Cyaxares Interview: Death Metal From Kurdistan – Iraq

Metal arises in the most surprising places. One of the most unlikely locations for this kind of music to spring up is Iraq. Mir Shamal Hama-faraj is like a katalysator for metal in the country we know mostly for its dictator Saddam Hussain and the war-torn recent history of it.

Mir Shamal Hama-Faraj
Mir Shamal Hama-Faraj

The musician got into metal and started making music on his own, by himself. Metal in Iraq was the theme of a documentary, dealing with the band Acrassicauda from Baghdad. The band Cyaxares hails from Sulaymaniyah though, a predominantly Kurdic town in the northern part of the country. A region with a strong identity and historic awareness.

Mir Shamal Hama-faraj is thus pionering metal in a part of the world that this far has barely been touched by the genre. At this moment, his home is extremely close to the troops of IS and thus under threat. His other band, Dark Phantom, is from Kirkuk and has taken politics and religion as themes for their music. Unfortunately the contact with Mir Shamal Hama-faraj is lost at this moment. The last e-mail he wrote contained the following words:
They Are Extremely Close, Neighbours With Kirkuk (Dark Phantom’s) And The Kurdish Peshmerga Is The Only Thing Holding Them Back.

All The Members Are Ok, For Now.

For the sake of getting his music out there, the interview should go out now. So enjoy reading about one of the most unlikely metal bands out there and be sure to check ou the music.

 What does the name Cyaxares mean?
Cyaxares was the third and greatest king of the Median, the most capable ruler and the Great Father of the Kurds. I chose this name, because it’s a proper name for this band and  it matches what I do in my view. 

The band started out as Voice Of Silence, with three members. We didn’t have any original tracks back then, because we just had gotten into metal. Some things then changed and we had a new name with three members, which was Beneath The Oceans Of Sands. Some of the swongs written for that band can be found on my album, namely ‘Whores Of Babylon’ and ‘Temples Of Fire’. Both songs where written by me.

After that I continued by myself as Cyaxares.

How did you get into metal music?
It was in 2008, when I got into rock music and so I decided to get myself an album. I heard of a store that sells that kind of music, so I went searching for it to buy an album. My choise was: Iron Maiden. I bought the record A Matter Of Life And Death.

Listening to that record, I knew that this was what I wanted to do to. It actually took a while for me to learn that this music was called metal at this point, which was what I got more into. I moved on towards more extreme metal, after I started listening to Cradle Of Filth and Amon Amarth. They inspired me to do extreme vocals and music.

Mir Shamal Hama-Faraj
Mir Shamal Hama-Faraj

Do you do all the music yourself for Cyaxares? How do you go about recording stuff?
Indeed, I played and recorded everything on the album myself. As far as recording goes, I recorded it in my room without any professional or semi-professional equipment or what so ever.

Are there for you as an artist from Iraq any limits technically to what you can create?
In fact I’m very limited to what I can do. It’s pretty much impossible to get good instruments and equipment let a lone a decent studio. I’m also not able to see a real live Metal concert or get a good teacher. I have to do everything by myself and the whole project rests on my shoulders. That means writing, recording, rhearsing, learning, funding and whatever comes with being a band.

Iraq is ofcourse for the ‘Western World’ (sorry for not being able to define this any better) one of the most unlikely countries to find metal. How do you regard this fact? Are there more metalheads and bands around?

True, metal is a very rare thing in Kurdistan and Iraq. The amount of bands from this region is in total six and thats it. The skills of most bands are limited, so they don’t really catch any attention, simply because they don’t live up to the global standard.

Is there any sort of repression you have to deal with, doing this in your country? How does being from Kurdistan matter? And how about your other band Dark Phantom?

Metal over here, like anywhere else, is fought by religious and old-fashionate people. As Dark Phantom, we’ve received multiple threats and Cyaxares is actually the only death metal band from Kurdistan, making it a band with ten times as much obstacles as bands in other parts of the world.

