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2015 saw the release of Ksyatriya's well-featured full-length debut. It seemed like a great time to talk to the brothers Trada about their band, and since Trishay is a reviewer here, tracking him down wasn't too hard...

Interview with Ksyatriya.

(1) First of all, thank you for agreeing to the interview. I know you're not in the habit of seeking out gloss and publicity. I hope we can avoid too much of a 'showbiz' presentation here! Could we start, though, with the traditional introduction to our readers - who you are, and where you're from?

Trishay: Thank you for taking the time to spare our little group this feature on the site, we truly appreciate it. Certainly, we are Ksyatriya - an instrumental doom-metal group comprised of 2 brothers originating from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and we’ve been active since 2013.

(2) The band now operates "across Malaysia & Australia", but was originally founded in Kuala Lumpur, is that correct? Malaysia isn't exactly a commonly-referenced place in Doom circles: what's the music scene like there now, and how was it when you were growing up?

Trishay: The description “recording across Malaysia & Australia” is actually something I took off of a band called Mamaleek (really awesome and unique band by the way) - it was really encouraging to come across another band with the same weird setup that we have! They’re also comprised of 2 brothers, but operating across San Francisco & Beirut. As for Malaysia, I may not be the best source given that I left the country many years ago (2004 to be specific), but I do believe that Doom is still barely existent over there at this point and has a long way to catch up with the rest of the world. I remember Black metal, thrash metal and punk having a huge underground following when I was still living there. However, given the more conservative nature of government, authoritative control and religious propaganda present in the country, the underground scene has always had to remain further below the radar than usual, sometimes having to resort to organizing secretly-held events. I remember seeing many years ago in the local KL papers that the police authorities raided an underground black metal event and arrested hundreds of individuals, supposedly because the music and lifestyle was ‘evil’ and ‘immoral’, disrespecting the so-called religious and social ‘values’ of the country. Exaggerated censorship has always been a huge problem in Malaysia, and this is one of the reasons why the underground metal scene, let alone Doom, has such a slow rate of growth over there. However, there appears to be a strong underground scene in Kuala Lumpur at present from what I‘ve heard recently from close friends that play in bands over there. With more and more bands coming alive over time, I truly hope this continues to grow exponentially.

(3) And what were your musical backgrounds - any formal training? What made you decide to form the band in the first place?

Trishay: I attended drum classes for a number of years when I was around 14, so that really helped in setting a good foundation and comfort for the instrument, plus I was lucky to have a really good teacher as a guide. However, most of my learning with music and instrumentation has come from playing with others, be it friends, bands or personal collaborations. Every time I’ve played with a new person, I always learn something new about myself and realize there is so much more to learn - simultaneously being reminded that what I think I already know is actually not very much at all. As for the band’s origins, I would say that it was born out of negativity rather than a conscious, positive effort. I was going through a transition at the time and experiencing much frustration and inexpressible distress with various aspects of life back then. Prior to Ksyatriya, I’d been involved with a number of bands both in KL and Melbourne primarily on drumming duties, and there came a point where I had this uncontrollable urge to explore a new path. And it was at this exact same point - ironically so - where I happened to catch this amazing 2-piece doom/sludge outfit live and was exposed to Doom for the first time. It completely blew my mind beyond any verbal description and altered my perception towards music (and life) indefinitely, and there’s been no turning back since. It’s just interesting that all these separate events happened to occur at the same time. The band started more along the lines of an informal solo project where I began to learn and play guitar - an instrument I found to be very awkward and complicated coming from a solely rhythmic background, and I still feel it to this day. I attempted to start writing and playing my own material, but most of it was just really crude rudimentary stuff with no direction whatsoever. I think I was just trying to find an outlet to vent my inner turmoil in line with the creative desires that I was desperately seeking at the time. It was only when Rahul joined the band a few months later that things really started to take a more serious and concentrated form.

