Metal is a strange beast, and it emerges in places that you wouldn’t normally expect sometimes. One of those is Pakistan. Not the first place to think of when hearing heavy metal music, right? Let alone the often blasphemous but always rebellious black metal. Primaeval is the band that is changing all that.
With deep roots and a complex series of influences, their sound offers something new and fresh, but also is an expression from a band that breaks multiple stereotypes you may have of their country of origin. Metal has often been a male-dominated genre, and to have a band from Pakistan with a lady on vocals is groundbreaking. And as admitted by the band, the scene doesn’t treat women well, yet here they are. Paving the way for a change.
Get to know Primaeval, as Farhan Rathore kindly takes time to answer my questions and share more about his band, the metal scene in Pakistan and more.
Fighting for acceptance: Primaeval
How is Primaeval doing?
Primaeval is doing pretty well, although there are a lot of challenges we face as individuals and a band also, like lack of exposure to heavy metal and lack of acceptance from society for our extreme style of music.
How did you folks meet and what were your individual inspirations to start making extreme music?
Farhan Rathore was the guy actively doing heavy metal music for 12+ years who went to his old friends ( Rumi and Athar ) and discussed the idea of forming a band that can showcase all sides of heavy metal. Hence creating a unique sound. Later the band found Byzma and we loved her vocals. All of us have pretty common musical inspirations, mostly old-school but also modern metal sounds. The bands we all love are Katatonia, Electric Wizard, Burzum, Candlemass, Opeth, Empyrium, Draconian, Gojira, Black Sabbath, Emperor, Celtic Frost, and the list goes on.
Am I correct in seeing that you folks are in various other bands and projects? Can you say something more about that?
Farhan had 2 bands prior to this, Athar was associated with a band also. But as of now, we have no side projects. And we are all totally committed to Primaeval.
What kind of idea is behind Primaeval? Who are the main inspirations for your band?
The idea behind Primaeval is to bring a sound that has never been heard in our part of the world (South Asia or Asia in general). We are inspired by Progressive music, Doom Metal and elements of Death and Black Metal. We are basically a band that ranges from extreme sounds to very emotional melodies. And we want to create our own sound of genre if you want to put it that way.
I’d like to know more about the story you are telling with your music. The name of your EP is ‘Horcrux’, which appears to be a Harry Potter reference.
The main idea behind our EP was to put out songs that were personally close to us and some of our work that would let people know why we are different from the contemporary metal bands in our region. One of the songs named “Nocturne (Alternative Version) is a chunk from our full length album. This album speaks about our individual and collective sorrow and mental health related issues maybe at points. And about the EP name, yes of course we are Harry Potter fans lol. And the idea was to establish a name that makes our EP immortal for us at least. It is very close to all of us. So that is that.
What is the process for you in writing and recording the record?
Our writing and recording process is very simple. We are at the studio every weekend, from the evening to the next morning. We take our music writing very religiously, and we don’t compromise. We have spent almost a year recording and writing the EP. Farhan does the lyrics writing, while Athar and Rumi are always creating instrumentals that can draw the sound we are looking for. It’s a constant experiment with scales and tunings. We love it this way. We want to stand out.
Which bands should people really check out?
Yeah we are strictly metal. We’ve always been. Farhan’s previous band is listed in the archives as well. But with our latest EP, Metal Archives labelled it as “Not so metal. And rather a rock EP”. Which offended us since we don’t understand their point with that. But we will be patient and try again once our full length album is out. Because that will be explosive. We can promise people that. So as of now, we have left chasing Metal Archives to be acknowledged or recognized. Because our listeners are our bosses, and if we are metal to them, we are metal for everyone. Platforms need to stop making things complicated for artists with original music.
There’s a general idea that not much metal is made in your part of the world. Pakistan, however, seems to have a lively scene. What is it like and which bands are really the originators? What styles are prevalent? Basically, tell me everything.
Good question. Presently, Pakistan is pretty dull in Heavy metal area. There are hardly 4 to 6 bands actively putting out music. The mainstream music here is mostly rap and RnB. Pop also is a very popular genre in this part of the world. People treat metal as something evil and satanic labels are put on metal artists. We have been subjected to a lot of hatred and abuse due to that. Nobody is willing to give Metal bands shows or even market our music. Although Pakistan has a good history in Metal back in the 90’s and early 2000’s with bands like Dusk, Karachi Butcher clan, Dionysus, Multinational Corporations and others. Right now, Takatak is the standout band in our local scene. And we are trying to make our mark in the metal scene also. So let’s hope the new generation can get exposed to good metal music. Metal is treated as a lower-grade music genre. Although that’s a totally bad idea of treating any genre.
Which bands should people really check out?
I’d suggest people to listen to Dusk, Takatak and Karakoram to get a wider picture of how diverse our heavy music can be. And you can listen to our work also. Lol
Can you shed some light on what place metal has in society, if there is any censorship level, and what you can and cannot sing about? Just for context, in neighbouring Iran, metal bands have been prosecuted.
Metal has no respect in our country, and there is little to no support for metal artists. There is no such censorship on music other than nudity or blasphemy. Since we are in a country that is very extreme towards religion. And again, society treats metal as a source of noise and a symbol of satanism. So it’s very heartbreaking for artists and listeners. Because there are no shows unless artists organize the shows themselves. It’s not a good place for Metal. And I have heard about Iran and Afghanistan, it’s very sad to see musicians being prosecuted anywhere. Art should be promoted rather than being choked.
A metal band from Pakistan is for many people a rarity, a metal band from Pakistan with a female member even more so. You mentioned in a different interview that women were not well-treated in the scene. Can you elaborate on that and why this is the case?
Yes, a female working for a Heavy metal band is a rarity here. And women are generally hurled with offensive and sexist comments here and there, generally in this part of the world. Imagine a woman making metal music in a place where men are not safe with their art. But luckily, Byzma is an outspoken woman who can stand up for herself. And she has us to support her. And we hope she stays safe from all the abuse that women can face here. She has such a beautiful voice.
Is there anything from your origins that you put into your music? Like traditional instruments, musical themes, etc.
We generally don’t. But in a couple of the songs of our full-length album are in scales that are used in our traditional “Qawwali” music. You will love those songs. We are working on fusing traditional scales and instruments to establish our geographical identity in our sound also.
What are your future plans right now?
The immediate plan is to finish with our full-length album recording and then write the next album. We are also looking to collaborate with different local artists and bands that are interested in making a different brand of heavy music.
If Primaeval was a food, what would it be and why?
Hahahaahah it would be “BIRYANI” since biryani is the most loved food in our region. You should come here and try it. We’d love to host you for some days and show you around 🙂
Not before has the project from M. (Fluisteraars, Nusquama) and O. (Iskandr, Turia) performed live on stage. Where else to have a first than on the very nexus of dark, heavy music than Roadburn? They’ll perform their commissioned piece ‘The Great Star Above Provides’. Time to find out what we can expect.
Solar Temple was one of the most spectacular acts on Roadburn Redux. This interview preceded the performance and was published on Never Mind The Hype. It also was supposed to be part of the daily Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. It’s been forever and one could argue that it may not be super relevant anymore, but I was proud of this as it is one of my favourite artists involved in this. In fact, I did a new interview a year later, which can be read here.
Into the beyond with Solar Temple
You have been working together on making music for some time. How did this project come about and where do you draw from?
The idea for the band came from a recording session in which we flouted every possible rule. We were guided by instinct and spontaneity and the resulting demo had an alienating and unique sound. It went down pretty well in the underground scene and soon we had inspiration for a full album. Our interest in old, experimental and psychedelic music resulted in a strange impression of sounds that we are now trying to explore further and further.
How is your process in co-creating music for Solar Temple?
Unlike our other musical collaborations, such as in Iskandr, where one of us is clearly the standard-bearer of a creative vision, Solar Temple comes about completely without any preconceived division of roles. We both take care of all aspects of the whole: from composition to performance to production. This works mainly because we both want to push our personal boundaries in all aspects of music.
Until recently, it was a purely studio-oriented project, where the creative process in particular, was of much greater importance than any notion of an end goal, more important than any image of how it should be. An embrace of spontaneous creation. This is significantly less the case in many of our other projects: there, composition and purposeful work toward a clear creative vision is actually decisive. Both impulses can be satisfying and productive. Maintaining separate projects to pursue both avenues proves to be a good method for us.
