INTERVIEW WITH PRIYA PANDA OF DIEMONDS
Date: August 19, 2015
CANADIAN SLEAZE ROCKERS, DIEMONDS, HAVE JUST RELEASED THEIR NEW ALBUM ‘NEVER WANNA DIE’ IN JAPAN AND CANADA. AS THE BAND GETS SET TO CONQUER THE WORLD, SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH THE GROUP’S ATTRACTIVE FRONTWOMAN, PRIYA PANDA, TO DISCUSS IN A CANDID INTERVIEW EVERYTHING FROM WHY IT TOOK SO LONG FOR THE BAND TO RELEASE A NEW ALBUM TO WHAT SONG WILL BE THE NEXT SINGLE FROM ‘NEVER WANNA DIE’.
Sleaze Roxx: Diemonds have a new album ‘Never Wanna Die’ that has just come out. It feels like it’s been a long time coming. Do you feel that it has been a long process to get this album out and if so, why?
Priya Panda: Yes! It has been incredibly long. It’s kind of a question that has so many parts to it because of all the things that have happened in the five years — as crazy as that sounds — since we initially released ‘The Bad Pack’. Yeah. It’s been a process on deciding exactly how we wanted to present ourselves on our next record. We’ve been writing songs the whole time but we just didn’t have the strongest songs ready until you know, we were ready, and really, there have been a lot of personal road blocks for us over the last three years, and especially over the last year and a bit. We have a lot of really good friends that are no longer with us. It made it really hard for us to move forward but now that we have, we are super excited about it and we have to keep this album in their memory as they are important people to us.
Priya Panda: Well, one of the things that we really wanted to do because we are Canadians and we are proud of being Canadians. We’re lucky to be in a country where the government funds art and music. There is not that much to go around and it took us a really long time to get access to some of that grant money that is out there to help us with recording costs. Until now, we were 100% self-funded and now we were able to record our album with some financial assistance which helped us to be able to you know work with a producer, which is something that we had never had the opportunity to do in the past. And it was awesome because we got exactly who we wanted to work with. Yeah. And I guess over the last little while, we had a member change with our bass player Tom Carvalho to Adam Zlotnik. He’s the perfect fit for our band but it kind of took us a while to make that change — make the change that was right for the band.
Sleaze Roxx: How come Tommy is no longer in the band? Diemonds sort of did not announce his departure. All of a sudden, there is a photo with Adam in the band. So what happened to Tommy and how come you had to make the switch?
Priya Panda: Well, Tom basically has moved on personally with his life. You know, he’s kind of wanted to go back to school and working. We kind of wanted to give him his privacy because through Diemonds, he got a lot more visibility than he ever thought he would I guess. We kind of wanted to give him his time to step away and start his new life. And we are totally rooting for him and we love him.
Priya Panda: Adam is awesome. First of all, he is a wicked bass player. Second of all, he is a road dog. He has toured all over the country relentlessly. He has also traveled all over the world. He is a really smart guy. We get along with him really well and on the back end, he is just great to hang out with. People like hanging out with him fan wise. He has also helped us out with some of the marketing and PR [public relations] stuff that is kind of his background.
Sleaze Roxx: How was it working with Eric Ratz as a producer? What did he bring that Diemonds did not have before?
Priya Panda: Eric — he kind of just smoothed out some of our edges a little bit. It was kind of interesting to work with him because he has produced and worked on some massive albums. Some of our peers that have worked with him, we really liked the sound of them and we knew we wanted to work with Eric Ratz. He knows exactly kind of what we are all about. He grew up in Scarborough and he knows about kind of the music that we like and our backgrounds. And he kind of grew up in the times that we wished we were there. He actually was there and he experienced it. He was into it so it is super cool to work with somebody like that. To our band, he really helped us to bring a lot more modern touches to our overall sound just because he is out there and he is producing a lot of modern music. I think that it kind of worked in our favour. I think that we kind of have a good blend of some of the inspirations from our past and some new inspirations that we have all around us right now.
