I kinda lucked out with this one. A friend happened to get me into personal contact with Busac of Smouldering In Forgotten for an interview via email. As people know, I’m very fond of conversational interviews any way I can get it other than verbal. This was an interesting one that spanned a total of two weeks with a week of inactivity due to hurricane Irene interrupting my trip back home from a much needed two day vacation spent in Michigan. How the world works in the Mideast is opening up, if not ever so slowly, to those in the US and it’s a very positive thing. So many here hardly know anything about people living there and music helps bridge that gap. Interviews help even more in that vein and this one was excellent in that respect (and in every other way I might add). As always, enjoy the read and getting to know Busac!
What made each of you choose metal as the primary medium in which to express yourselves?
I suppose it just came naturally. We were all friends before starting the band and all had this common attitude and were interested in mostly the same music because we enjoyed all the chaotic aggression found in more extreme sides of metal.
How did you guys come to get into metal, never mind the more extreme sub-genres, in Bahrain? Consequently, how did you all meet and come to find that you had the same attitude/ideology?
Our main exposure to metal came from the Internet. A few years back, metal albums weren't usually available in music shops around here, and if they were they'd usually be more mainstream bands. Nowadays, metal in Bahrain is growing little by little and albums are easier to come by. My personal experience and interest in this music primarily came from watching a local underground gig years ago, that atmosphere is what really encouraged me to listen to this type of music.
It's because of small local gigs that our paths crossed and helped form a bond between people here. We all liked the dark atmosphere,and we all like the rebellious and independent nature behind the music and it inspired many of us.
Since it was so hard to find the music, I am betting that it was just as hard for you to pick up instruments when you finally decided to do so. Which instrument attracted you and how did you go about your search to acquire it? What was the learning process like? Were you able to find any teachers in Bahrain for the instrument?
Almost all metal musicians around here are self taught, which is also a reason why many get frustrated and give up. For myself, I started learning guitar almost 9 years ago on my own and then about 4 years ago started to learn drums too for the sake of the band to play live (there aren't many drummers around here). The learning process was a bit difficult since there was no one to guide us in the right path, we relied on each other for support and encouragement. There are a few music institutes around the country but resources are very limited and are usually aimed more towards basic training only, not so much when it comes to a more advanced level.
So it seems that that made you guys come form closer relationships with each other than most people do in bands over here. I know that in Bahrain, metal is very much looked down upon by society. How do you deal with that and still stay committed to the music that you love? Is living a double life necessary?
Sometimes living a double life just happens on its own because people generally do find it odd that we play loud music such as this and they believe that it is still a phase that we will eventually grow out of. This is one of the bigger challenges we face here because not many people are willing to dedicate a lot towards their passion in music, so when society starts playing a negative role then it just kills it for them completely. The thing that really encouraged us was hearing positive reviews from our releases, usually coming from abroad through social networking sites or album reviews.
As such, what's recording albums and playing live for you guys like? I'm pretty sure that you can't record your stuff in professional studios over there, right? What's the live scene like over there? Tell me about the first time that you ever played live in a band.
Things have been dead here for quite some time but have started to improve recently. We couldn't find a proper studio at the time so we had to literally make our own out of a bedroom. We invested and took the time to learn the proper steps to make it happen, it was a real struggle. Our experiences playing live is the reward that comes from all the hard work, when we are finally able to see what our music means to people. My first live experience was in 2004, I was a guitarist in a cover band, as soon as I got on stage I knew this was where I wanted to be. Good thing is that within the last 2 years, the number of gigs is starting to increase and there is finally a professional studio opening up soon, Rabble Rouser Studios, for metal bands to record in.
That sounds great! It should also make things easier for bands looking to be signed. Being how small Bahrain is, I'm sure that that almost every metal musician knows about one another in some way. Would you say that you all help support each other despite any differences you may have in approach to music with one another? I read that Mardus played a large role in keeping musicians connected over there, in what way was he able to accomplish that?
Actually you described it perfectly. Metal fans around here form a small community, maybe even a family. I don't think there are any two bands in the country who haven't already played with each other in gigs at some point and remained in touch afterwords. We encourage each other, offer whatever help we can for other musicians, even provide facilities if we have any. For instance, my bedroom studio was used to record for many bands besides our own, including Narjahanam, Lunacyst, Extinction Imminent, Punks Not Patriots, Scarlet Tear, and even more solo acts that have yet to be released.
