Interview With Piston

Piston is a thrash metal band, from Bangalore, which was formed in early 2016. Their music is very much old school in nature and influenced by the likes of Metallica, Exodus, Slayer, Sepultura, Overkill etc. They have played in front of audiences two times soon after their inception and are currently working on coming up with their first EP.

Line-up:
Preetham – vocals
Rakshith – drums
Faizan – bass
Sheshashayi (Shai) – guitar.

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We, at Planet Caravan, recently interviewed them and this is how it went:

PC: You are very much new to the metal scene. How did you get together and start off as a band?

We take great pleasure in going to shows and watching metal bands perform. It’s hard not to imagine yourself in a band when you routinely witness crowds losing it over good performances. It’s important for a band to have a vision common to all the members, and that is how Piston came together. We share a deep-rooted love for old-school thrash metal, with common influences like Exodus, Slayer, Sepultura etc. There exists a small vacuum of good thrash metal bands currently active in Bangalore, as well as in India, and we wanted to fill it.

Preetham: Faizan and I have been friends for a long time, and I have been close to Rakshith for a few years, having bumped into him at several gigs(literally). I met Shai through Rakshith, and instantly bonded over our common influences; a week later, we were a band. I’ve devoured biryani and chai countless numerous times with my buddy Faizan, and it was clear that I wanted him in the band. He’s a bassist for the respected mince/grindcore band Nauseate, and so bass duties it was, for him. Rakshith played for a good six-seven bands already, so I was hesitant to ask him to be a part of ours. We’d ask him to join us for jamming sessions, and he always obliged. Luckily for us, we didn’t have to go looking for another drummer as he agreed to be a permanent member.

Shai: I have been playing the guitar for a long time, and was a part of a few amateur bands for the past six years. Those bands didn’t take off, however, over creative differences – I invariably end up writing thrash when I compose, and the other band members weren’t into that music.Rakshith has been a good friend of mine for some time, and he introduced me to Preetham at one of his gigs. My disappointment over my previous projects led to us getting right down to business when we learned about our shared love for thrash; I wasn’t going to waste an opportunity to start fresh, and this time with band members who had similar interests and influences.

Rakshith: Impending Doom VI in January 2016, is where this journey began. We were all under the same roof, listening to and critiquing the bands that played on the day. We started off as a band soon after, with several fun jamming sessions that I filled in as a drummer for. At some point, we decided to start writing our own songs, rather than endlessly playing covers, and that’s when I knew I either had to commit to this band, or make way for another drummer as a permanent member. The choice was an easy one.

Faizan: I was asked to be the second guitarist, but I felt the trio needed a bass guitarist, and hence started my role in the band.
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PC: Any reason for calling yourselves Piston?

Preetham: Rakshith and I are motorcycle enthusiasts and frequently discuss these beautiful machines. As has become a routine now, we were at a gig, showering praises on my favourite motorcycle, the Jawa/Yezdi Roadking. While going over the engine specs and functioning, it occurred to me that “Piston” would make a good name for a band.

Faizan: In my memory, we were at the gig that Preetham mentioned, and while discussing bands, a friend of ours chipped in, saying ““Piston”, with pointy letters in the logo, will be a nice name for a thrash metal band”. I immediately told Preetham, “This is what we should name our band.”

Shai: It’s an inside joke with the band, that I’m not much of a bike-riding type, but the name sounded cool and had that old-school heavy metal ring to it, and we went with it.

PC: How would you describe the sound of Piston? What are your influences?

We play straight-forward thrash; fast, aggressive, adrenaline-inducing music with crunchy guitars that play catchy riffs, complimented by audibly chunky bass lines, pounding drums, and interspersed with raspy, ‘in your face’ vocals. Our common influences are many, with the likes of Metallica, Exodus, Slayer, Sepultura, Demolition Hammer, Razor, and Overkill.

Preetham: Outside of common influences, my favourite albums would be ‘Pyromania’, ‘The Final Countdown’, and ‘Wheels of Steel’, among other classics.

Shai: My influences vary largely. I’ve taken inspiration for melodies from the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen and Marty Friedman, and the same for unconventional song-writing from the likes of Chuck Schuldiner and Willie Adler. Death and Megadeth have been my all-time favourite bands. Lately, I’ve taken a strong liking to Sadus.

Rakshith: I’m influenced by rock legends Ian Paice, John Bonham and Neil Peart. Among metal drummers, I’d count Dave Lombardo and Igor Cavalera. ‘Early’ Sepultura is probably my all-time favourite thrash metal band.

Faizan: I’m a hugely influenced by death metal, punk, and grindcore. Some of my favourite albums are ‘Considered Dead’, ‘Consuming Impulse’, ‘Altars of Madness’, ‘Piece of Time’, ‘Blackmore’s Rainbow’, ‘Scandinavian Jawbreaker’, ‘Dropdead’ etc. I started off as a vocalist, but ended up with the guitar and bass because I couldn’t find the right ones to collaborate with at the time. My influences as a bassist are Lemmy, Cliff, DD Verni, Steve Di Giorgio, Webster and the likes.

