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In this part, Arash Sobhani will talk about each song on Eshghe Sorat in detail and more intimately.
Kiosk will be in concert this Saturday, 13 October in Orange County.
Arash, tell me what To Kojayi is about. What's the story behind it? Don't leave the juicy stuff out, please! The more detail, the better. You don't need to name names, but it would be best if you could relate the realities of your life to the lyrics from back when you were writing the song.
First let me add something to the previous question, there is another good song with the same concept by Ronny Jordan called "Ronny you talk too much" I think he was inspired by Chet Atckins as well....
Back to "to Kojaee"!... You meet someone, let's say in a party and you feel the spark, for whatever reason you lose the connection and you start looking for her, and this could be a difficult task if you are in a big city like Tehran!...And as the search goes on you realize how everything is there, (from the moon and the stars etc.) for a perfect relationship except one thing! She is the missing element!
So did that happen to you? (I know it did, I just want more juice!) :-)
Alright, I guess that would bring me to ask you this: Do you consider yourself a private person? How do you relate that to the songs you write?
I don't think writing a song is against being a"private person", these songs refer to an experience that is very general, everybody has gone through them (at least once!) These are common human feelings that will have an impact on you, if you are a writer, you might start writing about it, if you are a singer it makes you sing, and if you are working in an office, you lose your concentration and stop working and start writing songs!
Okay, let me go about my question a different way:
Do you consider yourself a private person?
To some extent, yes! I am a private person, I usually don't open up to people that quickly, I am not the type that impresses you the first time we meet, on the contrary, all my good friends didn't like me 'til the 3rd-4th time that we had seen each other, a lot of of people find me arrogant because I fail to come up and say HI HOW ARE YOU? WHAT A GREAT DAY!.... Almost all of my friends' parents in high school didn't like me and thought that everything bad that happened to their kids was because of me, but after a while I do open up and become more comfortable and then I am not a private person anymore. My friends know every little detail of my life, in fact I do not even have 1 single secret to myself! Now I don't know if I have answered your question but, I think I tried.
Yes, more or less! So how do you think that personality trait of yours relates to your songwriting? Do you write *certain* songs to shout to the world "hey, this is my story", or do you write them just to share and find common ground with others? All of the above? None of the above? :-)
Could you delve on that?
To me the best work of art will be something close to the Norwegian painter (Munch)'s “The Scream”!
I have traced that “scream” in everything that has touched me. From the guitar solo in “Shine on you crazy diamond” to “Toop Morvary” e Sadegh Hedayat, and I agree with Andy Warhol’s theory of 15 minutes of fame, so there it is, a big stage that everybody has 15 minutes to say what they want, and I think you have to scream! You have 15 minutes to scream and if you can’t or don’t know how to or… just step out of the way please and let the next person take the stage!
Back to your question, I have tried to scream through writing/playing music. My personality definitely affects the way I write, and when I listen to Kiosk I can see how impatient and moody I am with everything, how I don’t take anything seriously and forget my own lyrics! But that is o.k. because that’s me! Just an ordinary man screaming, what can you expect?
Now that you mentionned Hedayat, there was a reference in one of your songs on the new album -- albeit to one of his more obscure pieces-- could you talk more about that? We'll get back to the subject of references later, but I just wanted to get that one out of the way, since I'm sure not many have picked up on it.
Getting back to "To Kojaee", is that also a song that's rooted in the scream from within?
Actually there are two references to Hedayat in Eshgh e Soraat, one is in Hameh Ragham Mojood ast:
"Don Juanhay e Karaj...ghahramanay e dokhtar bazi"... Don Juan e Karaj is a name of a short story by Hedayat, the other reference is in the cover design, we took it from Ghaziyeye "Vay Be Hal Noomcheh, Yajooj Majooj Ghompany Limited" from "Vagh Vagh Sahab", I think this book is one of the most progressive books written in Farsi considering what was happening in Farsi literature at the time. To me, Hedayat's work and life is a living example of our history and, it will take a while until our culture can produce another soul another artist and another wonderful human being like Hedayat... Back to to kojaee, I guess everything has to have that element of scream in it to be worth recording, To Kojaee is no exception.
How did the violin/fiddle get into To Kojaee? Was that an idea that was there from the beginning, or did it come along the way? I must say it makes a whole world of difference, at least to my ears. Also, how come the fiddle wasn't used in other songs besides To Kojaee and Shab Raft?
