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Sunday, 29 November 2009

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Interview with ‘Funeral in Heaven’

Sunday Observer caught up with ‘Funeral in Heaven’ to give us the low-down about their music.

Q: Please give us a brief introduction about ‘Funeral in Heaven’ and how the band started.

A: Funeral In Heaven was initiated by me (Chaturange Fonseka) and a couple of close friends who shared an avid interest in morbid and obscure music and material. We’ve been around since early 2003, and we’ve no intention of stopping, whatsoever.

Q: What are your influences and what sort of genre is the band into?

A: We are a set of five individuals of five very dissimilar likes and dislikes, or influences if you may say, from one another. Our influences vary from philosophers, abstract romanticism, bands, nature and life in Sri Lanka. Genre-wise, we believe in being experimental with our music which is based in the roots of traditional Black Metal, so to facilitate people who are curious about what sort of music we perform, we coined a term called ‘Hela Metal’ or ‘Heavy Metal’ as some would.

The genre incorporates everything that is Sri Lankan; this includes traditional art and cultural values, musically, lyrically and theatrically. The attraction towards the other side of it goes without saying. The genre is being adopted by more and more bands now, namely great projects such as ‘Raaksha’, ‘Shokaagni’ and ‘Blood Orchestra’.

Q: What do you think about the current metal scene in Sri Lanka?

A: It is growing, definitely, amidst a few rotten apples, like in any scene of any part of the world. There are some amazing new talent flowing around, some very confused, talented nonetheless and on a journey to find their ‘sound’. Names include, Five Minutes Apart, Falcon Cry, Infernal, Triton, Sinister Asylum.

It’s also filled with ‘rock stars’ who claim to have opened up amazing opportunities for Metal in Sri Lanka, although they don’t know the first thing about the scene in our country.

These people are of course, best if ignored. Another element of proof being the ‘As I Lay Dying/Nervecell’ gig that is going to happen next month. It’s a great opportunity for our bands and the scene because the gates are starting to open up for Sri Lanka. The gig has been confirmed with some of our best talent like ‘Fallen Grace’, ‘Whirlwind’ and ‘Paranoid Earthling’ as supporting acts for the two international bands.

Q: How people can better understand metal music by not just thinking it is just loud music with elements of bad influence in it?

A: Anyone with the simple gift of intelligence would instantly identify a connection between Heavy Metal and Blues music and classical greats like Beethoven and Richard Wagner. So ignorant is the one who blatantly claims it to be ‘noise’. Heavy Metal is acquired taste, and it indeed isn’t for our ‘kalu suddas’ whose lives revolve around clubbing and other false entertainment. I really don’t want to waste my time trying to convince everyone to listen and understand Heavy Metal, so, the lesser the people who listen to Metal, the better. Metal was never meant for commercial purposes and it should stay that way.

Q: What do you think about women/girls getting into the local rock scene and the feminine fan following in Sri Lanka? Are there more getting into it now?

A: It seems like it, doesn’t it? We’ve been noticing an increasing interest and participation by the female sect of Heavy Metal fans at shows. There was even an all girl punk rock band around if I’m not mistaken, wonder what happen to those dames.

Q: Besides Chity, why do you think there is a dearth of Sri Lankan talent aspiring internationally?

A: Chithral, is not the only person who has aspired talent internationally. No offence to the man, of course. But our bands have been doing a great deal and have successfully gained International recognition, no matter what others may say. Events such as Stigmata’s touring in countries such as Malaysia and India, Paranoid Earthling’s tour of India, Plecto’s split releases with Pogrom from the United States, Germany’s Hippiekacke Radio’s 90 min show of Sri Lankan Metal and FIH material being available via labels in countries such as Slovenia, Sweden and France are some examples.

Q: What advice would you give young and upcoming musicians?

A: If you’re a person who actually has an ounce of respect for the music you play, refrain from taking part in so called ‘competitions’ such as TNL Onstage. There are more than enough people in the scene that would lend a helping hand to our fellow brethren to expose their music and talent.

Being lazy and pathetic enough to look for a quick way up the ladder for 15 minutes of fame to impress your girlfriend will do no one any good, this is METAL, not pop or hip-hop or any of that false entertainment, this is music built on your inner emotions and your foundations which stand to define who you are. Work for it, and by all means, put all of your blood, sweat and tears into it, all of it will be worth it one day.

Q: Any acknowledgements?

A: Yes, first of all, you, for all the relentless support extended. Our acquaintances, Shaxul and LOD Records, Zana of NSP Slovenia, Tony of Salute Records, our family at Rock.lk, Hela Hawula, our legions from Kandy, all members of the Launch Pad, friends and supporters of Funeral In Heaven in SL and overseas, you all know who you are. And most of all, our foemen, we thrive on your negativity.

- ND


Pianist and bassist of a rare quality

And so another year will roll around, and there we were discussing and contemplating the Yuletide and New Year’s Eve festivities in Sri Lanka, the likes of which are never experienced in countries outside our little ‘ole isle.’ To Kathy and Peter Menezes the sister and brother team of Sri Lankan musicians, and to many music fans that is something they long for when they are domiciled in another country. Pianist/vocalist Kathy Menezes and her brother bassist Peter were in town recently to pay a visit to their ailing mother and we were fortunate to catch up with them to get a low down of their music careers in Melbourne, Australia.

“The pop world was a change for me. I was doing classical having obtained a Diploma in Music from Trinity College and a Master’s Degree. Over here in Sri Lanka I started off on a professional level with the Jetliners then moved over to the popular group Amazing Grace and rejoined the Jetliners when the band was signed on to perform at the Regent, Hong Kong. Now in Melbourne Peter and I, we are with the Latin band at Rios a Brazilian restaurant. It’s a five piece band with two keyboards, Peter plays bass and I also handle the vocals.

I arrange the music for the band especially the ‘covers’ they perform to give a new slant to the hits. That’s where my classical music knowledge comes into play and I enjoy the arranging of the music it keeps me on my toes,” voices Kathy a creative pianist who unfortunately is lost to us.

Daughter of the famous musician Tom Menezes - trumpeter, pianist, vocalist, drummer, bassist, guitarist, saxophonist - you name it, his versatility was amazing, Kathy has inherited his creativity and his versality but has concentrated more on piano and vocals. Word has filtered over here that besides your regular stint with the band you are involved in a commendable job of teaching music to the youth and specially to the youth who are afflicted with disabilities. Could you comment?

“Yes, that’s correct. I find it very rewarding. Such students are very sensitive and when you hear them rehearsing the music and then suddenly they have conquered the phrasing it gives you a genuine happy feeling”. And they too are ecstatic.

And today’s music?

“Music has changed a lot for the better. I’m no ardent fan of rap which is talk to a beat, I like music that has a melody. Soul is full of life, it will never die. Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles have seen to it, given it eternal life and now Michael Buble he has come around, reached out to the youth with his re-arrangements of melodies which have revitalised music.

There’s a dearth of experienced pianists in our country would you consider coming back to play a gig?

“I’m hoping I could come back to play a gig in Sri Lanka!”

Bassist Peter Menezes when he went off to Melbourne joined Conrad de Silva and his all Sri Lankan band Main Street, then shifted to David Senn’s funk band, and later joined a Mauritius band toured Mauritius before joining Rios. Sri Lankan musicians in Melbourne are doing well for themselves.”

You are involved in production we understand?

“Yes that’s right. I do production for others and I’m also concentrating on my CDs. This new CD is going to be my 4th album and I intend selling my songs to someone who needs a song. I started production as a hobby but now it is a rewarding career.”

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