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shiva moorthy
with

photo: deborah philip

design; giles sibbald

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moral putrefaction

shiva

Moral Putrefaction was started in 2015 and it was a guitar tutor of mine that I started the band with. He was also into heavy metal and he introduced a lot of bands to me.

At that point in time, I used to play for a black metal band and I just didn't see eye to eye with the frontman. So I quit the band. I pretty much wanted to start something of my own, so that I get to call the shots and so I can explore my own writing capabilities and whatnot.

So I asked my guitar tutor, who was also a metal musician himself, and we just started the band and threw off riff ideas with each other. And we realised that there were a lot of commonalities with the way we thought about music.   

Shiva silhouette

So, we started looking out for other musicians. We found a bassist and we had a dedicated vocalist at that point in time. Now it's a four-piece band, but yeah, at the time, we were a five-piece. And then we got the drummer and he's still around, his name is Hemanth. So yeah, it's just me and him who have been the consistent parts of the band. So yeah, I mean, we decided that we would write secular music, stuff about what frustrates us as citizens of this country, or as human beings in general. For example, Scum Of The Earth is about sexual assault and sexual predators and we write a little bit about how divisive politics is harming people in the country. You know, division based on caste, religion, and whatnot. That's the idea behind the band name as well. Putrefaction is decay. So decaying of human morality is the idea behind the band name. So yeah, as of now it's a four piece band. It's me on vocals and guitars, Nathan on bass and backing vocals, Beeto on lead guitars and Hemanth on drums. 

giles-

how did you get into music?

shiva-

 

Well, I was 15 or 16 and I just wanted to play guitar for the girls, you know, teenage stuff like that {laughs}. But that unfortunately did not happen {laughs}. But, I started discovering a lot more rock and metal music around that time. I made a lot of friends in my guitar class and that's how I got introduced to Metallica and Megadeth and it started snowballing from there. I started listening to a lot of thrash metal, I started listening to a lot of black metal and death metal. Death metal stuck out for me. And that's pretty much where my musical journey started. 

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giles-

What were you listening to before you found metal? I'm always interested how people find their true music love...y'know, what attracts you to a musical style?

SHIVA-

More regional stuff! You know, there are a lot of composers that make film music here. I'm sure you must have heard of A.R. Rahman. He has won Grammys and Oscars. So people like him and, you know, there are a lot of regional musicians that I was listening to at that point in time. It was only after I started learning to play music that I was able to actually appreciate the complexities of it. But, metal is not as common in India. I mean, I'm sure where you live, metal is much more accessible, but I didn't discover metal until very late, like until I was 15 or 16. I didn't even know that was a thing. And when I discovered it, it hit me like a brick. So it's a very different perspective and it's always interesting to hear others perspective.

giles-

It's really interesting to hear your experience and perspective. I also feel that there's a link between accessibility to a type of music and finding your people - people of the same mindset as you. I mean, not always the same mindset, but perhaps...

SHIVA-

Insanity? {Laughs}.

giles-

{Laughs}. Something like that! I guess they'll be like minded in terms of what draws them to the music, perhaps the politics, perhaps the sound, and there's strength in that that we can feed off, especially if the scene is small and growing or it's maybe facing difficulties compared to the mainstream. Tell us a bit about the metal scene or underground scene as you see it in India and also in Chennai.

SHIVA-

That's very true.  Ah, just while I remember: I don't suppose you got to Bangalore Open Air in February while you were over here did you?

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photo: deborah philip

giles-

No, I didn't.

-shiva

I think Kreator, In Flames and Decapitated were some of the big names playing

giles-

 

Kreator! Oh yeah, I saw them in London maybe 10 years ago. The floor was bouncing.

shiva-

Wow, okay. Good to hear about that happening! I'm not surprised though! Anyway, so coming back to your question. The Indian scene has always been a growing scene. It's still growing but there are cities like Bangalore, Mumbai and Hyderabad, that are very well established metal scenes. You have so many bands coming out of there, you have a good size of audience for it as well. But in India, in general, the extreme metal scene and the metal scene, I will say, are both still growing. People are still discovering music. There are newer generations of musicians coming in and they're bringing in new genres and I'd say more modern metal is coming up as well. Which is okay, I'm not against it, I mean, you do you as long as the scene keeps going, that's all that matters. In general, I'd say it's in a good place. Chennai metal scene however, has had its ups and downs. I think the ups were before my time in the community. I hear stories about 2-day metal festivals and 400/500 people showing up and all of that. But now, finding a venue is one of our major challenges. The venues here want DJs and EDM music in general. So for us to convince them that 'hey, we can pack the place' itself is a huge deal. But when gigs do happen, we get good crowd, people pack the pubs and I am sure 100-150 people might sound small in comparison with London, but in actuality, it is a big deal for us to get that many people into a gig and it's a good capacity for any venue in Chennai.

giles - 

I think that's such an important point, I really do. It shows how far we've lost that, because I do think community should be second nature to us. But you know, we've drifted away from it. I think you're totally right. There are actually lots of similarities there with what's happening in London. I mean a lot of venues, including larger venues and smaller "underground" venues, where you get punk shows, metal shows, alternative shows, indie shows, hip hop and the venues are insisting on like 11pm/1030pm curfews. SO they make sure everyone is out by, say 11pm and then they have a DJ club night following the show. I think it's a survival thing. There hasn't really been an adequate, structured funding programme for venues in the UK but it's becoming better and more innovative with the Music Venue Trust's work to help grassroots venues.

