De profundis take on India: Exclusive Tour Diary

London-based progressive extreme metal band De Profundis celebrated its five year anniversary last month. In that time, De Profundis released two full-length albums, played 51 concerts across 11 countries, did two international tours, supporting the likes of Iron Maiden, Nevermore and Opeth.

The band’s sound defies characterisation and draws on diverse influences including extreme metal, progressive rock and jazz. De Profundis are signed to Kolony Records (Europe) and Sony Music (India). The band’s last album, A Bleak Reflection, was released in February 2010.

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In October 2010, De Profundis headlined an Indian tour. The following words are an account of how it all happened…Words: Roman Subbotin – guitars, De Profundis

New Delhi, India: 19 October 2010
A little worse for wear, we arrived in Delhi almost a day after leaving London. We left Shoi’s ( guitarist) place at 5.30am on 18th October 2010 to catch an early flight to Abu Dhabi, from where we transferred to New Delhi. We played the first show of the tour. Getting to the venue was a mission – Indian traffic was truly something to behold! The road users that we encountered during our trip actually included whole families on a single scooter, bicycle-powered rickshaws and barefooted tradesmen pushing carts. It was complete chaos as roads with three lanes typically carried five rows of cars.

The venue of our opening show, The Turquoise Cottage, was hosting a battle of the bands competition. Shoi and I judged the contest, with the winning band given a support slot for Dutch band Textures at their Delhi show several days later. All the competing bands that we saw were excellent and impressive to watch. Picking a winner was hard – but we went with a band called Arcane Deception.

By the time we hit the stage, the club was completely packed out. We were surrounded by the audience from all sides and getting to the stage was a challenge in itself. It was the kind of intense, sweaty club gig that you see depicted in modern music videos. We asked for the lights to be dimmed – which someone helpfully interpreted as literally switching off almost all the lights in the venue! – after three songs we had to ask for the lights to go back on. A shame, as the atmosphere in the darkness was incredibly intense, but we literally couldn’t see anything! It was great being so close to the audience and actually somewhat intimidating! We survived the heat (it was unbelievably hot onstage) and played well – a great start to the tour.

[photo by Sanchit Bisht]

Apparently, we didn’t have the right commercial license (?!?) to sell our merchandise on the premises, so the venue threw out our manager for trying to sell our CDs. To cut a long story short – bureaucratic stupidity reared its ugly, moustached head. Still, a few post-gig beers went down very well, stupidity or not.

No…I was not aware of the beer sticker attached to my forehead at the time.

…….

New Delhi, India: 20-21 October 2010
We had the following day off, which was supposed to be a busy day of sightseeing. Thanks to Delhi traffic and our driver going AWOL for almost two hours, we only had time to see the Red Fort. It was a very impressive piece of architecture, though you won’t be able see much of it in the photograph below!

Later that day, we had dinner with our management in India and discovered that an advert for the Bangalore show featuring De Profundis was in the Indian FHM. (Score!)

Though, perhaps, this wasn’t the most interesting page in the magazine.

Chennai, India: 22-23 October 2010
On the 22nd, we caught a flight to Chennai, where we were due to perform in a five star hotel. Ignoring suggestions to play “something more appropriate” (i.e. lounge jazz), we opted to stick to our death metal guns. This was a last-minute free show, arranged to replace a cancelled show at YMCA Fields (great name). The deal was that it would be free-entry for anyone who gave us their name in advance, albeit with a dress code (the amusingly-worded “closed shoes, full pants”).

Unfortunately, the venue neglected to tell us was that the show would be over 21’s only until the very moment they began turning away people at the door, some of whom had travelled for many hours. We tried to reason with the venue’s management, but there was nothing we could do. They fucked up and let down a lot of people – and worst of all, they didn’t care. Demoralised, we went ahead and played. There were maybe 30 people in the audience – (the pre-gig guest list had 133). The whole situation was hugely disappointing. I can only apologise to anyone that made the effort to see us who was turned away. Somehow, we delivered what was arguably our tightest set of the tour. The circumstances conspiring against us made us more determined. We all went onstage in a bad mood but came off with a smile – I guess that’s the power of live music!

