Rat King

  • Interview by: Madhav R
  • Date: August 30, 2009

After ‘The Plague of Hamelin’, experimental metal band Rat King recently released their 2009 album ‘Larva’. In this exclusive interview with Headbangers India, band members Deepak and Murari talk about the latest release and its themes, how they make their music, and lots more.

HB: Congratulations, on the release of your second album Larva. What can we expect from this project?

MURARI: Thank you. It really is something we’re proud of. You can expect this album to be much darker, more ambient and violent at the same time. Less emphasis on conventional song patterns, structures and instruments, and more emphasis on the portrayal of the concept/story. Also, this album has an increased bass presence, and is groovy.
DEEPAK: It’s definitely low-end heavy. Also, it’ll feature amazing artwork by musician/artist extraordinaire, P. Emerson Williams. Veil Of Thorns (http://www.myspace.com/veilofthorns) is just one among many of his projects. Go check it out!

HB: Tell us more about this album. What’s the story, or central theme behind this?

MURARI: Larva tells the story of a man whose mind deteriorates progressively as a result of a series of visions/nightmares in his head. These nightmares make him confront and question his own morality, as well as his faith, eventually drawing him closer and closer to a complete physical and mental breakdown. More about the visions: they are largely surreal in nature, and are invoked by a force [the Rat King] whose dogma pervades these imaginary environments. The protagonist suffers (sometimes directly, at other times vicariously) the eternal moral question of whether he is good/evil and whether such things exist.

DEEPAK: There has been too much emphasis on the word ‘pedophile’ in some of our press releases. I’d just like to clarify that, although the protagonist has pedophilic tendencies, the story is not about pedophilia. It’s really about the anxiety, the isolation, the guilt and the all round madness that surrounds a social taboo.

HB: Sounds very interesting. But why this theme now?

MURARI: We wanted to take on something smaller in scope, yet something which offered much more possibility for exploration, music-wise.

DEEPAK: The theme is really just an accidental bi-product of our combined thought processes at the time. We had certain points of references that we wanted to touch upon, but as with anything else, the end result is hardly how you had first imagined it to be.

HB: You’ve also released an all new, re-mixed and re-mastered version your first album ‘The Plague Of Hamelin’. Why did you decide to doing this?

MURARI: We felt that, although we were heaps proud of the first album, after having done the second, the first could have been tweaked a little better. Also, a proper release was always on the cards.

DEEPAK: We did ‘Plague’ with a very limited amount of resources. We didn’t have any intention of selling the CDs. So, a lot of people who wanted the album could never get their hands on it. Now with Road Crew Records backing us up, those folks can finally listen to these CDs in the best quality possible.

HB: Given that each of you live in different cities (Calicut and Chennai), how do you get together and compose the music?

MURARI: Deepak and I work on the concept quite a lot. We bat it back and forth (over email) until we are more or less satisfied with it, and then we start working on the music. If either of us is inspired in some way by some part of the concept, we take it on ourselves to compose that piece. We mail that back and forth, tweaking the composition till we think it portrays what it intends to, then we move to another part of the story. And so on…

DEEPAK: Mostly through email. But I’d take a trip to Chennai once in a few months and we’d meet up and discuss what needs to be done with regards to the concept or the arrangements.

HB: Tell us more about the composing process. Do you start working on a song with a tune or theme in mind or does that just form along the way?

MURARI: Tunes are overrated. Of course, they are almost always the only thing people remember about any album. And you can hum them while you pee. So somewhere in this deep psychological exploration, you will at times find some snazzy tunes, or some catchy grooves, which we couldn’t resist putting in. But, to answer your question, no, we don’t start with a tune in mind. We just look at the story, and try to tell it as best we can without words.

DEEPAK: I’ve spent the better part of my 2009 as a hermit in my home studio, arranging and mixing these songs. We worked on the concept for over 7 months on and off. The songs took their strange shapes through those stages.

HB: Both of you have played live instruments for metal bands before. How different was it, composing music directly on the computer rather than on the guitar?

MURARI: It’s way cooler! When you’re composing on the guitar, you’re limited by your ability to play the instrument, which is natural. On the computer, you’re just thinking in terms of sheer musical value. And often when you pick up the guitar, you end up wasting most of your time replaying some stupid cover that you used to play 5 years back. By the time you start actually composing, you’re so caught up in that frame of mind that any chord you hit will be right out of Metallica, or Black Sabbath. Or worse.

DEEPAK: Both forms of music have their limitations. Programmed music lacks the spontaneity and the human element of live music. But it opens up a lot of possibilities for experimentation.

HB: Any chance of either of you going back to playing live instruments with a band after this?

MURARI: Definitely. I will have to find some brutal underground death/black metal band which needs a vocalist/guitarist. It’s got to be brutal though. No more of “we’re forming a band. our drummer can play Iron Maiden, and he’s going to buy double bass pedals next year!”.

DEEPAK: Absolutely. Nothing surpasses the joy and excitement of playing live music with good musicians.

HB: From what I’ve heard, both of you are going abroad this year to pursue your studies independently. Does this mean that this is the end of Rat King as we know it?

MURARI: Nope. It just means that Chennai has shifted to London, and Calicut has shifted to somewhere in L.A.

DEEPAK: Rat King is an ever-present shapeshifter. Rat King is Mystique without the tits.

HB: Where do you see Rat King 5 years from now?

MURARI: Doing the same shit. Probably a bit more well-known and kvlt. But yeah, almost famous.

DEEPAK: Married with kids?

HB: The Seaman Staines Sessions? What’s the lowdown on that? Both the music and the name…

MURARI: No fucking idea.

DEEPAK: Lots of free time and a mind that won’t shut up. As for the name, that was just something I picked up while watching an old kids TV show called Captain Pugwash. For anyone that might be interested, there’s a pretty interesting urban legend regarding its use of double entendres.

HB: What type of audiences do you think will appreciate Rat King’s music? And are you looking to market the music to any specific faction who’ll really appreciate the music or do you just want people to buy the album and then decide for themselves if they like it?

MURARI: The latter. Underestimating one’s audience is one of the worst crimes that musicians commit. Even the everyman who thinks Jay-Z (is that how you spell it???) is da bomb, might listen to Rat King, and find something in there that appeals to him. We are snobs, true, and we would prefer our audience to be a bit more intellectually inclined, and perhaps try and interpret the music.

DEEPAK: In the immortal misquoted words of Miles Davis, “All I want you to do is listen… and I gotcha!”

HB: How can we grab a copy of the albums?

MURARI: You can go to www.roadcrewrecords.in and order them today!

HB: What are the chances of us seeing Rat King live in concert? If you find the right musicians to play alongside you maybe?

MURARI: A Rat King concert will have to be more than just a bunch of musicians (including us) on stage, playing the music. It will have to be a psychological and emotional experience. Until then, I’m not sure we’ll be doing any concerts per se. A “Larva” play might be worth it, though.

DEEPAK: Or an animated movie!

HB: Any words of advice to musicians who want to follow in your footsteps?

MURARI: Don’t quit your day job. Even if you have a short run of success, your creative well will run dry, sooner than later. You’ll then start rehashing your older material, and release some “never-heard-before” songs. That’s when you’re done. If you still want to continue after all that I just said, then keep at it, by all means. Just do something different.
DEEPAK: I say quit your day job. Work sucks!

Thank you for your time and patience.