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shiva- 

It's pretty much DIY here. We don't have sponsors, we don't have fundings of any sort. It's just organisers saying, 'Okay, someone has to do this, let me take up the charge' and really putting stuff together, bands cooperating and doing our best to make things happen. What you were saying about the DJ nights, that reminded me of a gig that we played last year in Bangalore. We finished our soundcheck, then stepped out for a while. There was another event happening before our gig which was a One Direction tribute evening, or something of that sort. All the band members who were going to perform had to wait outside until that event was done {laughs}. And when all the people were stepping out afterwards, we were just like, 'Okay, finally it's done. Let's just get our shit started.' Hilarious.

giles-

Oh my god, a tribute act!

shiva-

Yeah, there's a picture of the four of us sitting on the floor, completely disgruntled with the situation.

giles-

Shows where the priorities lie. You gotta make money, man....{laughs} All roads lead to capitalism, right?

shiva-

No two ways about it.

giles-

Is there good co-operation between bands when you're trying to put together nights?

shiva-

In my experience, generally yes. I mean, especially in a scene like Chennai, where we're all still trying to figure things out, animosity between bands is not going to help in any way. Even if we did have some sort of beef, it'd get squashed and we'd move ahead. Right now, I think that as far as Chennai bands are concerned, we're all in a good place. We are all trying to look out for each other or whatever. For example, if someone's looking for a contract to print t shirts, we try to match them up with someone who can do the printing. It's healthy to look out for each other and make sure people understand that there is music coming from Chennai as well. There are a lot of talented musicians here, it's just that we are still trying to figure out the platform for it.

giles-

So, one of the topics that you are writing about is the caste system. When I was in India earlier this year, there were a couple of times when the existence of the system was denied by what I would call comfortably wealthy, upper middle class Indians. 

shiva-

Jarring, isn't it? I mean, to be honest, what you witnessed is just scratching the surface. I think in Chennai, you don't see it as much, but it's still very much there. In any metropolitan city, for that matter, you may not see it explicitly happening on a daily basis, but it's very much there. People who say it doesn't exist, live in a very, very comfortable bubble where they don't have to face all of this. They are just privileged enough to not face any sort of discrimination against them. If you go to more rural parts of the country, the whole caste heirarchy is way more prevalent and visible. I mean, people who are supposed to be from a lower caste aren't allowed to drink from the same well as the people from the upper caste. That kind of stuff happens. People are killed for growing moustaches. Can you believe that shit?  Having a moustache here is a sort of a symbol of pride. So when someone from a perceived lower caste grows a moustache, it's sort of…. I don't know, I don't understand the logic, but it’s rooted in privilege and class. It's the reality of things here.

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giles-

Is the Chennai metal scene male dominated or are women involved? 

shiva-

In Chennai, it's pretty much all men in the metal community, at least the ones who play in bands. We do have women fans coming into metal shows, but I would still say that it's predominantly male dominated. The truth is that women still don't feel very safe at a metal gig. That's something that we should proactively change. We are working on it, I guess. Armaan RM (Moral Putrefaction's manager) is one of the organisers of metal gigs in Chennai metal community (he also co-founded Brutal Carnage festival) and we've consciously tried to make sure that any sort of disrespect towards women or poor treatment towards women will not be permitted in any sort of way. So we are trying to bring that change, I think.

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giles-

And I think you have a better chance of doing that, because your scene right now is small and growing so you haven't got the job of changing long established habits, although obviously there are societal habits outside the scene still happening.

shiva-

Yeah, exactly. But at least we can do our best to nip it in the bud if we do see any habits being brought into the scene

giles-

There's still a lot of work to be done to make gigs in the UK safe for women. Still too many accounts of assault. Assault is assault, right? There still needs to be a bigger mindset shift.

shiva-

Yeah, I mean even at a very basic level of if someone's shorter than you just let them up from the front, man. That's not going to affect your view anyway. I think it's that thing of 'hey, I'm a man I can stand wherever I want' kind of thing. That's a lot of gatekeeping, man. There's a lot of that.

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giles-

So, what's coming next for you guys...?

shiva-

Well, we have started working on new material. We are aiming for an EP release by the end of the year or early next year. So let's see how things turn out. We're just writing new stuff and gearing up for our upcoming gigs as well. 

giles-

Does it feel like the current lineup is quite settled now?

shiva-

I think so, yes. It took us a while because I had to get used to my new role as a vocalist and guitarist - I was just the lead guitarist before this. And I was doing my job very happy, didn't have to do vocals. It was fine. Now I have to do two things at once {laughs}

giles-

How was that transition into doing vocals as well?

shiva-

It was very scary, because I didn't think I was capable of multitasking. It took a lot of practice. The fact that I knew how to play the songs on the guitar beforehand - and I'd been playing them for quite a while - certainly helped. I didn't have to worry too much about that. On stage, it took some amount of practice to get accustomed to the role, because as the front person, you have to do the talking and keep the crowd engaged. I mean, it's still a work in progress. I think I have a few parts of it figured out and a few parts that I'm still figuring out. But I think I'm in a better place right now than when I started.

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