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  INTERVIEW WITH DIONYSUS

Andy Millen

andy millen

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dionysus
L-R Umair, Waleed and Sheraz

Lahore based Dionysus have enjoyed a growing worldwide following over the past few years. Their debut EP, 'Hymn To The Dying' (reviewed in an earlier column of mine) had international success following its release on the Salute Record label.

The band have followed that up with the news that they have signed to India's Transcending Obscurity and are currently writing new material for a follow up.

I caught up with Sheraz, Umair and Waleed and they took time out to give me this interview.

Article continues below...

   


Please introduce yourself, what you play and how long have you been together.

Sheraz: Thanks man, I am Sheraz Ahmed. I play guitars and write drum parts for Dionysus. I founded the band in 2010 along with Umair. Waleed Ahmed joined in summer of 2011, later we incorporated Sam for playing live drums for us. We're all brothers trying to have a good time doing what we love.

About the gear, I am a sucker for old school sound so my gear only comprises of ADA-MP1 preamp that I bought from ex Dusk's guitarist Aman Durrani, he used it in the recording of Dead heart dawning EP. It's a pretty old piece of equipment but it sounds killer. And Marshall Valve State amplifier along with a Boss HM-2 pedal. I play an Ibanez RG 370 that I bought from Waleed some years back. That guitar has a bit of history too since it was first used by Waleed. haha.

Umair: I am Umair Ahmed. I play guitars in the band. We like to play different kinds of music so ADA Mp-1 kind of fulfil our needs. Haha. I've tried alot of processors and effects but since I played on ADA MP-1 I couldn't find anything better. I play an Ibanez RG350EX and a tuned down Strat that Sheraz usually uses for the Marwolaeth songs, we like to call it war-strat. haha.

Waleed: Hey this is Waleed Ahmed. I'm the lead vocalist/ Guitarist/ Bassist and the producer of Dionysus. I like to experiment a lot with sound so Les Paul is my first choice as far as guitars are concerned. I've changed the pickups to DiMarzio liquifire (neck) and DiMarzio D activator (bridge). I play a fender P bass besides that.

dionysus

What bands have been the biggest influence on you (both as Individuals and as a Band) also what was the Metal scene like when you were growing up?

Sheraz: The biggest influence? Well, my musical influences keep changing with time as I keep discovering new music every fucking day. haha. There is just a lot of different kinda music from 70s prog rock to old school heavy metal to death/doom to post rock to neoclassical shit to fucking electropop, there are no boudaries to the kinda music I find myself listening to, if its good I'll listen to it and I am not afraid to go out of the boundaries of metal when I write music, fuck standards!

That said, Dan Swano, Andrew Latimer, Jon Nodtveidt, Anders Nystrom, Chuck Schuldiner are the musicians that I can relate to the most in terms of the approach towards music. Only local metal band I knew when I was growing up was Dusk and I always loved what they did. I don't remember any local metal gigs happening when I was growing up, I didn't use to go out much anyway so I wouldn't know. The first show I went to was the one I was playing in.

Umair: I Can't name one band or an individual. There are a lot of musicians that have influenced me over the years. I listen to a lot of different kinda music, Jazz/Fusion/funk, Neo Classical metal, progressive rock apart from Dionysus' music. Talking about Dionysus' music, I am very much influenced by bands like Dissection, Dismember, Death, Agalloch, Anathema, Katatonia etc. As Sheraz said, when I was growing up, the only metal band we knew was Dusk. And, Faraz Anwar and Amir Zaki used to be my favourite Guitar players from Pakistan and still are. Haha.

Waleed: Ahh! Well I don't limit myself when it comes to music. I listen to all kind of genres, but if you ask me specifically, I love post/experimental/progressive kind of music. Steven Wilson is one of my favorite musicians and he has influenced me a lot throughout my musical journey. I grew up listening to bands such as Agalloch, Katatonia, Pelican, Explosions in the sky, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Porcupine Tree, Anathema - the list goes on. These bands have inspired me a lot and have influenced my songwriting as well as production. Umm about the local scene, there was not enough music to explore at that time, and most of the underground bands that forced me to dive into this scene were friends.

Apart from Catacombs and Aftermath, how much opportunity is there for live gigs locally?

