Interview: Hareesh of IRAVU talks Malaysia, black metal, political challenges.

Posted by Morgan Y Evans - Walking Bombs on Tuesday, November 30, 2021 at 8:09 PM (PST)

Our last interview of 2021 is with the enigmatic black metal outfit IRAVU from Malaysia. The occasion is to highlight the excellent Like Shades Of Night recent EP (one of our very favorite EPs this year along with also the hardcore band Move’s Freedom Dreams from the USA). And of course we want to spread the word on a very cool up and coming artist as we celebrate worldwide metal. I cannot wait to hear more black metal from this anti-fascist and focused one person group, the brain-child of talented musician Hareesh Kumar Shanggar.

It is honestly an honor to boost new bands like this who are so good and work hard on their craft and from the heart. It gives me hope for the music scene and creativity to create communication and foundations for change.

Read more BELOW.

What are the origins of this project? How long has it been in the planning stages as something you wanted to do?

Well, it mainly started because of the pandemic. I have another band called Prodigium but unfortunately due to the lockdown, we had to put all rehearsals and gigs on hold. As a result, I was left creatively starved. I had all these musical ideas but they weren’t going anywhere as I had no one to sit and work on them with. After a while, I just got fed up with waiting and decided to try and start a one-man project. I was also really into a lot of RABM bands at the time, which as we all know, has a large abundance of one-person projects. Listening to projects like Panopticon, Mare Cognitum, Spectral Lore I realised that it was possible to do a one-man “band” and have it be good. I was completely new to music production as well at the time so I used the opportunity to teach myself things like recording and production. It’s tough for me to say that having a solo project like Iravu has been in the pipeline for a long time. Essentially it just came out of creative necessity more than anything. I’m not sure if Iravu would exist if the pandemic didn’t happen. That being said, now that I have started this, I do not plan on stopping. It has been a lot of fun, and I will continue to do this as long as I live.

That is very cool to hear. “Ghosts Of Their Past” is so powerful how it opens. I could imagine it being an intense way to start a set if you ever played live. Is that something you are hoping to or plan to do or have done or are you gonna be like Darkthrone and sort of focus more on studio content. Both approaches are quite valid.

Thanks for the comment on “Ghost Of Their Past”. At the moment there are no plans to perform live and there are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, there aren’t many musicians that I know who can play this stuff, especially when it comes to drums. Malaysia is a small country, and there aren’t many metal drummers around so at the moment it is quite tough. Secondly, the music is also way too complicated. There are way too many layers and I’d probably need 6-7 musicians to be able to do everything. Doing it with 4 musicians is possible but, I feel like it wouldn’t do justice to what you hear on the EPs/singles and albums. I have also never performed vocals live(at the time of writing this). It is a huge point of anxiety for me. I’d never performed Iravu’s music unless I knew it would be doing justice to the original songs. I’m not for performing live just for the sake of performing live. So yeah, if the stars align, then sure. If not, then we’ll probably never see a live performance of Iravu’s music (and I’m fine with that).

I can respect that. Can you speak, in your experience, to some of the challenges facing you as an anti fascist black metal artist in Malaysia?

Well, it feels lonely. At the moment the metal scene in Malaysia tends to be largely apolitical or conservative. I have not found any other Metal bands who are doing the things I do (although I am constantly on the hunt). I have had bad experiences with bands who claim to be progressive but are just shitheads when you talk to them personally, so maybe I am too skeptical as well. The black metal bands here as well also seem to always come off as sketchy to me. Most of them tend to be ethnically Malay, and with Malaysia having a “ketuanan Melayu”(Malay supremacy) problem I am always skeptical. And it doesn’t help that a lot of these bands have a “keris” (an asymmetrical dagger typically found in this part of the world) in their logos. On its own this is okay, but in our context, the Keris has been used as a symbol for Malay fascism.

So as a Malaysian Indian who is always under threat of racist abuse and violence in this country, I feel like I have every right to be skeptical. I know this answer seems to be a bit depressing but it’s just how I feel at the moment. I am always on the hunt for Antifascist Metal bands in Malaysia, so if I do find any, you will hear from me.

You have recently released some ambient works as well and have stated you’d like to produce content on a pretty regular monthly basis via Bandcamp. I am a Violet Cold fan and like how that band is able to switch genres a lot but still fit it under the umbrella instead of changing names. Does this approach ring true to you? It is all sides of you, I suppose.

Violet Cold are so awesome. Saying that I would do things monthly was a mistake because I have now learnt that it is impossible haha. I just do not have the time. I mean I can’t even get this interview back to you on time for God’s sake.

Ha, ha. It was worth the wait. You are honest about that. The “Abode Of Sincerity” must be a real thing, haha. 

Okay, so there were 2 reasons for keeping it under the same name. When I was in the process of writing the Ambient EP, I did briefly think about starting a new project but I quickly realized that it would be redundant. Iravu is supposed to be a creative outlet for me and a place for me to experiment in any way that I want. It did not make sense to me to start an entirely new project just for an ambient EP. If I wrote it, then I wrote it and it’s an Iravu EP. It would be the same thing if I wrote a blues album as well (not that I would). I would still release it as Iravu. So to answer your question, yes. Iravu encompasses all sides of my musical self.