The style, feel and sound of Solar Temple is exceptional. In the artwork there is a lot of classical imagery, marble, the term Dionysian is used on the debut ‘Rays of Brilliance’, the word transcendental is often used. In short, what is the meaning?
It’s hard to add to the description, as you already put it here. The references in the artwork and lyrics are not very literal but translate the feeling we are trying to introduce the listener to; ideally, it opens doors to an experience that is beyond the mundane.
What makes you guys choose to do a live performance and then also in the form of an online version?
First of all, because Walter asked us to make a commissioned piece together, and we were already interested in doing that. That this would be under the name Solar Temple was far from certain. The restrictions on getting together, among other things, meant that we were soon experimenting with ways of writing and rehearsing music in pairs. Only later did we realize that this method might work well as a duo, also for the end product, and we decided to focus entirely on a duo performance. This fitted in very well with what we were already working on in Solar Temple. When we were clear that we were going to perform this piece of music under the name of this umbrella project, it released a lot of creative energy in us.
You have worked on a commissioned piece for Roadburn before. What makes it so appealing for you to make something that, in a sense, is a one-off?
It is indeed a challenge to put so much energy into something that is somewhat ephemeral in nature. I think it’s just a huge creative challenge for both of us: it’s a kind of external motivation that you don’t often encounter as a relatively obscure underground artist. Normally you make something, and you put a lot of energy into it, and then you hope that there is a demand for it. In this case, it’s the other way around: the demand is already there, from Roadburn who say: “we believe in you, go make something” and then you go and make it happen. Combined with a concrete deadline and the emphasis on live performance, this is just totally different from how you normally operate. And that is challenging and refreshing.
The creation of the piece ‘The Great Star Above Provides’ was a deconstruction. Can explain what that means?
We can be brief about this: in the studio you can do anything, a live show with two musicians is much more limited. That necessitates deconstructing what we want with Solar Temple. The rest the Roadburn Redux viewers will see for themselves!
Can listeners expect a continuation of the already ‘familiar’ Solar Temple sound?
It really will be completely different. Not completely unrecognizable for those who are familiar with our further output (also in our other bands) but really completely new.
Will this also be a harbinger of a new release?
We shall see.
What would you like to see at Roadburn?
We’re especially curious about everything concerning Neptunian Maximalism and of course what our friends in Dead Neanderthals have in store for us!
I hope you didn’t miss this back in lockdown-days; Solar Temple laid down the Cormac McCarthy-an mysticism with a vengeance.
Remember when Refused dropped that record, “The Shape of Punk to Come”? Or is that an ‘old guy’ thing… Anyway, Soul Glo fits that description very well. An injection of black music into punk rock with a record so full of influences, intertextuality and loaded messages that you can’t really get around it in good conscience. Soul Glo is hardcore as it should be, on substance and not by putting it very big on their shirts.
Bands like Zulu, Scowl, Ballista, Gel, Move and so on (seriously, fill it up, everyone should check out these bands) show that hardcore is not dead, and also provides a platform for diversity, inclusiveness and a stage for the issues that are going on right now. So the new sound, and Soul Glo is part of that. The band is from Philadelphia, and there is clearly plenty to be angry about, and they show it with wry humor and a musical arsenal that rocks. Oh and live they are bold too.
‘Diaspora Problems’ has been out for a while now, and soon the band will also be coming to our capital city along. We asked Pierce Jordan to talk about it, so you can get to know them in advance. get to know the band.
Hey Soul Glo, how are you doing? What’s happening over there? How did Soul Glo get started and how did you get into punk/hardcore music yourselves?
Soul Glo got started in 2014. We got into punk and hardcore from our families and friends.
Did you like the second installation of ‘Coming to America’? And why did you pick the name Soul Glo, which as far as I know can only be a reference to the first film?
I thought it was just okay. It was nice that they restored the original cast but it wasn’t that funny. We picked the name as a reference to a classic piece of Black movie history as well as an explanation of how music represents an individuals innermost self.
What can you tell about that fantastic record ‘Diaspora Problems’. In your words, what is the album telling us and what was the process like to make this gem?
The album is telling you about aspects of my life and emotions and how they reflect a commonality of experience that any given listener may have the chance to tap into. The process was long, arduous, sweaty, and fulfilling.
What is your approach to music like, in terms of influences, genres, styles? I hear so much things on ‘Diaspora Problems’. From heavy metal to post-punk/noiserock, trap/rap and do I hear ska? Where does this all come from? And does this tie into the extensive list of guest musicians on the album.
Our approach to our music is collaborative and a result of all our influences. It comes from all we enjoy about music, but all we enjoy isn’t reflected on this album. There is much more for us to offer. The guest musicians are friends of the band. We admire their work and want them reflected as a part of ours.
Another thing I was dazzled by is the lyrics and titles. This complete play with brackets, capitals, etc. to add layers of meaning to every title, but also that a song can switch from aggressive hiphop-like lyrics (I don’t know how else to express this) to poetic expressions of dark emotions. So, can you say something about your approach to writing, and what inspirations shine through in your diversity on this album?
My approach to lyric writing is pretty much based on a combination of my influences, which include Audre Lorde for her emotion, sentimentality, and analysis of both, The Watts Prophets for their intertwined sardonic humor and vengeful anger, and Tim Kinsella for his technical use of alliteration and consonance. I’m influenced by the way people talk in the city we live in, Philadelphia.
The way I talk in interviews and around my friends and family is different because of the way I was raised. Some people are like this, and some people aren’t. I like to show both in my writing because we are all made up of different selves that come out at different times in order to survive in this world.
When I listened to this record the first time, I was blown away. I was taken back to ‘The Shape of Punk to Come’ by the Refused, thinking: here it is, the shape of punk to come. Punk/hardcore is undergoing a massive shift, and Soul Glo is in my opinion part of that movement, but what is happening in American punk/hardcore?
In the United States there’s both innovation and a lot of celebration and worship of previous styles from past years. I imagine we aren’t very different from the rest of the world in this way.
The hardcore/punk scene has historically been pretty white. I read on Brooklyn Vegan that you had said: “I wanted the album to feel like it was a very broad look at American music, and highlighting all of the best Black influences of American music.” To me, this can only be to the benefit of the music genre, which has only had some minor links to hiphop through hardcore. What would be the shift you’d love to see happen through music like yours in punk?
I’d like to see more perspectives and types of personhood represented within the genre and in all genres in general. That’s what pushes the forms forward.
There are some specific references on your album I understand, and I wish I could write the “Every Rap Reference on Diaspora Problems” article. Do you hope people will pick up on certain artists specifically?
I do. Everyone seems to hear the Cannibal Ox references but not many people have said anything about the 2Pac references.
So punk and hiphop are both styles that speak up against what is wrong in the world. I think that’s the most broad way to describe it. I would think that there is more than ever to speak up against (though I bet every generation says that), but your home country is particularly divided. What are the important messages Soul Glo wants to share with the world, what issues particularly come up in your music?
Though I’m sure it’s already clear, the message that I personally want to share with the rest of the world is that the problems that our country creates for those of the rest of the planet are largely not supported by the majority of the citizens of the United States. They don’t give a shit about us either.
How did you end up on Epitaph, what’s the story?
Essentially Jeremy Bolm extended all his resources to us and single-handedly changed our lives. This includes setting up a meeting with Epitaph, though the label was already aware of us.
You’re gearing up for a European tour. Have you been over the big pond before? What are your expectations? Are you looking forward to visiting the Netherlands?
We’ve been to Europe once before, and even though we had our share of difficulties, the shows were great. The Netherlands in many ways is the polar opposite of the United States, so yes, visiting again will be quite a treat.
So what are the future plans for Soul Glo right now?
A whole lot of shows.
If Soul Glo was a dish, not a fictive hair product, what would it be and why?
Not sure entirely, but it would probably be very spicy.
It’s the end of an era. Rhapsody, the band for lovers of power metal, swords and sorcery, calls it quits. They don’t just stop though, they’ll come to say bye to everyone in person with a final grand tour.
During their tour, they are visiting Eindhoven for one of these shows. I had the rare opportunity to ask Fabio Lione, lead singer of the band for 20 years, about this final tour, 20 years of Rhapsody and obviously about recording with Sir Christopher Lee (Gandalf and Rhapsody, awesome!).