Sheraz: Not many bro; no live scene over here in Lahore. Islamabad is doing pretty good in terms of live shows. But Lahore is dead. But fuck it, we get to spend more time in the studio writing/recording music so it's all cool. We don't whine about it and we don't want anyone to feel sympathetic about it either. I am not a very passionate live musician anyway, I love getting up on stage, but it's not what I started playing music for in the first place. I've never dreamed of playing big shows and touring around the world, this is not what I am in for. Converting my ideas into songs is what matters for me the most. Waleed lives in a Karachi now so we don't get to play live much as Dionysus but my other band Foreskin still plays live. Dionysus might play at Hellfest in January 2014 in Islamabad, looking forward to that.

dionysus

Umair: There used to be a time when there were a lot of gigs happening here in Lahore back in '10. Now, it's all dead. When we first started playing live, there were a lot of opportunities but suddenly, all is gone. Islamabad is doing pretty good. As Waleed has shifted to Karachi now, we can't perform live as Dionysus unless he is in town. But I get to play bass live with Foreskin, so that's kinda fun.

Waleed: A lot of live gigs happen here in Pakistan, even more than you can think of, but no metal shows.

'Hymn To The Dying' had a phenomenal reception worldwide , were you surprised at just how far the EP spread?

Sheraz: I appreciate the love and support we've got from our brothers from across the world and you too. And of course, my mind was blown when Tony Sundstrand contacted me for releasing Hymn to the Dying on CD format, it really felt like we've accomplished something. Although it was doing pretty good on internet when we released it for free download first but knowing that our music would be out on physical format and that too from a label from Sweden, was a real grand feeling, it's just the beginning but yeah we cherish every little memory. Tony played a big part in spreading our music and I've my utmost respect for that guy. We're now signed to Transcending Obscurity India, Kunal Choksi (the owner) is one of the most humble people I've ever come across and he knows his shit so I know this will work out for the better in future.

Umair: Thanks to Tony Sundstrand for releasing 'Hymn To the Dying'. I appreciate the support from everywhere, thanks to all the people who bought our EP. It feels really good to accomplish something like this. And the best part is having the CD released from Sweden. haha. And now we are signed to Transcending Obscurity thanks to Kunal Choksi. Now looking forward to working on some new stuff!

Waleed: With all the hard work that we put in writing/recording Hymn to the dying, we kinda knew it would do well. And we're happy to be satisfied with what we did although improvement is a never ending process. Cheers to all the labels/zines/PR people who have helped us in spreading our music in the dark corners of the world.

What do your families think of the music and the success/Transcending Obscurity deal?

Sheraz: Success? haha! they were pretty happy when they got to know that someone from Sweden released our crap on CD and when underground zines and vinyls/tapes etc started showing up in the mail from countries like Singapore, Sweden, Holland etc. My mother has always supported me in respect of music but we all take it as a hobby and completing studies and moving on with my life is primary for me. Music will always be a big part of my life, but there are other things that are more important.

dionysus

Umair: haha, they were pretty happy when they saw that the CD was released from Sweden. It was a big accomplishment for us. My mother supported me most in everything. Even in buying gear initally, lol.

Waleed: When my father got to know that his son has produced it, he made some copies of the EP and distributed 'em among his buddies. haha. He is proud of it!

What does that deal mean to you as a band - personally as well as musically ? (does this mean gigs in India might be on the cards)

Sheraz: It means a lot to me, since Transcending Obscurity is the biggest label in this region and with bands like The Dead, Drunk Honkey and Dormant Inferno on that label, I feel proud to be the part of the family. For the band, the deal means better promotion, better distribution and better quality of CDs and yes, if everything worked out we shall play in India one day as well.

Umair: I am really happy about this deal. And as some great bands are signed to TO, I feel honoured. Also, we might play in India someday so it's good.

Waleed: I think it's a step forward and it will help our music spread around the world easily!

Pakistani Rock/Metal bands are beginning to get more attention world wide - how do you feel being part of that? Do you get as much attention at home?

