Could you introduce yourselves and the band first?
Hani Abbadi: Thank you for conducting this interview, it's so much appreciated. Bilocate is a six-piece dark oriental metal band from Jordan. We formed back in 2003, released our first demo EP in 2003 as well and then released a debut album 'Dysphoria' in 2005, followed by 'Sudden Death Syndrome' which was highlighted as a masterpiece by the international media with more than 80 reviews, and quite recently released our latest effort in 2012, 'Summoning The Bygones' via the Code666 Label, and it is receiving pretty great feedback from the media so far.
I must start with complementing you guys on 'Summoning The Bygones', I scored it a 96/100. Now that it is on the market for some months, how have reactions been so far? Both from the media, but more importantly from the fans?
Hani Abbadi: Thanks for the compliment, actually the majority of the media have been very positive, especially major magazines like Metal Hammer, Legacy magazine etc. 'Summoning The Bygones' is a very complex release and not easy to digest due to being long and spanning a bit over 70 minutes, so it does take some time to get the feeling from it and it might require more time to peel-out all those layers that form the songs. What is great about this release is that it gives you an idea of the past and present of Bilocate, with '2nd War In Heaven' being one of our early songs, and the sonf 'Hypia' also being taken from the demo, in comparison to the all-new 'Beyond Inner Sleep'. The fans' reaction was beyond amazing, all over the social media portals that we use to interact with our fans. It is always good to be appreciated for you art, so I want to take this chance to thank all our fans. Hats down, I salute you.
What I like most about the album is the variation and the fact that all instruments are an integral part of the arrangements, not just working well together, but actually complementing each other. The end result being more than just the sum of its parts. With this amount of variation and musicianship, I am very curious towards your individual and collective influences and backgrounds, both as musicians as as human beings as well.
Waseem EsSayed: Well, I guess this question requires a lot of words to be answered. From the early days of Bilocate we had this direction of utilizing and leveraging-on our individual capabilities, interests, and understandings as per member to add more strength and thought to our presence in the scene through our material, our internal collaboration, or the way we interact with everything that is external to Bilocate. To be more elaborative, in addition to being the keyboardist in the band, I am also the producer, so my main concern is the compositional quality of the material you eventually listen to and the vision associated with it. Now it is not that I am composing everything but I am setting the main ground and atmosphere for how Bilocate's music and style should be, and then organize and arrange the compositions arising from six different minds and talents and direct the composing process for the band. The result is Dark Oriental Metal, or what the fans and media keep referring to as the unique, sophisticated, variety-rich music of Bilocate. Personally I am into organization, culture, deep thinking, and visionary moments. Moreover, I come from a business background. My main musical influences would be Steven Wilson, Mikael Åkerfeldt, Tori Amos, David Gilmour, and bands such as My Dying Bride, Primordial, Katatonia, and Anathema.
Now on a different field, Ramzi (EsSayed, vocals – Sicktus) handles the marketing works for the band, and it makes sense because he has the charisma and vision required to guarantee top-notch marketing from communications, appearance, to presence. And it makes even more sense that he actually spent most of his business career in the marketing and events management domain. Hani – our bassist – plays the business development role, when it comes to handling relationships with record labels, agencies, all business communications, Hani operates like a whole agency by himself. Rami – guitars – is also considered as our technical consultant and the band's internal sound engineer. He is more like a perfectionist and you can just feel that he is a technical person. It is not a coincidence; he is actually a computer programmer.
So you see, there is more among the Bilocate members than just six musicians gathering up and recording music. Furthermore, we have been together for many years now, our personal friendship has grown up to last forever. As a whole band we get influenced by concepts like life, death, deep thoughts, the history and present in our region relevant to all the wars, struggling, faiths, and feelings associated with it. The members of the band come from different musical backgrounds, doom metal, death metal, black metal, thrash, heavy, you name it, even from non-metal backgrounds.
What are the feelings and emotions you want to get across with your listeners? How do you want them to react to your music? Obviously, everyone should react as he or she pleases, but I could imagine that there is a certain feeling you want to get out there.