Rahul: The first instrument I learned was actually the piano. But as I was entering secondary school, I began listening to more rock and metal, and quickly switched to electric guitar. I took some basic lessons for a year or two, just to get comfortable with playing the instrument and to try to set a good foundation like Trishay said, but most of my learning was me trying to play covers of songs I really liked. I did not have much experience playing music with others or even writing songs, so when Trishay approached me with the idea of this band, I was excited but also nervous, given my lack of experience. However, I eventually saw it as an opportunity to grow as a musician. And to be able to create this with my brother makes it even more special.

Ksyatriya: brothers Rahul and Trishay Trada.

(4) In a purely musical sense, what were your influences? Are there any other bands or artists you would say were inspirations to you?

Trishay: I don’t even know where to start with the countless bands that have inspired us throughout the years! Focusing within the metal arena, I’ve always harboured a deep love for the underground rather than the big names, with exceptions of course. I’m a huge fan of music that is raw, untainted and most importantly - honest in expression. Some key anchors of inspiration would be Thou, Neurosis, Grief, Yob, Mournful Congregation, Monarch, Asunder, Evoken, Melvins, Warning, Suffocation, Wolves in the Throne Room... there’s just too many to list. Additionally, Thou and Neurosis’ unwavering commitment to DIY ethics and culture has served as a vital inspiration for our band’s approach towards the music thus far. Metal aside, I’m also a really big fan of folk music, jazz, ambient and other obscure experimental styles. It’s funny that a lot of the time, I find myself receiving creative inspiration for new ideas more from these types of styles rather than the traditional doom/metal arena - which then becomes an interesting experiment in attempting to integrate such elements into a doom context.

Rahul: I enjoy listening to all types of metal, and what I listen to tends to evolve over time. The interesting thing is that sometimes it circles back on itself, and I’ll discover a new aspect about a band I used to like a few years ago, and kind of listen to them with new ears. But I enjoy anything from High on Fire to Opeth to Meshuggah to Russian Circles. Focusing on doom however, I would say Yob and Ahab have been the biggest inspirations to me. Musically I think they’re some of the most original bands I’ve ever heard.

(5) As much as music, though, the band's foundation appears a philosophical one, with elements common across various primarily Eastern religions. Could you perhaps outline the key beliefs and tenets which feed into Ksyatriya?

Trishay: Your mention of the band’s theme resting in Eastern philosophy is very interesting and something I wasn’t consciously aware of as we never intentionally aimed to project this. With key beliefs, this is a difficult question because I feel a lot of the foundational elements that the band started with have slowly evolved and continually changes as time goes by. I would best describe the band’s fundamental core to consist of a combination between 1. addressing humanitarian issues (the outer) and 2. the exploration of truth, freedom, and love through the ‘self’ (the inner). I guess it’s a happy coincidence that the latter areas happen to form the root teachings of most Eastern philosophies. I like to think that the band serves as a sonic vessel and medium of self-inquiry for both Rahul and myself, and thus making it more of a ‘continuous movement’ in line with our thoughts and reflections at the time rather than being built on absolute or fixed principles. In addition, this also allows for more flexibility with the type of content that we would like to address on a particular track or album theme at a given time that affects us deeply on an emotional and spiritual level.

(6) And do any of these have a theistic basis for you, or are they more of a nontheistic - Buddhist-like - system? Is there an external power to answer to, or a purely internal progression to be attained?

Trishay: I’m not sure to be honest. However, I would lean more towards the journey and experience being an internal one. All the answers and solutions to every external problem lie there, and it is this ‘place’ where we truly hope that the music leads the listener to travel their own path and explore their own respective inner turmoils, struggles and questions they seek answers to.

Ksyatriya – 'A Gemini & Her Great Divide':

(7) "Ksyatriya" itself is a somewhat unusual spelling: Google always returns "Did you mean: kshatriya?". In various forms, I've seen it defined in the original Sanskrit meaning 'dominion', in Hindu as the second-highest - warrior - caste, and as a reference to family name in Jainism. Is the name taken from one of those sources, or from elsewhere?

