For some, music is religion that is etched in their souls! Stigmata, a gush of raw, melodic and intense music; ferocious with flavor. Heavy Metal music is their signature which uses apocalyptic themes and images of power and darkness. They create music, to chisel and perform the kind of music that you love, turn you on, makes you feel whole and complete. So Saints, get ready for an exclusive interview with Stigmata: unapologetic, intense, honest, infectious, epic and crushing sensation of music.
Would you like to give us a bit of info about the band and the members?
We are Stigmata. Our inception dates back to mid or late 1999, we have released a couple of sold out EP’s, 3 albums 2003’s ‘Hollow Dreams’, 2006’s ‘Silent Chaos Serpentine’ and 2010’s ‘Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom’. We’ve played over 400 gigs locally and have headlined or performed at numerous festivals overseas mainly the Rock Storm Festival in Maldives, The SAARC Band Festival in New Delhi, India, The Southern Ultimate Explosion in Malaysia and the prestigious Melbourne Arts Festival at the Forum Theater last year. Our songs have been aired in over 15 countries around the globe, our albums have received stellar reviews in the US, Australia, Middle East, India, Japan, UK and Europe and our last album ‘Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom’ was picked as one of the Top 10 Metal Albums in the US on the popular Metal Insider. Stigmata were featured twice on the Discovery Channel including last year’s ‘Invite Mr.Wright’ where the Band traveled around the country on a two week trek with Ian Wright culminating with a unique rare performance for the Discovery crew, some fans and the Bands’ families. We have performed with respected and renowned international artists like Nervecell, Cyanide Serenity, Serenity Dies, Merzhin, Carpathian, Carnivora and a host of others.
Stigmata was started up by Tennyson Napolean, Andrew Obeyesekere and Myself; the founders, songwriters and overall patriots of the Band have remained unchanged. We have endured a series of lineup changes with our bassists and drummers through the years and have been blessed to work with some really talented guys. Right now we are really stoked to be able to play with two really dedicated and passionate guys; Nirodha Jayasinghe and Ravin David Ratnam. We had the wonderful Arjun Kumar of Unholy Sermon helping us out for Maelstrom 2011 earlier this year as well. The music scene is a tough business, and sometimes it’s difficult to be the under dogs in a scene that’s like a fish market. There’s some talent and a whole lot of bullshit in the scene but the standards in the live scene has accentuated through the years. The three of us started the Band off as kids in College just jamming through our A/L years and since then Stigmata has become our life’s blood, our passion and dream that we are carving into reality each and every day. We are nearing 100, 000 likes on Myspace, have nearly 18, 000 likes on the Official Stigmata fanpage having garnered over 85, 000 views just this year. We are psyched to tell you all that we are working on some new killer muzak as well. We’ve written some new tunes and an album should be in the pipeline relatively soon :D
How did the idea evolved for the name of the band?
Well we were called Bleeding Cross at first and that seemed to freak people out quite a bit back then, you see there was no infrastructure for Rock music, Metal and Original Music in Sri Lanka. People went to clubs to hear bands covering songs and they didn’t take well to the idea of hearing some kids from school bringing something absolutely alien to them. But with persistence, a ton of perseverance through the ups and downs we’ve stood our ground, never compromised our artistic integrity or direction for commercial gain, we are an incredible live band to experience and we work harder and harder to keep doing what we love. We were called Cold Embrace for like 3 months and after that we were blown away by a lot of the new (then) underground Metal and Rock coming out from different parts of the world and we embraced Bands like Nevermore, Tool, Death, Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, Arch Enemy, Fates Warning etc., just like we absolutely adored and were hooked on more popular bands like Pantera, Skidrow, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Judas Priest. Arch Enemy’s first full length was called Stigmata and we were so inspired by how raw, melodic and intense their music was; ferocious with flavor we named the Band Stigmata after that. Every other name we had come up with was either already taken or just didn’t seem right. Everyone liked the name; it was fairly controversial at the time driving extremist religious nutters bonkers and society in general lost the plot. Still over eleven years on and here we are still, stronger and more determined than ever.
