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Cypher 16

  • Interview by: Vilasini Muralidhar
  • Date: November 29, 2010

Cypher16They played a killer show to a packed venue at the recently held Octoberfest in Bangalore. So we caught up with Jack Doolan and Carl Dawkins from Cypher16, the U.K. based metal band, to talk to them about India- the bands and the audiences, their music and more. A Headbangers India exclusive.

HB: How was your trip to India for Octoberfest? That was the second time you guys had come, right?

C16: We first toured over here last year, about the same time…in October. We played Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Goa, and it was a life changing experience for us, and we figured we’d better come back as soon as we can! So it was our second trip.And it was the better one, let’s say. Last year it was a great experience getting into India, but this year was really really good, frankly.
The show (at Octoberfest) was probably the best day of my life, better than any other show I’ve done, without any exaggeration. It was so much fun! And the crowd was so responsive, we couldn’t have asked for a better show! Everyone was around us for about two and a half hours and wanted photos and… it was overwhelming. So yeah, it was a great experience, and we love India! That’s the main message we’d like to give… we love playing to Indian people.

HB: Tell us more about your show, at the Octoberfest…

C16: We were hoping for a good response, to be honest. We did a lot of work promoting the show actually. We were booked for the show only about a week… a week and a half before the show, and this is unheard of in England. But we made the effort, got our visas sorted and got it done. So we were really hoping for a good response, but we weren’t expecting THAT kind of a response. It was really amazing. It was almost packed right upto the entrance, and everything we wanted the crowd to do, they did, and with as much energy as we could have asked for. Yeah, frankly… amazing show. Much more than what we expected.
We were watching Kryptos before us, and watching their crowd, who were quite into it. Kryptos finished and a lot of people started to filter out. We then started to soundcheck and before we knew it, the entire room was packed. Almost 1500 people, plus… And our Facebook page’s fans- it’s just going through the roof! All of a sudden, people want to chat with us. A lot of bands, when they play shows… people want to talk to them. And i think the most important part of being a musician and being in music, is that when someone likes your music, enjoys your show… it’s important, you know, to give it back and spend some time with your fans, talking to them and making them feel special as well because they’re who made you feel special yesterday.

HB: Tell us how it all started off for Cypher 16…

C16: I started the band when I was 15, when I was doing my exams in school. I got into metal when I was 10, and I started writing music. That was when the band Cypher was born. And when I was 16, I heard about MySpace, funny enough, and I decided to set up a page for Cypher. And when I said “Cypher” for my preferred website name, it was taken. So, as naive as I was then, I decided to add numbers in the end. And how old was I then… 16! So that’s how Cypher16 came about. And as the band started playing at shows, we got to know that there were other “Cyphers” around. We did not want to be another one of them. And the MySpace was doing really well, and we did not want to move to another site. So we ended up keeping the 16. And as silly as it sometimes sounds, I think it flows pretty well. So that is the quite pathetic story behind Cypher16, ha ha.
It suits the music pretty well. Take ‘Lamb of God’… the first time I heard “Lamb of God” I thought they were Catholic. So yeah, there are a lot of weird names around, but yeah Cypher16 will be a name people will remember. Especially after the show, and I hope people go listen to our music, go tell their friends about us.And when we come back next year, it’s gonna be big!
Our visa restricts us, which means we won’t be able to return to India for a few more months. Which restricts us from doing shows like Great Indian Rock, which we’d love to do, but we want to come back in either January or February. But yeah, it seems to be going pretty well for us so we wouldn’t mind coming back every few months, IF you guys want us back!

HB: The genre debate in metal is quite an endless one. So what genre would you say your music falls under?

C16: We get asked this a lot. And I don’t see the point of saying what genre we are, and I don’t see what the point of the debate is. And in England, it’s getting ridiculous right now with people trying to set guidelines about how the debate should go. We do a wide mixture of stuff, and we’d like to put ourselves under the genre of “Symphonic Dance Metal”, because that’s quite unique and it quite defines our music. Its fresh, slightly progressive, and I’ve never heard stuff like what we do. Similar yes, but not the same.

HB: Your MySpace page says that electronica is one of your influences. How did that happen?