To Kojaee was first arranged as a standard rock tune, which sounded too commercial, I re-recorded the track and sent it out to some friends, a good friend of mine (you might know him!) suggested that we double the tempo, I changed the tempo and the mood of the song was totally different. Now we felt that we need an instrument to play a solo part in between the 2 verses, and we were thinking of clarinet (Yiddish style) or cello or accordion, and of course violin, I came across this great violin player in the Bay area by accident, I told him about the band and where we are from and all that and he was really interested in helping us. So we sent him the tracks and started working on it, he made 3 different versions for each of the songs (To Kojaee and Shab Raft), and we chose the takes.
We did not want to overdo it by having violin in all the tracks, and I think Shab Raft, because of its romantic mood, and To Kojaee, because of its gypsy feel, were the best tracks for violin. Now that I listen to the album, I feel like we could have used violin in Afsoos as well.
Hmmm... And I thought your friend had suggested you up the tempo on Eshghe Sorat! :-)
Speaking of Shab Raft, what made you include it on the album, finally?
I am not sure! I really don't know how it got in there! And we have received very mixed reactions about this track. People either think it's the worst track of the album or the best one!
I am not crazy about the melody line of the vocal. I think we could have come up with a better line, considering the chord progression- which has room for very exotic melodies (I should have listened to my friends again!) - but the lyrics and the chord progression were what made me record the song in the first place and later on when we added the electric piano and the violin, it sounded ...how can I say, it sounded really close to the feeling I had when I was writing this song. These are the only 2 tracks that have violin, To Kojaee is a question, Shab Raft is the answer, and in both of them violin plays the dominant role in telling the story, the first one it is eager to find out (to kojaee?) and in Shab Raft, the listener knows that (…oomadanet doroogheh, khorshid che bi forooghe) … and Evan has done a great job of conveying that feeling!
Shab Raft actually sounds a lot like the later works of Leonard Cohen, like this one.
Did you do that on purpose?
What's for sure is that it doesn't have the smoothness of "Ey Dad Az eshgh" and "Jaddeye Khoshbakhti". It even has a few false notes in there... One actually gets the feeling that the album was rushed after hearing Shab Raft. Is that the case?
Also, speaking about smoothness, the recording (or something else?) sounds like it has a few rough edges. I think with the exception of Sobh Shod on the previous album, all the rest of the tracks on Adame Mamooli were very smooth. Comment?
I can see what you mean by saying it sounds like Cohen's song, but again the chord progression to Shab Raft is a bit more complex, and if it sounds like Dance Me To The End Of Love, it is absolutely not intentional. Although I love that song and have played it many times, I don’t see how it might have inspired me to write Shab Raft, but you could be right.
I do not hear any false notes, I just hear what I may call “uncertain” or “dirty “ notes by the guitar, as usual the guitar player in this song is the worst musician on the track! And that is me which means we have a good band (somebody told me, "you have a good band when the worst musician in the band is you!").
Like I mentioned before, for a lot of different reasons we did not have enough studio time, and that certainly shows itself on the final product, but at the same token I like the “unfinished” or “raw” feel. If I had all the time and resources in the world to make an album, I would never go for a very clean, precise sound. I hear a lot of that in works of Dylan too, I prefer not to be a perfectionist, and by that I don’t mean to do a poor quality work, I just want to leave in that “uncertainty” element, that element of “chance” and most of the times they come out very good; like you feel it is part of the song. Like the final verse of Taraneh where accidentally I started mumbling words, and it is now part of the song, or the words at the end of Hameh Ragham Mojood Ast! They were all accidents, but I do agree with you that Ey Dad az Eshgh, and Jadeh Khoshbakhti are better songs!
Noonoonoo, I didn't mean Shab Raft sounds like Dance Me To The End Of Love, I mean your voice sounds like that of Leonard Cohen on his later songs. So would you say you prefer the overall sound of this album better than that on Adame Mamooli?
Funny you should cite Dylan's rough edges and your own guitar playing. That actually makes me think of something else I wanted to ask you about the overall sound of the album. In the concert you guys held in San Francisco, people saw you doing a lot more things with the guitar, even getting into jams and extending your riffs, and they all sound absolutely amazing! How come you don't do that on the album? Why go an imperfect conservative on the recorded material (like on Shab Raft) but then leash out beautifully live instead? It's usually the other way around... Artists take their chances in the studio, knowing they can record the imperfect parts again, but live, they just limit themselves to repeating the easy chords (okay, not all artists, but many)...
