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Wacken Metal Battle: ‘People Just Sit and Talk Shit’

Says organizer Salman Syed about allegations of non-transparency in the Indian edition of metal band competition’s sixth edition

Rolling Stone India Jul 13, 2016
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(second from left) Wacken Metal Battle organizer Salman Syed with 2016 winners, Bhopal death metal band Elemental. Photo: Courtesy of G-Shock

(second from left) Wacken Metal Battle organizer Salman Syed with 2016 winners, Bhopal death metal band Elemental. Photo: Courtesy of G-Shock

In between irritated and bemused, Bengaluru-based music promoter Salman Syed [founder of the recently concluded fifth edition of metal festival Bangalore Open Air] clears the air about the process and organization behind the sixth edition of Wacken Metal Battle India.

Instated in 2011 to make India the 27th country to send a representative band to Germany’s prestigious festival Wacken Open Air, previous winners from India include Mumbai thrash/groove metal band Zygnema, Shillong death metallers Plague Throat and more. This year, Bhopal death metallers Elemental took the top spot. In a phone interview with ROLLING STONE India, Syed talks about the competition this year.

What do you have to say about people alleging there’s a lack of transparency?

I think there’s been a 100 percent transparency. I don’t know what people are worked up about. We’ve been doing this for the past six years. First of all, it started in Mumbai.

The thing is that Mumbai being the closest city to Bhopal, I put the band [Elemental] there. Later what happened, these two or three bands from Mumbai backed out and I was left with [death metal band] Killchain and Elemental. So I thought, ”˜Fuck it, why should I do a show for two bands and spend so much money and do a competition for two bands?’ I’d rather have them play in Bangalore.

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So Elemental had sent in their entry, and you didn’t know where to slot them?

Yes, exactly.

Is that why they weren’t part of the original Metal Battle Regional Rounds’ lineup poster?

They weren’t. Anchal, the vocalist called me up ”“ he asked if they weren’t in the list because they weren’t from any of the cities we were hosting regionals in. I told him if they’re ready to travel to Mumbai, I don’t mind putting them in the Mumbai regional round. I told him, ”˜I think you guys are pretty good, but unfortunately we don’t have a Bhopal leg. If you’re ready to travel to Mumbai, go for it. I don’t have any problem with it.’

Who was judging at the Wacken Metal Battle finale in Bengaluru on July 8th?

It was me, Nolan [Lewis, frontman of Bengaluru old school metallers Kryptos] and David [Koch, Guwahati-based promoter and head of events firm Rocka Rolla]. I wasn’t sitting at the table and judging, because I had a lot of other things to look into. But I was the one who chose all these bands from the regional rounds so I knew who was what. After the gig, we consulted each other and decided it was Elemental. I don’t see why people are getting so agitated. First of all, these guys weren’t there at the show, so I don’t know why they’re getting worked up.

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Would you say this year at Wacken Metal Battle was controversial? Especially calling off the Mumbai regional round?

I don’t believe in these controversies. People are jobless. If they had better things to do in life, we wouldn’t have these “controversies”. They just sit and talk shit. I’m not commenting there [on Facebook] because I’ve been busy. I don’t have the time to sit and reply to all the people. That’s foolish.

It’s kiddish. It’s not worth my time and it’s something I don’t want to get into. I have better things to do. I thought Elemental was good and they’re going to play at Wacken and that’s a great thing for an Indian band. People here are fighting amongst themselves. If you have something to prove as a band, come and prove you’re good enough. Don’t sit on social media and crib.

What’s so controversial about this? It’s not like some band was having sex with somebody and I took a video and put it up online. What are people talking about?

Has it been a tough year putting together Wacken Metal Battle?

It’s not been tough to put this together at all. I’ve learnt to take decisions when there are challenges. I think I’ve been taking decisions which will safeguard my interests and the interests of Wacken Metal Battle.

This year was brilliant ”“ we had the most number of entries. We have people like G-Shock helping and giving a lakh to the winning band. The Battle has grown by itself as well.

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