Veins of the underground
Metalheads talk about crowd-funded donations, monetary help from fans and friends, and other things that keep a metal gig going
A metal band can last in the long run because they aim to break-even
But promoters don’t last because the costs just escalate
The troublesome thing about metal’s (usually) outlier identity is that people grow out of it as they become older
Adit Khanzode got his taste of the country’s metal scene while in college. He was studying Electronic Engineering at Ramrao Adik Institute of Technology in Navi Mumbai, which had a long-running metal showcase called Unchained. In 2011, Khanzode experienced heavy-hitters such as death metal bands Gutslit and Infernal Wrath and groove-thrash band Zygnema.
“Unchained was the first ever live metal music show that I witnessed; where I experienced what a mosh pit was, got my specs broken in the wall of death (a kind of mosh pit), had loads of dust all over my clothes and deep inside my nostrils. But still, this feeling of happiness and energy was top notch,” he says.
Much has changed since then. For starters, Khanzode’s tastes evolved from heavily-promoted metal bands like System of a Down and Rage Against the Machine, to the true-and-blue metal picks like Metallica and Lamb of God. He picked up event-organising chops working on Unchained until 2013 and fronted his own metal band Orcus. More importantly, Khanzode works in a film sound post-production studio and is the showrunner at Blackblood — a rock and metal gig series that is currently one of the lifelines for Mumbai’s underground heavy music circuit.
Blackblood hosts its 15th edition to celebrate three years in action on April 20 in Mumbai. Since 2016, Khanzode has pumped in his own savings, received money from fans and friends, even crowd-funded donations to keep Blackblood running. Whenever there has been a loss, he’s vented on Facebook about low turnouts, something that remains a challenge for the already-dwindling number of promoters for metal. Expectedly, Khanzode nearly shut down Blackblood. The troublesome thing about metal’s (usually) outlier identity is that people “grow out of it as they become older”.
Sahil Makhija, aka The Demonstealer, frontman of extreme metal band Demonic Resurrection (currently dormant), has had his experience of hosting metal shows as early as the mid-2000s, and later programming metal nights at the erstwhile Hard Rock Café in Worli. “There is always somebody in a band who’s not seeing an opportunity to play shows and realises they have to do their own shows. Seeing it as something that helps the scene, you keep it going. You have the passion and you do it long enough until the economics of it… is too much stress,” he says.
A metal band can last in the long run because they aim to break-even or at least incur not too big a loss when they pay their own way to travel or stay for a show. But promoters don’t last because “the costs just escalate”, according to Makhija. More than ever before, Blackblood is hosting bands from outside of Mumbai — Plague Throat from Shillong, Orchid from Bengaluru, Hostilian from Hyderabad and Dead Exaltation from Pune. They’re joined by Mumbai band Bloodkill.
Bengaluru experimental/mathcore band Orchid’s vocalist Kaushal LS says they’ve been offered a gate-share deal where a percentage of money from ticket sales is paid to the artiste. Promoting their new album Miasma, Orchid were keen to play in Mumbai after a gap of more than two years. It was a bit of an investment, but Kaushal says they will likely make up for costs by selling merchandise, including CDs and t-shirts. “If they love your music, they’ll buy your merch,” he says.
Even Blackblood has specially-commissioned t-shirts on sale, but Khanzode definitely still has to bank on a good turnout. It’s a series that’s gradually moved from venue spaces in Navi Mumbai to Andheri and Bandra, now held at The Habitat in Khar — one of the mainstays of the independent music community in the city. Khanzode says there’s been a regular lot of about 100 attendees who show up at every edition. It might not be much but it’s a rarity to see continued patronage in India’s metal space.
(Anurag Tagat is a Bengaluru-based music journalist and senior writer at Rolling Stone India)
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