||INTERVIEW WITH BABAR SHEIK OF DUSK
Dusk L-R: Yusri Suratmanan', Babar Sheik, Tremor Av Kaos
Dusk were one of Pakistan's first extreme Metal bands, and have boasted legendary Pakistan guitarist Faraz Anwar as part of their line-up.
With new material on the way (including a link up with India's Dying Embrace) founder Babar Sheik gave me this interview.
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Please introduce the band to us.
"Dusk started out over a decade and a half back in Karachi, Pakistan. At the time of its inception the local music scene was still evolving with some pretty decent rock acts and one heavy metal act. We took a more extreme approach towards music in general since we were suckers for much heavier stuff than mainstream metal. Stuff like Celtic Frost and Venom turned us on in a big way.
"Initial releases (demos) see us taking on a faster more vigorous style of death metal and later I guess the Sabbath influences just caught up and we found beauty in slower/heavier moments. This is now already mid to late 1990s. When we released our first record we sounded a little more than just your average doom band and this cultivation further redefined itself with our sophomore full length.
"Post that the band went on a roller coaster ride, there were breakups and hiatus stages and drastic change of styles but all in the genre of extreme music, which brings us to right now where we have taking the classical approach of paying homage bands we grew up with and back to playing music that can best be defined as 'doom metal'."
Apart from Faraz Anwar, who was part of the original line up?
Well prior to Dusk I was playing in a band called Humanash, and lots of riffs that make their way onto the first few Dusk releases were actually the creation of Humanash guitar player and main man Mustafa Kareem. He was actually never in Dusk but I guess without him there would be no Dusk, we were into lots of extreme music together and at that time in a place like Karachi you would meet no one who is into extreme stuff like Bathory and melodic stuff like King Diamond, he couldn't continue doing music with me so I formed Dusk which at that time was called Carcinogenic, I abandoned that name when I realized it was more atmospheric music that I wanted to do...
"Soon after in Dusk it was myself and a drummer called Roger Kenneth, after I cut the first demo (almost alone) we were joined by Sohail Russian who was a local rocker, not too much into metal like me and Roger were but he served the purpose, he liked playing long shred solos and was heavily influenced by Moore and Malmsteen. It was a strange mix but worked for the heavy doom influenced mid tempo death metal that we were crafting at the time.
"I think it will be only justified to say that Sohail was the reason Dusk got its legacy of shred styled guitar solos over the next decade or more. Sohail was Faraz's student and a great admirer of his style and that's how I was introduced to Faraz. He was very kind to Dusk and offered to program all drums for our second demo tape in 1996. He also accompanied us to the studio (at that time we recorded on tape) and helped us out with guitar tones etc.
"After we started recording for our first album Sohail left the band and I asked Faraz if he would record with Dusk to which he agreed and since late in 1996 to 2004 the legendary Faraz Anwer stayed with Dusk."
You are referred to as the Pakistan's first "proper" Metal band. Do you agree with that?
"That statement is true as far as extreme metal is concerned, yes I agree that Dusk was Pakistan's first death metal/doom metal/extreme metal band, but not the first heavy metal band. Before the inception of Dusk there were a few very class acts in the local heavy rock/hard rock scene. Barbarians were pure hard rock almost garage sounding and then there was a band called Overdrive (who used Sohails attic for jamming an in return we used their drumkit and some of their amps too) I would call them more traditional heavy metal with some hard rocking moments but far from extreme metal. The Pakistani metal scene had all the right ingredients at the time, I really wonder what happened and what went wrong... Pakistan really didn't shine out on the metal map of the world."
Who were your influences when you first started?
"When I was ten years old I was introduced to Black Sabbath! When I had just turned into teenage I got into heavier stuff like Venom and Celtic Frost, Death, Carcass and a whole lot of European and American acts but as far as influences are concerned I realized the more I got into extreme acts the more fun I had coming back listening to Black Sabbath! Their entire discography has had a very big influence on me, everything that they have ever done. Other than the main and obvious influences by the mid and late 90s we were getting into a lot of experimental metal and other sub genres. It was a really great time and we never held ourselves back from being influenced by ground breaking acts neither did we shy away from letting those influences shine through on our records."
Are you influenced by the same bands now?
