After the recent controversy surrounding the Inquisition show in Egypt this year, as well as the secret postponement of the Dark Fortress gig there, we asked Egyptian metal artist Nader Sadek about the events that transpired, as well as his upcoming projects.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that the views presented in this interview do not necessarily reflect the views of Metality or anyone involved in managing it or writing for it. As the largest metal webzine in the Middle East, we wanted to give Nader Sadek a platform to speak about this issue.

1-     A lot has happened since the show with Inquisition in Egypt: a media controversy, and lots of back and forth accusations within the scene. We’ve seen you defend metal on Egyptian TV. Can you give us some more insight into the issue, especially for the non-Arab audiences?

Nader: Basically what you have here is a young scene, whereas in the Western world, they were dealing with this kind of controversy in the 80’s and early 90’s. So I figure that this is the “pubescent” stage of the metal scene in Egypt and the Middle East, which was aborted in 1997 due to a fame-seeking and ignorant journalist with the name of Abdallah Kamal. Then, the scene saw a weak revival in the 2000s.

First and foremost, I think it is a good idea to give some background on the fiasco of ‘97. Two members from a band in Alexandria were getting jealous from the fact that the Cairo metal scene was growing and getting sponsorship from large companies such as Marlboro and McDonalds. These two members called Abdallah Kamal, a writer at Rose El-Youssef, which is not in any way a respected paper in Egypt and basically a tabloid who are self-proclaimed “exposers” of problematic issues in Egypt. The band from Alexandria told Kamal that metal is a pathway to devil worship, and that virgin cats are being sacrificed and their blood drunk as some sort of ritual. Kamal saw the opportunity to get fame and recognition for uncovering this “terrible” movement and attended one of the metal shows back then, which were perfectly legal. He took many pictures at that show in 1997 with a film camera, which did not have any auto corrections of red eye in its photographs. Rose-El Youssef then only published the pictures with the red eye appearing on people’s faces at the show and captioned the pictures with “Children of the Devil are possessed at a Devil worshipping mass!”

At the time, there was a strong rise in terrorism; only a few years earlier, there had been an attempt to attack the World Trade Center in New York.  The Egyptian media took the opportunity to talk about something else to keep the “sheep” in check, and have them worry about something else, “coincidentally” something on the opposite spectrum: “Devil Worship”. Unfortunately, things became difficult, and hundreds of metalheads were uprooted from their homes, taken to jail, and tortured. They spent a month in jail, living in hard conditions, and put in the cell adjacent to that of actual terrorists. After 30 days, they were found innocent and let go, but the government did nothing to compensate for the suffering they caused. And many of those people stopped listening to metal and wanted no association with it whatsoever.
For years, metal was taboo. You couldn’t walk around in Egypt wearing metal shirts because most likely you would get spit on.

Eventually, a new generation arose. Those are people who were mere children during the mass arrests of ‘97. So, they didn’t have the actual experience of being tortured or imprisoned. To them, these events are simply urban legends, and a lot of them pretend to have been somehow part of it.

Fast-forward to now, with the Inquisition show. History simply repeated itself; however, there is a very big twist here that is truly unbelievable.

When metal bands started to appear in the 2000s, they were made to be government friendly, which to me is the most un-metal thing you could ever possibly do, and everything was “safe”. It’s like a horror movie with nothing scary in it, but in general, it was bands that have government connections. For example, their fathers are some government officials or so. They also came from rich families, which meant they could hit up European festivals and do “buy-on” shows.  “Buy-on” is when you pay a touring agency to put you on a tour with a big band, but the playing slot is completely useless, because they make you play at around 4 PM, 6 PM if you’re lucky. And nobody watches them, except the big band’s crew because the performance is relatively early. However, they do get to have their name on the touring poster. They end up looking like rock stars in the Middle East because they “made it”. But the reality of it is that they didn’t make anything, but rather bought their way to the slot. At these huge festivals, they take a selfie with a large crowd behind them, but the crowd really isn’t there for them at all. In fact, the audience is probably still nurturing their hangovers from the previous night. Still, they get to go home and pretend that they are heroes. Good for them, I guess.

Now that was some background information that people should keep in mind, when reading the rest of this because it really delves into the childish acts that are to come.

In Aborted’s show in Egypt last year, the venue took 75% of the ticket income, and then lied to me about how many tickets sold. The venue also has some extremely unusual rules, like no press allowed for Metal shows and no photography. They also allow former employees to walk in and bring friends but do not charge them the ticket price. I watched as these people pushed away the security, just walked in backstage, and tried to hang out with the band. I had to kick them out myself! The thing that bothers me is that the owner of the venue is a Muslim Brotherhood supporter, which is a terrorist organization covered under the veil of extreme piousness. I decided I wanted nothing to do with this venue and found another spot for the Inquisition show.

This other spot was the Amoun Hotel, a hotel with a good performance space, usually reserved for weddings. I approached them, and they liked the idea. They asked me to get the proper permits, which I did. After I got the permits from the government, I announced the show and the location. After learning about the show, Wael Ossama, Usama Ahmed (The organizer of Metalblast), and failed musician Sharif Marzaban contacted a journalist, and told him about the Inquistion gig and its location.

