A metal musician who fuels his passion through running a cooking youtube channel

We often wonder — when does an artist realize their true calling? Do they pursue their childhood dream, or does someone inspire them to create? Whatever the reason, creators and artists discover their authentic voice, somewhere between fostering a desire and arriving at the destination. From that moment onwards, they encounter brilliant experiences, focus on the journey, and explore a little bit of everything.


A metal musician, writer, host of a cooking channel on YouTube — Sahil Makhija, also known as Demonstealer, has diverse feathers in his cap. He was only a teenager when he started Demonic Resurrection, an award-winning Mumbai-based death metal band. Its claim to fame includes a feature alongside Sepultura and Lamb of God in Global Metal, a documentary on metal music.

His greatest love isn't music alone; there's food and cooking too. He is the creator and the host of Headbanger's Kitchen — a popular YouTube channel with 645K subscribers. It's not your usual YouTube channel as it focuses on keto recipes, with Sahil making keto dishes different and delicious. He has been cooking ever since he was 12.

Cooking As A 12-Year-Old

Long before Sahil got into music, he started cooking! As a child, he loved food so much that he picked cooking in school hobby classes for about two to three years. Growing up, he also dreamed of being a chef and opening a restaurant. 

"One of my earliest food memories is from the time I was 11 or 12; we had gone on a family vacation with our family friends and their kids. I cooked breakfast for around 18 people, and it was eggs — whether they all wanted omelets or scrambled eggs, I cooked for them." 

But, Sahil also wanted to be a Bollywood actor because he watched Bollywood cinema and loved acting. He'd participate in elocutions and drama classes, but food just happened to be of the essence. Some of his fond memories include his trips to Dubai where he'd look forward to eating at Pizza Hut, Burger King, and places that weren't in India at that time. Despite an interest in cooking, he got into computers and decided to be a computer science engineer. The future held different plans — little did he know he'd discover and fall in love with heavy metal music and become a metal musician!

Sahil talking about his food journey on his YouTube channel

Introduction To Metal Music

Sahil’s mom loved music and collected CDs, vinyl, etc. She was into pop, rock, soul, and funk, so Sahil grew on a healthy diet of The Beatles, Madonna, Aretha Franklin, and Dire Straits. However, his first brush with metal happened when a friend gave him an Iron Maiden tape during his sixth-grade school trip. 

A snippet from our interview where Sahil shares the story of how Sahil fell in love with metal music

In no time, he was listening to heavier bands. He thought heavy metal was the kind of music that inspired him to make his music.

"With metal, you don't have unrealistic expectations like having a rock style because metal is a lot more underground and less fancy. So, my friends and I decided to form a band. We planned to take guitar classes after 10th standard, and although we took lessons after school, I was the only one that stuck to music."

In those days, Sahil discovered music through magazines such as Metal Hammer. He and his friends would save up and buy this magazine for INR 150 from a raddiwala (a collector of old newspapers and magazines) outside National College, Bombay. Eventually, he convinced his father to take an annual subscription; he discovered numerous bands through them and downloaded high-rated music from a chat program called MIRC. Apart from unearthing music through magazines, friends' older siblings, MTV, and radio, he followed a late-night show by Atin Dasgupta on the radio as he played metal.

On Quitting College

Although keen on forming a band, Sahil had no intention to quit college because he still wanted to study and make money. Besides, he admits he never wanted to be just a musician, so the thought of leaving college never occurred. 

After flunking the first year, he moved from electronics to commerce. However, he was behind on assignments and classes; that's when he decided to quit and saw an opportunity in sound engineering. Not wanting to waste time, he took it up to stay close to music, even when his parents weren't convinced.

Birth Of Demonic Resurrection

Sahil started writing songs with his friend Sunil and later found a senior who played the guitar. They wrote and recorded their compositions.

"One day, when Sunil played me a song, it had drums, guitar, singing, and everything — it was an entire song. When he told me it was me and my song, I discovered you could program the drums, record the guitar in a voiceover, and figured I could learn all that."

Sunil taught him more; Sahil kept writing and wanted a band that could play these songs. Then arrived a time when Sunil decided to focus on college and Sahil began to look for other musicians. Through connections, Sahil discovered musicians but the band lineups kept changing, which made him scout for musicians again. There were ups and downs, and not everyone had the same level of dedication, which led to people quitting. Around that time he joined a studio as a sound engineer.

"As a sound engineer, I knew I'd learn to record and mix better; plus, I'd have access to a studio, and as my boss knew I was a musician, I had the flexibility to take off if I had shows."

He recorded and mixed A Darkness Descends, Demonic Resurrection's second album at the studio, and it was phenomenal as he had access to great equipment that bands generally don't have. He was ecstatic, spent every waking moment on music, and decided to go on — with or without people because he started solo. One of the notable achievements for the band includes being featured in Global Metal and its soundtrack.

A song from Sahil’s Metal band - Demonic Resurrection

How Cooking Fell Into The Blender

Cooking didn't exactly take a backseat as he was still whipping a meal or two for the band and his family. 

"In 2003, I started seeing a girl, who is now my wife. I was cooking to convince her I was a cool guy. I remember cooking many dishes when she came over to my place for the first time. It wasn't a lot, but I was still actively cooking and was going through recipe books to learn new stuff. As it turned out, she loved to eat, and when she got me a smartphone for my birthday, I had a phone that took pictures."

Around the time the world drifted from Orkut to Facebook, Sahil took to Facebook Notes to write poetry and lyrics. One day, he took a picture of his dinner with a note, Demonic Cookery, which took off. He posted several recipes on Notes. 

