Innovation in metal is hit or miss, even in these modern times. Most death metal sounds like, well, death metal; thrash recalls like the beer-crushing ’80s; and black metallers take grim corpse paint to such extremes, at times their appearances border on that of sad clowns.
Tengger Cavalry is an anomaly. Their ability to bridge the past, present, and future is uncanny, not to mention that to do so, frontman Nature G and his band are injecting modern metal with Mongolian throat singing, and it works. Most recently, the band released their acclaimed sixth studio album, Die on My Ride, and we had a chance to ask the band a few questions via the good old interwebs.
Metal and throat singing seems like an unusual pairing, but when you listen to Tengger Cavalry’s music, it seems to work much like the more guttural vocals do. How did the idea of matching this type of singing and this aggressive music come about?
Many years ago, right before I started the band, I was learning traditional Mongolian fiddle and throat singing with my teachers, and also happened to bump into some western folk metal and some local Mongolian folk music that had a “rock” sound to it. Those were great inspirations for me. I really enjoy the mix of oriental folk with heavy metal sounds.
What motivated the move to the U.S. four years ago?
I wanted to pursue my music career so I applied for New York University’s film music composition masters degree program. Luckily, my submission wasn’t so bad, so I got accepted. Student visa as starter, I guess.
Can you talk a little about how this move affected the Tengger Cavalry sound?
It brings out a lot of what I always wanted to express in the music. In American culture, you definitely have more freedom to create whatever art you want. Also, New York City is very diverse so that adds multiple cultural influences to our current sound, too.
The band started out as a one-man project, but now boasts a full-fledged lineup. What are the biggest impacts of having the involvement of other creative minds in the band?
It’s wonderful to have other like-minded musicians jamming around, all with a similar theme in music. I think it adds a lot of uncertainty too, but in a creative, positive way since all of the musicians I’ve worked or am working with are very talented.
What led to the new album title Die on My Ride?
We are all gamblers of our own dreams and we are risking what we have to chase them. Die on My Ride suggests that we not afraid of suffering or pain to become who we are supposed to be on this ride of life.
Can you talk about the songwriting for this album and how it evolved?
It’s really spontaneous, especially when writing about a more general topic such as life struggles. It becomes easier and quicker to find and convey what you feel. Each song explores and different emotional topic, and the songwriting matches each theme. It wasn’t very “planned out” or pre-arranged, but rather go-with-the-flow.
How did the recording for this album differ from past releases?
The sound is more creative, at least in my opinion. Less restricted to the traditional folk or folk metal sound and more diverse. You can even hear some pop punk styles here and there. It’s fun to combine different influences.
What is the one thing you hope that listeners take away from your music?
I hope that this album will inspire people to be fearless so that when they go back to daily life, they feel more brave and comfortable with who they want to be as an individual, and no longer afraid of society’s opinion of them.
The new album features lyricism covering socio-political challenges, including discrimination. Is the music your natural outlet for these unfortunate event, or is it more of an opportunity to make a statement?
I think it’s really just personal expression and not something too intentional. You know, you experience different things in your life and you just put them into music, like your own diary.
Moving slightly away from the music, a lot has changed in the United States in the last four years. Has it changed your perspective of this country? If so, how?
Definitely. When I first came here, I think my idea of this country was more idealized based on what I saw in movies promoting freedom and equality. But reality is mixed. We’ve seen people express their true hatred and discrimination since the election and that’s really not cool.