For me, it all started with ‘Power of the Dragonflame’. The combination of epic metal with a high pace and the drama of grand opera was already much to take in, but add to that the high fantasy themes! It resonated with my love for fantasy and never did I really get the same rush from bands in this genre as from Rhapsody. Maybe younger bands like Twilight Force will take up that torch. But first, we get to say bye. And I got to ask FabioLione about all that.
You’re about to embark on the next part of your farewell tour. Any mixed feelings after spending half your life singing your heart out in Rhapsody to leave this all behind?
Well, of course, I have mixed feelings regarding that.. I mean..from one side I’m really happy to celebrate this 20 years of history of the band with the original members and everything is going great between us, with the fans, venues, promoters, managers etc..From the other side we know that this is a Farewell tour and so it will come to an end…
But I’m happy, proud and motivated. This is exactly what the band has to do now. Everyone in the band is feeling great and me and Luca… Well, we want to “close” this chapter in our life ’cause we feel is the right moment to do it. We are ready to create new things and we are sure we both have new challenges to face…hehe…
When iconic bands get together again for one last time, it’s usually after a period of time. You’ve decided though to simply end Rhapsody with a bang. I read elsewhere that talks took place over a year to get things together. It’s a wonderful way to end, but can you take us through how this all came together like this?
We all knew that was an important moment in the history of the band. We had to celebrate 20 years of band history somehow. My relationship with the Rhapsody of Fire members and management was comin’ to an end due to different views we had and we talked a lot regarding this with all the original member and our managers. Not so easy, but after 1 year we were able to manage and make it!!!
So..finally we decided to do it. We received many offers from promoters and in general, the fans showed us that They wanted this!
And you know…the fans are the boss!!! hahaha!
With you having announced your departure and Luca Turilli having left a few years earlier, was there ever a point where you would have considered this impossible? As in, could this have gone differently?
Honestly 6/7 years ago we couldn’t really think that something like this could happen. Everyone walked his “own path”, made a choice and had new great experiences. I’m sure without some troubles we had, internal discussions, legal issues and so on…
Well, things could have been different but I have to say that today I’m really happy that we had all this probably, because we are more wise, stronger and motivated and the relationship between us is fantastic. I can’t really imagine a better way to close this chapter in our life.
You’ve personally always been prolifically active in various side projects, while a part of Rhapsody. You’ve done so much different styles, from Eurobeat to almost operatic projects. Does it make it easier to end something that has been such a huge part of your life because of that? Which projects do you have in mind to continue or to pick up after the final show of this tour?
Not really..in this case we both ( me and Luca) have decided to end this chapter in our life after many years..
This has nothing to do with other side projects or collaborations.
At the moment I have a new great record with the band Angra to promote. Then, as you may know, I have done a record with the Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody singer Alessandro Conti to make clear for the fans that we are friends and we have no problem at all between us. I also have to work on the new EternalIdol record, both last 2 projects are under Frontiers Records…
Thinkin’ about doing something new with The Vision Divine guys and many other ideas in mind…
You’re playing a show in Eindhoven, which is the main reason I’m asking you these questions now. Was that a location you guys hand-picked or did it just come up? Do you have any special affinity or connection to Eindhoven?
Well, of course, we have someone of our “Team” that lives close to this place..hehe..so probably this has influenced the thing..
Then we had to play in the Netherlands and especially in Eindhoven ’cause we like the place and we always had great reactions from the fans there and we had some good cd sales there!!!
Do you guys have anything special lined-up for these last live shows? Particular songs or maybe special guests?
Of course, we have some “special songs” added to the set-list, but I don’t want now to ruin the surprise, hahaha. I think we will play a good part of both Symphony of Enchanted Lands and Power of the Dragonflame records and we are thinkin’ about some guests at the moment..effects and some surprises on stage!
For me, Rhapsody really hit home with ‘Power of the Dragonflame’, since it was out when I started listening to this music… Nothing quite had that epic sound and I never really managed to find any band that came close to Rhapsody (recently I found Twilight Force impressive though). What do you think, made you guys stand out for many listeners in the realm of power metal?
The general reaction when Power of the Dragonflame was absolutely great! For sure is one of the most important records we have done, I agree with you. Personally, I think ‘Symphony’ was our first big “hit” in the realm of power metal music. Of course, I have to mention the unique ‘Legendary Tales’ and all the other works we have done, with a special mention also for ‘The Frozen Tears of Angels’ and ‘Symphony part 2’.
Anyway thanks for what you are saying! I also think the band Rhapsody created and represents something unique and a very special band for this kind of music.
An added value to me was the fantasy elements in the lyrics of Rhapsody, which completely match with the sound. Its been clear that Luca Turilli has had a big hand in that, but even after he left these themes kept popping up. Where did you guys draw these influences from?
As you said the “fantasy” elements in the lyrics are a big part of the Rhapsody main concept, idea and essence and this matches perfectly with the sound of the band! Luca was the main guy behind this, the Saga and most of the lyrics we had in the past. I
also wrote few lyrics in the past for the band and I wrote all lyrics regarding the last two Rhapsody of Fire records thinking about the message we always wanted to give to our fans and these “fantasy” elements that are really connected with the music.
In the end, I think its something natural for us to think about these topics and write this way for the band. The original main band Rhapsody is extremely connected with fantasy elements as probably we are fascinated by stories, movies, video games or legends.
After 20 years, what memories or moments do you look back upon most fondly and what would you most like people to remember Rhapsody for?
Mmm..not so easy to answer. Hahaha! I’ll make a simple list of events that I think are important for the band.
Reactions after the Legendary Tales record release
First headliner tour of the band
Real orchestra parts in the songs
Positive messages that we wanted to communicate to our fans through our lyrics
Rhapsody in the Italian charts for the first time
Collaboration with Sir Christopher Lee
The Frozen Tears of Angels record and Tour!!! Amazing time…
First time in Japan and China and Latin America and well..everywhere!
Every “cheesy” videoclip we made! Hahaha…
This Last Final Big Tour we are making! Because we are having really a great great time and we would like to thanks all our fans for that!!!
I want to ask you one specific thing: what was it like to record together with Christopher Lee? I mean, that was a match made in power-metal-heaven.
Was absolutely a dream. I mean, something unrepeatable and extraordinary. This mas was a legend, he had a very good sense of humor, he spoke 9 languages perfectly! I remember very well that I was talking with him in Italian and I was actually surprised at how good his Italian was…
Then in the studio, we had some “Great” and “Funny” time! Mr. Lee telling me “why I do I have to use these things ( headphones) to sing!? I just sing in the air, in the room and you can take the sound!” It was a great job for me, to let him understand the right tone, the right time for the song etcetera. Also recording him when he had the right breath while he was singing. I want you to remember that I was recording and singing with him when he was 84!!! One of the best experiences of my life indeed…
Will your show in Madrid really be the last for Rhapsody?
I think so. I mean, at the moment we don’t have in mind to continue and we don’t have more shows programmed.
There’s this one question, that I have been asking bands from around the globe for a long time and I really hope you will answer it too: If you had to describe Rhapsody as a dish, a type of food if you will, what would it be and why?
Hahaha!!! That’s fantastic! I really like this. Hm… I think a “four seasons pizza” because you have all in one. Various types of food and things in the same pizza!
Like Rhapsody’s music, that has many different elements in it (metal, progressive, classic music, medieval, celtic, pop, folk, etc. elements…)
or ” Pasta mari e monti”, which means ” with seafood and mushrooms”.
Any final words for Rhapsody fans who’ve loved your works for all these years?
We have to thank you all!!! Really…without you this band couldn’t exist…
We want to have a special tour and share some great moments with all our fans with nice surprises, great songs and amazing atmosphere!!!
See you all soon on tour my friends!!!
We all have our perception of China. It’s a vast nation, that has spread over the world and seems to hold many mysteries for us. What most people don’t know, is that it’s also a great place for some good metal music, which started back when Tang Dynasty (not the actual dynasty, but the band), brought the sound to the land of the Red Dragon.
One of the bands, that have been pushing the sound further than ever and also across the boundaries of the nation is BlackKirin. The band revolves around guitarist and songwriter Sen Fang, who started the project back in 2012. He’s been vigorously producing music since, which has yielded 3 full-length albums, 2 EP’s a live record and a series of singles. Black Kirin is now a full-fledged live-band and touring the country. Their last album, named after the ‘Nanking Massacre’, made me want to know more about the group. The album deals with atrocities committed in the city of Nanking, during the second Sino-Japanese War, a black page in history for sure.
