Before tagging on the status of “inactive”, MONKEY TEMPLE had recorded their debut album (Black Bee and the Flower) a few years back. Members then dispersed, leaving the band’s future uncertain. MONKEY TEMPLE seemed like a forgotten story our grandfathers used to tell us. Then sometime this year, Sareen Deoja (vocalist) started to post messages about new MT materials on the ktmROCKS forum. Driven out of sheer curiosity, we took this interview to let the herds know what’s actually going on.
How did the recording of the album go?
The recording went ok, I guess. To tell you the truth, we have put an enormous amount of effort into this album. Trying to find a suitable time for all the band members to assemble at one place and jam together while holding down a job and going to school at the same time takes a lot of work. The most discomforting thing for us is the distance. All of us do not live in one particular area; we are more or less dispersed. In the end, for some of us, it’s like driving from Kathmandu to Pokhara to jam and making it back to Kathmandu for dinner, but so far so good, I guess. All for the love of music.
To those that dream of recording an album in a US studio, would you let them know exactly how you ended up with the opportunity to record this album?
As I mentioned already, recording an album in the US takes enormous amounts of work especially for students who are going to school and working busy jobs at the same time out of necessity. In addition, instead of “ending up with an opportunity”, we rather created this opportunity for ourselves by making lots of sacrifices and compromises. You could say that we felt this irresistible desire to express our musical creativity despite all odds and amidst difficult circumstances. All the band members have really played their part well despite their unbelievably tight schedules. Once again, all for the love of music.
Was it in a proper studio? Which Studio? What’s the cost of recording in a studio in the US?
Yeah the studio was a proper studio. We used pro tools software for our recording. I don’t want to disclose the hourly rate of this very studio for personal reasons, but one thing I can tell is that it was costly. Furseal studio , Minneapolis MN.
What made you want to continue the band in the USA?
After the first album, we all had to leave Nepal due to our educational priorities. Even without a band though, I have been composing tunes and writing lyrics for the past three years. I just thought that now would be the right time for a compilation and to rekindle the ashes of Monkey Temple and keep the band alive.
So tell us a more about the current band and the members – how did you guys meet and everything?
Our current line up includes Sareen (vocals), Prawol Bhattarai (guitars), Benky Atmatjda (bass). Eugene (Flower Generation) and Alok (Xmarika) have helped us out on the drums as we do not have an official drummer with this lineup at this time. How we met is an interesting story too. I was visiting a music store in Saint Cloud, MN, when I heard someone playing bass licks from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It sounded amazing and immediately caught my attention. That was how I found Benky Atmadja, our current bassist, originally from Indonesia. I convinced Benky to join us for a jam session at a basement party in a house near St. Cloud University. Benky instantly mesmerized the audience with his slap-n-pop bass lines.
I came across left-handed lead guitarist Prawol Bhattarai during a midnight basement jam session, also in Saint Cloud. To be honest with you, he actually came out of nowhere and to everybody’s disbelief, started effortlessly improvising guitar parts with us to a few songs we were playing for fun that particular night. Prawol truly has a style that is all his own. Even though he is a left-handed guitarist he plays a right-handed guitar turned upside down. That’s a very unusual way to play the guitar and Prawol is a rare type of guitarist. His tone selection is also outstanding. When I met him, I knew that I had found my fill-in for Subodh and Prashanta (Monkey Temple guitarists while the band was in Kathmandu)
Since you are the only remaining member of the original lineup, what prompted you to retain the band’s old name? Are the original members OK with this? And do you think you should change it anytime soon?
This is a very difficult question but I hope they are ok with it because nobody has complained as of yet and I don’t think they will, We as in old band members have always wanted to keep this band alive but due to our own individual preferences, we haven’t been able to, it’s been almost 5 years since our last album, so I thought it was about time for me to take this band to a new musical level. I have talked to Prashant and Devashish , they are pretty much ok with what I’m doing and if we ever play live in Nepal we will always try to perform with the original line up. As for the question of changing the name of this band goes, I would like to stick with this name.
What is the musical direction the new lineup will follow?
We have always stuck to one genre i.e. alternative rock. With our first album, I guess we were in our transitional phase between inexperienced studio musicians to more mature musicians when it comes to adhering to our main strengths and style. You can clearly hear our focus on good alternative rock sounds in the new album. We mainly focus on alternative rock now that we have matured as musicians and a band we hope to impart some of that maturity and sonic diversity onto the music.
I guess we were more in a transitional phase in-terms of the sense of style and tone selection. At that point of time, even though we came out with an album, soundwise we were very inexperienced, main reasons being lack of availability of good resources and of course lack of our ability to fund our passion for music. So we weren’t the beginners but I guess the band was not mature enough to come out with an album. This time I would have to say that we have tried our best to work on tones and have kept the songs as simple as possible. More melodic.
Have you performed as a band anywhere in the US yet?
Yes and No. We have indeed performed but not with the complete line up. We’ve always had other musicians fill in for different roles. But we plan to perform with all the original members soon in the near future.
When do you think the album will be ready to be released? How are you planning to release it?
We are hoping to release the album in the beginning of July here in the United States. The Nepali community here has this annual function on the 4th of July. A lot of Nepali people that reside here attend this function, so we really do want to make that the release date for the States. Now we do need to send the material back to Nepal for final mixing and mastering at BMI Studios, run by Iman Shah, before the 4th so it’s going to be a race. As far as releasing the album in Nepal goes, we haven’t really thought about that yet.
What is the immediate plan right after you release the album? Any gigs?
No immediate plans after the release at this time.
Are you guys going to perform on the 4th of July?
We hope to if everything goes according to plan.