Saturday, March 19, 2011

An Interview with "Mehdi Vafaei" from swedish Sludge/Doom Metal band "Abandon"

Mehdi Vafaei is Iranian member of Abandon. He lived in Sweden past thirty years. Their new Album "The Dead End" are excuse for this interview which winning of the best Hard Rock/Alternative Metal Albums in Sweden Manifest Awards 2010. See winners & candidate list.

First of all, I want you to introduce yourself to those who do not know you much.
Thank you very much for your efforts in composing this questionnaire and giving ABANDON and myself a chance to introduce ourselves.

My name is Mehdi Vafaei; I am 38 years old and have been living in Sweden for the past 30 years. I live with my fiancée Ms Linda Sjödin. I am a Logistics Coordinator by profession and I pretend to play music as well. I am from the school of instrumental avant-garde jazz when it comes to musical background, because this was simply the music I came in contact with as a child. I simply adore and have quite a hefty collection of obscure old school Kraut/Prog-rock, and Fusion/jazz (Miles Davis; Bitches Brew era for frame of reference) records. I play the guitar, bass, claviature/organ and occasionally drums. I listen to almost any genre out there as long as the music is from the gut/heart. I am currently involved in three side-projects to vent off my unnatural and utter need to play strange/oddball music.

How did you meet other band members?
We basically were friends long before I joined the band. Dani (Cosimi) and I were close friends eventually I got to know Johan, Ingo, Johan (former guitarist), Carl (former Bassist), and David, who joined the band later on.

What can you tell us about "Abandon"? Actually why did you decide to form a band in this genre?
Abandon started out as a hardcore band in the veins of Crowbar and Pantera. I remember When David joined the band. That was the turning point of the musical direction. David’s love for Neurosis and the progressive rock of the late sixties (especially Genesis Gabriel-era), changed the music compositions within the band. The result was the album “When It Falls Apart”. The album introduces some radically different pace and chord progressions never witnessed before in Abandon’s compositions.

Why did you choose "Sludge Doom"?
Daniele Cosimi our drummer exhibited a tremendous talent in keeping the beats slow but heavy. David’s compositions were tailor made for this genre of music, so naturally the other band members started to feel that they were much more suited to playing this particular musical genre. When I first heard the new songs on what became known as the “When It Falls Apart” sessions I was amazed at the heaviness and sincerity of the music. It was like being run over by a freight train. The samples were perfect. The whole vibe was mesmerizing and of course the songs were beautiful.

Between 1998 and 2000 you released 2 demos called "Dark Days Ahead" and "Unfinished Blasphemy". Tell us about those please.
I was introduced to Dani right before “Unfinished Blasphemy”, and I haven’t even listened to “Dark Days Ahead”. I really have no frame of reference other than I thought that Abandon was OK, Nothing extraordinary struck me.

"When it Falls Apart" is the first official album of the band that has a little conflict with war and politics. can we say that Abandon is somehow a political band?
During this period, our dearly departed singer Johan Carlzon had come in contact with anarchism, and left-wing ideologies. I mean none of us liked the imperialism and capitalism, which rules the world, and the west’s exploitation of the rest of the world especially the Middle East. But we were not that extreme in our beliefs like Johan was.. David and I are actually quite spiritual and are interested in the different religions. None of us did like MTV and other corporate media, because I reckon they promote monetary profit and materialistic principles, and as you know money is the root of all evil. Just witness what materialistic obsession did to our beloved country Iran. So yes Abandon was politically charged during this album’s conception. We felt that the music business has completely lost its agenda, and that’s promoting all kinds of music with quality, not just tailor made corporate controlled, so called music.

Would you analyze the album by yourself?
Oh boy, you put me in a tough spot here, but I’ll give it a try. As I said earlier this was the album that defined Abandon’s special sound.. You are taken for a tough ride from the intro through to the end scores. David’s compositions are on point and minimalistic. As the late great James Brown would have said “Don’t turn it loose ‘cause it’s a mutha”. I mean the tempo and heaviness bears witness to Dani’s extraordinary drumming. He really played his heart out and seemed to enjoy every bit. The production was pretty high quality since it was recorded in the rehearsal room!! Via a mobile studio. I dig the drum sound since the snare sounds nothing like heavy metal snares, (which I hate by the way, being a jazz musician). Abandon decided to go for the piccolo snare from an old jazz kit that was lying around, and as I said it came out perfect. I did not play on this album but I was present from the beginning to the recording sessions.

Well... let's talk about the best Sludge Doom album ever that is my favorite, too. I mean " In Reality We Suffer". It look likes that you guys spend whole the three years between "When it Falls apart" and this album on writing it. Am I right?.
As you mentioned this album took three years to conceive. I was not yet a member until the recording sessions. There is only one part that actually has a Hammond organ accompanying it, other than that the whole album was with the same instruments as featured on its predecessor.

