Zia Zaidi Interview

We normally cover far more heavier forms of music than what this Singer/Songwriter from Karachi plays, but good music is good music and I wanted to do an interview with him the second I heard some singles off his debut album. Zia Zaidi, ladies and gents, is a part of Karachi’s “indie” scene, and stands out with his vast assortment of 60s/70s rock influences, reminiscent of Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan. In his debut album, the lad gives his home city of Karachi the sort of melancholic musical treatment it has always warranted – check it out after you’re done reading this interview!

 

 

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– Hey Zia, hope you’re doing well!

Hey Hassan, right back at you!

– Most of our readerbase is metal/punk and you’re from the indie spectrum, so introduce yourself and your album to the unaware among us!

Well my name is Zia, but you already know that. I’m an indie musician based in Karachi, indie in the sense that I self-finance my musical projects and release them myself. I don’t particularly like the “indie” label though, it has started to seem a bit pretentious and it tends to limit what people expect or want from me. My album is basically a few songs I wrote that happened to sound fairly similar and created a reasonably coherent musical narrative. I have no other songs like this, the rest of my songs are quite different, as I have a chronic inability to write within a single genre. The album was delayed several times as I tried to work out a grouping of my songs that wouldn’t be too diverse, that would compliment each other but I was eventually able to compile the songs that eventually ended up on my album and record them.

– Can you tell us a bit about the recording process of your album? I understand Ali Suhail helped you out, a prominent member of the Karachi indie scene as well.

The recording process basically involved me, a laptop, an audio interface and my instruments all shut up in a room for a few hours every day. Well, maybe not everyday. I procrastinated a lot. I would basically start with the drum track which I would program using Superior Drummer (I couldn’t afford a live drum recording) after which I would record the instruments (bass, guitar etc) and finally the vocals. Ali basically mixed and mastered the songs, but he also helped me out by programming a string section I composed for my song “Marble and Bone”, composing and programming percussions on “I’m Just Glad” and playing the guitar solo on “They Got Pills”, as well as ambient guitar on By Their Bones. My friend Maaz Muhammad also helped out a lot, he played the guitar solos on Convict Wayne, Be As Us and What’s That, as well as additional lead guitar on They Got Pills and some additional guitar on By Their Bones. Halfway through recording the album my laptop broke, so that delayed the album a lot. I finished it eventually, though many months later than id initially intended.

– Lyrically and thematically, your debut opus comes off as a celebration of Karachi – with a very tragic and melancholic undercurrent. Would that be a correct assessment?

You are absolutely right! I’m glad I was able to convey that through my songs. Karachi is very much the foggy pearl of the “Land of the Pure”, and one can’t help but love her, stubborn little bitch that she is, despite all her flaws.

– What I liked about the lyrics is that they were very poetic, and the performance in the songs was very Bob Dylan-esque… I don’t think I’ve heard any South Asian artist with that approach to their music, not even in the Karachi indie scene. What drove you to make the kind of music you did?

There was just so much amazing music in the 60s and 70s man! The Beatles, Dylan, the Stones, etc. and these guys accomplished so much with their music. I mean they brought about a proper social movement, they had an impact on society and that’s very cool. I guess I channelled Dylan in “The Streets” and it was sort of natural because his style and voice are very nostalgic and The Streets is a very nostalgic song. Apart from that I can’t really say where I’ve been influenced by whom, I don’t really think about it while I compose or write it just happens.

– How has the mainstream press responded to it in Pakistan? Does the mainstream press even know of the thriving Karachi music scene?

Well Ahmer Naqvi (known on the twitterverse as @karachikhatmal) wrote an article about me in Dawn, and I was invited to do a session with City FM89 so I guess, considering that I am a complete and utter noob with 0 press or marketing, the response has been pretty great. On both these occasions I was approached by the concerned parties, I didn’t have to bust my ass trying to get anyone to notice me. I guess, in the grand scheme of things, an article and a radio session is, perhaps, not all that much but what I’m trying to say is that it was really encouraging to have gotten a response like this from mainstreamers, especially considering the fact that I’m a complete unknown. As far as covering the indie scene goes, pretty much every other musician I know or am involved with, Ali Suhail, Shajie, my band E Sharp, Lower Sindh! Swing Orchestra, all of these guys have gotten some sort of press so it’s not like we are completely ignored. I have more of a problem with our audience. I mean if some guy in the US released an album with no marketing or anything, an article in a national newspaper would have been crazy. That being said, there would have been a lot more people willing to buy his music, attend his gigs and otherwise support his music career financially. So basically I don’t have a problem with the mainstream press, were getting newspaper space and radio slots, TV can’t be all that far behind, what we’re really worried about is the fact that we get a few people willing to listen to our songs with each article/interview but we don’t get proper fans that would buy merch or attend gigs. That’s the real problem we face.

