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Interview by oneyoudontknow from - A Dead Spot of Light Mag.

20/10/2003 (Interview from the Phex Era)

 

Why don't you start off by introducing the band a bit? When and by whom had it been started? Who would conduct this interview and where are you from?

The band was started by myself; Muhannad Bursheh (a.k.a: Muhannad Asfatoun-Bursheh, and many years ago used to go by the names "Phexataan" or "Phex" in the metal scene, but not anymore). I’m from Amman, the capital city of Jordan.

Bouq is a one-man band that was started in 2001. It was known as "Phex" between 2001-2007 then the name changed to "Bouq".

Bouq might not be a term that many are familiar with, so why don't you translate it for us? What does it mean and in what language does it have its origins?

"Bouq" means blowing horn in classical Arabic - the literary language currently used by most of the inhabitants of the Levant, Mesopotamia, Arabia, and North Africa regardless of the wide ethnic, religious and cultural variation in that whole region.

Phex, would you mind giving some background information on this name as well, had been the band preceding Bouq, but why did you change the name? Is there a conceptual difference between these two projects?

"Phex" is the old name of the band - its not an older or different project - its the same project but with a changed name; the discography of Phex simply moved to Bouq. The conceptual differences are both musical and lyrical. Musically, during the days of Phex, the music was simpler groovy death metal, as can be heard on the debut album "Ascending from Transfixion". After changing the name, the style developed into a complex epic ancient themed black / death metal sound, as can be heard on the 2nd full-length album “Berserk”. The decision to change the name came due to the shift in the project's theme and sound - I wanted a more serious name that would fit in with the project's current and future musical and thematic directions. That was an important decision especially that the band turned from a side-project into my main focus.

Why do you play metal? What makes it stand out compared to other genres? Can you name a starting point' so to speak? According to the Metal Archives you work as a producer and it seems natural to ask whether you deal with metal bands as well?

I always find it hard to explain why. I guess I just got really attracted and completely fell in love with it. It is a well of emotions, wisdom, and thought, other than being very musically entrancing (in most cases). It stands out because it is not afraid to talk about subjects people normally overlook, or are afraid to delve into. Musically it is very special; it could be very technical, emotional, brutal, up-beat, symphonic, epic, folksy, glamorous, jazzy ...etc. Its different genres carry the collective sum of the experiences, elements and characteristics of most other kinds of music put together in an attractive method.

Yes, I’m also an audio engineer and a producer. I’ve worked with several local bands such as Bilocate, Exile, Spade, Soulbleed, Dragonrider… I sometimes also work on film sets as a Production Sound Mixer (location sound recordist) and as a post-production engineer.

How would you describe the music scene in your country? What are the predominant musical styles and are there collaborations between Western oriented genres and traditional ones?

There is a lot of talent, which if well cared for and if properly developed could become really something. There is usually a problem with the audience culture; music is not given the huge importance it should have, and people are quite indifferent about the artists - support usually comes depending on how many friends you have on Facebook and the amount of hours you spend spamming it about yourself - it is rarely given based on how good or bad your music actually is. Many people need to be more musically educated to have a proper critical opinion about local artists, which would help improve the local scenes. The biggest problem however lies with the lack of support artists receive, especially in the non-mainstream scenes; there are only a handful of interested supporting organizations or media entities - who usually only look for the trendy artists anyways.

The most predominant genres are of course TV pop music and nationalistic pop. There currently is a growing scene of a specific type of indie music, developed and shared by the countries of the Levant and Egypt. There is collaboration between Western and Eastern genres definitely; it is present in almost all genres of music played in the region, from pop, to jazz, to metal.

Do you have certain centres for certain kinds of music? Is the country divided in different spots, with each having its own characteristics?

Yes and no. Amman for instance is a multi-cultural city, just like most capitals in the world. Music divisions are usually social rather than cultural. Usually, background and social level play a huge role in what kind of music people listen to. For example, more exposed and travelled people would have a bigger scope and pool of genres. What is good is that you can find every kind of music; Eastern and Western pop, jazz, hip-hop, folk, funk, electronic, classical, rock, metal and so on; generally though metal music is less accepted due to the many misconceptions surrounding it. Outside the capital, music becomes more oriented towards culture. In the south of the country you'd mostly find Bedouin music, while in the north you'd hear more Levantine oriented traditional music.

Is there a certain trend towards more mainstream oriented music and therefore even to global mass media visible?

Yes, mostly towards regional and international pop, hip-hop / rap, techno, house and dance, as well as local folk and local nationalistic pop.

What about metal meets Middle Eastern music? Fragments can be discovered on numerous recordings already (from various bands from various countries), but rather on a small scale and not on a scale that would give the impression of being embraced wholeheartedly.

