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- Published on Monday, 26 September 2011 10:01
- Category: Artist Profile
This is part two of an interview with the lead vocalist of Hypernova; part one appeared on Aslan Media on September 19th.
During a pit stop into Denver on their way to California for performances in San Francisco, Aslan Media contributor Safa Samiezade-Yazd had the chance to chat with Hypernova and hear in their own words how four years after arriving in the U.S., now based in Brooklyn, the band still thrives, eager for the shift it’s made from “illegal indie-rock” to emerging musical talent, that also happens to be Iranian.
Aslan Media: What are your musical influences, both Western and Iranian?
Hypernova’s Raam: Western, I grew up listening to a lot of classical music, actually. I still do- I'm an avid classical music listener. The first rock thing I ever bought was a Queen record, and I became fascinated and [fell] in love with Freddie Mercury. I just think he is the most amazing and ultimate performer that's ever lived. I remember we used to get these bootleg CDs and videotapes of their performances. Just seeing him perform and how people would sing back their songs. I thought, how cool would it be if I could perform in front of 100,000 people and they could sing a song back to me.
Iranian music- there was almost this sort of rebellion toward Iranian music by all the teenagers. They didn't want to be a part or associated with Iranian music at the time. We had a hard time listening to a lot of Iranian music, especially the shitty stuff coming from L.A., the awful terrible pop music. The older stuff like Googoosh and Farhad, or the more modern traditionals, like Nazari- I wasn't an avid listener, but I would enjoy. I think now that I've aged and I've matured a bit more, I enjoy and appreciate Persian music a little bit more.
AM: How has your sound developed since you first played in the States in 2007?
HR: We started out as this garage punk outfit. When we came to the States, half these bands I was being compared to I had never heard of in my life. So I started listening to their music, bands like Joy Division and Bowhouse, Sisters of Mercy, and I loved their sound. We really sort of became really interested in bands like that, and I think our sound sort of changed, and then we started adding electronics to it as well. In the beginning, we were much more, I guess maybe happy, and it was very upbeat, but I think it's just sort of found a more somber and darker tone over the years.... For us at least, we don't want to be pigeonholed as this Iranian band or this genre. We just want to play whatever our hearts desire. We're going to continue to do so, and I don't think we're going to stick to just one genre or keep playing the same thing over and over.
AM:To what degree does politics still play in your music?
HR: In the beginning, we really wanted to separate ourselves from being labeled as a political band, because we didn't want to be this Rage Against the Machine type band that speaks out. Even though I still do very bluntly in my songs, I still wanted it to be about the music first. I hate ever being labeled as a preachy person. I can't stand people who are preachy, so I never want to be in that position either. I would just like to share my personal, individual experiences and observations from my personal life through my music and my lyrics.
After the elections in 2009, there was this song that my friend Johnny B wrote that we sang together, called, "Freedom, Glory, Be Our Name" for the Freedom Glory Project. And that was probably the most obvious political move that I ever made since coming to the States. I've spoken out, albeit diplomatically, in my interviews, but at that point you realize that as little as it is, I have to raise my voice too and make it be heard and show our brothers and sisters back home who are risking their lives for a much greater cause that we stand in solidarity with them and that we believe in what they're doing. We all felt very, very powerless on this side of the world, just watching our brothers and sisters being brutalized and beat up and thrown into jail. It was so terrible. I felt so bad being away, I felt so guilty, just being away and having to watch all this on Facebook or YouTube as it goes down. So I wanted to play my own part, as irrelevant as it was, as minuscule as it was, I just felt I had the responsibility to do something...
Over the years, we realized that the more popular we became, as little as it was, culturally, we knew we were doing something pretty important, bridging this divide between the East and the West. I would see it personally- after putting on a show, someone would come, not knowing where we're from, just loving the music. And then when they find out, they're like, "Oh wow, that's so cool that you're from there! We never thought anyone from there could play music like this." Once they connect with you on a human level, it's something that can't be taken away, no matter what prejudices they have, if they have any.
AM: Which song has had the biggest impact on the band?
HR: I think "Fairy Tales," probably, because it became one of our most successful songs. To this day, when we play, we usually end our sets with that. It's just so powerful. After we finish playing that, everyone's just so high from the insanity of the song. I think it definitely captures a lot of different emotions and expressions in the music and lyrics. When that song came out, I think it sort of defined the course for the rest of our careers.
AM: What's been the band's biggest accomplishment so far?
HR: We got to play at this festival called Pangea Day a couple of years ago, which was organized by the person who had won the TED Prize, Jehane Noujaim, that year. We got to meet all these amazing intellectuals and celebrities and important people, and we were among them. It was broadcast to around five million people, and we got to perform alongside so many big names over there. Just to be a part of something so powerful and special and unique, just bringing people together. For me, it was a very, very special experience. Our tour with Sisters of Mercy, or our song being featured on Rock Band- a lot of really cool accomplishments.
AM: What's your ultimate goal for Hypernova?
HR: For Hypernova, it would be to perform in the biggest and most prestigious festivals on the planet, Glastonbury, and other festivals in Europe, or even in the States like Coachella. And just performing alongside really great bands, and even having the opportunity to collaborate with these artists that have inspired us as well. It's a very addictive sort of lifestyle. There's no drug better than performing. When you get on that stage, the alter ego takes over, and it's something else, just a whole different world. I really wouldn't change that or trade that for anything.
AM: So what's coming up?
HR: We just recently released this new EP called Exit Strategy, and we're actually in the works of recording songs for a new album.... It's really hard to be excited about your own music because you're always critiquing and you're always criticizing and it's never really there where you want it to go. With these new songs, I feel that it's something we're all really proud of and we're really happy to have finally put something together like this that we enjoy listening to.
I also have a solo project too, where my girlfriend, Tara Agdashloo, wrote the lyrics. It's in Persian- I've never sung in Persian before. When we wrote our first song together, it became a huge hit in Iran.... Even to this day, when I see that song with those images I'm still in tears, it's so powerful. That album is actually done, my solo project, and it's going to be released really soon.
By Safa Samiezade-Yazd, Aslan Media Contributor