India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, they all have a lot in common. Historical connotations, geographical locations, seasonal conditions, cricket, religious festivals among others... but nothing as striking as the sheer size of their metal music scenes. Sure not many people in the West know that these scenes exist with India being the exception, after all Kryptos and Demonic Resurrection have been gracing the UK and European shores many times. As for the rest of the subcontinental contingent, there is Orobas from Bangladesh causing a buzz, Pakistan's Black Warrant perhaps being one of the oldest bands from there and Sri Lanka's Dhishti leading the Sri Lankan Black Metal wave... overarching all of that is a passion for extreme music, a passion for metalheads expressing themselves and a passion for thriving in an 'Extreme Nation', this is what Indian director Roy Dipankar's latest documentary is called and is about. He gladly spoke to GMA about the documentary, the troubles funding and filming such a feat and what it means to be a metalhead in this part of the world.
"The subcontinent now has her own flag-bearers in extreme metal being recognised worldwide thanks to the internet, supportive distributions and record labels."
Roy, what gave you the idea of doing a documentary about the Indian subcontinent's extreme underground metal scene?
"My affinity for independent and alternative music has traversed a long way, a decade plus later, manifesting itself as a film via videos and documentaries capturing the panorama of non-mainstream music and emerging voices from the Indian subcontinent. The professional experience in the commercial and institutional sector of record labels eventually left me not so satisfied in terms of creativity, progress and space to showcase emerging sub-cultures and alternative voices of the youth. I began to feel (and see) the societal fissures and cultural bias (injustice) which ran from pillar to post, within mainstream culture, be it the case in India or Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The more I searched, the more I discovered concurrent narratives of musicians, fans and propagators from far corners of the underground subcontinent.
The fledgling emergence of an unique subculture against the backdrop of religious radicalism, rising nationalism, traditional hegemony makes this documentary loaded in contrast, conversations and controversy. This led me to develop a first-of-its-kind attempt to document and showcase voices, the prevailing conditions and questions raised by metal musicians from the fringe communities based in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Almost five years in the making, 'Extreme Nation' is now debuting at various film-festivals, media outlets and panoramas in India and outside."
What challenges did you have to overcome to deliver the documentary? How long did it take to create?
"Several! Especially when one embarks upon an independent task towards creative art which is all about subversiveness and anti-creation. Be it the interpersonal relationship of the countries, or the highly elusive or inert nature of bands and characters involved in the underground. Finding the right people and convincing them to be a part of a bigger spectrum was a massive deal.
Financial hurdles were / are the most difficult ones. Especially when the international documentary world is looking at India to produce more apparent hard-pressed issues related to environment, gender identity and equality, caste-based politics and such, a feature film on subculture takes a second or rather a second-last silver lining on the path to fruition.
Security was another concern regarding the cast and 'politically sensitive' content due to long term internal disputes and border-territory issues across the subcontinent. Diplomatic problems like visas have always been a chimera for extreme musicians to travel across our borders for performances. Struggling against the pre-fixated mindsets towards music that is metal, noise, power electronics, hardcore, is tough. But I took this as an anti-morose challenge which is both exciting and satisfying as the awareness spreads... a film about dark music! A film about the seething yet fragile voices within nations of the Indian subcontinent."
Do you feel that Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan (along with Nepal, Bhutan and The Maldives) are being noticed worldwide as forces within the extreme metal scene?
"Very much. The subcontinent now has her own flag-bearers in extreme metal that is being recognised worldwide thanks to the internet as well as supportive distribution and syndication by record labels."
What have you noticed about the scenes there, that at first came as a surprise to you?
"More than as a surprise, the feeling was that of a kind of discovery. The bands, their message, performances and imagery came across as crisp and sharp. It was both unique and seminal that would lay the path of an organised scene is what became clear to me."
Do you feel it will come to a point where a lot more Western labels take note of bands in this region; with Demonic Resurrection and Kryptos leading the way?
