Interview on Millennium – Metal Wani 2013

Published Tuesday, May 21, 2013

This is one of the interviews i did for Millennium for Metal Wani…

Formed in 1988 in the Indian metal capital of Bangalore, Millennium were no doubt the Godfathers who kicked off the metal scene in India as we know it today. After a long hiatus since the year 2000, the band reunited to support Megadeth in 2008, and are now part of the line-up of this year’s Bangalore Open Air. Our writers Vishal Dey and Achintya Venkatesh had a chat with Millennium’s vocalist Vehrnon Ibrahim, which you can see below.

1. Hello, Greetings from Metal Wani. It’s been a great pleasure to have you here. How are you guys doing?
Vehrnon: Hey guys, thanks, we’re doing great, I have been in Mumbai for the past month meeting people to help promote the band, looking forward to getting back to Bangalore and in the jam room in front of an SM58 soon…

2. Tell us something about the history of the band. What led to its formation, especially when India had no other metal bands? What led you to name the band as ‘Millennium’?
Vehrnon: It was Rio’s fault, he and his band were competing against us for a year in what must have been ’86… both bands were playing metal and at the end of the year Rio came and met me and Bobs and said why don’t we form a super group… Rio was a visionary and could see the metal tidal wave crashing on the shores of our country even back then… There was no other band playing the kind of extreme music we were doing so we had no contemporaries… you know, it occurs to me now that there was no club scene back then like there is today… all the gigs we did were all large scale huge crowd deals and that’s how we started… I have done many club shows since we re-formed and its a different trip altogether than what I am used to… I mean, I love it with a small intimate 500-size crowd but I am having to re-learn how to work the show in that format… its different… good different…

3. What are the primary influences of the band? Which is the one band most akin to your own sound? What other bands do you listen to?
Vehrnon: Ah, tough one… Iron Maiden was our first influence of course but then we found out about thrash and went oh fuck oh fuck… I listen to a lot of music and my iphone is full of all sorts of stuff… haha, you would laugh if you saw it… but there have been some songs I have been listening to for ever… You know what mean, the songs which reach out and say here I am and I will always be there… But as far as song writing is concerned I have never had a reference sound in my head for our music at all… always did what we wanted and enjoyed it, yeah its selfish but I think music writing is selfish when you are doing it to feel good… You see I always treated Milli as an outlet for what I wanted to say… some people dance, some cook, some drive… We performed, that was our high…

4. The era in which you guys formed Millennium was the most crucial time in Indian metal history. What were the challenges you faced to reach the height from where metalheads started to know Millennium as a band?
Vehrnon: Man we are underground, always was and always will be… If money were important to us we would have bowed down to it long ago but we never did… we got paid what we asked for or did not do the gig… promoters fell in to two groups, those who have experienced one of our gigs and those who have not… The ones who had heard us just paid us what we wanted and the ones who had not learned a lesson… And for the record we were, very expensive… We had to be, we had a sound engineer, an LD, roadies, a road manager and a manager on the road with us most times… and back home in production we had to pay for the three records we made as well as 6 videos, countless photo shoots and all the other shit bands spent money on… And those days were much more expensive than now for a band… So no, we did it all cause we just had to, we were compelled to… I will say it and don’t give a fuck, we just don’t have fan following bands like Indus Creed or Parikrama or Pentagram have, we just never got that big… Never wanted to, that was not our goal… Ya we did our own material from early on and it worked so we just stuck to it where ever we played and man we have done some weird venues… Yeah, and it was great… I think its the Bangalore thing maybe, not being in Delhi or Bombay meant we could do what we wanted without the pressure of conformity that those two cities tend to have, maybe I am wrong… I see Palash Sen getting mobbed for autographs and its cool, he seems to like it but when some one recognises me its a different connect… There was a nasty bike accident many years ago and the guy was lying almost dead on the road his head cracked open… we helped him to the hospital and stayed there till we were told he was gonna be ok… months later we got a call from the guy in tears saying how grateful he was… that’s the relationship I have with people who know Millennium and when we meet its like old friends… happens all the time but I have never signed breasts and that is a regret.

5. I’ve always wondered what the promotion techniques were used back in 90’s. No doubt it was tough promoting a band then comparing to 21st century. But how did you guys pull it off?
Vehrnon: Ok, its like this, maybe you’ll believe me or maybe you wont but its true none the less and there were witnesses so there Promotion in the 80s and 90s was done through posters and that’s it. And pretty much everybody in the band and the band circle did everything… So yeah, I have done posters. I have designed, written, printed, carried for corporation stamps and oh yes gone on all night forays in to the city sticking up the bloody things… There were tactics, if there was another show on we put our posters next to theirs never on top, (that would be cheap) but at an angle so it just looks funny and gets eyeballs… And we had to have a super design… Once I sang for a band called UVZ (Ultra Vivid Zone) so our poster was back with only florescent colours, they had to be put up only in places where there was a UV light… when it looked good it was amazing but most of the time no one could read it haha… well it packed the gig we did so it must worked… And strategies, you have ten thousand posters so you put up 2000 every night for 5 days before the gig not all on the same day, space them out… oh, and we found it was better to clump the posters in blocks like put 8 of them on a wall next to each other then leave a solid gap and 8 more… I have no idea why this worked but did…

6. Millennium supported Deep Purple back in 1995 in Mumbai. Do you think that the event helped Millennium to be established as a metal band internationally?
Vehrnon: We did Delhi and Mumbai and no it did fuck all for us internationally. Why would it?