Dark Phantom
Dark Phantom

Is there anything typical for metal music from your country? Do you draw inspiration from where you come from that you put in the music?
Metal is a very obscure thing here, so there is too little to speak of typicalities. Yes, I have inspired others to start playing metal music, but it’s very limited at this moment. What I try to put in my music is the ideologies and mythic elements of my culture and I hope to make a difference and change things in this way.

Musically I draw inspiration from oriental music and the mythology. The metal influences, I would say, are mostly Behemoth and Lamb of God.

What are the main themes you try to weave into your music?
The main themes are derived from ancient mythology and historical events in the Babylonian, Sumerian, Persian and ofcourse Median tradition. The call for leaving behind religion is a big theme in my music, but I’ve also put some classical poetry in there.

I’ve checked out your album ‘Whores of Babylon’. How did the writing and recording proces of that take place? What story are you trying to tell the listener on it?
The writing process took me about four years, because I started from absolute zero. Actually I had to start by teaching myself all I needed to play this music, you know? It took me about three days to record everything by myself.

Every song has its own message, My message as Cyaxares is ‘Temples Of Fire’, a call for Zoroastrianism as an ideology. What I want to achieve is to make my culture known, to give the Kurdish people an independant voice and show its strenght as well. We are a people that have always managed to do so much with so little.

I did an interview with the band Melechesh a long time ago, who also indicated that they made ‘Mesopotamian/Assyrian metal’. Do you feel related to this band in any sense?
“Melechesh” Is An Authentic Mesopotamian Metal Band, I Enjoy Most Of Their Work, But We Both Have Different Sound Of Our Own.

Would you be so kind to tell a bit about what ‘Mesopotamian metal’ is and what makes it so? Can you also elaborate a bit on the stories it involves and entities discussed in the lyrics?
Mesopotamian metal is a combination of Arabic scales and rhythms in the music, combined with metal ofcourse. The oriental atmosphere in th esong and the lyrical themes then make up what I think is Mesopotamian metal. The themes should also incorporate mythology. A good example of a band playing this specific style of music is Aeternam.

What part does religion play in your music and are there dangers involved in it?
I’m an atheist myself and my opposition to religion will always be a part of Cyaxares. It’s not a safe thing in this country to be an atheist but I will refuse any sort of religion, with or without music.

Can you also tell a bit about Dark Phantom, your other band?
Dark Phantom is a thrash metal band from Kirkuk, that I joined last year on vocals and bass. We’re woking on an album right now. The main themes of the band ar war, and terror and it has five members. The situation in our country is part of the theme. I keep that out of Cyaxares though. [Video below – Dark Phantom]

What are your future plans for Cyaxares?
The future plan for Cyaxares right now is a new album, titled ‘The House Of The Cosmic Waters’ and hopefully go abroad, get a label and create a full band.

The second album is progressing slow, three songs have been finished this far. I’m not sure how many songs will be on it, but it will probably take me about eight months to finish it. That’s mostly due to a lack of time and economic means to finish it faster.

You can hear the music of Cyaxares on Reverbnation.

https://www.youtube.com/user/behemot1993/videos

Joining the Empire!

Here I am with my empire
I’ll bring you to your knees
ebb and flow with my desire
cause its all that you’ve been taught to be
– Boysetsfire, ‘Empire’

The Empire, always the evil force in the world, but playing Skyrim I joined the Empire. Not the Stormcloaks. Am I finally becoming an adult?

A quick rundown of what the difference is between those two factions in the game. The Empire is a human faction, which has been keeping the Dominion at bay. The Dominion are the elves, who try to dominate the world. So the Empire is in a global conflict for the good cause, but has signed a concordate with the Elves (really, I am not good at getting to the core of things I am excited about). Now, the Empire is due to that concordat enforcing some rules, like prohibiting the reverence of Talos as a deity. Talos is like the first emperor of the land Tamriel and in a sense the ‘Elder Scrolls’ Jesus.

