“Self Expression is the pinnacle of all art… Music should refresh your mind, compose your thoughts, contribute to build your character, and I think you can find all of that in black metal…”
– Sina, From The Vastland
Interview by Jason Guest
Jason: Hi Sina. Thank you very much for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on Kamarikan, it’s a great album (Ed: Jason’s review is here).
Sina: Hails Jason, thank you for your attention to my band and positive words about my music, and also this chance that you give me to talk about my band, music and thoughts. It is my pleasure that I can see a review about my album in your website… Great…
Jason: To begin, can you tell us what you set out to achieve with Kamarikan? Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted for this record?
Sina: Yes, when I started to work on the Kamarikan album I had a clear idea of what I want for that…you know, after releasing my previous album, Darkness Vs The Light, The Perpetual Battle, I got good feedback and it gave me extra motive to work on my next album. Actually it is in continuation of that album, I wanted to make an environment according to my lyrics, something old, dark and pure, full of emotions, sombre and sure stormy! Also as always I really liked to correct myself and be better day by day, so, I read all of the reviews about my previous album, talked with my friends, noticed to my fans comments and tried to rectify weak points of that…
Jason: How did the tracks on the album evolve since you began writing for it? Were there any that were re-written or saw a significant overhaul since they first appeared?
Sina: Well, as I said I started to work on Kamarikan immediately after Darkness Vs The World, The Perpetual Battle and it take a time about more than one year. You know, I am strict in my music writing, I worked on each track with precision and I didn’t want to prepare my album as soon as possible. It happened that I changed my arrangement during writing more than 2-3 times in some tracks… For example, when I wrote a song, first I did play and record it as a preliminary version and tried to listen to it several times in a week to see how is my feeling about that, then I think to made some changes if it was necessary…
Jason: Can you tell us about the album title, what it means, and how it relates to the music and the lyrics on the album?
Sina: All of the lyrics that I wrote are related to the old Persian history, myths, ancient texts and our old world. We have lots of old texts that are full of battles between gods and devils, lights and darkness and etc. The name of the album Kamarikan is taken from one of the important events that mentioned in that texts, when Ahriman decided to assault to the universe and destroy all life, he made 6 assignee and gave them his missions and…Actually, in each track I explain one of old Persian myths, events, legends and stories, etc.
Jason: How do you approach composition of your music? Do you have an idea of how you want the songs and your albums to sound or do they take shape as they are being developed?
Sina: When I want to write a song I have an idea of how I want to start the song and develop it so I write a melody or riff then I start working on it according to my idea but you know it is not a law for me, even it happened that I changed structure of the song in middle of the work because I had better feelings about that… You know, it is all about my inner feelings and always I listened to that…!
Jason: How do your songs begin their life? Is it with a melody, a riff, a lyric, or a theme? And how do they develop?
Sina: Indeed, most of my tracks brought to life with a riff or melody then I worked on it and developed but I had some tracks before that I started composing them with a theme that I had in my mind. You know it depends on the situation…
Jason: As a one-man band, there must be countless challenges that you face working by yourself. How do you stay on top of it all?
Sina: Yes, you know it is hard when you want to do everything by yourself, you have thousands of works to do. Actually you should work as 4-5 men, you need extra energy to be composing, writing, playing guitar lines, drums, bass, lyrics, vocals, arrangements, mixing, mastering and etc. I think it should be more than a normal enthusiasm for you to do all of this non-stop..! For me it is my passion, I always keen on improve my music, knowledge and want to going further… It is most important thing in my life…big part of my life… You know, always big part of my mind is busy around my music works and I can’t stop that!
Jason: Am I correct in thinking that you designed the artwork for Kamarikan? If so, what influenced the design? Are there any bands or artists in particular that you took inspiration from? And how does it relate to the album?
Sina: Well, actually I designed an artwork for Kamarikan, all pages for the booklet, I tried to show an environment that is related to that event when Ahriman is trying to create his assignees, something dark and mysterious. But when I signed a contract with Indie Recordings they give me an offer and we had an agreement to give the artwork to Marcelo Vasco (one of the famous metal artwork designers who did thousands of works for great metal bands all around the world ). You know, actually it was my good chance because I think his work is great! So we talked together and I explained him about the Kamarikan and the story behind that, so he did the artwork and I really enjoyed of his work… You know, it is something mysterious, with some cryptic concept!
Jason: How would you say you have progressed since your first full length, Darkness vs. Light, The Perpetual Battle? How does From the Vastland differ between the two albums?
