Interview with Bassist/Vocalist K. Kathirasan
Interview conducted by Cluedo
Date online: July 29, 2005
Contrary to popular belief, metal acts do exist outside Europe and the Americas. South-East Asia, while not quite a hotbed of metal, has had more than its fair share of quality metal acts. The smallest member of the region, Singapore, spawned the likes of IMPIETY, AS-SAHAR, ABHORER and RUDRA.
One of the oldest bands on the island, RUDRA's unique style has garnered attention from metalheads across the globe. Bassist/Vocalist K. Kathirasan provides his views on a multitude of issues in the following interview.
How long have you studied the Vedas? What made you want to study the Vedas? Have you studied all four parts? What of the Puranas, Smritis, Shastras?
Kathi: I won't say that I have been studying the whole Vedic corpus. I am particularly interested in the last portion of the Vedas, which deals with Philosophy. It is called Vedanta or the Upanishads. The earlier portions of the Vedas deal with rituals and mysticism. Anyway, I have been studying Vedanta for about 11 years now. The thing that attracted me to Vedantic studies was Self-Knowledge. The subject matter of Vedanta is the 'I' or the 'Self'. It analyses the 'I' to show how mistakes are made at physio-psychological levels which become the cause of sorrow and misery. Basically the conclusion of Vedanta is that 'I am free but the impediment to this realization is ignorance and its products'. I am not sure what you meant by 4 parts of the Veda. There are 4 Vedas and each of them has 4 parts. I'll assume that you are asking both. As I have mentioned earlier, I have given more emphasis for the study of the 4th part, which is the Upanishads of the 4 Vedas. It is almost impossible to study all of the Puranas & smrtis and other shastras in one lifetime. But I have randomly studied a couple of Smrtis like Bhagavad Gita, Manu smrti, Gautama Smrti, Vishnu smrti, Baudhayana smrti, Apastamba Smrti, Kama Sutra, Brahma Sutra bhashya by Shankara, Ramayana & many Prakarana Granthas or fundamental texts.
Is there any significance behind selecting RUDRA as the name of your band, as opposed to Agni, Indra or Soma?
Kathi: Rudra has many definitions. We can find many names in the Rudram of the Yajur Veda. But the name Rudra is normally associated with fierce attributes. Therefore, we chose this name which will best suit an aggressive metal band.
How did you come up with the idea of combining metal with sacred literature?
Kathi: It is just the blending of two of my dominant interests. Rudra is like doing both at the same time.
How can one accurately describe RUDRA's style?
Kathi: It is extreme metal mixed with Indian classical modalities propelled by the Vedic Philosophy.
Can we expect this style to change?
Kathi: Maybe musically we may evolve. But the vision of Rudra will not change. At least that is what I wish presently. We are not averse to change.
When did you start playing the bass? Are you self-taught? Do you play any other instruments? What made you want to play the bass? Who/what were your influences?
Kathi: I started playing the bass about 12 years ago. I am self-taught. I also play the electric guitar & drums. Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue was my first inspiration and I wanted to mould myself after him. Most teens have idols and mine was Nikki Sixx. After listening to Motley Crue I wanted to pick up bass. During those days my other inspiration in bass playing were Terry Butler (ex-Death), Geezer Butler, Tom Araya & Steve DiGiorgio.
How do you go about writing lyrics and music? How long does the process take (in terms of weeks, months, years)?
Kathi: Writing music is spontaneous. It could be at home or in the studio with the guys. But for the lyrics it is different. I let an idea incubate in my mind for weeks and months before writing the lyrics. The bulk of the lyrics written for any album are normally written in a month. I just pour it out after the 'incubation period'.
Do you enjoy performing live?
Kathi: I don't enjoy playing live except for the sake of our supporters. It is tiring and takes a lot of time and effort to prepare for gigs. The only reason I am onstage is for our supporters alone. I feed the energy off them and give it back to them. I prefer writing music and releasing albums within short intervals.
Are there any incentives (financially) to be a musician (underground) in Singapore, or indeed in South-East Asia? What are the other incentives?