[photo by Shashank Jayaprasad]

After about two hours of sleep, we left the servants’ quarters (where we stayed – the hotel supposedly had no more rooms) and went to catch our 6am train. Between the six of us (five bandmates and Anupam Roy, the soundman) we had six suitcases, cymbals, drum pedals, five guitars (including the backups), three effects pedal-boards, banners, CDs and on-stage live gear to load into the train. Being a touring musician is not all fun, drinking and groupies!

Bangalore, India: 23-24 October 2010
Following a surprisingly enjoyable journey to Bangalore, we were taken to a holiday resort where the festival organisers put us up. The building was unfinished, though it was obviously started some years ago and much of it was falling apart. It was miles away from anything and many things didn’t make any sense in that place. By that point we stopped asking questions. In the evening we went to an awesome metal bar called Styx, where the local DJ entertained our requests of old-school metal classics. A few people recognised us and wished us luck ahead of the show, which was cool.

Even later that evening, we went for dinner at a five star hotel. It was here that an un-named band member consumed huge quantities of food and drink, and then threw up in a bush by the hotel’s front entrance. My memory isn’t so clear, but we may have boarded a pedal-powered luggage buggy and made an ill-conceived attempt to drive off on it. Rock ‘n’ Roll!

On Saturday 24th October, We did two music clinics in Bangalore. It was nerve-racking sitting in a room full of music students, the last place in the world to play a bum note or forget what song you’re playing. Despite our inexperience (these were our first ever clinics) we got some good feedback. I particularly enjoyed taking questions from the students, as some of them were quite challenging and others completely off-topic. At one point I attempted to justify making a horrible noise with musical theory. That was a challenge! For a laugh, try asking someone like Slayer or Sodom to explain the uses of diatonic substitution in context with their music. The result may be more “black eye” than “musical enlightenment”.

Bangalore, India: 24 October 2010
Sunday 24th October was the day of the biggest show on the tour, at Bangalore’s Palace Grounds. We played the same venue in February 2009 when we supported Iron Maiden in front of 20,000 people. Expectations were high, organisers were stressed, and soundchecks were running several hours late…

The show went well, although the actual stage took some getting used to. From the middle of the stage, there was an “ego ramp” that went right into the audience. Exactly the sort of the thing you’d see ugly and thin objects (sorry, fashion models) walking up and down. Sound onstage wasn’t great – in my experience, bigger stages frequently seem to have issues with this; the only way to deal with that is to know your set back-to-front!  I love playing in front of large crowds as they are incredibly responsive. Something happens to audience as soon as they reach a sufficient number; any slight gesture towards the audience always seems to result in feverish response and excitement. It was really amazing, making all the hard work and bad shows that we had to do to get there completely worth it.

[photo by Deepak David]

It was our first-ever open air show at night, so actually we had no idea exactly how many people watched us. Only when the organisers told us that they had sold 30,000 tickets for the day did it start to sink in. If De Profundis was never to do another show from that moment on, I knew it wouldn’t matter as we had got onstage in front of 30,000 people and kicked ass. We were the heaviest band on the main stage and, in fact, the only extreme metal band, playing to a fairly mixed audience, many of whom were there to catch blues and pop bands that played earlier. In spite of this, we still got a fantastic response from the crowd. A great moment!

[photo courtesy of KingfisherWorld.com]

>>>Funny fact: on the official festival website, the organisers described us as Hard Rock and Lacuna Coil as Metal… No further comment.<<<

Guwahati, India: 25 October 2010
How could we possibly follow playing in front of 30,000? By travelling to the most die-hard part of India to play two shows, of course. We flew from Bangalore to Guwahati on 25th  to perform the same day at an open-air sports ground. Mosquitoes swarmed and the atmosphere was menacing. Comedy was provided courtesy of Craig (vocalist), who fell asleep on a sofa backstage and had to be nudged to do some “poetic singing” during soundcheck. Looking disorientated, confused and grumpy, Craig did the quickest vocal check in history, grunting a single syllable before returning to the comfort of his sofa.

