Cut out from the traditional heavy metal world, Europe and the US, Kryptos write  their own success story in India. Still, not full-time musicians they have a day job, but they are living the dream through their releases and shows that take them beyond the boarders of their country. That’s what keeps them alive and make them cringe their teeth and face every hardship that comes their way. Interview: Yiannis Dolas

Kryptos01 I guess that being a metal band in India since the late ‘90s could not have been an easy ride. Can you describe us what are the music trends in the country and how popular is metal over there?

Nolan Lewis:Yeah it certainly wan’t easy because we were pretty cut off from the rest of the world. The only music we could get here were through bootleg tapes that used to come in from other countries and we had little to no idea about what was going on in the rest of the world as far as the metal scene was concerned, except for what we read through a few magazines. However, things have improved drastically over the last 20 years or so and right now there are tons of metal bands all over India and over the last few years more and more bands have started touring abroad as well.

But overall, metal isn’t really that popular in India, especially if you consider the size and population of the country. It’s still a very underground phenomenon and the vast majority of the country doesn’t even know this kind of music even exists. But I guess in some ways it’s beneficial to not be in the public eye too much. Unfortunately Bollywood music dominates everything in India to a massive extent, so bands here have a hard time breaking through or getting gigs. Did you ever feel that you were treated badly, or like outsiders for your love of heavy metal? And of course being in a metal band?

Nolan Lewis: Not exactly. I mean, we do get strange looks from people because of our long hair and clothes, but on the whole there hasn’t been any major trouble as such. I guess because metal is still outside the public eye, it doesn’t attract any unwanted attention. I think if metal started gaining in popularity here we might see some trouble with the police/government as well as religious factions, but so far it’s been pretty under the radar.

Kryptos02 The songs I liked the most on “Afterburner” are “Dead Of Night”, “On The Run”, “Crimson Queen” and “Into The Wind” can you tell us a bit about them?

Nolan Lewis: Thank you very much. Yeah ”Afterburner” is the title track and it’s just a straight up speed metal anthem in the vein of Priest classics like Exciter, Freewheel Burning etc. You could say it’s almost like the perfect combination of Priest and Motorhead at their speedy best.
”Dead of Night” is more in the vein of classic Accept. It’s a pretty dark song and is actually based on the cult 80’s horror movie The Lost Boys. We tried capturing that campy 80’s horror/street vibe on this song and I think we succeeded.
”On The Run” is where our Thin Lizzy influences shine through. Tons of melodies, catchy riffs, ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ kind of lyrics and an absolutely killer solo that would make Brian Robertson proud.
”Crimson Queen” is a pretty straightforward metal stomper with massive occult undertones. We love reading about all things related to witchcraft, sorcery and all that fun stuff, so this song tries to bring all those influences to the forefront. Musically I’d say it’s in the vein of classic Savatage or Metal Church, and it has a real ballsy main riff that holds the song together.
”Into The Wind” is probably the slowest song on the album and it’s basically a song about escaping everything and being free. Being comfortable with yourself and not letting the world grind you down. It has very wistful melodies and the lyrics are sure to connect with any traditional heavy metal fan. The album covers seems like it’s influenced by “Painkiller” what do you say?

Nolan Lewis: Yeah, you could say that, although that wasn’t the intention. Bill Hauser (Hirax, Skeletonwitch) came up with the album cover and while we did want a biker on it, he came up with something that sort of resembled the Painkiller cover, but in a more 80’s retro, comic book way. Not to mention there is a nod to Masters of the Universe as well, which makes it even cooler. Also the cover is really striking, because it’s so colourful and completely retro, almost like it popped out of an arcade game haha.

Kryptos03 So far, which was the biggest moment for the band?

Nolan Lewis: We’d had many great moments, like opening for Iron Maiden in our city in 2009, touring with great bands like Death Angel, Sacred Reich and others and playing Wacken twice. I think just the fact that we manage to tour every year and have released five albums to date, despite all the difficulties we face, is probably our greatest achievement. However, we aren’t content with what we’ve done so far. We’re hungry to gig more, tour more, release more albums and just put out quality metal until we’re old and grey haha. Which is your wildest dream for Kryptos?

Nolan Lewis: Haha well, I think our wildest dream would be to do this for a living. Can you imagine just touring and writing music for a living? That would be absolute heaven. We’re trying our best to get there, but yeah that would be incredible. I know a lot of bands would say ”We’d love to play this festival, or tour with this band or play to a million people or sell millions of albums’ but for us, we just want to be able to do this for as long as we can and eventually not have to worry about paying the bills back home haha.

Kryptos04 Do you live off music, or do you have day jobs? How hard is it for you to work and be a musician?Kryptos05

Nolan Lewis: Unfortunately, we all have day jobs because making a living from music in India is practically impossible, unless you’re playing some form of traditional Indian music or really commercial Indi-pop music. But this is just the way it is. We have to work and save up for close to 10 months so we can go on tour for a month in Europe. We would love to tour more often but at the moment it’s very difficult from a financial point of view, but we’re doing everything we can to make it happen. But we’ve managed to strike a balance between work and music, so we manage somehow. Beer helps of course haha. Which bands are your main influences in the way you compose your songs and make music?