Getting in touch with the band was no easy task, but thanks go out to Jiayu for translating and mediating between myself and the band. Also thanks to Sen Fang answering these questions.
Black Kirin from China
Could you tell me a little more about Black Kirin? How did the band get started and how did you guys get into metal?
Black Kirin started as my personal project. It became a formal band in 2015. We mainly just write songs and release them, Black Kirin doesn’t even play lots of shows. Like other people, we know that’s what we wanted when we first heard the metal music.
What bands inspired you to make this sort of music?
We’re happy to use a variety music (not limited in metal stuff) to describe BK’towork. Besides traditional metal music, Chinese music influences me a lot. The track “Da Qu”(the Great Song) from our latest album is adapted from the work of Chinese folk music composer Jiang Ying. We hope that our music helps draw people’s attention to traditional Chinese music and culture.
What does Black Kirin mean?
Kirin is the name of a patron saint/beast in Chinese Myths, “Ki” refers to the male one and “Rin” refers to the female one. Our materials are based on Chinese history and culture, so here comes the name.
What inspires your music? I hear the metal elements, but it’s so totally different and often so reminiscent of traditional musics. So where do you get all this from?
Our aesthetic and way of thinking about music may be different from traditional metal music. As the traditional music you mentioned, or the folk music, world music, these are all crucial element forming our music.
Do you use any special instruments?
I am good at composition myself, rather than instruments. Besides the “Guzheng”(古筝) and “Erhu”(二胡) we used in our debut album, this time we add “Xun”(埙) in the track “Wangchuan River”. It is a kind of old wind instruments which makes the fantastic feeling we want to put in our music.
To me, when I listen to your music, in particular, your acoustic record, I think its very different and very (if I may be so bold to say it in this manner) Chinese. Can you tell me a bit more about those elements and how you combine them with metal?
When composing, Chinese music elements are avoided to be used as the conventional way in orchestration, otherwise, it will make it stagnated in fusion. Usually, we make it back to our linear music thinking, which we are good at, and then we can make sure any instruments what we use can produce perfect Chinese music. Acoustic instruments appears more like the bridge in our latest album, making the album more complete.
So how do you guys go about making new music, for example, the latest one, titled ‘Nanking Massacre’. How do you start and work together in the writing and recording process?
The project of our latest album started from early 2017, including MIDI, tracks and project management, then we began recording. This album is mainly made by me and the drummer (Sicong Du), I took part of harmony and frame then Sicong improved them. In the end, other members complete their parts.
What can you tell us about the album, its theme, and subject?
Our debut EP album “Nanjing” and two full-length albums are all related to Nanjing Massacre. We would like to pay tribute to victims rather than spread hatred. We also hope that more people will know what happened in Nanjing and understand the meaning of peace.
You’ve been taking a lot of topics from national history. What sort of message are you trying to bring across? Is it simply telling about history, or is there more to it?
Human nature is truly shown in the war environment. So we want to relate to the victims as well as tell the history.
I’ve always understood that there’s quite some censorship in China. Do you guys have to deal with that as a band? Can you freely sing songs about whatever you want? It’s often suggested that China is very closed of from the outside world. Is that so?
Yes, I can. Fortunately, that has changed a lot and it doesn’t have a negative impact on our band operation. It doesn’t seem that hard to spread our music, we are looking forward to making our releases available for fans overseas.
I’m interested how black metal, like the style you’re playing, came around and which bands made it into what it is today.
Strictly speaking, we are not black metal. There are many kinds of metal bands in contemporary Chinese metal scene, each of them has their own style. I would say we are learning from each other.
What future plans does Black Kirin have?
We hope we can arrange more performances and shows, meeting our overseas fans.
If you had to compare Black Kirin to a dish, what would it be and why?
I did an interview with lovely black metal innovators from Berlin Sun Worship. It appeared in Rockerilla magazine (Italian) and on Echoes & Dust
For this interview Lars (guitars/vocals) and Bastian (drummer) answered some questions, while busy touring and spreading their great music.
Can you guys introduce yourselves a bit, for the ones new to Sun Worship? L: Sun Worship is a band that started in early 2010, has drums, guitars and voices and was started with the intention to write songs and play them live.
B: We play what pretty much everyone calls black metal. We like to make music that is fast, harsh and dark. It is supposed to generate a trance-like experience.
Why did you guys pick the name Sun Worship? L: Because the Sun will be the death of everything around it in the end!
B: Yeah man! There is an interesting paradox in worshipping the sun. You’ll never be able to reach it and if you do, there will be nothing left of you. However there is a lot of interpretational dimensions of the name. I like that it refers to the religious aspects of black aesthetics by somehow turning the cliche into the opposite. Also, people think we’re hippies because of the name, I like that this causes some irritation.
Do you have any funny experiences, due to people thinking you’re hippies? L: We had a funny experience once when people threw their beer cups at us (and missed) because they couldn’t handle the fact that we didn’t look like them. Provocation is not something we actively pursue, that would be kind of dumb and not what we are about. We put our hearts and minds in the music, so it’s kind of offensive when people think we’re about that. I prefer to do things for my own good and pleasure and according to my own rules and standards, and if that rubs people the wrong way or fails to live up to their expectations and upsets them, fine with me. Saying that you enjoy the irritation you stir in people once in a while doesn’t mean that you have to limit yourself to that cause. We are perfectly aware of the fact that we don’t live up (haha) to some of the ‘standards’ people have come to associate with what they call black metal. We see things differently.
How did you get started playing with this band and did you guys have any previous bands (either seperate or together)? L: We didn have bands together, but we shared the stages and sceneries. That is how we knew eachtother. The idea for Sun Worship had been around for a while, since our drummer and me had been into this kind of music since our teens. It did take us some time to get started with it though. Bringing in a third person was necessary to make it work, because we have rather chaotic minds.
B: In German terms it was a so-called ‘Schnapsidee’, Lars and me got pretty wasted one night in a bar and then the conversation was basically like: ‘Dude i want to play in a black metal band…’ Which got the response: ‘Yeah man, me too!’No further intentions, i guess… We just did it.
L: We had to get wasted a couple of times to remind ourselves of that idea actually.
What is it you guys do when not making music? L: Sleep, eat, work.
B: That’s pretty much it. I play squash and do yoga… Spiritual enlightenment. I also help organizing shows in a DIY space.
What are the main inspirations for your sound, the main purpose and goal behind Sun Worship? L: There’s music in my head ever since II roamed the forests around the place where I grew up. Itś been with me since childhood and it wants to get out.
B: Reaching a higher state of consciousness by exploring the limits of speed in relation to physical abilities. Creating a dark and negative atmosphere to gain a positive experience. That’s what I like about it. For me it is a lot about canalizing the concrete nature of Berlin. At some point i realized that living in Berlin can be quite challenging.
I’m interested in the aspect of Berlin as an inspiration for your sound. Can you elaborate on that? Would Sun Worship sound different, if it was from any other city? L: Would Sun Worship even exist in another city? Probably not… Of course your everyday surroundings are going to influence you no matter what, but I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that this city as a place inspires me. If anything, it inspires negative energy which I need to vent. I am inspired by other things and other places and I’d rather use the music to escape from here. That said, people in Berlin have created an open infrastructure over the years which is both inspiring and helpful. It’s an ambivalent relationship and this ambivalence is an inspiration in itself.
Black metal is a genre known for its amount of cliché elements and such. You guys seem to take your own approach to it. Can you tell a bit about that? L: I have no interest in dressing up to look tough or whatever. Anyway, there’s a lot of cliché elements in our music (and artwork too) but we celebrate those. We take our art dead serious, not so much ourselves though.
For many bands and fans black metal is more than just music. What do you think about that? L: I think it’s a bit of a childish concept especially considering the alleged ‘rules’ and ‘values’ of black metal, but hey, for me pizza is more than just food so who am I to judge?
B: For me music is more than just black metal, an emoticon would make sense now. Anyway, I wouldn’t go so far, and judge peoples attitude towards the genre, but I must say that i don’t really like the concept of scenes and their aesthetic rules in general.
How would you describe the genre, what does it mean and what makes a black metal band? L: It’s been dead for at least 20 years, for better or worse. Once in a while I hear a band which captures the spirit at least musically (Murg would be a good recent example) but generally all the good bands today are black metal influenced (us included) only anyway. I find that a lot more respectful than to try to desperately reenact what some Scandinavian teens did back in the 90s.
