Bloodstock cherishes and relishes the opportunity to showcase metal bands from all over the world, this year they reeled in Nepal's Underside, a Groove Metal / Metalcore leviathan that is taking the Asian Metal scene by storm. But it has not always been plain sailing for the band as vocalist Avishek KC explained to GMA, he spoke to us about the Nepalese economy, challenges the scene and band faced, the importance of the Ghurka and how metal unites world cultures.
"No one bought CDs... you couldn't afford it, 20-30 US Dollars would be like 3,000-4,000 Nepalese Rupee (NPR)... my pocket money for 2 months to buy one album"
KC, how did Underside come about? What challenges have you faced?
"We started Underside after the country suffered war, we were tired of shifting from one band to the other so we go together and started this whole new project, with a lot of energy and anger.
Oh man, where do I get started? Ok, the survival itself in a country like Nepal is number one just in terms of the economy, everyone goes through that it's normal, then you have the police, the system, the security, the society, they hate everyone with long hair. There was a time where police used to grab you and chop your hair off, just for looking like different. It's not the first time, I've been through that on many levels and if you're walking in the middle of the night, get in. It's changed a little bit now comparatively but, and then there were the power shortages, we had power out for like 16 hours a day so imagine being in a band, and that was because the Government was selling electricity illegally to companies and they found out the whole country was in darkness for 10 years because of some corruption in the system.
When there is no light it has a ripple effect, on your job, timings, everything and itself being in a country that far is a big challenge trying to get your music out here so you talk to someone and it's like 'OK let's watch it if you're here' if you get a gig or two, I think those are some of the few challenges faced so far.
Getting gear in Nepal is fine, it's not that hard but they don't sell the expensive stuff because no one can afford it, so there are a lot of music stores that sell low-grade guitars from 200-400 USD so you can make do with what you can get."
How long has the Nepalese Metal scene been going? What is it like?
"It's been there but in it's infancy, it has been there for a while but not for a while, not very long. Now it's slowly coming up with our best but it's not an easy job, it's a struggle everyday so.
Yeah we have one we do as a band and as a team put on Silence Festival, the only metal festival otherwise there is no metal festival scene at all, so it's a brand new culture slowly coming out, it's a lot of hard work for us to, even to put one show on.
It's insane, even within the country Kathmandu is so centralized, now we've sort of taken over the city with our music and put show on in front of what 800 people in a venue a few days before Bloodstock. Now we're focusing on outside of the country and are going to the rural places, probably will be doing a little bit of India, so that's the plan to go on."
Would you play in neighbouring Bhutan?
"Yeah of course! I would love to play there with Underside, I think we have some fans from Bhutan who message us on our social media, so yeah that would be sick".
What do your parents think of your music? When did you want to become a musician?
"My parents have never... I think my dad once came to the show and just left after two songs, that was also because my nephew and niece wanted to come, so he came four hours early and I asked him to come again and then he came back and instantly left. My mum has never seen my shows so.
I don't know, I think I always use to want to become a musician when I was a kid and I guess it was what I wanted from the band, I think it was when I heard Pantera and then I wanted to play guitar, but I then said no you can't play guitar you got to sing. But it was always there, I always love the culture of being in a band, playing music it just spoke to me so... ever since I can remember."
What was the journey from Kathmandu to Bloodstock like? Tell us what happened. How did you get invited to play Bloodstock?
"Ah man, it's been pretty crazy with two flights, 6 hours on one plane and two hours break and then 8 hours on another plane and then our home and then a 4-hour drive to Bloodstock. So yeah that's pretty much a little journey, but before that there's been a lot of preparation where we were working on production, we were trying a smaller scale production pretty much for the first time, for Bloodstock we want to bring a little bit of home, just been talking to the production crew in the tent so yeah we worked pretty hard and prepared to do it.
Well we received an invite, I have got a few friends here and promoters who have been working for the festival in the past, so we started a good relationship over the years you know, I think it's from peoples love and friendship that has made the band what it is."
Do you feel that Nepalese band coming to play in the UK could aid tourism in Nepal?
"I think it does because like we're representing where we are from and people get to know where you are from and I'm telling you about this because you asked about the problems, if you ask me about the good stuff there are a lot of good things, good people, they're the most helpful and I think friendly people you meet going about disregarding the society, the police, the system. But yeah I think it does, when people get to understand and connect, I think it does help in some ways."
With the UK and Nepal sharing a long history together, do you feel it's ever more important to support the Ghurka's?
"I think it's a cool thing that we have that relationship with the Ghurka's and like, it's been there for years and it's always good to fuse and connect on a certain level, keeping a healthy relationship. So it's always good to cherish, improve it and make it better. I think it's great, times like this when conflicts are happening, problems with each other and everything all the time, I think it's a great thing that we connect."
Who was the biggest band to play in Nepal thus far? Has the Nepalese Government become more relaxed in recent times?
"I think Behemoth, Vader, but no I think Behemoth is still the biggest to have played Nepal so far. Yeah I mean even last year the police were just bar-standing, we had so many problems trying to get the Twelve Foot Ninja boys out of the airport because the Government did not understand the system of bringing in your own equipment and stuff, it's just like you can't do whatever the f**k you want; 'I've got it, everything in a letter' and they were like 'we don't know come back Monday' and I was like 'dude the festival is today, you can't tell them to come on Monday', and I had to be on stage in 30 minutes so we play after the band because I was still at the airport stressing."
So is Nepal still a slightly conservative country?
"Yeah yeah in regards to metal music and being out there with your long hair and looking like all of us here it still is, it is an open place for tourism as we get a lot of tourists, but when it comes to the society; they have a different attitude towards it, because we are from the inside and are kind of rebels. But you go there and do things that we do, so they have a different approach for how you're treated."
What did you listen to when you were in high school?
"A lot of Pantera, Metallica, Slipknot... I was in a Black Metal band, there was something about Black Metal that I really love, it's been a while when I was listening to Mayhem, Nargaroth, Burzum, I love that stuff back in the day and also a lot of alternative stuff. So there was a lot to listen to, you used to have a lot of friends into different things, we were listening to pretty much everything. Listening to the old stuff on vinyl, Hendrix, Manson and stuff, depends on who you hanged out with back in the day. I loved albums by the likes of Korn, anything you can get your hands on, but it was so hard to get music at that time - if it was metal, everyone would just listen to it and no questions asked.
No one bought a CD, you couldn't get it because you couldn't afford it, 20-30 US Dollars would be like 3,000-4,000 Nepalese Rupee (NPR) and that would be my pocket money for 2 months to buy one album. You couldn't get it even if you said you'd save up to buy it, so whatever you had you listened to it as much as you can. For the UK a £10-£15 album would be like 2,000 NPR and that's a lot of money for us at that time especially when we were children.
What could you buy for 2,000 NPR?
"Nothing man, just like cigarettes... a little bit more than that, not a lot, definitely not a lot. Maybe lunch and stuff, you could buy posters and stuff, bootleg albums, etc., Nowadays children have the spending access, they can buy guitars; I got my first electric guitar when I was 16 and it cost about 200 USD and it was a fight; my parents got it in but it was a brutal fight."
Do you have any greetings or thank you's that you wish to send out?
"Yes, thank you to you man for talking to us or any other press that's talking to us at Bloodstock; it's amazing to be here, our crew, all the boys, our fans and people back home."