Full steam ahead!
Suresh Desilva , the front man of Stigmata , one of the pioneer bands to dominate the Rock and Heavy metal scene in Sri Lanka, ever since its inception joins us today. ‘’ Stigmata ‘’ was formed in 1998, in collaboration of a few schoolmates, namely Suresh Desilva, Andrew Obeysekara and Tennyson Napoleon, while studying at the School by the Sea’’. (St. Thomas’s College, Mt. Lavinia). They chose the name ‘Stigmata’ from the 1998 album Stigmata by melodic death metal band Arch enemy. The band has a mix of thrash metal, death metal and hard rock influences, regularly using elements of Eastern rhythms as well. Their first single was ‘’Fear ‘’ which topped the local radio rock chart show. They went on to record several chart topping hits such as ‘’Voices’’,’’The dying winter sleeps ‘’, Thicker than blood ‘’, plus the instrumental ‘’Andura’’. The band currently consists of Suresh Desilva , Tennyson Napoleon , Thisara Dhananjaya , and Hafzel Preena.
Q: Tell us a bit about your new single ‘Throw Glass in a House of Stone’.
The song is one of our most personal and I dare say introspective and finer creations. Musically it embeds all the musical elements and favors we are renowned for: powerful storytelling, epic arrangements, competent and mind-blowing musicianship, tons of groove, catchy melodies, memorable hooks, earth shattering riffs, blistering solos, spellbinding progressions with a Lankan touch but also some new, exploratory stylings fused into it.
The theme of the song and lyrics deal with addictions and overcoming them; from addictions of technology and social media, vanity, narcissistic habits, toxic lifestyles, work, pornography and alcohol to narcotics.
The song was mixed and mastered by the brilliant Romesh Dodangoda in the UK who has worked with Motörhead, Bring Me The Horizon, Architects and Sylosis. And we released the song through Island Dreams Records of the Serandip Music Group in the US. A double milestone achievement for a Sri Lankan band.
The video comprises of live footage of more recent concerts prior to the pandemic outbreak merged with artistic visuals. It was created by our very own Bassist and Visual Artist/Videographer Thisara who had his own design and video editing company Evilcat Lab.
Q: The title of the song seems to derive from a popular verb, somewhat ‘’reversed’’ otherwise. What was the ultimate concept or meaning behind naming the single as such?
Like I said before, it deals with the topic and themes of addiction and overcoming them in this day and age. It is a clever play on words and a spin on the idiom and what we mean by it is that no matter however much you throw glass at stone, only the glass will shatter. The stone house is symbolic of our physical selves, bodies and minds where whilst having internal conflict it is a pointless endeavor colliding with a house of stone unless we choose to change the house or our approach to breaking through our own confines. Change needs to happen from within. That is the only way to successfully fight any addiction. If we are comfortable in our own sanctuaries, then it is difficult to change harmful habits.
Q: How do you see this from the other music videos you have done so far?
We had an entire storyboard and shoot planned for this and everything shot to hell in terms of the pandemic strain and the exacerbated situation this March and had to call it all off. Mainly for the safety of everyone involved. Therefore, we had to make do with the resources and material/footage we had. We are a very self-sufficient band that way.
Considering we had very little to work with, Thisara did an incredible job of editing the music video.
The music video is driven by the power of the song. Plus, we made it a Lyric video as well so that it’s more interactive and engages the viewer. It’s received super feedback from all over the world.
Q: Stigmata has also participated in several overseas concerts. How would you see the difference between the local and international audience?
The audience numbers are not even comparable. We played the Dhaka Army/Cricket Stadium for 40,000 people and New Delhi for 25,000. We’ve played sold out shows at the prestigious Forum Theater at the Melbourne Arts Festival and headlined our own tour of New Zealand, while rocking out audiences in Dubai, Malaysia and even Maldives.
Though from varying cultures, different lifestyles and demographics, finally Metal and Rock fans are a very loyal, respectful and dedicated bunch globally. If they love what you do they welcome you into their hearts, minds and lives and if they don’t then they make it obvious that they won’t give you the light of day.
Q: Do you think the rock music scene in Sri Lanka is given less priority than the other genres?
Of course. But this only makes our art form more exclusive and proves that it is not for everyone: especially superficial, trend obsessed steeples with the attention spans of goldfish.
Q: You’re also known as a ‘Wordsmith’ and poet and a writer, and also an actor, who ‘s pretty much into drama and theatre. What are the main subjects which you focus on when writing or composing?
I do enjoy acting and love theatre – when I have the time and have opportunities to work on interesting projects – and am blessed to have been able to work with some legends like Jerome De Silva and the Workshop Players as well as Jehan Aloysius and Centre Stage Productions.
Professionally I am a Value Creator. I specialize in Brand and Business Strategy, Creative Communication Campaigns, Corporate Creative Writing and Disruptive Marketing. So that’s one aspect of my “Wordsmith” side.
The other side is as a published Author, Poet, Lyricist and Columnist. I don’t limit myself to any theme per say. My novels tend to gravitate towards Thriller and Suspense, Adult Fantasy and Gothic/Cosmic/Body Horror Fiction. Lyrically I try and pen stuff that can resonate with audiences and be captivating and evocative stories. The themes really vary, and the lyrics to our new songs deal with stuff that’s more close to home; the death and loss of loved ones, addiction, self-discovery and finding purpose through our life’s journey, learning to deal with transcendental change experiencing personal growth, coming to grips with the limitations of our humanity and how disconnected we are becoming…. Stuff like that.
Q: Let’s talk about your love for theatre.
Not as much as I’d like to be. I do love it, wearing and adorning a different character’s skin, mindset and soul. Watching how a character arc blossoms and grows as part of a greater whole and a bigger picture.
However, when the opportunity presents itself, I’d embrace the opportunity if the project resonates and I feel I can offer something worthwhile to it. I don’t take on projects I can’t complete or fulfill and a theatre production is a life of itself and many months of your time and psyche.
Q: What’s ‘s your opinion on the current pandemic situation and how has it affected you?
Well it’s a terrible thing. It’s disrupted economies, damaged so many lives and livelihoods and affected personal, social and professional lives in ways that reparation and recovery will be unfathomable and slow.
It has changed the world. Changed every industry. How businesses and brands operate and function.
It’s certainly shown humanity how fickle, feeble and infinitesimal we are; just specks in the spectrum as it were in the greater cosmos.
Yet it’s tested our proclivity to endure and tried our resolve, and humanity for all our faults and flaws, and what we’ve done to each other and this planet have remarkable resiliency sometimes and the penchant to brave most storms.
It’s shown me how important it is to value the people who mean the most to us. To cherish our gifts and talents and blessings. To not take for granted the things that give us meaning and adventure, poignancy and pain, passion and purpose. It has shown me how integral it is to adapt in order to survive and to progressively evolve in order to endure.
Q: What’s your message to the upcoming rock bands, all musicians and fans in general?
It’s a brave new world and this is the new norm. Be the change you wish to see. Fight for what you love and love selflessly that which makes you whole. Life is short and time it’s greatest scarcity. Waste not a moment or a day. Forever is now.