Sheraz: I am not a part of that. We're just lone rangers. We've a big local/international fan base but I don't promote my music with my country's name on it. And I want people to listen to my music without thinking about the drones and all the other shit that goes down in Pakistan. I am sick of those metal bands from countries like Iran or Iraq and other Asian/Middle Eastern countries who try to get attention by showing how they're coming from a 'muslim country' and how hard they work to record a 'metal' song in that country, I say fuck off! If your music is not strong enough, fuck where you're coming from. Too bad your Dad is an extremist mullah who doesn't let you play a guitar, you're not getting my attention.

But Dionysus/my other projects do get a lot of exposure in the underground circle, which is a good thing. Dionysus' bathing in unholy blood has been featured Underground United compilation released by Formasi Dajjal and B tattoo productions on CD, one of the new songs is featured on Doom metal front zines compilation which will be released soon. Foreskin's Antikvlt was featured on Ghalazat split featuring other hardcore/sludge/grind bands from Nepal. Another song called Raid the Stage along with Multinational corporation's Salaab was featured on "Never mind the taqwacore, HERE IS THE REAL DEAL" Compilation released on 7" Vinyl by Tam 89 records. Marwolaeth's Death lives on was featured on Wartorn Record's 4 way split featuring 2 bands from India and 2 bands from Pakistan. I don't even remember all of the compilation appearances actually. It feels good when people who have respect for your music show their support, that's why I love the underground. People love the music, no matter where it's coming from or who's playing it or if its popular or not!

Umair: I don't care about the commercial rock/ pseudo metal bands over here. Dionysus do have a very loyal fan base, and we appreciate it but it was never about getting 'attention'. Knowing that my music reaches the right ear is what matters to me the most.

Waleed: It does feel when people know about your songs and when you see people doing covers of your songs. Its a great feeling knowing other people can relate to your music.

Pakistan appears to the outside world as a country beset with conflict (sectarian violence, Extremism etc) how much of that affects you as musicians - how much of that side do you write about, also have you ever been told that you shouldn't be making music?

Sheraz: No, I've never been told that. In fact my teachers, my parents and everyone else respects me for what I do. I once got saved from getting expelled from my college due to short attendance because the principle found out that I am in a band! Instead he asked me to play at a function the next month in order to save my ass, the other guy who was with me got expelled and he didn't have anything to back him up. I felt sorry for the poor guy. LOL. But yeah, since there are a lot of problems like load shedding, economic crises, crime situation etc. It gets really tough sometimes but fuck it, I am gonna act like a black dude and say "a nigga gotta do what a nigga gotta do". hahahah.

Umair: Hahaha. I got accepted in Art School because of my music. Everyone here appreciates music in one way or another. Some people are always crying about load shedding and all, but it's not going anywhere. You gotta live with it. And to be honest, we humans learn to live in every condition so yeah, fuck whining about it.

Waleed: Violence and extremism doesn't affect our lives that much. Karachi is known as the most dangerous cities in the world, I think it's not true in any sense. Of course there are crimes etc like in every other big city around the world. But nothing that affects our lives majorly. I think it is the media who's to blame for this propaganda. I do music just as a normal person living in any other country, yes people here do not appreciate much of the things we do musically, but they do not stop us from doing it either. So the best thing we can do is focus on it.

New recordings planned - how will you record this differently from 'Hymn ...'

Sheraz: its pretty different now since "Hymn to the dying". Waleed lives in Karachi now, so basically Umair and I record guitar/drums at our studio over here and then send files to Waleed and he edits them the way it sounds better and adds bass, vocals, acoustic guitars and additional guitar parts then send 'em back to us. We've written 2 songs till now which are planned to be featured on a split release with a really killer and my personal favourite death/doom band. I am not gonna disclose the name for now, but you'll get to know soon.

Umair: What Sheraz said.

Waleed: It's a lot different, we've been exposed to a lot of new music since we recorded Hymn to the dying. And we've recorded 2 new songs, they sound pretty good. I think we're progressing in the right direction, you'll get to know soon!

You all seem to be involved in other projects as well - different styles etc. Does working with them give you fresh ideas for Dionysus?

Sheraz: hahah yeah, since we cannot limit ourselves to one specific style of music, we've ended up with a lot of shit on our plate.

