Hailing from the island country of Singapore, RUDRA is one of the top titans in the Asian metal scene. Formed way back in 1992 RUDRA play an exquisite variety of extreme metal where they infuse Indian mythology and classical instruments to their songs, also being one of the first ever bands to do so, which have earned them the fame of being the creators of the ‘Vedic Metal‘ genre. Following suit, many other bands like fellow Asian counterparts DYING OUT FLAME of Nepal, and even in the western country of Czech Republic CULT OF FIRE has taken up this new genre, whose lyrics and theme revolve around ancient Hindu philosophical scriptures(Vedas) and the whole aesthetic of it. Blending indigenous cultural music and theme in the nerve of black and death metal has brought them to a significant global attention, with their albums sold in Europe and the US as well, much of which has been welcomed in a positive approach. RUDRA has successfully been a dominant force in this part of the world with a mass underground cult following. The band has released eight full length studio albums as of now, with their latest being ‘Enemy Of Duality‘ released back last winter in the month of December, 2016 out via Indian record label Transcending Obscurity. The album has seen a lot of positive reviews and has been an instant hit in the Asian metal circuit. You definitely need to check them out if you haven’t already, and maybe get yourself a copy of ‘Enemy of Duality‘ here. Recently I have had the honour to chat with Kathir Aryaputra, the band’s frontman, who’s also the lead singer and bassist. It was a very cool opportunity to have this interview going because RUDRA is one of my favourite bands out there and definitely kicks ass. Here is how things went down with Kathir Aryaputra of RUDRA.
METAL NEXUS : What are the philosophers and school of thoughts that mainly inspire Rudra’s music?
KATHIR ARYAPUTRA : We resonate with the works for Gaudapada, Shankara, Sureshvara and teachers who belong to the Advaita Vedanta school of thought. However, we are not fans of neo-advaita or neo-vedanta.
METAL NEXUS : Rudra has been around for a whopping 25 years for now and still going strong. What do you think keeps you pushing forward despite the unavoidable obstacles you, just like every band, face ?
KATHIR ARYAPUTRA : I would attribute that to the vision of Vedic Metal and the capacity to materialise that vision. The day we can’t do this anymore, we will quit. At this moment we still have the energy to put out music that we love. So it is primarily the vision and the capacity.
METAL NEXUS : So, we have seen your performance at the Kalaa Utsavam 2010, where you have incorporated classical dance in your live set to great perfection. The whole performance is truly a unique thing for fans to see a metal band pull off. Can you throw some light here on how this idea of metal and dance came together ?
KATHIR ARYAPUTRA : It was an idea born when Rudra was playing a show in Bangalore, India in 2002. Shiva and I were talking to a reporter who was covering the band on the local daily. And while having that conversation, we talked about this dream of staging an operatic performance of Mahabharata with metal. We never forgot that idea.
Years later we approached the local organisers at Kalaa Utsavam to see if they would be up to staging such a show on a smaller scale. And they agreed. Then we met Maya Dance Theatre to partner with us. They agreed and we spent a month or so preparing for the show. That was how it came about. We are not really done with this idea actually. We are still waiting to materialise the dream of Mahabharata in a Metal opera format.
METAL NEXUS : Was the making of the Brahmavidya trilogy a conscious decision? Did you see the subsequent two albums already as a part of the trilogy after the first release ‘Primordial I’?
KATHIR ARYAPUTRA : Yes, that’s right. While writing Brahmavidya: Primordial I, we decided that this is going to be a trilogy. The trilogy was primarily based on the three foundations of Advaita Vedanta viz shruti, smrti and nyaya. We presented the trilogy by first focusing on the Upanishads (shruti), then the authored texts (smrti) and finally logic (nyaya).
METAL NEXUS : Can you explain why you chose Vedas and Indian mythology to be the main driving force behind your lyrical approach? Was it a conscious effort well before starting the band?
KATHIR ARYAPUTRA : It wasn’t as clear to us in the first 1 to 2 years or so, that this was what we wanted to do. But by 1994, I had developed a deep interest in Vedic philosophies and hence I wanted to incorporate that in our music. So songs like ‘Malediction’ and ‘Dwelling in the Unknown’ had Vedic undertones. But by the time we returned from the short hiatus, we were consciously pouring that out. By then we were consciously writing the music and lyrics with these ideas in mind.
METAL NEXUS : After Rudra disbanded initially back in the day, you still managed to resurrect the band successfully. But you decided to drop the letter ‘h’ from the initial name, ‘Rudhra’ and come back as ‘Rudra’. Can you walk us through why the letter ‘h’ was dropped ?
KATHIR ARYAPUTRA : Technically, the spelling of Rudra as Rudhra was an error as per transliteration rules. So when we returned it was an opportunity to correct that error.
METAL NEXUS : Can you let our readers have an idea, on what the Vedic theme ‘Enemy of Duality’ is based on and how different it is from your earlier efforts ?
KATHIR ARYAPUTRA : Enemy of Duality was entirely an album based on a single text called the Mandukya Karikas written by Gaudapada. It is considered a radical text of Advaita Vedanta not allowing duality as a plausible reality whatsoever. So the album was drenched with this theme. Musically the album was also different that it was a shorter album clocking about 48 mins with just 8 songs. A first for the band. We had also returned to incorporating Indian classical instruments into the songs with this album. Even a didgeridoo can be found in the album primarily because of a South Asian root that instrument has.
METAL NEXUS : Rudra has definitely put Singapore on the metal map among the underground circle. How far has the metal scene there come along since your inception?
KATHIR ARYAPUTRA : The scene is very much a constant since the early days. There has always been a small but committed metal audience on this island. So we don’t see much difference from the early days.
METAL NEXUS : How do you feel fans from different cultures and background who may not be familiar with your Vedic influences perceive or connect with your music ?
KATHIR ARYAPUTRA : I always found their reaction to be very favourable. They tend to like the exotic twist that doesn’t compromise the metal extremity. We are very conscious of that. Because getting high on the exotic scale can lower the levels of metal intensity. So we strike an imbalance such that the exotic elements do not reduce the metal intensity.
METAL NEXUS : A lot of local bands in Singapore must definitely have opened for you in gigs. Can you name us some of the metal bands there who might have impressed you and are helping to keep the scene alive. Who should we know about?
KATHIR ARYAPUTRA : Assault is definitely one band to look out for. Bloodstone is another one.
METAL NEXUS : Your third album Kurukshetra was a step away from Vedic Metal in the sense that it has a lot less use of traditional Indian music elements unlike the rest of the albums. Can you walk us through as to why the decision to change the sound on that album?
KATHIR ARYAPUTRA : I think we were at the stage where we wanted to prove to the world that we can still pull off a Vedic Metal album without any exotic instruments, which the first two albums had quite a bit. So this time we wanted to merge the very Indian classical modalities into the riffs. And it turned out great.
METAL NEXUS : As fathers of Vedic Metal who started it all, you have witnessed a lot of transitions and new bands starting to pick this form of sub genre. So, where do you see Vedic Metal in the near future keeping in mind the current state of this music’s fan base ?
KATHIR ARYAPUTRA : I believe it will keep growing. But for any band to be sustainable, the passion can’t be transient. It cannot be for the sake of appearing exotic. It has to come from your being.
METAL NEXUS : Now that your new album is out, are there any plans to tour in support of it outside Singapore in places like India where you have a massive fan base and mainly in Europe and the USA ?
KATHIR ARYAPUTRA : Yes, we have plans but it is still being worked out.