Jugaa’s guitarist, founder, main songwriter and chief exporter of their heaviness to foreign lands – Vishal Rai – is an important figure in the Nepali hardcore/metal scene, whether he likes to admit it or not. Since 2007, Jugaa has put out 1 demo, 2 EP’s, 2 splits, and 1 compilation. They’ve also shared the stage with Singaporean grindcore act Wormrot at Undergrind fest in India, where Jugaa showed off their Himalayan Hardcore sound to a non-Nepali audience for the first time. He’s also a punk rock veteran, a part of the infamous band I2ST back in the early 2000’s. But at the end of it, Vishal’s just a cool, knowledgeable bloke. I’d like to pretend this interview was conducted at a bar over a few beers, but I hope to have that honor some day when my own band plays in Nepal!
– Hey Vishal. What’s up and how’s the preparation for Silence Festival going?
We’ve barely been able to get together once a week to rehearse and our drummer keeps forgetting his parts. Things are going to be disastrous. Haha.
– Tell us a bit about the background of the band and the line-up. What was the purpose behind Jugaa’s formation and is it still on the same track as the early days?
Our old band (I2ST) stopped playing in 2005, I think. After a year or so of inactivity, we were itching to play again but not as I2ST. That band had a time and a place and that time had clearly passed. That’s when the most evil man in Kathmandu, Ranav from Cruentus (the best black metal band this country has produced), stepped in on vocals.
The purpose behind Jugaa’s formation has always been the same – to create dark, heavy hardcore.
– You guys were on the Ghalazat compilation. How’s the compilation been recieved thus far?
It’s been received pretty well, I guess. More than that, it was just a relief to get it out after months of delays. It was certainly cool to be on a compilation with our good friends, with a cover designed by an artist who’s worked with some of my favourite bands – Jacob Parmentier of Abernathy Designs.
– Looking at Jugaa’s sound, there’s definitely a strange melting pot of influences from black metal to NYHC. How do you make it work, with regards to the songwriting process and individual influences of the members?
Well, it’s an amalgamation of having a myriad of influences and the art of stealing riffs, which I consider myself a student of. Hahaha. I’m responsible for a majority of the songwriting, which I do alone at home, so the influences of the other members don’t really come into play until we get together. And then, what I’ve envisioned usually turns out to be completely different once the drums and vocals come in because they have their own style of doing things.
People have compared us to bands I’ve never heard of, some even obscure (at least to me) death metal, and I find that very amusing and intriguing.
– In the last 3 years the Hardcore scene has been harkening back to the days of the 90’s Metallic Hardcore era, but bringing in some HM-2 influences from Sweden too. Where does Jugaa fit into the realm of heavy music today, in your opinion?
I don’t know, man, I’ve never thought of things that way. We’re just a band from a tiny country in the armpit of the world – South Asia – trying to have a good time playing heavy music.
– You’re always on the look out for new heavy music and such. What are the best new hardcore bands in your opinion?
I’ll limit this to bands that only have demos so far. Most of them play 90’s style heavy hardcore/metalcore. I’m biased since that’s my favourite style.
Incitement – http://incitement.bandcamp.com/
Below – http://atonementrecords.limitedrun.com/products/516337-below-demo-2013
Jukai – http://jukai.bandcamp.com/
xRepentancex – http://xrepentancex.bandcamp.com/
Pulled Under – http://pulledunderhc.bandcamp.com
Outer Heaven – http://outerheavenpa.bandcamp.com/
– What about the music scene in Nepal. You’ve been involved in making music for well over a decade now, how have things changed since back in the I2ST era?
Many things have changed and a lot has stayed the same but it’s definitely gotten bigger, that’s for sure. Nepal has to be one of the few countries where attendees at “underground” concerts outnumber those of the mainstream pop/rock variety. A decade ago you were lucky if you could play a show a month, now there are shows every other weekend. Besides that, I wouldn’t know because I’m not as involved as I used to be. Kids do seem to be having fun though, and that’s all that matters.
– Do you think people are right to call I2ST a legendary band as far as Punk Rock in KTM is concerned?
I think people call I2ST legendary because of the warped “old is good” belief. In all likelihood, people who call us that are younger kids who weren’t around when we were active. We just happened to be one of the first punk bands in this country. They probably heard about us from older folk or read about us somewhere and, since they weren’t around then, it created an aura of mystique. It’s all good though, who wouldn’t want to be termed “legendary” even when you know you don’t really deserve it? hahaha.
In a way, this is funny because everyone hated us then. The exact same thing happened to our friends UgraKarma. They were despised because of the use of programmed drums on their albums and now there are tribute shows being organized in their honour. The only difference is they actually had really good songs that people overlooked just because of the drums, while ours don’t seem to have aged well.
In any case, I don’t associate myself with the Kathmandu punk scene. I don’t know what it’s like now, but it was terrible a decade ago when it was overtly PC with a holier-than-thou attitude and people trying to force their opinions on you. I’m not apathetic and I like bands that have solid things to say (as rare as they may be), but when shows have hour long speeches between sets, you know you’re deep in No Fun Club territory.
– Tell us a bit about your bond with Sangharsha. You put out a split with them a year ago and teamed up once more for Ghalazat.
I’ve loved Sangharsha since their demo. Kshitiz is a terrible guitarist but he comes up with brilliant riffs. hahaha. We go a long way back and we have a lot of things in common so that’s reason enough to keep teaming up.
– Same as Sangharsha, Jugaa isn’t too active on the live front despite making some mosh-heavy music. What’s your reason?
It started out due to geographical issues since I wasn’t in the country for a while. Then when we started playing again, we realized we weren’t into it. We don’t tour, so playing regular shows in the same city to the same people tends to get tedious. We also didn’t want to be one of those bands that put themselves on every bill, no matter what kind of show it is. I feel it cheapens the whole thing. I’d rather be in the studio.
– How do you see the next 5 years unfolding for your band?
We’re breaking up after the next EP, whenever that may be.
– 5 albums that changed your approach to music?
Slayer – Reign In Blood,
Rancid – …And Out Come The Wolves
Ramones – S/T
Earth Crisis – Destroy The Machines
Integrity – Humanity Is The Devil
– Thank you for your time. Do you have any last words?
Thank you, Hassan, for all your support these last few years. The rest of you, go download Ghalazat
– Hassan Dozakhi