Kryptos – Wield the Iron Fist

Tuesday, 25th October 2016

One of the pluses with the internet explosion has been the proliferation of musicians now coming from unlikely locales around the globe. Those attune to the work of Sam Dunn/ Banger Productions may remember his Global Metal documentary from 2007, which took a serious look at the development of the metal genre in countries like Brazil, China, and India among others – with guitarist/vocalist Nolan Lewis of Bangalore, India’s Kryptos gaining some air time in the film. Understandable given the fact that the heavy meets thrash outfit has a history that goes back to 1998 – when bulletin/message boards and AOL chat rooms ruled the dial-up modem community.

Moving up the ranks enough to gain prime time support slot status in 2009 opening for Iron Maiden in their home country, AFM Records signed the band in 2012 and since then Kryptos have been able to perform more on a global scale – performing on tours and festivals many times across mainland Europe with the hopes of eventually reaching North America. Based on their fourth studio album Burn Up the Night, these musicians wish to keep the NWOBHM meets American/Teutonic thrash style alive and kicking, earning accolades not only from the press but also from many long-time metal musicians themselves.

A Skype chat with bassist Ganesh Krishnaswamy reveals that the fire burns bright for Kryptos, as he enlightens us on the changes to the India metal scene since Global Metal, playing Wacken in 2013, the challenges of maintaining a music career while trying to pay the bills at day jobs, and some discussion over missing a little mystery in this instantaneous social media world when it comes to our favorite bands.

Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your earliest memories surrounding music growing up – and how did you eventually get into heavy metal and start picking up an instrument to play/perform in bands?

Ganesh Krishnaswamy: My dad was a big fan of bands like Credence Clearwater Revival and Nazareth, some of the classic bands from the 1960’s and 1970’s. So I would hear these bands playing on his stereo around the household. Eventually it wasn’t like I made an effort to get into it, it was just there so I was listening to this stuff. The real change actually happened when I saw AC/DC nominated for a Grammy for Blow Up Your Video- that was a turning point. Before it was whatever my dad was playing around the house, but when I saw AC/DC do that it was the drive with the guitar, that image stuck with me for the longest time and it still does now that we are talking about it. That’s what turned me onto hard rock and heavy metal- and ever since then I’ve never really gone back.

I did pick up the guitar for a very short period of time. One of the earlier incarnations of Kryptos- it was called something else- I met Nolan and we used to have a bass player/singer then, but we decided to chuck him out because he wasn’t very good. We weren’t good either- but we were slightly better than he was I guess. We decided to move on without him and that’s when I stepped up to ditch the rhythm guitar and go to the bass.

Dead Rhetoric: Kryptos formed in the late 1990’s – what can you tell us about the early days of the band, did you know right away that you wanted to play in a style that blends together NWOBHM/old school influences with elements of thrash and death metal?

Krishnaswamy: We never really had a direction as such when we formed. We just knew we liked bands such as early Metallica, the Bay Area stuff like Testament and Death Angel, those bands- but we were also into a lot of the NWOBHM bands as well. It just came along, and I’m glad it did- because at the same time we were getting into bands like Sodom and Kreator from Germany. So it was the whole combination of the NWOBHM, the Bay Area thrash, and the Teutonic metal thing- it always stuck with us. The more songs that we wrote the more we found ourselves going back to any of those three leanings. Our love for NWOBHM really stood out, from a personal point of view. It evolved over time I would say.

Dead Rhetoric: Has it been a challenge to afford the right musical equipment in India to sound as professional as possible, and how do your families feel about your music endeavors?

Krishnaswamy: It definitely was a challenge. To be honest we didn’t really get a Fender guitar or a Gibson guitar, or a Precision bass- they were knock off brands that were available in India. If it wasn’t for our families, I can safely speak for the rest of the band members, I don’t think we would be where we are today without their support. My mom and dad bought me my first bass, they supported me in the early years and put me in guitar lessons, they loaned me money in college when I needed to buy another bass as Kryptos was starting to become more of a serious thing. They were very, very supportive and continue to be even today.

Dead Rhetoric: You stepped away from the band after your debut album Spiral Ascent before rejoining a few years ago. Why did you step away and what caused you to rejoin- did you remain good friends with the band in the interim?