Trishay: The choice of ‘Ksyatriya’ as a band name was more of an ad hoc occurrence as opposed to one attained via deliberate contemplation. I remember browsing through various articles at the time seeking inspiration for a fitting name, and I came across ‘Kshatriya’ in a Sanskrit glossary document and it really resonated. It’s interesting that you’ve said it originally refers to ‘dominion’, I was never aware of this and always thought it only referred to the ‘warrior’ caste system that used to be practiced in India. With the band though, we definitely do not associate ourselves with the caste system reference in any way, in fact we adamantly oppose this (or any form of authoritative structure and regimented system of control). However, I really liked the representation of the ‘warrior’. With the band name, I would say it rather symbolizes the ‘inner warrior’ and the battle within each and every one of us that yearns for truth, light, peace, liberation, God, the divine or whatever else one may wish to call it. The spelling was also changed to incorporate the ‘Y’ because I found, also through Google, that there was another progressive metal band from Italy with the same name but in the original spelling! A good thing actually because I personally preferred the ‘Y’ more than the ‘sh’ so it worked out well (laughs).

(8) You've recently released your full-length debut, 'The Arduous Search For Freedom', following on from last year's split double-EP with Mind (((O))) Reader, 'Truth'. Was the EP your first work, or were there preceding recordings?

Trishay: Yes, ‘Truth’ marked our first official works. There were some preceding recording drafts, but as mentioned earlier, they were crude, unstructured pieces not even worth mentioning. However, certain parts of this preceding material was re-worked and expanded upon which ended up appearing on ‘Truth’, for example ‘A Gemini & Her Great Divide’ and later on ‘Hazchem’ which appeared on ‘The Arduous Search for Freedom’.

(9) Unlike a lot of splits, 'Truth' had no obvious commercial driver - such as a label introduction - but seemed an entirely voluntary and cooperative venture. Was that the case, and how did you and Mind (((O))) Reader agree on your complementary formats and content?

Trishay: Yes it most certainly was! ‘Truth’ is the outcome of 2 very close friends (and 2 brothers) coming together to create something that we’ve always shared an equal passion, concern and mutual love for. Really, the credit for ‘Truth’ goes primarily to eXile (his preferred moniker for anonymity). eXile and myself share a deep bond in friendship and brotherhood that goes back many years and we’ve been through alot together. We used to communicate regularly via email whilst I was living in Australia and it was one day out of the blue where he just posed the question ‘Brother, shall we do an EP together?’, and that’s where the journey of both bands began. We also personally owe so much to eXile for Ksyatriya’s continuing existence - sometimes I ponder had he not suggested the idea, I might have just remained playing around aimlessly in my room and not made the required initiative to create an album, let alone release one. It was this that then prompted the formation of a serious band and my asking Rahul if he would be keen to participate, which to my delight he was. The working process for ‘Truth’ took almost 2 years to completion, especially made more challenging given that all 3 of us were in different countries! But for all the barriers of distance and direct communication, it was a very successful work process with minimal issues. Both bands shared a holistic vision for the album and neither held any expectation nor demands from the other. The initial theme for the album was proposed by eXile; to prepare a sonic template of reflection to allow the listener’s own investigation of truth, without any coercion from our end. These served as the basic building blocks for the album and we built upon the subtler details bit by bit throughout the course of the production process.

The full 'Truth' package.

(10) You went on to self-release it in CD format, in a quite unique package, notable for its environmentally-friendly qualities. Was that a lot of work to accomplish? Were you pleased with the results?

Trishay: Unfortunately, it was more work than one would have hoped! (laughs) However, we’re truly happy we did it this way and despite the added hassles, we were very happy with the final results. Neither band can take credit for this really because the main idea came from my wife Crystal and it was she who handled most of the work from sourcing the required materials all the way to editing the artwork and added imagery for the discs, cardboard cover printing, etc. I think the members of both bands truly agree she did a fantastic job and we’re very appreciative of her efforts. I’m not sure though if she would be willing to undergo the same process again for a future release, we’ll need to find a way to convince her (laughs).