It is actually getting more and more present recently for Middle Eastern metal bands. I think the reason that its not fully incorporated yet is that bands don't usually survive that long in the region to develop a unique marker by incorporating Middle Eastern scales into metal without sounding imitative to the bands who have already done it, especially that bands usually start with influenced and passionate kids who just want to play, and they usually start with the stuff they already know, or the traditional way of playing a certain type of music. But again, it is getting more and more present, as bands are developing a certain regional identity.

How do the releases from Bouq as well as its predecessor Phex fit into this?

Middle Eastern music will be the main focus on the next Bouq album, which has not been the case before. The album which is currently in its pre-production stages will be musically focused towards incorporating Near Eastern scales into metal, and it will be quite different from both previous albums; the music will have a dominant Near Eastern touch, but it will retain the heavy and dark atmospheres found on the previous albums, however, there will be some real changes in the vocal styles. Thematically, it will be focused on the ancient history and mythology of the Near East, specifically that of the Levant and Mesopotamia. I come from a very rich heritage; Aramaean / Canaanite / Assyrian, so I would certainly love to incorporate that into the music of Bouq. Being also an adept researcher in history for many years helps a lot.

What do these both bands deal with lyrically and conceptually? Why did you pick elements from the Norse mythology for Berserk?

At the time when "Berserk" was being composed in 2007, Bouq was still a side-project, and my main band back then "Tyrant Throne" had adopted a Near Eastern theme for its music; so I decided that since Tyrant Throne has that, I'll create a couple of tracks on Bouq's 2nd album influenced by other cultures. I was for a long time interested in Norse culture, as well as barbarian and tribal cultures; that is why certain tracks on "Berserk" have these influences. Bouq became my main project only after the album was already completely composed, so the decision was made to shift the focus towards Near Eastern mythology and oriental influenced metal starting with the album the follows.

In what language would be the track 'Desrever Alumrof Ecnetsixe'?

Finally someone asks about that, haha... Actually its English, it just needs some brainstorming. If you flip it, or reverse it, it will become "Existence Formula Reversed". The idea behind the track is less mythological than Bouq's other tracks. It talks about how modern humans lost the spirituality, honesty and the wisdom possessed by our ancestors. Humanity has become corrupt, and the formula of existence has been reversed; we are morally and ethically going backwards instead of forwards, and many things are treated reversely.

The lyrics too are sung in reverse. I thought that it would be a cool idea, since the whole concept of the track is based on that, so the lyrics were initially written in proper English, then each sentence was reversed, and I practiced reading them backwards, and performed them like that on the recording - they were NOT reversed using production techniques. You can read the lyrics in unreversed English by displaying the lyrics page from the album booklet on a mirror, haha.

 

Here is an example from the first paragraph of the lyrics:
 

Lyrics as they’re sung on the track (reversed):

Lyrics in proper un-reversed English:

Nekorb saw sddo owt eht fo rettilps eht

The splitter of the two odds was broken

Nekasrof seulav lautirips lla

All spiritual values forsaken

Modsiw fo loot eht detresed sah nam

Man has deserted the tool of wisdom

Enihcam edam hself

Flesh made machine

Larutannu detnarg srewop dnim delebal

Labelled mind powers granted unnatural

Nam delurrevo enihcam

Machine overruled man

Judging from the information on your latest output Berserk you used some traditional instruments on it. Do you prefer to use the original instruments and avoid some electronic synthesized version of it? Can you present those used on recordings a bit?

If the real instruments are available and I can play them, or if I can get someone to perform them as a session member or a guest, then I definitely prefer the real ones, if not, then their synthesized forms will be the choice. We’ve reached a stage in music production technology where synthesized instruments are sounding so authentic, which helps a lot in boosting the production quality of synth based instruments or music, however, certainly using the real instruments would always be more suitable; at least psychologically. There are “epic” or a variety of supporting instruments used on the album “Berserk” rather than “traditional” ones; examples are timpani, flute, classical guitars, bowed bass guitar, tribal atmospheres, epic atmospheres… On the next album, Near Eastern traditional instruments will be used – could be real or synthesized.

Another aspect would be the language. A lot of bands use English and not Arabic for their music. You yourself follow this trend as well. Can you present an explanation for this?

Metal is generally regarded as an international form of music that penetrates borders. It is not only culture specific; it is a culture by itself. If you want to be part of the wider picture of metal, you’ll have to sing in a tongue that is internationally regarded as an official communications language between people from different parts of the world. Almost all metal and rock bands around the world depend mainly on English, regardless where they come from. That of course does not prevent us as artists from using different languages or our own in our music. On Bouq’s upcoming album, languages like Aramaic, Canaanite, and Akkadian (Assyro-Babylonian) will be partly incorporated into the lyrics alongside English.