Krishnaswamy: I stepped away because it’s a very grey area- I needed to step away for a bit and it’s helped the band a bit give us direction even more, in a much more cohesive way. When I was in the band it was just the three of us, we were just chucking around. It wasn’t like we had a fight, I left on good terms- but if it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t have had Rohit (Chaturvdei) on second guitar, his capabilities are easily heard in the solos and the songwriting. Nolan and I kept in touch, we would grab a few beers every now and then when we had the time, it wasn’t like we disliked each other. Coming back was like a homecoming- you step away from the nest for a bit and then coming back is always great.

Dead Rhetoric: Burn Up the Night is the fourth Kryptos album, keeping up with your average four- year cycle between records. How do you believe the songwriting and recording sessions went for this effort, any special challenges, surprises, or obstacles come up that you had to power through?

Krishnaswamy: In terms of the songwriting itself, it was a very organic process. We did our first set of demos at home, Nolan and Rohit wrote the basic structure of the songs, and then went back to the drawing board from there and sort of fiddled around with the arrangements a little bit- making things faster, slowing them down, things like that. Also in terms of the lengths of the verses and how the choruses should be- all of this was done in the demo days. It wasn’t a very difficult process- when we had the final product ready to record that’s when a couple of challenges came up. We tried multiple amplifiers and everything sounded quite shitty, so we opted for a 10 watt Marshall amp and that’s the one you hear on the album- it’s a very small demo model that thunders through the 40 minutes that is Burn Up the Night. Apart from that there weren’t many challenges- our lives are filled with challenges in terms of finding the time to go for recording sessions because of work. Regardless when it came to the process it went rather smooth.

Dead Rhetoric: How did it feel to elevate the band to a bigger promotional status with signing to AFM Records in 2012? And how do you feel about the efforts of your label now that you’ve been with them for two records?

Krishnaswamy: They have been great. They’ve been very supportive, they give us the time and let us do our writing. I can’t really say enough about them, they’ve been very good to us. The people working there, Lucas and Anna and Nils, just an amazing team that is working behind Kryptos. When you get on a label with bands like Annihilator and U.D.O. and all these guys, it helps us give a kick up our asses because we want to make sure the material we are putting out is worthy of being put out alongside bands like this. It’s amazing, it makes us want to do better and like I said, the support has been great. We want to have good product out there, so it’s been a great journey so far.

Dead Rhetoric: How did Nolan get involved in the filming of Sam Dunn’s Global Metal documentary, and would you say things have improved greatly as far as the India metal scene since that time?

Krishnaswamy: First, I think Banger Productions got in touch with someone in India, referred names to them and got in touch with Nolan through that. The second part of your question, it’s interesting because when we were growing up there really weren’t any gigs. The only way we could play live anywhere is by taking part in college competitions and battle of the bands. That’s the only way we could get on stage. In Bangalore there used to be this monthly gig called the Sunday Jam, you had every first Sunday of every month. It was a free gig but a multi-genre gig, you would have folk bands, death metal bands, thrash bands and so on. That’s pretty much how the scene was when started in the late 90’s.

Since then it’s grown quite a bit. It’s still not up to what it is in mainland Europe, but I think in the next 10 to 12 years it will get closer to hosting festivals like a Keep It True or a Rock Hard status. It’s growing, but we still have a long, long way to go.

Dead Rhetoric: Would you say that the passion for the fans in your country is just as high for local shows as when the international bands play there?

Krishnaswamy: There definitely is. There is a huge underground scene and that is why bands like us can actually survive over here. Having said that, it’s not big enough. We are a country of 1.2 billion people and I would say there are maybe 50,000- 100,000 fans of this kind of music, and not everybody comes out for the shows. The average attendance for small gigs in Bangalore is about 300-400, but nothing bigger than that. The underground is what keeps us going, we keep playing at these underground gigs and every now and then we play a festival in India. We still have colleges that will invite bands to play at their annual events. This is how the scene is over here. In terms of having stand-alone bars here in India as you do in the United States like St. Vitus in New York City, we don’t really have those kind of venues as of yet.

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