PC: What are the themes behind your music and lyrics?

Our lyrics are primarily socio-political in nature, with strong anti-establishment sentiments. We take stabs at issues that plague society, ideologies that are in vogue, the media, the judiciary, etc. With the Internet, we are at no loss for topics and themes we could write about, and we have no trouble sharing our often-brash opinions on things. That said, writing quality lyrics goes beyond merely commenting on everything political, and we hope to explore more topics and write more literary songs in the coming years.

PC: What are you people currently up to? (gigs/releases/recordings?

Considering the short time that we’ve been around for, we’ve received a surprisingly good amount of appreciation from friends and metalheads who watched us play. When we started getting positive feedback from those living outside Bangalore, we knew we had to give the band more time – clearly, we had touched a chord with thrash metal fans. That encouraged us to go into the studio to record some of our material. We are working on an EP at the moment. With our jobs taking up most of our time, and the limited resources we have, it’s taking more time to produce than we would like it to, but it’s in the works. We should have it ready for publishing, a month from now.

PC: Since you are a new band, I would like to ask you about the difficulties that a metal band faces in the initial days in India. How are you dealing with them?

Preetham: A new band shouldn’t have to face problems if the musicians are like-minded, and are dedicated to the rigors of song-writing, playing shows and recording the music. Playing for a new band is often a thankless endeavour, as they aren’t paid at shows and ironically, even have to foot a bill. This doesn’t affect us, since we were prepared for this industry practice and only committed to forming the band when we were sure we could afford to carry our own weight for a good while. The idea was to make music and make it accessible to people who appreciate the style that we play, and so far, we appear to have had some success in doing just that.

Shai: A common problem new bands face is when they try legitimizing their presence in the scene by playing for a crowd, and as luck would have it, it’s usually at the college festival cesspool. This is where bands are exposed to very unfriendly rules, limited time to play their set, bad equipment and blatant bias in judging the bands. These experiences are irreversibly damaging to one’s confidence and motivation to keep working on the band. When we formed Piston, it was a breath of fresh air for me to see that all our band members are dedicated, and think of the long haul. We’re in this to make good music for years to come, and it’s unlikely that we’ll let the spirit fizzle out like a lot of young bands do.

Faizan: Recording is the biggest hurdle for a new band. There are a lot of factors that go into good recording, and getting a single one wrong can affect the quality significantly. It doesn’t help that recording is a time-intensive process, and costs a bomb. Piston is a new project, but each of us has been a part of other bands. Rakshith and I have recorded a demo and a split album with our other bands, and all of us have recorded covers in the past. This experience has smoothened out the process for us. Buying equipment and jamming regularly is another hurdle, as they burn large holes into your pockets.

Rakshith: There are difficulties every new band experiences, and most of them are brought upon by themselves. Ego clashes are a common phenomenon, once the initial exuberance fades away. Financial security and constant expenditures also tend to make amateur musicians disillusioned with the whole idea of playing for a band. I have seen more than a few bands that exist merely on paper. They don’t jam frequently, play meaningless college shows, and limit their own ability to grow as musicians by mindlessly playing covers. Being aware of these, we are trying to avoid the obvious pitfalls.

PC: What is the current scenario of the music scene, particularly metal, in your hometown?

Bangalore has the reputation of being one of the oldest cities to have an active metal scene, and with a keen ear, one can almost hear parting whispers from the hundreds of bands that have played shows here. One doesn’t have to look hard to find all kinds of bands in the city, from hard rock to grindcore. The crowd is as diverse and open to appreciating music as the variety of musicians on offer. We are glad to have been in Bangalore all our lives. The city moulded our tastes in music, and made it easy for us to get acquainted with all that was necessary to explore, appreciate, and learn to play the music that we like. With a large number of gigs – featuring both local and International acts, and older musicians and metalheads who acted as our mentors, this city has had a lot to offer. We do wish there were more venues which provide good equipment and sound, however. And that they were more affordable for us to organize shows at.

PC: You have already played in a couple of gigs. How has the experience been so far?

The experience has be great so far. We have played two shows. The first show was a tribute to Metallica and the crowd was very enthusiastic. We uploaded videos from this show, and we got offered another gig in the same month. Since we didn’t have a page back then, it’s our guess that word of mouth got people to message us on Facebook, congratulating us and appreciating us for playing what we did. We played some of our own compositions in the second show. This led to us answering a lot of queries about whether we have recordings of what we played.

PC: Finally, do you have any message for the heavy metal maniacs?

Preetham: A message to metal maniacs? Haha! Drink good beer, listen to good music, hangout with musicians, mosh, lose yourself, and be sensible. Spot a poser? Kick ‘em in the butt!

Shai: For budding musicians, I’ll say, play the kind of music you would buy and listen to. Also, have your own unique sound and style which make you stand out. And as for the fans, attend shows and have a blast. Support those who play well. For a musician, genuine appreciation is fuel – bands truly need you and will appreciate your support.

Faizan: Keep writing and playing music – the more you do it, the better you get. Also, record a demo; it’ll help you learn about recording, on a budget.

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