Nolan Lewis: Our main influences are Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Accept, Mercyful Fate and even Coroner and Kreator to an extent. But, I think we’ve managed to strike a fine balance between our influences and our own sound. When you listen to our music you can easily figure out who our influences are but at the same time we have our own sound and identity, which I think is very important for any band out there. What new/contemporary bands you like to listen to?

Nolan Lewis: We love bands like Skullfist, who are friends of ours, Ambush, Idle Hands, High Spirits, Cauldron etc. All great bands that are keeping traditional metal alive. What are the albums you always go back to listen to and what memories/feeling do they evoke?

Nolan Lewis: Oh wow, there are so many, but off the top of my head I’d first have to say Defenders of the Faith by Judas Priest. To me that album is the epitome of heavy metal and it was one of the first metal albums I heard almost 30 years ago and it literally changed my entire life. It always gives me a feeling of power and energy no matter how many times I’ve listened to it. Priest and especially this album have been my companions through almost every single up and down in my life. Another album that always brings back incredible memories and a major surge of nostalgia is Piece of Mind by Iron Maiden. That was the first metal album I listened to back in 1990 and that was when I knew heavy metal was the music for me. It never fails to fuel my imagination and there’s something about the way that album sounds that just makes it sound so ‘otherworldly’. How original can a new band that plays heavy metal can be? One might say that the old school bands have played it all already, so is it originality that we should look for in new bands, or the quality of songs, performance and the feeling they deliver?

Nolan Lewis: I think it’s extremely difficult to be 100% original in this day and age, especially since, like you said, the older bands have done it all already, and have arguably done it better. However, I personally think it’s more important that a band puts out quality music, regardless of whether it’s original or not, and play their music with conviction. I think that matters more than anything. Putting as much feeling as possible into the music. At the end of the day, emotion and feeling trumps originality any day of the week. In fact, you could be 100% original but you could also still sound like total shit haha.

Kryptos06 Lately we did an interview with Enforcer and they were saying that newer bands like them cannot beat the nostalgia factor. The fact that our favourite bands will always be Maiden, or Priest or Metallica and everything we listen to we will forever be compared to that with the old bands being the winner. What do you think?

Nolan Lewis: Well, I’d have to agree to a certain extent, because let’s face it. The older bands are where they are because what they released has not only stood the test of time but the quality of music was so unbelievably high, that it’s almost impossible to follow. And these bands have influenced millions of people and touched so many lives, that it’s understandable if people always want to go back to them, because let’s face it, these bands are part of who we are. Their music is in our blood and there’s no changing that. All bands like us and Enforcer can do is just do what we do as best as we can and keep the flame burning for as long as we possibly can, and if we can make even a fraction of an impact the old bands have made, then I’d say that’s a job well done. You have a contract with AFM Records how can this help to boost the band?

Nolan Lewis: We signed with AFM Records a few years ago and since they’re a pretty big label, we’ve seen our music reach places we would have never imagined. They have a great distribution network and they’re really good people to work with as well, so that really helps a lot. We signed a five album deal with them and we have two more albums to release under them, so things are going great at the moment, especially with ‘Afterburner’, which has been selling really well and is getting killer reviews.

Kryptos07 Bands coming from Asian countries always had something mystical/mythical/mysterious for the Western world. Like “wow, heavy metal from Japan how would this sound?”. Have you ever thought about that coming from Asia? What was your perception of the Western countries?

Nolan Lewis: Yeah, people always ask us why we don’t sound typically ‘Indian’ haha. When people abroad hear of a metal band from India, they think of distorted guitars with sitars and lyrics about elephants haha. But we aren’t influenced at all by local Indian music. Our roots are 70’s and 80’s rock and metal music, which is why we sound the way we do. Also, I think bands should also play what they feel like playing rather than worrying about incorporating traditional or local sounds into their music just because they’re from a certain country. Sure, if it comes naturally to you, go for it, but I really don’t think it should be forced. For example, if we suddenly decided to incorporate Indian classical music into our music, it would sound terrible because it would be completely forced. However, there are great examples of bands that do fuse local elements with metal, like Sigh from Japan. So yeah, what should really matter is how good your music is, not where you come from. What is the first thing people ask you when you tell them that you are a metal band from India?

Nolan Lewis: Haha they ask us if we sing about cows or the Taj Mahal or snakes or stuff like that. When we toured Europe the first couple of times people were more intrigued that we were from India than in our music. But over the last few years there’s been a change in the way they view us. Now it’s all about the music. The vast majority of people talk to us about our music and come to our gigs because they know we’ll put on a killer show, rather than coming to our gigs out of curiosity or to see an ‘exotic’ band, so that’s something we’re really happy about. What would you say are the biggest misconceptions about India?
Nolan Lewis: Haha that there are snakes and elephants everywhere and we all wear turbans and speak like Apu from the Simpsons. While there is some truth to that, most of India, especially the cities are just like any other city in the world, except maybe more crowded and dirtier haha. I guess it’s the same with Russians and Vodka haha.