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We perform every gig like it’s the last day on earth: Suresh de Silva, Stigmata

The architects of Pure Sri Lankan Metal – Stigmata – are all set to add some sonic madness to another Sunday evening (September 2) with a two hour set comprising the band’s classics spanning all their four albums.

“We have such a large collection of material now, and fan adored favourites from all our albums that we pick and choose songs that we rarely perform,” noted Suresh de Silva, in an informal chat with us.

What can fans expect on September 2? We had an interesting (as always) chat with lead vocalist Suresh de Silva.

 

Last year’s performance at Asus Lankan Comic Con 2017 was a huge success. Can you tell us about it?

The show was a huge success, mainly due to the band kicking back after a major lineup change in 2016 which saw three members leaving us. We have a body of work spanning almost two decades now; four albums, a smatter of EPs and single releases etc., and what we do is fairly intricate. There are a lot of factors that weigh in; tightness, chemistry, cohesiveness, communication and mutual contributions on and off the stage, feel, teamwork and these things take time to work on and develop. As I say, it’s about being a fist with five closed fingers rather than with one finger bent.

Having said that, 2018 has been a resurgence and renaissance if you will; we’ve played consistently and performed at some varied and fabulous shows from the 139th Battle of the Blues (Royal-Thomian Encounter) to our special 18 year anniversary concert to performances at local festivals like Mosh Scream Rock and Rock Saturday and our own gig at the Floor by O, to name a few. It’s been a great year and we’ve been getting some of the best feedback in our career, so we know we are killing it at every show at the moment.

What plans and twists do you have in store for the audience on 2 September?

This year, we have been cognisant to keep expanding, shifting and rotating our repertoire. We have such a large collection of material now, and fan adored favourites from all our albums that we pick and choose songs that we rarely perform. We have new muzak we will perform on 2 September, a couple of jaw-dropping tribute tunes dedicated to some of our legends and of course the live staples from our discography that if we don’t play people will set the premises on fire and raze it to the ground (I jape! Or do I?).

Stigmata live @ Floor by O will also feature Salvage as a special guest act, a great and fun band that we haven’t performed with in some time. But these club type gigs are different from the larger festival sized shows because it’s more in your face and intimate. You get to be in such close proximity with the audience that it’s a different kind of energy… a different kind of beast. We’ll be playing a two-hour set as well. So that means we will be planning quite a set list to blow many a mind (and not just minds!).

Do the headaches experienced on the following day come from the headbanging or from the alcohol?

Hey love, we are pros, harida? We don’t get headaches or hangovers. When you learn to do things in moderation and find a sense of equilibrium, then you don’t necessarily push a threshold that you feel will impact you negatively. I mean naturally, we are a Heavy Metal band with the spirit of Rock ‘n Roll embedded deep in our souls… so some things naturally come with the territory. A performance though is something we take very seriously and so we ascertain we don’t go bananas needlessly. As the front man, I obviously have my moments with my erm eh unbridled charm and sarcastic sense of dark humour. It all adds to the colour of the occasion. Headbanging and moshing is the equivalent to dancing I suppose, so that’s second nature to any Metal or Rock fan. The only headaches at a concert are the ones that result from organising and managing these things as there’s so much of stuff to look into, even for a small scaled show, which we never take for granted. And we are blessed to have a pretty solid team who has our back.

What about The Floor By O made it the perfect venue for this event?

We actually owe many thanks to Kusal and Shamal of Pubs ‘N Places for their support and for advocating real original live music. The Floor is a good classy venue in that the staff is fantastic and it’s a nice cozy place for a bit of calculated and concentrated carnage on a Sunday eve. For an intimate, in your face concert, the Floor works for us.

To what does the band owe its success?

We are easily one of the most hardworking, passionate and perseverant bands in the region. 18 years is a testament to that. We are diverse and unafraid to explore the unknown. No two songs sound alike. None of our records sound the same. Every album is a body of work that stands on its own, with their own story arcs, production and musical evolution. We also incorporate a Sri Lankan flavour and element to our sound, which no other Metal band does internationally, so that has gained us a lot of attention and awareness as well. We perform every gig like it’s the last day on earth, whether we play to 40, 000 peeps at a cricket stadium or 4000 in an amphitheater or 400 in a club/pub. No compromise. We give it our heart and soul.

For those who don’t know, how did the name of your band come to being and how does it represent the members of the band and the music?

We were a young startup of rebellious school boys around late ’98 -’99 when we started jamming and goofing around. By 2000, we started performing school level shows and then moved onto clubs and pubs and built a scene from the grass level up. Most of the names we sought were used by international artistes. We were called Bleeding Cross in the late ‘90s and we changed it to Stigmata after two significant things; one was the brilliant ’98 album named the same by Swedish Metal stalwarts Arch-Enemy and the other was the Horror film that came out at the time. The name resounded and encapsulated what we yearned to be at that time. To break away from the mundane, play-it-safe, predictable and facsimile conventions of the local music industry. It was powerful, controversial and resonant. And it stays with people the way a scar remains after a particularly nasty injury.

What message does your music carry and how does it appeal to its listeners?

Our messages and themes cover a range of topics; from analysing and examining the human condition and psyche, to dissecting societal frameworks that have failed humanity, to themes of hope and fortifying yourself against the obstacles and hardships of life, to apathy and child abuse to out of body experiences and psychic voyages to war, depression, emotional paralysis and personal tragedy to all sorts of fun and wonderfully interesting things. Thematically and lyrically, we leave no stones unturned. Truly.

How do elements of the East intervene with heavy metal in terms of the music produced by Stigmata?

Well, we have always fused an Eastern and Lankan element to what we do which is why what we do is dubbed Pure Sri Lankan Metal. It isn’t just a flashy moniker and clickbait tag. We are loud and proud of our musical heritage and we incorporate it fluidly along with a world music inspired blueprint. It makes things pretty interesting, especially when we tour overseas as the sound is so fresh and diverse to many people’s ears. But the energy and live performance are powerful and memorable enough that it entertains and engages the listener. What we do isn’t easy listening. It isn’t meant to be instantaneous digestible fodder for narrow-minded sheep with a limited palette. We always like to push the envelope, and ourselves as musicians, artistes, storytellers and performers. Therefore fusing these eclectic elements makes it adventurous even for us.

Is there anyone you would like to acknowledge for providing financial or emotional support?

Each other, our friends and respective families, select stakeholders and event partners for their unstinted support and most importantly our Saints who are the blood in our veins!!!! Actually, we are blessed to be able to still do what we do because of our loyal and mostly unwavering fan base.

Any last thoughts?

No, because I am not on my deathbed. I haven’t yet contemplated what those sentiments might be.

 

For more details visit

Stigmata live @ Floor by O event page

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Interview by Shenali Jayasinghe