"Further to the aforementioned bands there are substantial releases of Indian subcontinental bands like Genocide Shrines, Konflict, Tetragrammacide to the now recent Kapala that has gained severe international recognition by release through 'Western labels' in the extreme underground."
What was life like growing up as a metalhead in India? What does your family think of your choice of music and your film-making?
"Growing up in the early 90's, the only two unique distinctions in sound for me was AR Rahman's music and Heavy Metal. Don't get me wrong, I mean, I grew up in the Bombay heartland (thus being) exposed to Bollywood, devotional cacophony of loudspeakers blaring during festivals, cassettes and LPs of international artists like ABBA, Boney M, Kraftwerk, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Rabindra Sangeet published by Polydor, Columbia, HMV (my grandfather's lifetime as an Exports Manager at HMV, Calcutta). But the teenage angst in me would be satiated by metal music alone and a bit of Bruce Lee films maybe. What attracts me in metal or extreme music (as currently what I listen to might not easily be identified as metal: 8MM, mz412, Bell, Black Cilice, Qrixkuor), it probably is that naked, unabashed and true openness of expressionist art that needn't adhere to a form, method or general formulae. My family is fine with me whether be it choice of profession or passion."
Will people in Europe get to see this documentary? Will you look to release it on DVD in the future?
"The film is completed and is making its way through film and music festivals. 'Extreme Nation' had her world premiere at the prolific Jecheon International Music Film Festival in South Korea this August. It was also screened at Wacken Open Air 2019, Germany and FICIME, Bogota, Colombia. The film is scheduled to screen at more avenues like Infierno Fest, Peru and a possible screening at Brutal Assault, Czech Republic next year. More announcements to follow. Currently I am in talks with a record label in Europe for a DVD release of the film later this year!"
Any final thoughts? Greetings you wish to send out?
Sigh on to you my friend,
Might be, is this the end,
The pain hurts the fear inside,
Kill be, the weak to ride."
If you were to ask Hatari if everything was going according to plan, they would give a solid response... yes. Following their journey at Eurovision and burying the past in the depths of history, it's clear that their message and music has crumbled over Europe having sold out their London show in rapid time.
London was part of a four-date tour across Western Europe, with the Icelanders having performed in Berlin the night before (they flew to all shows it would seem) and then had Oslo and Stockholm in their sights. The big 'Europe Will Crumble' tour begins next year and on the strength of tonight's show, they are already set to blow Camden wide open with their infectious brand of 'Industrial Techno Punk'.
With the queue steadily building outside of The Dome in Tufnell Park, it was evident that the UK loves Hatari and in turn it would seem Hatari loved the UK; or to this part London. Goths, industrialists, Eurovision-fans abound, this was surely to be the litmus test for how well Hatari can perform on the smaller stage having arguably been one of the most memorable acts of Eurovision from the past decade.
GMA is doing a first here by combining the gig report with the interview, let's do this.
After the support acts had delivered their sets, sets that could be described as gothic burlesque, or dark theatrics; either way they were entertaining and arguable proponents to the Hatari message, it was time for the Icelandic trio to bring the consensual BDSM, techno-punk and lights to the fore as they ploughed through songs from their debut EP 'Neysluvara', their Eurovision entry 'Hatrið Mun Sigra', 'Spillingardens' and of course 'Klefi / Samed' (ft. Bashar Murad) as well as new material...
Given that the show was sold out, it was interesting to find out Klemens's and Matthías's reaction to this news.
"We've been in shock this whole time, seeing our fans on social media, seeing our tickets being sold so successfully. We weren't sure whether Europe will accept our message, but our sponsors and board of directors remain confident throughout; especially after Eurovision, so we owe them many thanks."
"Yeah there was a certain unknown factor in entering the competition and we felt that we were well embraced and our message came across, to at least a certain number of people, so we're very humbled and pleased with the progress."
