Having had the pleasure of reviewing the duo’s debut album, “The Asgarda” a short time ago,
I decided to try and get a better idea of what makes the band tick. If you read just one interview this month, make it this one, we all bemoan the music industry and its shortcomings but when an artist can rise above hatred, bigotry, persecution and much more besides, to make the music that we are all so passionate about, then it’s a voice that truly deserves to be heard.
Welcome to Planetmosh, and congratulations on an excellent album in
“The Asgarda”. Before we talk about the album itself, can I ask you to
share the story of how you both met, and indeed, the musical influences
that drew you together.
Daniel: I came into contact with Abir towards the end of the 90’s, when I was
promoting my old band Soulgrinder. We became friends over the internet, we
had the same taste in music etc. We formed a friendship and worked together
to build a gothic domain called Gothland.com. However, I went to Beirut
and we spent a full vacation together and after that we became more like
a couple. Abir sent me some demos on which she was singing and I thought
she had a great voice. I had this idea to make a project before we
actually lived together, I wrote some songs but she did not have the
After we got married Abir moved to Sweden, we made another
project under the name Erotic Chant and we released a cd over mp3.com.
That was more electronic darkwave, but we topped some of the charts over
mp3.com. Then we had a longer period of silence because we created a
family and the children needed very much all of our time. I started again in
2010, updated my studio and began again to create music. Abir sang on the
song “Theatre of Life” and we published it over the net and got an awesome
response, and after that we worked hard and the result is The Asgarda.
Abir: I met Daniel over at the Gothland Chat room, we had the same
interest in music, Gothic rock which we both love, we started recording
interviews of various gothic rock bands on Gothland.com. We chatted over webcam
then we meet each other in Beirut. We married and live now in Sweden.
The love of Gothic rock we share together it is a very strong bond. I
have been a gothrocker from a longtime ago, when there was nearly none
in Lebanon. Meeting Daniel was actually something really positive and he
is a fine music composer. Musically i am influenced by Gothic rock and
darkwave, from Sisters Of Mercy to Dead Can Dance, even traditional
Lebanese music like Majida Alroumi, Fayrouz and also Chinese opera when
it concerns changing pitches of thick to thin vocals.
At what point in your relationship did you think, “hang on, we could
actually make a damn fine record”?
Daniel: First time I heard Abir singing on this demo I felt she had got
something very unique in her voice, she changes her vocals from thick to
soft, to opera, sometimes even shouts. I think I felt it all the time we
were together that we could do something very good, but then it is the hard work to
finish the process.
Abir: I made many songs with bands from Lebanon, I was a puppet. They
used my vocals in lyrics which i did not believe in, neither did they have the conviction that I
stand for. I wanted to write lyrics, sing them and I wanted a very fine
music composer, I met Daniel, and I think he is the right person! I
wanted to speak about what i saw in Lebanon, and with The Asgarda I tried doing it.
I have always made music, even before meeting Daniel, like I said with many other bands but I was not satisfied with the results. As a woman I was controlled by their lyrics, sounding how they thought I should sing as
well. With The Asgarda I had full control to do what I wanted
and I’m very pleased to be able to do that.
The subject matter of the album is pretty hard hitting, displaying a lot
of pent up aggression and frustration. For us in the U.K. and elsewhere,
it can be hard to imagine the extent of religious and gender related
oppression and restrictions that still exist in certain countries. How
hard was it to be surrounded by that on a daily basis? Is the situation
improving at all now, what do you see the future holding for musicians
and especially female musicians in places such as Beirut?
Abir: When we speak about oppression and gender in Lebanon it is a very
big taboo. The clothes, modern clothes you can wear as much as you want.
There is no big deal in wearing a bikini in Beirut but that is only a
view from the outside. Now the mentality and perception of women there, and religion, politics, oppression against individuals from women to gays it is extreme.