"Over the years I have played in several other bands besides Dusk and this allows me to explore various other musical styles. Also I consider myself to be a rather open minded person when it comes to different and even non-metal musical styles. At present I would say that I'm still into a whole lot of Black Sabbath along with the first couple of Candlemass records, lots of early Celtic Frost, also someone who has really influenced me in a great way over these 15 years or so is Scott Wino. I'm into everything he has ever done be it with The Obsessed or St Vitus or any of his other bands. His approach to playing the guitar and song writing is something that I really look up to.
"I'm still definitely a big time Morbid Angel fan; some of the heavier stuff I like is Immolation for America, the initial Mayhem recordings had and still have a big influence on me. Sadly I cant say much about most of the newer releases influencing me in any way, I find nearly all new productions sounding a certain way, very perfect sounding and very polished, Dusk suffered from such production values with our past releases and I had to really re think how we should be recording in order to get that earthy feel back into our records. Other than metal in general I am into Pakistani folk music (not classical but diehard street folk).
"Also consider myself a pretty big fan of all the Killing Joke discography, and Mono from Japan are someone who I respect a lot as musicians."
Why did you stop, and why are you back?
"Actually we never stopped, there were maybe long absences you can say but we never called it quits! Something of a hiatus came at two different points in Dusk's career. In 2004 when we returned from our tour in Europe, and then because of certain unforeseen circumstances I had to disband Dusk for sometime, we reunited a few months later to record a totally experimental record with a friend of mine called Ismail, also asked several friends from the Pakistani music scene to come and do guest appearances (mostly vocals) I had no idea at the time how this drastic change in direction was going to go down with our audiences and it was very brave of Epidemie records (CZ) to put it out, but to my surprise we received some very good reviews in international press.
"The album was really something that had been stuck in my head for many years and with Faraz no longer in the ranks of Dusk I was concentrating more on getting back to playing more straightforward death / doom stuff and this experimental record seemed like the right thing to do as a transition. From the mid 2007 to about 2011 we were recording with Dusk as a bestial extreme thrash metal outfit with black metal overtones, and now finally returning (as mentioned earlier) I believe as a stronger/tighter and more focused unit!"
Do you think you are a better musician/writer now?
"I think so! Even though I miss the simplicity of older days when you weren't conscientious of so many things and songs and lyrics flowed more in a carefree manner, you know it was like less of really giving a shit about stuff, not being afraid to experiment and at that time there were so many firsts in everything.
"I remember when our second demo was out one publication compared us to Orphaned Land and when our second full length was out someone called us Asia's answer to Opeth! But really to be honest Dusk always wrote songs with being very open-minded and with an almost vivid vision of what we wanted as the final sound to be like. I think I have played in several bands besides Dusk and the most fun part of playing with all these acts is the learning process.
"I can claim that I learnt a lot from Aman Durrani who was playing guitar in the ranks of Dusk from 2006 to 2007, and similarly I learnt a lot from watching Ariffeen (Impiety) play and his overall approach to playing guitar and bass. Playing with Tremor since over six years now has also been a big learning part of my musical career. We are a very close and tight two piece unit when it comes to jamming and recording songs.
"Currently having Omran Shafique (a very talented guitar player and musician) with Dusk gives me another superb chance to write songs differently as we did in the past. I would sum it up to the fact that being a musician one's learnng should never stop."
Has the scene changed - is it easier to get gigs, get music out to people now than then? Have attitudes changed since you started?
"The scene has become big I believe – with the advent of social media and Internet I believe. But you could ask anyone or me who has been around from the early nineties scene that time was a different era. I would say there was much more honesty and earnest fans dominated the scene. If you had a Sarcofago patch on your jacket you would actually own over half their discography, not like now when it becomes a trend to wear metal gear. But at the same time I believe the Internet has bought the core community closer than before and it is easier to network and share stuff, information etc."
What is being planned? (ep's etc)?
"We have just finished the recording for our forthcoming release – it's a split EP with death/doom giants Dying Embrace from India titled 'Through Corridors Of Dead Centuries' and it should see the light of the day before the end of 2013. Its being released by Cyclopean Eye Productions – India. Next month I will start demos for the new material that we hopefully plan to record by early next year. Seems like we will record for a Full length!"
Thank you Babar, good luck with the new projects!
Dusk can be found on Facebook or on Bandcamp.
Below is the track 'Dreaming Gostishya' from their 2006 EP 'Head Heart Dawning'.