You know how every so often you run across something completely humbling that reminds you how good you have it and how lucky you are?
You guys were going against everything there.
Yes. Not only the government, the whole society. But we still did it. I don’t know if it was because we were fucked up in the head, or we liked the challenge, or we just didn’t care. We wanted to play this kind of music, and we wanted to have fun doing it. We weren’t going to stop. We weren’t going to let them beat us. Every show, we had to figure out different names for it. We couldn’t call it heavy metal or thrash metal. We would call it rock or ballad or something. And rehearsing, you couldn’t really go there with a guitar on your back and be seen with it, because people would give you a look like “What the fuck is this?”
You guys were obviously able to practice, though, because you’re really good.
Really, our practicing began after we left Iraq and Syria. We went to Turkey and people helped us. We knew we needed to practice a lot. When we got to the United States, we practiced and practiced. At that point, it wasn’t a joke anymore. We either need to be 100 percent dedicated to what we’re doing, or we should go and do something else.
Were you all really the only metal band in Baghdad?
When we started in 1999 or 2000, till the time we left, yes, we were the only metal band. We heard that there were bands and projects before us, but when the situation got really intense down there, they stopped.
How would you get death threats in Baghdad?
Once someone left us a flyer on our practice-space door. Mentioning a couple of our names.
Did you have more shows after that?
We did. And we kept practicing at the same place. We kind of scattered. Later, in 2007, the whole practice space blew up. The whole building. All our equipment, everything.
Lately the Mountain Goats’ “The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton” has been in heavy rotation around my place, and that’s the first thing that came to mind when I read this interview. Metal isn’t my thing, but man, I’m glad this band is here and around and doing their thing. Check ’em out.