I’m huddled up in the corner of a frigid Wellington flat, wrapped in blankets while outside, the sun peeks through a thin veneer of fog. It’s not a very metal scene, but I’ve got black metal on the stereo and work to do before I blast my ear out at the show tonight.
I’m down here for the Impiety / Goatwhore show, which is tonight at Bar Bodega in Wellington, and tomorrow night in Auckland at the King’s Arms. If you haven’t got your ticket yet, they’re available from the ChaosNZ website, or at the door. Yesterday I got to talk to both bands, and here’s the first of my interviews, with Shyaithan of the mighty Impiety, the band at the forefront of Singapore’s emerging extreme metal underground.
Steff: You’re renowned as being the first extreme metal band to really break out of Singapore. How did you upbringing and the local scene influence your sound and the direction of your music?
Shyaithan: when I first got into metal, it was 1986 and I started listening to Slayer, and then … things changed. I was buying LPs – there were only LPs then, and cassettes – in the stores, and from then on I just learnt guitar on my own. I played in a band prior to Impiety, just a couple of songs, and early in 1990 formed Impiety. Society viewed metal as something really vile – there’s not much support there – but with the support of the local underground, we were able to bring about extreme music. We have a good band and we are writing a lot for anyone all around the world. Impiety took off in 1990 and we’ve kept busy promoting the band and making contacts in other parts of the world.
You’ve had a number of line-up changes over the years. How difficult has it being finding members who understand Impiety’s music?
In the beginning it wasn’t difficult for me, but I was more worried about the flow of things – how everyone worked together – than musicianship. There were a couple of members who played drums/guitars … I was mainly on guitars back then. It wasn’t really difficult. But when things became more serious and we developed our skills, we became more choosy and picky, so it’s harder to find skilled musicians. So Impiety has had a changing line-up, and the reason mainly is the musicianship – I like new members to be better musicians.
What bands and styles were the biggest influencers for Impiety?
In the beginning Impiety were influenced by Bathory, Hellhammer, Sacrafago, Rites of Flesh, early Kreator, early Sodom, Possessed – basically fast and furious black and death metal. That’s what inspired me to form Impiety.
Is there a story behind the choice of “Impiety” as the band’s name?
Impiety means irreverence, irreligious, blasphemy against all society, all religion. It has very strong meaning for me because I grew up as a rebel, and 32 years on I’m still a rebel. I still have very strong and firm beliefs and philosophies, and I welcome world demise. My beliefs are very extreme, but I stand by everything. I speak a lot about that in the lyrics and the concepts for the albums.
Do you think it’s important for a band to do that, rather than being part of something just as a gimmick?
It doesn’t work for me, because I grew up being a rebel and one of the reasons why I formed an extreme metal band was a focus for all rage within me, to unleash it.
Your latest album, Ravage and Conquer – came out in May, and has been very positively received by fans. Are you happy with the reaction so far? How do you think this album sits amongst your previous releases?
Ravage and Conquer has done really well. I really appreciate all the support. We have fans all around the world. This album has more death metal elements in it, rather than a black metal approach this time, and so far so good. We’ve been supporting the album with this tour and concerts, and the support has been great. In comparison with our other albums I think this album has pushed the limits and boundaries more than its predecessors, to achieve what I said I wanted with Ravage and Conquer.
Is Impiety more than just music – can you describe the band and the music to someone who has never heard it?
Impiety is life for me. It’s not only a job but a way of life. The chaos I breed on a daily basis, I breathe through my music. Although I look like a very calm and approachable person, I’ve been in a lot of fights. I’m a rebel, as I told you. I think the beast within me is still prevalent, and will continue to be so over the course of time. I am an intolerant person – against religion, weak ideas, society in general. I will just continue to work hard with the band and promote my ideas and rebel with my music, as opposed to being a terrorist. I am a musician, and my ideas are extreme as well.
Coming from a small, tight-knit but often isolated scene in New Zealand, we’re always curious about the metal scenes in other countries. What is the local scene like in Singapore – and can you tell us some of the local bands we should be watching out for?
Singapore metal scene has been really good. It started out in 1985 with simple heavy metal and early rock bands and in 87-88, you had bands like Abhorer and Demisor – and they carried the flag of Singapore with their demos worldwide. Their releases were greatly appreciated. I think from then on the underground began to take notice. We had many bands – 30 or so black/thrash/death bands – and these bands worked hard, but they didn’t last long, mainly because coming from an Asian society there was always so many boundaries to deal with – work, family, etc. At some point, everybody wants to buy a house, settle down, have a full time job. That’s one of the reasons we lose a lot of good bands. Good bands don’t stay strong for long. For me I’ve faced a lot of challenges keeping the band alive.
I’m proud to say that Singapore still has many decent bands: Rudra, Absence of the Sacred, Imperial Tyrant, Magnicide, Tormentress – all female thrash band, they’re pretty good. Wormrot – they’ve signed to Earache, Cardiac Necropsy, etc, etc.
So in general the entire scene – Singapore plus South East Asia – has been developing really well. We have support from many people recently.
You’ve toured and played with some great bands over the years. Do you have a favourite show or tour you can tell us about?
In 2012 Impiety has had memorable tours all around the world. Some of the most memorable has been our full-scale US tour – 25 shows in US, Canada and Mexico, October of 2011. It was our first time ever in the USA, and driving across the states – that was amazing because we got to see the country and meet so many people. Fantastic experience.
This year we were the first extreme metal band to play the Democratic People’s Republic of Laos, which was communist for a long time. I found out recently that we were the first international band to set foot in Darwin this year. Impiety played Darwin as part of the Australian leg of this tour before new Zealand, so that was really awesome as well.
Touring is really special because we got to meet new people and you are exposed to new cultures, religions, language, more of the people themselves. This was an eye-opener for me, because I like history and geography as well. So these shows – Laos, the US and Darwin – have been really special for me.
What can New Zealand fans expect for an Impiety show?
Just expect desecration from Impiety on stage. We wear the title of being one of the most aggressive bands on stage. There is no mercy from start to finish. Impiety is a very fast band, definitely there’s a lot of groove in the music, but when you talk about Impiety, you’re expecting something really extreme.
We’re looking forward to the shows in New Zealand, and hoping the fans will appreciate our savage metal.
And to close, do you have a message for your fans down-under? What can we expect from Impiety in the future?
Hope to see you fuckers at the front. We’re up here in Wellington looking forward to the show at Bodega on the 11th (that’s tonight) and in Auckland at the King’s Arms on the 12th. Hope to see you guys there.
For future plans, Impiety is looking to tour the US and a couple of exclusive shows in Asia.
Praise war, hail Satan \m/
Thanks Shyaithan, and to Impiety for coming down here, and for Chaos NZ and Ross from Headless Horseman for setting up the interivew. See you fuckers tonight in the pit \m/