Hani Abbadi: Well, as you said, emotions are more individual, however the general vibe revolves around our region, living in a region that has not seen peace for many years, where death dwells around, reveals the darker side of humanity, how capable of violence we are.
Do you have a lyrical theme, a message to get across? Who writes the lyrics and what inspires the lyrics?
Ramzi EsSayed: I mainly write the lyrics with the help of my brother Waseem in a track or two, lyrics are always about what we face here in our region. We take our feelings and thoughts and put them into words, mainly it is all about war, death, sadness, and the struggles in life. Sometimes I write about happiness and how it never came. This reflects on the music, as parts are mainly composed based on the theme or the view we want to translate. We image it as a sequence of images that needs a musical theme to its story. The lyrics are about real things we are living everyday.
Some of the songs on 'Summoning The Bygones' were present on the demo 'Dysphoria', most were present on the debut album with the same title. 'Hypia' on the new one is the renamed version of 'Days Of Joy', so I only miss 'Shrouded'. So, why did you choose not to include 'Shrouded'?
Waseem EsSayed: For some listeners it was obvious that 'Summoning The Bygones' is an extended piece, we know that, it is fine with us, but we just did not want to really exhaust the running time of the album, especially since it is not a double-disk release. Furthermore, we felt that the album is complete like this, we did not really see the need to include another short song among the ones currently on the list. And also, the idea was not to copy 'Dysphoria' as with everything it includes, in fact, if you compare the song 'A Deadly Path' in the two releases you will find that the one in 'Dysphoria' had a part in the middle that is not currently there in 'Summoning The Bygones', that part could be as big as the whole song of 'Shrouded', I hope you can see my point.
What was the reason for you guys to re-record the songs? Did you also re-arrange them? What have you changed since their first release in 2003 and/or 2005?
Hani Abbadi: Well, the idea came about when we released 'Sudden Death Syndrome' back in 2008, the amazing touch done by Jens Bogren on the mixing and mastering created a huge difference compared to 'Dysphoria', since it endured some critique related to the recording quality and final publishing, besides, the album has not been distributed properly and so on, and we knew that 'Dysphoria' had some great material, and we felt that it should be shared with our fans the way it should be, as the album holds the essence and spirit of Bilocate.
Waseem EsSayed: The songs were actually re-arranged and re-recorded with some fine-tuning on the lines, parts, from composing, instrumentation, to recording. We meant to review the album from all aspects and consider how it should be released now, so we brought the vision from ten years ago and built up on it with the current more-mature mindset.
So the only new songs on the album are in fact 'Beyond Inner Sleep' and 'Dead Emotion', a Paradise Lost cover (on which I will return later). Do you have any new material ready yet, any new songs written? When can we expect a completely new album?
Hani Abbadi: Yes for sure, we have already laid out some new material and we want to speed up the process and try to release it by next year, to celebrate our tenth anniversary. So fans should stay tuned for more news.
It took me some time to figure out that 'Summoning The Bygones' contained of lot of older Bilocate songs. Was it the label's decision or yours not to mention this in the bio? Why not mention something that is this unusual and worth knowing? I see it is mentioned on your website, but on a lot of other places, it isn't.
Waseem EsSayed: Actually I am not really sure about the accuracy of this finding, because basically the fact that 'Summoning the Bygones' included (not entirely) some old material from 'Dysphoria' has not been a secret, and neither the band nor the label or anyone else that has to do with this had any intentions of covering this. I believe in most of our official PRs, interviews, and social media posts, we have mentioned this fact. But now if we want to be precise about this I can say, we did not want to cover this fact, but on the other hand, this is not how we want the audience to digest it, like, just a re-mastered re-issue of 'Dysphoria', definitely not, for me both are two separate releases.
Hani Abbadi: In addition to what Waseem explained, I can also say that 'Dysphoria' has not reached Europe, so it is like it has not been released and has not been circled.
