Ahead of the first Metal event of its kind in Egypt, we speak to musical curator and experimental artist Nader Sadek about the bands he's bringing in and his artistic journey between Egypt and the States.
Nader Sadek is quite an interesting phenomenon of an Egyptian. Not your average law abiding, positive-thinking citizen, not even based here entirely for that matter, and certainly not your average metal head. An artist first, and band curator second, Nader Sadek has a creative and comprehensive vision and a mission to produce a musically driven, theatrical production through Death Metal music, and this year, on September 17th, El Sawy Culture Wheel will host his latest project, bringing a selection of the heaviest international Death Metal acts to Egypt. Aborted, Tech Death supergroup Alkaloid and his own project Nader Sadek: In The Flesh, along with Black Metal locals Sallos. This is the first performance of its kind in Egypt and metal heads and rockers alike are already psyched and super charged at the thought of it coming to town. Here we talk the artistry of Metal, the importance of music and social experiments through art.
First thing's first, where are you working?
I’m based between NYC and Cairo; I need the double dosage of chaos! New York City is where I make a living, but I don’t have to be there all year long. So believe it or not, I go to Cairo to relax, and I end up staying there for an extended length of time.
Can you explain exactly what you do as a band curator?
There’s no specific entry point explaining what I do in the band. As curator, I chose musicians that I believe would bring a certain kind of sound with them within our collaboration, depending on the theme and the vibe I hope to conjure. Then, I write the songs with them. Then we produce the recording and work with an engineer on mixing and mastering.
Can you tell us about your art and how it feeds into your music?
First and foremost, before the curating, the band and the managing, I started out just an artist. I had several exhibitions internationally in a few museums. In 2007 I began a project called Faceless, comparing peripheral “extreme-looking” cultures and our perception of “the other”. Having lived between Cairo, Minneapolis (2000-2004), and New York, I was able to experience the paranoia of being in certain environments. When I lived in Cairo and had long hair and a goatee, I’d get spit on and called a Satan worshipper. I wanted to reverse that experience in NYC and I dressed up as monaqaba and walked in Victoria’s Secret; nobody spat on me but the vibe was quite uncomfortable between the employees and customers walking in and being startled. This experience confirmed the potential of my experiment as an art piece, and I made drawings that took all the “dark” and seemingly “evil” and put them together. Creating morbid landscapes occupied by a monaqaba. If you don’t know anything about either culture, you will see that their commonalities bind them. And in this way I wish to expose our xenophobia. For the exhibition of those drawings in NYC, I invited a lot of Metal musicians whom I listened to in my late teens. Most of them responded and we created my first song. Later on Sculpture Center, a museum in NYC, asked me to make a performance based on the project. So the birth of this project was in an art center. And I like to stress that this to me is an art project and not a band. There is no band actually.
What inspires your themes and their development?
Most of my work is occupied by the idea of petroleum worship. This is the society we live in now. Everything is more or less made from petroleum. We fight wars over it, and it pollutes and kills anything it touches and yet we've found a way to turn it into energy, helping propagate life. To me it seems like there’s a strange imbalance. Petroleum, which is basically a collection of formerly living creatures all cooked up in the boiling pits of the earth, is black, poisonous, its usage pollutes, and its power corrupts. And wars are waged over it. So in every sense - politically, morally, spiritually, physically – it is detrimental to our existence. And I’m not saying, “Stop using petroleum,” - the sooner this shit planet dies, the better. All I’m saying is before you go around acting like you worship a god in the skies look beneath you and realise the only god you know comes from below; we don’t just worship petroleum, we're addicted to it like heroin.
Are there any bands that are a consistent part of your project or do they only join to serve a particular theme and move on?
No, I rarely work with bands unless they hire me to make a video or help write a song, I’m more of a producer of my own project, I don’t see myself as “the producer” though, but I’ve been called that. It’s only like 10% of what I do other than wringing, drawing, creating, managing, booking. I also work with bands in the capacity of getting them to be part of festivals or shows. But these are two different things. Bringing bands to Egypt is one thing, then I have my own band project where I create a band for the purpose of performing for a night whether opening for or headlining other bands. For the most part I find musicians who I think are appropriate for the kind of sound I’m looking for. Initially, I wanted to mesh all my favourite elements of Metal's varied sub genres into one feel. For example, I wanted to bring atmosphere so I hired a Black Metal guitarist; I wanted it to be super heavy and powerful so got a Death Metal singer; I wanted the drumming to be groovy but still blasting insanely, so I got a drummer who can do that. This sound is my vision. Even if I don’t write a song, that’s not the point, the point is to create the sound, not the song, to conjure a new feel. It’s the first time for me to do anything with the capacity I’ll bring with Aborted coming to Egypt.