Besides Dionysus, here is the list of my other projects that are active at the moment:

Foreskin (crossover/thrash): http://foreskin.bandcamp.com/
Multinational Corporations (grindcore/crust): http://foreskin.bandcamp.com/
Marwolaeth (OSDM): http://marwolaeth.bandcamp.com/
Flaw (experimental rock): http://visionaire.bandcamp.com/album/flawloss
Irritum (funeral doom): http://irritum.bandcamp.com/

Umair: I am not involved much in other projects as Sheraz and Waleed are. haha. But I do play some different music on the side. I've been working on some Jazz/fusion music for a while now - am writing some songs. Maybe I'll release them someday.

Waleed: Oh yes! I love to experiment with sounds, whether it is metal or whatever genre. I've been involved in many other projects and have recently released a solo album called “WATERFORT” which mainly consists of progressive/ post rock elements, heres the link of the album: https://soundcloud.com/syed-waleed-ahmed/sets/waterfort-2-songs

Also check my previous post black metal project LOHIKARMA, Dreaming skies EP was released on CD by Moontone records (Thailand) earlier this year: http://lohikarma.bandcamp.com/

Thank you very much guys. Good luck with the new stuff, and we at Metaltalk.net look forward to reviewing it!




14.10.13





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30 years of dedication, passion and love for the music and her fans all over the world...

destruction EUROPE UNDER ATTACK! DESTRUCTION, FLOTSAM AND JETSAM, NERVOSA ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN TOUR
Thrash metal icons Destruction are set to fire their new missile of heavy 'Under Attack' on May 13th via Nuclear Blast Records...

grand magus GRAND MAGUS RELEASE NEW TRACK 'FORGED IN IRON - CROWNED IN STEEL'
"Metalheads! Grand Magus are back. We are proud to unleash this iron-clad anthem, we give you... VARANGIAN!"

tyler bryant TYLER BRYANT AND THE SHAKEDOWN SPECIAL UK HEADLINE WARM-UP DATE FOR AC/DC EUROPEAN TOUR CONFIRMED
Unleashing their high-proof blend of melody, muscle and psychedelic mystique to well in excess of 600,000 riff-hungry fans across 12 different countries...

klogr MUSE, TOOL, STONE SOUR, RUSH PRODUCER FOR KLOGR'S NEXT ALBUM PLUS NEW MUSIC VIDEO PREMIERE
Italian progressive metal band unveil the final music video from 'Make Your Stand'...

rage RAGE REVEAL LYRIC VIDEO FOR NEW TRACK 'SPIRITS OF THE NIGHT' PLUS NEW ALBUM TRAILERS
Iconic German metal trio Rage are set to release their new studio album 'The Devil Strikes Again' on June 10th...

bon scott LIFE-SIZED STATUE OF AC/DC LEGEND BON SCOTT UNVEILED IN KIRRIEMUIR
The bronze statue is the result of a two-year crowdfunding campaign which was supported by AC/DC and the band's former bass player Mark Evans officially unveiled it...

mikkey dee BREAKING NEWS: SAXON WITH PHIL CAMPBELL AND MIKKEY DEE TO PAY TRIBUTE TO LEMMY AT GOLDEN GODS, HAMMERSMITH ODEON
Ticket price is a very reasonable £6.66 with all proceeds going to Nordoff Robbins, Teenage Cancer Trust, and Childline...

mikkey dee BREAKING NEWS: MOTÖRHEAD'S MIKKEY DEE ANNOUNCED AS SCORPIONS DRUMMER
"We would like to continue our Return to Forever tour with James, but we have to realize that his health is priority..."

alex dickson gun BREAKING NEWS: ALEX DICKSON REJOINS GUN
As exclusively predicted by MetalTalk last week, guitarist Alex Dickson has re-joined Scottish rockers Gun...

cockney rejects WEST HAM UNITED TRIBUTE 'GOODBYE UPTON PARK' TO BE RELEASED BY COCKNEY REJECTS
"We were all born within a mile or so from the hallowed Boleyn ground and have all stood on the terraces through snow, rain and sunshine from a very early age."

ac/dc AC/DC RELEASE TICKET REFUND DETAILS FOR MOST EUROPEAN COUNTRIES
If you don't want a refund, then we'll see you at The Olympic Stadium in London as we think we're about to witness a major piece of rock history...