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of the new album, when I was listening to it, it seemed to be a little more commercially accessible. It is still heavy but it seems that you have slowed down a little bit on some of the songs. Would you agree or disagree, and why?
Priya Panda: Hmmm. I think that we would not necessarily call it a commercial sound. I don’t know — just a little bit more of our sound. I think that we have been really able to draw in all of our influences and really, all of our influences have a voice on this album from [Daniel] Dekay’s thrash, Metallica, Megadeth kind of background to C.C.’s [Diemond] hardcore background to my love of pop melodies and hooks and everything. I think that we really got to be able to blend that together in a way that we didn’t really know how to do before. We toured so much and we just kind of started writing songs. You know, everybody was really into writing. We kind of got really into that for this album. We kind of really focused on it. It’s kind of the first time that we did not go into the studio saying “Hey guys! Is that good? OK. Cool. Let’s play.” There was a lot more to it, which was a cool process.
Priya Panda: Unfortunately, Adam kind of came late in the game so he did not have a role in terms of songwriting but we are always writing songs. We just wrote one last week and we are always kind of active with that. We are really glad that Adam is a part of it because he is a killer bass player and he is a killer musician. He has good sensibilities with all that stuff. As for the songwriting, normally I would say that C.C. is kind of the guy who takes charge with that. He is normally the one who brings the riffs to the table but we all expand on that. Everybody has put their own touch and flavour to it. I’m usually handling most of the lyrics and melodies but everyone is open to suggestions with everything and that is kind of what is cool with that. We play on each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there a story behind the title ‘Never Wanna Die’?
Priya Panda: Hmmm. I think it was kind of — yeah, I guess the title was named after we lost our first [Alan Riches] of three ex-band members [Alan Riches, Paul Mancuso and Vassil Mester]. We wanted to dedicate the album to him and his memory. He was a super integral part of the Diemonds’ story. Alan Riches — he originally played drums on ‘In The Rough’ and he played guitar on ‘The Bad Pack’. And we basically had never recorded without him. So that was kind of one of the roadblocks that I mentioned earlier just in terms of our personal — we had issues to deal with surrounding his passing. It was super sudden and we were just kind of shocked. So we dedicated the album to him. Also, it suits the theme of the material on our record. Obviously, we have the song called “Never Wanna Die”. I am sure that you heard it. You heard all the themes about death and the apocalypse and just the world after the one that we know collapses kind of thing. And it also has that other side of just busting out of your comfort zone and doing what you want to do in your life, which is blazing your own path. And I thought that we tied them together and made a really great album title.
Priya Panda: Hmmm. Well, I think that “Over It” and “Ain’t That Kind Of Girl” are almost a continuation of one another. One of them is like a call to arms and the other one is like a call to action. They kind of both speak to people who want to make a change in their lives and who are living their life on their own terms. You know what I mean? That is super important to us because I think that is what we do and we can really relate to other people who feel the same way. I have kind of touched upon some of them but the apocalypse — “Hell Is Full” for example — that one is like sort of if it was the end of the world as we know it, which is like you know, with running water, and places to live and food to eat. If that were to end, would we be prepared or are we too much into our own bubble? We kind of lost touch with nature. We lost our animal instincts I think and that is kind of what that song is about. What else? Is that cool?
Sleaze Roxx: Yes (laughs). What are your favorite songs on ‘Never Wanna Die’ and why?
Priya Panda: Hmmm. I like “Forever Untamed”.
Sleaze Roxx: Why is that?
Priya Panda: I like performing it for starters but also I like that it is one of our heaviest kind of songs but it also one of our most memorable melodies for the chorus. I love it. I love performing it. And I like the theme of it you know — just staying the way you are and just never changing. I also like “Wild At Heart”. I just like performing it. I like the melody of it and I liked writing it so I feel good about it. Our next single is — I don’t know. Should I say (laughs)?
Sleaze Roxx: You can’t hold back now!