– Tell us a bit about Karachi’s music scene in general. There are a lot of good artists out there it seems, and it causes quite a bit of jealousy up north here in Lahore at times! Haha.

Dude I have the feeling that Karachi has more musical talent than anywhere else in the world. We have a genius around every corner. Such good music man! Mole is (was?) a world class band. Lower Sindh! Swing Orchestra has to be one of the finest bands Pakistan has produced, and they’re well on their way to succeeding Mole as the spearheads of art rock in Karachi. My band, E Sharp, was well established when I joined earlier this year, and they brought me in on a grand concept album that they have been working on. We have a thriving EDM scene via “Forever South”, I mean we work our asses off for peanuts (if we’re lucky) and we do it again and again because we are of Karachi, and so we are by default stubborn little pricks. And the acts I mentioned barely scratch the surface of the endless smorgasbord of music that is Karachi! That being said, gigs are close to impossible to pull off here, the people are indifferent at best, hostile at worst, and to earn money we either have to whore ourselves or, well, there’s no other options really just varying degrees of whoring, but these are problems every musician in Pakistan faces haha. And I guess we have a lot of music here, but Punjabs metal scene is crazy and Lahore specifically has the crown jewel of indepependent Pakistani music: Poor Rich Boy!

– Do you see the scene going anywhere in the next 5 years?

There is just so much music being made and so much momentum building up from all of this music the dam will break eventually. I think the scene kind of got kickstarted back in late 2011 with both poor rich boy and lussun tv entering the game, and since then every subsequent year has been better than the last. So, I don’t know what you mean anywhere, but I think in the next 5 years we are going to see bigger and better gigs, more and better music, I’m hoping by that time that all of us can quit our jobs and start working on music full time but that’s more of a pipe dream than anything else.

– What’s next for your solo act?

I have a second album ready to record, it’s a lot weirder, dark acoustic finger picking Prog rock, or maybe not Prog rock but you get the idea, but I’m not going to start working on that for a while. Like I mentioned before, I’m part of a band called E Sharp (I’m the bassist) and were working on a concept double album of 20 songs. It’s a pretty grand concept, we want  to do a lot of things with it so it’s taking up all of my time at the moment. I’m going to try to release my second album by mid 2015, and a third album by early 2016.

– Thanks for your time bro! Stay safe.

Thanks man, you too.

 

Zia Zaidi on Twitter

Zia Zaidi on Facebook

Listen to his album on Soundcloud

Listen to his album on Bandcamp

King Ly Chee Interview

King Ly Chee is a Hong Kong based Chinese Hardcore band fronted by a lead vocalist of Pakistani origin. They’ve been around since 1999, and are considered one of the pioneering acts of Hardcore in Chinese speaking regions. They’ve played alongside a lot of big acts, and their vocalist Riz has helped pave the way for a lot of hardcore bands since initiating the band. I got in touch with him after seeing a flyer for a Chinese HC festival and decided to interview him. We talk about how he got into the music, his VISA problems because of his ethnicity, as well as juggling being a father with his musical responsibilities.

 

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– Hey Riz! Hope everything’s going great with King Ly Chee.

 

Yo – thanks so much for interviewing us man! Means a lot that finally after 15 years of doing this shit that we’ve got some interest from my fellow Desi brethren from the motherland! Hahaha…

Things are going well right now – in our 15th year we’re about to release our 4th record and we’re finishing up all the recording now and trying to plan out the first music video and record release shows. It’s all super exciting because we’re not a full-time band at all…we’re still just doing it for the love of the music we play and what we do. So it’s not a job, but a very serious and passionate part of our lives. It’s still exciting this many years into the game…

 

 

 

 

– Your band has been around since 1999. 15 years of spreading Hardcore Punk in Hong Kong/China, can’t have been easy? How’s the journey been thus far?