(Sicktus: I understand your position, your arguments are certainly valid and I am not attacking you on this, but still, the fact that almost all the songs on the album had been released before in another form on another release seems to be relevant information… Not mentioning it in the biography/factsheet accompanying the release came across a bit strange. Perhaps it was just overlooked, since it was a very obvious fact for all those involved and therefore not considered relevant to mention? As I said, I did find it on your website and you strike a valid point about distribution and the album being more than just a re-release, it was just something that made me wonder when researching for this interview.)
Are your older releases still available? If so, where can fans get their copy?
Hani Abbadi: Unfortunately, they are out of stock as they were limited to small quantities, so I guess they can be found on EBay or some other trading portals, however, our audience already has the chance to hear Bilocate's essence with the new 'Summoning the Bygones'.
If I judge by the songs that have been released, you guys have written around fifteen songs in nine years of existence, that is less than two songs each year. Please do not get me wrong, I would go for quality over quantity anytime, but this amount of songs does make me wonder: what is your songwriting process like? Who comes up with the ideas, how long does it take to fine tune the material before you are all happy with it?
Hani Abbadi: I am glad you have asked this question. I totally agree with quality over quantity, but let me share some of the difficulties we have been facing when it comes to releasing: for example the album was supposed to be out around two years ago, but we had to change studios – since Jordan lacks professional equipped studios with focus on extreme music; in addition to that the band members are not actually in the same country, but we have managed. We really wanted to have everything perfect. Also, we are not full-time musicians, in fact most of the band members have very successful and demanding careers, and this is a major reason of having some delays here and there, but still we are doing the best we can to keep the wheel running.
Waseem EsSayed: When we initiate an album, we decide some universal characteristics, such as the atmosphere and the general outfit, along with the main idea(s) within, then the lyric writing starts, and we start progressively developing the lyrics into songs, maintaining the original album plan (cross connection requirements, or ideas over-lapping). When all the songs are ready, we check for any special requirements on the song level, and on the album level. The composing ideas come from all the six members, each idea just gets considered from a production perspective and then added to the blend. Regarding timelines, well, this is a very variable measure in Bilocate, because as Hani said, it depends on how we can dedicate the required time and on our individual mental readiness since we are not full time musicians and we have a lot of things on our minds every day that are not related to music, for example, 'Beyond Inner Sleep' took us exactly two days to have it completely ready from a composing perspective, just two sessions over a weekend (given that the lyrics were already completed before that) and it took us a lot longer time to record this song right. However, other songs can take up to two months to be composed. As I said it is so variable. There are just many reasons on different planes for why Bilocate does not have that big number of songs in our catalogue in respect to the timeline since the band's foundation.
To continue on that thought, is a song ever ready, ever done, finished?
Waseem EsSayed: An abstract answer would be, yes, a song can be finished and given a status of (case closed). This is how we feel now about the songs in 'Sudden Death Syndrome' and 'Summoning The Bygones', but we did not feel this when we released 'Dysphoria', we knew that there was something missing, but we just could not get it back then, you can say we were short on almost everything, I mean, the entire album was composed, recorded, edited for publishing in a bedroom, I guess you can imagine how that went. Now of course it is always possible to make some new touches here and there when you play a song live, a lot of bands do this, I do not think they find that these alterations should have been there in the first place, but it is just providing a version of the song that goes better in a concert atmosphere.
You include some Jordanian music into your doom/death blend, but it is not overdone, and no way a gimmick, which is a good thing. The main thing is still melodic doom/death metal. What musical direction may we expect from Bilocate in the future? More Jordanian influences mixed into your brand of doom/death, or less? And if you include more, why is that, is that a conscious decision?
Waseem EsSayed: In future, Bilocate's music will be going into more sophistication, progressive elements, and uniqueness. We will be contributing more to the fabrication of our sub-genre Dark Oriental Metal. Now the Middle-Eastern part of it is an ingredient, you can consider it like a dosage, we increase it and decrease it as we see fit, in fact, all our music elements are being put in place where they fit. This is the way we do things in Bilocate, and for the next releases if the Middle-Eastern elements grow more (which I believe they will), it will be a conscious act.
Why did you choose the song 'Dead Emotion'? I understand you wanted to pay homage to the 20th anniversary of Paradise Lost's 'Gothic' Album, but why choose this one?