What is the lengthy sample on “Idle” from? That song is so epic and impressive. How long did it take you to compose this and also I was wondering how you decide on your very tasty guitar tones? I like them because they aren’t so raw it sounds like a wet fart and soggy cardboard drumming hahaha but the lo fi vibe of sort of kvlt crypt dwelling darkness flirts with a nice mid level production value that doesn’t cross over into like crazy symponic hi fi studio gloss. Not that I don’t also love me some Cradle Of Filth, haha.

The lengthy sample is from a public domain reading/recording of In Defense of Idleness, a text by Bertrand Russell. That text was what inspired the lyrics to that song especially my brief stint in a corporate job that just sucks all life out of you.

My guitar tones take a lot of time for me to figure out. I’m one of those people that can’t sit and write until I have a release worthy guitar tone I’m working with. The funny thing is though, I don’t use real amps. I mostly use VSTs and impulse responses, and I know that some recording purists hate the idea of doing such a thing but it is genuinely all I can afford. I’m getting good results though, so I am happy. As for the tone itself, I like things to sound big. So it has to have a lot of gains, with reverb and delay. I enjoy what Devin Townsend does with his records and it is something I try to emulate, the only difference is the context of the music. That wall of sound (which to be fair is also present on some black metal albums) is something I enjoy. However, I also need to make sure that there is some clarity in the tone. Drown things in too much echo and you lose all articulation. I like to write and play technical riffs from time to time, so my tone needs to have the clarity for that. It’s all a balancing game.

All profits from the most recent black metal EP, will be going to the SEED Foundation Malaysia (@seedmalaysia ). For our readers, they’re a non-profit organisation that provides support for the Trans, homeless and other marginalised communities of Malaysia. Thank you for supporting this cause when their is so much gaslighting about the dangers these communities face. Why is this cause important to you, if you don’t mind me asking? I am trans and currently back on estrogen, so I was wondering, as a fan of your music.

Well, for me it feels like a bit of responsibility especially because that I come from a place of privilege. I do not need that money at all. I’d rather use the money I make to support the people who need the help, and Trans people are one of the most marginalized communities in Malaysia (a country that is so conservative, bigoted and fascistic). The violence and discrimination that they face in this country are extreme, and as someone who is also from a marginalized community, I can only empathize. Especially because it’s a group that has it way worse than I do. That’s all there is for me. I want to help in any way that I can. I am not much of an organizer, and there’s only one thing that I can do with some level of confidence and competency. And that’s music. So why not use my music for a good cause. It is just the way I am honestly. If I were competent in anything else, I’d use that to help out too. I know that what I am doing isn’t much but, it’s the best that I can manage at the moment. Oh and one more thing, I fucking cannot stand fascist assholes who think they’re better than everyone else and think they can dictate how people should live their lives. I cannot stand these people, they make life hard for everybody in every conceivable way and they should be stopped. If they’re not gonna let us live in peace, then we should make sure that they do not live in peace either.

Anonymity in black metal can be aura cultivating, like a mystery, but also can be sketch…at times. Though also, people should consider it might be a safety issue as well to be openly antifa black metal in some places. Though also representation in black metal is important, which is why a band like Cultum Draculesti is very cool (for example) in addition to having good music. Do you think things are changing for the better in the scene?

You’re spot on. It’s the reason why I’ve also tried to maintain some level of anonymity with my music as well. It is simply not safe for some of us to have the views we have. But to be honest, I think it completely depends on the context. In some parts of the world, musicians can push for change in bigger ways. But where I come from, there are constant threats from the state and groups that want to keep their authoritarian rule. Artists who are constantly pushing for change in my country are constantly being threatened by the police (there are many examples of this). As for Malaysia, the Metal scene ends up being very apolitical (there is a catch). Despite the claims of being apolitical, a lot of these guys end up being misogynistic and racist pigs anyways. Lurking around in the scene has made me realize that a lot of these bands just avoid the question of politics altogether to avoid backlash. They’ll either uphold the status quo or stay silent, all in the hopes of getting some clout. Their politics change when it is convenient for them, and to me, that is arguably the most dangerous individuals to be around.

Yes, so fake and opportunistic. 

As for the scene around the world… It’s tough to say I think. The black metal scene is quite large and it’s hard for me to summarize whether things are getting better. I will say this, however, starting Iravu has put me in touch with so many Anti-fascist bands around the world. And that gives me A LOT of hope. I will admit that I was one of those people that found it hard to enjoy Black Metal due to its ties to fascism (I enjoyed the sonic nature of the music but was almost always turned away by the individuals involved). But after discovering the RABM scene, I have found a new home and a fantastic way to enjoy this genre without supporting shitty individuals. I think the RABM scene has become a force to contend with, but, I really cannot comment whether the scene is ACTUALLY becoming better or not. May have just avoided the entire question there but yeah, it’s just how I feel.

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