"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."