Hani Abbadi: I will share some trivia with your readers; the whole story began with a question from an interviewer. As I recall, it was about the 'Sudden Death Syndrome' album, that our music sounded somehow diverted/hinted from the 'Gothic' album, and the question was something about if we wanted to make a Paradise Lost cover, taken from that album, which song would it be, and how would it sound like? We did not answer the question at the time, since it cannot be done with words, so our keyboardist/producer picked the song 'Dead Emotion' as he felt that it suits Bilocate and started the arrangement to create a demo version to be shared with the interviewer as an answer. The demo version turned to be epic and we decided it was best to work on it and this is how the whole thing came alive…
You have replaced the female backing vocals with guitar and your version is almost a minute longer than the original. How much fun was it to create your own version of this song? Did you choose to do the guitar parts where there are female backing vocals on purpose, or was it necessary for lack of a good female vocalist?
Waseem EsSayed: Actually it was so much fun, and some kind of a new experience to really transform an old song like this and make it in your own style, it took me around five hours to put the basic framework and then we got it in the our usual recording setup for the guys to add their inputs. Regarding the female vocals, I can say in general, in Bilocate we are not really into including female vocals in our material, we are not against it or anything, but it is just not our thing, the guitars made it there and it sounds good for us. Maybe some time in the future you will find some female vocals in Bilocate songs but as I said previously, it is just a matter of where it fits.
I think the vocals (both grunts and clean) are very well executed, but I noticed after a few spins that 'Summoning The Bygones' actually has relatively few vocal parts. Is this a conscious choice, or did this just happen over time? Again, do not get me wrong, the music is strong enough to carry its own weight, but perhaps your newer material contains more vocal parts?
Waseem EsSayed: Our mindset in Bilocate is more towards epic songs, which normally include a lot of music passages, changes, and musical illustrations. So for us it is not a matter of creating a song that has a verse/chorus and this is it, you have your four minutes song. Musical story telling is an essential part of the mix pretty much as the vocals are, so basically maybe this is why you get this feeling while listening to 'Summoning The Bygones', I guess it just has a more dynamic musical frame than 'Sudden Death Syndrome'. For newer material, I cannot indicate this so openly, it depends on how we will illustrate the story of the song and lyrics through music.
You describe your music as Dark Oriental Metal. Why 'invent' a new genre name?
Hani Abbadi: Because we felt that this is what describes our music best (while still being professional), we felt that our music deserves to be highlighted and distinguished with a unique sub-genre name. I believe the answer below can describe the concept behind Dark Oriental Metal.
Quoting from the book Heavy Metal Islam, as illustrated by Waseem EsSayed (Keys and Producer): 'The new metal genre that Bilocate introduced in parallel with the release of their new album 'Sudden Death Syndrome'. Oriental music in general has a sad atmosphere most often, its the combination of notes that drives the feelings of a listener, but Bilocate found a way to create a version of this music that presents it in it's darker atmosphere by inserting certain notes to the collection that give a new feeling, for a regular listener it might sometimes feel to be out of tone but when you absorb it deeply enough you will get the idea that it has a defined feeling because life isn't about feeling happy or sad or aroused anymore, you've got to develop the feeling of 'The Wrong' without accompanying it with the result of this wrong, which usually drives sadness or depression, just think about the wrong and how it develops and why it develops, this is how you think dark, and this is reality by the way, another example is feeling to be in state of struggle but not from a perspective that you are so tired and depressed of this struggle, try to think of the reasons why do you as 'human' have to struggle and the deeper it goes, at last we as oriental people found it comfortable to musically translate this way of thinking using the oriental music to some extent and so it yielded Dark Oriental Metal which is -by the explanation provided above- not ruled by any factor such as tempo, guitar riffing style, domination of a certain instrument, or the way of vocaling as you can find variety of values for those factors, it is just about the tone itself.'
What does the name Bilocate actually mean? What does it stand for? Something with being (or wanting to be) in two places at once?
Hani Abbadi: The main meaning is being in two places at once, which later became us, living totally different lives between being musicians and have normal lives.
