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Rocking Out in the War Zone

John Moe

Angela Kim

Larger view
Acrassicauda perform in Baghdad, 2005
(VBS.TV/VICE Films)
View the Slideshow
"Heavy Metal in Baghdad" Trailer
(VBSdotTV)

"Heavy Metal in Baghdad" is now playing in selected cities. It's a documentary about two New York filmmakers who go to Iraq in search of the metal band Acrassicauda. Its about the band trying to stay together as musicians while surviving a war.

They're Iraqi, but you can hear how heavily influenced they are by American bands like Slayer and Metallica. Co-director Eddie Moretti joins us from New York and Marwan, the drummer for Acrassicauda is with us from Istanbul, Turkey.

Eddie, why risk your life to cover an Iraqi heavy metal band?


Eddy Moretti: We where incredibly compelled by these guys and their passion for their music, and their reliance in the face of all the problems that they were having in their country. And we thought, these where just guys we had to meet.

John Moe: Marwan, drummer from Acrassiacauda, why do you play heavy metal?

Marwan: The thing is, like this is how we feel, we are living in, like, in a heavy metal world. So everything is like so realistic -- to the point that you just want to vomit, you know. The only style of music that presents that is like heavy metal, in my opinion. Just tells you the facts, and nothing but the facts.

Moe: We don't normally associate Iraq with a heavy metal scene. How did the band come about?

Marwan: There [are] the fans, there [are] people who know about heavy metal; loves heavy metal and believes in it. You know, when you think about it -- just normal. When people say an Iraqi playing heavy metal bands, we be like "Yeah." It's not like circus freaks.

Well, what was it like being a heavy metal Band under Saddam Hussein, in the pre-war Iraq?

Marwan: There is always something, there is always borders -- there is always lines that you can't cross. For us it was just like, you know, don't, like, talk about political stuff, don't get, like, close to the government, or like religion stuff, and this was the stuff we like, not even interested in so it wasn't, like, a big problem for us.

How is it different playing once the war began?

Marwan: Oh, after the end of the war, and stuff like, the impact was just like total chaos down there. And when we wanted to do the first concert after the war, we were afraid, we were afraid of like, you know, being bombed on the stage but we did it.

Well now a lot of people would say if you might get killed playing a concert, then don't play the concert. Why did you play the concert anyway?

Marwan: We believe in heavy metal. It's the truth, you know. The whole, like, lifetime, our lifetime, we are seeking for the truth, we just want to know, we are so sick of people telling lies. And I don't want to go around and sing some pop song, and singing "you loved me, you left me" and stuff like that, 'cause, we didn't have that in our lives. We had bombs, we had wars -- we had stuff like that.

Marwan, I wanted to ask about one of the songs, "Massacre." It comes up a lot in the movie and it seems to be a pretty important song to the band. Tell us about it...

Marwan: "Massacre" just talks about like, describes war, what happens in war and we all saw that.

What does it feel like to play it?

Marwan: Rage. You just want to smash and tear your stuff up cause you can do is play this song, so you just have to give it your best.

Are you feeling that rage, when you are playing the drums?

Marwan: Yeah. I thank God that I play the drums and not a guitar or I would break every guitar. I'm so frustrated a person and I think it is obvious.

The band is now in Istanbul. What's the current status of the band?

Marwan: Refugees now waiting for the asylum. The plan always is no plan. You don't have a plan. You don't have nothing on the plate.

Are you practicing together?

Marwan: Together? No. We can't afford to it to practice together. Neighbors been kind of like -- we tried a couple times, but the neighbors said they were going to call the police next time. We can't jeopardize our residency down here so just lay low.

What does it feel like to not be able to play?

Marwan: I'm not a good company now for anyone -- not even for myself. And the same for the guys as well. The difference is that they can pick a guitar, they can play the guitar a little bit but they miss the teamwork thing. For me, just like this incident -- I got this small pad and tried to practice today. Couldn't get the rage, couldn't get the feeling out of it. I threw the sticks away. And I was like start cursing. It was driving me nuts, it driving me mad. And I feel weak and I don't like feeling weak but the situation -- all our life that we lived we were out of options the whole time. They put you in a country and tell you to wait. Can I play drums? No. Can I see my family? No. Can I stay in this place for a while? No. That's it.

And Eddy, you've know this band for a long time. What does it sound for you to hear some of the things that Marwan is saying?

Moretti: Well, I haven't spoken to Marwan in a few months. He's never sounded more depressed or frustrated.

What are you hearing about the band since this movie started circulating?

Moretti: The band Metallica read about the band, and if you see the film you know how important Metallica is to the guys and the stories. And they contacted us and expressed interested in helping the band out and potentially even helping them get into the country. So the next step for the band is find a place where they can play their music and grow their hair and be and be artists.

Marwan, if Acrassicauda opens for Metallica in big stadium show somewhere -- thousands of people...

Marwan: Yeah, I know. I know. I don't know. I'll tell you something. Had posters, all of us, all around our place. Not because we think one day we will meet them. We've all connected to them, these people. These people helped us all through the journey without them knowing that. We just believed in them.

Eddy Morretti, filmmaker for "Heavy Metal in Baghdad" -- Marwan, drummer of Acrassicauda thank you for being with us.

Moretti: Thank you so much.

Marwan: Thanks, appreciate it, man.

  • Music Bridge:
    Massacre
    Artist: Acrassucauda
    CD: (unreleased) (Vice)

Comments

  • Comment | Refresh

  • By Gheri Kofoed

    03/24/2009

    Hey dudes i just watched the documentary film of you all. hope to hear more from you and like when and where we can buy your music. you ROCK!!!great work. ROCK ON!!

    By George Pitt

    03/21/2009

    Welcome to the USA guys! I just watched the documentary film with my wife. We are metal fans from New Jersey (me) and Ohio (her). You will find a lot of good people here in the USA, and if I personally had a lot of money, I would have offered you all brand new instruments and studio time. Kudos to METALLICA for helping you out with guitars! Best regards.

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