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
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
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
Is there a certain trend towards more mainstream
oriented music and therefore even to global mass media visible?
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
How do the releases from Bouq as well as its
predecessor Phex fit into this?
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
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.
language would be the track 'Desrever Alumrof Ecnetsixe'?
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:
they’re sung on the track (reversed):
Lyrics in proper un-reversed
Nekorb saw sddo
owt eht fo rettilps eht
The splitter of
the two odds was broken
Modsiw fo loot eht
detresed sah nam
Man has deserted
the tool of wisdom
Enihcam edam hself
Flesh made machine
srewop dnim delebal
powers granted unnatural
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
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?
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.
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.
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
someone is interested in your music, how and where can this person buy
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:
people get in touch with you? What Internet sites do you use?
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”.
Abohotho’s music here: http://www.reverbnation.com/Abohotho
Join Abohotho’s Facebook:
a lot for the interview!