What was the initiative to form a music group?
Our impetus has ALWAYS been to create music, to chisel and perform the kind of music that we love, turns us on, makes us feel whole and complete. What we do isn’t for everyone, we established that fact years ago. Stigmata is an acquired taste. It’s not for people who are trend obsessed, shallow and narrow minded. It’s for those with a palette for different types and styles of music… not the mainstream crap on radio and TV today. I am talking about the roots and foundations of music; the great architects that built the scene everyone stands on today. Independent Square was a big inspiration to us locally when we started out; they were a very innovative Alternative Hard Rock Band that wrote great songs, their own songs and weren’t intimidated to perform them. There was Rattlesnake and Venom that performed on and off and they were great to watch. But there was no one, and I mean no one playing Metal music in a time where it was considered uncool, anti-religious and just taboo to be in a Rock Band. Right from the start we knew we had a certain magic and creativity that cannot be feigned or simulated. It’s from the soul. Whatever’s left of our souls.
Which type of music do you play the most?
I’d say that our blueprint is Progressive/Thrash/Heavy Metal, that’s always the backdrop but we have no prohibitions you see that’s why we’ve been fortunate enough to blow people away every single time we perform. We kill it every single time. But that doesn’t come even close to summing us up and what we do. We have elements of Power Metal, Death/Technical Death, Doom, Blues, Jazz, Baila, Classical, Tribal/Fusion and Hard Rock.
Are you following or imitating an international band or a style of an international artist?
Obviously not. We are inspired but never influenced by anyone. Stigmata is its own beast: unapologetic, intense, honest, infectious, epic and crushing at the same time.
Do you think that any kind of music band can grab the attention of the audience when performing on stage?
No they can’t. It has to be artists who have a true passion and conviction for what they do. Audiences will respond to how confident, competent and awesome the band or musician is on stage - simple as. If I am up onstage and not having a good time and not giving my 150% then I am just taking people for a ride. It takes personality, experience and a combination of arrogance and humility to kick ass on stage and give the fans a concert to never forget. That’s our attitude every single time. We’ve been doing this for a fairly long time so it comes easy to us. We’ve played so many gigs we have a natural chemistry and vibe that keeps us all on the same page. Some have that magic, many don’t. Naturally you can hone your skills and work on your abilities and skills but the difference between being a great performer and an average one is that aspect of “extraordinary” you need to bring to the table. As musicians, as artists, as songwriters and as performers. Not everyone can be a surgeon or an architect right? It’s gottta be in you, that primordial voice that makes you tick. Or else it’s just a gimmick.
What are the stage tricks you use to rock the crowd?
Stage tricks? There are no tricks or gimmicks, it’s just pure raw, honest, in your face, make your soul bleed out performances every time. We don’t choreograph or pre-plan stuff, we go with the flow. With the raw, unfathomable energy of our music and the energy of the crowd. As it is evident we love what we do. And that’s enough for us to give it our all whenever we perform. Stigmata have never backed out or cancelled a concert since we started. What you must understand is that Rock Fans aren’t like others, they sport a greater sense of loyalty and the music is very, very personal to them. They connect with it on different levels. Some love the music, some love the chaos factor at gigs, some dig the lyrics, many dig the music and the lyrics, some love the energy, some love the fact that they can be themselves and be lost in a world, a special place that doesn’t judge, have pre-conceived notions, any prejudice or expectations whatsoever. Everyone is one and more at a Stigmata gig. Whatever it takes really. Our music gets audiences going nuts and like I said we are a tight and explosive live band so all those things combined and the energy of the audience makes us play like there’s no tomorrow. I mean when we say we’ve bled on stage, we actually have. We’ve broken bones, torn ligaments and injured ourselves more times than we can count. There are no restrictions, our guys are generally all over the place, up in the air, having climbed some elevation on stage, right in the heart of the crowd head banging, performing and going insane. You need to see it to believe it.