deep purple IAN PAICE AND DON AIREY SCHEDULE SOLO EUROPEAN DATES AS 2016 DEEP PURPLE TOUR APPROACHES
Deep Purple are kicking off their 2016 tour next month in Japan, before heading to Israel, Russia and Europe in June and July.

steve hackett STEVE HACKETT TO RELEASE 'THE TOTAL EXPERIENCE LIVE IN LIVERPOOL', HIS ACOLYTE TO 'WOLFLIGHT' WITH GENESIS REVISITED TOUR
"Besides, it's not as if Liverpool is known for having any good music – there's never been a good band from there. Ha!"

lacuna coil LACUNA COIL LAUNCH NEW ALBUM TITLE TRACK 'DELIRIUM'
Lacuna Coil will be making their much-anticipated return to North America as part of the 'Delirium Worldwide' tour starting in San Francisco on May 7th

bibeau YOUNG, PROGRESSIVE BAND BIBEAU OFFER THEIR FIRST SINGLE/VIDEO, 'MARK THIS'
"We were also hoping to convey the look, feel and flow of some of the classic, timeless rock and metal videos from the height of MTV's popularity..."

virginmarys THE VIRGINMARYS ANNOUNCE HEADLINE UK TOUR FOR JUNE 2016
"It's going to be so great to get back in front of our home fans again, and really important to us to play some of the towns we've been wanting to come back to..."

weapon uk WEAPON UK TO HEADLINE THE RETRIBUTION ALIVE ROAD TRIP IN MAY
"They toured with Motörhead in the 80s, including four sold out shows at the Hammersmith Odean and I have to say, we're pretty excited about this!"

headbangers ball ICED EARTH AND ENSIFERUM TO HEADLINE MTV HEADBANGERS BALL TOUR 2016: FULL DATES HERE
"So brace yourselves for the ultimate Metal experience of a lifetime! See you in front row!"

bloodstock BLOODSTOCK ADDS MORE BANDS, DETAILS METAL 2 THE MASSES FINALS AND ANNOUNCES FIRST NEW BLOOD STAGE WINNERS
Bloodstock HQ is readying to send Team M2TM out on the road for the finals, but in the meantime, there's a few more band additions to the August bill

dead daisies THE DEAD DAISIES ANNOUNCE UK AND EUROPEAN DATES FOR JULY/AUGUST IN SUPPORT OF NEW STUDIO ALBUM 'MAKE SOME NOISE'
The Dead Daisies, the biggest new name in Rock, have just recently announced the addition of Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio) as their new lead guitar player

wolf hoffmann WOLF HOFFMANN TO RELEASE SOLO ALBUM 'HEADBANGERS SYMPHONY' ON JULY 1st
"I have always incorporated classical music in my song writing with Accept, especially with 'Metal Heart', but I constantly felt there was so much more that I could do..."

jaegermeister JÄGERMEISTER RELEASE FULL DOCUMENTARY OF WORLD'S FIRST MUSIC GIG ON AIR, SEA AND LAND
"We go bigger every year and because of the nature of this world first this gig was not only a test of friendship but one of supporting each other too..."

john otway JOHN OTWAY PLANNING ON BEING FIRST ARTIST SINCE THE ROLLING STONES TO RECORD IN MONTSERRAT
"Although the old Air Studios are now derelict the studio in the basement of Sir George Martin's house is sound – it just needs rebuilding..."

fates warning FATES WARNING - NEW STUDIO ALBUM 'THEORIES OF FLIGHT' ANNOUNCED, ARTWORK UNVEILED
"There's a loose theme running through a lot of the lyrics, and this developed organically and separately..."

amon amarth RAISE YOUR HORNS AND BE IN AMON AMARTH'S NEW MUSIC VIDEO
Swedish Heavy Metal goliaths Amon Amarth are inviting their fans around the globe to be a part of their forthcoming video...

sixx am SIXX:A.M. ANNOUNCE THE "#REASONTORISE" CAMPAIGN, TOUR DATES AND 'VOL.1 PRAYERS FOR THE DAMNED' DETAILS
"It is our duty as citizens of this world to come together, communicate with one another and rise up to demand more of ourselves and our leaders."