 

Hmmmm…don’t know how PMA I can be in answering this! Hahahaha…it’s been hell to say the least. We started this in ’99 when nu-metal was king and kids out here were labeling anything heavy with a screamer as “hardcore”. It was a confusing time and for me to come out and be like “dude – you’re so wrong” and be totally in people’s faces about hardcore in a city like Hong Kong steeped in Chinese culture, let’s just say that my band nor I were met with open arms. Hahahaha…we rubbed people the wrong way from the getgo and still do.

Having said that though, the first few years of this band in Hong Kong was actually always on an upward trajectory. Little did I know that there was going to be such a tragic death of our popularity years later. For the first few years it was a lot of educating people about what punk/hardcore actually stood for and introducing the culture/sound/bands/ideals to a huge non-English speaking public hence the need for my bilingual zine called Start From Scratch. I to this day do not consider myself “Mr. Hardcore” and am still continuing to learn about the history of the earliest bands and how similar our paths have been that led us and brought us to this little underground world. But because I feel the cliché statement “hardcore saved my life” is so true in my case, giving back is the only thing that has made sense. Giving back in the way that by promoting this shit to 100 kids, maybe ONE kid will find something in it that connects with them.

Anyway, like any trendy/commercial city Hong Kong is all about what’s the “in” thing. Our “in” time was in 2003 and since then we’ve never gotten back to that level again. 2003 was a crazy time for us in Hong Kong and had I known that all those who supported us were also going to quickly drop us a year or two later, I would’ve figured out other ways to get them to re-think what hardcore meant to them. Did it actually mean anything? Or was it because their peers seemed psyched on it so they jumped on the bandwagon? Clearly, it was the latter.

 

 

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It hasn’t all been bad though man…we’ve had some accomplishments that I never even considered would’ve been possible. Playing in front of 32,000 people at Philippines’ biggest music festival two years in a row, and countless other music festivals throughout Asia – Baybeats in Singapore being one of our all time favorites. Having people all over the world buy our merch and wear it proudly even though we’re just a small Asian hardcore band. Touring with NOFX for two weeks in 2007 and being featured in their Backstage Passport DVD. Putting on shows in Hong Kong for so many hardcore bands and befriending them all…Bane, Comeback Kid, Backtrack, Wolf Down, Born From Pain, No Turning Back, the list goes on and on…building some Asian hardcore pride throughout this time by bridging scenes in the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia…

My most fondest memory of this band will be how our relationship with my all time hardcore heroes Sick of it All transpired.

I remember the first LEGIT hardcore show I ever saw was in 1994 when I just arrived in Massachusetts for university and watched Black Train Jack and Sick of it All at this tiny venue near my university where the stage was like a foot high. Sick of it All was THE band that got me into hardcore and by that point I had already heard them for a couple years in Hong Kong. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that one day I would be on stage watching them. The crowd was so intense that I just got caught up and I ended up on stage like 2 inches away from Lou (their singer)’s screaming face. It was SO surreal…one second I’m staring at this dude’s face on the back cover of a CD booklet in Hong Kong and the next here I am on stage with the band and the dude’s face was right there. Fast forward to 2013 and I’m putting on their first ever show in China. Not only that, but I hit it off with them so well that they allowed me to come on their tour bus for almost two weeks while they toured through Europe. They treated me totally like one of the guys and all I could think the entire time was – “Holy fuck, I’m hanging out with Sick of it All EVERY SINGLE DAY and watching them play every single day…” I don’t even know how to express how insane that entire experience was.

On our new record, Lou even sings on one of our songs…the song that we’re going to launch the new album with. THAT to me is the craziest shit ever…as a teenager I listened to them on my discman here in Hong Kong, now I’m friends with the band and they’re singing on OUR record. Crazy…

Sick of it All is the definition of hardcore to me. Don’t argue with me on this. Hahahaha…I’m a SOIA kid through and through.

 

 

– You’ve been through a lot of lineup changes since the inception of the band, with you remaining the sole original member. How does the vision of the band remain the same throughout the various changes?