With the crowd as engaged as they were with each song Hatari threw at them, it was clear enough to see that the crowd understood the message being put out. Before the songs were played, there was a introductory speech explaining what Hatari is defined as, it has ten meanings and with some of these meanings, the universe became a focal point. This was no political rally but more so a celebration of free-thinking and understanding, sure the dystopian red and black was all abound and the two screens adjacent to Einar played graphics relating to the songs being performed, but with the performance overall there were positive vibes on and off the stage. It is clear these positive vibes will increase during their maiden tour next year... will these vibes push the band onto greater things?
"Well someone once said, 'he who controls Europe, controls the world', that person was probably wrong, but Europe will certainly crumble along with the rest of the world, so we find it fitting to start in Europe and we'll see how the global apocalypse then ensues. Our shareholders have presented to us their investment strategy in the coming years and it's an investment strategy that relies heavily on the end of the world being nigh, so we apparently fit into this scheme, which is excellent for us as musicians."
"I agree, obviously we're only employees of Relentless Scam Incorporated our holdings company, so we only follow the schedule that is given to us each week. There's a bit of a longer distance between each scheduled announcement, it's not as progressive or as intense as it was during the Eurovision period."
Arguably their performance was crafted and shaped by Relentless Scam Incorporated in such a way that it resulted in engaging the crowd, the sweating however was a by-product of consuming such energising music and no pyrotechnics were needed to raise the atmosphere at all. The laser lights however made for a sensational display, metaphorically speaking beaming the music and message across to Europe and the world, that Hatari are here and are if you like the vox populi of the modern times. But what of the Eastern side of Europe? Russia surely would revel in the dystopia envisaged here, perhaps George Orwell '1984' was prophetical for it's time....
"Yeah we're scheduled to play in Russia in November this year, which we look forward to seeing our fans there and the big fan-base we've seemed to built up there over the past few months. We hope to bring our message of the world ending to Russia, in Moscow and St. Petersburg where we will be playing"
"Make no mistake, even though this tour is entitled 'Europe Will Crumble' and relies heavily on Western Europe, it goes without saying that all corners of Europe will indeed crumble."
Some would say that the dystopia Hatari puts forward is happening right now, Europe could well be crumbling and those who heed their message will understand what they mean. The use of the introduction music for the BBC News did not go amiss nor did the mesmerising dialogue regarding humanity and the world, and certainly the joke about the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was not ignored. Naturally no one can ignore the rise of populism and nationalism within the European Union, this is probably where the song 'Hatrið Mun Sigra' (Hate Will Prevail) comes into use....
"We've always had our act as a dystopia, it goes for our Eurovision track as well as the whole set we're playing tonight, it's a portrayal of a world we see as a very real and frightening possibility in the near future"
This set list would comprise of 'X' along with the songs from their debut EP 'Neysluvara', their Eurovision song ''Hatrið Mun Sigra' (which reached #85 on the UK Singles download chart), their collaborating song 'Klefi / Samed' with Palestinian artist Bashar Murad and 'Spillingardans' among other tracks unbeknownst to the Hatari faithful. Months ago GMA spoke to Hatari about their Eurovision adventure and plans thereafter; the mini-tour included, however the hint of an album was mentioned and so has Relentless Scam Inc. given the order for this to be manifested?
"We are working on it and we aim to publish it before the 'Europe Will Crumble' tour, the exact dates are not in our hands unfortunately."
With their set it was clear there was an understanding between the crowd and the band performing, be it through body movement or simply grasping the message being put out; even if you cannot understand a word of Icelandic (everyone should know the word 'skál'!), but for those who might feel they disagree with their message and what they are doing, could the act of persuasion come into play or is it as simple as opening your mind to the world of realism...
"We feel that we bring a certain kind of world to the stage, a certain feeling of emotion and frustration that we cast onto our audience, so yes there's a certain understanding even if you don't necessarily grasp the meaning of the lyrics straight away"
"I don't think the lyrics are quote 'too political' in the sense that they take sides on specific issues, it's more of a general feeling of frustration, angst and dissonance about our current states of affairs that doesn't pick side a or b, it's more of a general contradiction we find ourselves in and therein lies Hatari."