C16: Yes. In fact, when we played our set, I realized that it kinda progresses. It’s always heavy, but it starts off with the synth and then progresses. The synth is where the electronica comes in, I guess. When you play, people would say “that’s not metal” or “no, that’s not metal”. But at the end of the day, it’s music. Call it what you want. If you like it, you like it. That’s about it.
You recognize a lot of bands by their sound. We saw a lot of bands on stage in India, and you’d recognize them when you hear them on the radio because of their sound. If you’ve heard them before, you’ll know them. And this is how we are now. We’re playing around with a lot of things, synth and electronic stuff, and this makes it slightly different. I don’t see why we should stop, and it’s interesting stuff. It’s a song, and it doesn’t make any difference if its got synth in it, if it’s a good song.
Electronica bands, hip hop bands… they add elements of guitar and distortion. And in the same way we add elements of electronic music apart from metal. It’s a general appreciation of music.

HB: Your mini-album- ‘The Man of the Black Abyss’. Tell us a little more on how that happened…

C16: We wrote this one when we were around 17-18. We went and recorded 4 songs initially, and then we went on tour. We played in America, and we played alongside Mudvayne and that was pretty awesome. Once we got back from America, we recorded two more tracks, which eventually ended up as a six-track EP. It’s very different, and it was recorded in a studio that hadn’t done a metal band before. It was for indie bands, soft bands… and being 17, we didn’t have a lot of recording experience. Being in a studio, we didn’t know what to expect. But it was very different. Some people loved the production, some hated it.But it has a very interesting feel to it, because of the production. It was quite a successful record, because it brought us to India the last year, and yeah, this year. We’re now back in the studio doing an EP, which is hopefully going to be out by the end of this year, or January. It’s probably going to be a four-track. And we’re now in a very very metal studio, so the sound if going to be different. I prefer the sound that we’re doing now. But it all comes with experience, with trial and error, and you learn as you grow up. We’re working with a producer who’s worked with Sith, and the sound is very very good. “I am Scientist”, which is up on our MySpace, which is the latest single, will show you the difference in sound, and what we’re doing now.

HB: What’s the new EP going to be called?

C16: No idea yet! We haven’t finished writing it yet. We’re only about 60-70% done, and will finish it up once we get back to England. Hopefully the next time we come to India, we’ll have the new stuff all ready.

HB: All your songs seem to deal with a particular theme. Could you elaborate on that?

C16:Yes, they all are based on a single theme. ‘The Man in the Black Abyss’ actually was a concept album. It’s about a guy who exists, a philosopher of sorts, who wanders around, questioning stuff. It explores his life and his death, and what’s in between. So it’s quite conceptual. If it’s about him dying, it’s about him being aware that he’s dying, and aware of what life used to be like, and remembering all the people he left behind. Now he’s on a journey to the next life- it’s a kind of middle path. It’s quite deep stuff I suppose, but I like writing on a singular theme.

HB: Is the man in the Black Abyss the same person we see in your music videos?

C16: Yeah, the man in the Black Abyss seems to have become something like a band mascot, in a literal sort of way. Something like Eddie with Iron Maiden. He did wonders for them, as a band. He kinda very much helped the band by, you know, coming on stage, back in the early days. So, the video, our first video, was about a man in the church, and yes, he should feature in our next video too.

HB: You’ve played alongside bands like Mudvayne and Dark Tranquility. Any more of those big shows coming up?

C16: Yeah, it’s been great to play with bands like those. But it’s very difficult to play those shows. Especially with bands like Dark Tranquility, you’re playing for a very niche sort of music- Scandinavian melodic death metal. Their fans are into Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal, and nothing else. So you get these kids who just wanna have a beer and get ready for their heroes to come on stage, so its tough. But if you win some of them over, it’s great. It’s also a lot of fun and its great touring experience. These guys always pack the venue out, so it’s a great venue to play to. And yeah, we’re going to be doing a lot more shows in the next couple of months, and you’ll definitely be hearing about us on Facebook and MySpace, so we’ll let you know once it’s all confirmed.

HB: You must’ve watched some of the Indian bands that played at Octoberfest. Any of these bands you’d like to mention… any opinions you’d like to share with us?