Kathi: In my opinion there is no incentive being an underground musician in Singapore or SEA. The market here is too small and our conservative attitude due to religion and culture make it worse. On a positive side, we can also take advantage of our rich culture to diversify the extreme metal scene. Apart from that, my personal pet reason for still being an underground musician is the passion for the vision of Rudra. It has become an expensive hobby and a 'noble' vision for us!
Does this imply that there is more money going into RUDRA than coming out of it? I think I understand what your mission is. But I may be wrong. Could you elaborate on it please?
Kathi: Yes, we spend more than what we earn in Rudra. Our mission: Destruction of Ignorance and its products!!!!
Given the small base of RUDRA, and indeed metal fans, in South-East Asia, how do you intend to spread the word and destroy ignorance? Are you looking at other means apart from music?
Kathi: Not really. I am not a missionary out to convince people in the streets. In fact I detest all proselytizing activities. I will enlighten on any subject that I know only when asked. As far as mission is concerned, I limit it to Rudra alone. Rudra is a vehicle to express what I want. So there it begins and there it ends. Apart from Rudra I don't do anything else as an individual contributing to the mission. But when someone approaches me with doubts I am more than obliging to show them the difference between darkness and light.
Which is greater to you, philosophy or music? Do you consider yourself more of a musician or a philosopher?
Kathi: Of course, Philosophy is greater. Because knowledge is absolute! But Music has a relative value of being able to influence people's lives. It becomes a vehicle for any ideology. I will not say that I am a philosopher. Mainly because I have not invented anything new or created any new school of thought. Since Philosopher is out of the question, I'll settle for the musician tag.
If I had worded my question differently (a student of philosophy, rather than a philosopher), how would your answer alter?
Kathi: Then I have to say that I am more of a student of philosophy than a musician. Not a day passes without me studying a text or contemplating it.
When did you first get interested in philosophy? Who/what influenced you?
Kathi: It was when I was in the military service about 10 years ago that made think about life. I am the kind of person who would look for answers for every question, however insignificant. My first big influence was Vivekananda and then little later Socrates, Plato, Nietzsche & Kant. After that I realized that there were more eastern treasures in the works of Lao Tzu, Buddha & Shankara.
On your website, you state one of your dislikes as "God in Heaven". Could you elaborate on this please?
Kathi: Ha ha ha. Simply because God cannot be in space before creating the very space. That's absurd right? Millions believe is this absurdity and have built theories around it. If this fundamental premise is destroyed the whole structure called religion will crumble. That's the reason for 'God in Heaven' being my dartboard. I have to say that not only does this particular belief make me nauseous, but there are so many that I can't believe matured adults subscribing to them.
I have no problems with the word God as it could mean a million things. In fact a thousand words could refer to one object. Likewise I consider the word 'God' as one of the thousand words describing one entity which has synonyms like Infinity, Void, Absolute Reality etc...But I detest the usage of the word 'God' because everyone creates a mental idea of what God is, based on his/her religious (non-religious) background. Some even give a personality to God by imagining it to be a human form. So the word God is limited and it should be discarded in Philosophical discussions.
My dislike toward 'God in Heaven' is for the following reason among many others. There is this Theological 'First cause theory' accepted by 90% of religious people. But it is so illogical. The gist of it is this. They say that there was nothing at first and then at a particular moment God decided to create the world out of nothing. My argument is this: If god were to have created this world, where would he have been before creation? The popular answer given is Heaven. So who was the creator of Heaven? They say that it is God. So where was he before he created heaven? To this question the theologians keep mum because any given answer would only imply a 'place'. Here starts the infinite regression because every 'place' is within Creation and not outside it and the very creation has yet to begin. So it is logically inconsistent to say that God created this world sitting in Heaven. It is such a foolish theory and such a God is a finite being because he/she is subject to the limitation of space. That's the argument. I don't wish go further but I would recommend Bertrand Russell's "Why I am not a Christian". In that book he argues very well against the First cause theory.