What Hatari brought to the stage that night was what you would call in a Star Wars context, 'balance to the force', that is through Klemens's angelic and symphonic vocals crashing against the demonic and gritty vocals of Matthías. Metaphorically speaking both bringing the light and the dark together to create a middle ground, an understanding of what kind of world we live in and that in order to bring stability and peace to the world, we first must learn to love before hatred seeps in; a paradox if you like in this modern world. Hatari have indefinitely succeeded in bringing their message to the peoples tonight and are certain to carry this message onwards through their unique music and vocals...
"Well there's a lot of pre-work that goes into them (the vocals), the preparation of singing in the certain specific styles that we must work with. It's been a long process, a lot of placement sessions - working on our vocals, Matthías's 'hoh''s, so yes it's been a long process, a lot of different vocal techniques and teachings that we've learnt along the way. We still haven't perfected the vocal styles yet and they're ever and ever transforming, so we looking forward to seeing where it will bring us and what we can do with our vocals.
You could say that there is a lot of love, respect, connection, acceptance going on between the members of Relentless Scam Incorporated, even though we don't know the board of directors. We still feel the kind of compassion that they bring to the atmosphere that we strive to perform in."
"Yes, I'm very repressed in my personal life whereas Klemens is very expressive and always has been since I've known him, so I think it's a game of opposites and I think without Klemens, Hatari would be a unpublished book of poetry, but I feel safe knowing that he is on stage with me and we're really dared to do this together.
One must give a lot of credit to the drum gimp, for example yesterday (in Berlin) it must have been in the middle of a heatwave because we've never seen him so sweaty, but he's alive and well today thankfully."
Of course all bands and subsequent members have their own music tastes and artists / bands they grew up listening to, some of which have a role in the music they create as a result of, it is clear enough that Hatari have a melting pot of different music elements going through each song played tonight, meaning not one song is the same as the other or indeed similar. With the strobe lighting and lasers (purple, green and blue) making it feel like we were witnessing the new wave of Icelandic rave, in fact the crowd were bearing witness to a rising act in the making. Question is what spurred the members on in the first place in terms of their listening habits....
"Obviously there are lot of artists that brings influence to us - Matthías interjects - one example is an Icelandic children's album by - Klemens resumes - Skoppa and Skrítla, they're an Icelandic duo much like us. - Matthías continues - 'Abbabbabb' was another Icelandic children's album that I remember and of course the 'Moonmintrolls', - Klemens continues - the 'Moomintrolls' have been a steady influence in our goal to bring down capitalism - Matthías continues - and they have an apocalypse story in the 'Moomintrolls', it's very touching and I remember being frightened as a child. My parents both listened to Punk when they were younger and I dabbled in the likes of Laibach before starting this adventure, Britney Spears, Destiny's Child... Britney Spears is the master of curbing, which I tried to do for a long time... curbing is a vocal technique but I found overdrive is more my thing.
"We could go on with these influences, obviously Greta Thunberg, not a musician obviously but is one of our more recent influences - Klemens adds - yeah a primary influence at the moment, everyone should know who she is. I could go over to politics... (both laugh), yeah Donald Trump is obviously a certain influence at some point. - Matthías adds - I'd do Boris Johnson mostly as a poet, poet first and politician second and I think it's an example of irony going too far, maybe like many artists that we know and love. - Klemens adds - he obviously shares the opinion that the world is going to end and is striving to help that come about, - Matthías continues - accelerating the process obviously and which is what we're all about as well, accelerating the doomsday prophecy - Klemens interjects - we don't support his methods - Matthías agrees - ah no, he's a terrible man... (both laugh after Matthías mentions an Icelandic word which evidently carries an humorous element with it).
