Dark Phantom – a metal band from Iraq – interview
Go to: Dark Phantom – Metal Band from Iraq artist's page.
Dark Phantom is a metal band from Kirkuk, Iraq. They formed in 2009. To perform and play their music of choice, the band has had to endure many setbacks from protests to bombings to making their own instruments. Inspired by the US heavy metal band "Metallica," Dark Phantom's lyrics often speak of death, destruction, bombings and war - lyrics that reflect what the members of the band had to experience while growing up. They sit down with Pluto Media.
Tell me a little bit about the history of the band. Where did you guys form, and how?
After Iraqi war in 2003, I was listening to Western music like pop and rock with friends, an American GI who was stationed in Kirkuk gave me a Metallica CD. When I listened I found different music, different lyrics. It's changed a lot of things about me and I felt different, like I found myself in this music.
I liked them so much and they inspired me to learn to play music.
I decided to make a metal band in my city Kirkuk and I talked with my cousin Rabeen about this idea, and we played together since 2007. We were looking for metalheads to join us to make a band and I found Sarmad in the university and he become a bass player. Also I found Mustafa in social media as a drummer of the band. We were rehearsing in my room every week, then we meet our vocalist Ehsan - he was good vocalist and we started to write music and lyrics and played some rock covers.
We did our first show in Kirkuk in 2011. It was very good show - there was an audience of like 300 in our first show!
And after the show we were attacked by Friday prayer speech. They said there's a satanic music band in Kirkuk and they did a show, and in that time the situation was not safe and we were scared of attacks and we stopped playing and meeting for a couple of months and closed our page. Then we decided we will start but without making shows in Kirkuk. Also we recorded our first EP but the quality was so bad because there was not much equipment and no experience in 2012. We did some small gigs in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah - it was not bad. Then our vocalist left the band and he travelled to Turkey because of the situation, and also his brother was injured in an explosion. Our drummer left the band too - he said he couldn't play music anymore because he wasn't geting money from the music.
Then we met Mir as a vocalist from Sulaymaniyah, and Mahmood - he was a drummer. We changed our music genre to an extreme and we wrote our first single "Nation of Dogs". We also played some shows in Kurdistan and we were rejected from some places about our lyrics. We recorded our album in 2016 in our small home studio and it was very good and we signed on with a label from Finland.
Why metal? What was it about the genre that appealed to you?
Metal music makes me shout the scream that is inside me. I can explain and write metal music about the war, killing, raping, the destruction that always happens in my country, the religious corruption that make people hate each other. We feel we are one family. We're not asking "What's your nationality? What's your religion?" We ask "Who is your favourite band and favourite musician?" Also, I feel metal united us. I can't talk about those matters in another music genre because it doesn't work. I want to talk about peace and unity rather than love and romance.
Does Iraq have anti metal laws?
No, it's just that the society is against metal music because it is different and sometimes contains lyrics they don't like. That's what makes metal look like outlaw music in Iraq, but there isn't any law against it. It's just not popular music.
Explain what it was like living in Kirkuk at the height of the war.
I was 14 and the city was under bombs, and most people didn't get out much. Even as kids we were scared to play with friends. The markets became empty as people were scared about having their stuff stolen by thieves. There were no jobs and the US Army came inside the city. Most people stole government-circulated stuff. It was violent, many bullet sounds and most people had guns, and as we are from Kirkuk there are different nationalities - everyone raised their country's flag. That's what I remember.
Is death metal popular in Iraq?
No, it's not popular. We have other different popular genres, like Eastern music, pop, rock, and folk music.
Is it hard to get regular gigs in the city?
Yes it's hard because there's no proper place to play metal, and metal does not have a big fan base.
What backlash have you received? Explain some of the negative feedback.
We were attacked from a mosque after our first concert in 2011. They said satanic music was being played by satanic guys in Kirkuk. Afterwards we got messages on Facebook - someone said "Stop playing this Western music, it's forbidden in Islamic religion." And he knew our names and our families. That happened in 2013 and made us stop playing for a couple of months. We still don't know who he was. Many shows have been cancelled because they said our music is forbidden or our music is just violent.
Where did the name Dark Phantom come from?
It came from the fantasy that we had always played in our room and we never felt that one day we would actually be playing on stage or recording a CD, and people who knew us also said our dream was just a dark fantasy.
Also our city is dark because, as you know, Kirkuk is the richest city in petrol and fire from the petrol burning makes dark clouds.
Have you performed anywhere outside of Iraq?
Not yet, but we are applying to play in Syria soon.
How can people get in touch with you, follow you and find out more?
Through social media.
State of War [listen on Soundcloud] Suffocated, soul invaded
Decapitated, hope invalid
Curse the nations and their actions
Damn the natives and the foreigns
Minds of terror, acts of murder
Oath of Heaven, humanity fades
Killing in the name of father
Destroy everything that's holy
Brothers slaying brothers
In this state of war
Father blaming fathers
In this state of war
Lakes of oil, dunes of corpses
Trees of dollars, fuel the fire
Why so silent holy father?
Behold what yours has become now
Mir - Vocalist
Murad - Guitarist
Rabeen - Guitarist
Sarmad - Bass
Mahmood - Drums