B: The last few years it has become very popular again. A lot of kids from the hardcore and punk scene just realized that it’s by far more than just corpsepaint, torches, spikes and full moon nights. I think the genre and its development profits quite well from it.
So do you think there is some sort of core to the genre? L: There isn’t any. It’s just been canonized one way or the other, for all sorts of reasons and due to all sorts of perspectives. That’s the way I see it. To me, black metal – or the essence of it, if you wish – is closer to ambient music, krautrock and early hardcore punk than to any other heavy metal subgenre. Monotony, minimalism, repetition, that certain kind of atmosphere, a refusal to play by the rules. One of the very few bands that I can actually apply that to are Darkthrone circa 1992-1994 (and they were very much inspired by 80s heavy/thrash/black metal actually.) It’s a complex matter. Suffice to say that you’d rather find “my” essence of black metal on a Swans, Phill Niblock or Mt. Eerie album than on any “black metal” album released during the last 20 years.
How was it to play Roadburn earlier this year? L: It was a very good experience. Very professional, but very friendly and exceptionally down to earth at the same time. The enthusiasm and attitude of the people there were very inspiring.
In some preview I read that you guys were music nerds, is there any truth to that? (I think its a good thing) L: Definitely.
B: Can’t deny it. No.
L: There’s so much good stuff out there. And it’s easier than ever to access it. I suppose that ‘music nerdism’ allows us to approach our music with an outsider perception. Not in the sense that we tyr to incorporate all kinds of weird stuff into our songs, but just for the sake of it. It’s the mindset that matters.
Your record ‘Elder Giants’ is my favorite Roadburn purchase. Can you tell a bit more about its creation proces and the general concepts behind the album? L: Thanks for the compliment. We had five new (at the time) songs in summer 2012 which we went on to record by ourselves. Two of them became the ‘Surpass Eclipse’ 12″ which was released in early 2013. the other songs partly lacked lyrics and were sitting around until we discovered that the rough mix of the recorded versions suited them quite well. So we finished them, vocals and all, and basically sent the rough mix off to be mastered. We added the ambient track and thought we had an ok sort of demo tape (which us and View From The Coffin planned to release in a small edition) to fill the gap between the split 12″ w/ Unru and whatever would become our first album… but then it actually became our first album. So there was no masterplan or that kind of thing really. And no clearly cut out concept either – however, the album turned out to be a very personal retrospective on and tribute to the music which initially inspired its creation, hence the title.
The album feels more like a big whole, a unity, than just a collection of songs. Is this intentional? L: The songs were all written within three month or thereabout, that would perhaps explain it. As I said, there was no plan to create an album the way it turned out.
B: A huge amount of the songwriting process happens in the rehearsal room. We listened to the same records during that time, somehow we got into a vibe that lasted a few songs.
How has the reception been, both inside the scene as well as outside? L: I have no idea about the scene to be honest. Reviews were mostly good and people tell us we made a good album. I’m largely satisfied with it myself and that’s what ultimately important.
Black metal from Europe seems to be returning to full power. What bands from Germany do you think people should listen to (and why)? L: Unru, Ultha, and Antlers, because they’re damn good and because they have their hearts and minds in the right places.
What are the future plans for Sun Worship and what do you hope to achieve with the band? L: We’re working on new songs and ultimately a new album, getting that one finished and released is the main goal right now. It’s going to be darker and heavier, but we disagree on that.
In the mist dark figures move and twist
Was this all for real or some kind of hell
666 the number of the beast
Hell and fire was spawned to be released
– Iron Maiden, ‘The Number of the Beast’
I have started reading this book titled ‘The Happiness of Persuit’ by Chris Guillebeau. I have come up with a goal that made me get out of bed and excitedly start writing these words to you, my meagre set of readers. I plan to interview 195 bands from all countries in the world, that play metal. I’m not a pure blooded metal head, but this is what I’ve decided to do.
I’ve got one interview soon from Israel, one from Lebanon and I probably have one from the Netherlans. I’m starting work on one from Estonia and now I need more.
Think ‘World Metal’, like Sam Dunn presented it in the documentary, think global and world wide.
From the day Geezer Butler saw a looming dark figure at the end of his bed to the day we live in now, metal has been a genuine counter culture that is also a global tribe. We could shake hands anywhere in the world, when we share this music.
Blaakyum has been around for a long time and has been instrumental in keeping the metal scene in Lebanon alive. Lebanon you say? Yes, Blaakyum plays a mixture of thrash metal and various elements from other styles and hails from the country near Syria, Israel and all those places where you think no one has even heard of metal. They proved me wrong.
Now for me the country was as unknown as this band, so logically I checked their music and wrote them a message. It turns out that Lebanon is, considering our general view in the west, a pretty liberal country on some fronts. Still, Blaakyum is not a band that enjoys the same liberties and possibilities as bands from over here and they have to face very different hurdles on their path.
They have been around longer than most bands, and it took a lot of effort from guys like Bassem Deaibess to keep this band and also the whole scene together. Anyways, enough introduction, best to hear the story from the horse’s mouth.
You guys are, as it stands, the oldest, active metal band from Lebanon. How did you guys get started on playing metal music and how did you get in touch with the style? Also, was it hard to find like-minded souls to form a band?
Bassem Deaibess: Well, If I wanted to answer that, it would take me probably around 20 pages. To make it as short as possible, I started learning guitar when I was around 15, and that lead me to look for guitar oriented music which lead me to Rock, Hard Rock and Metal music. Back in the 90s it was not hard at all to find that music since it used to be played on our Radios and we had Rock Shows on TVs, the major Metal bands were all over our radios and TVs such as Metallica, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Sepultura, Morbid Angel, you name it.
When I got introduced to this music mainly thanks to my cousins, it was love at first hearing. As a typical dream of a beginner guitarist I wanted to form a band, so I started looking for members, and surprisingly it took less effort than I expected. Although Metal was available and accepted it was never mainstream, so I won’t say it was hard to find like-minded people or more precisely like-music-tasted people, but when we would discover someone who listened to metal it was as if you have just discovered a gold mine… We would in most cases become instantly friends… From the time I set my mind of forming a band towards the end of 1994 untill Blaakyum was formed in summer 1995 it was a relatively short period of time. Sadly since 1995 untill today the line-up changes have been endless, so I cannot answer the question on behalf of the past members.
Rany Battikh: Back in the 1980s/early 90s, Metal was pretty big in Lebanon spawning a couple of popular dedicated radio shows. My older brothers recorded selected songs on cassette tapes off the radio for bands like Metallica, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Dio, Slayer, Iron Maiden etc. I would put those tapes on and listen to them all day long. I remember once my brother brought a video tape of a Judas Priest concert home and he made multiple copies of it so we won’t damage it by over watching it.
When I picked up the bass, Metal was an obvious first choice for me, before I got into funk, jazz and classical music later on (through my college studies).
Jad Feitrouni: My father was a hard rock fan, so he always put on Deep Purple, Rainbow … while driving us to school. He always insisted that we (my sister and I) play an instrument, so we had piano lessons at an early age. I kept listening to hard rock and rock bands till I met Rany (Blaakyum’s Bassist) at university. Rany was a huge Power Metal fan at that time and started giving me CDs for Rhapsody, Stratovarius, Gamma Ray, Manowar, Helloween (to name a few)… he tried to give me thrash CDs but I didn’t like the style at that time. Few years later (when my ears matured) I gave thrash a try and I have been a huge fan ever since.
Rabih Deaibess: My brother (lead vocals) was sick enough to put some Sepultura on my headphones when I was 6… When I grew up I started listening to Symphony X (Divine wings of tragedy). I was 9 years old, the only reason why I did was because I heard my brother saying to my other brother (Blaakyum’s ex-bassist) that this is too complicated, that he will not understand anything of it. Somehow it angered me and I wanted to understand that music. So I started to become fond of that style and love the sound of the guitar and drums. When I was 11 I started playing the guitar, but the song I learned to play to was ‘Hey God’, by Bon Jovi.
I have to ask, how was it to play the first Lebanese rock festival? What was that like for the crowd, the bands, the atmosphere…?
