Dienstag, 14. Juli 2015

Interview: Zoheb Mahmud - Heavy Metal in Bangladesh

This is the original English version of our Bangladesh special that was recently published in German. In fact, this is the very first English article that we post since my English isn't good enough to write a whole blog in a foreign language. But in this case I just had ask a couple of questions and Zoheb (our expert and part of the Asian metal scene) gave me most of the needed information. One of the most exciting conversations I actually ever had during my career as an blogger. 

Please introduce yourself to our readers? Who are you and where are you from? Tell us a few things about yourself.

Zoheb: I am Zoheb, just an ordinary guy from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. I am an undergraduate Business Administration student (better if I use the word
"used to be" since my study is in hiatus for more than two years). Anyways, the interview is mainly about music, so better if I focus mainly on my minor involvement in music, especially in the metal music arena.
Music listening activity consumes a huge portion of my daily life. I dig Metal, Punk, Prog, Psych, Shoegaze, Alter, Grunge, Folk (mainly the folk music of our country) and different forms of music.
I along with some friends initiated a black metal community, Venstas Diabolicus, and the webzine is one of the major initiatives of VD. We have been running the webzine since December, 2013. Recently we have purchased the domain of the site, so it has turned to a website from the wordpress blogging platform. 
I am a part of Primitive Invocation which is responsible for organizing gigs/fests, publishing zine and selling merchandise/records. Primitive Invocation organizes Banish the Posers Fest which is one of the major Extreme Metal Fests of our country and yeah PI organized some other successful gigs too. 3rd edition of Banish the Posers Fest is to take place on the coming September and FUNERUS (USA) will be headlining there. 
I have done the PR activities some bands. And within a few days, I along with a friend, Vocal of Multinational Corporation/Foreskin, am starting a PR/Media Relation firm dedicated to Metal/Punk Music.

How did you get into Heavy Metal and what was your first contact with that kind of music?

Zoheb: I think it was back in the 2003 when I was twelve. METALLICA's "St.
Anger" and IRON MAIDEN's "Dance Of Death" got released in that year. Both of the albums were just the beginning for me. I think I don't even like "St. Anger" at the moment, hahahha. Eventually I have started to discover more bands and there used to be a few shops from where I bought CDS (they were bootlegs, getting original CDs of foreign artists is very tough here). Even before that I have listened to SKID ROW and LINKIN PARK, yet, the last one is not metal, but listening to their music can be regarded as a preface step, Hahahhaha. And when I was four or five year old kid, I came across with a TWISTED SISTER cassette and guess what I totally did not like it back then. I am still not a fan of the band anyways.

What is your favourite metal style?

Zoheb: Black Metal, I think, more specifically fusion of black and death metal.

What is the metal scene in Bangladesh like? Is there a growing community or is just a small decicated group of metalheads?

Zoheb: Metal scene of ours can be regarded as very small comparing to American or European scene. Many good bands exist here, but we lack the number of listeners and promoters & organizers. Still, we don’t have any good metal record labels, we don’t have any metal shops, and we badly need more organizers who can pull a descent gig.
Our metal scene has started more than 30 years ago and still the scene hasn’t expanded that much. Post 90s band could hardly carry out the torch that was initiated by their forefathers WAVES, ROCKSTRATA, WARFAZE, In Dhaka etc. It is a pity that a lot of promising bands had to breakup even before releasing anything.
Post 2000, a change can be observed and most of the mainstream metal acts are part of that generation, but the most metal bands of that era don’t have a fix genre or style, they are doing progressive rock, nu metal, alternative, acoustic based song, I mean they have put their steps into different paths at the same time.
But after 2010, the scene has developed a lot and real metal atmosphere can be observed after that. Nowadays, Bangladeshi metal has properly started to reach to the overseas... Bands have participated in the renowned metal gigs & fests and released their albums from foreign labels, foreign media and zines have started to feature Bangladeshi bands, and most importantly a few excellent international acts have toured in our country, for example: IMPIETY performed in the last edition of Banish the Posers Fest. And another important thing is people have started to buy records & merchandise of international acts, too, whereas in previous years, people only used to purchase the records of local artists and buying the merchansdise and records of international artists was very rare. 
Above all, it is a very difficult journey for a band to continue the music because of having no financial return or support, but still sheer passions make these bands to continue their extreme form of art. 

What are popular metal bands from Bangladesh and which acts would you recommend to our readers?

