Mirror Magazine


Stigmata rides high with Hollow Dreams
A new album, big plans for the future and songs that dwell on the dark side of life. Ishani Ranasinghe catches up with the members of Stigmata.

They are a heavy metal band that incorporates a zillion different sounds. This is how the members of Stigmata describe themselves.

Stigmata took Colombo by storm four years ago when they burst onto the music scene, and having recently released an album ‘Hollow Dreams’ that has so far sold over a 1000 copies, they are currently riding high.

The name Stigmata was chosen for many reasons. After coming up with a list of names they surfed the net only to find out that they were all taken. Then they happened to notice an album titled Stigmata. Considering the kind of music they make; music that illuminated every expression, they thought this name was most appropriate.

“Our songs mainly talk about the dark side of life,” says Suresh de Silva, the lead vocalist of the band. According to him, there is enough of joy and happiness, “we have to look at the other end of the scale as well”. He feels that this is why most people relate to their music.

Suresh (20), relating how he got into this kind of music says, “There was a time when there was an overdose of Michael Jackson and similar stuff, so a hard rock band was a welcome change.”

So who are his inspirations? As it turns out, the list is quite long. On the vocal side, there are the likes of ‘Iron Maiden’, ‘Nevermore’, Rob Halford, and Matthew Barlow. “As a song writer I get inspiration from many,” says Suresh citing poets and writers Steve Harris, W.B Yeats, Robert Frost, Warrel Dane and Jean Arasanayagam.

Having always wanted to be a guitarist he says he became a vocalist by accident. “When we first started we needed someone to sing.” There has been no turning back since.

All the members of Stigmata feel that they were drawn to this kind of music because of the honesty in it. It was also non-conventional. “It is important to show both the ugly and the beautiful side,” says Suresh. Their music was a form of expressing this.

“This music is my voice,” says Tennyson Napoleon (20), the guitarist in the band. “Sometime back TNL Radio used to have a show called ‘Z Rocks’ which I used to listen to. I heard this song called ‘One’ by Metallica and got hooked on to the music.”

He says that as a band Stigmata have always strived to be original. “I think the originality and the honesty of our music is what draws in the crowd.” They believe that it is important not to do covers all the time and instead do their own thing, “We have to do what we are good at.”

Shehan Gray (20), is the bass player of the band. His interest in heavy metal music was quite sudden. “One day I just woke up and decided I liked rock music,” he says laughing. On seeing the amused look on the others’ faces, he explains that the rest of the band whom he has known for a while, also influenced him. He is inspired by many; Thilak Dias and Shobi Perera to name a couple. “Music has become a huge part of my life and I get a real kick out of it,” says this young man.

“We have two kinds of fans,” says Suresh adding that there is a group that listens to their music and is inspired by what they write.“Then there are the people who don’t really like us but respect us for what we do,” says Andrew Obeysekere (21). Andrew has been playing the guitar for almost nine years. “Bands like ‘Aerosmith’ and ‘Guns ‘n’ Roses’ got me into rock music,” he says. Drawing inspiration mostly from Yngwie Mamsteen, Andrew is also a lover of classical music. “I like to listen to Bach and Beethoven.”

‘Hollow Dreams,’ Suresh explains, is a concept album. “Each of the 11 tracks speaks about different things.” Shehan adds that each song elaborates on a certain theme and a situation. “It’s like a chapter in a book where at the end it all weaves together to bring out a story,” says Suresh.

As for recording another album they say they have big plans. “The material on ‘Hollow Dreams’ is a bit old, and we have a few new ones now.” It will be fresh, they add. “We are now more developed and technically advanced than when we first started,” says Suresh. “But this doesn’t mean we have drifted away from what we started as,” chips in Nisho Fernando.

The youngest in the group at 18, drummer Nisho says that the rest of the band inspired him to play. “Being in the band and playing this kind of music really keeps me happy,” he adds. Danny Carey of ‘Tool’, Lars Ulrich of ‘Metallica’ are some of the drummers that inspire him a great deal.

“We only play for events,” says Nisho, clarifying why Stigmata do not appear on a regular basis at a particular venue. This is because they want to be in total control of what they do. “It is also because we don’t want to get stale,” says Suresh explaining that unless you have this amazing repertoire where you could be different every week and not repeat your songs, people are likely to get tired of the music.

They claim to have gone through much ‘torture and torment’ to get where they are now. So four years down the line has it all been worth it? “Definitely,” they chorus enthusiastically. “When we first started it was a bit hard,” says Suresh recalling how people were intimidated by the music. Now the floodgates have opened and there is an audience for this kind of music.

They are hoping that in the future they will be able to sign up with a record company. “Rock Company has done a lot for us,” adds Suresh. So how do they react to the fan base they seem to have? “We are quite new to this autograph and photograph scene,” says Suresh. The others agree. They all hope to continue being a part of Stigmata and continue doing what makes them happy.

Apart from being members of a rock band they are also involved with their studies and work. Suresh is a copywriter and a student, Shehan is also studying and a tea broker by profession, Andrew is preparing for a computer science degree while Tenny works on visuals at an advertising firm. Nisho, the only one who is not studying having just finished his A/L’s, is happy being a water polo player, “and a good one at that” adds Suresh.

In just over four years Stigmata have made their prescence felt; their music has meant something one way or the other to a lot of people. People listen to their music and at times don’t know if they are to be happy, sad or just depressed. This is the effect they have. As the band puts it they are not saying they are perfect at what they do, “we simply aspire to be perfect”.

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