What was the Italian guy's name in Eurovision? Do you remember? We've had his song stuck to our brains for a long time. An Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, he's a patron of our arts... he left me his summer house this summer, which was really lovely and we had a really intriguing discussions about arts with him and others including Elísabet Kristín Jökulsdóttir, poet, performer, and former candidate for President of Iceland. Obviously Bashar Murad is a huge collaborator and an important collaborator, Cyber as well from the Icelandic rap scene; they're a project that branched out of a rap collective, they're a political, all-female Icelandic rap collective and they did the track 'Hlauptu' with us, they're a huge influence as well obviously. Trashy clothing have been, we're collaborating with them and have done a photo-shoot with them, we're aiming to work with them more in the future; they're a Palestinian fashion brand that really fits our aesthetics in a very post-plastic, kitsch, dystopian-kind-of-way."
Many will recall how Hatari waved the Palestinian flag at Eurovision, some agreed with and some did not. None the less, it boosted their profile and their song 'Klefi / Samed' with Palestinian artist Bashar Murad, boosted theirs and his popularity further as the video now has been viewed 1.2 million times. They played the song tonight but had to use the audio clip of Bashar in lieu of him being there. Could this be a great example of how music brings the world together? They go on to explain how they managed to get in touch with Bashar Murad and explain their thoughts regarding the beauty of the song, being in both Icelandic and Arabic....
"After winning the national selections, we wanted to make contact with Palestinian and Israeli artists and activists, we were put in touch with Bashar Murad and had a Skype meeting with him where we made a really strong connection straight away, from there on we felt it was right to do a song together.
I didn't feel it was too surprising though because we worked with a lot of contrast and, this being a huge contrast coming from two completely different worlds, they were somehow brought together into one beautiful song"
"The crucial link there was probably the Palestine music expo, which is where Bashar has played before and is sort of like the Palestinian (version of) Icelandic airwaves. Pleasantly surprised yes."
Of course there is one member of the group who does not partake in interviews and has his own affectionate place alongside Klemens and Matthías, referred to as the 'drum gimp', Einar is the third member of Hatari. It was said that his energy and devoition caused him to sweat a lot in Berlin and thus did he sweat a lot in London, 'sweat and determination' is an understatement and as both Matthías and Klemens went on to explain, they're a band of brothers or as some might say, the three musketeers....
"I would say both him and Klemens as music producers, Klemens as a composer, but Einar is a professional in whatever he undertakes. Obviously he is a great drummer, he's a very efficient gimp and has a lot to do with the mix of our tracks, our sound in general.
Honestly in the best cases, you start remembering who had the original idea, the important thing in the creative collaboration isn't counting your own beans so-to-speak, it's more about just serving the concept and keeping it flowing. It's all our stuffs that keeps this structure alive, we're all backbones in a way; regarding the concept at least."
"Yeah it's a very flowing thing, so far I compose all of the tracks and Einar helps and does the final touches, then the production and the mixing of the tracks. Matthías obviously brings in his lyrics that we often work on together, I sometimes compose or I usually compose my lyrics and then Matthías brings his touch into them, so it's a very free-flowing creative experience that happens between the three of us."
Of course all bands and artists have their ups and downs, yet arguably for Hatari there are certainly more high than low points. For Hatari, forming, winning the Icelandic national selection for Eurovision, reaching the Eurovision finals and then selling out 4 European shows ahead of next years 'Europe Will Crumble' tour, is surely the Crème de la crème, or is it not?...
"Well Einar was very sweaty at the Berlin show and may have reached a low point, we let him take off his leather and contraptions out of medical needs, more than anything else, but I think he is better now, all primed up as you say"
"Honestly in a certain way it's become very mainstream what we do, so we look forward to establishing our side-project 'lounge-core', the art of performance, co-hosting an experience that will be sometimes performing... - Matthías interjects - yeah in a hotel lounge near you. Another high point is obviously the fact that we did our first European headline show in Berlin and our second show (today) in London, all sold-out shows. - Klemens adds - this was pleasing for the promoters, the board of directors and the investors in Relentless Scam Incorporated. - Matthías continues - good for us as well at the gig, it's much harder to do a gig if there is no one there, it's better to have a crowd and invest in new followers if you will."
