I didn’t always want to be a music blogger, you know. I had dreams of being a serious journalist and helping to promote understanding among different cultures. Unfortunately, life happens and through nobody’s fault but my own I’ve had to put my dreams on hold for a few years.
Thankfully, I came across a great band from Syria a few years ago. After I reviewed their album Let Us All Unite we exchanged a few cordial messages via Facebook and eventually I worked up the courage to ask for an interview. Obviously they said yes as I’m writing this.
So here’s my attempt at serious journalism. And as I assumed, metal bands from Syria are very similar to metal bands anywhere else.
In the words of the little tramp: “Let Us All Unite!”
The Audible Stew: I don’t often think of the Levant as a hotbed of heavy metal. How does one form a metal band in Syria?
Anarchadia: True, it’s not a hotbed for Heavy Metal, but in the last three to four years many bands have emerged from the Middle East, and believe me when I say it’s not that different from any other place two or three friends gather and decide to form a band. As for Anarchadia we used to live in the same neighborhood. We were friends from a long time ago and have the same passion about music, especially Metal and Rock music. The special thing about it that it’s not as easy as in the west; gear is so expensive here, most of it is manufactured in China also there is a lack of venues and sponsors that would support this kind of music. I’d say forming a band in the east is not that different from the west but definitely harder.
AS: Is English your first language? I expected you to speak Arabic or maybe French.
A: English is not our first language. We speak Arabic, our mother tongue, and English as a second language and some of us speak Spanish but no French.
AS: Are you guys Muslims?
A: Band members are five and come from different religious backgrounds like Christianity not only Islam. But none of us is religious, most of the band don’t believe in God in the first place and some have their own views about God.
AS: What’s it like playing metal in a Muslim country? Are you regarded as Satan worshipers like the metal heads in Christian countries are?
A: Yeah, mostly the stereotype is that we are satanic. Unfortunately, because of this so many metal heads faced prison. As for Anarchadia, yeah we faced a lot of problems because of this thing.
AS: Are there a lot of metal bands in Syria/Middle East? Who are some of your favorites?
A: Because of the reasons mentioned above there are not many bands in the ME but the last four years marked a new era for metal here and I think that social media has a major role in spreading and encouraging young people to form bands and release their material over these networks. I recommend that you check Jorzine.com for everything Arabic Metal Music. My favorite is Rivergate from Algeria and there is a new interesting Syrian project which is under construction called New Noise Order and I think they might have a bright future.
AS: I made the comment that you guys don’t have a “dominant Middle Eastern sound,” but then I realized that I don’t even know how to describe a Middle Eastern sound. What is a Middle Eastern sound?
A: I might not be able to answer you technically what the difference between middle eastern and western melody is, but the middle east has more than 10,000 years of age, which means there is an unimaginable variety of backgrounds and cultures in one country, like Syria, so folk music is somehow dominant here, but in the age of globalization pop music is taking over which uses a fusion between folk music and western music, I would recommend none because if I were a true American, I wouldn’t recommend something like [Miley] Cyrus or Rihanna to an eastern person, at the same time you can find many respected fusion projects that might be interesting musically like Dhafer El Yousseff, Fayrouz, Ziad El Rahbani, Nassir Shamma….
AS: Over here, we have Christian rock bands that sing songs about Jesus, God etc. Do you guys have Muslim rock bands over there?
A: I think there are some in Egypt and some in the Arabic Gulf but I can’t name it as a genre because they are few, and I have some reservations against such a name but I prefer to keep them to myself for now.
AS: You’re a very politically minded band. What books or ideas have helped shape your political views?
A: The situation in Syria demanded a political theme for the album ‘Let Us All Unite’, and yeah we have our own political ideas but I can’t say that we have a specific source for it, but reading history has mainly formed what we are now especially Arabic, American and European History. When it comes to modern history I read the works of the Egyptian writer Mhd. Hasanain Haikal and others, also I can’t ignore the influence of blogs and the internet which has provided us with great insight into what’s going on with the world around us. However we are not planning on featuring a political theme into the lyrics for the next album.
A: The Speech in “Let Us All Unite” is from the movie The Great Dictator By Charlie Chaplin.
AS: Would you care to share your thoughts on Assad? Or the rebels?
A: As Anarchadia, we think that the Syrian people are surrounded with bad choices, the government, the opposition, the rebels, thinkers and “thankfully” we have Jihadists now. And we should not blame one side; we prefer to blame everybody in Syria for what is happening. What we know now is that a lot of people are sick of what is going on and want peace to come back regardless of who is victorious.
AS: What would you like to see happen politically in the future of Syria?
A: To be realistic we would like to see a sectarian government running things through a democratic selection. But our ultimate dream, not only for Syria but also on a global scale, is that we would like to see people running their lives perfectly based on logic, without governments telling them how they should live their personal lives, since we are against any form of authority, but it is a dream and all we can do now is to promote it through our songs.
AS: It doesn’t look like America will be bombing you guys any time soon, would you support outside intervention in the conflict?
A: Of course not, US, Britain and France should quit bossing people around, end of discussion. France killed more than 1 million Algerians when Algeria was under the French occupation, the US wages war twice every 15 years and the British Empire, the empire on which the sun never sets, killed people more than anyone and we believe that any intervention would make things worse. What should happen is that sides have to drop their guns and start negotiations immediately. We promoted Say No To War and will promote that until the day we die. And this whole threat of bombing Syria was just a bubble to make sure that Assad would drop his Chemical Weapons but if we take a look to the last two years, 99% of people in Syria died because of guns not Chemical Weapons, so it was just a strategic move, and yeah Assad and Russia provided the carrot and the west is enjoying it now and will enjoy it for the next three years of nothing but more problems, more troubles and more nonsense negotiations just like what is happening right now.
AS: How did you manage to get Jon Shaffer of Iced Earth on your album?
A: It was done via Internet. Metal East Records managed to get in touch with Jon, and since Jon is a great man he agreed immediately after we sent him our songs and the demo to the song “True World Order.” We recorded everything and sent it over Email, then Jon recorded his lines when he was in Uruguay, then we mastered the song in Syria.
AS: I hear a little bit of Chimaira and Lamb of God in your music. Are you guys fans of some of the newer bands coming out of America?
AS: After my review of your album, I saw a huge spike in views from Syria, Lebanon, UAE and southeast Europe. Are you guys petty big in those countries?
A: We wouldn’t say big, but basically our fan base is in Syria, USA and Egypt based on the data we have on Facebook.
Much thanks to Anarchadia for this interview and best of luck! Hope to hear more music from you guys soon.