Friday, March 4, 2022

Interview with Rashid Ghafur of Zebulon Kosted by Corban Skipwith

Interview with Rashid Ghafur of Zebulon Kosted by Corban Skipwith

Growing up, who got you into music, and where did you get your inspiration from?
Rashid: My parents listened to a lot of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Moody Blues and other Classic Rock when I was a child, but they also listened to a variety of Classical music as well. I played upright bass in the school orchestra and sang in choir from ages 10 - 14. Eventually I got really bored with the music we were playing and singing and quit both. That was the same year I got into Metal, 1994.
During the 90's in Montana, there were not a lot of people into Heavy Metal in my school or in my town. I saw the Soundgarden music video for the song Black Hole Sun on MTV, bought a cassette copy of their album Superunknown, and then tried to find music that was heavier. I was able to find Pantera and Sepultura on cassette. I made friends with a kid at school who had recently moved to town from St. Petersburg, Florida, and he showed me Morbid Angel. At that same time the biggest record store in town started putting Metal magazines on the shelf. In one of them there was a sampler CD that had Emperor on it. That was in 1996.

Early on did you have a certain idea or path you wanted to take with your music and art?
Rashid: I knew that I wanted to make something different from what I was listening to, something uniquely my own. I got a lot of inspiration from musicians and bands like Steve Reich, Sun Ra, Neurosis, Bathory and other innovators who were pushing the boundaries of the musical genres they had started out in. I make pretty Avant-garde and Experimental music these days, but some of the most unusual music I ever made was on my first release, IO, that I started recording when I was 18, back in 1999. I enjoyed making sound collage music that would fit into rhythm with bass and guitar added to samples and singing, which created a wall of sound. I knew no one that was making music in this style in my area at that time. After that I began conforming to the expectations of the international Black Metal scene a bit, but that didn't last long. Eventually I got annoyed with how similar the majority of Black Metal bands sounded and branched out slowly over time, in music as well as my abstract drawing, into the style I refer to now as Interdimensionalism.

What was it like to release an album for the first time? Is there anything you would have done differently if you had the knowledge you do now about the music industry?
Rashid: Self-releasing IO on cassette back in 2000 was one of the most exciting times in my life. Not only did I record all the instruments and create the artwork, I drew the first band logo for ZK, which I ended up using for the next 10 years. I started recording as soon as I was finished with High School. I was 19 when it was released. I made 50 copies and gave them to all of my friends and family. I sold about 10 copies, which ended up covering all of my expenses. Since they were hand dubbed on my home stereo, and the store bought tapes and printing was so cheap, it was not a financial burden at all. I don't think I would have done anything differently to be honest. It was magical in its simplicity.

You refer to your music and artwork as 'Interdimensionalism' would you mind elaborating on that for me and the readers / listeners?
Rashid: Interdimensionalism is a term that I use to describe traveling through the space between dimensions. This space can be inside a portal, which takes a person from one plane of existence to another, or it can be an instant form of transportation such as folding space. All of this is either theoretical physics or purely science fiction. From a creative viewpoint it can be seen as an abstract transformation. I fully committed to this form of artistic expression 5 years ago. In my artwork it takes the form of elaborate and intricate pen and ink drawings. In my music I combine elements of Black Metal, Doom Metal, Dark Folk, Experimental Electronics, Space Ambient and Dungeon Synth in an attempt to create a new genre of music altogether.

Let’s talk about your January 2022 Zebulon Kosted release 'Death Dreams During Cryostatis'. How did this album come into being? What kind of image and sound were you aiming for?
Rashid: I wanted to create an album that utilized effective minimalism for 80% of the release, with a twisted Experimental Black Metal track right in the center that the other six songs would build into and flow away from, three before and three after. That’s the basics of the sound concept. As far as the lyrical and artistic themes involved they center around a spacecraft from another planet that is found on Earth in the future. After taking a very long time to clean and fix the ship, the future world government chooses 10 astronauts to send on this ship back to all of the places it had been before it arrived on earth using a pre-programmed route. The astronauts are only awake when arriving at a new destination. The rest of the time they are in stasis in their individual cryochambers. However, right after leaving Earth, while in these chambers, something goes terribly wrong...

What made you decide to dabble in experimental music? What drives you to always push the boundaries the way you do?
Rashid: For me constantly creating something new and interesting sounding is more important than production value, promotion, acceptance by "the scene" and sales all put together. In my opinion, if you make a certain kind of music for long enough, say a few years and a few releases, fans, record label owners, people from the media and other musicians begin labeling you as that kind of music. Deviation from that path leads to confusion. Embracing the confusion and using it as inspiration to go even further leads to alienation. This is not just my take on it, but that of many musicians and bands that I know well and support who have dared to take things further in the Rock, Punk and Metal spheres of influence. Eventually you find fans that are looking for something different and individual, but usually it takes time to find your new audience.

Are there any artists or bands around currently, mainstream or otherwise, which you find as a source of inspiration or admiration?
Rashid: Bethlehem, and their brand of sardonic misanthropy, is a big influence for me, always. I have been listening to a lot of Tangerine Dream lately as well. Well-made Kosmische / Berlin School synthesizer music in general really. There have been a lot of Raw Black Metal releases in the last few months that have caught my attention by bands like Nihtsîn, Velo Misere, Skinliv and many more. I listen to the Dungeon Synth band Hideous Gomphidius a fair amount while drawing. Last, but definitely not least, I have been listening to a ton of Paul Van Arsedale hammered dulcimer music from the early 1980's recently.

What does the future hold for you and your music?
Rashid: I have been recording and releasing more material over the last 2 years than ever before, and it has been wonderful. After playing 400 live shows between all of my different bands over the last 20 years I think I can finally say that I am done with live performances. I've always enjoyed recording more, especially on my own. It gives me the freedom and control that I crave when working on artistic endeavors. My bands Themis, Obsidian Mirror and Vrozlyd have all been very active over the last year and I intend on recording more with them as well. As far as the future of ZK specifically goes though, I'll be pushing boundaries, creating something new and being a unique entity, as always.

-Corban Skipwith

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