ORIGINAL ARTICLE AT: http://www.freemuse.org/sw28188.asp
04 June 2008
'Stay safe, play smart'
Interview with Faisal Al-Alamy, founder of the Saudi Arabian thrash metal band Octum. They released a demo entitled 'Fighting For Freedom' in January 2008
By Mik Aidt, Freemuse
Guitarist Faisal Al-Alamy lives in Jeddah, and two years ago - " inspired by bands such as Megadeth, Metallica, and Kreator - " he formed this thrash metal band of his own. Currently the band is working on it's debut album which they hope to have ready in August 2008.
According to Faisal Al-Alamy, the name of his band, "Octum", is a word that symbolizes "the kind of darkness that is generated by the greed and ignorance of our world today".
How did you get into music and being a musician?
Well, to be honest, I never liked rock or metal music. I was more of a music junkie, and whatever was good at the time. Until I met a guy who got me to listen to bands like Megadeth, Metallica, and Children of Bodom. That music was great!! But it just wasn't good enough to be a listener. I felt I needed to play what I was hearing. I already had a background in acoustic guitar, and I thought that I needed to evolve from that stage. I started taking lessons with an amazing guitar teacher, and as I was progressing, my database of heavy metal and rock and roll was expanding.
When that was done... it still wasn't enough. So I joined a band, and it was ok, but the music wasn't my type. In the end, I logged on to the Saudi Metal and Rock forums and placed an add for a drummer. I got an immediate reply... and the rest is history.
When we formed Octum, we decided to make music with meaning. A lot of bands write lyrics about death, demons, and crap like that, but we chose to take a different approach. We decided to spread the message of peace and an "end violence" theme.
Which kind of message? What is the story behind your lyrics of your first songs?
"Fighting for Freedom" is about how some people in the West view us as somewhat extremists when practicing our religion. Which is not true; I think there's more to it than what meets the eye. I am astonished at how the media has superior power in altering people's perception. So this song basically projects us, as people that have the same aims of success and achievement like everyone else around the world. (See lyrics below, ed.)
The song "Illusion of War" is basically a message of how war is not really two sides against each other, but rather the superior over the inferior. It's moments like these where the theme of the individual and society comes up. Delusion follows that path by revealing what is "truth", and the morals you believe in may be different to what society believes.
"The End" basically is a song about the negative aspects of life such as sabotage, abandonment, negativity, depression, and so on.
"In 60 Fire" represents how people enjoy superiority and control and have the taste of destruction and how that damages an individual's life.
How old are you?
I'm 17. Our drummer is 24, the guitarist is 18 and the bassist is 14.
What is the environment like for you as a musician?
When we started two years ago I wasn't connected with any musicians or bands. I only knew one band at the time which was Rivers Running Red. We're still good friends and it's them I have to thank for influencing me. My parents were also very supportive. It was hard at first to practice since we didn't have a proper practice place. Our drummer was close friends with other bands in the Kingdom so he hooked us up and we started connecting.
Back then there were few bands - about six or so. At the moment, a lot of new bands are emerging and being exposed to the world of hard rock and heavy metal. It's great how this whole thing mushroomed into what we have now. Now there are about 30 metal bands, or more, here in Saudi Arabia. We're still growing and growing, it doesn't seem to stop.
As far as Octum is concerned we've connected with many bands and have become friends. I personally enjoy the metal scene at the moment, even though there could be some aspects that can be fixed.
There is the usual band "politics" that could be changed. Ego can sometimes destroy a part of the scene and cause major abruptions. With respect, competition is starting to dominate some aspects, and at the moment, competition should be the least of our worries.
How do you work around the law that public music is prohibited?
Honestly, at a personal level, and as an advice to all, I'd say: respect and follow the law. Never break it. The law here is formulated according to Islamic traditions and is the basis of how the Saudi culture works. We do not work around it, because that would be the same as breaking it. We respect the law and that's what everyone should do. If the law says "don't do this" then... don't do it!
When we have our small gigs, we make sure that the music is being performed only to our close friends. A protocol of what not to have during the shows is enforced strongly and we do not make a profit out of it. It is fun! But you have to do it the right way in order to keep the place at peace.
What has the internet meant to you?
Wow! That's a good question! The internet is what made us who we are right now. Getting connected, sharing our music. If you look back at the 1980s when tape trading was "the big thing", the internet today is that "big thing", but better! The internet is the gateway to promoting your band. I mean, without the internet I wouldn't have met the guy that is currently banging the drum set.
The internet, well, setting up a website I should say, on MySpace.com is free. Uploading music is also for free. Obviously the biggest phenomenon, Facebook.com, allows us to connect with fans informing them of current events related to the band. We also have a website dedicated to Rock and Metal, that's where I posted the add for a drummer. The internet is great! You can share moments with your fans and get connected globally. Spreading out message has become easier.
What is the atmosphere like in Saudi Arabia at the moment?
Well, this question would depend on the person. Personally, I am optimistic. I'd like to believe that opportunities come and go, missing out on something doesn't mean you'll miss out on other things for the rest of your life. The Saudi metal and rock scene continues to grow. Octum supports every band and tries to make the best out of it.
A scene like this is kind of fragile, especially now when it is at the growth stage. I think that if you do the right thing by obeying the law and following rules then you'll be fine. Authorities' crackdowns always happen because of people who like to mess about. Stay safe, play smart... and the people will respect you. Be foolish, naive and ignorant and you're in for a shock that will demolish your life.
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