 

The vision has always stayed the same regardless who is in the band. We’re a hardcore band and we’re about promoting this shit to people throughout Hong Kong and China especially. So when people come in I tell them straight up what we’re about. We don’t make money from this nor is it a fulltime job. If you’re coming in, you should expect to work hard, we go out and play as much as possible and tour at least once or twice a year. We throw our own money into making merch, printing records, going on tour – luckily, anyone new that comes into the band is coming into a pretty nice situation since myself and the members before have laid down TONS of groundwork for where we are now in terms of recognition (at least in the world of Asian hardcore). I will say straight up – that it’s MUCH easier being in this band now then it was over 10 years ago.

So no…from day one we have never strayed from this path that we’ve chosen. We’re certainly much older now  – I started the band when I was 22 and I’m 38 this year…the way we handle things have certainly matured over time! Hahahaha…I’m much less a time bomb when shit doesn’t go right, and am more into taking the time to figure out how to make the band work for band members so it also becomes part of their lives like it has been for the past 15 years of mine.

 

 

– I’ve always been a fair big ignorant about the music of China unfortunately, so how’s the Hardcore community in Hong Kong/Chinese speaking areas in general? I’m sure a lot of our readers don’t know much either, haha!

 

There’s no hardcore “scene” in Hong Kong. There is certainly a beautiful “underground” scene with huge support for metal and metalcore especially. Hong Kong is just a strange little place where anything related to the arts really is built upon people with a lot of passion for what they do. I don’t know many people involved in the arts here that do it for a living. Everyone has a full-time job. But after awhile of banging your head against a wall, even that passion gets tested and filters away. Slowly but surely most people leave this world of underground music which is understandable when you consider HK is one of the most expensive places in the world to live and work. People have to manage their basic living necessities and work 10-12 hours a day and even on weekends sometimes, so what time do they have left to pursue music? It’s just the cards we’ve been dealt in terms of music and the arts.

China on the other hand is where hardcore has EXPLODED. And of course it would explode there when you consider all the suppression of personal freedoms. Kids are always on the edge ready to explode to get their voices heard because everything is so controlled and censored. When we play in China, it is SUCH a visceral reaction in the crowd. “People losing their minds” is not an understatement and as a hardcore band, THAT is the type of reaction you want. We’ll do soundcheckwith a general E-chord chug riff and kids are already moshing and stagediving! Hahahaha…we haven’t even started our set and kids are going off. THAT’S our type of crowd and we love that about China.

Beijing has the biggest scene with a lot of great hardcore bands: Unregenerate Blood, Return the Truth, Fanzuixiangfa, Own Up, It Never Happened, and so many others. Shanghai has the next biggest scene with awesome bands like Spill Your Guts, The Loudspeaker.

 

 

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– I’ve always felt Hardcore as a music genre and lifestyle, transcends racial/religious/linguistic barriers. The music and message is something everyone can get into. A testament to that fact is Hong Kong based band have a Pakistani/Desi guy as a founding member and vocalist, singing in both English and Chinese. Apart from the VISA issues in Taiwain, has your Pakistani ancestry caused any problems for you?

 

I fucking gave up my Pakistani passport the moment I could bro. The amount of traveling that I did with my band and having to get a fucking visa for EVERY single country, and show my bank statements over and over again, or have to find someone to “sponsor” me in those countries, and then to stand at immigration at those countries while the immigration officer held my passport like it was diseased, was too fucking much. It was pure hell – anyone that travels a lot on a Pakistani passport knows how much it sucks.

Other then that and the typical racist stereotypical bullshit that the color of my skin may cause in public, it really hasn’t been a big deal at all.

I would like to think that because I’m a desi that kids from India, Pakistan, Nepal would be into checking out our band more – but we RARELY get any contact from those areas. Which is a huge bummer to me because I am proud of being Pakistani and proud that in a fully Chinese-speaking environment I was able to start a band that made a huge impact on the local underground music scene. But if you came to our shows in Hong Kong – you would see that our audience is 100% Chinese. Which is AWESOME – but where are my fellow South Asians? If I saw a desi dude/girl on stage playing in a heavy band – man, I’d be at every show supporting that person for stepping out of the box and creating something for themselves in a tough climate. My parents have never been supportive of my band, Hong Kong is not necessarily that supportive of ethnic minorities, so the walls are stacked against us so it’s ridiculous that “we” don’t come together in that regards.

