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In Words: Albatross

- Riju Dasgupta - Jan. 2011 - Claudia Ehrhardt -

© Prashin Jagger

Riju Dasgupta - January 17th 2011 (by email)

Albatross was the first Indian metal band I got the chance to listen to, their EP Dinner Is You tells a horror story and showed that the band tries to do something unique. Time to learn more about Albatross and to find out how this is loosely based around Wolf vocalist Niklas Stalvind! Thanks to bassist Riju Dasgupta for answering my questions within no time!

Please tell us about how the band started! And what's the story of the band name? There are a few bands with the name Albatross...

Hey Claudia, it's awesome to be interviewed by Ice Vajal...I love your e-zine. Coming back to the subject, Albatross started as my solo project back in 2007, when I wanted to create a band which merges my two biggest loves - writing original horror stories and creating bone crushing metal. Me and Biprorshee (vocals) had then discussed a variety of names (I remember Osiris as one of the suggested names), until my brother suddenly suggested Albatross. And the name just sounded right, since The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner is both one of my favorite poems and one of my favorite songs by Iron Maiden... and the storytelling nature of the poem best sums up the kind of musical direction the band would follow. Over the course of time, I realized that it makes more sense having a consistent line-up than collaborating with different musicians in every song (although I'm always open to collaborations), and although the subsequent lineups have been anything but stable, I'm proud to say the current line-up is totally incredible.

Nepal's biggest band is also called Albatross and fans of the band often confuse us with them. Which is not a bad thing actually, since a lot of fans accidentally discover our music and more often than not, like us.

You have an EP called Dinner Is You. Please tell us, what inspired you to create this story?

Initially, when Albatross was still an idea, I remember Biprorshee asking me to write a song on Karna (who's one of the characters in the Indian epic - The Mahabharata), but over a period of time borrowing story ideas from history / mythology did somehow not appeal to me. And this was the period which was when I revisited King Diamond's discography and was blown away by how he combined horror movie theatrics with metal. I suddenly realized that this is the kind of music I want to create for the rest of my life. It was then that I picked up a book called Cutthroat by Michael Slade, and though the story was spellbinding in itself... There was one character who kept chuckling throughout the book who kept disturbing me. (Spoiler alert) At the end of the book it is revealed that the character suffers from a disease called Kuru, which is a laughing illness which afflicts cannibals. And hence the idea was formed, an album around Kuru! Of course, the story we've followed in the album bears no resemblance to the storyline of the book I just mentioned. Another thing I've always wanted to create was a story where no character names are mentioned, and we're glad to say that's the case with the EP. In a way the character of the Master is a nod to Hannibal Lecter as well, who's one of the coolest fictional characters ever.

The EP was mastered by Andy LaRocque. Are you happy with the result? Did he comment on your work?

Let me start off by saying that working with one of the best guitarists in the world is totally incredible. All of us have been influenced by King Diamond or Death in some way, and the first time I spoke to Andy on the phone... I was stunned! He's an awesome guy, who's really down to earth... Not to mention, a terrific engineer. When we sent him the songs on the EP, the album sound was incredibly raw. When he sent us the files after working on them, the songs sounded much more powerful and complete. I remember Jay (drums) in particular telling me that he never knew mastering makes this big a difference, since there are very few good mastering engineers in India that we're aware of at least. He told us that he liked the music and was even quite pleased with the mixing work of engineer Rajarshi Bhattacharyya (the former guitarist of the band) and has congratulated us quite often for making it to 'BEST METAL EP OF 2010' lists, which I keep mailing to him.

Do you want to work with him again? Would you like to expand the work with him?

Definitely. The amount of difference he makes to the music is immense. Also he's forgotten to send me an autograph that I'd asked him to, I hope he doesn't forget this time (haha). If we have the budget in place it would be really incredible to have him play a guest solo on the album, but only time will tell, if we can manage to get that kind of money. Of course, recording at Sonic Train Studios in the future is a dream in itself, right next to headlining Rock in Rio. Major labels, are you listening?

Musically you seem to be influenced by King Diamond, but that's not the only influence, so which artists / bands influence(d) you?

King Diamond is a big influence for me and guitarist Shrikant, but the other members have a world of influences such as Mercyful Fate, Wolf, Judas Priest, Iced Earth, Nevermore, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Ozzy, Necrophagist, Black Sabbath, Hammerfall, Helloween, Metallica, Dream Theater, Textures, Lamb of God, RAM, Hour Of 13, Pyramaze, Blind Guardian, Nevermore and many many more bands.

You like horror stories / movies? What are your faves?

