Protest The Hero

Sonisphere UK 2011 Interview: Protest The Hero – Arif Mirabdolbaghi

Protest The Hero’s well-deserved title as one of the most forward-thinking bands in the metal world today is showcased on their latest album, Scurrilous. Comprised of vocalist/lyricist Rody Walker, guitarist Tim Millar, guitarist/pianist Luke Hoskin, bassist/lyricist Arif Mirabdolbaghi, and drummer Moe Carlson, the quintet formed nearly a decade ago in their hometown of Whitby, Ontario. With friendships dating back as early as elementary school, it’s safe to say the guys of Protest The Hero have grown together both musically and personally, and such progression is evident throughout Scurrilous. “I wouldn’t really call us a family,” says Rody, “but we’re definitely more than friends. I’ve slept in a bed next to Luke more times than I’ve slept next to my own girlfriend.” Named after a painting created by Arif’s grandfather (which is also the album’s cover image), Scurrilous is the band’s third full-length album and boasts ten tracks of soaring guitar riffs, bone-chilling operatic vocals, and some of the most personal lyrics Protest The Hero has written to date.

Recently I had the chance to catch up with Protest The Hero bassist Arif Mirabdolbaghi at Sonisphere to talk about their routine, that special Madird backdrop and sex tapes.

Be sure to check out the bands official website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

EspyRock: Hey how are you doing man?

Arif Mirabdolbaghi: I’m great thank you, it’s nice to meet you and I’m sorry for taking so long in there, the interview was for an Iranian TV show so I got to do it in Farsi and I’ve never got to do anything like that so I just couldn’t get away.

Bet that wasn’t something you thought may happen.

Oh hell no man, even the fact there is an Iranian metal show is sort of a peculiar thing so that’s wicked man [laughs].

Are you looking forward to playing later tonight in the Jager tent?

Yeah of course and this is our first time playing at Sonisphere which we’ve heard good things about in the past but we’re playing during Slayers set.

Oh that could be a little on edge then as to how many people show up but even when some of the big bands have been on the main stage, the tents are still packed.

That’s promising but I have a feel that the numbers will be few but the spirit will be mighty!

Well I’m looking forward to finally see you guys live so at least you will have one person there.

Ah I appreciate that man.

Are there bands you have seen today or hope to see?

Not that it’s terribly relevant in my life but the Big 4, I’d like to see them just to say that I have kind of thing and I’m going to miss Slayer who I’d like to see more than any of them but for me it’s not something that I’m necessarily excited about on a personal level but the young me is very excited about that.

Protest The Hero Madrid BackdropProtest The Hero Backdrop PerformingSo tonight what are the chances we’ll have a backdrop similar to the one in Madrid?

[Laughs] We had to take advantage of that opportunity because they said ‘if you give us a picture we can put it up’ in like 20,000 LEDs so I guess Rody [Walker] was just back there drawing a farting bum. The farting bum image pops up in our career often [laughs].

I thought it was a joke until fans starting posting links in the Facebook comments to actual pictures of the gig.

[laughs] I don’t think anyone believed us at first when we said we had that as our backdrop.

‘Scurrilous’ has been out for a few months now so are you happy with the reception it received?

You are one of the few who can pronounce that title perfectly [laughs]. Yeah it has been wonderful, really wonderful. We have a different audience in that they expect something a little bit different every time so there are aspects of it that some people like and other people don’t like but we’re very fortunate as a band that we don’t have to have the Iron Maiden complex were you just record the same album over and over again.

You recorded the album in Canada were you have that grant structure.

Yes.

What I don’t get is why people get pissy about it and I don’t mean outside of Canada as there a few Canadian bands who speak against it and I know from speaking to Comeback Kid last year that they can’t see a fault with it as you’re getting your recording time paid for you if you record there.

I think probably the people who say it’s a bad thing or it sucks are the people who are not in recipient of those grants. It allows Canadian bands to be competitive outside of Canada and it’s funded a lot of the time by the Heritage Council because what they are trying to do is create a sense of Canadian identity. We don’t have a Canadian nationality so it’s important for us to stress the identity and I think some of the best ways to do that is to promote music and to promote the arts. Unfortunately right now we have a conservative government who are trying to cut back some of the funding and you’ll find that Canadian bands will find it difficult to gain exposure outside of Canada. Sometimes if you can shoot a video it will allow you to not tour as much in certain places because it is just some content that you can send over there to expose people to your music.

Your last music video was toned down quite a bit as you mainly just sat through it [laughs]. There is a point during that video were you just see you rolling your eyes back like you couldn’t care anymore.

