BATTLECROSS “A Band For This Time and Place” An Interview with Hiran Deraniyagala

Battlecross-Interview---January-2015-Vandala-MagazineHeavy metal masters who are on the brink of becoming true lords of the genre, Battlecross are one of the most exciting bands out there today. It was an honor to sit down the always eloquent Hiran Deraniyagala and learn about what makes his music so special.

Interview by Matt Bacon
Interview From January 2015 Vandala Magazine
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So how have you been?

Hiran: Really good man. Just been on the road. The shows have been cool, it’s been fun.

To paraphrase the Big Lebowski, sometimes there’s a band, and sometimes there’s a band that’s right for its time and place. Is Battlecross that band?

Hiran: I feel like we’re one of those bands that kind of crosses genres so to speak. To me we’re ready to at any time and at any place. We’ll do shows where maybe it’s not a full on metal show to a full on metal show. I don’t want to ever be that band that only does a thrash metal type show or only an extreme metal type of thing. I want to be one of those bands that can be put on a line up and do our thing and still make an impact. To me, any time, any place we’ll be there and we’ll play. We’re going to do our thing it doesn’t matter what other people think and if you like it awesome and if you don’t, listen to something else.

You’re not trying to be trendy, but somehow you kind of managed to luck in to what people want in death metal right now, would you agree?

Hiran: Yeah. I think going back to what I was saying with crossing boundaries… I think we’re doing something that resonates with people who do like extreme metal but we also have people who don’t really like extreme metal who are turned on to what we’re doing. There’s a little bit of technicality with what we do but I think more so there’s the song structure that’s in there and melodies and hooks that you hear from the bands that were really successful. Bands like Pantera, Metallica, Slayer, Testament, Megadeth. All these bands that have moved on and are considered one of the greats. It wasn’t just technicality that was in their music, it was a mixture of technicality and songwriting. We try to keep a balance of that.

With a lot of extreme music it’s technically good but it’s too much for some people. When you have a lot going on like that I think you limit your audience. Now you’re just kind of playing for the people that appreciate that music and are musicians. If you take the average person they’re just listening to hooks and melodies…It’s cool maybe for metalheads but maybe for people who are borderline metalheads they may not just connect with them. We’re doing stuff that connects to a variety of different types of audiences.

We also play in standard E and drop D, we don’t go into the drop tuning stuff. It stands out a bit more and it’s punchier. I think that people catch on to it a bit more. With that effect people kind of grasp on to that. Live too. When we play live we’re not just standing there playing our instruments. We’re really putting on a live show. People will say that “You guys jam. You just go up there and play hard, it’s not just standing in one spot!” If you take a band, whatever type of music it is, if the music resonates with you and the live performance, anybody, no matter what you listen to people grasp on to that. I think that’s just how we fit in.

So in a way you’re basically a gateway band?

Hiran: I would say so! Totally!

That must feel pretty cool to be able to indoctrinate people!

Hiran: Absolutely man. I think it’s awesome that we can pull people into the genre. We’re not only helping ourselves we’re helping an entire genre of metal. You get these people that may have never really listened to metal and then all of a sudden they’re seeing us and they’re like “Wow I didn’t know metal was this type of thing” and then they get pulled into metal and start discovering other music. Everyone starts out with a band that pulls them into this. I didn’t start out listening to heavy metal until I was listening to gateway bands like Rage Against the Machine, Marilyn Manson, Korn. I was listening to that kind of stuff in middle school and then I wanted to go heavier. That just drove me into more extreme shit, death metal and grindcore and all that stuff. All just because a few bands got me started.

Where are you from? Beyond Detroit...

Hiran: My background is Sri Lankan. My parents are from Sri Lanka they actually met in England, myself and my siblings were born in England. We moved to the states when I was two. I pretty much grew up in Michigan.

I have a similar story, I was born in France… So my question was, growing up did that give you a sense of being ‘other’ and did that kind of guide you towards heavy metal?

Hiran: Definitely growing up I didn’t associate with a lot of Sri Lankan people, a lot of my friends were of American culture. I grew up in that. As far as my Sri Lankan culture versus this, it’s different, I didn’t get pulled in to how the culture is over there.

But I wasn’t just different in that sense. Growing up with my certain friends we didn’t associate with cliques or the like. In high school and middle school I wouldn’t say I was the ‘outcast’ but in an essence I really wasn’t the popular kid. I just rolled with my friends. We never tried to associate ourselves with anybody. Musically I kind of go back to growing up with my brother. We definitely grew up with popular music at the time. As a kid you just listen to whatever the radio is throwing at you. I had no one to show me the underground shit, I discovered a lot of that on my own. Around middle school we had the big brother little brother syndrome and he was like “Stop following me and doing what I’m doing” so that kind of diverted me into finding my own music.

