crew members from Estonia are touring the world a lot more than different Estonian bands."
Given your songs are in Estonian, have you got any tips for those who want to sing along to your songs; seeing as some letters are unique to the Estonian language?
"Õ, õ is really cool letter. Now Lauri can talk about it about thousand words. Lauri?"
"In fact, as far as the 'Õ' letter is concerned, it can be said that there is more than one 'Õ' letter in the spoken language in Estonia. In southern Estonia at least two, different similar sounds in Western Estonia on the Islands, even more. Even an ordinary Estonian does not know exactly how different vowels are pronounced in different counties. Therefore, of course, it is difficult to give a foreigner some hints to start with. Language learning usually starts with learning the spoken language, imitating someone or something.
I think it would be a good start for a Metsatöll listener to learn some of our songs by listening. And then send it to us. Probably all of us, after a short pause of laughter, will send our own instructions on how to move on with your life later, without having to think much about Estonia. Of course, this is not very easy, because, not joking - in Seattle, for example, it is possible to study Estonian culture and language freely at the University of Washington - our culture has drilled so deep into different parts of the world that the drill has long since jammed."
What sights / attractions could you recommend to metalheads visiting Tallinn?; under normal circumstances*
"The Old Town is very beautiful with its architecture and all kinds of bars and pubs. But If you have time go outside Tallinn. There is something historic to discover everywhere in our country."
"I would not recommend Tallinn. Come to the country, breathe fresh air, go to the sauna."
What plans do you have for the rest of 2020 (all things considered) and do you have any greetings you wish to send out?
"We still dont know what 2020 brings but we wanna send best regards to our listeners! We are lucky to have you and we feel your support! Thank you so much! Aitäh! Stay healthy!
Or even METAL HEALTHY!"
"In order to grow; we need to bring in some international bands"
If you mentioned the country Bangladesh, the usual thoughts of clothes manufacturing, cricket and the Ganges delta spring to mind, but if you ask anyone who has knowledge of the metal scenes in Asia, they'll tell you about the bristling Bangladeshi Metal scene.
In 2019 history was made as not only did Dhaka's Trainwreck win a slot to perform at India's most prestigious metal festival Bangalore Open Air, at the very same festival they won a slot to perform at the largest metal festival on the planet, the Mecca of global metal if you like, Wacken Open Air.
This was the first time a metal band from Bangladesh had performed at both festivals, for a band who have been around since 2007 and dropped and changed musicians along the way; culminating in a line-up featuring no original members, this ultimately would be a surreal experience and so GMA spoke to vocalist Abir Ahmed about their fabled journey to Bangalore and Wacken, the current status of metal in Bangladesh, the growing attention towards Asian Metal bands and future plans; COVID-19 depending.
You played Wacken Open Air last year, courtesy of winning the Metal Battle Indian sub-continent edition, what was the experience like?
"It was a glorious day for the band and a historic moment for the music industry in Bangladesh, as a Metal band has never before set foot in the grand stages of the likes of Wacken Open Air in Germany and of course Bangalore Open Air in India. We got to experience the metal Mecca of the world with the most humble and generous audiences, from whom we have gathered tons of good wishes and a handful of positive criticisms, which we believe is going to help shape us in the coming years. "
Could you tell us about the journey you took from Bangladesh to Germany, procedures, travelling, etc?
"As we had to win two back-to-back shows in Dhaka and Bangalore before getting the wildcard to play at WOA, we had to prepare ourselves for a variety of expenses that would follow down the road to Wacken. But before getting on with the expenses, we had to get the visas first. As it was for the first time that a band from Bangladesh was going to such a prestigious and renowned festival to represent its nation, there had to be an extensive background check. We had to provide our individual bank statements with all the necessary papers along with the official invitation from the Wacken Foundation at the embassy. The German Embassy in Bangladesh kept in contact with the Wacken Foundation and both parties had been immensely helpful, understanding and considerate to our situation and agreed to grant us a Schengen visa for 13 days. We are a local metal band and as you can imagine, it does not pay as much to fund for an Europe tour yet. So we did a crowdfund, both inside and outside the country, and raised a generous amount from our core fans of a few neighboring nations.