We are planning on adding more solo parts to our concert performances, we look at the live performance as a big jam session, and we improvise most of the solo parts, and since the band leader is a very good friend of mine (!) and an awesome guitar player, he uses his authority to give me more room so I can do the SHAHVATRANI, while I have the confidence that he is there to watch my back if I start SOOTI DADAN like team e melli! He will come in and save the band.I think this is how most blues bands do their live concerts, they have solo parts that are much longer than the recording and they improvise the hell out of the song, it is very fun! In the studio you don't want to talk too much with improvising, you want to make the point!
Back to the other part of your question, I see Adam e Mamooli as a totally different production from Eshghe Soraat in terms of mix and mastering. I like them both, but I just think that they are very different and that doesn't mean one is better than the other.
... which brings us to the next one: Do you still see yourself as a blues band? This album sounded a lot less bluesy than the other one. Eshghe Sorat even has a seventies-type disco beat to it. Are you blues, or are you "happies" all of a sudden? :-)
We write the songs on guitar, and when you use a standard blues line up for the recording and the sound and everything, you become a bit bluesy! And our influences; people who we grew up (and grew old!) listening to were either blues players (like Stevie Ray Vaughan or B.B King or …) or influenced by blues players (like E.C, Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin and of course Dire Straits!), so the blues element is there, but comparing to Adam e Mamooli, I must say we are less of a blues band. Actually, we are aiming to have no label and sound like KIOSK, that’s what I am talking about when I say we are not mature enough and we still don’t have our own genuine sound, but this album was a big step for us towards that goal.
I've heard someone compare the sound on this album to "Soviet-Era-Russian-Protester-Folk-Guitar sound".
What would you say to that?
Regarding the sound, as far as I remeber, the Soviet protest music was very close to Punk Rock. We are not Punk at all, and we are not protesting, we are nagging (that's the Iranian way, you don't fight, you "nag" your enemy to death!) But I guess you can find similarities more in the context of our work and the Soviet protest movement.
We both are talking about a corrupted totalitarian system that has damaged the very humane values of a peaceful society and basically has taken an entire nation as hostage... Be ghole maroof, don't let me open my mouth!
It's good you mention this, because one gets the impression that, if you'll allow me the expression, your tongue is a lot sharper than on the previous album as far as criticism of the social environment in Iran is concerned. Is there any specific reason to that?
That will also bring us to the subject of songs like Eshghe Sorat, Bitarbiat, Hame Ragham Moojood Ast, etc. We'll also talk about the video for the title track (so Ahmad, get ready!).
I am outside the Islamic Republic now, which gives me a feeling of being free to say more. The situation has gotten worse so I guess I have to say more! But we still want to be able to have people in the Islamic Republic be able to listen to our music without being afraid. We are having problems distributing the new album, because people are scared to be involved in this!
Wow, that's very interesting to know.
Let's get to Eshghe Sorat, the song. When did you write that song? Were you in Iran? How did the ideas of "Pizzaye Ghormesabzi" and "Zereshkpolo ba ketchup" come up? Of course, these actually represent other things, which apparently some of the audience hadn't grasped entirely. Could you enlighten that part of the audience a bit? :-)
The structure of the song was laid out in Iran, I wasn’t sure if it was catchy enough, and on the demos it didn’t sound very powerful (I am not saying it is right now!)
I started re-doing the lyrics here outside the Islamic Republic, and it was right about the time Akbar Ganji was here, I didn’t go to any of his speeches but I usually followed his articles online. In one of those articles he emphasized on the fact that there can not be any attribution to democracy, there is no such a thing as people's republic, or Islamic Republic or whatever republic. There is only democracy; no religious democracy or socialist democracy, but pure democracy! And I think he was the first person to really stick his neck out and talk about the fact that there is no point in reforming something that is not functioning and is based on a wrong idea. You can not reform it, you have to change it! As Saramago said: "Reform is the minimum work to keep the existing situation"!
The symbolism of showing what happens when you try to force two completely different and contradicting ideas and coming with a better new one was probably best shown in Shahr e Gheseh, where at the end the elephant becomes MANOUCHEHR!
….where were we?!
You were talking about the contradicting terms in each verse of Eshghe Sorat...
I started writing down the ridiculous terms that you mostly read in the newspapers, meaningless writings on the walls of Tehran, listening to radio or watching T.V signs, posters, etc……
Words that are all contradicting each other and do nothing but give you headache! I came up with 3 full pages!!! ….all I had to do was to put them in order so they just have a rhyme, and a melody! And add a little salt and pepper... There you have it: Pizza Ghormeh Sabzi!
Next week: Conversation with Ahmad Kiarostami, director of the Eshghe Sorat video; plus Arash opens up even more about the album!
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