We’ve seen a lot of Iranian metal bands preforming in Dubai because of lack of venues in Iran. But this time, it’s a rock band with some ladies! Thunder, preforming in Dubai for the first time. We had a chance to sit with them and know how they function as a rock band in the Middle East.
Few months ago, we had an interview with an Iranian band and they tried for permission once, and they didn’t get it. It’s pretty hard to get permission especially for Metal and Rock music, right?
Yeah. It’s damn hard. But you know as all the places, all the countries, guys find some ways, I mean, they find little areas. For example places with a hundred, 150, 200 and they play for people who came for this music. It happens. Until the last years, it’s happened too many times, more than I guess, in 2 years, from 2009 until 2013.

You needed a place to play?
Yes. Some places, how can I say, another institute for example. And because of this kind of experience, we understand how much we must be careful about the place and sound.

Is there a particular topic you shouldn’t discuss lyrical-wise in your music or music general in Iran?
No of course, but you have to go inside of some things that might be acceptable.

So basically avoid politics and religion?
Not all. For example, you can say some things but not directly against the government.

Okay, Let’s say a lyrical content that is very very volatile to politics or very very volatile anti-religion?
It’s not even, just you know. I don’t even like using these things, not because a point of view but because of making problems to others, you know. For example, if you use these kinds of things in your music and some problems came to you. For example, if one band did something like that, nothing elevates, just an imposter.

So tell us about the scene, about the people.
People are excited because it’s not easy now to see such a scene. Can I show you something? That’s some scene published on DVD. That is a cover of electric guitar. People were excited because they have never seen such things, not directly in front of them. And because of that, they were so much happy and in each concert they came more but it’s not easy to understand what people – how can I say it – that don’t understand English well. It’s not easy to communicate, but they like this kind of music. In Iran, it is impossible to play music while people stand up.

Because it’s hard to control, it’s hard to control people.

So about that, like everybody sitting, it just feels wrong to play like a Rock show or Metal show or any show to be honest with you, it’s not like Opera. Why would people sit? Do they sit because they’re afraid of things getting out of control? Can’t the people just ignore the rules and stand up?
No. At most, some minutes and the show will be stopped, people will go home, and the band will have to explain.

But who will know that they stood up?
They always know, they’re everywhere.
By the way, that’s not the problem. All of the places, all of the concert halls are designed for other kind of music. The audiences of Rock and Metal aren’t many in Iran. Because of that, there’s not a place for their performance and the halls are full with chairs and they can’t stand up because it’s this chair over here and the next chair over there. They don’t have any place to stand up.

So basically even if they wanted to stand up, it wouldn’t work.
They won’t do that. But yes.

Can you give us a small background about how you guys met? How did you meet up? How did you get together and decided, “Let’s make a band”? Who thought of making the band and the name and stuff like that? Who is mastermind of your band?
How could I say, mastermind, I don’t know. But I write 98% of the songs. But most of the songs I wrote are not the same as songs I wrote before the concerts and rehearsals. We changed, we altogether. The band members join and okay, this is the original stuff and we must change it to this way. And we practice together and we come up with sounds that you see on stage.

When did you decide to make a band?
In 1998.

Why did you start it?
I was a raw guy, I need it in my blood.

You felt like you needed to make a band?
Yes, because I wanted to experience everything. Actually the first album of Thunder was instrumental, the album in 2000, that I even got permission because it was instrumental. But after that I tried to find some singers that I didn’t find. I worked to make my voice good enough to sing my own stuff. In 2008, I started to rewrite these tracks, most of them, 5 or 6 of them. And we started the band. In 2009, we started a new line up, and little by little guys and girls started joining us. Right now, we have this.

When you started the band, Thunder, did you have to look for members or did you have friends who were ready to be in the band?
There’s no difference between both, because all I knew, all are our friends. For example, if I need a bass player, it had to be a student. If I needed guitar players, I’d hire 2 of my students. There’s not too much choice, and all of them also are my friends.
So basically finding members wasn’t that hard.
No, of course not.

It was easy because you know so much people?

Can you tell me about the first time you started performing and how was it? The very first show.
It was in the Australian embassy, it was great because they had some kind of auditorium and they let the people in, basically, acceptable to get permission. We had chance to play there and it was a good start for us also. You test your music against the people in a free way.

Basically, you can do whatever you want? Sing whatever you need to sing about? Play whatever music you want to play?
Yes, yes. This was the first show.

How did the people react to you?
Like it was great, you know. Like some pop but open.

Can you talk about the albums? How many albums did the band release?
We didn’t release albums with this lineup, because I believe that at the start we don’t need albums, we need gigs.

Do you have any plans for any future albums?
Yes, yes. In 6 or 5 months.

When can we expect your release?
Of course after we finish the album, we must decide is there any chance to get permission to release it in Iran or release it our way.

What about record labels?
Record labels need the permission. It depends on the permission, and if you decided to release it in a free way, then you do not need record labels.

And you told me there are ladies in the band, is that a problem when performing live? And what kind of problem does this issue?
Of course, she could explain that.
>Being a musician lady is a problem, I think in our area. So, when you play Rock, it’s very different because it’s not popular. There are several problems, before the performance you have to set for your outfit and there are many problems, you shouldn’t act very much.

What do you mean by act?
>I mean you should just stand up and sing, and you can’t move. If you review the video of the last concert, you’ll see.
>I really couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything. It was very hard for me because I was going to have a rhythm with my foot, and I couldn’t do that either. It was so much pressure on me.

Have you ever got a show cancelled before?
Thank God, not yet.

Can you tell me about the best show you guys have ever had?
The last show we played in 24 May, 2014.

Last thing I have to tell you, if you had to give a piece of advice to a band that has just started, what would you tell that band?
Exercising and keep the target in mind and don’t forget the dream of something like that. Bbe patient. You should be patient because it’s a long road. You should not give up.

Check photos from their first event in Dubai.


All copyrights reserved to Alexandre Antozzi.
Interviewed by: Jimmy Bakr and Mostafa Knoxville
Written by: Nehal Ali