(11) Moving on to 'The Arduous Search For Freedom' - was it a very different experience, or any easier, to be dealing with just your own work?

Trishay: It was definitely easier, but purely because of circumstances. From an engineering point of view, it’s definitely more challenging to record and mix 2 different bands at the same time, which was the case with ‘Truth’, as well as having to be aware and respectful towards the different ‘feel’ and styles of both bands. With ‘Arduous’ though, Rahul and I already had a fairly concrete idea of the type of sound we were going for on the album, and it was more about going through the motions of capturing the desired feel on the recordings and laying them down right. A fair amount of the material on ‘Arduous’ are actually former ideas I had saved to be re-employed in the future, and therefore we didn’t have to put as much effort as usually required to write brand new songs from scratch. It’s almost like we had a headstart with ‘Arduous’ as opposed to ‘Truth’, which was literally built from scratch. We mainly worked on expanding the existing material and developing new layers/structures where we felt appropriate (except for the Human Ego tracks which were new). Overall, it was a smooth-flowing and enjoyable work process.

(12) I've recently reviewed the album - is there anything you'd like to add, comment on or put straight about the piece? Obviously it's an (I hope, informed!) opinion - does it get close to capturing what you'd hope people might see in Ksyatriya?

Trishay: We could not be more appreciative of such an eloquently written review of our recent work, and I believe it’s captured more than what Rahul and I hoped for people to experience. Considering the subjective and abstract nature of the content trying to be expressed, it can sometimes be challenging to get our desired message across clearly at the risk of misinterpretation. On the other hand, we’re very careful to not impose any sort of fixed thought process/pattern onto the listener and instead, hope for them to form their own unique relationship and communication with the music. And I think your review has not only covered this area so well, but furthermore, brought to light elements that even Rahul and I were not consciously aware of ourselves. The review definitely fortifies the inner intentions and desires of the band explicitly for both us as band members and the reader/potential listener. Ultimately however, we’re just appreciative of anyone who is willing to listen to our work, even if just to engage with the music itself.

Rahul: We definitely appreciate that you saw the album as a meditative canvas, and as an invitation into introspection, because that was essentially the process and experience for us as well in writing it.

(13) What other feedback have you had from either release? Do people, generally, seem to 'get' and approve of what you're doing?

Trishay: We’ve received some encouraging feedback and support from other sites, blogs etc., in particular: Ride with the Devil (now known as the Burning Beard) and their reviewer Gabriel who has been extremely supportive of our work since ‘Truth’ and has done so much to expose the band to others. It’s sites like theirs and this one namely that have really connected us to an engaging audience, even if just a small one in terms of numbers. It’s hard to say if people do ‘get’ what we’re attempting to create and share with them, but I guess it really doesn’t matter at the end of the day. We have received some kind words from individuals sharing their appreciation of the music and this in itself is very touching and drives us to keep working the way we have so far, even if just to serve the few.

(14) Is there an overarching thread to Ksyatriya: some sort of planned journey that you're working to, or is it more of an expression of what seems right to you at the time? And have you anything prepared, or intended, for future works as yet?

Trishay: I would say there’s a little bit of both. In a way, Ksyatriya is at present simultaneously treading two interwoven paths. The first would be our journey with Mind (((O))) Reader, and both bands have already committed to a rough outline of albums/EP’s that will be worked on together to form a split series following on from the thematic content that was present in ‘Truth’. The hope is to create a seamless sequence of interconnected albums represented by both bands, but travelling as one. The second path would be Ksyatriya’s stand-alone works (such as ‘Arduous’) or one-off splits with other bands that is based more on the ‘expression-of-what-seems-right-at-the time’ approach as you have accurately stated. We’re currently in the process of recording our next release which will be a split with Animi Vultus (a really unique band whose sole operator Serj Saliatahn is also a dear friend); centred around the theme of ‘Discrimination’, of which both bands shall be contributing 2 tracks each. We hope for this to be ready for release in the next few months, after which we shall then commence works on the next EP, or rather, the second stage of the Mind (((O))) Reader = Ksyatriya split series. Most of the details surrounding the album concept have been hashed out over the last few months, and I believe the tracks to be contributed from both bands are generally ready. However, there will still be a fair bit of work involved for the production/recordings of both bands tracks, artwork etc. - so it will be some time before this one is complete.