So the Stormcloaks, under Ulfric Stormcloak, think thats bullshit and want to kick the empire out. They are in essence rebels, fighting for freedom and maintaining their  Nord (the nordic people/race) ways. Downside: They’re also a bit going on with ‘Skyrim for the Nords’, which has a bit of a ‘Auslander Aus!’ flavor to it. So what it boils down to, the Empire protects the human population, but enforces some restrictions on religion. In general they provide peace and prosperity to an extent. The Stormcloaks want more freedoms and thus they fight them. There’s another group called the Forsworn, but apart from wearing silly costumes, they seem to lack a real plan.

source: Tumblr

Usually the Empire sucks, like in Star Wars and pretty much every slightly older scifi/fantasy setting. Mostly this is due to them being evil, but I never really got what was wrong with the Empire of Darth Vader and the Emperor. Sure, they were a bit hard handed, but was their plan to destroy the galaxy and plunge it into eternal war? That’s more the empire in Warhammer 40,000, but those are the good guys… Depending on your perspective at least. In Firefly you have the brown coats, who are like the ‘South’ in the American civil war, fighting  against the alliance that again brings peace and prosperity.

It’s almost like a Hobbesian view of society that is depicted by a bunch of these rebel movements. The society needs to submit to a ruling power, which is depicted as an all overshadowing Leviathan. Its the grimmest view one can take of the social contract, which it in fact. is. In Skyrim the Empire is your best bet, even though the Thalmor (evil elves) are dictating what they do. The Empire has been severely wounded by war and needs to lick its wounds. Now, it can’t do that if them elves kill all humans.

I was always a bit more of a rebel guy, but now I find that I sided with the empire. The blatant racism of the Stormcloaks might have a lot to do with it, but also the general lack of perspective. What point do your ‘freedoms’ have if you can not unite in any sense against a bigger enemy? If you cant actually realise anything. Also, ironically, you are putting a despot in place most of the time. I’ve had high doubts about the future of that ‘Galaxy far, far away…’ after the Empire falls apart. Who’s gonna rule that? Luke? Give me a break, maybe Lando has a shot at it.

I used to be into punkrock and I still believe in its strenght. Rebellion is a good thing and necessary even, but it is not the solution. So I say, throw in your lot with the empire. You can kill Thalmor on sight whenever you want anyways. What I was getting at though is that chosing the Empire is chosing relatively the greater good. I think thats the mature thing to do. I found it quite interesting. Apart from that, it shows a general shift in our thinking. A reevaluation of set ideas. What is the greater good and does it justify the good? You can decide for yourself and figure out what your stand on this is. If you change your mind, you can always reload an older save game.

source: PCgamer.com ‘Killing everything and everyone because you want to in Skyrim’

Also the Empire dresses like Romans and gives you Roman style ranks. I’m a Legate now. I guess there’s also people who just chop of heads of all npc’s. So it’s the liberalism of Voltaire for the Stormcloaks, Rousseau believers for the empire… and ofcourse De Sade like berserkers for just chopping of heads. Huzah!

Gaming makes you smarter kids.

The night Lenny left and returned

Last saturday night I left one of our windows open. It was not the brightest thing to do, so around one o’clock I checked the place and found Lenny the cat was gone. Lenny left through the window.

That was a scary moment, I mean, you have no clue where the cat is and he’s not in any of his normal weird places. So I woke up my girlfriend and we started the hunt. There’s a whole range of emotions going through your head at that moment, making this a rollercoaster experience.

Why the hell did he jump? Where did he go? Do you think he stopped anywhere, is he still around? What about Frankie (our other, very dependent cat, who cant be alone). THe idea of not finding this little cat, that we took in when no one seemed to want him, was terrible and haunting. The loneliness of Frankie, our pain of loss… Things you start considering.

Lenny and Frankie enjoying a box.
Lenny and Frankie enjoying a box.