[Laughs] Yeah that isn’t the type of content you need, just a band sitting there. It’s quite funny because that is tax money being put to use [laughs]. Sometimes video shoots can be such a drag because you’re not actually performing the song as it’s coming out of a speaker somewhere and you’re there, all plugged in but you’re not making any noise! On top of that they try to get you to act cool and they try to get you to dance around and you just feel like such a fucking idiot [laughs]. So if we sit down we’ll look a little less stupid.

C’est La Vie

That’s one thing you sort of notice with Protest The Hero that you don’t take everything too seriously. Do you think that is the best way to manage yourself in this industry considering the fact you can be on top one minute and down the next?

I think so but it’s easy for me to say that because I literally couldn’t do it any other way. I see bands up there headbanging and frowning [laughs] and I don’t know if they think they look cool doing it but they don’t [laughs]. I think there is something to be said about taking what you do seriously but not taking yourself seriously and we’ve said that time and time again and I think it is something that people respect and understand. I’m sure if people were listening to this right now and standing in my shoes they’d do the exact same thing. Just go up and smile, I play the fucking bass for Christ sake, I play the bow tie of the music ensembles so I may as well be a little silly up there [laughs].

The band kind of has a structure or routine ever since ‘Kezia’ that you release an album, tour for two years, slow down and write a new album and then release it on the third year and then repeat.

Somewhat begrudgingly but yeah. What I would like to do in a sense is tour less and write more. I’d like to be release a series of seven inches or constantly have something new on the go because I think one of the benefits of being in a band is flexing that creative muscle and by the end of a two year album cycle it’s not that you hate the songs but you’re just so ready to move on. That’s what it has been so far and what it will be probably be on this album cycle also.

Just need to try a way to influence the rest of the band into changing it.

Yeah I’ll try change it but we have songs that are unreleased and some things like that.

I suppose that could work as a special EP or album as bands do always release the rarities and B-side albums at some stage.

Exactly so it’s nice to have that sort of option plus we have time off coming up so you never know we might write some new material and see what happens.

One of the things I noticed generally over the years and it was sort of how I was introduced to the band that you’re heavily featured in computer games so are you big gamers yourselves?

Not particularly but we certainly have friends of ours who are the Nintendo generation I guess. Our big one was that we wanted to be featured in NHL.

I think you got into two or three of them as well.

Yeah we were in NHL 2007 and 2009. They were originally going to offer us Madden and then they were like ‘well they are Canadian so let’s give them NHL’ and that was awesome. Not that I care to whore myself out to the video game industry but I grew up playing NHL games and that kind of thing and for me it was a special sort of moment. It is an interesting access point as well because ever since the rise of the internet, labels can’t provide you access points anymore because no-one turns to labels to listen to music anymore, they turn to YouTube or they turn to this or that and in a lot of ways music in video games gets your music out to more people that what labels will.

Protest The Hero Band PictureEspecially when you consider that the NHL game isn’t just released in Canada where it is more popular but it is shipped all over the world so your audience is global.

Somewhere out there someone is getting sick of hearing the first eight bars of one of our songs before the screen changes [laughs].

One of the songs off of ‘Scurrilous’ I want to ask you about and it is a song you wrote and that is ‘Sex Tapes’. Do you have your own sex tapes or were you watching your favourite sex tape when you thought about the title for this song?

[Laughs] That song came in response to, well everyone knows that site Is Anybody Up and all these types of websites, which I peruse all the time [laughs], but it came in response to the fact I think we’re coming to terms with a new sense of privacy and I thought it might be meaningful if we could write a song about it but so far no sex tapes of our on. Although I’m sure if you go back you could find some dick pictures or something because I used to get drunk and take my clothes off all of the time. I used to be young and stupid but now I’m older and still stupid [laughs].

I think our time is almost up I can see you getting pointed at so I’ll finish with the question I’m asking everyone across the weekend and that is if you could back to when you first started out as a musician and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

I think I wouldn’t jump into recording so quickly. Some of our earliest recordings when we were really young, were recorded at a time when we were just full of excitement because we were getting into that environment. We were nervous on the quality control and those songs will always be there and it’s not like I’m ashamed of them but now that I look back at them I think ‘I could have done that a little better’ or maybe I couldn’t have, maybe at the time it was just one of those things. So I always say that to bands that you have a million opportunities to record so make sure you do something that is good because it’s your first statement so make sure it is a good one and then you can make crap albums after that [laughs].

     

About Michael

Michael is the owner and creator of EspyRock. He is your general all round geek; sports fan; TV show fanatic. You can find him sharing his thoughts on his personal Twitter account. Contact Michael on Twitter or via Email.

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