When it comes to finding metal music in your country, then how is this aspect being dealt with? Can someone find such music in specific venues? Do people bootleg and trade a lot?

In the past there were a couple of places that were specialized in selling metal music and merchandise, but not anymore. You can still find metal music in corporate music stores like Virgin, Prime Mega Store, and so on, but you’ll only find the mainstream or ultra famous acts - I usually feed my music library from abroad. I guess people trade indeed; mp3’s have made everything crazily easy. Also in the tape days there were lots of trading, plus the tape culture only died out here like 10 years ago, it did survive the CD onslaught for a fair amount of time, now, both are quite dead, I still use them though!

Can you write a bit about your two releases Ascending from Transfixion and Berserk? What kind of music do you play on these and how these differ from each other?

“Berserk” is the 2nd full-length album, composed at different intervals between 2007-2008. It was recorded in 2009 at my personal studios “The Phexagon Studio” and “HHP Studio (Horned Helmet Productions Studio); mixed and mastered by myself at HHP Studio; and got released in late 2010 by my personal label Horned Helmet Productions (a.k.a.: HHP). It represents a huge leap from Bouq’s older style; the album introduces a unique dark / blackened sound of epic ancient themed metal. It is enriched with tribal and warrior-like atmospheres. The album is generally heavy, with a few technical parts and generally complex song structures.


“Ascending from Transfixion” is the debut album. Originally it was released in 2005 with the title “Transifixion” when the project was still named “Phex”. In 2010 it was re-issued by HHP with the title “Ascending from Transfixion” under the project’s current name “Bouq”. The few differences between the issues are the album title, the artwork, a change to the title of track #4, as well as a cover of Bolt Thrower’s “Powder Burns”, which only appears on the original release; everything else is exactly the same. The album was composed between 2001 and 2002; the tracks were originally recorded for Phex’s 2002 and 2003 demos, and then rerecorded in 2005 for the debut album. It was recorded at Sirenwave studio - mixed and mastered by Muhammad “sirenwave” Masri. Musically it is much simpler than “Berserk” and presents a groovy death / extreme metal sound.

Can you write something about the responses that you received on these? Were you able to reach out to fans outside of Jordan? What about the feedback you get from local fans?

The responses were great, especially for “Berserk” which received excellent reviews, and was featured on the website “Best Black Metal Albums” where it won the “Best Jordanian Album” title as well as “Editor’s Choice” title. Bouq certainly gained a lot of fans from abroad; it actually sold more copies in Europe and North America than in the Middle East.

Can you play your music live and on stage? What about your other bands?

With the help of session members I was able to get the project on stage a couple of times. However, we haven’t played in Jordan for quite some time. My other metal bands Tyrant Throne and Augury have also played several gigs in Jordan and abroad, but they’re currently both on hold. Do you have some forthcoming releases? What are the plans for the future?

Yes, a third album for “Bouq” is now in preproduction stage, and again it will carry in a new sound for the project with it as explained in a previous question. I’m also planning to turn the project into a full band; I really miss playing in a band with a complete line-up, I’m currently looking for members, hopefully I’ll be able to pull that up, and then “Bouq” can participate in festivals and gigs continually.

In case someone is interested in your music, how and where can this person buy your stuff?

The albums are available in both physical format, and in digital format through itunes, Amazon, Napster, and Rhapsody. They can be bought from Bouq’s official online shop easily using PayPal:

http://www.bouq-band.com/bouq-shop/bouq-shop.htm

http://www.bouq-band.com

How can people get in touch with you? What Internet sites do you use?

http://www.bouq-band.com

http://www.facebook.com/bouqband

http://www.reverbnation.com/bouq

http://www.soundcloud.com/bouqband

http://www.myspace.com/bouqband

contact@bouq-band.com

label@hh-productions.com

Some closing comments if you like

I really urge the readers to try out Bouq’s music, especially the latest album “Berserk”; it is very unique and won’t disappoint. Also keep an eye on the updates of the band; the 3rd album should be something to look forward to.

 

I would also love it if the readers can check out my current side-project “Abohotho”. It is an atmospheric ethnic Near Eastern music project, with ancient Near Eastern themes. The music is very atmospheric, spiritual and epic using mostly traditional Middle Eastern instruments. “Abohotho” is the west-Syriac (neo-Aramaic) word for “Ancestors”.

 

Listen to Abohotho’s music here: http://www.reverbnation.com/Abohotho

Join Abohotho’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Abohotho

 

Thanks a lot for the interview!