(15) What do you think of live music? Logistically, I suppose, it would be very tough to organise, but do you have any ambition to perform live, or go on tour - either as Ksyatriya, or perhaps with other bands?

Rahul: Would love to play live, not just in front of an audience but just together. I think it would bring a whole new dimension to the band for me, in terms of the experience of playing, and probably in terms of the new material that would result.

Trishay: This is the one unfortunate barrier of being separated by distance, because there’s nothing more that we would love than to play live. And as Rahul has accurately stated, more so to play and write live together let alone to perform. This does not appear to be a feasible option at the moment, but there is very much a mutual ambition and commitment that Rahul and I share to gradually move Ksyatriya into the live arena. Of course this will have its own challenges at the time (i.e. finding the right session performer, re-enacting the recorded material to fit a live context etc.), but it’s definitely a key point we’re aiming for, hopefully one that’s not too far down the line.

Ksyatriya – 'Swimming in a Sea of Samsara':

(16) And as a corollary - what about recorded music? You've gone out of your way to produce physical copies of your releases: how do you see the significance of 'real' versus 'internet' music distribution?

Trishay: I think this has been an area of much debate not so dissimilar to the whole ‘Analog’ Vs. ‘Digital’ recording medium and which one is better etc. However, I personally find that both sides have their own strengths and weaknesses respectively, and that the best way is to utilize the key qualities of both to achieve a really solid hybrid. I am an avid supporter of physical mediums such as CD’s, cassettes and Vinyl, primarily because they represent value of the work (artistic as opposed to financial).There’s a big difference between the ritual of opening up the packaging of a new album, exploring the liner notes, inserts, artwork etc. and listening to the complete CD as an ‘experience’; as opposed to instant downloads and rapid, superficial scrolling across hundreds of tracks – most of which are usually discarded without even being given a second glance. Although the demand for physical releases may be slowly diminishing, I do hope they’re kept alive because they still provide that much-needed mutual connection and appreciation between artist and listener. That basically comprises my rant about ‘internet’ distribution but apart from that, I think the internet has also revolutionized the music industry, both for artists and their audience in a wonderful way. Most importantly, it has bridged the gap by collapsing the bureaucratic abuse of power that major record labels have greedily exploited for many years, robbing many artists of their livelihood, creativity and self-worth in the process. Fans today do not have to accept what major labels actively try to shove down their throats (or ears rather), but instead can choose to support their favourite artists directly through their respective websites, Bandcamp etc. Services like Bandcamp for example have almost pioneered this revolution by bringing a whole new approach to music distribution and engagement - one that has empowered both artists and fans alike with a huge sense of freedom to operate as they wish. I think the challenge in our modern era is to find a balance between the two. Harnessing the positive qualities of both can potentially bring about a flourishing music industry that connects listeners and artists in a much more meaningful way that would serve both popular and niche/cult markets.

(17) I always ask this obvious question at some point: what do you consider to be the essential qualities of Doom, as a genre? How do you approach them in your own music?

Rahul: I think most people would describe doom as having some quality of despondency, expressed through the heavy, slow tempo. I think it’s true that almost all the doom I listen to deals with having to undergo some sort of suffering on some level of experience, if we can be overly general about it. But what’s good about it is the inquiry that it inevitably leads to, which is the approach I try to take.

(18) You've sampled, quoted and referred to philosophers and teachers such as Alan Watts, Jiddu Krishnamurti and Swami Sivananda. Are these most representative of how you perceive the world, and are there others who have contributed heavily to defining or explaining that perception?

Rahul: Personally, how I perceive the world and even myself is something that is very fluid and can change quite rapidly. I think we look to these individuals to shed some light on our experience, and to ever widen our perspectives, with the aim of understanding the true nature of things as best we can.