Zoheb: Popular bands are ARTCLL, WARFAZE, CRYPTIC FATE, ROCKSTRATA, POWERSURGE, MEHANIX, STENTORIAN etc. But a strange thing is these popular bands are mainly popular inside the country, their music is not outspread outside the country. 
A few underground bands are getting some exposure outside the country as they are doing it for both the local and international listeners.
Recommended acts: Actually taste differs from person to person. So, I am mentioning the bands that I do enjoy most and at least having a release. 
Underground Bands: ORATOR (Death/Thrash Metal), ENMACHINED  (Thrash Metal), NAFARMAAN (Black/Death Metal), ETERNAL ARMAGEDDON (Black/Thrash Metal), MORBIDITY (Death Metal), WARHOUND (Death Metal), TYAGRA (Heavy Metal), ABOMINABLE CARNIVORE (Black/Death Metal), NECROLEPSY (Brutal Death Metal) etc.
Among the inactive bands: BARZAK and BLOODLUST. 
Among the well-known bands: CRYPTIC FATE (Till first two releases) ROCKSTRATA (First Release). WARFAZE and ARTCELL too, even though not all of their tracks are metal. I am sorry, if I have forgot to mention any of my favorite bands.

What it’s like to be metalhead in Bangladesh? Is it no big deal at all or do you ever had problems because of being a metalhead?

Zoheb: Being a metalhead is not a huge problem, if you are not showing anti religious and anti political attitudes. But, if you are a metal musician, you have to struggle a lot. Still, people or even your family members may tell you that metal is a shitty music, and I think in every country, there will be people who discourage others to listen to metal. Not a big deal, man.
I have had some problems (a very little actually) because of my personal beliefs and ideologies which have close tie with punk/metal music.

Do you play or do you have played  in a band? If yes, what is  the name of the band? 

Zoheb: Hahahha. Nah, I have never played in a band. I am a person without any artistic skill, hahahhah.

You’ve already told me before that you organize concerts. What was your motivation to do this? What were your experiences so far?

Zoheb: I have been involved with Primitive Invocation (PI) since Mid, 2012. Primitive Invocated began the journey back in the 2010/11. The main aim of Primitive Invocation is to support both local and international Underground Extreme Metal acts, preferably the Old School Extreme Metal bands. Before the emergence of Primitive Invocation, Bangladeshi underground metal bands hardly had a solid metal platform. Some people will find my speech as presuming, but I dare to say that Primitive Invocation is strongly responsible for bringing our extreme metal scene to another dimension, PI did something significant that nobody had even imagined before.  In earlier days, Primitive Invocation organized some remarkable gigs featuring acts like ABIGAIL, INFERNAL CURSE, ORATOR and so on. They even published a fanzine. PI’s last gig was Metal Barbarism II, 2015, and Defiled from Japan headlined there. The most notable event of PI is Banish the Posers Fest (BTPF), a yearly gathering of both local and international extreme metal bands. As I've told you before, FUNERUS is going to headline this time at BTPF and other confirmed acts are DRACONIS INFERNUM (Singapore), ETERNAL ARMAGEDDON (BD), ENMACHINED (BD).

Working with PI is a great experience, for sure. We, Primitive Invocation crew members, work with unity and our fraternity is very strong. Iftekhar Faiaz Nafiz, the main person of Primitive Invocation, and other crew members give their full devotion to make each and every endeavors into a successful outcome. We have
to face a lil bit difficulties too as we don’t get any sponsorship or any financial support. And venue is a big problem here; we can hardly pull the gig after 9 PM as the authorities of the venues keep forcing us to end the gig before 9 PM.  Primitive Invocation has enabled me to come closer to a lot of good persons and some of them have eventually turned to very good friends of mine. 

You have an online campaign going on to raise money. Could you tell us a little bit more about it?

Zoheb: Actually I am having the hardest period of my life for the last couple of years. It all got started when the business partner of my dad embezzled the fund. After that incident my study is in hiatus. So, a very good friend of mine, Laura Giguere, has started a Gofundme campaign to raise money for my study. You know what people have shared the campaign frequently, but I hardly got the financial support. So far, only 03 people have donated money via paypal, and you are one of them. A lot of people find gofund me as a complex way to donate money, and some people are without paypal/credit card, so despite having the desire to help me, they are unable to do it. I have been unable to get 2% of the estimated fund actually. Hahhahahha. Probably people don’t have spare cash or don’t have the desire to help me, haha.
The amount I am earning at the moment is enough to support my study cost, but I have to spend it for my family. And if you don’t have study and if you are not having a vast fortune, then you probably can’t lead a good life in a country like Bangladesh.  A few local and international friends have committed to help me within short period.
Here is the gofundme link: http://www.gofundme.com/metalheadgraduate 
And People can also donate via paypal, western union, moneygram, bank transfer or other preferable methods. And I am even fine with it, if anyone wants to give me loan. 

Thank you for this interview! The last words belong to you, is there anything that you want tell our readers?

Zoheb: Thank you very much for your support, Adrian. I do enjoy your webzine, Totgehoert. Actually, I often use google translator to read the contents of your webzine. A lot of people posses a prejudice to judge artists, bands or even person by their country. People should evaluate an artist based on his/her crafts; one just shouldn’t disrespect an artist and band for the origin. I know a lot of listeners don’t bother to listen to the bands of the third world countries, but there are excellent bands rising from the third world countries. 


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