"When we released 'Ari Ari', a famous Bollywood actress Ileana D'Cruz liked it and actually posted about it on Instagram, that was pretty cool"
Arguably one of the most talked about metal bands from Asia alongside Babymetal and The Hu in the last few years, India's Bloodywood have shaken the foundations of metal with their aromatic and flavoursome blend of Bollywood covers, Indian Folk Metal and cultural panache that landed them a slot at Wacken Open Air last year, and a slot at next year's Bloodstock Open Air after the 2020 edition was postponed due to the coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic. Vocalist Jayant Bhadula gave GMA the low down about their humble origins, the strength of the Indian Metal scene, how they became known across the country and why it's Asia'a time to showcase it's wealth of talent to Europe and the USA.
What was the initial idea behind Bloodywood?
"When we started we always had a plan to release original music, that has always been a goal for us, but we didn't find a way to get it out; because I think there are a lot of metal bands in India and that's the thing. We wanted our music to reach out and not just be restricted within our region, state or country, we wanted our music to spread worldwide. This is why we thought the best way to go round it would be by doing covers, actually it wasn't really covers, first we tried to make metal renditions, like give it our flavour 'Sinbad The Slayer'... It was a gradual process through trying to make our sound that we would be comfortable with and eventually it lead to 'Ari Ari' and then to others."
What was the reaction from both the Bollywood and Metal music scenes to your music?
"It was widely received well in India with the audience here, it was also seen as funny. Finding it funny and then actually appreciating the metal behind it too is what we got from the Indian audience, but I would have never imagined that someone from Bollywood would have actually acknowledged it.
The Bollywood industry I mean... it happened with 'Ari Ari' though; when we released 'Ari Ari', a famous Bollywood actress Ileana D'Cruz liked it and actually posted about it on Instagram, that was pretty cool."
As you have only been going since 2016, to be where you are now (having played Wacken last year) it must be a dream come true for the band?
"Oh yes absolutely, I'll give you a little fun story. This was around the time when I was in my final year at college, I was like 'I should start saving money and go see Wacken Open Air', I wanted to there and experience what it's like so I started saving money, go to Germany and see Wacken Open Air. Then because Bloodywood was going on and then I was actually working with another band; I've got one more project alongside Bloodywood.
Bloodywood was getting busy and we eventually finally got the call for Wacken Open Air, that was personally for me and I can vouch for everyone in the band a dream come true for everyone; even the sound engineer he plays guitar with me in my other band, for him to be there to manage our sound was a dream come true for all of us."
You've shifted from covering Bollywood music and writing your own material, where does your inspiration come from?
"So it wasn't just the Bollywood songs that we used to cover, we used to cover almost anything that used to catch our eye. Literally from Bollywood to anything else, as long as we felt it was catchy we would just make a diddle on it. But the transition began when we started making ''Punjabi Metal', that was for the 'Mundiya Te Back K Rahi'... because while we were composing 'Mundiya Te Back K Rahi' around that time in the end we actually realised that and it was was Karan Katiyar who showed me that dhol goes really good with guitars and I took it as a joke, I was like no I don't think so, that's not going to happen. So he actually created the whole instrumental and was like now check it out, dhol which is a traditional north Indian folk instrument that was going perfectly with it. I felt it made the song more groovy, so what's where we got to the point where we should try experimenting with more Indian instruments and even then we're experimenting with more instruments."
Arguably that's how metal seems to be evolving, by utilising other sounds and non-traditional metal instruments like the dhol per se.
"I mean it depends on which metal act we're talking about, for Bloodywood at least I can say that when we started experimenting with folk instruments from our country, the idea was actually to incorporate instruments to make our sound a little more Indian. It's like Alien Weaponry who I don't think use folk instruments however they sing in Maori. I mean it really comes down to which bands you're talking about, I mean for example The Hu from Mongolia, they do use their folk instruments with metal so, but I don't think bands are introducing instruments for the sake of making a new sound. I feel that everyone is trying to express themselves in the best way they can like we did with Bloodywood, that's what I think the bands are doing."
With all the things that has happened to Bloodywood, surely it must make you pinch yourself in asking 'is this really happening?'
"Yes that happens quite a lot at least with me, because every time I go to the studio it takes me back to the time when I used to go to Karan's house and record a lot of stuff. But because a member in my other band owns a studio, we ended up going there thereafter; he's been such a nice guy about it all, given us his studio almost for free - just because he is friends with us and has supported us throughout. So when I look back I have a sheer amount of gratitude for those people, they didn't expect anything, they just wanted to help us out."