After two hours of searching, wee both cried like babies. It’s a sense of despair and failure, I havent felt in a long time. We put out some adverts in the middle of the night and holding on to our other cat we fell asleep. A troubled sleep, full of worries and fear. Half asleep…

Then the door bell rang and our neighbour was in front of it, she was letting some guests out of the building and found a crying kitty in front of the door. Tough Lenny, the escapist, braving the world had returned bawling, stressed and dirty and was now back home, like the prodigal son. The surge of relief in my half sleeping state was intense, like a cloud disappearing in front of the sun. I could only stammer thank you a bunch of times and wished her a goodnight.

I slept like a baby after that. So did Lenny I think… And Frankie too. It made me think, we started caring so much about a little cat in the last years. It made me feel the full weight of the responsibility of taking care for another living being, which is quite frankly something new. This thing called adulthood, it weighs heavy on me now and then. The idea that you need to get married, get kids and all… It’s heavy. But in a way, this made me feel more confident about it.

I may always be a bit of a kid myself, but atleast I feel responsible for what I take on in a serious way. Cats are not kids, but I might even be ready for that. I guess adulthood might start to appeal to me after all and I feel ready for those scary future things.

Now it’s just a matter of closing windows…

 

 

Festivals: Why are they awesome?

Most people probably figured out what festivals they’re going to visit this summer months ago. Some buy them before the year start. I’ve not been going at it that way this year. It’s all a bit last minute and random.

I did buy Roadburn tickets in October, which I did not regret at all. The festival had been on my list as one of the few I really wanted to visit and behold, I succeeded.  I had a great time, experiencing the thing I value most about festivals these days: immersing myself in the scene and vibe that I adore. It’s a matter of a certain feeling and outlook that connects the Roadburn bands, not their genre, style or look. It’s a complete experience.

My first festivals were Parkpop and Pinkpop in the Netherlands. Both massive, multi-genre, highly commercial festivals. Still, this was awesome because I was in my exploring fase. Gobbling music up by the gallon, whatever styles I came across. I loved punkrock, but also stadiumrock, funk and the great pop groups of the nineties (you know, the ones you heard on the radio all the time, also from the eighties). It felt a bit like Roadburn in the sense that I was dipped into a full pool of that musical world I was so attracted to. I guess there was no scene yet I felt part of.

Now, by this time I’ve moved far away from that. I guess I am to a certain extent a music elitist. I only feel that same buzz when I join festivals that are for a narrow niche of fans. I don’t think its necessarily my own fault, it might come with the way I enjoy music. I need to figure out a lot about the scene and what moves it and makes it thriving. Black metal is very interesting, mainstream pop music not so much.  That still sounds elitist, but to me explains a thing or two.

Roadburn is in that way an epic festival. It fully embodies a culture, a feeling and a scene in the broadest sense. Not just doom or stoner, it incorporates bands with a certain feel which happens to match my regular modus operandi. I’m not a sunny person, I’ve got a lot of demons in my head and in general I’m  on the depressed/pessimistic side of things. Experiencing a festival that embodies art with that vibe to it, to me is excellent. It might not be that way for all visitors but it makes sense to me.

That immersing yourself, it remains the best part about any festival. I’m sure it is the same for the anime people, car lovers and so much more. What you need to have for some is your own niche, your little obsession. I’ve got plenty of those. I guess that’s why I like festivals, because I surround myself with the stuff that I love and people that understand why I’m so obsessed with that stuff. The festival is a microcosmos of that scene you’re part of. The fact that you are there makes you part of it. More and more I’m trying to embrace that as well. The problem of an elitist outlook is that you judge people for not being good enough to be part of it. That’s something Iyou’ll always see. I guess it’s the conservative element that makes any scene remain whole, it is essential for the festival to hold on to its identity. Even a peculiar one like Roadburn.

So what else is on my list? I went to Psych Lab, going to Incubate maybe, Dynamo Metal Fest and Malta Doom Days (yes!).  Maybe you’ll be there too. Not for you? Look for your festival and experience that bliss that comes with it. You won’t regret it.

Game of Thrones: Is this real or is this just fantasy?

You know what, Game of Thrones fans shouldn’t complain so much. The show is about life and actually deals everyone the hand that they deserve at some point during the show. Sure, death is cruel and all, but so is life.

