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Interview with AHOORA

February 2010

There's some armor clattering coming out of the Ayatollahs' state - or at least that's what we've been hearing lately. And there's also resistance to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's oppressive regime. What most of us don't know though is that a quieter and more melodious undercurrent exists there in Iran, one of the ripples being a Teheran rock band called Ahoora.
Formed in 2001, the trio has just released their third album, "Awkward Diary". It is starting to make noise in the West, while the musicians - vocalist Ashkan Hadavand, guitarist Milad Tangshir and bassist Mamy Baei - can only dream of making it out of their native country where the rockers can't perform. The three even had to serve in the military in order to obtain their passports: there's no other way in that closed society. Fortunately, the means of modern communication allow one to get in touch with like-minded individuals, and that's how we were able to talk. Also that is how the band can reach out beyond the stifling borders of their country. So how is it all possible, we're asking Milad

- Could you clear up the situation? The music you play is prohibited in Iran, and you can't perform in public, but you're able to record your songs and release them in the West. Isn't it dangerous?

It could be. It all depends on the exposure we're going to have; whether it's big enough to make them notice or not. And also the way you're presented.

- Recently, a couple of Iranian music journalists have been arrested. Does it mean the situation is worsening out there?

Of course, the situation is getting worse. I haven't heard about music journalists, because it's really hard to find one real music journal or magazine. But it's true that lots of journalists were taken in recently.

- Having seen how liberating rock music was in the USSR, where it was almost prohibited, do you think the thing you do can undermine the current regime by changing people's state of mind?

I'm so happy to hear that it did really change something in USSR. And that's what art is about: touching minds and hearts the way you can never shake off for the rest of your life. But we live in a closed circuit society which in transferring worthy data is very hard and slow. We have thought about it lots of times, I just can really hope we're doing so.

- Many other metal acts are fuelled by anger when there's nothing to be angry about, but your music is free of this emotion. Is it hard to not let anger feed into the songs?

Interesting question. I think we've always been more focused and serious about the music itself; it's the reason that we've gathered. I think not all but many experiences in that kind of expression would easily fall into being shallow and not going far enough and also not last enough. I think we all try to be reasonable and that's the attitude we all try to carry during sessions; not some passive emotions. I rather prefer our music to be influenced by all these causes and emotions in a deeper and more meaningful way.

- Why do you define AHOORA's style as metal if there's certainly much more to it?

I'm happy you think so because we do too. I don't define our sound as metal at all; maybe we'd been a progressive thrash metal band but not anymore. Metal is just one dimension of our sound. Personally I think we're a multi-genre band.

- How many groups like yours are in Iran? I mean all rock styles, not particularly heavy ones...

Maybe there are about ten active worthy bands around as I know. There used to be more musicians here but many of them have faded away.

- With classic rock influences on your music, do you have an access to all these old records in Iran?

Yes. We were lucky enough to get hold of some cassettes during high school and later CDs. Also, Internet has solved these problems for too long now.

- It being a main source for you to get music from, do you download it illegally? That could be undertstandable in your circumstances...

Yes, of course, we do download it illegally. I agree with you, it is understandable in our situation. But it is not for a Western kid or anybody who lives in a free country; especially if the music he or she is downloading is good! Because it really hurts the artists.

- AHOORA's albums don't have specific Persian flavor to them. Don't you think introducing Iranian music into the mix would draw more attention to the band?

Yes, I think you're right. It could be a better idea promotion-wise and business-wise; and also it could be great musically. But that's not just AHOORA. We've never tried to add or remove a flavor to or from our music consciously. The whole package is AHOORA and all the things we love and know.

- Did you hear such ensemble as ORPHANED LAND from Israel who cross over to the Arabian countries and have a lot of fans there despite all the politics?

Yes. That's great; you can't resist the music. I've read about them and I like their music. Some have talked about our similarities in their reviews.

- You managed to play just one concert. How many people did turn up to see you? And what was the reaction?

I think about 120 people. It was the whole capacity of the venue. The reaction was great and we were to play the second night as booked before, but it was canceled.

- Your albums are available from some good outlets, including Amazon. Do you manage to get paid from outside Iran?

Not really much. Because we've made our music available for free in most of the cases. But I think our latest album "Awkward Diary" can do better. It all depends on the promotion. Even if it's the best music on the planet, it won't work or sell if nobody hears about it.

- Dreaming of emigration, where would you like to move to?

A free country where we'd be able to have our chances and express ourselves freely. Obviously, the U.S. and Europe are great but we're in no position for dreaming, choosing or even counting on some good luck!

- What your next step after "Awkward Diary" will be?

I think 2010 is a very important year for us. We'll have our third album out in few weeks. And then we'll have some tiny promotions going for few months in the U.S. and U.K. and then we'll pray something pops up and some booking opportunity appears. So we'd be able to exit Iran and play. That's our major goal after releasing "Awkward Diary". We need to get out of Iran in order to survive and the best way is getting gigs.

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