Honestly Marilyn Manson was my divergence into weird kind of shit. I saw the video for Sweet Dreams and it was kind of creeping me out. I tried to find more bands like that, the weirder side of music. I found bands like Tool. Then I got into heavier and heavier stuff and going to Ozzfest and finding bands like that. It was always just trying to be my own person, find my own music and be different in that sense.

I asked a similar question to Acid Witch as they’re from Detroit too… Detroit is kind of a f*cked up place right now, how is that affecting you?

Hiran: Detroit has been facing a lot of criticism lately… I honestly say that it’s getting better. That goes for like the city of Detroit as a whole. The city at one time was definitely in shambles it was bankrupt. The actual heart of the city… there was nothing around there. Dan Gilbert who is the CEO of Quicken Loans moved the business down there and ever since he’s moved the company down there the city is booming I think. They’re totally changing the city. It’s growing and getting better. Yeah, there’s still bad areas but you’re going to get that in any city.

Detroit was the Motor City and that’s where Motown came from. For a while people didn’t think anything was coming out of there. You had Bob Seger and Kid Rock but as far as metal goes you really had nothing coming out of Detroit. Then you have Black Dahlia Murder and they kind of explode onto the scene. That was kind of like “Oh this band from Detroit is making waves” a lot of the attention isn’t on Detroit. We don’t have the industry. That’s where all the labels are. There is attention there. Bands that come from there you’re probably going to get more attention versus a Midwest band… We want to do this for a living, we want to make music, we want to do our thing and explode out on the scene. We don’t have a label on our doorstep, we have to keep doing shows, putting in the hard work ourselves. We can’t rely on anyone for our career. That’s where the Detroit attitude comes in. You go in, you work hard, you punch in the clock, no bullshit. That’s where our attitude comes from. You don’t rely on anyone else you just do it.

I think that’s what we’ve proven though. If you keep working hard and just keep busting ass and make things happen for yourself it works out. People say “How did you get signed” we didn’t play some club and have some record executive get into us. We just kept hitting the pavement and making contacts. Doing things on our own to where, even if people told us no it would be like “Oh that person said no let’s keep going” it wasn’t the end all be all. Of course building relationships within the industry and slowly doing that has helped. Being the hard working band that everybody needs to be got us where we are and that’s the Detroit attitude

To clarify, is Battlecross your job?

Hiran: It’s my career. I don’t want to say job. When I’m home I do work if I have the time that allows me too. This doesn’t pay the bills and it’s not there yet. But we view this as a career kind of long term investment building thing. It doesn’t pay the bills yet but we’re in the mindset that it’s an investment that’s going to build our career. If we need to make money while we’re home and we have the time we’ll do it, but we basically gave up our jobs to do this. A lot of us had to quit the jobs that we had just to go out on tour. Eventually we hope that this becomes something we can live off of. It’s hard these days. We definitely have the faith and the mindset that we can do that.

What do you love so much about music?

Hiran: When it comes to metal in general I love that there’s so much variety within the genre. Performing for people that appreciate it and love it. Metal can be a tough genre for the fans they can be very negative and critical. I’ve learned to look past it and just say “If you like it cool, if you don’t just listen to something else” Part of what I love about music is that someone can listen to something and think it sucks and then someone else can listen to it and think it’s the best thing on the planet. That’s what’s so awesome about music and art in general. It’s so subjective. You put in this work and it can mean so much to somebody but it can also means so little to somebody. You have people who come up to you and tell you how much it means to them and how much it inspires them. Any regular job, maybe there’s stuff that connects to you, but with music it’s a feeling you get that connects that you can’t get anywhere else. You can’t explain why it just hits you that way. You get up there and pour your soul out and there’s people that love it.

Final comments?

Hiran: Thanks you everyone that supports Battlecross and music and metal in general. We appreciate everything that people have done for us and supports us. We’re not going to stop being us. We can’t wait for next year we have a new album coming out and we look forward to seeing everyone next year and playing new shows!

Battlecross just wrapped up an amazing tour but be sure they will be hitting the raod and a ton of festivals. Until then catch Battlecross Online at

www.battlecrossmetal.com
www.facebook.com/battlecrossmetal
For Videos visit: www.youtube.com/MetalBladeRecords

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