Not many people could envisage Bhutan having a metal scene, for a landlocked country high up in the Himalayas, some would question whether this Buddhist country could ever spawn off a metal scene. Well despite the band Forsaken seemingly being inactive, they were fundamental to the scene nonetheless.
Kinley Phyntso was more than happy to give us a brief interview of how he got into metal music, the state of the Bhutanese Metal scene and how Forsaken came about.
How did you become involved in metal music? What do your parents think of the music genre?
"My entry into metal (music) would have to be back in 2006 when a friend of mine brought Linkin Park's 'Hybrid Theory' to class and made me listen to it. It was pretty heavy compared to what I was accustomed to (mostly 70's and 80's music thanks to my mum). Now I listen to way heavier stuff than Linkin Park but they definitely were my gateway band into metal. My parents and family being the open people they are have never had any issues with the genre. They don't particularly like it but they don't tell me to switch it off when it's blaring through my speakers either."
Could you tell us how Forsaken formed, the band history and challenges faced as a metal band in Bhutan?
"I was contacted around 2012 by Ujwal Pradhan to do vocals for a band he was putting together for a battle of the bands. That was where I met the rest of the guys; Arpan Tamang, Singye Namgay, Lhakpa, and Sangay Khandu. We took part in the competition, won it and kept playing at our local pub here, the Mojo Park.
Being a metal band in a small country such as ours which is still developing, it was and still is hard to stay afloat. Many people didn't really get why we headbanged on stage or why I was growling and screaming into a microphone. They just never considered it music and we were not really in demand so we did what was the logical thing to do. We started adding some well-known rock songs into our metal set-list so that we could get shows considering there are not many venues for any band to perform at here in Thimphu."
Could you tell us what the Bhutanese Metal scene is like? (studio's, venues, bands, media, metal music following, etc)?
"The Bhutanese metal scene is a very, very small niche of people. There are no metal radio stations or even metal played on mainstream radio. It's just guys and girls who have metal playing on their phones and iPods, wearing their favourite band shirts (which are hard to come by) and musicians who just play in their bedrooms. It is not dead but it is not thriving either. We maybe have like one or two festivals in a year but that is about it. There are not many venues which entertain metal music and metal bands that do form have mostly fallen to obscurity. "
How did the Bhutanese Metal scene start? What challenges are there on a wider scope, rather than band level - government opposition per se?
"In a year we try to do at least two metal festivals called 'Painkiller' in the winters and 'Namchag Duitoen' (Sky Iron Fest) in the summer.
And the turnout is about 100 to 150 people which is good by our standards. Budget is always a hassle since we don't have sponsors, mostly because we do our shows in small pubs and business owners don't see much of a point in investing money in a festival being held in a dimly lit setting. Outdoor festivals cost way too much money and just requiresway too much paperwork to get through.
Since the metal scene here is a very small one, finding bands to fill up a two day festivals bill can be tough especially since a lot of the bands cancel at last minute or don't even have proper equipment of their own. These festivals survive because a few of us put money in to proper advertising and getting the word out there as well as asking our friends to lend their guitars or amps or jacks to some of the bands who don't really have very good gear. Like I said, it's a very small scene with even fewer people who actually play this kind of music and the scene is usually very quiet until the festivals come rolling around. Then silence again."