In this album we see a whole change in playing Bass, Guitars and Vocal. And of course the subject of the lyrics has changed from politics and anti-war to ”Hard life experience and the struggle of man that is suffering from this life". How did this change happen?
This one was an even darker and more bleak album since the whole band especially Johan (R.I.P.) were not feeling that great on the mental plane, so the lyrics shifted focus from politics to the human psyche, since this was a subject that perfectly described the state in which the quartet found itself, mentally. It was at this period when David and I started visualizing the songs which would eventually end up on our latest album. I was then asked to take over the responsibility to handle the samples and to introduce the organ to the band, by David and Dani.

Please tell us about your and other members' role in writing the songs such as lyrics or riffs etc.
The lyrics were Johan’s responsibility and his alone. Somebody would usually come up with some kind of riff or musical piece, which was introduced and then altered to everyone’s satisfaction, meaning that often the musical bits and pieces that were originally presented would transform into something magical without compromising the originator’s intention. Everyone contributed more or less regarding compositions. To my humble opinion David is one of the most gifted musicians I have ever had the privilege to work with and befriend. Everything he writes is pure gold. Most of the epical and beautiful pieces in the songs were due to his amazing ability and immense knowledge of all musical genres. As I said everyone has their fair share in writing the music.

Throbbing bass is an important thing in this genre. How much is it important to you?
As long as we were preparing the music for ABANDON’s latest record I would never listen to anything resembling Sludge, Doom or anything heavy for that matter. Such is the case with David and the other guys. The music David and I listened to was Progressive Rock, Jazz , Funk, and World music especially Arabic (Munir And Omar Bashir, for frame of reference) and Persian classic music (Kayhan Kalhor, Ardavan Kamkar, Ziya Tabassian, Mirza Abdollah, Hossein Alizadeh, Alireza Hosseini, … )!! As I said people will be surprised if they saw our record collection. I reckon that these are our inspirations when we composed Bitter The Surface, or The Dead End, It’s All Gone, to give you a couple of examples. The most important feature in music as far as I am concerned is that it has to be sincere, food for thought. Music should be a way for us humans to ponder over our inner psyche and evaluate our actions and thoughts. You asked about the bass, well we prefer the way music was produced in the late 60’s and early to late 70’s. We have never given these aspects any thought other than to test different amps and instruments until they matched our expectations.

Tell us about this dark theme in the album please. I feel that the music itself has a lot of things to say even without the vocals!

This was due to the state of mind everyone was in at that given moment since we don’t aspire to be angry or heavy. The music just comes out in this manner. I was unfortunately not present when the album was conceived and recorded. But I had to learn all the songs anyway for our European tour. I had to come up with additional pump organ to the music since there was no organ present in “In Reality We Suffer” other than the closing section of one of the tracks, but it was a Hammond B3 played by David.
Let's talk about your new album "The Dead End". First, I want you to tell us your opinion about this album.
I have mixed emotions since this was to be our moment of shining and touring. But as you know obstacles came one after the other. David and I were both diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which is a type of cancer originating from white blood cells called lymphocytes. Fortunately we immediately underwent chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This lasted circa 1 year and after that we were officially cancer free, but in my case it came back and I was to go through the same shit all over again. I prayed to god I would die instead of going to the chemo sessions again. Fortunately it has disappeared since 2 years ago and there is no sign of it yet so I reckon I have won the fight with cancer. David is healthy and cancer free. Johan was in extreme mental anguish since he was diagnosed with BPD. As far as Dani was concerned he was considering quitting the band to pursue other activities since he too had intense personal issues and tragedies to sort out. Ingo was also beginning to have second thoughts about his future in the band. The only two left were David and I who managed to get our shit together and persuade the other two to stay and give these compositions a shot of making it to the recording studio. Some of the songs were played live to the cheering audiences throughout Europe during the European Tour with our dear friends Crowpath, which by the way everyone should check them out and Johan is featured on vocals on a couple of tracks on their “Son Of Sulphur” album!

In this album tracks, we can hear Pump Organ that you play it more. Why this is called a "change" for Abandon?
As mentioned earlier there was no pump organ present on any of the other albums and demos. (Only a muffled Hammond B3 in the closing sections of one of 2004; s “In Reality We Suffer” tracks. I do not recall which song it was!!)

How can the fans get this album?
Our fans in Iran (if there are any) have no options but to download the album via different torrents, since it would be an extremely difficult task to order via online stores since the postal office in Iran is not to be trusted for obvious reasons. As for our fans around the world I reckon our management has made sure the record is available in every major or independent record stores and online stores as well.