Sina: Actually, the main structure of the songs are not very different; however, in Kamarikan I tried to write my songs more aggressive, powerful and exactly according to environment that I have on my lyrics. Indeed, all tracks are very fast like a storm but with sombreness in its heart. Also the quality of recording is better than the first one. Hopefully I think I made a better album than a previous one when you compare them with each other in details…
Jason: Does composing by yourself provide any challenge? How do you push yourself to be creative and keep it fresh and inspiring?
Sina: It is really important for me to be better day by day… Always I am trying to do my best, I want to go further and improve my music, so for that I should keep my mind creative and fresh. I always trying to listen to good music, reading books, thinking about the ideas and improve my knowledge about music also the other work that I do. And it is really helpful for me to go to the mountains several times in a month and trying to refresh myself, you know being close to the nature always makes me relax and I can think deep with centralization to my works…
Jason: You take Persian myths as influence for your lyrics. Can you tell us about the significance of these myths and what you find so inspiring about them?
Sina: Well, you know, Iran has a great history full of myths, ancient stories, legends and etc. Indeed, we have lots of ancient texts that are about battles between good and evil, darkness and light, gods and devils. So when you read those texts you can imagine the environment of those texts are really proper for this kind of music; evil and good forces, battles, spiritual and mysterious events, creatures and etc. That is really inspirational for me. You can find so many important things in ancient texts…
Jason: For the myths, what texts did you refer to for your research?
Sina: I am really strict when I want to write my lyrics. Actually, I always do about 3 months of research for each album. I was raised up in Iran so it is clear that I am familiar with my history, myths, etc. but we have some important ancient books like “Shahnameh” or “Avesta” and some other Zoroastrian ancient books that are really helpful for me. Also, some of our scholars did special efforts in the past and wrote reference books that are proper to research. On the other hand I have hundreds of articles/texts about Persian myths that I did research before and found them from several books…
Jason: Myths seem to be very important in terms of individual, cultural and national identity. Why do you think this is?
Sina: I my opinion, history is part of your life. You know, it should be important for everyone to know about the history, it is full of knowledge, lessons and sure you can find some important parts of your identity in your history. I think the role of myths and ancient symbols is really important for any society, also for people all around the world, you know, it can help to create unity and this is important part of national identity. Actually you can create future by looking back on past ideals…
Jason: In western culture, rock and metal, once deemed “dangerous” by the powers that be, are becoming more acceptable and are now part of the mainstream. Do you think black metal is the last remaining musical art form for true self expression?
Sina: Self Expression is the pinnacle of all art. Well, I think the main difference between metal music, especially black metal with other genres of music, is its pure emotion, spirit. It is a little hard to explain but I think black metal music comes from the depth of the soul… I think it does not matter how successful or popular a music genre, the important thing is the spirit of the music. Music should refresh your mind, compose your thoughts, contribute to build your character, and I think you can find all of that in black metal…
Jason: From what I’ve read elsewhere, I understand that you were a fan of death metal and were involved in the Iranian underground scene for a while. Can you tell us about your involvement in the scene?
Sina: Yes, I was involved in Iran metal scene from more than 10 years ago. I had another band also worked with some of my friends that had metal bands as a back team to help them for writing music, recording their music, designing their artworks and etc.
Jason: Were you in any bands? If so, did you release any material? (and where can we hear and/or get hold of it?)
Sina: Well, as I said, I had another band which is named Sorg Innkallese and we released 9 albums during 2004-2008. Our last 3 albums released by Estonian label company Hexenreich Records and distributed in more than 7 countries like Norway, UK, Germany, Russia, and Greece. Also, one of our albums was re-released in Vinyl format in Norway with Hellish Records by Tom Erik Larsen and we really got great feedback in that time. I think still some of Sorg Innkallese albums are still available on Hexenreich Records also Hellish Records.
Jason: Do you ever listen back to those older albums? What’s your view of it now?
SIna: Yes, sometimes I listen to my earlier works and still I like them. You know, in that time I had less experience but I was full of motivation. Still when I listen to those works it makes me emotional…good memories…
Jason: I also read that as a child, your parents listened to Pink Floyd and Camel. What it was that drew you to heavy metal? What prompted that transition from progressive rock into much heavier music?
Sina: Yes, I remember when I was a child my family listened to Rock music (the bands like Pink Floyd, Camel, Eloy and etc.) and I grew up with that kind of music, so after some years I found heavy and thrash metal music (some classic bands like Skid Row, W.A.S.P, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, etc.) and then step by step, I went further with that… You know, it is complicated to explain what was happened. it is all related to your inner feelings, passion, thoughts. Actually it is not a decision that you want to choose, I believe it comes from depth of your existence, your need…
Jason: How did you find your way into black metal? And what was it about black metal that you found so appealing?
