America is a food lovers’ paradise. Burgers, wings, ribs, tacos, noodles. red curries, green curries, gumbo, gluten-free kelp salad: you name it, there’s a place that will slap it on a plate so you can shovel it down your gullet.
Weirdly, though, the US remains ‘meh’ about Indian food. It’s pretty much a culinary footnote outside of the major cities - it’s certainly nowhere near the national obsession that it is in the UK.
Still, it does have its devotees, and few are as fanatical about Indian food as Florida deathcore ragers Bodysnatcher. Such is their dedication to everything from the mildest korma to the most arse-burning vindaloo that they’ve made it their mission to stop off at the best Indian restaurant in every town they hit on tour.
Hammer caught up with vocalist Kyle Medina and drummer Chris Whited ahead of the release of their bruising new album Bleed-Abide to talk tikka masala…
How does a deathcore band from Florida get into hot Indian food?
Chris: “It was our bass player. He lived with an Indian family for a while, and we were talking one day and I said that I’d never eaten Indian food before. I love spicy food – just I’d never eaten Indian cuisine. So when we were on tour, we all went to this Indian spot in Atlanta, Georgia, with our booking agent. The first bite was, like, ‘Wow, I fucked up, I cannot believe I haven’t eaten this my whole life.’ That first bite is still the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten.”
Did you start mild and work up, or did you go straight in hot?
Chris: “The first one I ever got, I believe, was a just a tikka masala. Start basic.”
When the band played in London recently, you hit Brick Lane, which is the place to go for Indian food. What was that like?
Chris: “It’s crazy, every other place on that street is a curry restaurant. In the UK in general, everyone feels way more friendly that in the States. You walk in most places and everyone has a smile on their face to greet you. It just makes you feel happy.”
How was your food?
Kyle: “It was great, but I’m allergic to most nuts. So I was, like, ‘Hey, can I have one with no nuts in it?’ And the dude was, like, ‘Yeah, sure, that’s fine.’ So I had a tikka masala, and we were pretty much past the point of no return, then the guy was, like, ‘Oh, by the way, that’s got nuts in it…’”
That doesn’t sound great. What’s the worst that could have happened?
Kyle: “Oh, it could have been really bad.”
Chris: “We’ve been on tour before and we’ve had to rush him to a hospital because he dried off with a towel that was washed in the wrong type of detergent. But apparently the cooked almonds in that curry didn’t bother him, because nothing happened.”
Kyle: “Walnuts for sure will fucking kill me. But hey, I’m alive.”
The phall is usually the hottest thing on the menu, Did you have one?
Chris: “Oh yeah, we got the phall. It was my first time – I didn’t know it was a thing, cos it’s not on the menu anywhere in the US. The hottest thing here is a vindaloo. The phall - man, the heat was awesome. I basically ate the whole thing. Everybody else took a bite and was, like, ‘Holy crap!’ It was hot for sure, but the flavour of the phall I don’t think is quite as good as a vindaloo or a madras.”
So what’s your side dish of choice? Poppadoms? Naan?
Chris: “All of the above. Chilli naan is awesome.”
What about the other guys in the band? Are they into hot food or are they lightweights?
Chris: “They don't purposefully try and eat super-hot stuff. Me, I’m a very big fan of extremely spicy things that most people can’t handle. In the States, if we go to a wing place and they have a challenge, I’ll try and do the hottest wing challenge.”
How hot do hot wings get?
Kyle: “Dude, they get hot. It’s usually a mixture of all the hot chilis – reaper, scorpion, stuff like that. And what they’ll do is make you eat it while it’s temperature hot too. So you’re just dying.”
Chris: “They also put capsicum extract on it, which is, like, millions on the Scoville chart. There’s a place in Florida called Munchies 4-20 Cafe, and they have a hot wing challenge that I want to try. They have to wear full-face masks while they’re cooking. I've watched people try it and they just puke. They get through two or three and their body just starts rejecting it.”