Now watch as history repeats: This time you have three individuals, all with very little to no success in their work, who then called a journalist also seeking fame. This journalist went and threatened the Amoun Hotel’s owner and told him, “If you let this show happen, I will write an article saying you worship the devil.” Of course, this scared the hotel owner and he apologized to me for not being able to host the show, despite me having the proper permits from the government. I had not yet obtained the permits from the Musician’s Syndicate, nor did I have to at this stage; however, I did try and they kept telling me, “You’re too early. Come next week.” Which I did; week after week, I went and they finally they told me, “If you have the money, we can make the permit the day of the show if we have to. We just want the payment.” This made me wonder why they wouldn’t simply take the money, but apparently, because it was around New Year’s, they were simply too “busy”.

Anyway, I got that call that the hotel, despite having the governmental permits, which again at this point were all I needed, could not host the Inquisition show.  I was on my way to the US, where I had a few shows lined up, so from there, I had to figure out a new space for the show. I was then told about a space in which The British Council ( a British cultural institute) and Pro Helvetia (a Swiss cultural institute) had held events. I got the venue’s contact information and called them. The originally-planned show date was on the 20th of February, but the venue was booked for something else on that day. So, the only thing I could do was make the show on the 19th. Then, I decided to let people know by direct contact through me and my friends about the new location and date of the show, including all the people who had brought presale tickets. People who were going to the show were informed about the situation, and all the information about the location and time was given to them. People attended the show, and it went really well. Honestly, I was surprised at how many people showed up; it was a lot of people, considering the fear and terror that was spread by some of the media prior to the show. The show went really great, and I honestly consider it to be a milestone in the history of metal in Egypt.

As for the permits, the new venue in fact had assured me that they’ve paid the syndicate 10,000 Egyptian Pounds, which just so happens to be what the syndicate did in fact ask for.
Two days later, I wake up to see one of the most lie-ridden posts published by someone who is supposed to be respectable: the head of the musicians syndicate in Egypt. He claimed that he personally intercepted and shut down a “satanic ritual in the form of music”. He also mentioned that the event had a Qatari and Bahraini DJ, and people wearing the Star of David. He also mentioned the originally-planned show date and wrong venue. This all points clearly to the fact that he was lied to. No one was Bahraini or Qatari at the show, and no Stars of David were there, obviously. However, the mentioning of these nationalities was a tool to gain the trust of some of the Egyptian people through the country’s politics. In addition, the show actually happened with so much of a glitch that no one was arrested. It was obvious that those guys who wanted to ruin the show had contacted Hany Shaker, the head of the Musicians’ Syndicate, and tried to get my show shut down. They failed.  It’s also obvious because one of the people who was against me realized that that this “uproar” was initiated because of personal issues, and not that they actually care about the scene or about any of the stuff that they are saying publicly. This is just a cover for their own personal agenda. Anyway, after a major media backlash, the head of the syndicate retracted and changed his statements not once, but at least 5 times. First, he took back the claim that they (the Syndicate) actually cancelled it. Then, he took back the claim that it was a satanic mass. Later, he said that what happened was that I didn’t get the proper permits, and since they hold the stubs to the permits, no one can really argue with that. I now have no respect for the Musicians’ Syndicate after they lied and continually changed their statements to save face.

I consider these people, the failed metal musicians and organizers who wanted this show to be shut-down, as terrorists. Why? Because the definition of terrorism is spreading fear in order to achieve a political gain and sway public opinion to have their demands met. It is not just blowing up buildings or chopping people’s heads off. They spread fear and threats in order to achieve what they want, just like any terrorist group. They are cultural terrorists.
So, Mafia-style, this group of people went and continued spreading their lies.

2-     The Dark Fortress show did not happen as planned. What can you tell us about that?

The show happened, but the “practitioners of backwardness”, as a friend of mine calls them (i.e. the same people who tried to shut down the Inquisition show), would call and threaten every venue and rehearsal space and even equipment rental place. They would tell the owners of these businesses and venues that we (Dark Fortress and my band) are going to cause them problems if they work with us. I would keep finding people wanting to work with me, who would tell me, “Yeah, we don’t care about the Syndicate. They’re corrupt anyways”. Then, right before closing the deal, they would act erratic and apologize. Again, it was obvious that they were threatened by someone or a group of people in a position of relatively high power, which ended up causing a problem for us to do the show.

The next day, however, we found a place and the necessary equipment to do the show, and we did it. There’s not a damn thing anyone can do about that now! Because of this, though, hundreds of people are pissed off to know that Dark Fortress actually made it to Egypt yet then the main event was cancelled. And we had to revert to doing it in secrecy, which is neither illegal nor wrong. It just sucked. Of course, I wasn’t able to promote this on the page because had I done that, they would have threatened the owners of the place. However, the show must go on, and this was my only choice. 

