Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Interview with Mehrzad of JAWZAEL by Dave Wolff

Interview with Mehrzad of JAWZAEL

Jawzael has been an active band since 2015. What has it been like to be a musician in Iran for the last four or so years?
After being a vocalist and bassist in various bands, I decided to start a band and take what I learned from five or six years of experience in my Northern Iran home city Sari. I wrote songs, tabs and lyrics, then invited Merta from Iran on guitar/production and "Marlow Deiter" from British Colombia. Canada on bass (where I lived there was a lack of musicians for the genre I wanted. I wrote the tracks but tabs are not enough. Musicians should have dynamics and make their own signature tabs. Preconcepts are just maps). Recording took time. It should have taken six months or so, but in Iran everything goes slow especially for working class guys.

Is there an underground scene in Iran? Do the bands there get to perform these days?
There is no scene here but many artists. There's a lot to say about that; In Iran there are many artists who have been followed by information services. Metal bands are just playing live now; there are even some with vocals. It's a bit hard to set up those gigs since you need money and connections. A band cannot perform black metal here because of the satanic label. To make a long story short, in our point of view is not giving a shit. I and the other members are working class and my ultimate wish is not just to be that long haired beer drinking loser who is like a germ on a culture’s shell. Our attitude is to be ourselves. We have methods of thinking and every method is unique. Where you live affects your music. If you have more tools your music is gonna be better. Now anyone can set up a show so we have to be careful. In Iran you can make music with an empty stomach; if your mind is ready you can do it.

What is the religious atmosphere in Iran at present, and how are bands seen by the general public?
About religion, I cannot single handedly destroy it but times change and the new generation cannot accept Islam. You are not dealing with religion you are dealing with tyrants and thieves hiding behind religion. If someone said I made an anti-religion black metal band, to me it's just copying the Norwegian method to get attention. If you are a human your music isn’t gonna turn 80 million people back to altars. Mythology is good; it is stories and metaphors you can use; but Jawzael is more about collectivity. There are various subjects in our lyrics: music cosmology, astronomy, death and occult knowledge (which can be both internal and external) that you study to know your method of thinking. Just to make our own perspective can be musical or by actions. It's hard to be a metal musician in Iran, but be what you are.

Did you see Sam Dunn’s documentary Global Metal? It was released in the mid-2000s and there was a section dedicated to bands in Muslim countries. Do you consider it an accurate picture of the scene?
I saw the documentary a long time ago. In that time everything was more limited and it’s the same now. It’s more of a left/right political game to show the world how free Iran is. By the end of the current president’s time in office we will come back to the same situation.
The situation here is quite weird. Bands and musicians often cannot cross "red lines" and tend to go for the less extreme stuff which sounds "softer" without considering the reason for what they’re doing. It’s not their fault it’s just all they can do. It’s easy for a band to label themselves satanic, but due to economics and religion I don’t think the next generation would have any relation to it. The youth wants to connect with the world and have been exposed to existential viewpoints and experiences and want to forget about delusions and bullshit. So I cannot say we have a scene here. But extreme music is growing and we have a lot of musical talent here. Artists prefer to perform in a free country rather than play for a limited crowd who see it as theater. The majority of music fans are into rap, pop and “fast food music” so metal artists are more independent.

In 2019 are bands in Iran able to attend recording studios or do they have to record with their own equipment? Do you know what the situation is with zines and independent labels in Iran? How do bands promote their work over there?
The dollar in Iran is sky high, and if you want to buy equipment you will face an unlogical price. But there is semi-pro equipment to work with. Sometimes limitations work and good artists emerge. We just recorded our debut album “Nibiri” with a cheap soundcard, and just went to the studio to record vocals. Some bands actually record at home. But working class musicians can’t go full pro. And I cannot trust someone who records pop. I don't know any labels that support extreme metal or anything related to it. If there were who would you want to sell CDs to and where?
But I know guys who set up a gig. About 200 people showed up and they sold some CDs, but like every underground scene that doesn’t make you rich. If you have limitations then you better go play some low tone pop. If I wanted to write sexual lyrics or any subject that is a threat I would do it. Or else you cannot call it metal. All I can do as a musician is to be optimistic because it's somehow hard to imagine what kind of outcome there will be. We are just learning and working with what we have. We tend to be self-learning when it comes to creativity. We would rather record an original record than focus on the outside influences because here nothing is promised. After a lot of dysfunctional experiences in an isolated environment in my home city we slowly built up the ability to make music. It’s more of an unconscious relation to music, especially musical genres that the majority of our society does not value. Jawzael’s process of creating is quite weird but we finished and released our debut in the beginning of 2019. You won’t always be completely satisfied but it’s complicated when there is no one else around.