Kyle: “A lot of places have you sign a flyer so they’re not liable if you get sick. Or die.“
Is it true that you stop off and try to find the best Indian restaurant in every town and city you play?
Chris: “Yeah, except Birmingham, which is supposed to the curry capitol of the UK, right? That was the first show on our UK tour, so we had to go pick up all of our gear, all of our merchandise, then get to the show. I think we went out and ate kebabs that night.”
What do you go for with a curry: quality or quantity?
Chris: “Quality. Even a small amount of an Indian dish is more than other dishes. You get the rice and the naan. The naan goes a long way.”
So if you eat curry before a show, doesn’t it come back on you onstage?
Kyle: “You just make sure you give yourself enough downtime for it to settle. If you're eating two hours before you play, you’re gonna be in trouble.”
Have you ever shat yourself onstage after eating too much curry?
Kyle: “I’ve not shit myself, but I’ve definitely had to run off and go projectile vomit. But that wasn’t a curry – I’d tacos from a food truck. Fuckin’ idiot. I like food trucks a lot, but that probably wasn’t the best idea.”
Chris: “We played Hartford, Connecticut on our last tour of the States, and our manager took us to this barbecue place. We always get way too full there. Our bass player got baked beans, and he kept looking over, like, ‘Dude, this sucks, I’ve got this crazy heartburn right now.’ Then suddenly he gagged and he coughed up a whole bean – it wasn’t even chewed or anything. He spit it out and then he was, like, ‘Dude, I feel great now!’ That was it.”
You guys are into weightlifting. How does that tally with your love of hot food?
Kyle: “You gotta stay on top of it. With weightlifting, you’ve got to be pretty disciplined as far as what you eat. If you’re gonna eat shit, you need be pretty disciplined.”
C: “The reason I work out so much is cos I like to eat so much food. If I didn’t work out, I would be severely obese.”
Is it true that you’re a tournament paintball player as well, Kyle?
Kyle: “It’s true.”
That’s either the coolest thing in the world or the nerdiest…
Kyle: “It’s funny you should say that, cos I was at a practice a couple of months ago and i was talking to my friend, and we were, like, ‘This rocks, but it’s the nerdiest shit ever.’”
How does it work? Do you go out in the woods and shoot each other with paintball guns?
Kyle: “There are two sides to it. There’s the going-out-in-the-woods side and there’s the more streamlined side to it – the tournament play. There are regional events – like, 20 teams with five per side. There are national events – those are pretty big. I play with a Division Three team, that’s nothing to shrug at – and we fucking won our division! That’s pretty high-level paintball. It’s a very hard sport.”
Wait, did you describe paintballing as a ‘sport’?
Kyle: “It’s definitely a sport. It’s very athletic. There’s more movement involved than basketball. You’re not just standing there shooting each other. And it fucking hurts when you get hit.”
We’ve talked food and paintballing, we should talk music. What was the idea behind Bodysnatcher when you put the band together?
Kyle: “That‘s easy. It was formed literally to just be a breakdown mosh band – that was it. There was no plan to get big or anything like that. It was just something to do with my friends. I didn’t expect it to get this far, but it grew legs and took on a life of its own.”
Why call it Bodysnatcher?
Kyle: “We were originally going to name the band after a serial killer, but most of those names were already taken. So we decided to go with Bodysnatcher, cos it sounded cool and I believe it’s Ed Gein‘s nickname. The songs we wrote back then were always about stuff that was kind of personal but not to the extent that it is now. It was always about people doing you wrong and stuff.”
Is there a limit to how big a band called Bodysnatcher playing this kind of music can become?
Chris: “As long as you don’t stop working and putting out good material, you’re not gonna stop growing. Sure, we might not be as big as Disturbed, but that doesn’t matter to us. As long as we keep playing the music that we like, which is heavy breakdown music, and as long as people keep listening to it, we’re gonna keep doing it.”
And if it all goes belly up, you can open your own curry restaurant…
Chris: “Yeah, that’s gotta be an option.”
Bodysnatcher’s new album, Bleed-Abide, is out now