It's clear that the group has some down time when the board of directors permits, there is only so much that can be done in a set period of time and despite the adrenalin received from your very own 'Sodadream', Hatari are certified to give you the full treatment of dystopian, high-intense visions that you will succumb to as they spread the messages handed down to them by Relentless Scam Incorporated. So how does Hatari unwind after receiving their instructions from the powers that be?
"Well I'm unemployed at the moment, so being here is [Klemens mentions Matthías likes babysitting] a huge relief from the intense babysitting I do for Klemens and his family. I'm also a playwright."
"Other hobbies, obviously a lot of my time goes to being with my two lovely daughters at the moment, and my fiance Ronja; we're getting married next year. Otherwise we both go out swimming a lot, enjoy going out for long walks - Matthías adds - we clean the leather a lot, that's sometimes fun. - Klemens continues - I wouldn't say I maintain a lot of my hobbies at the moment since my focus is required elsewhere, but I hope to take up all my other hobbies sometimes - Matthías adds - Klemens is an excellent carpenter, cabinet maker and furniture designer; his home is graced by these original designs, I like to admire these in my free time from which I have a lot."
Creativity runs rich through the veins of this Icelandic trio, much more than the ice-cool blood you would expect after donning PVC / leather garments in the snow and ice-laden terrains of Iceland, not to say they aren't cool as ice because they evidently are, winning the hearts of the peoples of Europe; BDSM, fetish, techno, Eurovision-fans, the list never ends of scenes they've tapped into. It's truer than true to accept that they are more than just a band, they are a living, breathing (and sweating) multimedia project that are set to do great things in the years ahead into the future. Just like the constant rotating of the saw behind the globe in their logo, Hatari cut through the clouded visions in this world and open up people's minds, the question is what do they see their logo as portraying?
"Well it's the logo of Svikamylla ehf. / Relentless Scam Incorporated that you're referring to, to us it's the late capitalist, loving embrace of our generous investors. Their passionate commitment to making all of this turn out profitable, mostly to them and just a cheerful way in which corporations are spiralling towards their own doom in the early half of the 21st century."
"It can also be interpreted as that we're all caged in within a certain mentality, mechanics that runs our conciousness and also awaits the spiritual awakening of humanity."
After tonight's show it was fair to say that they've started this spiritual awakening as the masses attending understood, digested and came to terms with what they are highlighting about the world. This is just the very start for Hatari, with their set and their dedication to the art passed down to them by Relentless Scam Incorporated, it's very fair to say that they will move on to greater things, forget Eurovision for what it is; that was just the appetiser, now this 'award-winning, anti-capitalist, BDSM, techno-dystopian, performance art collective' are serving up the mains and have added sides to go with this feast for the ages, what sides dare you ask? And what messages have Hatari got for their faithful custodians?
"We're not allowed to comment on this at this moment unfortunately. To my room-mates in Iceland, next week is your turn to clean the bathroom. Stay strong, not just my room-mates but everyone. Don't just read the headline if you're going to quote an article, you have to know what the source was, you can't go telling people all of this sensationalist topics and exclamations if you don't even know what the source was. Read the whole article if you're going to go about quoting things. - Klemens adds - we're guilty of doing that sometimes, - Matthías continues - it's something we're working on within the band, it was an article about plastic in the Pacific Ocean, growing by itself and I didn't understand it, but I started exclaiming it to everyone yesterday... 'did you know they're forming islands, and it's becoming a part of the natural terrain?, turns out it was b******t. But still, plastic in the Pacific is still a big problem so yeah everyone should recycle and not just quote an article if they've only read the headline, that's my lesson from today and yesterday."
"Stay strong. Don't forget to recycle."
Hatari are here to stay and open peoples eyes to the plethora of issues the world faces, through the rise of capitalism to the politicisations of multicultural events (those who know, know), overarching all of this is a trio of Icelandic musicians, who, are arguably a band of brothers undertaking duties and operations handed down to them by the board of directors at Svikamylla ehf. (Relentless Scam Inc) with pinpoint precision. The performance was faultless, everything is going according to plan.