We left for Hamburg on the 24th of July and returned to Bangladesh on the 5th of August. In these 13 days, we were blessed with the generosity of the German people and our fellow Bangladeshi citizens living in Hamburg. They made sure that we had a great time, showed us around and attended one of our shows which was hosted by the Wacken Foundation at the infamous Kaiserkeller music club. The gig was called "The United Metal Nations", dated 27th of July, 2019. The Hamburg government arranged our accommodations for a couple of nights in Hamburg. The Government arranged a full metal cruise for a few bands who travelled from Asia including Trainwreck. So yes, in spite of all the troubles that we have faced regarding our journey, the people along the way have been tremendously helpful and supportive to turn it into one of the most memorable one for the band."
For those who do not know about Trainwreck, can you give us a brief history of the band? What do your parents think of your music?
"Trainwreck is a metal band, originated from Dhaka, Bangladesh. The band was formed in 2007 and has been actively doing music and live acts since 2009. Since its inception, there had been a number of changes in the line-up, and currently the band has no founding members present. Today, Trainwreck is:
Our parents look at our choice of music; more like an adventure down a new road. There used to be times when they thought it's just a phase, but it never passed really. They are very supportive and understanding of our career, now more than ever."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genres?
"Upon a question as such, we always say that we're just a metal band. But from our listeners perspective, they have often entitled us to "Groove Thrash" more than anything. So let's try to put it as simply as we can. Our music comprises of the guitars played through the dirty channel of an amp with a tube screamer before that. The Bassist puts up a crushing tone that rather compliments the entire sound of the band. Drummer sets the groove but he can still be punchy and in your face. The vocalist strikes when the time is right to send the message. Altogether, we get a tight sound which you guys like to enjoy. This sound that we achieve, gives the band the right tools to express our musical views and philosophies."
Bangladesh seems to have a rather good metal scene, but what are the challenges that Bangladeshi metal bands face?
"Bangladesh has a very enriched music scene, regardless of genres. But when it comes particularly to Metal, the problems that we have faced performing and managing various shows, are mostly with sponsors. The turn-up at a full metal show can vary from 200 to a 1,000 core crowds depending on the line-up. Sponsors are often not interested to invest at such small gatherings that will probably not bring out the best outcome in their favour. And it's a Muslim country, alcohol is illegal here, so no liquor sponsors either unlike all the neighbouring nations. So most of the times, you can see independent organizers who have a knack for metal music, teaming up and investing themselves to put up a great show for the audiences, where they are happy if they can just break even.
Another point that I'd like to mention is, in order to grow; we need to bring in some international bands, bands that are doing great in our part of the world as well as the big names around the world. I believe with the right people on board, this can see the light of the day, and it would be a great experience for our people and the scene."
In general is there a lack of attention from metalheads in America and Europe towards bands from Asial?
"I wouldn't say that there is a lack of attention, because some of us are actually breaking the boundaries and taking our music to the world. But you have to admit, the process to be heard is not quite an easy path. It's expensive, it requires a lot of dedication, and when you are coming from a third world country, everything along the way gets a tad bit harder to be honest. But whenever we have encountered a metal connoisseur from a distant land, they have always greeted us with admiration and beer of course haha."
What sights / attractions would you recommend to metalheads visiting Dhaka?
"There is a lot of sightseeing to do for one coming to Bangladesh for the first time. But when it comes to the capital Dhaka only, few names that has to be mentioned are; the old town, Ahsan Manzil, Lalbagh Fort, Dhaka University, Jahangirnagar University etc. Dhaka is just the place for a foodie, if you have the stomach for it. We like our foods spicy, so keep that yogurt near. You can also visit The Beauty Boarding, a hotel and restaurant located in old Dhaka, a historical centre of the intellectual gathering of Bengali authors, poets, cultural activists, and politicians."
What are your plans for the year ahead (COVID-19 depending)?
"We had some confirmed tours lined up in The Philippines and India, also some pending gigs in Thailand and Indonesia, but as you can see we are going through a pandemic, everything is on halt now. We're staying home, trying to think positive thoughts, raise awareness regarding the situation. We hope this settles down sooner than we can expect. We were planning to come up with an album later this year, but now in this troubled times it seems so distant. We want to get back on the stages and do what we do best, in the presence of our people, where we will always belong."