Interview with Marwan Samarae
By: Daniel J Gerstle - 2014-12-25
We talk to ACRASSICAUDA as they head into the studio to record their new album, "Gilgamesh". They are Iraq’s best-known Heavy Metal band, guys who risked their lives to perform Thrash in Baghdad during the war, were introduced to the world in the VICE documentary “Heavy Metal in Baghdad,” got a guitar as a gift from METALLICA, got produced by TESTAMANT guitarist Alex Skolnick, jammed with MINISTRY, and then planned out this new album in New York. Humanitarian Bazaar founder Daniel J Gerstle got a chance to jam with the band in Brooklyn and introduce them as mentors to Afghanistan’s first Heavy Metal band DISTRICT UNKNOWN. Now he got a chance to talk with co-founder/ songwriter/ drummer Marwan Samarae.
DANIEL: We want to hear ACRASSICAUDA’s new album "Gilgamesh"! When does it come out? How are the songs different from your previous stuff? Will I love it so much that I end up in the hospital with a mosh-related injury and a smile? Will I be able to meet an amazing Metal girl at your coming shows?
MARWAN: Hahaha! The whole album’s concept is about journeys, life and death, love, the divine, success and failure, and the eternal struggle for immortality. ACRASSICAUDA immortalizes the legacy of this character and his struggles through music, thousands of years later. The album is Heavy with a Middle Eastern twist to it. I just hope that no one will end up in the hospital or the ER! As for girls, come on dude! You know it’s highly unlikely in metal concerts!
DANIEL: Looking back on that last show ACRASSICAUDA performed with MINISTRY in New York, I remember, first of all, you guys owned the stage so well that a couple who had driven down from Canada to see MINISTRY ran up to me and said “Who are these guys? They’re fucking rad!” It was also amazing you had those scorching belly dancers with covered faces performing something almost erotic before you come out and powered into a Thrash Metal anthem. How did you like performing with MINISTRY? And how was it getting advice from Industrial Metal legend Al Jourgensen?
MARWAN: We met Mr. Jourgensen back in 2011 at his house in El Paso, Texas, while we were touring across the US. I gotta tell you WE LOVE THAT MAN! He’s crazy, fun, a visionary and also his band is legendary. So it was such a great treat and honor to be at his home studio listening to “Only the dead see the end of war” (our previous LP) and having him head banging to it. I think this when the idea came out to open a show for them. We love Uncle AL!
DANIEL: At that MINISTRY-ACRASSICAUDA show, I had one of the best mosh and slam-dance experiences in many years. Even when I got rammed by some big dudes everyone was so cool to help each other get a powerful adrenaline and endorphin rush without getting injured. Although, I did land in puke. How is it on stage these days when you’re performing? Playing for a decade, do you still get that adrenaline and endorphin rush when you perform?
MARWAN: Every time, for sure. Once we are on stage, that’s when the transformation begins. You’re basically on a very powerful drug that transcends your being and the heavy burdens that comes with it. It’s a moment of high and sobriety at the same time. And we get to do that every night on tour.
DANIEL: There was some amazing guitar at your rehearsal space in Brooklyn. I think the song was "Sinbad". Can you talk about how your guitar sound, and the guitarists, have evolved since "Heavy Metal in Baghdad"? Who’s the new guitarist? Anyone else fans should get to know who were not in the old documentary?
MARWAN: After Tony Aziz departed the band, we were fortunate to have replacement almost right away we added Moe Al Ansari and Marwan Grada to the band line up. The guitar sound is a mixture between the solid metal sound and the Middle Eastern tambura or the oud which is quite frankly very wide in range but we have been working on developing that sound for the past four years and it came out different and unique as you can see in the song "Sinbad" we which is blend between both worlds.
DANIEL: As for you Marwan, Faisal, Firas, from the original lineup people learned about through the doc, how has life evolved now that you’re global New Yorkers? Still connected to Iraq and the Middle East? How might the new music reflect that?
MARWAN: We are definitely still in touch with our families back home. Though it’s not easy to be away from them for the past 8 years, we try to check on them at least twice a week. New York can be challenging at some times but we’ve been blessed and privileged with having amazing people around us.
DANIEL: Recently Humanitarian Bazaar had a chance to introduce ACRASSICAUDA via Skype to some of the pioneers of Syrian Heavy Metal (Rawad Messiah of THE HOURGLASS & RASAS; Bashar Haroun of The Rock Cave and SLUMPARK CORRECTIONAL; and Monzer Darwish, director of the coming film "Syrian Metal is War"), as well as re-introduce you to Afghanistan’s first and only Metal band DISTRCIT UNKNOWN (Qasem & Pedram Foushanji, Yo Kalifa, and Sully Omar). How do you foresee the future relations of Metal and Hard Rock bands taking these risks to make Metal in conservative societies where extremists want to ban music? How can bands like this support each other to rally youth to cope with all these tough things? Or should they?
MARWAN: It is inevitable. We as bands and as ambassadors of the repressed generation of artist in war zones such as Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan are bond to help each other, it’s a battle against decades of conflicts and shielded tradition and culture that is very much anti the unfamiliar and the different, in every age and time you will find and hear of those who stood up for what they believed in and continued fighting for it and I think the only way to reach out for the masses is by working together and helping each other to have our voices heard.
DANIEL: What are you guys listening to these days? What still inspires you, not only in your taste for Metal, but also other music, literature, art, New York, girlfriends, comedy, parties, fistfights, etc?
MARWAN: So many bands are out there to be inspired by and look up too, also we are the kind of people who would basicly listen to everything except maybe Hip hop and electronic shit, for this Lp we had to go back and listen to some of our Iraqi and Middle eastern traditional music just to get the juices for the writing and composing flowing. Also we still loyal fan for the Metal music out there.
DANIEL: Now let’s get into this new album for real. What can people find in these new songs they will find nowhere else? (Also, explain how and if that experience last year worked where you were going to have fans give advice to shape the new songs?)
MARWAN: The new album pays homage to the ancient Mesopotamian civilization using the Epic of Gilgamesh, an ancient poem written in the Acadian language in the 3rd millennium BC, originally inscribed on 12 tablets in cuneiform script. Delving into themes of exotic journeys, life and death, love, the divine, success and failure, the Epic of Gilgamesh has much in common with the experiences of the band —it is a humble yet honest comparison. The LP is an ode to the modern Iraq, a home from which they are exiled today.
DANIEL: How do you prepare for a show? Before you go out on stage, how do you get revved up and ready?
MARWAN: Hmmm, we get angry, I guess. Haha.
DANIEL: How can fans get connected with you and your upcoming work and shows?
MARWAN: Friends and fans all over the world can reach us through the band email: Info@acrassicauda.com. We check those every day so we will get back to you as soon as possible. Promise.
DANIEL: Anything else you want to add?
MARWAN: Stay true to yourself and what you believe in. \m/ \m/
Source: Humanitarian Bazaar