What do your parents think of your music?
"(laughs) my parents? My parents basically asked me 'you cool? Are you happy with what you're doing?' and I said 'yes' and so they said 'Ok we're cool too', they don't get metal. When I was in Chicago with my dad and we were sitting in the same room, Veil of Maya was playing nearby where we were staying and I put some of their music on the music system and my father looks at his uncle, and says 'this is what he does', my father looks at the screen and sees a guy screaming and guts out, and he's like 'yeah don't do that'."
For those who listen to Bloodywood for the first time, what languages are you singing in?
"'Ari Ari' is Punjabi but if you go to the rest of the songs after that it's Hindi."
Are they completely different or similar? Are they easy to understand?
"There's a lot of differences, I wouldn't say they're 100% different but there would be around 97% differences. There are a few little words here and there from what I use in Hindi and put into Punjabi. But there's a lot of languages in India, at least 100 plus (I'm not sure of the exact number) and lots of different dialects and they change as you travel in any direction. Yes we can understand each other, that's the funny part... English is actually quite useful in India... almost everywhere I think English is spoken and even though there are times when you get to the point where you are not sure what the person is saying, English comes in and saves us."
Has Bloodywood released any EP's or an album? If not will we see one this year?
"It's not out of the question that we will end up doing that, because I mean this year the festivals are shut, I don't think something will be happening anytime soon, I hope that the world gets better and we can go back to festivals. But as there are not a lot of festivals which are still happening, I think this year we will be focusing on creating and hopefully if everything pans out, an album might not be out of the question, but it's still not been decided yet."
Some people refer you to as a Folk Metal band, others a Nu Metal band, could you please clarify your sound?
"I like to call it Folk Metal because that is what we want to be seen as for everyone, we do incorporate modern elements because we embrace it - if you look at my influences they are all Deathcore, Metalcore bands. Our drummer Vishesh Singh is heavily into Death Metal, so because all of us come from different niche styles of metal, when we combine it together it comes out to me what the 'Bloodywood sound' is; which I like to call Indian Folk Metal; mainly due to the instruments we use."
On that note is it relatively easy or challenging to master the art of playing these traditional Indian folk instruments?
"It is tricky, for example the dhol we use there are multiple variations of it. But the instruments themselves are tricky, that's my take on it because I don't play them. So I'm probably not the right person to ask regarding this (laughs)."
Speaking about the Indian Metal, arguably Demonic Resurrection and Kryptos were the leading pioneers, would you therefore say Bloodywood is carrying the scene forward?"
"Well it does not just end with Bloodywood, Demonic Resurrection or Kryptos, it's actually all of the bands that are in the metal scene. The Indian Metal scene is small, but I say this in every interview and I cannot stress enough on it that it might be small, but it's really tight-knit. We've got Systemhouse33, Gutslit, Kryptos, Demonic Resurrection all of whom played internationally, there are just so many bands from India producing so much quality material that I think its all of us who are carrying it forward."
Nowadays what are the challenges that most Indian Metal bands tend to face (excluding COVID-19)?
"Don't even get me started on that (laughs), Indian Metal bands have been facing so many problems for so long. It started off with venues not being open to letting metal bands to play there, to not being paid or not doing tribute shows or, I mean it's not a bad thing to do a tribute show, but at the same time there used to be less scope for original music to come up because people tended to come out for more of the tribute shows, but now as the audience is opening up there but still there are lots of venues and not a lot of money being invested in it. I think it's going to get better because the number of shows last year at least were a lot, I've never seen a lot of shows like that.
There were a lot of bands from the US and Europe coming in, just in January we had As I Lay Dying come here, so I mean we've come a long away from just one metal band coming to India in a year, maybe for Bangalore Open Air per se where we get to see quality acts. Apart from that there was nothing, hardly any shows going on, but now even the promoters are getting into it."
Do you feel it's more important than ever for metalheads from Europe to pay more attention to bands from Asia per se?
"I feel the world has been sleeping on Asia for a long time and maybe now it will... maybe Bloodywood, or The Hu from Mongolia or Underside from Nepal; I love those guys, so I mean us Asian bands trying to get out and actually doing shows and getting a positive reception actually does make a way for other Asian bands to come out. I think people in Europe and the USA are actually embracing this. I actually met a guy in Osnabrück, Germany who was wearing a Gutslit t-shirt - Gutslit is an Indian band, I wanted a photo and send a message to the guys saying 'hey guys I saw a guy with your t-shirt in Osnabrück, Germany."
Finally have you got any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, fans, family, etc?
"I want to say hello to everyone who's going to believe in us."