What are some of the biggest challenges you've encountered on your journey so far? What's been the most unforgettable (good or bad) moment?
The biggest challenges have been first building the scene brick by brick and bone by bone. It’s taken us and a handful of other Metal/Rock Bands in SL many years to erase the negative notions and connotations affiliated with Metal music. We’ve had to endure tremendous hardship from either influential folk in the biz, people in media or just people who have no understanding what music is and what its purpose in life is. It doesn’t matter really, because more people around the world are hearing about us every day. We get more airplay overseas than we do back here. Yet they insist on utilizing our music and playing samples of our tracks at popular events and functions, and yeah let’s just say that we’ve had to endure hell to get where we are, but we never sucked up to anyone, never became complacent or languid or with our egos so far up our rears that we can’t tell a shark from shampoo. We’ve crushed all our obstacles through the years. And I believe that it won’t get any easier in the future, but that’s the music biz for you.
My most unforgettable moment in terms of things going bad has to be this one gig we played in Kandy 5-6 years ago and we were inexorably wasted, to the point that we gave our shittiest performance to date. That gig still gives Tenny, Andrew and me nightmares. We were so inebriated that we were all over the place (musically), it was just so horribly messed up. Since then the Band have cemented unbreakable standards where we treat every gig like it’s our last, as professionals, in any case the way we’ve evolved we can’t afford to perform intoxicated… the stuff we do today, we might make it look easy but you need a ton of discipline, focus and killer concentration to pull off the stuff we play. But it’s fun and never gets old.
My most memorable moment is… shit on toast… there are quite a few. This one festival abroad the organizers insisted the rest of the band go start and I be brought through a 5000 something crowd in a coffin. Yeah, you read it right. And I went through with it. That was freaky. Because people didn’t know the coffin wasn’t empty and started bashing and thumping the crap out of it. Every single CD launch of ours has been brilliant but if I need to pick it would probably be us playing to a full house at the Forum in Melbourne last year at the Melbourne Arts Festival. We kicked ass there and the response was truly overwhelming. Oh I don’t know… like I said… we’ve had more great times than bad. Maybe we’ll put out a band biography one day. It’ll probably be banned I am guessing. There’s so much shit we’ve done it’s Unreal.
Do you think that you’ve created your own fan base & what are their feedbacks?
Yes we have and we refer to them as our Saints, its how we connect with them. They mean the world to us man, really they do. Our Saints keep the fires stoked and raging for us to keep doing what we do. We are them and they are us in a manner of speaking. You want to see feedback just checkout our Official Stigmata Fanpage and Group. Love ‘em all to death.
What about the albums or songs released so far & what was the debut album or song if you’ve released many?
Hollow Dreams in 2003, Silent Chaos Serpentine in 2006, Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom in 2010, we first released an EP called Morbid Indiscretion somewhere in 2003 which sold out in a few hours. The first song we ever recorded and released is called Fear and very few people know it today. We couldn’t afford instruments back then and so we composed our early stuff on acoustic guitars. It’s a very straightforward and simple tune. But that ended up number 1 on TNL for many, many weeks on a local chart and back in 2000 people expected us to perform that song all the time. We are proud of what we did back then, I mean we hardly knew what we were doing but we never lost track or perspective. So we have quite a few songs to choose from, sometimes we’ll throw in an odd ball cover just for kicks but 99% of our set consists of Stigmata music. And we know our Saints wouldn’t have it any other way.
Any changes to be made as a group & the future plans?
We have a ton of gigs lined up in the next few months. We are in negotiations for a couple of overseas festivals at the moment as well, we’ve composed a new tune ‘On the Wings of the Storm’ which is getting quite popular. And we hope to perform it at all our future gigs as well. Let people get a feel for the new music. It’s very different from what we’ve done before but still familiar. So we’ll keep writing new material till we have an album’s worth of really, really great music and then record album number 4. Changes occur constantly in any industry, especially with the more passionate players in the scene. The key is to accept change for what it is, not conform or give into it, adapt and make something out of what you have at that moment. All I can say is that Stigmata will continue to kick ass in the years to come.