armored saint ARMORED SAINT ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN FESTIVAL AND CLUB APPEARANCES
"For our first time in Spain, it's gonna be sick! And as if this wasn't enough - Saint is playing for the first time ever in Japan..."

black country communion BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION TO REFORM IN 2017
"Preparing BCC Rocket Ship Re-launch for 2017 - all systems go."

tarja TARJA PREMIERES OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO OF HER NEW SINGLE 'NO BITTER END'
'No Bitter End', the opening track of the prequel album 'The Brightest Void', is the first glimpse of Tarja's new work – her heaviest to date...

stratovarius STRATOVARIUS RELEASE LYRIC VIDEO FOR 'UNTIL THE END OF DAYS'
"To me it's a testament to the fact that paying attention to song writing and production was expensive, but so worth it..."

brian johnson EXCLUSIVE: PROMINENT AC/DC CREW MEMBER GIVES REMARKABLE INSIGHT INTO AXL ROSE APPOINTMENT
AC/DC are covering themselves in case Axl's poor reputation for unprofessionalism manifests itself...

brian johnson THE DARKEST DAY OF MY PROFESSIONAL LIFE: BRIAN JOHNSON ISSUES PERSONAL STATEMENT ON AC/DC DEPARTURE
"I wish to assure our fans that I am not retiring. My doctors have told me that I can continue to record in studios and I intend to do that..."

thin lizzy THIN LIZZY ANNOUNCE BASS PLAYER AND NEW DRUMMER FOR 2016/17 ANNIVERSARY SHOWS
Thin Lizzy are undisputed legends and to be a small part of their lineage is a humble honor for me...

ian gillan IAN GILLAN TO PERFORM UNIQUE SOLO SHOW OF DEEP PURPLE CLASSICS IN BULGARIA
There is a possibility that Ian will also play some material from his catalogue outside of Deep Purple...

don airey DEEP PURPLE'S DON AIREY AND FRIENDS ADDED TO CAMBRIDGE ROCK FESTIVAL PLUS ATOMIC ROOSTER
Expect to hear many classics from Airey's illustrious past which includes time spent with Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne as well as his current job with Deep Purple...

wildfire festival WILDFIRE FESTIVAL 2016 ANNOUNCE SUNDAY NIGHT HEADLINERS AND FIVE MORE ACTS
With June creeping ever closer, Wildfire Festival's impressive main stages line-up is all but finalised...

whitesnake THE END OF WHITESNAKE: DAVID COVERDALE TO RETIRE IN 2017
Whitesnake headline the UK's Ramblin Man Festival in July in what could be their final ever UK appearance...

axl rose AXL ROSE CONFIRMED AS AC/DC SINGER FOR THE REMAINING ROCK OR BUST DATES
The worst kept secret in rock is now official...

aerosmith THE END OF AEROSMITH?: NO FAREWELL TOUR CONFIRMED AT THE MOMENT
"A farewell tour is something we've talked about doing for years, let's say roughly in the last five years..."

hrh united ALESTORM, HAMMERFALL, FINSTERFORST, NAPALM DEATH, ARMORED SAINT, VENOM INC. AND EVIL SCARECROW ANNOUNCED FOR HRH UNITED
HRH United 3 will be an exclusive upgraded Metal Edition taking over the entire site @ Camp HRH, Pwllheli, North Wales...

rolling stones PROUD GALLERIES PLAYING HOST TO FABULOUS ROLLING STONES PHOTO EXHIBITION: TERRY O'NEILL TO ATTEND SIGNING SESSION
It's a wonderful book by photographer Terry O'Neill of Rolling Stones images from 1963 to 1965, an era when the Stones were just "breaking through"...

between the buried and me BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN SUMMER DATES
As well as the European tour dates, BTBAM have launched a live video for 'The Ectopic Stroll' whih you can see here...

jade vine LONDON BASED ALTERNATIVE PROG ROCKERS JADE VINE ANNOUNCE ALBUM LAUNCH SHOW
Jade Vine's music has been influenced by artists such as Pink Floyd, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, Anathema and Pain Of Salvation...
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