Priya Panda: Well (laughs), it’s ‘Never Wanna Die’.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! Now, Diemonds have actually been playing some of these songs live for a couple of years and I have been privileged that I live in your hometown so I get to see Diemonds live probably more often than others. One of the songs that seemed not to make it is “Rock Inc.” Why didn’t that song make the cut and will that song resurface in the future?
Priya Panda: Well, funnily enough, it just did not make the cut because I think we ended up writing songs that we wanted to record more than that one. Nothing against it but you know, we wrote lots of songs that did not make the album and ones that we never played live as well. It was kind of like a natural progression but to ask if it’s going to surface, well, we kind of had to do a bonus track for Japan as we normally do. There is a demo version of it — one of our rough rough demos that has been submitted for that. It’s already out in Japan and Asia.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you think that it helped the band to play those new songs live over the course of two years or so?
Priya Panda: Oh yeah! Absolutely! That’s how we decided what we wanted to hear on the album. There were so many changes from the inception to when it was recorded. And we had the time to just own them and get them the way we wanted it so it definitely was a plus. I always like to test drive things live because we’re such a live band and that is what we drive on.
Sleaze Roxx: About four months ago, you applied and secured the lead vocalist position for the all female band She Demons. What brought you to apply for that gig and how will this impact Diemonds in the future?
Priya Panda: I was kind of recommended for the gig and asked personally by Jerry Only to come out and tryout for the band. He kind of heard of Diemonds through the block and I don’t think that the opportunity would have come my way had I not done music actively for so many years. I just thought that it was an opportunity that I could not refuse just for the experience out of it and just for the chance of doing more music, writing more music, playing more music, touring — that’s what I live for. To be fair, every band has downtime and during that downtime, instead of doing what I do at home, I feel like I could be doing more music. I think that She Demons is the perfect project for that and I love those guys. They are amazing! And Diemonds is totally happy for me. We have balanced everything. Everything has worked out so far so we are totally stoked. Everyone has been really supportive. I am on top of the world right now. I am not going to lie to you (laughs)!
Priya Panda: Napalm Records — they do primarily a lot of metal and hard rock, and we thought that it would be good for us, especially being overseas. Hopefully, that will get us out to Europe and everything very very shortly. They were also one of the first labels that were super interested in hearing our new material. We wanted a label that were excited about us. We did not want to beg somebody after being a band for you know — being an independent band for so long. We did not want to have to beg to be on a label. We just wanted to work with somebody that was super interested in us and excited about our future. So Napalm was definitely it. We hope to get to Europe and that is on the cards for early next year. That would be great. And they have some good bands that we would love to tour with.
Sleaze Roxx: As a female fronting a male dominated band and I believe that you have a background from India, do you feel more pressure that you could be a role model for a lot of people?
Priya Panda: Hmmm. Well, the thing is, I never definitely play music to be a role model. I play music because I have to. It’s in my blood. It’s what I compelled to do and I could not do anything else. So in the process, if there are young girls or young people or any people with eyes on myself or the band, I hate to say that I am never going to change who I am — I am always going to be me — but I like to think that I am a good person and I work hard. I hope that reflects on the younger kids. Just having a good work ethic and being kind and nice to everybody you cross paths with — that is what I want to share with the world.
Sleaze Roxx: I know that the band is about to embark on a cross-country tour across Western Canada. What are Diemonds’ other plans for the future?
Priya Panda: Definitely, we are going to go back to the States in the early part of next year. We would also love to go to Japan. That would be stellar and life changing. Going to Japan is like one of the reasons that a band starts off in the first place. You look to japan with stars in your eyes and so, that is definitely something that we want to pursue. And for sure Europe — we want to be hopefully on the festivals circuit by next summer. That would be again another life changing experience for us.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there anything else that you would like to add that we have not covered today?
Priya Panda: Hmmm. I guess that our Pledge Music campaign is still going on even now after the album has come out. It’s going to be in case that people want special album related goodies. Everything that we leave for pledge is going to be exclusive so that is sort of where we are at with that. And then, we will be shooting a music video soon!