I wouldn't say Mardus keeps musicians connected, but rather he is an inspiration to many people here, including myself, for having his own vision and actually being able to accomplish it with Smouldering In Forgotten as well as Narjahanam. I haven't met that many vocalists over here who can growl like him, and moreover, I haven't met many musicians in the region who can pull off Arabian styled metal as well as he did with Narjahanam.
Ah, I see. So he was one of the first successful musicians from your country, basically. Do musicians from your region tend to work with those from the surrounding countries as well, i.e., the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc? Where did you guys come up with the name "Smouldering in Forgotten" by the way? I've been wondering that for awhile.
We've had the opportunity to go do Dubai last year for a gig and are actually going there again late September to play in the "Obscura Live In Dubai" gig. Bands from Saudi, such as Sound of Ruby, have come over to Bahrain almost regularly for gigs, Nervecell once came to Bahrain too a short while ago. The only band we worked with in terms of writing music was Al Namrood from Saudi Arabia, Mardus agreed to be a session vocalist for one album and it was recorded in my bedroom studio.
"Smouldering In Forgotten" is a phrase in the song "Upon This Deathbed Of Cold Fire" by Goatwhore. This band was a big influence on us at the time we started the band and it just sounded cool.
Reading your lyrics, they're very interesting. What inspires them and who does the lyric writing for the band? Also, you mentioned Goatwhore being a huge influence on you guys, any other bands influence your sound as much? Where did you guys get the artwork for your albums? They're pretty damn good, especially for your 2010 release.
The lyrics were a journey of their own that took a whole year to get done. For our last album, we worked with a good friend of ours, Hammers. He has always supported us so we wanted to involve him in this release somehow. We know he's an amazing story teller so we sat in lots of brainstorming sessions before deciding to tell a whole story throughout the album, with each track representing a certain event leading to the next. We won't reveal the details of the story though, you need to do that on your own through the lyrics. All I can say is that it revolves around many themes like revenge, insanity, myths, war... etc.
Goatwhore was definitely a big influence when we first started the band and it really shows in our album "Legions Into Black Flames" in terms of music. By the next release we decided to add a little more variety from other genres, making it more atmospheric, a bit of death metal here and there, some thrash, classical, and even gothic at one point. So it's a little difficult to name the influences there, it was just a whole lot of experimentation.
The artwork of "I, Devourer" was done by Killustrations, really amazing artist with a twisted taste, definitely a wonderful opportunity to have worked with him. The artwork of the previous releases were designed by us.
For you personally, what keeps you motivated to do what you do, i.e. creating music and helping musicians around you?
For me, it's just seeing how people react and respond to my music that motivates me. I'm not saying I'm an amazing musician or composer, but I've been getting positive reviews so far so that lets me know that I'm on the right track. This is also what makes me want to help people because I know that not everyone has the resources or the time to do everything they want to. I was fortunate enough to be able to commit enough of my time to learn how the recording process works, but others don't always have this time. If not me, then who?
Creating music is an almost entirely different story though, I can never trigger it no matter how hard I tried. Sometimes it just hits me and I already have a full vision of a song and sometimes I feel like I struggle for months before writing anything. It's hard to determine what really does it for me, but I try and maintain a certain level of quality in anything I write so I end up not using and forgetting many things I come up with.
Does your interest in music extend to other styles or do you just stick to the extreme genres of metal? Do you have any long term plans for yourself in music? Is there are particular goal that you want to achieve before you are able to "retire" with satisfaction? How does Smoldering In Forgotten fit into those plans?
We occasionally write stuff besides metal, it's usually more geared towards classical I suppose, an example of this was the ending of "Spiritus Nes Sancti," that ending inspired the rest of the song. I personally try to explore other music styles as well, as evident in the band Scarlet Tear. Give it a listen and I hope you enjoy it.
My only goal is to go wherever my music takes me. Right now I'm planning on studying music at a well established college, but other than that, I guess we just want to leave our mark in Bahrain's metal music history.
Seems like you've left a pretty nice mark so far. I would like to thank you for doing this interview with me, it's been a great pleasure and I learned quite a bit about the music scene there. As a closing remark, please describe four our readers one of the greatest hurdles that you've had and how you've overcome it while transversing your still evolving path as a metal musician in Bahrain.
All I can say is to stay true to yourself and you'll find your own way to get your message across. All our biggest challenges would have been easily avoided if we decided to take an easier way out, but on the other hand, it's these challenges that make it all worthwhile in the end.
I also want to thank you for giving me the pleasure of being in this interview. It's certainly a first time for me to take part in a 2 week interview.