Nishad George grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and loves it there. That place will always be his home. But then, if he wants to, he can find a home on the other side of the world, where a few decades ago, his parents were born. India, and more specifically, Kerala. Nishad, a heavy metal guitarist, loving it in San Francisco, also has very special place in his heart for Thrissur, his mom’s hometown, where he had his first show as a solo artist in 2009. And another in 2011. It is big news that a boy whose roots can be traced back to little Kerala is now making a name for himself as a heavy metal guitarist in the US and formed the American band ‘The Offering’. But it hadn’t just begun with heavy metal. There was of course the guitar, that had ‘always been there’. To this day, it is the most beautiful instrument for Nishad. The credit, he says, goes to his dad, a classical guitar player, whose family hails from Kottayam.
“He tells me a story I don’t exactly remember,” Nishad writes in an email interview, “I think he was learning a new song and I kept interjecting that he was playing it wrong. I think I was around four or five years old! (Haha). He saw that I had some innate responses to it so he put a guitar in my hands (this I do remember, the guitar was bigger than my body). He walked me through some basic rules of sight reading music and a few notes on the guitar, and I was able to sight read the first page of music in his guitar book. I didn’t know how significant that was until I was a teenager.”
So, like his dad, Nishad learned classical guitar till he was around ten but he didn’t know what he had was special. When he was 12, his dad again came to the scene, with a new blues festival DVD – Nishad later found out it was Eric Clapton’s Crossroads. There was an insane guitar player there, the dad said. And the son watched Steve Vai for the first time, transforming himself in the process. “Before then, I had an uneducated stigma as a young kid in classical programmes that rock music and electric guitars were talentless or theatrics. But when I saw Steve Vai, it was like my whole world turned three-dimensional and accelerated beyond my senses. I dropped all stigmas; I saw the guitar as a completely different instrument and listened to music so differently from then on,” he explains.
He listened to everything – old rock and roll, blues, jazz, rock, even Indian music, taking lessons in Carnatic music, Veena and Mridangam. Instrumental guitar music became a platform to 80’s rock, which became a platform to modern metal, which became a platform to punk, grunge, even rap, and so on. “Eventually, I kept coming back to heavy metal. It’s just the broadest, deepest genre to me; it’s almost like all roads lead right back to it,” he says. When Nishad did Indivisible Devils, his solo album, he had already played in a few smaller metal and punk bands. “But I needed to finally make a statement and say that I can write music in every genre with all sorts of singers. It was a challenge I put upon myself to show my diversity and create something really eclectic. With The Offering, it’s a stage where my ideas are funneled into a specific style, more focused, more refined,” he elaborates. The Offering, his metal band, has just signed a deal with Century Media Records, a division of Sony, and are releasing their EP worldwide.
“We formed in 2015 right when it was just the perfect next logical step for me. My solo record had a few of the guys already on it (Daniel and Alex, guitar and vocals respectively), and I’ve worked and played shows with Steve Finn (Drums) before. It’s certainly a pleasure working with these guys. They put a ton of trust in me. Songwriting, production, live show… a lot of those pieces depend on me firing on all cylinders and creating results. I love stepping up and delivering. Plus, these are all fantastic musicians,” he says. Nishad has countless people who vouched for him. He especially wants to mention Viji Manuel, keyboard player, who had been very keen to help but passed away in 2015. “That’s always been a wakeup call to be the best at what I can do for the people that are still alive, present, and supportive of what I choose to do next in my music career,” he sums up.