I admit to be in the habit of escaping my daily life by playing video games and rolling the scifi shows. I also read books, which sometimes heavily disappoint me when the protagonist doesn’t get the girl (like in the Mountain Ararat by Kemal) or when reality seems better than a story (Gordie Howe vs. pretty all books with a bit of realism in them). I shuddered when Ned Stark lost his head (yeah, I know that given he was played by Sean Bean it was a bit of a give away) and was stunned when Roose Bolton killed Catelyn Stark, Robb Stark and his attractive, young and pregnant wife… When Jon Snow drew his last breath I just sighed…

source: hollywoodreporter.com And yes, this one put the most satanic smile on my face.
George R.R. Martin is not killing of characters for reasons of cruelty, he is writing a bit of fantasy that comes closer to reality than most stuff you probably have read over the years. In a way he’s pulling of the biggest history rip-off in years, like demonstrated in this Huff Post article. You don’t necesarily need to look for these literal equivalents, a brief browse through classic history will soon help you get the picture of the bloody, debauched and brutal universe that you find in the series. Everyone dies, like in the histories of Plutarch of the Roman Empire. Seriously, find me one person in there that died peacefully in his sleep instead of the brutal shit like being devoured by worms from within (like Sulla). Or just killing people at random (again, like Sulla and pretty much every other person in power ever) Yeah, reality is more brutal I suppose.

Source: izquotes.com Like this couldn’t be Cersei Lannisters words?

I’ve always been a sucker for the unlikely victories, acts of bravery and clear divide between good and evil, but that’s not the history of true historians like Plutarch, Tacitus or current day ones (though they sometimes are a bit too Hegelian). That sort of fantasy is the realm of the likes of Geoffrey of Monmouth, who wrote an epic history of England, which made virtually no sense and was filled with all those things that you’d find in a classic fantasy story.

Do you remember that scene from Clerks, where they discuss Star Wars? Dante answers Randall that his favorite film is ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, because it’s realistic with all the crap happening to the rebels.

Empire” had the better ending. I mean, Luke gets his hand cut off, finds out Vader’s his father, Han gets frozen and taken away by Boba Fett. It ends on such a down note. I mean, that’s what life is, a series of down endings. All “Jedi” had was a bunch of Muppets. – Dante in Clerks

 

Everything goes wrong and the oppressing empire wins. Now, that makes a lot of sense. Reality is what we have and maybe even fantasy is trying to help us deal with it. Think about it, how big is the chance that the evil, omnipotent empire builds a planet-destroying supermachine, that has one little hole and one dude manages to blow it up? Zero, which is the more realistic take on a nuclear threat if you ask me.

Ned Stark may be an upfront and noble guy, but he’s also dead. That’s how politics worked back in the day and still do in a more public shaming way. Life is harsh and so are the seven kingdoms. It’s much easier to relate to fantasy with a sense of reality, for that very reason I think.

source: imoviequotes.com

This is also why I think Harry Potter sucks in many ways…

The Reading of Books #12

Last few weeks I read books by Hemingway, Kemal, De Sade and Hitchens, all good stuff. I summed it up a bit for you, to know what you should read next. Don’t stop reading!

Yaser Kemal – The Legend of Mount Ararat

Source: dewereldmorgen.be

I love reading books that tell about different cultures, so reading this book that I purchased in Dutch at the yearly book fair, was a privilige. Its funny to read a fairytale that doesn’t end in the way they do in the west. Morality? Faith? I don’t know, we might be different people but the stories still read like charming adventures that tell us more about ourselves and the human race in general. This is obviously the reason to read them anyways.