Waseem EsSayed: What Hani described is what we have surrounding us each and every day, the general feeling that all members have. However, in depth, the association of the literal meaning of Bilocate with what it means to us as a band can yield different conceptual and emotional reactions for each member, for example, for me it can mean that our music is out there being broadcasted to the air when two or more listeners are playing it at the same time in multiple locations, maybe at two ends of the world. It is also valid to leave the imagination to the listener to associate the music of Bilocate with the literal meaning of the word, we would actually like that.
You hail from Jordan, a country obviously in a region that has had its share of violence and tension over the years, but lately with the Arabian Spring and the civil war in Syria, things have gotten worse again. How does this affect your daily lives?
Hani Abbadi: It is quite stressing, as I mentioned earlier this region has not seen peace for many many years, just in my lifetime I have seen a couple of wars… and it really makes you sad of how the cruelty of the human nature and our thrust for power, the corruption that crawls around, it makes you wonder how we have arrived to such a point where someone's life is just a number, that is what we are, just a number used in statistics…
The past years have seen a lot of changes in the North African region and a lot of turmoil in the Middle-East. How have you experienced this? How do you see the future for your country and your region?
Hani Abbadi: The Middle-East will always be a rollercoastar ride, just when you think it is about to go steady it goes down to hell. So nothing is certain around here, today I might be able to answer your interview, next time I might not be around. It is a fact we have to live with, with the rapid changes/tension this region is facing.
With the authorities not really overjoyed with metal gigs and metalheads in general, what is it like to grow up a metalhead in Jordan? What were the first albums you heard that turned you into a metalhead?
Rami Haikal: Actually when I was a teenager, Jordan had a great metal scene where metal concerts and gigs were happening at least each month, so at that time we used to enjoy being metalheads and we made sure to attend all of these shows. Until one day it was all ruined by a silly newspaper article that related Satanism to all the metalheads and which allegedly talked about a metal concert that had some Satanic rituals and other obscenities (of course, none of which took place or happened), but the sad thing was that all of the society and the authorities believed it and from then on, being a metalhead turned to be a hardship. People and authorities started to make it so hard and even impossible to be a metalhead, who just wants to enjoy his/her favorite music. As for the first album that turned me into a metalhead, that was Iron Maiden's 'Power Slave', an experience that I will never forget!
How is the metal scene in Jordan? Are there a lot of bands, a lot of fans?
Hani Abbadi: Surprisingly lots of bands & fans are rising nowadays and it makes me proud to see that!
Do you all live in the same part of Jordan / city? Where do you rehearse?
Hani Abbadi: We all live within a 20 minute drive to Amman and nearby in the suburbs, however only three members live in Jordan, the rest live in UAE. Usually each group of members in a certain country rehearse either individually at homes or together in some jamming place on hourly rental basis. Whenever there's a live appearance, we try to secure one or two rehearsal sessions when all the six of us gathered in the same place.
There is a tendency amongst metalheads in Europe and perhaps even worldwide to travel further and further for special metalshows and mainly metalfestivals. What metalfestivals or gigs in Jordan can metalheads visit and which gig (or venue, or town) would you advice to go and check out and why is that?
Hani Abbadi: None, it is really hard to organize such events, almost impossible if you are talking about the real thing.
If I were to fly to Jordan, what local sights and sounds should I definitely visit? (Non-metal related)
Hani Abbadi: Well, it just happens that I run a travel agency & a Bedouin camp in Wadi Rum hahaha, anyway from a historic point of view, Jordan and the surrounding region is considered to be the cradle of civilizations, thus under each rock there is a story to be told. I will try to make it short, the most important site is Petra (one of the seven wonders), an ancient city that is carved in stone which has been lost and recently discovered in the 18th century. BBC has called Petra, “one of the 40 places you have to see before you die", it also appeared in the movies 'Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade', 'Transformers' and others.
British officer T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia) described Wadi Rum as, 'vast, echoing and Godlike.'. No visit to Jordan is complete without spending a night here. Aqaba is the only opening on the Red Sea and offers an excellent opportunity for tanning and diving.
The Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth that is -400m below sea level, a salt lake with 33.7% salinity, it is also one of the world's saltiest bodies of water, you can enjoy floating in the lake while reading your favorite book/magazine. I can go on for pages hahaha, Jordan has so much to offer from a historic point of view, to hiking activities and religious sites. For example the place where Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist, this place is in Jordan and is called the Bethany. People can visit the trip to Jordan website, which is a traveler guide to Jordan with in-depth info. Also I shall be more than happy to answer any questions related to Jordan!
And where do I go in Jordan for my daily dose of metal?
Rami Haikal: Another question which is followed by a sad answer. In Jordan there is no single public pub/bar or restaurant that plays metal music, this activity is again not allowed. If you want to listen to metal you can do that in your car or at home, so if at any time you visit Jordan, I shall be more than happy invite you in my car and listen to metal there, haha.
What bands from your homeland should our readers definitely check out?
Waseem EsSayed: I would definitely recommend a band called Bouq, it is a one-man death/black metal band by our friend Muhannad Bursheh, he is a sound engineer also, and the one who we actually record our bass lines with at his studio, not to mention that his latest album included a participation of myself for keyboards and Rami's (our guitarist) input as per Muhannad's plans.
I read you have played more outside Jordan than in your own country. What is a Jordan metal gig like? What are the difficulties you face organizing a gig? And do you see any change for the better in the near future?
Rami Haikal: The last time we played in Jordan was in 2006 and since then metal gigs were banned until recently this year two gigs happened with no issue so far, so I guess things might and I say again, MIGHT get better in the near future. Metalheads in Jordan are so famished for metal gigs since we have been deprived from it, so if gigs get back again, I can assure you that gigs in Jordan will be one of the best for us.
And what is a typical Bilocate gig like?
Waseem EsSayed: A some sort of “Love” for this kind of music, pulsing from all over the stage to the audience. Nice surprises are always subject to happen hehehe..
How have your shows been, so far? What are the highlights of your live career so far?
Waseem EsSayed: The Orphaned Land tour is definitely one of our main memories, however, our gig in Lithuania (Devil Stone Open Air) really blew me away, even we as band ourselves got surprised of how amazing the lighting show was along with all other arrangements. Let us say we had some shows in the region and in Europe, but not really up to the desired momentum, we just face many difficulties to operate on this, it could be due to not being able to skip our day jobs that much, or to not being able to handle it financially. But what really irritates me the most is that one time we had five shows planned in Europe in three countries but we could not go because simply we were not given a visa to travel! Personally it happened with me twice, the second time was the Wave Gotik festival in Germany when I was the only member in the band who did not get a visa and we had to assign another keyboardist to go for it in my place.
When can we expect to see Bilocate live in Europe again anytime soon?
Hani Abbadi: We currently have a couple of options for 2013, it will mark the ten years anniversary of the band's formation, I cannot say anything at the moment but hopefully we will announce some news in that regard soon.
Will the vinyl lovers be able to own a black (or coloured) slab of Bilocate vinyl in the (near) future?
Hani Abbadi: Nothing is planned for such a thing, but hopefully something will be done here to satisfy these fans.
What are you goals, dreams, hopes, expectations? What do you want to reach in the next, say, five years?
Waseem EsSayed: Becoming career musicians when we can devote all our time to music and traveling around the world to meet our fans and share with them this magical time on stage. Exploring different places, traditions, and people is definitely something we wouldd love to do.
Any famous last words?
Hani Abbadi: Quoting Rocky Balboa: “The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!”
Since this interview is also a promotional vehicle for you guys, please feel free to mention anything I might have missed and you want to have included in the interview.
Waseem EsSayed: Actually your interview was so comprehensive and we really appreciate it and the thoughts you have put in your questions, we have enjoyed every moment in answering your questions. Thank you very much.
Hani Abbadi: Our latest album is available almost everywhere, give it a spin, and if you like it, support the label that brought you this release and buy it so they can always be on the lookout for new bands and also able to support band like us! \m/