Bassem Deaibess: The first concert Blaakyum performed at was in 1996 at the Lebanese University, which was the first Metal concert to be organised after the civil war. It was interesting to see so many metalheads, and back then we had even media coverage. The first Major Rock festival was organised in 1997 in place in Beirut called “Beirut Hall” the festival held around 13 bands and it was dubbed simply Rock Concert!! It was thrilling to go on stage and see around 2500 people waiting to hear you, we were so young and amateuristic back then, and although I felt we did a horrible job as a band, the crowd was so supportive. We probably were among the least experienced bands, the other bands were seriously amazing. I never realised how high the standards of the Metal Scene were back then and the atmosphere was really extremely friendly, like a brotherhood. The next year Rock Concert II happened, but Blaakyum did not participate. We kept playing in one of the most famous 90s (up till 2005) Rock and Metal venues that hosted regular concerts on a weekly basis, it was called Peak Concert Hall. It had a capacity of 700 people and it was almost always full, up till 2001 where Blaakyum performed in the first edition of Rock Nation, a yearly Rock/Metal festival (though mainly Metal) that kept going till 2008. The scene during all these years had its ups and downs, but considering a country of 4 million inhabitants, the scene is extremely impressive here even in its down phase.
What bands were the ones that got you guys into metal?
Bassem Deaibess: For me personally it was Guns’N’Roses at first who got me into the whole Rock/Metal genre, followed by AC/DC. Then came Metallica’s ‘Black Album’ and Iron Maiden’s ‘Fear of the Dark’, from there on the snowball rolled.
Rany Battikh: Prior to Metallica’s self-titled album’s release (in Lebanon), ‘Master of Puppets’ was a game changer for me, definitely my Metal bible for a very long time alongside Black Sabbath’s Live Evil.
Jad Feitrouni: The bands that got me into metal where Manowar, Rhapsody (Now named Rhapsody of Fire), Gamma Ray, Hammerfall, Helloween, and many others…
Rabih Deaibess: bands that got me into metal: Symphony X, Dream Theatre, Rhapsody (now named Rhapsody of Fire), Evergey, Pantera, Testemant, Nightwish, Alter Bridge (those are part my inspiration as well)
Where do you get your inspiration from for your lyrics and music?
Bassem Deaibess: I must admit that the main source of my inspiration lately whether for writing lyrics or music, is my anger. Especially with what is going on lately in the region and the threat of Islamic fanaticism that is threatening my country, the incredible political and social corruption, and the intellectual struggle and the cultural terrorism we face on a daily basis because of religious and political dominance. There is always a social, political or socio-political message behind each song even those who seem to be more related to literature and arts (I am a big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and fantasy novels as well as Edgar Alan Poe and thriller/detective novels e.g. Dan Brown) Musically I must say that the main influence from the Metal side is Thrash Metal, mainly Testament, Overkill, Sodom, Kreator, Onslaught, Metallica and Pantera. But I am also very fond of Classical music especially Beethoven, Bach, Tchaikovsky and RimskyKorsakov. And traditional Lebanese folk like Lady Fairuz, Lady Sabah, Wadih El Safi, Marcel Khalife and TonyHanna, and Oriental Arabic folk such as MuwashahatAndalusia and RoudoudHalabia. I am so much in love with Celitc music.
As for Jad and Rany other than the bands they named that are a major part of their influences, I must say the Blaakyum Rhythm section is heavily influenced by Funk and funk fusion.
Rabih Deaibess: I was a Progressive and Power Metal fan for a long time, then I got a bit off track to bands like Creed and Nickelback, but then I heard 3 tracks that changed my life: Black Sabbath’s ‘Cross of Thorns’, Dio’s ‘Hide In The Rainbow’ and Pantera’s ‘I’m Broken’ and I went more into thrash stuff like Metallica, Megadeath, Testeman, Kreator and Exodus.
Recently you played two major festivals (as if you need reminding, right?). What was it like for you as a band to get to this international stage?
Bassem Deaibess: Well, it is a proof that even in the most unlikely circumstances and against all odds, if you work hard, you are good enough and you want something so bad, you can get it. Let us be honest, to have a tour on your own, without any label or management backing you up, would seem a normal thing from someone in Europe, it is not really that hard. But for us in the Middle East, it is equivalent to an eternity of hard labour!
First the dehumanizing factor of getting Visas (So many times we were about to cancel some dates because we weren’t sure we will get the Visas), the way we are treated in some embassies is almost inhuman, you feel you are an inferior race begging the White West supremacy for a chance to go to their countries. Applying for a Visa is such a stressful and anxious experience and you are totally helpless. Then comes the transportation, I mean again in Europe, you can simply rent a small van, get in there and drive to whatever country or town you want. Here we have to travel on our own; the economical difference is huge even with the crisis in Europe, what is considered affordable there cost us a fortune here, then the hassle to run from an airport to a bus station with all our equipment and luggage on our back, then from one train terminal to the other and try to do it without missing the train and without breaking any of the equipment… So by the time you reach the venue you are almost dead *laughs*. But then the moment you go on stage, and see the people actually digging our music and headbanging, it always pays off.
Rabih Deaibess: First time we played will be a memory I’ll never forget and tell my kids about if I ever have any. It made Rany, Jad and me become like brothers as we laughed and played together. That bond made our sound tighter as well.
Jad Feitrouni: Playing on the same stage as Testament, Overkill, Onslaught, Iced earth, Annihilator… was a dream comes true especially with Bassem, Rabih and Rany by my side. I listen to these bands every day and to be with them in the same room was simply amazing.
Rany Battikh: It feels great to reach that “international stage” as this was our goal since day one. We went through a lot of hassle to get there for sure, but hard work does pay off at some point and sacrifices trans-morphed into achievements.
What is the most common response that you get when people figure out Blaakyum is from Lebanon?
Bassem Deaibess: OWE DEATH AND DISPARE *laughs hard* actually we got mixed reaction, some do not even know where Lebanon is, some gets really intrigued, many ask us if Metal is accepted in Islam, which use to puzzle us since we are not an Islamic country, nor any of the current members come from an Islamic background. There is a lot of stereotyping that we face, which we actually understand. We would be surprised when we meet some people who actually have a very good idea about our country, but still they would be amazed that there is Metal there.
Jad Feitrouni: The most common response that we get when figuring out that Blaakyum is from Lebanon is a long silence. This is where we explain where Lebanon actually is on the map *laughs* But when people actually know where Lebanon is they get surprised to know that metal reached that little country in the Middle East.
Rani Battikh: People get pleasantly surprised when we reveal our country of origin. Some ask about the desert (we don’t have any!), some ask about religion (I was never tempted to discuss my Christianity in that case) and some just show how enthusiastic they are about eastern women!
Rabih Deaibess: We get the funniest reactions sometimes, people get more exited and curious about us once they know we are from Lebanon, some asks us about desert or camels, personally I have never seen one! Some get shocked that we even know what metal music is or that we drink beer!
I read in an interview that metal has been around in Lebanon since the seventies, but it struggled for acceptance. Most people, as you probably know, would not even think there’s heavy metal being played in Lebanon right now. Can you tell a bit about how metal arrived in Lebanon and how it developed further?
Bassem Deaibess: Ever since Lebanon was created in 1920 in it was open towards the west. Even in many cases half the Lebanese refused to identify to the Arabic world they are in. Western Culture was rarely viewed as an alien culture, but as part of the Lebanese culture, thus we always were a true mix of both oriental and western cultures. Whatever was mainstream in USA and Europe, was mainstream in Lebanon. So the underground scene in the west was established in Lebanon almost at the same time, even the counter-culture and youth movements such as the beat movement, and the hippies were here as well, so Metal came naturally. When Black Sabbath released their first album at the beginning of the 70s it was all over the place in Lebanon, Lebanese clubs and pubs were full of bands playing Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin,Yes and Deep Purple… even the quarrels between the Disco fans and the Hard Rock fans were as common here as in the west. When the punk movements in the mid-70s took over the streets of London it did so in the streets of Beirut… of course there were some cultural clashes but they were really kept at minimal. So during the 80s and 90s Metal was all over the radios and the TV rock shows… Till this day Metal has a strong presence in Lebanon, although at times it was under attack from either religious or governmental institutions. Although a big part of society is ignorant about what Metal is and not always accept it, it is fair to say that metal is as alive in Lebanon as in any other western country.