Yaser Kemal is one of the most read and most notorious writers of Turkey in contemporary history. The man won a ton of awards, but also the attention of authorities. This book tells about the mountain Ararat, which is already surrounded with mysteries. The story is that of a princess, a brave young man from the mountain and a vengeful father and lord, but also with the irony of judgement for the smallest flaws. It leaves that tase due to not offering the happy end I felt it deserved. Forgiveness and such… I found it hard to appreciate the final bit, but still a worthy read about that country that is a bridge between east and west.
Marquis de Sade – Justine

Source: goodreads.com

I dont know why I try to read a De Sade book again. I loathed 120 days and this proves to be as foul in many ways as I anticipated. Nonetheless, what ‘Justine’ has and what the other book lacks is explanation, a philosophical framework so to say. That is the thing that makes the rapey stories bearable  and not merely disgusting. The idea of a moral philosophy behind it all, which the other book sorely lacked.

I’m always surprised about the vocabulary and eloquence of the Marquis de Sade, which keeps proving to keep the foulness in check and makes it sometimes even acquire a poetic quality that I find rather charming at times. You start to enjoy the times when the main person escapes the next horrible trials and tribulations but also slowly blunts your consciousnes for the horrors that await her in the lair of the next male monster. Through my abhorrence, I believe that the work of this writers is worth reading. He might have been the victor in the enlightenment debate anyways, by the looks of the world today.

Christopher Hitchens – The Portable Atheist

Source: goodreads.com

Though Hitchens is an unavoidable inspiration and gatherer in this collection of texts, his role is mainly that of glue or cement, binding the materials together in order to create a sturdy wall of atheist doctrine. Doctrine would be the wrong word though, because he keeps opening as many doors as he closes in his unrelenting criticisms of the big religions. Atheism is a a case that offers more questions than answers, but remains interesting.

The strenght of this book is that it makes the atheist case by using many, many texts from people like Emma Goldman, David Hume and many others, even reaching words from H.P. Lovecraft, whom you must know I admire greatly. Lucretius, Darwin, Marx and many more names are tagged on this publication, which offers insightful, but also refreshing information on the topic, that should be required reading for anyone who starts calling themselves an atheist. Its not that easy after all.

Ernest Hemingway – Winner Take Nothing

source: goodreads.com

Hemingway is an inspiring writer and his short stories rank among the best there are. Brief sketches with sudden turns and sharp messages take the reader from the African hunting grounds to small cafés in Spain and up to North-America. This is probably some of the best work from the author, for whom I’ve started to have a soft spot in my reading habits. Still, many more to read from the master who rings together rather random events to convey a message about life and meanings.

Sometimes it’s hard to read short stories in that case, mainly because they are very captivating and the sudden endings make you feel detached for a moment, missing out on the action that you were experiencing with your characters a moment before. Characters you know through and through thanks to their descriptions, not their inner stories.  I think that this is one of the things that makes Hemmingway so great, in not saying all there is, but enough for the story to tell itself

Algarve

Sometimes there’s nothing better to do in life, than sitting in the sun and reading Hemmingway. I guess that time has come for me this holiday. I feel very much like not doing that much. While we are mere hundreds of meters away from the sea, the moskitos are piercing my skin without much resistance, much like the ideas that set my mind tumbling about.

What to do , what to pick? Will I be able to do this or to do that? Today I met a buyer of shoes from Scotland, he told me that shoes from Portugal are pretty much the most awesome thing you can get if you want shoes. I didn’t know that,. I don’t know what the thing is that I know and others don’t. That would be the thing that should be making me some money.

I do know one thing and that is to buy shoes in Portugal. I should be able to get a superb pair of leather shoes for 65 euros  tops here I heard. That is all the knowledge I have to offer, gained in the only craft beer bar in Faro, the once brimming haven of Portugal’s magnificent south.

Today I ate some sardines, fried and well. You know, like from the grill, the way they eat it here. After a severe struggle I managed to eat two and a slice of salmon. I asked the waitress what the trick was, when she questioned us on the succes of our meal. She said: “The only way is with patience…” So, Sardines, life is kinda like that. Not just in the Algarve.

I’m the Dovahkiin

Yes, after the crushing defeat in the Collosseum of PhD’s, I’ve been a bit lost. See, that was my excuse for not writing, I was busy. First with PhD-stuff, now with Skyrim.  Because I am the Dovahkiin, you know?