7. What do you think about the current line-up of the band? Does the age difference among the band members affect the dynamics of the relations within the band?
Vehrnon: When I was in my 20s I had older friends than me… so its logical that now I am in my 40s I should have younger friends around me isn’t it… ok, its not logical at all, I know, haha… I like people who think originally who work things out differently who have no idea what normal people would do and don’t give a shit… and thanks to Salman who put together a band that has some great people… Its great… I have got a lot of time for Rohit both as a song writer and musician but also as a friend… The dynamics of a metal band will always be stress filled… Every one can chat casually until the singer steps in to the room, an ego that big needs silence… and drummers, oh drummers, God what were you thinking? But its just the way things are… you gotta make it work… I think if I still had one of the older line ups of Milli we would not be doing a lot of the new music we are doing now and that would be a shame…

8. What differences do you notice in the new and upcoming bands from the old bands from your time. Are there any words you would like to give to them?
Vehrnon: There are some great bands in India now, some great music and fantastic performers… Trouble is metal is all mainstream now isn’t it… every year a new metal format comes out and a year later becomes mainstream… its the same with any format of music but what is happening with metal is sad I think… I just heard about a degree course you can do in the uk for heavy metal now think about that for a second, so you learn about a life on the streets sitting in a class room??? No man, you learn heavy metal from having too many unanswered questions that bleed and never heel… its not about wanting, never has been, its about asking… all songs have a stories to tell, could be a love story, mostly it is but in the metal I grew up with like Maiden, Dio and Rush it was about asking why? Songs like “Die With Your Boots On kept me alive with answers I got no where else and I know every metal head has songs that have touched their souls deep deep down and mean something, really mean something… So what I would say to anyone today is simple, have something to say, have a story to tell from you heart not your mind… making money? Fuck that no I mean really, fuck that, if you are in to heavy metal for the money you are an ass, you may well get a lot of money but if that’s your motivation then you will never be able to play heavy metal…

9. Well, every fan of Millennium is waiting for new stuff. Is anything cooking in your camp? Can we expect an album or an EP in the near future?
Vehrnon: Its early days still, we are only a few months back in action… plan is to write and perform an album’s worth and record some time early next year but there may be an online re-release of our old material, lets see…

10. Millennium will be performing at Bangalore Open Air ’13 and will share stage with some legendary bands of all time. How does it feel?
Vehrnon: Fests are fun, reminds me of the old 3 day college festivals we used to do. And BOA has some amazing bands that I may really looking forward to see. Its an atmosphere thing, trip on some good stuff, hang out with some good friends, hear some really good music, yeah, its gonna be great… I had heard loads about Machinehead but had not heard them for some reason before the Megadeth gig in 08 and they blew me away. This time I will make sure I am up to date with all the bands at BOA.

11. Will the setlist for BOA be containing any new material?

Vehrnon: Oh fuck yeah. We will be doing some of our new stuff we have been working on for sure. This is the thing, when we got back a few months ago I asked the guys what we should be playing and we all wanted to work on new material. So we set aside time during practice to jam and see what happens. Its not something that can just be done like walking a dog. You need to know the musicians you work with and for me that takes time. Rohit is a great musician and a solid friend and we get on well. You see when I used to work with Rio he had a different style of writing. He would come up with a progression and structure before we sat down and then I would work on the lyrics if he did not have some already and I would do the melody. I don’t know many partners who worked like that but we did and it was really good. We did most of our music like that. But with Rohit its jamming and improvising as we went along, I guess the way most people work, I dunno. I like to come up with lyrics that kick on to the melody seamlessly and many times that becomes the core of the song. So yeah, there will be some new songs at BOA.

12. Before we wrap up the interview, any message for the readers and fans out there?
Vehrnon: I posted a lot on FB about this, I think we need to support the Indian Heavy Metal movement and stop cribbing about it. That goes for musicians who act like pubescent girls bitching about their friends and also for people who wear the black t shirts and have long hair but don’t know the difference between Iron Maiden and Iron Fist. I mean its not that tough to just come for the gigs and buy the merch is it? Keep on rocking, take shit from no one and be kind to the little guys… yeah rock and roll…
Interviewed By,
Vishal Dey & Achintya Venkatesh