Are you guys satisfied with your journey in this field so far?
Are you satisfied with what you’ve earned so far or do you think you could’ve done much better as a group?
Success is defined in different ways by different people. For some an artistic venture is a commercial endeavor and so the objective is to make money with your art. We can’t relate to that. Art cannot be created or driven to fulfill monetary expectations because to us artistry is an expression of one’s soul, it is the catalyst you choose to convey your deepest, darkest sentiments, those feelings and thoughts you can’t wear on your sleeve on a daily basis. It’s something that’s very deep and sincere and I think that when you start making your music to satisfy the expectations other people have, that’s the point you lose the freaking plot and should just throw in the towel. Some lucky artists have bounced back from ‘compromising’ their musical ideologies to stay relevant. Music is our passion, have no doubt and it’s tough when you’re an adult to balance everything life throws at you and a career playing music in a country that doesn’t treat artists with nearly any respect. But I’ll tell you what, the music industry of today is not what it was 10-15 years ago. There is a foundation now to really propagate awareness for one’s music. There are more opportunities. There are more clubs and venues to perform in and if you don’t embrace the digital age for what it is and you don’t have a steady online presence you will grow obsolete before you can say ‘Mexico’. You can earn substantially if you focus on how you position yourself and market yourself in an industry cluttered with so much of music. A lot of its great, the majority of the mainstream is utter horse dung. But I wouldn’t change a thing so far, every lineup change and experience has contributed something to our lives professionally or personally. You learn every day and you never stop learning. Experience and knowledge is bountiful, you can never be satisfied. We aren’t. We have a long way to go and we are willing to do what it takes to get to the apex of our journey.
Would you like to give some encouragement to those who are willing to enter the industry?
Please take your time, leave the superficial stuff for later and first get your act together, rehearse as much as you can individually on your instrument (whatever it is, even your voice is an instrument) as well as together as a band and unit. There must be a unified spirit and vision to work towards. Don’t be in a hurry, take your time and work on your technique, your theory (better if you can) and develop your own style through lots of jamming and practicing the right kind of stuff with the right attitude. Do what you can, don’t try to fly before you learn to crawl and in time you will hone your chops and be able to tackle tougher or more challenging stuff. And don’t be intimidated to ask for help or advice. If you’re true to yourself and to your art, you will find success on a long, winding and painful road. It ain’t a joy ride folks. Its lots of hard work, sleepless nights and sacrifice.
Finally how would you extend the love to your fans?
By telling them that they are the best thing since Chocolate was invented. Or Whiskey. Perhaps both.
Any advice to the new comers to this field?
Yes, stick to your guns, get on your saddle and don’t be deterred by negativity, hindrances or obstacles you might face. If life’s a journey and not a destination then as new comers you guys need to take your time, really enjoy what you do and not be afraid to create something you can call your own. Be prepared to face hardships, tribulations and tons of pseudo-political drama in an industry where a lot of wolves are fighting over the same bone. Do your own thing and do what makes you happy and never look back. Once you step on a path, don’t turn from it till you make your way to the other side. And you will get there, the reality that no one speaks about is the turmoil and backlash you receive from people from all walks of life. Take it, either you learn from it or you don’t and keep persevering. To quote the mighty and late Chuck Shuldiner ‘Support Music and Not Rumors.’
If you like your music intense and you love feeling more than a little shaken up you can check us and our music out online –
Facebook Fan Page : Click Here
Facebook Group : Click Here
MySpace Profile : Click Here
Reverbnation : Click Here
Libera Nos a Malo \m/
Copyright © 2011 Xtream Youth. All rights reserved.
Written by Suresh De Silva