[photo by Barun Dev Singh]

This concert was awesome to play. The crowd was really into our music and we had a lot of fun onstage. The lighting guy put on one hell of a lightshow that fit our songs perfectly. He just clicked in with what we were doing – it was incredible. It almost felt like being inside a live music DVD. The show marked a first for us, as the organisers Springboard Surprises actually provided us with an entirely separate backline. Anyone who has shared a backline at gigs will attest to the last-minute stress caused by trying to change amp settings, plugging in cables or adjusting  toms only seconds before your set. Okay, so it’s not a massive thing, but it’s one of those little things that you really appreciate.

[photo by Barun Dev Singh]

Guwahati – Shillong, India: 26 October 2010

After some well-deserved sleep, we left Guwahati the next day and drove to Shillong for the final show of the tour. Throughout the tour, people told us how mad the metal fans were in Shillong. During the three hour drive there we saw some incredible landscapes, as virtually the whole way was uphill and into the Himalayas. It was here that Arran (bassist), proved his metal credentials once and for all with a kvlt pose that would have put Abbath’s attempts to shame!

The rest of De Profundis attempted to follow but clearly it was no contest. Pussies.

Along the drive, we saw approximately 3,486,673 AirTel and Vodafone adverts, often fitted to shacks made from four pieces of corrugated iron – They didn’t have windows or doors – but they had satellite dishes…? We also saw two elephants on the road.

As we were getting closer to our final destination, there were more and more trucks on the road. Most of them were decorated with hand-painted images and stickers, but one simply blew us away! It had a Manowar mural! How ridiculously metal is that!? We knew right there and then that all we’d heard was true – Shillong was as metal as anything.

In the evening, we took part in a live radio show on Red FM, where we chatted about the tour and requested the likes of Death and Cannibal Corpse (on national radio). Hugely satisfying. Take that Simon Cowell – in some parts of the world people still listen to real music.

The only downside to Shillong was that everything was shut by 9pm. It was a bit of challenge finding food and drink for the evening. As for the latter, our supply of local Indian brew “Old Monk” was raided, ensuring a good night.


Shillong, India: 27 October 2010
As we prepared to go onstage for the final show, the atmosphere was electric. There were close to a thousand people – an excellent turnout, especially for a weeknight! When we finally came out on stage, the whole place erupted – It was extreme! I’ve never seen people go so mad for metal! It was as if the crowd were in a trance, absorbing every note and every decibel. It’s hard for bands to get up to Shillong, and you could really see how passionate the crowd were. We played a long set with two encores and the crowd were still shouting for more, which was an amazing feeling – a fantastic show and a great event to end the tour.

[photo courtesy of Springboard Surprises]

The second it was finished there was a moment of quiet. We looked at each other but no-one spoke. The tour was over and it was time to go home. It was a strange feeling of sadness and pride combined. We’d just done a headlining tour of India…but now it was done; finished. We held onto every moment as if it was the last.

Keith Wallang, the organiser of Guwahati and Shillong shows, was kind enough to invite us and the local crew to his place for dinner afterwards. We all had a great time meeting local musicians and just relaxing. The tour had been a lot of fun but it was hard work! Tomorrow, we would go home – but not without a nine hour traffic jam, a missed flight and two transfers. We covered almost 10,000 miles on the way back.  If you thought that was all – that we’d had enough and we’d cool off for a few weeks – you were wrong. 24 hours later we drove four hours from London to Bradford to play another gig.

You can find out more on the band at these links: www.deprofundistheband.com | www.myspace.com/deprofundisuk | www.facebook.com

The band wishes to thank Tasneem and the British Council, Renee Jhala, Shashwat Gupta / Anupam Roy of Grey and Saurian Productions, G.V. Vilas & Common Colours, Keith Wallang & Springboard Surprises whose hard work made the tour possible. All photos were taken by the band unless stated otherwise. Words: Roman Subbotin – guitars, De Profundis

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