Whether it is a Christian society or Muslim society in Lebanon, religion is interfering with everything in life. In Muslim communities women are forced to wear hijab and nikab by their parents especially in the south
of Lebanon where a political religious military group have hijacked the
area and forced people into their beliefs. I watched women in horrible
kinds of oppression brainwashed to believe they are worthless, nothing
to offer but to be obedient to the man, a typical slave to the father,
brother, husband, to wear what he wants, hijab or nikab. Hizbollah have
also changed Lebanon, many think of martyrdom against Jews and Israel.
The antisemitic beliefs inside the area, the hate inside people, all are blinded
with war, revenge, instead of reason and logic, instead of empowering
women. Those things ruin much inside females, their insecurities, how
they view themselves. Women have no control over the decision of wars
I see societies, how well they treat women and equality there,
then I can describe a civilized or an uncivilized society. Lebanon as a
nation is tight jeans or a bikini on the beach, in Beirut, this is the
only concession for women to please men by the image but look don’t
touch. Women are living with their parents until they get married. Sex
is also a taboo. A Lebanese Christian model Nicole Ballan who had sex before
marriage with her boyfriend is called a whore, the sex tape copied by
her boyfriend was spread all over the middle east. This woman’s history
in modelling and tv achievement is all but erased, because of cultural and
religious values, they have treated this woman as if she was an alien,
someone with a horrible disease. Her boyfriend married a virgin clean
woman, not a second hand car, like many Lebanese men would call non virgin
women. The value of a woman and her worth is by her virginity in both
Christian and Muslim communities in Lebanon.
Ashoura religious ceremonies, also was a very negative experience in
Lebanon. Children’s heads are cut to bleed, in blood and sorrow for
religious leaders in the name of religion. Blood bath ceremonies all
over the streets, I watched my male cousins perform this religious
ceremony as small boys. Also terrorism, people blowing themselves up,
once i could not understand when a car stopped near our home, terrorist
thugs killed him in front of our home, we saw everything, and all the
neighbors stood there watching. The man was left dying, bleeding for three
days, no one helped him, I was eight years old and I remember, I kept
asking my mother, saying we should do something, go and help him, tell the
police but she just told me to keep quiet or they will kill us. I felt
it was unfair, unjust. It is one memory I wish I could repeat, so I
would be able do something about it.
Another time when snipers were shooting people in the civil war under our home,
I was watching them from behind the curtains from the window, I just began to sing a
very traditional Arabic opera song, they looked up, and stopped shooting. I knew my voice could
change something. The power of art and music can change things, and will win
against violence, war and hate. Lebanese female singers should stand
firm against the violence of war made by Lebanese men, create art, sing,
make music to promote a strong message for reason and logic. It is a way
of resisting oppression and aggression in that region. Women should free
themselves absolutely from men there, they should understand that it is
not the bikini that will make them free but empowering themselves,
their self worth, not being controlled by their rules of wars, religion
and cultural rules.
Looking at the album as a whole, that Gothic vibe really shines through.
How long a process was it to complete, from writing through to recording?
Abir: I think it took one 1 to 2 years but Massacre Records delayed The Asgarda’s release, they wanted to remaster the songs with Andy Horn, which was a very good choice. So you can say three years yes. Daniel is responsible for the music which i think is great. I take his songs, and write lyrics to sing automatically on the song, see the outcome, repeat over and over again. For every song i have a vision, melody, text. And I’m a perfectionist when it comes to recording my vocals, I can sing one word thousands of times, if I feel no strong emotions are delivered.
There is also a secret, whenever I feel I need an inspiration, because
some lyrics are not complete, I beat the table in front of me, like
thousands of times. That table is crushed so much my friend, that it looks like it is
completely broken but we keep it anyhow .
Daniel: Like I said in an earlier question, I updated my studio, so I
started to teach myself the programs etc for a year before we started to
work on any of the songs we have on The Asgarda. However, after this the
process took like 3 years to finish everything. We worked very hard with
this record, and I am a perfectionist that wants to feel proud of
everything, so I never want to have any fill out songs only to make the
record longer. I want to feel happy with everything and let all the songs to
reach the same standard.