In Sam Dunn’s documentary ‘World Metal’ (if you haven’t seen it, I really recommend it) he shows that metal bands in the middle-east face a lot of adversity from their respective societies. In some countries it’s virtually impossible to be a metal fan on your own terms. How is the situation in Lebanon and how is it compared to surrounding countries?
In Lebanon Metal was very well established on the contrary of most other Middle Eastern countries, It wasn’t till the mid-90s, precisely 1996 that some Christian religious institutions started the “Hard Rock/Metal panic” after a tragic incident of a teenage suicide. This is also very similar to what happened in the west few years earlier, especially in USA. Because religious institutions in Lebanon had so much power, they were able to spread a kind of mass panic. Then the government took part and created a black list of bands and albums and banned some shows, so we had some trouble with the authorities.
All this calmed down by 1999. We even played in few mainstream festivals, but in 2002 a fiercer “witch hunt” was organized both by the church and the government and later the Islamic religious institutions joined forces. This kept going on until 2005, with the assassination of the business man Rafik al Harriri, a prominent political figure and former prime minister, the country went into an open revolution against the Syrian occupation of Lebanon and the Syrian presence was driven off, in the aftermath of this political uprising the country plunged into a long political crisis that is still present, and during all this they forgot about Metal. Every now and then few voices in the media or the Church are expressing some concerns of Satanism and drug abuse in Metal, but after the information age kicked in, these voices are quickly silenced.
The Lebanese Metal scene still has its ups and downs, mainly related to the economic and political situation, but I guess this is what gives the Lebanese bands who write original music the edge that puts them apart from the main western Metal scenes. Needless to say with all this, Lebanon is one of the very few Arab countries that has a freedom margin and were Metal is not utterly threatened, this mix of minimal oppression and margin of freedom makes Lebanese Metal able to develop and creates its own unique identity.
In an interview you describe the Lebanese metal scene and also discuss its better days in the past. Can you describe to an outsider how the Lebanese scene looks like? What kind of venues do you play shows at and is it easy to buy new records and such?
Bassem Deaibess: As I said, during the 70s, 80s and during the heat of the civil war, the clubs were full of bands playing and performing Rock, Hard Rock and Metal music. After the Civil war things were going well, many local town festivals like “Al Hamra festival” and “Féte de la Music” and others always had local rock or metal bands on the bill. Up till 1999 there were few “illegal” radio stations that were exclusively Rock and Metal, to name few we had Blue FM, Generation X FM, UFO, and Rock FM. We would look for big venues to organize our multiple band concerts and Rock fests, and we had a regular underground venue called Peak Concert Hall. Around the end of the old century we had few clubs that hosted Rock bands regularly such as “Mon General”, “The Irish Pub” and “Rio Grande” bar.
At the beginning of the new millennium, a new venue was available in a town called Kaslik part of the city of Jounieh, it was called Mad Wheels, where many underground and mostly low budget and poor produced concerts would take place. This was alongside Peak Concert Hall, which remained active till 2005. Also many summer festivals would take place, including the famous Rock Nation (from 2001 till 2008), featuring big stages and good production. At the start of the new millennium, Hard Rock Café Beirut opened and we also had many metal-friendly pubs. One was called “Purple Haze”, which was established by Rockers For Rockers. Sadly, it was short lived but started a tendency other bars and clubs followed. Next was “Kalinka Pub”, which hosted rock and metal bands from 2002 up to its closing date in 2005. Until 2010, the “Nova Club” was the hub of the scene, together with “Cherry’s Pub”, which was active from 2006 until 2009. It was a phenomenon in the scene and the beating heart in its short existence. A pub was started in the Hamra Street, named “Pavillion”, which was a new centre for the underground. For a while we had a big venue where bands could play, named Tantra (capacity: 1.500 people). It took over from Peak Concert Hall, when it closed down in 2004. That was the time we had the Rock and Metal organization to be established called Rock Ring.
Rock Ring took the Metal concerts and festivals to a new level, and organised a high profile events during the first decade of the new millennium, including the participation of Lebanon in the GBOB (Global Battle Of the Bands) twice as well as bringing the all-stars band called Hail to Lebanon twice. During those years few mainstream figures helped the scene by bringing some international acts to Lebanon, like Mr. Jyad El Murr (a rocker himself) who is the co-owner of a TV station and the owner of a Radio station in Lebanon. He was the one to organize the biggest Rock and Metal Festival in Lebanon known as Beirut Rock Festival, and brought bands to Lebanon such as: Anathema, To Die For, Catatonia, Moonspell and others. In 2009 individual efforts were made to bring Lake Of Tears, and the concert was a success. Blaakyum opened for them as well.
But things started deteriorating after 2010, Tantra the main Metal venue at the time, was demolished, Cherry’s Pub has closed down, many pubs such as Nova cut down on accepting Metal bands, but we still have few Metal friendly venues were we throw a gig every now and then such as Yukunkun Music Club, and Quadrangle Pub.
As for the stores, before 1996 Metal was available almost all around the country, but the place where we could find ANY metal new release and old albums was in Disco Rama in the suburbs of Beirut… That changed dramatically as Disco Rama was raided by the security forces and no longer offers Metal music. It has become extremely hard to get Metal albums except for the few very well- known Metal bands, and basically the only place I can think of is Virgin MegaStore, ironically it is not allowed to have the Label Metal, so the Metal albums are all there under the Label, Alternative/Pop-Rock. Mostly we get our music online these days.
We have a few instrument stores that sell good quality instruments, especially when it comes to Guitars and Drums and Amps and everything related to Metal. Those places are named Instruments Garage, and Mozart Chahin. We have few rehearsal studios, but there are no facilities for Metal Musicians in Lebanon, being one is simply choosing to live a hard and unrewarding life. Lately only one such facility exist and it is called LYC (Lebanese Youth Centre), but it is only accessible through subscription and is not open to the public.
I understand Lebanon has a great deal of religions that are officially recognized. I was wondering about the following: the devil is a common theme in traditional metal and the church as something to oppose, how do you guys deal with these themes?
Bassem Deaibess: Blaakyum actually do have Christian members, we all come from Christian backgrounds, although most of us are Atheists but we do have one member who is actually a Christian Believer. Some Lebanese bands tackled the traditional themes of devilry and very, very few were openly oppose the church. In our culture we learned to respect all forms of religions even if we oppose them. Blaakyum music can be described as anti-conformism; many of our song messages invite the listener to be free from dogmatic brainwashing. Personally I am against insulting religion, I find it really a cowardly act. I am anti-religious myself, but there is a difference between criticizing and pointing out the dangers of religion and being outright disrespectful. It is in our view everyone’s right to be religious as much as it is our right to criticize and expose religious bigotry.
What can you tell us about the Massacore incident? Is it exemplary for things you face as a band?
The Massacore incident was this: A live show took place in Lebanon and reporters made it out to be a satanic mass. This was mocked by the metal scene for all the obvious reasons. Then another reporter made things look even worse, claiming it was rituals in an old monastery, drug taking and the presence of kids of public figures etcetera. When Bassem Deaibess called in to the tv-program, it became more evident that it was an attempt to smear the metal scene with all sorts of accusations, which left a taint on the scene for times to come.
Bassem Deaibess: The Massacore incident came as a shock as we thought that the Lebanese society has moved forward and away from such claims. We have been relatively able to organise and play concerts without any such incident since 2009 when the General Secretary of the Catholic Schools issued a paper to the student’s parents warning them of the dangers of Metal and how it is a place for drug abuse and Satanism… That incident did not spread out of control as the organizer of the event is a very powerful public figure and has huge political support. But then in 2012 when the Massacore incident happened, we knew that things have not changed much, we did not face a similar situation as in 2009 after that incident though, but we know for a fact that whenever the Church or the uneducated population have a chance they will bring this subject up. They do it simply because they ignore what the hell is actually going on and they get shocked when they see us moshing, or when they hear someone growl. To be honest, this is nothing like the our “Dark Ages” between 1996 and 2005, that period was by far much more threatening to us as Metal fans, and I am sure that period is over… Or at least I hope so.
You live in the middle of a turbulent region of the world. Do you feel this has become part of your inspiration and your lyrical material?