I also want to add that on public television, I asked the head of the Musicians’ Syndicate to apologize, not to me, but to the people whose lives he ruined with his irresponsible and invalid claims.  People got fired from their jobs because their pictures appeared on those gross tabloid papers claiming they were devil worshippers. Another good point to mention is that if you follow closely, what’s going on, you’ll notice that the only media that supports these guys’ cause is Dotmsr, a company owned by Abdallah Kamal, the same guy who created the fiasco back in 1997. All other intellectual media are backing me up. Who is also backing me up? A huge number of the people who, in 1997, were falsely accused of and imprisoned for devil worship support me. They send me messages, encouraging me and doing their best to support me. In fact, some of them helped sponsor the shows. 

As far as getting the permits this time around, I actually went to the Syndicate, and we agreed to start a new chapter, be friends, and start from scratch. We agreed that we were both lied to and taken advantage of and were pitted against each other by the jealous competition. I was ready to make the payment personally this time. However, when I met with them the next day, they had a different tone with me and were not as welcoming as they were the day before. They then asked for $500 per musician playing at that show. I laughed right in their face and told them that it is illegal to do so. It looks like we’re back to square one. I told them I’m not paying it, and that I’m doing the show anyway, and left. I spoke to a judge who told me that what they are doing is illegal and that they need to submit papers as to why all of a sudden musician has to pay $500 to play a show in Egypt. The judge also assured me that what I’m doing is not illegal, as the only  power the syndicate has at this point is to go around and threaten people, Mafia-style, which is what they’ve been doing.

3-     You seem to be revolutionizing the Egyptian (and Middle Eastern) metal scene. What’s next? 

Finishing up my new EP, which I’m so excited to finally release! It has the best line up I’ve ever put together, from Glen Benton to Derek Roddy and many more.

4-     What’s your favorite song to perform live?

Probably Entropy Eternal. It just gets so fast, and I feel insane having to squeeze together all these words so quickly.

5-     Is there anything else you can tell us about your upcoming release?

Yeah it’s titled Malefic: Chapter II, and it’s a true hybrid of all the subgenres of metal –black, death, and doom. With Malefic: Chapter III, it wasn’t so much a hybrid of subgenres in each song, as much as each song being individually from a different genre. For example, “Deformation” is a straight up brutal Death Metal song, followed by “Carrion”, a black metal song, and then Entropy, a thrash track, and finally, “Descent”, which is doom. In Malefic: Chapter II, each song truly contains different elements from the subgenres.

6-     Any words for the readers of Metality?

Yes, I want to add that the day after the Inquisition show, I took the members of Inquisition to the Pyramids and asked them to put on their corpse paint. Then we walked around the streets of Cairo, and many people gathered around us and were asking me to take pictures of them with the band. They would ask me who are those guys: Wrestlers? Artists?  And I would say, “No, they’re musicians.” And the eyes of the people would light up, and they would get excited. One man asked me to take a picture of his daughter with them. I want to make this very clear because it is really quite important. None of these people, and there were many, from all walks of life as well as tourists and farmers in the area, accused them of devil worship.No one tried to make the situation negative. And, what am I trying to prove with this? I want to prove that the Egyptian people in their hearts and minds are good people. They are curious, and they have no qualms with a band like Inquisition, with their make-up and image. The fear, panic, and problems that were caused, believe it or not, came from so-called metalheads who tried to get us arrested and thrown in jail.

Now, I want you to imagine what would have happened if Perversion, Inquisition, myself, and everyone at that show would have gotten arrested. And why didn’t we? Because I had secured everything, including a paper from the government itself, which means this: The government doesn’t care, nor do the people. The problem is simply that the “competition” can’t handle the fact that within 6 months, I achieved what others in Egypt hadn’t been able to achieve in 10 years. Using lies, spreading fear and panic, those guys are solely responsible for this mess. I do want to sincerely apologize to those who were unable to make it to the secret show, and you certainly deserve better than that!

I also want to ask the people reading this: Who do you believe? A man who went in front of 90 million people and lied, took back his lies, covered them with other lies, then retracted those, and covered them up with more lies? Or the guy whose stuck to the same story? You choose, and either way, I honestly don’t care. I feel bad for the head of the Syndicate, because he’s proven to the whole country that’s he’s ignorant and easily manipulated.

To the metal scene in the Middle East, I want to say that I'm doing the best I can for my brothers and sisters in that scene. And I don't mean just the fans, but also the bands as well. You have these great bands, who didn't use their rich parents' money or government corruption to make it somewhere in the scene. They're just really fucking good bands. Good bands like Perversion, Lelahell, Smouldering in Forgotten, Blaakyum, Perpetual Ferocity, and Voice of the Soul, to name a few. None of them have had help from their parents' money or something sketchy to get them where they are. These are the bands I want to help. I personally do not feel the need to compete or go against people, who could, as a team with all of us, do some really amazing stuff and kick ass. Unfortunately, there's bands that try to keep the scene divided and seperated so they can keep the spotlight to themselves. To those bands, I say that I'm not going to stop. We can have a great and powerful metal scene in the Middle East, so we can show the world that it is not some backwards terrorist pit. We want to show that this place respects itself and the value of human life and expression. If we continue to self-censor and make everything safe, then we are actually perpetuating this kind of censorship. 

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