Being in an alternative rock band can be a challenge, especially if you live in Saudi Arabia.
Grindcore act Creative Waste are keeping under the radar
The desert winds are not the only thing coming from our Saudi Arabian neighbours. The Eastern Province grindcore trio Creative Waste plan to bring their blistering sounds to Dubai this Friday. The vocalist Fawaz Al Shawaf talks about playing loud music while keeping it low-key at home.
So what is grindcore exactly?
One of the more abrasive music genres. First surfacing in England in the mid 1980s, the grindcore sound is characterised by down-tuned guitars, high-tempo drumming and vocals ranging from incoherent growls to shrieks. "Basically it is an evolution of punk," Al Shawaf says. "When we started, we didn't sound anything like we do right now. We didn't know what we were going to do but the goal has always been pursuing the most aggressive and energetic sound possible."
Are there similar bands in Saudi Arabia?
The kingdom has a tightly knit metal and punk scene. Al Shawaf says he can literally count the number of bands operating in the Eastern Province on his fingers. "One of them is Sound of Ruby and there was a band called Inversion," he says. "There are also other bands in Riyadh such as Crimson which is disbanded now. But by late 2005, bands started popping up in Jeddah. We know almost everyone."
Al Shawaf's brother Talal is the drummer. What did the parents think of their two boys making such a racket?
"My dad thought it was just a phase and that we would get tired of our instruments," Al Shawaf laughs. "It was a big gamble on my dad's part because a drum-set is not exactly cheap. They don't listen to our music but they are supportive."
Is it tough to perform without the authorities taking notice?
Since the early 2000s, the illegal music scene was operating smoothly. However, a massive crackdown on shows between 2008 and 2009 nearly crippled the community. Al Shawaf blames greedy bands and promoters for bringing unwanted attention to the scene. "They started organising shows for themselves with no regard to the limitations," he says. "They asked for a lot of money with tickets prices so expensive that you wouldn't even pay if it was a festival. They shot themselves in the foot and we were the ones that paid for it."
So what is the best way to organise a successful grindcore concert in Saudi Arabia?
Keep it a low-profile and a strictly who-you-know affair. "At this point, you have to keep it within your circle of friends and networks," Al Shawaf says. "Keep it on the down-low and do it only for the music … no alcohol, females or anything like that."
The group has just released its debut album, Slaves to Conformity. Considering the restrictions at home, how was it recorded?
It was complicated. The drum parts were recorded in America where Talal was studying at the time. The guitar and bass were laid down in Al Shawaf's bedroom in Saudi Arabia. However, with his room not sealed enough to withstand his shrieking vocals, Al Shawaf travelled to Bahrain to record them at a friend's studio.
What is it with metal bands and their gloomy names? Creative Waste doesn't inspire a fun night out.
It's not all doom and gloom. Al Shawaf says grindcore songs often hold empowering messages amid the fury. "If you look at some of the tragedies in the world, for example Palestine, what would be more suitable in expressing their pain?" Al Shawaf says. "Would you play a Britney Spears song on top of that or a sound resembling buildings exploding?"
So it's fair to guess that Hit Me Baby One More Time won't be played by the lads anytime soon?
Never say never, Al Shawaf states. "Maybe I will sing it, but it would be with another band."
Creative Waste will play alongside the US band Hate Eternal on Friday at Ratsky 3, Holiday Inn Hotel Bur Dubai, Al Hamriya - Khaleed Bin Waleed, 20th Street, 7pm. For bookings email aar@spellbind records.com. Creative Waste's website is creativewaste.bandcamp.com