Are you personally taking any part in the music making process with any of the bands you organise?
For my own project, yes. I didn’t want to in the beginning, I'm not a musician, nor have I ever thought of becoming one. But one day I got inspired, and to me, being an artist means being creative, not just mastering a tool. And I decided I’m gonna write a song, and there’s been melodies kickin’ around my head for years, the challenge was to find the individual notes on a guitar or keyboard. I don’t know how to play any instrumentd, but creating a melody is something that happens with the mind. Just like with drawing. Imagination comes first, than training your hand to operate the tool next.
Eventually I created the bass line and the harmonies for one song. I was pretty happy with it so for the next album I was encouraged to do more. For Malefic Chapter 3, I actually wrote all the lyrics and the phrasing, which was a really fun challenge. Especially with the phrasing of the singing, it’s really intimidating, but I was able to put my heart and soul in it and I’m really proud of it.
What kind of venues, and where, have you performed before? Are they mostly New York based?
As I mentioned in the beginning, the first place was Sculpture center, later it started to be picked up by venues all over the world. Now In NYC I usually play my good friend Andrew WK’s club in downtown, but the next one I think will be in an art gallery, which will be more fun, because I get to decorate the entire space. It will be like a retrospective of my work in a sense.
Do you have any record labels working with any of your bands?
Hell no, fuck record label,s it’s 2015! It's time for that dinosaur to go back to the anus it crawled from, unless of course someone makes an irresistible offer.
Are you personally affiliated with any labels or other projects?
I get hired to do some stuff here and there, I made props for indie movies, I'm also preparing for an art gallery exhibit that won’t be music related, yet still somehow metal.
What are some of your favourite bands that people should check out?
I can’t really choose one over the other. The last thing I saw which almost brought me to tears was Danny Elfman live, he had an entire orchestra playing the original soundtracks of Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, Beetlejuice and more... I had goosebumps the entire show.
I also love PJ Harvey in certain moods, then there’s the Death Metal and Black Metal stuff like Cannibal Corpse and Dark Funeral… It’s just too much, it depends on my mood, and my mood hasn’t been much into music lately.
Have you ever played Egypt before?
Yeah! Descent live in Sakkia, April 2015, was one of my favourite shows ever! I loved it. Good vibes and good energy, the musicians I brought were blown away too!
There’s a severe lack of authentic Egyptian venues for genres such as Metal and Punk, what do you think is the reason behind that?
It’s seen as a subversive weapon, once the government feels like they can't control something, they’re intimidated, but you know, it’s just powerless!
And what would you think would be the solution to this problem (if any)?
Doing the work with a bit of secrecy, slowly try to make the scene grow first with local bands, then bring others who will attract a bigger audience. You also want your audience to trust you; there’s a lot of fear when it comes to these shows so you have to let them know that it’ll be OK. It’s complicated, you have to really play your cards right, then nothing’s impossible
What are you expecting or most looking forward to regarding your Sakkia gig on September 17th?
It’s going to be super-interesting for so many reasons. I also get to watch Alkaloid who I’m shooting a music video for the night before the show. It’s going to be mind-blowing watching Aborted play. It’s going to be hard not letting out a tear or two, haha! I mean this is as Death Metal as it gets and it’s going to be in Egypt. The thing I’m most excited about though is playing with Maged Gamal El Deen, because he is Egyptian and I’m really proud of his skills. He taught himself, and it’s really awesome to try to get more local musicians to become part of the project. Also it'll be the first time working with Christian Munzner, a German guitar genius; he plays with Hannes in Alkaloid, but him and Hannes go way back, they both played with Necrophagist. Hands down one of my favourite bands ever. So to have half the line up of that band play with me is mind blowing!
Any more future endeavors in Egypt or elsewhere we should keep our eyes and ears open to?
After the Sakkia show there will be a small show with Attilas Void Ov Voices and I’ll be announcing where soon. And eventually, in 2016, I will have an art exhibition in Cairo.
Check out the event page here.