On our tour of the world’s greatest metal nations, the turn has now come to Kyrgyzstan. All joking aside, this Central Asian country has very few metal bands indeed, which makes it all the more interesting that they do have a great one. Kashgar plays a great, eclectic form of music that, standing firmly on a fundament of classic black metal, incorporates thrash, death and local folk music. In the following interview, Blauth and Ars cover most things you’ll need to know: the Kyrgyzstani metal scene or lack thereof, how metal became cookie-cutter, and the bleak future of the world. Once you finish reading, you can check out the band’s Bandcamp, Facebook and Bigcartel shop to learn more.
There is no reason to beat around the bush, so let’s get this over with before we move onto more relevant things: Kyrgyzstan? You are one of very few extreme metal bands, or actually metal bands at all, to hail from this particular nation. How did you get started, and how has it been being one of very few death/black metal acts in Kyrgyzstan and Bishkek?
Blauth: First off, apologies for taking so long to respond. I have been incredibly busy, and was running between three continents in the last few weeks. Kashgar started because I complained quite a bit, and was bitching to Ars that although there are good musicians in Bishkek, everyone plays covers of Deep Purple and does nothing original. So we started experimenting, and I showed him some music and then Warg insisted that we play extreme metal, so here we are.
It’s still frustrating trying to operate from Kyrgyzstan. Even though our album has generated some buzz on the Russian-speaking scene and in Europe, it is still difficult to draw an audience for shows. Touring is almost out of the question as it is difficult to pop onto the main tour circuit, i.e. Europe / the Americas because they’re so far away, so it’s difficult to reach a wider audience. As a result, we do a lot of these interviews so as to reach more receptive ears. On the other hand, I often suspect that with all of the chaff out there doing interviews is like yelling into the wind.
Ars: That’s right, there were almost no good bands around here several years ago, especially heavy bands, so for quite a while if you wanted to refresh yourself with a couple of live riffs and leaks, the options were either rare “something-core” events, or the only classic rock cover-band, a good one though. That’s how we met with Blauth – we both preferred to head bang to Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin. We decided to change this situation and formed Kashgar. Being the only metal band (in terms of Metal Archives) is a bit difficult. If we want to arrange a show, we have to invite the same couple of metal-core acts every time.
Is there a “scene” to speak of?
Blauth: No. Some of the youth try, but they miss the mark because they learn through the internet, and there’s just so much shit out there. Occasionally you’ll find someone, such as our newest guitarist, Illiya, who does know a thing or two about what extreme music should sound like, but they are few and far between.
Ars: There used to be a good metal scene in the late 90’s – early 00’s, not any more. But we do our best to revive it by arranging the events and collaborating with bands from the neighboring Kazakhstan. There are several people there as well who try hard not to let the metal scene vanish.
What is the attitude of society in general to extreme metal disinterested, hostile, friendly?
Blauth: In Kyrgyzstan? In general in the world? If you’re asking about Kyrgyzstan, most people don’t even know that it exists. Those who have heard of “metal” generally think of Linkin Park or something terrible like that.
Ars: We had lots of fun reading comments under the news reports about our metal-fest which took place in May. The majority believes it was some diabolic mixture of terrible unholy sounds and awful junkie people. Here is the link, you can google-translate the comments to get the idea.
What are your musical backgrounds? Did any of you play in other bands before Kashgar?
Blauth: Yes, but they sucked. I played in a sting of metal and punk acts, none of which I am particularly proud of. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I used to sing opera, and was fortunate enough to perform once under conductor John Rutter. I also used to drum for various jazz acts, but I was pretty lousy.
Ars: Me and Warg have had lots of different projects since 90’s, when there still was some rock and metal movement here. My bands were mostly folk/prog and he played in really heavy death and black metal bands in the 90’s, as well as in some alternative rock bands in the 00’s. Warg and Asbath from Darkestrah played together in a couple of bands before Asbath moved to Germany. The main problem here has always been lack of musicians. If you’re lucky enough to find someone who shares your ideas – you form a band. But in a short while somebody moves out of the country or gets married, etc. – and you simply can’t replace him.