"I reached a point where I didn't want ghar ka khaana, so I started cooking something different and used to check the fridge to see what I could whip."

Apart from cooking, Sahil ate out a lot, which exposed him to diverse cuisines. And around 2009-2010, with better access to the internet, he started watching food videos. Later, he contacted Srinivas, Scribe's bass guitarist, and asked if they could make food videos together for YouTube. When he agreed, they conceptualized The Headbanger's Kitchen.

The Origin of The Headbanger's Kitchen

The Headbanger's Kitchen launched its first episode in 2010. Sahil started it as a side hustle to further his career as a musician and thought he could recover their band's production costs from it. They thought it had the potential to sell as a channel. Initially, they did about seven episodes monthly, and the content largely revolved around interviewing other bands. Of course, there was food, but it wasn't the channel's bedrock as the concept was still heavy metal music and to whip a dish for the bands. 

"But it was a lot of work and Srinivas refused to continue. People would take a whole day to come to my house, move the furniture, bring out the stove, cylinder, and the entire house is disrupted. And, then, there's the camera setup."
The very first episode of Headbanger’s Kitchen in 2011

Journey Of The Headbanger’s Kitchen

Back then, they'd pitch the channel to companies such as Reliance, but they'd remark how recipes on beef or pork weren't for their target audience. Nothing worked out, but Sahil kept making videos for about three years. Subsequently, he hired people for a season, crowdfunded, but towards the end of four years, he had 4,500 subscribers and 2,000 views and felt it wasn't worth his time. Since there were no ads, there was no monetary motivation either. In 2015, he took a complete U-turn with keto recipes. 

"I was making pizza out of cauliflower — I thought it was nuts and decided to film it. The video did well on its own; I had no expectations because I did it only because I wanted to. Before that, I've also experimented with adding bacon to everything — for instance, I took standard recipes and bacon-ized it. I've done a whole bunch of recipes like microwave potato chips, bacon tadka, and recipes with rosemary dust. Soon, my brother, an assistant director, joined me, and I started another concept — Soup Kitchen."

The keto recipes blew up, and he signed up with an MCN (multi-channel network) that takes over channels and optimizes them for growth.

"I tried them for a few years and when they were doing nothing for my channel, I terminated their contract. They paid around $93 for the period 2011 to 2016, but I got a $110 payout from YouTube the next month. I wondered how I made more in a month than in five years and buckled up to make more recipes next month. The payouts and the subscribers increased, and suddenly, there were 10,000 subscribers."

There was no looking back — Sahil kept making videos, people asked him questions, and sometimes, it took him a day to respond.

On Creative Burnout

Call it an occupational hazard or the craft's true nature — several creators experience burnout or block. It gets to the best of us, and Sahil says he experiences it all the time. 

A snippet from our interview where Sahil talks about creator's burnout.

There were instances when he deleted his social pages because, despite a great following, the reach was poor. Now, he handles them differently and during a burnout — he watches something, gets inspired, and moves on. Sahil also mentions the difficulties of pivoting every time a social media platform changes its algorithm. 

"You have to relearn from scratch, and it's problematic because the best creativity comes when people create because they want to. When you write a song, it's a hit when you write with honesty and creativity and not because you sit down and wonder what your audience would like."

The problem with several social media platforms and their algorithms is that they focus on promoting content that people spend more time on instead of experiences. Soon, we may reach a stage where our feeds have only mindless content instead of engaging content.

Revenue Models

Sahil emphasizes the importance of having multiple income sources without depending on a platform. 

"What if I go nuts and post controversial stuff on my channel? That is as good as losing your job, right? People say even if you have a job, you should invest, diversify and save. It's the same for content creators, too; it's the same reason why you diversify."

Ad revenue from YouTube was his most significant source of income till he started his website, and everything else was around 10% of his earnings. Now that he is on Patreon, his super fans can pay and support him. In return, Sahil either gives them early access to his content or answers their questions. While Patreon became 20% of his income, he started making more money through merchandise. And then, there are affiliate sales.

Sahil's thoughts on why he refuses some brand deals

A publisher also hired Sahil to write a book, and eventually, he realized the need to invest in a website for his channel. Now, his website makes as much as his YouTube channel does; also, his website’s ad monetisation is managed by a great ad agency. 

Sahil doesn't take up any brand collaborations, and says as long as he makes enough to live comfortably and make music, it is all that matters. 

"My motivation to wake up and be alive apart from my wife and family is music. I wake up to have my coffee and play, write and listen to music. If I take up sponsorships or brand deals, it's more work; I'd rather have more free time to do what I like than make more money. That's how I've always designed my life — to pay the bills so I can make music and not have joy sucked out of life."

The Way Forward

"Even when I'm 80, I'd still want to write music for Demonic Resurrection, play the guitar, tour the world, and make albums because these have been my vision since the beginning as far as I remember."
Listen to Sahil’s music - Spotify playlist

Sahil also mentions how he approaches The Headbanger's Kitchen as a job and churns out videos by understanding what's working for his audience without being emotional. 

"And whatever money I make from it, I'll invest it in making the best music I can and being happy. It also helps advertise my music and reach new listeners. I'm grateful for whatever I can do in life because not everyone gets to do this."

That is a truth bomb, right there! Not everyone gets to create, and not many have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. We're over the moon that Sahil can — for he has given us some incredible music and great stories. And, one thing is for sure — he'll stay close to music and discover ways to stay close to it. Whatever it takes!

Table of contents