Bassem Deaibess: Definitely, the situation that we are living in always is an inspiration, what better place to create Metal music than living in such a shit-hole, with political corruption, religious ignorance and war threats all around us. In fact, many of our songs are about such things, like the song ‘Cease Fire’ that talks about the 1996 and 2006 Israeli aggression against Lebanon. The same goes for the newly emerged threat of the so called Islamic State, which is today the biggest threat we face especially as non-Muslims. Thish as brought so much anger to our hearts, and that anger will always translate into Metal Music. The album we are currently trying to record has most of its tracks inspired by the events that followed Massacore concert, it is filled with anger but as well state how the Lebanese Metal Scene revolted against the faulty accusations… We already have some material prepared as well for the third album which in most part is inspired by the anger, fear and resentment we feel because of the threat of the so called “Islamic State” which is more known as IS.
So, what would you really like to tell about Blaakyum, that I didnt ask yet?
Bassem Deaibess: Blaakyum is but one example of the Lebanese Metal Scene perseverance an struggle against discrimination and cultural terrorism, be it religious or political. There are also many bands such as Kimaera, Inner Guilt, Kaoteon, Nocturna, and many more that are also here, and we will remain here. The Lebanese metal bands and fans are authentic, Metal was born in Birmingham from the voices of a neglected youth, that were under the stress of nuclear threat and industrial dehumanization, and Metal in Lebanon just like the majority of the Middle Eastern Metal scene. It is the product of the suffering of youth and generations who have been living for so long under horrible circumstances. In truth we do represent the authentic feelings of the Middle Eastern and Lebanese youth in all its forms and different points of view and when I say ‘we’ I mean the Lebanese Metal Scene and not the band.
As for Blaakyum, we have been around for a long time, and we are not going anywhere. We will remain a thorn in the side of bigotry and ignorance.
Where can people check out your music?
Well we are all over social media, on Facebook, twitter, myspace, Instagram… from there people can check out what is going on with the band, sometimes we release some footage or some music, as well our album is sold at various selling points in Lebanon and few points in Europe, but for anyone who wants to buy our album they can do it online through iTunes, Amazon MP3, 7Digital, Spotify and many online outlets.
I have quite some unedited interview material I would like to share. So in this edition, I Am Kloot. I got to do a mailer with the band in 2010 for ROAR E-zine.
So this is the interview with Peter Jobson, I Am Kloot, position:
BASS GUITAR .
Would you be so kind to introduce yourself and your band briefly?
PETER JOBSON, JOHN BRAMWELL & ANDY HARGREAVES FROM I AM KLOOT.
I Am Kloot does not wish to be part of any ‘scene’ I’ve read in other interviews. Does coming from manchester generate certain expectations and comparisons for a band like yours?
A SCENE IS BASED ON FASHION. FASHIONS INHERINTLY COME AND GO. I AM KLOOT IS FOR LIFE. WE DO OUR OWN THING. MANCHESTER HAS A RICH CULTURE AND HISTORY. WE ALL LOVE THE CITY BUT IT IS MORE IMPORTANT WHAT YOU DO THAN WHERE YOU ARE FROM. MUSICALLY THE JUDGEMENT OF GIG GOERS IS SEVERE AND AS JOHN SAID TO ME ONCE “IF YOU MAKE IT HERE; YOU CAN MAKE IT ANYWHERE”.
Do you feel I Am Kloot fits in with the current folk/acoustic trend? (Mumford & Sons, Stornoway and such)
WE ARE UNAWARE OF SUCH A TREND. ANYONE WHO IS STILL TRYING TO PIGEON HOLE KLOOT WITH TALK OF ACOUSTIC MUSIC OR ANY OTHER RESTRICTION SHOULD REALLY GIVE UP.
How was your last album received generally?
MORE PEOPLE ARE HEARING OUR MUSIC THAN EVER BEFORE. THIS IS DUE TO RADIO PLAY AND GOOD REVIEWS. IT IS LIKE A NEW DAY FOR I AM KLOOT. THIS APPLYS MORE TO THE UK THAN ELSEWHERE AS UNTIL NOW WE HAVE NEVER BEEN PLAYED ON THE RADIO IN THE UK. GENERALLY SKY AT NIGHT HAS BEEN RECIEVED BETTER THAN ANY OF OUR PREVIOUS ALBUMS.
Can you tell something about the process of making it?
DURING THE MAKING OF THE ALBUM WE SPENT A WEEK LOOKING FOR THE NEW SOUND. ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT WE WERE HARD AT IT. ON THE SEVENTH DAY WE DISCOVERED A TOTALLY ORIGINAL COMBINATION OF FREQUENCIES THAT HAD NEVER BEEN HEARD BEFORE BY THE HUMAN EAR. IT WAS THE MOST AUDIABLY UNPLEASEANT SOUND ANY OF US HAD EVER HEARD. WE DID NOT USE IT FOR THE ALBUM.
How would you describe it yourself?
IT IS A ROMANTIC, REFLECTIVE AND RICH ALBUM. FOR THE FIRST TIME WE RECORDED AN ALBUM WITHOUT ANY REGARD FOR THE LIVE PERFORMANCE. WE ALWAYS TRIED TO KEEP OUR STUDIO OUT PUT TO A THREE PIECE BAND. THIS TIME WE RECORDED ANYTHING THAT WE FELT WOULD FIT THE MOOD AND LYRIC OF THE SONG. HENCE THERE IS A GREAT DEAL MORE INSTRUMENTATION. WHEN PLAY LIVE WE ARE JOINED FIVE EXTRA MUSICIANS TO RE-CREATE THE ALBUM. WHEN WE STARTED MAKING THE ALBUM WE HAD NO MONEY, NO LABEL, NO MANAGEMENT. WHAT WE HAD WAS TIME, SOME TUNES AND TWO VERY TALENTED AND GENEROUS FRIENDS IN GUY GARVEY AND CRAIG POTTER FROM ELBOW WHOM PRODUCED THE ALBUM. THIS SET UP ALLOWED US TO COMPLETELY REALISE OUR IDEAS FOR THE ALBUM WITHOUT ANY EXTERNAL PRESSURES AT ALL.
For your video’s you’ve used Christopher Eccleston twice to play in them. What is your relation with him and why did you choose him for the video’s or was it not your decision?
CHRIS HAS BEEN COMING TO OUR GIGS FOR YEARS NOW. HE IS A MASSIVE MUSIC FAN AND HAS AN ENCYCLIPEDIC KNOWLEDGE OF MUSIC AND ITS HISTORY. HE IS A TRULY GREAT ACTOR AND HAS INTEGRITY CHOOSING HIS PARTS. WE ALL ADMIRE CHRIS’S WORK AND ACHIEVEMENTS. WE ASKED CHRIS IF HE FANCIED BEING IN THE VIDEO AND HE WAS UP FOR IT. WE HAD A GREAT TIME SHOOTING THE VIDEOS WITH HIM. HE LIMBERS UP FOR A SCENE LIKE A BOXER BEFORE THE BELL GOES TO COMMENCE A BOUT. HE HAS AN IRRESISTABLY DARK SENSE OF HUMOUR WHICH SITS GREAT WITH US.
If the music of I Am Kloot was the soundtrack to a movie, what kinda movie would it be?
I THINK THE SOUNDTRACK TO TAXI DRIVER IS A MASTERPIECE. THE ANTI HEREO; TRAVIS BICKLE IS AN ENTHRALLING CHARACTER.
Wherefrom do you get your inspiration (music and nonmusicwise) and what is the message in your music?
INSPIRATION COMES FROM MANY PLACES. EVERYDAY LIFE, BOOKS, FILMS, STORIES, PEOPLE, NATURE. IF THERE IS A MESSAGE AS SUCH IT IS FOR THE LISTENERS PALLET. WE WOULD NOT LIKE TO SULLY THE TASTE WITH OUR OPINIONS.
What drink goes best with every I am Kloot album?
NATURAL HISTORY – A BOTTLE OF BLUE NUN / I AM KLOOT – NEGRO MODELLO WITH CHERRY VODKA SHORT / GODS & MONSTERS – TEQUILA & DRY GINGER / MOOLAH ROUGE – VODKA REDBULL / SKY AT NIGHT – CHABLIS PREMIER CRU.
You must have heard this one a million times, but what does the band name mean?
What plans do you have for the bands future?
THIS YEAR WE WILL BE TOURING AS MUCH AS WE CAN. WE HAVE SOME NEW TUNES. THERE IS TALK OF SOME AUDIO VISUAL COLABERATIONS WITH VARIOUS FILM DIRECTORS THAT WE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO GETTING STUCK INTO EARLY NEXT YEAR.
If your band was a kind of food, what would it be?