I also wanted some variation, not to make a record where all the songs sound the same.
I made a lot of material that I trashed, or put it on hold for future inspiration. Sometimes a
song takes a very long time to finish, sometimes it goes fast. Like “We Are
The Gothrockers and We Don’t Care”, I found that song by jamming with
my acoustic guitar, and the same night the music was next to done.
Another song “Stand Up”, it took weeks to make. Once I worked on a song
for 4 months for Soulgrinder, and that song is still unreleased.
The track “We Are The Goth Rockers….” is a real ’party’ track, full of
energy and defiance, how did that song develop into the finished article
we hear on the album?
Abir: This song was very easy, it took 15 minutes for the lyrics to
develop in my head. It is a song about bullying gothrockers in society.
The melody was there in my head. I sang it in ten minutes, and
actually, I have only sung it once. I’m happy you were able to find the energy in
it, the outcome sounded very satisfactory to me when I heard it.
You also made a couple of music videos along the way, is that something
you enjoy doing?
Daniel: Actually I am a photographer, and I have worked with television etc. These videos are DIY (do it yourself), and with a very tiny budget. We enjoy it, we pick a good night and go out before the sunrise, find a place, and shoot. ”Theater of Life” was our first video, we just went out to a place we had actually never been to before, that was kind of improvised. The second video was “She is the Demon”, Abir had some ideas in her head, we found a very nice place, an old church ruin where we made the shoot. We enjoy making videos, it is not high tech but
it works and by this (DIY) method, it feels more fun.
Abir: We just went out, had fun, ideas, and made a video. And we are
pleased with the results. The location was good. Daniel is a good
photographer and camera man too.
I notice you worked with Andy Horn on the production side of the album,
what drew you to him in particular?
Daniel: It was Massacre Records who introduced us to him. He was first
going to do the mastering for the record but he contacted me, first he
wanted to change some parts of the mixes but in the end he made a total
remix of all the songs except the last song ”We Are The Gothrockers And
We Dont Care (chamber mix)”. I am very pleased with his work, he has
sorted out some of the instruments, and gave the sound a more heavier feel.
Have you anything planned on the live front, any gigs lined up at all?
Abir and Daniel : It is something we are planning for the future, yes.
When do thoughts turn to writing and recording a follow up album, do you
see yourselves continuing in the same vein, or are there different
aspects you would like to explore?
Daniel: I am very deep rooted in the 80’s darkwave, gothic rock and
metal. I think our combination on how we work is good. We make some more
easier songs and then we also do some more creative stuff. You never
know, I use to say that the music comes to me when I create it, depending on
the mood and inspiration. Maybe the next record will be totally different.
Abir: The second album, we want it to be at least ten
times better than the first Asgarda , hard work and passion all
the way. I prefer not to release anything that I’m not convinced of but
I can say, there will be much surprises, in the form of of Chinese opera, vocal
changing techniques etc. A roller coaster, heart attacks, to make people
laugh, cry,get excited, empowered, in both lyrics and music and vocals my
Before we let you go, can I ask you to describe the bands sound and
style for those who may not yet be familiar with you.
Abir: Gothic rock that’s for sure but there are influences as well from metal,
punk etc certainly.
Daniel: Our music is mostly based on Gothic Rock and Darkwave from the
80’s – 90’s but with a blend of metal, punk etc. Many of our fans are
people who also like bands like Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus etc. Some
people difine us as Gothic Metal, this depend on who you ask. We have got a
heavier sound, and sometimes the music also can be kind of intensive.
Many thanks for your time, and best wishes for the coming year.
Thank you very much Simon for taking time to make this interview with
us. (Daniel and Abir)
Madness Of The Night’s debut album “The Asgarda” is available now through Massacre Records.