C16: Well, I was quite shocked actually, at how good they were. When we came over last year, we hadn’t heard of any metal bands in India. And we were sitting backstage this time, and we heard a band soundcheck, and we were like “that is bloody good!” We came out, and it’s some young Indian guys. They were like how we were a couple of years ago. And hopefully, in a couple of years, they’ll start getting out. Maybe we can get in, and they out… You know? America’s a large space, with a lot of metal bands. But England’s a small space, but a lot of people and a lot of bands. So to come to India and to be blown away by the local scene is good. There are a lot of bad bands in England, and they play all the time just because they’ve got experience. But I didn’t see a bad band in India… all the bands were good. They really did the country proud. I was really proud of our band, the four of us. We really put up a good show. I also liked the Kryptos guys, and all the others. Don’t remember their names, but they were all good. They did their fans proud as well.
I’d actually like to do a shoutout to Escher’s Knot, who fucking blew me away.I thought they were really, really good, so I should check those guys out. I actually did a little bit of research before we came, on some of the bigger Indian bands and I kinda talked to a couple of them, to see what the scene was like over here. Last year, we didn’t come on a metal tour, and we didn’t have the experience of playing with metal bands. So we spoke to bands like Inner Sanctum, Kryptos, Demonic Resurrection, and first of all, they reply to emails, which is amazing. In England, noone cares.Noone replies to anything anyone sends anyone! So it was actually nice to have a conversation with these bands and talk about things. Everyone was really encouraging about us coming back, and people from those bands came and watched the show. And yeah, as we said, all the bands played to a really high standard. Really, really impressed! And we’d like to take one of those bands out on tour the next time, with us, because we’re told that the bands don’t tour much. Kryptos are really big in Bangalore, but they probably don’t go on tour around India much. So it would be nice to give them the tour experience- hitting the road and spending a week or two away, with different shows and different venues every night.

HB: We noticed at Octoberfest that Cypher 16 gets involved in the whole promotional aspect as well. Your comments on that?

C16: I’d give that advice to anyone. I think there’s two ways of looking at it. If you want to be in a rock band, and be a rock start, you go into your dressing room, finish your soundcheck, play your show, and then walk off. We saw quite a few bands do that at the show. But if you wanna play a better show, connect with people, have people get to know you, get to know how you are as people, I think. We did a lot of the promotion ourselves, we told people “we’ve come all the way from London, so to come and check us out”. We also told them that “if you don’t like us, you can leave” but we asked them to watch us. And all credit to India, 90% of the people showed up.In England, you can’t do that. People would get annoyed, and not show up.A lot of the people who came for our show, apart from the fact that we are an international band, was because we went down to them, and we talked, and told them to come to our show. You gotta be human, because we’re not better than anyone else. So the India show was testament to the fact that if you work hard, it does pay off.
A lot of bands in the UK don’t realize that you have to work hard. A lot of them have it lucky, but most of them don’t know that you have to work hard. So after we told people to come, we went back to the hotel room and we were thinking to ourselves how many people would actually show up. And after 6-7 hours of promotion, if people don’t show up, it’s demoralizing. In the UK, people would’ve said they’d come, but they won’t show up. But in India, when the guys we’d spoken to actually showed up, well…it was amazing. We managed to put up one hell of a show, and yeah, even if there were 5 people in the room we would’ve put up one hell of a show. But the fact that there were more than 1500 in there… it didn’t change anything. But no matter how many people turn up, you still put up the same show, till every person who comes to your show feels good about coming to the show. So everybody- get involved, get in their faces.
The bands I’ve idolized, and those I’ve met in the shows… and those who have taken the time to come and talk to me, are in my head, the ultimate heroes- you know? A big part of me is a Nine Inch Nails fan, and I was fortunate enough to meet Trent Reznor in person. He doesn’t do many interviews,doesn’t talk much, he’s quite an intense guy. But all the times I’ve met him, he’s taken the time to chat and he’s not afraid to talk to you, to the fans. When I watched them live, they blew me away. And I went and spoke to him after that, and it was great that he was human enough to speak to me. Totally rounded off the best day of my life. In India, after we came out, it was pretty intense, and we ended up doing hundreds of photos. for almost an hour… and hour and a half almost. But that’s great!

Thank you so much for talking to us. We hope to see you guys in India again next year!