Trishay: I second Rahul’s viewpoint on this one. There was a time where most of my thoughts and beliefs were heavily based around the teachings of the aforementioned philosophers, not realizing that the assertion of those beliefs (or any for that matter) were the prime limiting factor to any sense of personal freedom. However, the said individuals and many others outside the realms of hard philosophy (i.e. writers, activists etc.) definitely do influence our worldview and creative basis for a lot of Ksyatriya material. However, they are only guides and their words pointers to possible truths that we must explore on our own.

(19) Has the international, and presumably quite different character, of the places you've lived and visited also helped in broadening your worldview? Do you think it gives you a greater understanding of human character in general?

Rahul: I think being exposed to different cultures and experiences, and traveling in general would broaden the mind and inform your evolving perspective of the world. There is an appreciation for how different we are in some ways, but how the underlying motivation and impulses are perhaps not so different. And I think that does well to build empathy.

Trishay: Most definitely - and following Rahul’s observations, exposure to different cultures, people and places most definitely instills the need for acceptance and respect for one another, especially in a world that seems to be forgetting the importance of such practices with all the disgraceful brutality and conflict occurring on a daily basis. I’ve always found it interesting that (most) backpacker travellers for example are much less judgemental, open-minded, friendly and respectful of everyone; they do not view the world fragmented as most of us do. I would guess that the more one gets the opportunity to leave the narrow confines of his/her place of comfortable security, the more that one realizes the magnitude of how much there is to see and experience out there on this earth (let alone the universe). With this comes a genuine humility and recognition of the false sense of superiority and significance that we have assigned ourselves as a collective culture.

(20) On a rather more parochial subject, Trishay - can I ask how you've enjoyed being a part of this site? What are the good - and/or bad! - points?

Trishay: It’s been a really interesting and eye-opening experience thus far, truly. I only wish this was my official job that I could make my daily living on! I mean, I get complementary doom albums/CD’s sent to me, introduced to fresh sounds and new potential sources of inspiration for our own music, and get to talk about Doom as much as I’d like - what more could a doom-head ask for? (Laughs). On the more serious side, writing has never been one of my utmost strengths and it’s always been a challenge for me to express myself or my emotions verbally (both written and spoken word). But I’d like to think I’ve found myself slowly improving in this department ever since I was offered the opportunity to write for the site. It’s also a privilege to write for a site that reveres creative integrity over popularity ratings, etc. (one of the very few remaining in my limited but honest opinion). So overall, no bad points whatsoever! (Laughs)

(21) And outside of music, what else keeps you busy - interests, hobbies or work? Do you have any free time to worry about filling?!

Trishay: Life has taken a very hectic turn in the last year with the launch of a social enterprise venture that my wife and I have pursued together, being an ethically-based café & fair-trade retail shop that started operating about three months ago. In combination with my full-time job, Ksyatriya and other ongoing commitments, I do find myself sometimes wishing I had more free time (most especially to work on music). Rahul also leads a hectic work-life in Malaysia in a full-time job that is very demanding on his available time. Hopefully the hectic schedule subsides for us in the coming months so that we can concentrate on that which matters most - the DOOM!

(22) To close, I hope we've given you the chance to present a good picture of yourself, the band and its history, but if there is anything you'd like to add, the last words are yours.

Trishay: We thank you and the site deeply for your genuine interest in our little group’s work. We’re also thankful to those that have taken the time to listen to our musical offerings and collaborations with Mind (((O))) Reader (on whose behalf I can confidently state are extremely appreciative as well), your support is invaluable. Stay free throughout all moments, and let’s find a way, together, to minimize conflict and live in harmonious peace.

(23) Then it only remains to thank you once again for your time, and to wish you both all the very best now and in the future!

Rahul & Trishay:Thank you!

Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.

Visit the Ksyatriya bandpage.

Interviewed on 2016-01-08 by Mike Liassides.
Vanha - Black Lion
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