Sure, I like to pretend I’m a gamer a bit more than I actually game. In fact, the only game I seriously played in the last few years was NHL 2014 on the Xbox and maybe I can consider my weird ‘return’  to WoW an attempt at being a gamer too. It’s complicated…  I don’t actually own an Xbox, but my brother was kind enough to lend me his. After a while of just playing NHL to blow off some steam, I go to this point in life and shoved that Skyrim disc in the console.

I’m not really a person that hides in fantasy that much. I did so as a kid, but those are different times. I did have a major gap in my life after I didn’t get my life’s dream: A PhD position. It was a painful defeat, I had worked on that for years and now it feels like all is over. I’m at the age now, where people around me have kids and such. And me? I’ve just had a major reset to my programming… and all I can do is play Skyrim. So yeah, that’s happening.

Why do I like it so much? There’s a lot of purpose in that game, which is exactly what I suddenly miss. The hero of the game can easily make carreer choices and pursue them. I’m not sure if I’m in a therapeutic fase, where I’m figuring things out by playing a guy who chops away with a double handed claymore or maybe just running away.

I’ll let you know. If I happen to get out of Skyrim….

PS. No elder scrolls in the game at all… none.

Image: source

 

The Reading of Books #11

Another series of reads Some good books this time, with authors like Gordie HoweKinky FriedmanDayal Patterson and Henk van Straten. 

Gordie Howe – Mr. Hockey: My Story

Source: Goodreads.com

Gordie Howe has been a source of inspiration to me. The guy played hockey till in his fifties on the top level, still racking up the points. In this book he tells his story, which remarkably enough is actually the story of hockey itself. Mr. Hockey is not just a fancy nickname, it makes sense to call a guy exactly that, because he lived through it. Then he came back one more time in at almost  seventy for the Detroit Vipers for just one game. He talks in his book about home, his youth, injuries and his own special frontier justice in hockey.

There’s a sense of humility to his words. Gordie Howe might be the greatest, he is even more so because of his personality and that down to earth mentality. I truly wish he was in better health these days, but at 87 the man is still going as strong as that beaten and battered body can. Amazing to hear his story and the things he’s seen and done. Ofcourse it’s only hockey, but hockey means a lot to me and any mans dedication to one goal is something to learn from. I salute you, Mr. Howe. Truly a hero to me.

Dayal Patterson – Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult 

source; Goodreads.com

It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of black metal. I love the feel of the music, the music and it’s culture, but nothing I love more than approaching it from an academic point of view, trying to create the bigger picture of a genre that is fundamentelistic in origin, but pushing boundaries for more than 20 years now. The work of Patterson is for that purpose a well written analogy of the scene through the most vital years, analysing and chronicling the bands that people keep forgetting. Sure, Mayhem has three chapters, but that’s not all there is in this book.

Patterson is not trying to say everything, nor trying to create some vision. He is trying to show what is there and where the nucleus of the scene was, but also the far edges. The whole Euronymous thing is in there, but cut short, sticking more to it as an event that shook and shaped the scene. This is vital information in understanding what and how things went down. I love how this book gets you such a much bigger picture. Did you ever read about bands like Fleurety, Sigh and Tormentor in a way that actually gave you new info? I didn’t, but now I’m checking all those out. Black metal is so much more than Varg Vikernes.

Kinky Friedman – Elvis, Jesus & Coca-Cola

source: Goodreads.com

Kinky Friedman is a country making, cigar smoking Jew from Texas. He switched to writing detectives at some point in his career, for reasons that I won’t even try  to understand. One of the results is this book, that was put in my hands by a friend, mainly because he might get a visit from Kinky at some point in the future. It all seems a bit surreal, but you know what… I gave it a go. If you are familiar with the work of Irvine Welsh or Belgian writer Herman Brusselmans, there’s a writer to add to your favorites.