I'm personally a voracious fan of horror fiction and dark fantasy - I love books by Stephen King(It, The Stand, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Salem's Lot, Different Seasons are my favorites), Dean Koontz (False Memory and The Bad Place come to mind), China Mieville, Thomas Harris, Peter Straub, and of course legends like Poe and Lovecraft. I watch the occasional horror movie, and I guess the Omen, The Ring, The Exorcist and the Hannibal series are really my favorites. Biprorshee is the horror movie connoisseur.

(Biprorshee says he loves films like The Ring, Rosemary's Baby, The Amityville Horror, The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, to name a few. He adds The Shining is overrated.)

Would you like to do a video for the EP? Or one day a special show which you could record?

It would be really cool to do a video for the EP, and that is one of the ideas we've been planning for a while now. But nothing on the cards at the moment. A live DVD is even more ambitious, but thanks for putting the idea in our heads. We'll thank you in the credits, if it does happen, Claudia. ;)

Coming from India it seems to be more complicated to get attention outside your home country. How important is the internet for you?

The internet is everything! Our artist was based in New Zealand, and he sent us the art over the internet. Andy LaRocque mailed us the songs after the mastering process via the internet. Every time we ran out of inspiration during the recording process me and Rajarshi used to log on to YouTube and listen to Iced Earth or Arch Enemy. Snowy Shaw gave us a lot of advice and also helped out with our album art online. Facebook, online metal forums, online metal magazines and MySpace are the biggest boons to metal musicians today.

Can you play live a lot?

The problem with playing live for the band has been the lack of a stable line-up, and we didn't have one in place till last month! But I can safely say that the new line-up is raring to go and to infuse fear into your lives. We've only gone on tour once, when we supported metal giants Nervecell from Dubai as well as Devoid, a kick ass thrash metal band from Mumbai, India to promote our debut EP. But we have some shows planned in the near future, and yes, we shall claim all your souls.

It seems more international bands play India these days, is the scene changing?

Very much so. Gigs and event organizers in India always had money, but they didn't know what to do with it. Today, a rock / metal show happens to be part of every college fest. Most of the bigger colleges get an international act down for their college fests. Plus, across the country weekly gigging venues are cropping up everyday. Bands from India are traveling abroad to play international festivals quite often. The scene in India is changing for the better, and we're glad to be part of it.

Do you think that now more bands try to make it internationally? Any fellow countrymen you can recommend?

Definitely. With the advent of the internet, every time you upload a song online... You're playing to a global audience. Also, metal as a genre is hardly the most mainstream of styles all across the world, so there's a global family of metal heads which spans across borders and cultures. For example, before Iron Maiden came to India for the first time... There were quite a few bands who thrived on playing Maiden tribute nights. But now India is part of almost every tour that Maiden plans, and hence bands are moving from playing cover-based sets to all original sets.

Here are some bands you might like to check out: Demonic Resurrection, Scribe, Slain, Guillotine, Inner Sanctum, Rat King, Bhayanak Maut, Devoid, Heathen Beast, Spiked Crib, my other band Workshop and Blood Meridien.

Back to Albatross! Have you already started new songs?

We've already started writing new songs, including a song called Chloroform from our forthcoming album the name of which I can't disclose, which we shall debut in our forthcoming gigs. We have a brand new guitar lineup and there's a marked change in style, but with the Albatross flavor intact.

Will you do another concept album / EP? If so, do you already have an idea about it?

I won't give too much away except for 2 small details. The central character of the story is called Viper (based on and with the permission of our good friend and mentor Niklas Stalvind from the band Wolf), and the album also features a serial killing doll named Gigi (you may hear a scratch track about her on our MySpace page). I first thought of the story when I read False Memory by Dean Koontz, although the story bears no resemblance to the book. But the story's much much darker, much more evil, more grotesque and more entertaining than Dinner Is You for sure.

What's next on your schedule?

We want to get out on the road, and start promoting our next album, not to mention earn some cash to fund our next effort. We want to promote our album internationally and eventually become millionaires, ok maybe not, but not as broke as we are now in the coming year. We've a fantastic photographer on board who understands our style of working - Prashin Jagger... And we want the same aesthetic to be maintained with our album art as well. So we'll be on the lookout for an artist who understands our style of working. Most importantly we've started composing for our forthcoming album and we've a full fledged manager on board who's already started promoting us across the globe. We've also signed to a booking agency, so we should be playing in your city soon. So be scared... Be very very scared.

Sounds like Albatross just started their way to success, even if only time will tell how far they'll make it. But it's good to see that with the internet bands from around the world take a step into the limelight. Combining horror stories and metal isn't new, but still interesting!

Claudia Ehrhardt


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