My first thought was a: ‘Lebanese band? Interesting!’, but I didn't know what to expect, so I attended the gig, then the moment of truth came; they set the whole place on fire, they exceeded all expectations and adrenaline shot throughout the place. They succeeded in laying the grounds for a solid fan-base in Egypt. Read the interview that I had with the band's vocalist.
The band was formed in 1995, they started off as a small garage band, then in 1997 they decided to take music seriously, and they play heavy/thrash metal. Read to know more!
How did your dream of forming Blaakyum start??
Well, it all started back in 1994 when I got my first Electric guitar and I wanted to form a band. I started looking for members and Blaakyum was born in the summer of 1995, here is the story about how it happened: I used to have a neighbor who liked to play guitar, his name was Maroun Azar (مارون عزار), I would go and teach him a little about chords and chord progressions, and then we started looking for members. He used to play the Harmonica as well. It was our first year at university, so we started looking among schoolmates and colleagues, and we put out a few ads around the area were we lived.
After few weeks of search, Maroun came to me and told me that he found a lead guitarist who was one of his class mates back at school; Jad Nohra. We met Jad at my place and jammed. We were all beginners but Jad had something that I found very impressive; with his limited musical knowledge at the time, he managed to put together some great melodic and expressive solos. After the jam, Jad asked if it was good, and my reply was “You are in!”
Our search went on for a drummer and Bassist. After a few jams the three of us decided that it is time to take serious guitar lessons, as all of us were self-taught and had just the basic knowledge of music and our instruments. So Jad and I started taking private lessons with the same teacher.
As we were searching, we were asked to play in a small religious gig in front of a local church, but we didn’t have a drummer or a bassist till the day of that gig. In the afternoon while they were setting up the set on stage and we were getting ready to decline what to do, one of the people who lived next to the church came to us and told us “I heard you are looking for a drummer? I know a very good one.” And he took us to a house close to the church and he introduced us to a young guy called Jean Saad. Jean was still at school, and he was younger than us by four years, we thought he was too young, but he offered to bring his drum kit to the church and said “What are the songs? Let’s try to jam” after two hours of jamming/rehearsing, we were impressed; he’d managed to play all the songs we prepared, even the ones he didn’t know.
After that gig, we started looking for a band name, although I had came up with Blaakyum way before the band was formed, we kept looking for something else, but then we agreed on Blaakyum. We had our first concert on January 13th 1996, by that time Maroun Azar had left the band because we were more into Metal while he wasn't much of a Metalhead, and had to continue his medical studies. We also didn’t have a bassist, in that concert the bassist of a band called Generation X played with us. After that I hired my brother Samer Deaibess on Bass, as he was a very talented player and that is how the first formation of the band came to be. Later on the band members changed again.
What difficulties faced you as a band??
The band started in 1995! 1996 was the beginning of the attack on Metal music in Lebanon, so we didn’t have peace! We had to hide from the police, and risk our rehearsal studios and concerts being raided; you know what I am talking about as you have faced the same thing in Egypt. So it was hard. But it gave us such an adrenaline rush!
But the major difficulty was keeping the band together, most Lebanese bands struggle to this day, and I do not know of any Lebanese bands that have ever kept their line-ups unchanged.
Also, Metal and Rock music do not generate money, not even pocket money, so it is not a very good investment and usually those who do it, do it for passion. So having a Metal band means you are paying money and never getting any, and people need to live, so many have to study and work and very few could keep up. From 1996 up till the split-up in 2001, we had had already five major line-up changes. By 2001, I was fed up with all the changes and the band split because I couldn’t go on changing members like that, not to mention how bad the economical and political situation always is, we didn’t have facilities to play, practice and perform, and there weren’t any good musical stores; we had two or three musical instruments stores that monopolized the market, and they provided instruments of low quality and high-priced services. From 2007 when Blaakyum reunited, we still went through line-up changes, and we were struggling to keep the band up against all the political and economical disasters.
Through all the hardships, what kept you going?
Honestly I have been the only constant member of Blaakyum, and Blaakyum is like my little child. That’s what kept me going, I always somehow managed to gather some energy and put the band back on track after each blow, each line-up change and each event that affected the band. And during the time before the split-up, I had great support from Mr. Vicken Bajaksian who was Blaakyum’s bassist; from 1997 till 2000 in those three years he really stuck around.
After the band reformation in 2007 I no longer was the only constant member of Blaakyum! Mr. Rany Battikh became my partner in crime, and together we have been guiding Blaakyum ever since, and I really believe that if Rany wasn’t there I wouldn’t have had the strength to carry on. After 2009, new blood joined the band, among which was Jad Feitrouni our drummer, and he has been with us ever since. The three of us have finally become the core of what Blaakyum is today.