Sina: I remember that was about more than 15 years ago. I was fan of Death and thrash Metal music in that time… I had a friend who lived in Austria and when he came to Iran for vacation he gave me a CD copy of a Burzum album. So, I remember when I listened to that for the first time I think with myself that is very strange (the environment of the music was dark and mysterious for me) but it gave me new feelings… Indeed, that was the music that I found very close to myself and I started to discover and know more about that great genre.
Jason: Who are your main influences? Are there any bands that have had a significant impact on the band’s sound?
Sina: Generally I really like old school black metal (like early 90s works) and if I want to mention to some bands I should say I like Gorgoroth, Immortal, Mayhem, Keep of kalessin, Lord Belial, Marduk, Helrunar, Belenos, Dark Funeral, Enthroned, Darkthrone, Burzum and so many other bands! You know, it is clear that my music’s sound is under the influences of the music that I am hearing from the past years until now but really I’m always trying to have my own signature on my music, something special… I don’t want to make my music like any other bands; it is important for me to keep my own style.
Jason: There’s a distinct 90s Norwegian influence in your music. What is it about this era that appeals to you?
Sina: Yeah… As I said, I really like the early works of 90’s golden era of black metal… The released albums of that time are all impressive; you can find true and pure soul of black metal in all early 90’s works. It is clear that black metal has improvement after that time… Maybe it seems musically everything is really simple in 90s black metal works but the important fact is those works are the base of this genre. Indeed, if that works hadn’t brought it to life now we would have nothing in this genre and it is valuable… You know, this is not my decision to play 90’s like music. It comes from depth of my mind, soul… This is my passion… It is natural that when you are a fan of a genre then you will play that.
Jason: Your first gig with From The Vastland was at the Inferno Festival in Oslo, Norway this year. That must have been very exciting. How was it? How did you come to be on the bill? Which musicians did you play with for that gig? And how did you choose to work with them?
Sina: Honestly, I should say it was in my dream during the past years that someday I would play my music at a live concert. Eeverything happened with help of Christian Falch (The documentary producer who is working on his film about Black Metal “BlackHearts” and I am one of the characters of his documentary); he helped me a lot to prepare everything ready for me like finding band members, etc. Then I had chance to play at Inferno as a one of important black metal festival with great musicians like Vyl (Keep of Kalessin, Gorgoroth -Drums), Tjalve (1349, Pantheon I – Bass) and Destructhor (Morbid Angel, Myrkskog – Guitars) as band members… That was Unbelievable! What was better than that for me? It was like a dream… Everything was great… It was best event of my artistic life… I really enjoyed when I played my music on stage, it is a unique feeling when you see the good feedback of the audience… Even now it is hard to find proper words to explain how good it was…
Jason: How did rehearsals go? Did you ask that the musicians be faithful to your music or did you allow them to add their own touch?
Sina: When I came to Norway I met the band members for the first time. They were all friendly and I didn’t feel I am strange there. We had a very good relationship (and still we have and we are in contact). We started rehearsing and everything went well without any problem; we had only 3 days of rehearsal and then Fire! Since I recorded my album and it was ready to release by Indie Recordings (Norway), I sent my album about 1 month before to band members, so nothing changed in rehearsing. However, you know it is clear that each musician has his own touch and sure you could feel that but it was not a change in songs.
Jason: What’s the future for From The Vastland? Are you working on more material? A new album?
Sina: Well, I want to continue my way; I have a big plan for the future. Now I am working on new material for my next album. Actually, I wrote tracks and now I am working on lyrics. Hopefully next month I will go to Norway and it is in my plan to record my next album there with other band members in studio…
Jason: Will From The Vastland become a full band? If so, do you have anyone in mind for the line-up? Will it be the musicians that played with you at Inferno?
Sina: Yes, hopefully it will be. Sure it is my pleasure to work with the band members that I had at Inferno. According to our plan, I will record my album with them in Norway. You know, since they are all known, famous and professional musicians, so, it makes me really happy to have their ideas and help for my next album. Hopefully the next album will be much more better than previous one!
Jason: Do you have more live shows planned? Will you be touring? And will we be seeing you in the UK anytime soon?
Sina: Yes, this is in our plan to do live concerts in the near future if it is possible at Trondheim Metal Festival or maybe at Inferno (Norway) again but you know, first I should find a way to come there for couple of weeks to make everything ready. Now we are working to find a proper way… Nobody knows about the future but sure it is my pleasure to come to UK and play my music there if it is possible. I’d really like to make this happen in near future.
Jason: Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Sina: I just want to say thank you to all people that supported me during these past months; you gave me positive energy and motivation to continue my way full of energy. Sure, with the help of you, I can improve my music… Also, I wanna say thank you for your good interview; hope to see you someday in UK. Have a nice time.