"There's always the feeling that [Spanish] local bands are perceived as of a lower category than international acts."
Born In Exile are here to prove that the Spanish Metal scene is alive and that it should no longer be ignored by the wider European audiences. Having dropped their stellar second album "Transcendence" earlier this year via legendary Spanish label Art Gates Records, this progressive metal leviathan are already gearing up for next year (due to COVID-19 decimating the entire music industry), the bulls are raging.
GMA spoke to the quintet about their new album, the whole identity crisis surrounding nationalism and regionalism - the Catalonia vs. Spain debate, attitudes towards female musicians in Spain and why local Spanish bands have the perception that they are pushed beneath international bands.
For those who have not heard of Born In Exile, can you give us a brief rundown of the band's history?
"We are a contemporary progressive metal band from Barcelona. Our music is characterized by a
powerful voice with many registers, very strong riffs, virtuous solos and unusual rhythm structures; but easy on the ear at the same time.
We've released two records: “Drizzle Of Cosmos” (2017) & “Transcendence” (2020). The band was
formed in 2012 by ex-members of another Spanish band. In 2015, Kris became the new vocalist of the band and brought a big change to the style of our music. "Transcendence" is the true sound that we wanted since the beginning.
You released your 2nd album "Transcendence" back in March, what was the reception like and how does it feel linking up with Art Gates Records?
"The record received very good appraisal online, but unfortunately we haven’t had the opportunity to give it the presentation it deserves live, even if there were quite a few shows in place. Working with Art Gates Records is great, we are very happy about our professional relationship with them. They are very active and constantly get involved in Born In Exile’s promotion and exposure activities."
Talk us through the entire album process from pre-recording to releasing, how you came up with the song titles, etc?
"It was a long process since we wrote the songs until we recorded them. Most of the tracks are composed by Carlos and the lyrics written by Kris, but we love to create music all together too.
Many things in "Transcendence" are involved. The theme of the song, what we want to express in it and the target. We like to be sharp but subtle in as many ways as possible. Our music talks about experiences from our past and subtle social critique.
The recording and the mixing faced difficult issues, because we self-produced our music. Carlos Castillo was in charge of everything, and it became hard work altogether. A lot of hours in the studio made the perfect sound that we wanted and Carlos worked really hard to make the band happy with the sound.
Carlos Arcay (Arcay Sound) did the mastering and we were more than happy with that, a very good tandem."
Do you as a band prefer to be known as Spanish or Catalonian? Is this cultural identity as relative now as it was years ago?
"We don’t have a common position about this issue as a whole. Born In Exile prefers to be called however you want to call us (laughs). The national identity issue in Catalonia and other regions of Spain (Basque Country, for example) is a very complicated topic that sometimes leads to strong confrontation between people in both extremes. Most of us are Catalan but we also have an Argentinian / Andalusian member (Joaco, lead guitarist) so we prefer to leave the identity issue aside as a band."
What are the challenges that upcoming Spanish metal bands tend to face these days?;
"People in our country tend to believe that the national bands are less professional or successful. We have more followers at home than anywhere else, but there's always the feeling that local bands are perceived as of a lower category than international acts."
Kris, do you feel that sexism in metal is still an issue? In your own view has it improved or
"There’s a lot of work to do in fact. Fortunately the sexism in metal doesn’t exists as much in
Europe than in Spain, for example, or in other music styles or jobs dedicated to shows. Everything is getting better, but we need to keep on fighting more because it is not over at all."
How have you individually been coping with the lockdown earlier this year, what have you been up to in the time you're stuck at home?
"Everyone has stopped right now. We released the album one week before our lockdown. Even if all of our concerts have been canceled for 2020 (we had quite a few including a European tour) we tried to be as active as possible."
For metalheads visiting Barcelona in normal circumstances, what sights / attractions can
you recommend? What bars and venues?
"Everything is almost closed now, and maybe you cannot come to the best bars or venues, but you can search online for these bars - the “Undead Dark Club” in Sants, “HellAwaits” in Paralel, “Burning Rock Food” in Sants, the concert venues “Bóveda”, “Razzmatazz”, “Sala Monasterio” and “Sala Apolo”."
Do you have any greetings and thanks you wish to send out to fans, etc?
"Stay metal! Support localbBands and see you on the stages, friends!!"
"Maybe they will think metal music is so dope, just kidding. They'll think this kind of music is so noisy." [Bhone on their parents thoughts of metal music]
When you think of metal music from Asia, Burma (Myanmar) is probably one of those countries that does not come to mind as having an active metal scene. In truth it does... just a very small and underground one, one that has not had a great deal of international coverage by the mass metal media. It just seems that this corner of Asia is often largely ignored, or not explored by the Western metal media thus leaving metal scenes, like Burma (Myanmar), often in the shadows and confined to only regional, if not continental press.
Flying the flag for the Burmese Metal scene is A Letter From Caeser among other bands, whose unapologetic style of Metalcore may be seen as run-of-the-mill for the hardcore fans of the genre, but would that thought ever stop this quintet? No chance. In fact, back in March they released their latest music video in 'Pyan Lar Mae Nay' and having checked it, GMA thought it would be only appropriate to give the band an interrogation... guitarist Bhone Zay Yar elected himself as spokesman for the band.
For those who have not heard of A Letter From Caesar, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"We started our band in September 2011, in the beginning it was Soe Pyae Han on vocals and myself on guitars. Later we found another guitarist and bassist, but lacked a drummer and keyboardist. In 2013, we found both a drummer (who played in the band Last Will) and a keyboardist. We had a few line-up changes and settled on our new bassist, Zin Mg Thant.
Towards the end of 2014, our former drummer quit and we recruited a new drummer. Like other bands, we tried to come up with a band name - there were so many names that we discovered and were so confused at the whole issue, we didn't know which name to choose! Funny times.
Finally our former guitarist (Tu Tu) chose one name and we all thought that it would be cool for us, so we chose the band name A Letter From Caesar. However, in 2016 Tu Tu quit and we brought in our new guitarist Kyaw Gyie, establishing our current line-up."
Back in March you released your new music video 'Pyan Lar Mae Nay', what does the song mean? Are all of your songs in Burmese?
"It's about a soldier who is missing his family & home, whilst he is away on a battlefield. All of the other soldiers are dead & he is the only one left, he is wounded and found a way to come back home.
Yes, all of our songs are written in Burmese."
Check out their music video "Pyan Lar Mae Nay" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3lhbiGzEak
What do your parents think of your music? What is the public opinion on metal music?
"They don't say a lot about our music. I think maybe they are used to it, we have been listening to this kind of music since we were young, they heard what we listen to & I think it's OK for them.
Maybe they will think metal music is so dope, just kidding. They'll think this kind of music is so noisy."
Have you had people outside of Burma (Myanmar) listen to your music? Have you played outside of Burma?
"Some of our Burmese friends who travel and live abroad listen to our music. No we haven't played outside of Burma."
What was it like growing up as metalheads in Burma (Myanmar)? What are the challenges that Burmese Metal bands face?
"I think that there is nothing different from other people. We do what we want and that's it."
For metalheads visiting Yangon, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Well, there's a lot of places that you can go and see / do in Yangon, I don't know which places to recommend for metalheads. Maybe you should do a Google search or use social media to search for things, I think that both options will work."
What plans do you have towards late 2020 and into early 2021?
"For 2021, we are preparing for our new album."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"We would like to thank our fans, family and friends but also yourself for interviewing us."