So if you’re reading this – PLEASE do us a favor and spread the word! There’s a Chinese hardcore band with a Pakistani singer! Hahaha…

 

 

– We talked for a bit before about Backtrack’s new album. What other EP’s/LP’s from this year have managed to get your attention?

 

2014 has certainly had some sick records come out in terms of hardcore…Bane, Madball, Conqueror (South African hardcore), A Strength Within, Comeback Kid, Spill Your Guts…off the top of my head though I’d still say Backtrack has been my favorite record. It just hits me in the right places to get me psyched to blast that shit on my way to work. I’m not into bands that have a million parts – I’m into music that feels like songs. Backtrack does that well and I think the newest record is their best shit yet. And it also helps that they’re really really cool humble dudes.

The next record that I cannot wait for of course is the new Sick of it All record. The first two songs they’ve put up our outstanding…

 

 

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– You’re also a parent. How do you manage to strike a balance between being a touring and recording musician, and being a father?

 

I’m also a first grade teacher by profession! Don’t forget to throw that in there…hahahaha…

It hasn’t been hard at all. I think it is all about what kind of person you are. Some people are built to handle and be able to handle a lot of things on their plates. Some people just aren’t. I’m not a partier at all – I’m straight edge and so I don’t drink or do drugs and really haven’t enjoyed going to bars and hanging out in many many years. My job also requires that I get to work at about 7:15am every morning and so I’m up at like 5:30am and in bed by like 10pm every day. So when I had my daughter I was already in that early-to-bed early-to-rise routine, so seriously, my daughter hasn’t taken anything away from my life before her. She has totally enriched it…but I also have a wife that is the most amazing person on the planet who has never ONCE asked me to curtail my music, band, touring, or anything like that. She has always been like “This is who you are – be you”.

Striking a balance is of course important and to be in a band with other people who understand that is key. My guitar player just had a baby last week so we know that he’s going to be out of commission for this month so we know not to book anything around this time. Our drummer may go off and do some volunteer work and will be out of commission for like 6 months maybe, so we won’t do any shows during that period. That’s just life man – if “hardcore is for life” then you gotta accept the fact that sometimes hardcore has to take a back seat while you handle your business. When shit’s under control, you’re always back 100%.

 

 

– What’s next for King Ly Chee? Any new recordings/releases?

 

New album called CNHC (China Hardcore) will be out this December. To celebrate this double record (since 2007 we release all music in English and Chinese versions) that will be out on vinyl and digital format from us and on CD format by Clenched Fist Records in Europe. That’s very exciting to us that we finally have a person/label outside of Asia who is interested in working with us – it’s been a long time coming and nice to see someone actually do something for us.

Once the record’s out we’re touring and playing everywhere for the next couple years until we hit the big 20 year anniversary!

We want to come out to India, Nepal and Pakistan! If anyone can make that happen then hit us up!

 

 

– Thanks for your time Riz! Hope to see you soon!

 

Thank you Hassan for taking the time to check out my band and wanting to do something to help get the word out! SHUKRIYAH BAHUT BAHUT! Pakistan meh ek din milenge!

 

 

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King Ly Chee on Facebook

Exalter Interview

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– Hey guys, hails from Pakistan. How are you doing?

Hello war brothers, hails from the land of Bengal. We are doing fine here. Jamming, shows and recording taking up a lot of our schedule but can’t complain at all.

– Thrash Metal has become quite a thing in Bangladesh in recent years, with a lot of bands popping up to play old school thrash metal music. What was Exalter’s inspiration to play this sort of music?

Indeed thrash metal is coming back with all it’s power and might, proving the doubters wrong that thrash was dead! Here in the land of Bengal the thrash revolution is well and truly powerful. Lots of bands in the thrash horde. For us, our inspiration to create a thrash metal band was to show people how fucking heavy, raw and fast metal can get as well as to show the world what Bangladesh has to offer in terms of metal music. We see so many unrests, political shit and torture all around the globe, we just wanted to rebel against that through our music. If you read our lyrics, you can see how enraged we are to see what we see every day. That made us wanted to crush everything and vent our frustration. That’s when thrash came in with all it’s glory to offer us a way! Our music is our weapon against the clueless politicians of Bangladesh or Zionist fuckers of Israel alike.