Frankly I don't BELIEVE in God. I UNDERSTAND the world to be a MANIFESTATION of one material which I call the Absolute Reality or Infinite Being (in sanskrit: Brahman). You can call it what you want as long as the understanding is there. That material pervades very object, both sentient and insentient, known and unknown. If we use the word God for this Material, then it is still wrong to say that God 'resides' in every being. In fact everything is God or rather I would say 'There is only God'!
What are your thoughts on organized religion?
Kathi: Any organisation is a tool to accomplish a particular goal. Along the way the goal gets missed and followers become obsessed with the tool forgetting the goal. It becomes a burden eventually if the limitation of any organisation is not understood well. Organised religion makes herds out of people and they stop thinking because they are programmed to think in a certain way as how it is laid down by their religion. This is dangerous because once this happens there is a great potential of breeding fanaticism, dogmatism and bigotry. So organized religion becomes an organ for chaos!!!
What are your thoughts on Hinduism today? Do you call yourself a Hindu?
Kathi: Hinduism today has been reduced to a mere school of beliefs. It is no more a philosophy as how it was expounded in ancient times. Rituals alone constitute Hinduism in the modern day and the Philosophical aspects have diminished. This same fate is shared by Buddhism and Taoism. Yes I call myself a Hindu in a broad sense although I would prefer the tag 'Vedantin' for it would better denote my philosophical perspectives.
What are your thoughts on the caste system?
Kathi: It is not relevant anymore. Caste system or Varna Dharma is a social order based on occupational division. Slowly it got abused when people didn't know what it meant and hence became a vicious system to subjugate the illiterate masses. So it is no longer relevant as a societal order.
What are your thoughts on reincarnation?
Kathi: Reincarnation cannot be proved or disproved rationally. The primary reason being that we can't remember our past lives. There are strong arguments for and against reincarnation. However, I feel reincarnation does have a provisional value in philosophy. One interesting news is that presently there is a Dr Ian Stevenson who has proved reincarnation to be a fact. His works are available on the Internet.
In the song 'Obeisance' off your self-titled album, you write 'Destroy the Ahamkara in me'. Correct me if I'm wrong, but does this imply that you wish the pride/ego within you to be destroyed? How important is humility Do you make a conscious attempt to be a humble person?
Kathi: In Vedanta, the word ahamkara is used not as pride/ego but rather the 'cause of individuality'. Of course it is related to being egoistic but definitely different from how it is used as a colloquial term. Ahamkara means 'that faculty of the mind that causes the separation between the world and the individual'. So in the song obeisance the context in which it was used is supposed to be seen as the resolution of individuality.
Humility can be cultivated or it may be born out of knowledge. The more we learn, the more we discover that there is still more to learn. That's why it is impossible for a single person to know everything. Any object when deeply analysed will reveal the fact that there is more we don't know about that object. Humility becomes the natural product of this realization. Arrogance which is the inverse of humility is caused by the superimposition of false knowledge. If I were to tell you that I am humble then that moment I lose my humility. So humility is one thing that you lose the moment you feel that you have gained it.
What are your thoughts on Satanism and "Satanic" bands?
Kathi: Most of them a fakes and don't really know much about Satanism. To me the opposite of any useless theology may not be necessarily useful. But I respect Satanists for their courage to question time-honoured beliefs. I have studied a few schools of Satanism but the philosophical schools make more sense than the foolish ritualistic ones.
What are your thoughts on Nazism and "NSBM" bands?
Kathi: Another bunch of misguided fools with dysfunctional intellects. It just amazes me how people can become herds just to make themselves feel superior. Their philosophy is so shallow that I can't imagine any sane person subscribing to it. Need I say further?
How important is nature to you? What are your thoughts on paganism?
Kathi: Nature should not be abused but must be used rightly. Nature is like a mother and we should treat her as such. I like Paganism for this reason.
Has RUDRA ever been accused of being a 'gimmick' band (e.g. what some say of NILE)? If so, how have you reacted to these accusations?
Kathi: Yes. We have been accused of that. I have reacted by being silent most of the time unless there is a need to defend our position. But I believe actions speak louder than words.
Where do you see yourself going with RUDRA? Are you proud of your achievements with the band?
Kathi: I am pleased with what we have done so far. Let's see how it goes from here.
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