The protagonist Kinky finds out the girl he’s been sleeping with has gone missing. He goes on a hunt for answers in a surreal setting that mainly features internal monologues, cigar smoking and whiskey chugging with his mates in New York. Actually the protagonist, being Kinky Friedman, doesn’t do much more apart from talking on the phone, making his friends do stuff and dealing with his cat There’s this film noir atmosphere to the story thaough, which is weird in the sense that everything happens outside of the story. After 200 pages you just feel a bit confused. The story comes to life and gets resolved in the final pages only. That is however after a weird bumpy ride.

Henk van Straten – Superlul

source: Bol.com

Yeah, that requires some translation. Let me first tell you the story. Superlul is the nickname of the main character. It means super dick/cock/whatever and it refers to his huge schlong. After years of insecurity, hiding in his room with fantasy books and trying to prevent the rise of his enormous member, he finds his talent in the hospital with a horny nurse. From there on Superlul becomes a celebrity, all the while porking whatever he can. He ends up in the Dutch celebrity circuit, which is plastic fantastic.

It all turns into an overblown, surreal story where his girlfriend is Carice van Houten (Game of Thrones, yes the one with the lord of light thingy where a lot of boobies need to be shown). The style in which Van Straten tells the story is high paced, witty and direct. He gets his message across, without having to explain it. Van Straten is not being literary in the way it’s always perceived to be, by using difficult structures, complicated concepts and just shoving in a dictionairy. No, Superlul is literature for anyone who understands the irony of it all. That is definitely something this book has plenty of.

Disclaimer; any link to a webshop is just because I needed the picture, not that they are paying me (but they should)

Just play! What happened to the Underground?

I’ve been puzzled by this question, what happened to the underground? Is the underground still there in music or how does that whole thing work nowadays?  Ofcourse theres something outside of the mainstream, but the old implication of the underground being what the mainstream should be is long gone.

I’m nothing, I should be everything
Yes, I did just quote Marx. The underground, it used to be the area of hard working bands, hoping to achieve mainstream succes with their unique sound. Perhaps some of them were a bit head strong or just weird, but they all had the same goal in common. That goal would be, becoming big and playing stadiums, you know… the rockstar life. Ofcourse, this still happens, bands playi in tiny, sweaty venues, hoping to be the next name in the charts. It doesn’t matter if you play hiphop or hardcore punk.

Scene
Not all bands have that goal in sight though. If you start playing death metal, the days of glory are long past. You are not hoping to achieve succes anywhere outside of your scene. The scene is a closed community, surrounding a genre. It’s become a thing like a niche, a rarity. Musicians realise that too, if they commit to a style, the mainstream is as far away as ever from them. Is that scene still underground? Perhaps, maybe the underground just has accepted it’s never going to become mainstream. The same thing as that a death metal band accepts they’ll probably never draw that punkrock crowd to their shows.

Hipster Girl!
That brings me to the next issue with this story, what is that thing with hipsters. Can something be hipster and still be underground? Not every band that is appreciated by what is considered the hipster crowd, ever really surfaces in the mainstream, but it starts to feel like whatever scene is involved with the hipster scene, ends up being in a transferral zone, between underground and mainstream. Neither accepts this music to the fullest. Look at a band like Deafheaven, from my black metal world. They have become a hipster band, meaning black metal has spat them out. Still, they are stuck in limbo, neither here nor there. When the scene spits you out, you can barely get back in.

A third way or any way
I’m not sure what state the world is in. Do we still do justice to the dense system, by using such generic terms like mainstream or underground? A middle way seems to not really resolve anything, but there’s a clear scene in between that is neither one nor the other. It’s peculiar enough to be called a third way, but it only shows the variety that actually exists and is going in all directions. The new music landscape seems to be one of pluralism, anything goes. It’s the postmodern condition in pop form.

Source: defendingcontending.com/

The mainstream is still, there, but it’s hardly something that plays a part in the deep, dense underground that shows itself in many guises, sometimes even that of mainstream. Maybe the underground never was  something that could be united by any general terms. It seems that nowadays it just happens to be confident where it is, whether its embraced in its scene, the general underground or just in its small, weird hipster niche.

There’s still plenty of sound from the underground.