The great 2020 closing of borders has had many unexpected consequences. Many have found themselves trapped in places – heavens and hells both – with strange circumstances to overcome. One of these is Paddy Robinson, host of the Kampot Radio show/podcast Pestilence of Arrakhan, a show dedicated to the more extreme edges of metal, which has its first birthday next Wednesday, 12 August. Paddy spoke to Leng Pleng across a dodgy internet connection from his in-laws’ house in rural Thailand about making it to one year on the radio, and how it all began.
POA is Paddy’s first foray into radio. “I’d never done it before,” he explains. “I once mentioned to Darryl [Carter, station manager] that I was doing a bit of cycling listening to the extreme metal music that I used to be into when I was a kid, which I now find quite atmospheric for bike riding. And he said, you could do a radio show, you know. And I said, yeah, but no one would want to listen to that. He said, we’ll put it on late. And that was a year ago.”
Death, doom and black metal is the stuff of POA – not for the fainthearted. “My show is probably the most niche thing that Kampot Radio does. This music was a bit of a guilty pleasure to me before. I was really into heavy metal from when I was about 13 until 18, and got more and more extreme. Then I got into the rave scene but I still would listen to metal on occasion.”
The early days of the radio show were not without their teething problems. “The show has kind of evolved – from the start I did an hour of mainstream metal and then an hour of the weird stuff that I like, and then that kind of morphed, I was doing stoner psychedelic stuff for the first hour and then getting into the black and death metal later. And then I got into trouble with Darryl. Acid Mammoth, they were called, a really heavy psychedelic stoner doom band. Darryl was in a bar with the radio on, and I got a message from him: what the bloody hell is this? This is Acid Mammoth, Daz, it’s light! Stoner music! He said I’m going to move you back, so he rescheduled my show to be an hour later, now it’s 11 pm til 1 am. And that’s given me a lot more freedom.”
One might think there would not be enough material to fill two hours, particularly with new music, but that is emphatically not the case. “Having new stuff has not been an issue at all. I’ve had loads of time on my hands, and I don’t know if this is a thing for music overall or if it’s specifically for the metal scene, but the last six months have been absolutely crazy for the amount of stuff that’s come out. I can’t fit it all in the show. Of the stuff that I play about 80% of it has come out within the previous month. This is the 39th show – I would estimate that I’ve played about 500 different bands.
“I try to give people a sense of what’s coming out, to try to cover as many different bands as possible. Most of the show is relatively new records coming out in death metal, black metal, psychedelic and stoner doom, epid doom, a bit of drone, dissonant stuff as well. All the more extreme elements of metal.”
So where’s it all coming from? “This is one of the amazing things about extreme metal – it is everywhere, absolutely everywhere. Asia not so much apart from Japan, but all over South America, Europe, Russia. I thought I’d be playing a lot more British bands, but the main two countries for black metal are Poland and Iceland. And Iceland, considering its size, has got such a huge black metal scene.”
I asked Paddy why he thought there has been such an explosion of output in the extreme scene in recent times. “Most of them already have a very dark outlook on life, and a lot of the bands do reference that it’s quite an easy time to talk about dystopian futures and possible apocalypse and dark stuff. I don’t know if it’s because of the lockdown. There’s a band I like a lot called Pestilength, and they’ve released four EPs this year. A new half hour, four or five track EP every couple of months. And it’s all quality as well. At the end of June I did a show on my top 20 records for 2020, and that was really difficult, to keep it down to 20 records. I think at the end of the year it’s going to have to be 50 albums, I think.”
Paddy Robinson: a great face for radio. Photo: supplied
We talked a bit about the metal scene locally and regionally. “Mia [Priest, of Nightmare AD] and Tin [Vanntin Hoeurn, of Reign in Slumber/Blood Bricks] are quite typical of people involved in the extreme metal scene: they are extremely open-minded, progressive-minded people. Metal generally is about being open-minded and accepting – mostly it’s positive, with a few notable exceptions.”
As for his own situation under COVID, Paddy’s glad to have had the radio show on the go. “It’s been a godsend to me, it’s given me something to do, really. I’ve been trapped and feeling quite frustrated at not being able to continue my life in Kampot; it’s given me something to focus on. I’m very glad we continued with it for the last six months.”
Any advice for aspiring radio show presenters? “Speaking to an unknown quantity and demographic of people has a certain mystery about it. The best quality shows are from people who are relaxed, playing what they feel would benefit the listeners’ mood, while still keeping in mind that this isn’t a self-indulgent thing, you’re trying to interact with a group of people who are your audience. Play what you want to play, play what makes you happy, but remember you’re playing it to somebody else, you’re not sitting on your own.”
Pestilence of Arrakhan can be heard at KampotRadio.com from 11 pm ICT on a Wednesday night. Alternatively, you can go to Kampot Radio’s Patreon page and subscribe – for only $5 a month you have access to podcast versions of several weekly shows, including bonus interviews and the live music recordings. Your support will help Kampot Radio stay on the air during these difficult times.