– If I’m not mistaken, Exalter is a 3-piece. Does it remain so on the live front or is another guitarist added? I’ve heard your song “White Phosphorus Shell” on youtube and I’m interested in how the dynamics change on the live front, considering thrash metal’s intricate tendencies tend to favor bands with 2 guitarists.

You’ve heard right. We are indeed a trio. Basically three ardent thrashers met and here is the dream project. We just didn’t want anyone in our circle and definitely didn’t need anyone to crush and desecrate the ears and stereo boxes of other thrasher! We play as a trio on stage, nobody else joins in since we want to replicate the same noise live as we do in studio. Other bands may prefer two guitarists but for us the bass and drums pounding in under one powerful lead guitar works. And we won’t change it. On stage we dont miss another guitar frankly speaking. From the begining of EXALTER we jammed our songs and prepared ourselves like that.

 

 

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– Coming towards your upcoming EP – You guys announced “Democrasodomy” a few days ago, can you shed some light on it? How many tracks, when will it be available, etc?

We announced our debut EP, ‘’Democrasodomy’’ recently and we are quite excited about the release. It’s the culmination of hard works we’ve put in for a year. The name itself gives you a hint about our political view. It’ll contain 4 original songs. It’ll come out on two formats, tape and CD. CDs will be out on local label ‘Metal Monger Records’’ and tapes will be out from Thailand on ‘Hellhouse’ records. We are expecting it to be out on early to mid September!

– What can we expect from the EP in terms of musical content?

In terms of content, expect some grindingly heavy music coupled with relentlessly fast drums and tormented vocals. We had an idea about how we wanted our EP to sound and we’ve done that with the rawness and tormented vibe of our music. The lyrics are all about social injustice, resurgence of thrash, ramifications of politics and the punishment that the war brings us to. We condemn Zionists and our debut track ‘White Phosphorus Shell’ was for our Palestinian brothers. All we can say is this EP will give you a massive shot of thrash madness. The goriness of the lyrics and the darkness of our thoughts just makes it better.

 

 

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– There have been quite a lot of metal gigs in Dhaka this year, with that in mind, can you talk a bit about the metal scene in Bangladesh? What’s your take on it and where do you think it’ll be a few years from now?

The extreme metal scene in Bangladesh is a tightknit brotherhood albeit small but packed with talented people that are passionate about metal as we are. We have black metal people here, death metal people, thrashers, heavy metallers, even a good bunch of metalcore people too. We not necessarily listen to all the genres but we sure appreciate the brotherhood and the close relationship we all share. All metal subgenres here coexist side by side and is appreciated. The music quality is rising along with the facilities, the gigs are getting better with more and more internationally renowned names touring here, The mighty Impiety will be the latest name to tour this holy land. Bangladeshi metal scene has some world class bands and the list is growing everyday. With names as inspiring as Orator, Severe Dementia,Nafarmaan,Abominable Carnivore in our ranks we are very proud. Lots of good contemporary bands in our ranks too like Dissector, Nuclear Winter, Morbidity and Burial dust. Lots of bands are coming that are equally as good so we can indeed say that the future is bright and we have brilliant enough music to make the world sit up and take note of our scene.

– Any plans of touring and playing in other places in the South Asian subcontinent?

We do have plans to tour other countries, we had a tour planned in our neighboring country India this year but the worthless embassy officials managed to fuck up the visa and we missed the gig. But rest assured we have some surprises packed for the future! We might as well play a gig in Pakistan for you in the future! Make sure to invite us!

– Thanks for your time, good luck for the EP and hope to see you guys play some day!

Thanks for having us, it was brilliant to have a chat with warbrothers from Pakistan. Hope to see more of you in the future and hearing more and more of Brilliant Pakistani bands coming out. Best wishes for the zine and the scene. Make sure you buy our EP to support and keep the spirit of thrash metal growing! Hails!

 

 

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Exalter on Facebook