Your lyrics are focused on folk tales and ancient spiritual traditions. You’ve stated in an interview that you “turn most things on their heads, however”. What did you mean? Also, how important are your lyrics to you? A nice bonus, or the entire point?
Blauth: I have to tread very carefully with this answer. I am not Kyrgyz, and I borrow concepts from their culture only with the highest respect. When approaching this project, I wanted to espouse something truly primal. I naturally drew inspiration from the forces that were whirling around me in the country in which I found myself. The rest of the guys in the band are from here, but are similarly of a different culture, and didn’t necessarily know much about the folk tales that are believed in by the majority of the Kyrgyz.
That said, this is metal, and the music tends to be ugly. So I decided to match this sentiment by focusing on some of the darker local tales, or even take the beautiful myths and expand upon the dark aspects of those. When reading a book or watching a film I often root for the antagonist, so I like to paint the image from the viewpoint of the loathed. The track “Scent of Your Blood” is about the antagonist Konurbai in the epic poem “Manas,” who actually kills the hero Manas. The average Kyrgyz doesn’t really know Konurbai’s name, so I really expanded on his role in the composition. The lyrics are highly important to me; otherwise I could just do what John Tardy does and go “Urrrrgggh.”
Ars: Blauth does a terrific job researching local history and folklore and integrate them in our music. And in every song the lyrics become the very heart of it.
You’ve quite recently released your debut album – first digital, and now physically on Symbol of Domination. How did this collaboration come about, and are your satisfied with how it turned out?
Blauth: Actually, Manifest of Hate from Germany were the first ones to show interest in putting out our album in a physical format. They released our vinyl in late 2016, and did a magnificent job, including woodcuts and full-colour lyric sheets. They’re good guys too, and put a lot of care into their work. I recommend them to any bands out there who are interested in releasing handcrafted albums with detail placed in the artwork. Ars can tell you more about the other collaboration with Symbol of Domination.
Ars: Satanath rec. released Kazakh sympho-blackers SevenSins last year and noticed us when SevenSins published our album on their page (we did a great show together in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in February). They offered us to release the album on their sub-label Symbol of Domination and we gladly agreed since the conditions were alright and we got very positive response from SevenSins about their collaboration too. We’re very pleased with this quality release and hopefully will continue to work with Satanath in future.
There are many different influences in your music, to say the least. How do you go about writing songs?
Blauth: Arguing. Spitting on each other. Firing auxiliary members. Occasionally agreeing on one riff and then forgetting it, and then half-remembering something like what was actually really awesome originally.
Ars: Yeah, we all come from different musical backgrounds, so it’s all about fights and compromises. It takes time to reach a consensus, but it usually results in something interesting for all of us.
You’ve also said that you’re not particularly into “newer” metal bands, at least not black metal. Are there exceptions, or did black metal lose its way almost entirely in 1996?
Blauth: I am not one-dimensional, nor inflexible. Around 1996, I became very disappointed in the metal “scene” as I knew it, largely from ‘zines and concerts. Music became cookie-cutter, standard issue. Everyone had to sound like Darkthrone or Gorgoroth, or you had that “post-black” shit that ripped off the likes of the brilliant Fleurety. I tried to be open-minded about new bands that developed and to support whatever local scene I was near, but to tell you the truth, it was simply shit. I started exploring more in the punk and gothic scenes, and even played in an industrial band at one point. Pursuant to that, I actually went off the grid entirely, and lived in a camel herding community in the Sahara.
