Hanging with The Bad Pack: Talking to Priya Panda of DIEMONDS
Interview by Rich Leggatt
Photography by Nikki Ormerod
It's always a rush (no pun intended) to see a talented Toronto rock band like Diemonds get the attention they deserve. Diemonds, best described as a straight-up hard rock act with a touch of sleaze, have been slugging away for years but they're finally getting some of that coveted international recognition through constantly touring an arsenal of killer rock hits from their debut album with Underground Operations – "The Bad Pack".
Diemonds formed back in 2006 and current members are: Priya Panda (vocals), C.C. Diemond (lead guitar), Daniel Dekay (guitars), Tommy Carvalho (bass) and Aiden Tranquada (drums). They have music videos for their songs "Highway", "Take On The Night", "Livin' Tonight" and "Get The F&$k Outta Here" (seen below).
Priya, the fabulous front-woman for this ferocious ensemble, was kind enough to take some time out of what must be an insanely busy schedule to answer a few questions for HMS. Here is what she had to tell us...
HMS: Priya, are there any particular singers or performers that were an influence on you as a rock vocalist?
Priya: Of course! I am super inspired by lots of singers. Music has been my entire life since before Diemonds and I love all the big guns like Sebastian Bach from Skid Row, Stephen Pearcy from RATT, Steven Tyler, Ozzy, David Lee Roth, Blackie Lawless, Paul Stanley and Axl Rose. I also love some of the underappreciated frontmen and women like Wendy O. Williams, Ann Boleyn from Hellion, Doro, and Davy Vain from Vain.
Closer to home, I got to see this band called Toilet Boys from NYC about a half dozen times before I was even old enough to drink and goddamn, I don't know if there's a singer out there who's more influenced by their incredible and original frontperson Miss Guy.
HMS: Of all the female-fronted bands in the history of rock 'n roll, Diemonds was the very first to play Shillong, India. Was that a difficult gig to get? How was their reaction to Diemonds?
Priya: Yes it was an extremely difficult gig to get. I booked that trip pretty much on my own and would stay up at odd hours to negotiate and between the language barrier and difference in customs and way of doing business there, that proved to be really hard. It was worth it in the end for the extreme culture shock and huge crowd. The infrastructure for international touring underground bands is not really set in place in India, especially in the Northeast where we were.
But the reaction was crazy - they went crazy! Not too sure if they knew what to make of an Indian chick being on stage in leather with a bunch of longhairs. It was amazing I really can't wait to return. We were treated like rock n' roll heroes out in Shillong. The only other bands that had been there period when we went were Scorpions, Mr. Big and a John Corabi project called The Lost Angels so they really loved us and thought we were a huge band too. Hopefully with our next album, another tour of India will be a possibility.
HMS: What's the next exotic destination that you would like to play?
Priya: For sure Japan and South America. Not to say that we don't want to travel the entire globe pillaging people's eardrums, but those spots would be killer. Japan is the ultimate Budokan fantasy dreamland for a band. We're hoping European festivals are on the radar too.
HMS: So how did you guys get Dean "Deaner" Murdoch (Paul Spence of FUBAR fame) to appear in Diemonds' video "Livin' Tonight"?
Priya: Deaner was down to be in our video cause we were playing with his band Nightseeker in Collingwood, Ontario. He dug us, thought we were cool, and I've always been a fan. I always thought the songs he performed as Creeper on the FUBAR soundtrack were the shit. So it was really fun for us that he decided to shotgun literally an entire 24 of PBR and just ham it right up. I don't think I stopped laughing once that day.
"Music has been my entire life..."
HMS: I really dig the references to comic books and horror flicks in your kick-ass videos like "Take On The Night" and "Get The F&$k Outta Here". Do you have a favorite horror flick and/or comic book character?
Priya: Thanks man! I think one of my favourite horror movies is Trick or Treat; it has the best soundtrack via Fastway and the best rock n' roll plot. I really like Creepshow and Evil Dead too; all of the campiest of the classics.
As for comics, I'm not the biggest reader of comics, except the Archie series, of which I have a collection that runs about 500 plus deep. I just lived for that shit when I was a kid. I wanted to be in their band the Archies and date Jughead. I guess then he's my favourite character, but of course I was interested in the juicy lives of Betty and Veronica. Tom is super into comic books. And Dekay loves the HULK, if the huge green tattoo on his arm didn't already give him away!
HMS: In the video for "Get The F&$k Outta Here" you guys play some hilarious characters. Have you done any acting previously, and would you consider appearing in any films outside of your videos?
Priya: C.C. usually masterminds the initial idea with our video dude Bleedingheart. Then we all sort of riff on the role we'd like to bring to the table. So no, we're definitely not actors, but we like to contribute to a fun final product. Funnily, we have been offered the odd indie movie or TV show, but nothing has transpired. We'd be open to it, not actively pursuing it or anything though. I do want to be in the new Jem and the Holograms movie!
HMS: I was watching the episode of Master Tracks where Diemonds recorded "Lil' Miss" at Metalworks. What was it like working with Moe Berg? Did that experience change your approach to songwriting?
Priya: Everyone you write songs with teaches you something and Moe Berg definitely had an impact on our songs. We kinda learned to trim a bit of the fat. Also, Moe was super patient and kind of let the song, an early version of 'Lil Miss, unfold on its own. He's a really, really good guy with a great ear for tunes. He gave us studio experience that up until that point I had had very little of. Metalworks was just down the road from where I grew up, but I'd never been there. I was stoked. I also knew Moe had produced one of my favourite Toronto albums ever, Robin Black & the Intergalactic Rock Stars Planet: Fame. I was so excited to work with him.
HMS: I was saddened to hear about the passing of one of your former members, Alan 'Yeti' Riches. Although I never met him, I've read that he was an influential and well loved part of the rock community here. Are there any fond memories or thoughts you'd like to share about Alan and the part he played in Diemonds' history?
Priya: I still find it extremely difficult to talk openly about Alan. He's the coolest dude and was instrumental to Diemonds. I don't think I've given many vocal takes in my life without Alan being there. Working on our new record has been different to say the least, in every way - for all of us. I don't think a day goes by when I don't think of him.
HMS: Diemonds are known for constantly touring North America (and sometimes beyond). So when can we next catch Diemonds back in the GTA?
Priya: We are kinda holing up in the studio until we have something new to bring on the road with us. So nothing in the GTA but we have two special shows in May: The 2nd in Ottawa and May 3rd in Montreal. That's it for now, but stay tuned for bigger, badder tunes and some serious road time in the later part of the year. Cheers dude!
Rich Leggatt, HMS