Headbanging In A Metal Starved Milieu
Vehrnon Ibrahim, frontman of Millennium, India's first-ever heavy metal band, speaks to Explocity about his band, his influences and the general music scene in Bangalore.
Metal heads are unique. For them, putting someone on the proverbial pedestal is an attitude. It takes a certain degree of legend for them to hero worship someone. But once someone gets there, they're there forever.
Vehrnon Ibrahim has been 'there' for twenty five years and counting.
The frontman of Millennium - India’s first ever heavy metal act – recently announced the return of the band and there has been a palpable amount of excitement among fans ever since.
During the late eighties and early nineties, Millennium led the Indian metal scene and till date, no other Indian band has commanded as much respect and euphoria with their fans. Millennium was last seen on the stage, when they opened for Megadeth back in 2008. Millennium will be releasing an EP by the end of the year, followed by a music video and a full length album by next year.
Explocity spoke to Vehrnon Ibrahim about the band, his musical preferences and influences and the general music scene in Bangalore.
Good to know that Millennium is back and is hitting studios regularly. What took you so long?
Thanks. I live in Mumbai these days since my girlfriend lives there, but have to get back to Bangalore soon to rehearse and record. It’s great to be jamming and head banging again. I've never been happier. It’s been a long time coming.
Millennium commanded an enviable position in the Indian metal scene. What caused the pause?
We did six videos, an EP and two albums. Gigs all over the place. Playing music is a trip like no other. Fronting a band like Millennium, singing our own songs with a 20,000 crowd singing along is something I can’t quite describe but we were a minority within a minority. We all went to different parts of the world really. Rio (guitars) to Iran, Malcolm (bass) to Australia, Blake (lead guitar) to the UK, Bobs (drums) to Mumbai and I went to Delhi. I did try a few line-up changes but nothing was really working out both creatively or practically. So it didn’t make much sense to carry on. I believe in professionally reinventing oneself every few years or so.
How important is it for a band to have a frontman with attitude and appeal?
I think it’s important to possess the stage and not just stand there like a chump. There has to be some sort of meaning to the performance, some energy, some story. It helps having a charismatic front man like (Robert) Plant or (David) Coverdale for sure but it’s not necessary. Many bands like Megadeth manage quite well but then again Dave (Mustaine) is Dave.
What’s up with your studio work?
Well we have a couple of songs written half-way, ‘Fight’ and ‘Forgotten Battles’. We have recorded them too but frankly I am not too happy with them yet. We have always, especially on our first record, played the new songs live many times and jammed on them to make sure they rock on stage for us and our crowd. So when we write I like to make sure the song works live before we record. It’s a strange approach but works for us.
How did it feel to get back to business?
Business, yes, that's what it is! You know, we used to charge the same amount back then as we do now. The money has got worse, but I guess there are more opportunities and shows to play now. The online sphere is new though. It’s very good. I can see many bands who are savvy with online doing great work in getting their music out there even if the music is not that good.
What bands and genres interest and influence you personally?
My mom is Italian and so I grew up on Italian opera. I used to make fun of and imitate the soprano opera singers she used to love so much. It’s ironic and amusing that I now use the same techniques they used back then. Opera is powerful stuff. I used to be in to pop too, (laughs) Adam And The Ants were the biggest thing for me, that's how I got in to punk. Then, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones etc. Then I heard The Number Of The Beast (by Iron Maiden) and everything changed. I am a metal head and proud of it. Hacride, Gojira, Machinehead etc., occupy as much space on my iPhone as Anthrax, Metallica and Slayer, so it’s a mix of old and new.
Any Indian bands you hold high in regard?
Yeah sure! In the 90s it was just a few of us on the metal scene and we became pretty close. We did many gigs with Pentagram, Brahma and Agni, all three great bands. Indus Creed and Milli (Millennium) had a few classic shows together where we shared each others audience which was fun as there were two different schools of thought there.
What’s your opinion on regional metal music? Do you think if marketed properly, regional rock or metal has a better chance of acceptance?
Music is music, no matter what language so yeah, it may work out. Having said that, metal is about having something to say and not just casual bullshit that means nothing. So, as long as there is something to say, I don't see language as a barrier. There is enough non English metal to prove this point.
Bangalore Open Air seems to have an unbelievable line-up. What are your expectations from the event?
I am looking forward to an amazing time. It’s gonna be great. Yeah I’m excited about the bands on the line up so far.
Tell us something unique about a Millennium concert.
In college, we were getting a set list ready for a gig and were having trouble with a couple of songs that we were not that ‘in’ to. I wished we could only play the songs we really wanted to play and we just looked at each other, said f**k it and dropped the songs that were not working for us. We ended up with a shorter set but it all had punch. At a Millennium gig you can be sure we love all the songs we play. That sounds obvious but it’s not when you think of all the bands doing incessant covers or copying other bands.