Unfortunately we lost Johan last year but luckily the fans can hear his voice again. Tell us about Johan.
Johan, Johan, Johan. What is there to say about this dear man? Well, I’ll start off with his extreme love of anything Persian including the classical music as well as the early works of famous contemporary heavyweights like Farhad, Fereydoun Foroughi, Dariush, to mention a few. He always used to say “Fuck!! How depressing and beautiful Persian music is man. This is what ABANDON should be inspired by”. He used to work in a record store and after work hours everyone including myself would gather at his flat in the center of Gothenburg. We had so much good times together and he had quite an impressive record collection especially heavy music. We used to sit and chat about the world and how fucked up it is that the rich are defrauding the poor and how greed is becoming widespread. We used to play video games. And of course we used to rehearse the hell out of any song we wrote. Prior to the final stages of writing and recording “In Reality…” several events unfolded which I would and will not delve into further, this started taking its toll on Johan. I literally saw his mental state worsen by the day. He was diagnosed with BPD:

"Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a personality disorder described as a prolonged disturbance of personality function in a person over the age of eighteen years, characterized by depth and variability of moods. The disorder typically involves unusual levels of instability in mood; "black and white" thinking, or splitting; chaotic and unstable interpersonal relationships, self-image, identity, and behavior; as well as a disturbance in the individual's sense of self. In extreme cases, this disturbance in the sense of self can lead to periods of dissociation. These disturbances can have a pervasive negative impact on many or all of the psychosocial facets of life. This includes difficulties maintaining relationships in work, home and social settings. Attempted suicide and completed suicide are possible outcomes, especially without proper care and effective therapy."

When we started recording “The Dead End” in Mix-O-Matic studios the foundation was laid and everyone was waiting for Johan to lay the vocals so that we could master this baby and get on with touring and backing up the album. He did seldom show up at both rehearsals and in the studio as well. The vocals took about a year to record and it took another couple of years to master the album since the songs had to have the perfect quality. We were waiting to get the album finished and pressed.

Can we have some personal questions? That's the hard part!

Of course, my friend; shoot!

Can you explain the meaning of the Songs titles?

Trauma Is The Trigger
Refers to dark and negative past events which dictate one’s life to a point which they cannot be held inside and the hatred bursts out years later draining the individual mentally and physically.

Somnambulism (i.e., sleepwalking) is a disorder of arousal that falls under the parasomnia group. Parasomnias are undesirable motor, verbal, or experiential events that occur during sleep. This song addresses the mind-controlled masses of western society, as well as the tortured soul of people with vision.

In Hopelessness Enlightened
One tends to find out a lot about one’s soul and actions when placed in a tight spot and there is but a glimmer of hope to hang on to.

Will Gladly Perish
Refers to a situation being so out of hand that the physical body will gladly wither away and die to be born unto another existence.

The answer to the problem

Pitch Black Hole
Again, a place where all dark and negative thoughts dwell, deep within the human psyche.

It's All Gone
Refers to a merciful and positive existence gone only to fade away and be out of reach.

Lost We Are
I reckon the state in which the world is today, pretty much sums up the hopeless state in which we as human beings have lost our way (we certainly do not behave in a humane way).

Do you have any relationships with any Iranian artist in any music genres?
I have had a brief chat with Agah Bahari the guitarist which now resides in Canada because we both love Frank Zappa, other than that no.

Do you follow music events in Iran? What do you think about music in Iran?
Yes, I mean I used to via my friend’s site called but since he left the site to other people, I have not been in contact with Persian rock music that much since.

What's your favorite song from Abandon?
In Hopelessness Enlightened.

If you have only time to listen to 5 Metal albums, what are they?
1. Paranoid (Black Sabbath) 1970
2. Killers (Iron Maiden) 1982
3. Reign In Blood/Seasons In The Abyss (Slayer) 1986/1990
5. Vulgar Display Of Power (Pantera) 1992
4. Chaos A.D. (Sepultura) 1993
5. Souls At Zero (Neurosis) 1992

What do you think about these words? Tell us your feelings in a short sentence.

Food for thought, which by the way is being slaughtered in these days

Hate has seldom any positive effects.

A concept of total hypocrisy and double standards

A beautiful existence

I miss my beloved Iran so much

And finally I just want you to say thanks because of this long and boring interview! :lol: . Do you have anything you want to say it to your fans (especially in Iran)?

To my friends in Iran and my relatives;

I love you guys and I respect and adore you since I know how tough it is to live under a totalitarian regime which has nothing to do with the religion it is representing. Please persist in your movement and you will prevail, by the grace of God Almighty.

Thank you so much and... Good luck

This interview have done somewhere in summer 2010. Originally done for by myself.

Mehdi Vafaei Facebook page
Johan Carlzon (R.I.P) Memorial Facebook page
Abandon official Myspace page

Dark Days Ahead (Demo, 1998)
Unfinished Blasphemy (Demo, 2000)
When It Falls Apart (Full-length, 2001)
In Reality We Suffer (Full-length, 2004)
The Dead End (Full-length, 2009)

For more videos, go to my Youtube channel:

Feel free to post your comments.

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