Interview; Sahil Makhija, The Demonstealer 2019

When you think of extreme metal, it’s hard to imagine incredible music being spawned from places other than Europe and North America. But truly, metal is a global phenomenon, and India is somehow found forever out of everyone’s radar. A few bands have been crept up there since the early 1990s, but the last 15 or so years have really showcased the forward momentum of India’s metal scene.

Sahil Makhija has played a pretty big part in helping that scene grow, and he boasts a pretty impressive resume; from an outstanding discography from both his solo project, Demonstealer, and his main squeeze, Demonic Resurrection, to starting the first extreme metal label in India, to hosting his own cooking channel on YouTube. And that’s not including the laundry list of session work he’s done, or his new project, Solus Ex Inferis.  I am extremely fortunate that Sahil has allowed me to pick his brain about all of the above.

Though I am saddened by some of the responses, my respect and adoration for this man remains strong.

How long have you been playing guitar? What made you want to play in the first place?

I started learning the guitar back in 1998 so that would make it about 21 years of playing the instrument. My love for heavy metal music is what made me want to learn the instrument. There is just something about metal music that inspires most of it’s fans to learn an instrument or form a band.

Were you always into guitar and vocals? Do you have any other hidden talents?

I actually started out as just the vocalist of Demonic Resurrection and after our guitarist Prashant returned to the USA after the first show that kind of put me in a spot where I had to play guitar and sing. I also do play a bit of bass and keys and have recorded both instruments on quite a few of my own releases. I also do play the drums and recorded them on my side project Reptilian Death.

Who are your major influences, musically speaking?

This would be hard because I’m constantly inspired by musicians that I am listening to and I am discovering new music everyday. When I started out it was bands like Metallica, Sepulutra, Pantera, Fear Factory, Marilyn Manson etc and then I had a lot of influence from bands like Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth and Old Man’s Child etc. Death metal, Power metal, thrash metal, doom metal etc etc I mean my list is endless.

You have an outstanding solo project with a solid discography, but Demonic Resurrection is equally amazing. Do you have a favorite between the two?

Honestly it’s like picking between your testicles. I like em both equally but I think in terms of what I do with the projects Demonic Resurrection is sort of my ‘main’ project because it actually plays live and has been around longer and is the more well known of the two. My solo stuff is more about playing with different drummers, doing the kind of stuff I can’t do in DR. So very different projects.

Explain what influenced Demonic Resurrection using more than traditional instruments in a metal band. Did it come naturally or was it planned?

You could say it was part of our evolution. We kind of experimented with Hindu mythology, just the ideas and the artwork on our 2014 album ‘The Demon King’ and we wanted to take that a step further and we did what made sense for us musically. It was definitely something that we really enjoyed exploring creatively.

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And you’ve recently released an EP with a new project, Solus Ex Inferis. How did the band come together?

This is the brainchild of Dave Smith who had already written the songs and gotten Lord Marco [Pitruzella; Anomalous, Neurogenic, Hunhau Mitnal] on board to play the drums. He was looking for a singer and I thought it was an interesting project so I signed up and now I’m full time with the band. I am quite excited about how the EP turned out and Dave is now writing the full length album and I’m excited to lay down my vocals on the songs.

And of course, of all the music you could be playing, why death metal and its variants? Are there any not-metal projects you’re associated with?

I had a comedy rock band called Workshop but even that had some ‘metal’ in it. Metal just spoke to me and I guess death metal would be my favourite sub genre of metal, so that’s what I play. Honestly I don’t think too much about the genre when I write music, I write what comes naturally to me but I guess I just love blast beats and death metal kind of riffs.

You’re also involved with quite a bit of guest/ session work, is that something you’re still interested in? Actually asking for a friend

Hahaha, I’m always up for sessions work. I have time and I’m happy to spend that creating music in some way, shape or form. So yeah, always available. Thankfully I have my own studio and setup so it’s very easy for me to record music.

Unfortunately, your tour across India didn’t pan out, but you did manage to skip over to the UK for a few dates. Can you talk about that a bit?

I think the markets are very different to begin with. In the UK it’s a different ball game and the economics are different. In India we’ve played all over the country but perhaps we didn’t approach the tour in the right way. I guess you learn from each experience and then you can figure out how to make it work if you try doing it again. What I mean is, in India for starters we have to fly from city to city and not every city has a music venue, let alone a venue that is for metal music. We also have an agent in the UK who was able to book the tour and find us a support band that could drive us and share backline with so it’s something that worked out quite well.

In a semi-recent post, you kind of hinted that Demonic resurrection might be headed for retirement, is that true? Or do you perhaps have other plans for DR for the future?

Yeah that’s the plan. Honestly after 18 years I am just tired. I’m tired of struggling at the same shit, I’m tired of constantly being let down by people. I’m tired of constantly having band members quit and find new talent, get them up to speed and only to have them quit when they find other priorities. I mean, I don’t blame anyone for anything but I just don’t know if I have the strength to keep doing this. So right now all I know is I’m out. I’m not working on the band, I’m not writing music, I’m not planning tours. If someone wants to make something happen and they call me and it’s doable. I’ll do it. But I’m not writing 100 emails to festivals, labels, promoters and working my ass off only to be let down again.

You started one of India’s first record labels geared towards extreme music. What made you want to start your own label in the first place, nonetheless targeted towards heavy music?

I had no choice. There was not a single label in India that would release our music and I knew that if I didn’t do it myself no one would. That’s the reason I started Demonstealer Records. When I put out our album ‘A Darkness Descends’ I was able to sell a good number of copies, trade with various labels around the world, organize launch gigs etc. I thought I should do this for other Indian bands too who don’t have any other options. Of course over time I realized it was too much of a stress and not worth the effort so I shut it down. But it was born out of necessity.

What difficulties do you deal with promoting yourself and your music in markets outside of India?

I guess the same as any other bands have, getting people to listen to the music. Standing out from the sea of countless bands that exist today. I have done everything that I could possibly do. I learnt a lot along the way about how to do PR the right way and even ran my own metal PR agency for a while.

Headbanger’s Kitchen has gotten pretty big over the last couple years, but it looks like it’s been a bit since you’ve had guest chefs (my favourite being the dudes from Fleshgod Apocalypse). Do you plan to have more guests in the future? Do you have any guests arranged now that you’re willing to talk about?

The funny thing is I gave up on Headbanger’s Kitchen and the format of the show where I interviewed metal bands. It was not worth the effort once again and I wrapped it up. I decided I was only going to shoot cooking videos when I felt like it and I would do it with 1 camera, all by myself and put it out. It’s only when I did that and started making Keto diet recipes that the channel took off and now I do Youtube as my full time job and my audience doesn’t really care or listen to metal. Most of them don’t actually. Which is why I have no interest in getting musicians on the show to interview since that old format is not what works for me. Of course if some of my favourite musicians ever come to town I will be more than happy to have them over for a meal and feed them. Maybe I’d even do the interview then, but only for special musicians that are my personal heroes.

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Any last words? Questions, comments, concerns?

Thanks for the interview and I hope people reading will listen to the music I make and enjoy it! Cheers and Stay Demonic!

And infinite thanks to Sahil for not only this interview, but for helping the Indian extreme metal scene grow and thrive. Though I am a bit heartbroken that Demonic Resurrection will be put to rest, I am excited for what Solus Ex Inferis will be cooking up, and the future session work Sahil will be involved in. We wish him the best of luck with his future endeavors.

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