A few weeks ago, my brother Rabih Deaibess joined, and now the band has finally become a single unit. So as you can see, what makes us go on is our brotherhood; that we have each other to count on. And that is the very core of Metal.
What inspires your songs and lyrics?
Anything, everything, and sometimes nothing are what inspire us. I mean, I have been doing most of the writings till 2011 when we recorded the debut album, definitely everyone had his input, and the subjects that inspired us were pretty much everything around us. I am personally fascinated by fantasy novels and strategy-based computer games, so most of my writings take on a story-like form, and some songs are related to political events, wars that we suffered, you know we have an endless supply of that *laughs* and some are related to my personal life, but I usually do not like to centre the theme around me, so I take my personal situation and create a bit of a story around it. My personal muse is Bassem Deaibess and eternal inspiration is the Dark Moon, she has been so for the past 15 years and I doubt this will change anytime soon. But now Rany, Jad and Rabih have become totally involved in writing, and I think each will bring his own muse with him, and that is so exciting because no one knows what to expect, not even us... and that’s the best part.
Well, I’m curious about the rock and metal scene in Lebanon, Would you please describe it to us? Do people in Lebanon actually accept the Rock and Metal music?
Definitely not. The Lebanese – like most other Arab countries – have never accepted Rock and Metal, because of their ignorance and primitive minds. Even though we are a bit better than other countries like Syria and Jordan and Iraq where Metal and Rock are 100% forbidden, we still live in the dark ages, the Church and Mosque are always on our tail, although most of the Lebanese Metal heads are religious people, you know the drill, you faced the same thing in Egypt. In Lebanon, between 1996 and 1998 then 2002 till 2005, to be a Metal head was a horrible and dangerous adventure that would land you in jail, like a criminal. But I think all this oppression gave the scene some sort of solidarity and kept it alive, unlike Dubai where Metal is totally free and yet the scene is almost nonexistent. Now things have their ups and downs, so sometimes the Metal scene is great, and other times it’s horrible. We still do not have good concert organizers or proper promoters, this is why I envy Egypt for having Metal Blast, and they are the most professional Metal organizers we have ever met in the Arabic world.
Your last gig in Egypt was awesome; the people loved you and your performance. How did you feel after the gig? And how did the Metal Blast crew contact you?
We felt so happy, we enjoyed every bit of the show, and we loved the Egyptian fans, till now they are our favorite crowd, and I would love to come back again, really. Our gig in Cairo was one of the best we ever gave, and we loved the venue, the organizers and the fans, so hail to you \m/
The Metal Blast crew has my contact because many of them were in Jorzine and we always collaborated with it as it is the best Metal webzine in the Middle East. They were working on a concert for Wyvern,who are the oldest Metal band in Egypt, and back in 2002 or 2003 I was in contact with their drummer, so they thought of getting us on board and combining the two elders of the Easter Scene. I loved the idea and accepted, and this is how it happened.
Were you offered a sponsorship package or a contract with a production label?
Well, this is starting to become a regular question; you see, thing is we are enjoying our freedom for now, of course like any other band, we have to climb our way up the music industry ladder, starting with a small to medium label then going to a sub-indie label... etc. But we have just started with our first record, so we thought we’d tour first, start working on our second album then start looking for a label or a record deal, because we know after that we won’t have the same freedom we now have in our debut, or even the second album, and if you listen to ‘Lord Of The Night’, obviously it has a lot of freedom margin by the diversity that it covers, I am sure once we start working with a Label they will start asking us to narrow it down. So I say probably sometime by the end of this year or the beginning of next we will start looking for a label.
How does it feel to release your debut album after all this time?
Well talking about myself, I am finally glad to get this era over and done with. You see, this band is 16 years old, with 12 active years, and endless original songs that were never recorded (If you exclude the 1998 single). So this album is kind of the best of all the past originals, from the oldest and simplest songs to the newest. Not all the songs were written recently, which is why there are a lot of different styles in the album.
Are there any plans for a new album?
For sure!! We’ve already started writing new material, and one thing I can promise, the next album will be faster, and heavier, so keep a look out.
Will we see u again in Egypt?
Wallahi we enjoyed Egypt so much, as I’ve said before, and we would love a comeback, but we definitely cannot just come on our own. I am sure Metal Blast would be there when we come again, as well as the few fans who were watching us and started a group called “We want Blaakyum in Egypt Again.” So yeah! Since fans want us and we have great organizers like Metal Blast, we are definitely coming back.
Any last words for the fans?
Keep up the faith and spirit, you guys are heroes to have held up in the dark days, and we hope these days are over. I hope the future is brighter, and we will be there to support you just as you were so great at supporting us. And thank you for the interview.
Interviewed by: Hossam Ramzy