Since “Nibiri” was released last January, has it been reviewed favorably in webzines from other countries? If so, which ones?
We have just had some introductions from friends in South America, Greece, USA, Canada and Russia. Mostly Facebook posts and links on some websites. Not just in Iran but globally, the creation of music needs a collective mind to appreciate it. I hope Jawzael can achieve what we deserve; no more, no less.

Discuss the songs appearing on “Nibiri”, what they were written about, and how the music fits the lyrics.
Jawzael's lyrics create a world out of cosmology, astronomy, the occult, life and death, with the help of internal and external information about our human existence. Also archetypes and mythology. Nibiri or Nibiru is a hypothetical planet in Sumerian mythology. On the cover of our album, which I designed, it represents how one creates a world from imagination, and can jump into it after long enough. It’s like the map of a human brain, surrounded by neurons. It's a chemical rush in your brain that could turn to melancholia and chaos, like a dream that doesn’t make sense but gives you a paralyzing feeling that leads you to question reality. I used some Sumerian language to journey into that schizophrenic world. All language and mythology is a mindset and cosmology, and the idea is to immerse yourself into primitive civilizations and their connection to nature. My personal goal was to make a cosmic soundscape instead of distorted sounds. More like melodic black metal with atmosphere. There will be more atmosphere on the next album to continue our learning process; we just need time and space, no gods or egos.

How many books about Sumerian mythology have you read? Would you recommend these books to the readers?
There are a lot of sources for researching Sumerian civilization and mythology. There are websites, dictionaries and the writings of the author Zecharia Sitchin. I categorize her books as semi scientific, or maybe sci fi novels. All I know is that the people of Northern Iran actually came from the Zagros Mountains, where the core civilization came from. Our lyrics rely more on languages. Every language is an entrance to a different reality, so I sometimes like to make chaos but there is also order in the lyrics. Mythology is just stories and visual scenarios you enter and learn from. The Sumerians had some weird planetary system which shows their cosmology was so human based. It doesn't matter if they were a primitive society; they were actually advanced because they knew the use of symbolic language to prepare the subconscious for better conscious decisions. This means being optimistic about nature and letting your mind take the pressure of living in the modern age and putting our pain and joy to work. Symbolic language is stored in back of the mind where demons and angels show their presence. So I say look at monuments, poetry and geography and think for yourself. If you find a good source with logical language, whether it’s a book or essay read it and take it in. Recorded history is a short time next to the rest of our time of existence. If I wanted to rely only on history and its lessons there would be a lot of dysfunction. To be human is to be more dynamic, not just to build "a better society" but to save yourself from the false information storm.

Is the band seeking distribution from labels based in other countries to reach more listeners?
When the work on album was finished we searched for labels all over the world but there were no answers. So we just published it on YouTube and it just found its way to Swampkult Productions from New Zealand who we signed with. We didn’t really promote the album as much. At present I am traveling rogue and working anywhere I can. I am now in turkey and I don't know about the future, but the band has the mind set to create. This album is not our best but it was just a beginning. I don't want to use our previous method to create the kind of album I want to create. I want to have more space and time and to see better results. The next album is gonna be more original at the core, because we have a new musical system and will be experimenting more based on the information I'm gathering now, not just writing formulaic music. We have a plan and the plan is to fight and stay alive.

What can people expect from the new album once you begin recording? Explain the ideas you have in mind to progress musically.
What is important for us is that whatever we are doing should have an intellectual core and simply a reason behind it, even in the most absurd ways. We don’t want to do what we did on our first record. What we want to do will be more experimental. We sure have a plan to do that; our musical system is experimental; our ideas are based on more tones and frequencies that are unexplored. The outcome would be like spending time in a fabricated place. Jawzael is not a one man band; members and new members always should get involved, so it depends on how they approach the experiment. I like the way black metal bands take the journey to many levels and visit different voids psychologically and intellectually. So we try to push the band to more of a calculated and avant-garde attitude.

-Dave Wolff

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