When I made contact with the metal scene again in around 2005, I noticed that some of the old bands had made some decent albums, for example, Immolation’s “Unholy Cult,” or Enslaved’s “Below the Lights.” Later on, classic bands such as Profanatica, Celtic Frost, Pentagram, Beherit, and Danzig put out albums like “Profanatitas De Domonatia,” “Monotheist,” “The Malefice,” the amazing “Engram,” or “Deth Red Moon” respectively. Most recently, Varathron have come out with their “Untrodden Corridors” masterpiece. Ministry is still putting out albums too. And Autopsy get more and more savage by the year.
Simultaneously, some very notable bands had cropped up. Newer bands that excite me include Peste Noire and Antaeus from France, Taake from Norway, Destroyer 666 from Australia, Negura Bunget from Romania, and the absolutely savage Sammath / Kaeck projects from Netherlands. In the death metal world, you have some of the really dirgy bands such as Drowned, Disma, or Desecresy (it just struck me as amusing that they all begin with the letter “D”). Oh, and Death Breath. Then there are outliers like Tau Cross. Each of these acts has managed to find space to create their own voice in a scene completely awash in white noise and carbon copies, and bring a barbarity that is novel and unsettling. I really appreciate the passion each vomits forth from an otherwise hackneyed art form. Certain artists such as Valfunde Famine or whatever the guy’s name is from Peste Noire have stuck their necks out to experiment within the context of the nationalist black metal scene, and despite the criticism put their all into making quality art. And before I’m criticized by the morality police cretins out there, please note that I’m a black man who happens to lean more liberal in his politics. I just don’t force myself to be, as noted above, one-dimensional in savoring art.
You’ve arranged metal events in Bishkek, if I’m not mistaken. Is it possible to get a decent audience, and is this something you plan on doing regularly?
Ars: I’m usually responsible for arranging stuff… We’ve done quite a few gigs in Bishkek since summer 2015, usually organizing them in a couple of local clubs. Usually just about 40-60 metal-heads show up.Up to 150 at bigger events when bands from Kazakhstan pay a visit. But we did arrange something big this spring: Kuturgan Fest, the first international metal-fest in Kyrgyzstan, with God Syndrome from Russia and three bands from Kazakhstan – Zarraza, ZeroVoid and Symphony of Horror. Bishkek was presented by Kashgar and Shahid. It turned out to be a great event for Central-Asian metal scene with the audience of about 400 people, open-air stage and professional sound, and even with cops who came to shut down the place because of numerous neighbours’ complaints… I remember the woman yelling at me that we have to shut down because this is evil and her daughter is afraid to go to sleep. I take it as a great compliment. And yes, next time we’ll make it much bigger!
What do you guys do when not doing Kashgar? Work? Drink? Kill for metal?
Blauth: You pretty much nailed it. Drink. Work. Enjoy nature. Study history and travel. Answer interviews.
Ars: Raising kids, travelling, arguing with Blauth. I also have two non-metal side-projects.
What is your view of the future – for your country, for the world and, most importantly: for Kashgar? Will there be further metal?
Blauth: Kashgar has some new tracks. I’m not happy with all of them, but we may put them out at some point.
The future is horrific. I refuse to have children specifically because the future is so bleak. I appreciate nature and much of the pre-modern past. Everything that humanity does each day precipitates an apocalyptic reality that tramples on our natural state and heralds an abomination I couldn’t even envision the year before.
Ars: I’m usually not as pessimistic as Blauth, but it’s also hard for me to talk about the future right now. Kyrgyzstan seems to fall deeper each year into political, social and economic crisis, ecology is also a sad subject to discuss. And it looks like the rest of the world is going nuts just as well. Feeling angry and disappointed, the best we can do is to create more uncompromising and hateful sounds – that’s what Kashgar is going to do in the nearest future.
Any final words for our readers?
Blauth: Anaspidea. It’s an amazing sea slug that I saw whilst snorkelling yesterday. It had beautiful lateral fins and puffed a fluorescent purple jet of toxin when I prodded it with my snorkel.
Ars: Support your local underground scene – it’s the only thing that those acts need.
Many thanks to Archaic Triad for the exposure!