This interview with the Iranian rock band The Yellow Dogs is quite a long story. In january, I read an article in a French cinema magazine about the movie « No one knows about Persian cats » (Bhaman Ghobadi, 2009) and then I get interested in the bands that were featured in the movie. So, I went to MySpace to listen to their tunes and discovered that one of the main Iranian rock band performed a gig at the rock club Peyote in Istanbul (january 22nd). But this had happened one night before I read the news, then I tried to get in touch with them by going to the club. Unfortunately they just had their email, so we were not able to meet. A few times later, I received a kind answer, telling that they moved to New York right after the Istanbul show but they could answer to my questions by email (Here it is). They are pursuing their dream and will perform some gigs in March in New York and Austin, Texas. Check the dates on MySpace.
Did you enjoy your concert in Istanbul ?
Obaash from The Yellow Dogs : Absolutely, that was our first concert outside of Iran and also The Yellow Dogs first legal public concert ever, because back in Tehran we always played underground concerts and we never had a chance to play in a public place. Also that was the first time that we earned a little money for playing music thanks for the friendly people in Peyote.
How did you manage to get an authorization to play in Turkey and then go to USA ?
In 2009 we were invited to play in SXSW music festival in Austin TX and CMJ music festival in New York,but because of passport problems we couldn't leave, in Iran all the boys have to do the military service and after that government allow them to have a passport, we solved those problems and moved to Istanbul for applying for U.S. visas for SXSW music festival in 2010.During our stay in Istanbul we realized that there is quite a big rock music scene in Turkey, specially in Istanbul. I used to go to this place called Peyote because of the great music that they used to play and also the good live shows they have. I gave them our music and asked them to let us play there, which happened, we played with another Turkish punk band called Cemiyette Pisiyorum. 2 days after that we moved to New York, because in New York we had our friends Hypernova, another iranian rock band that went to U.S. 3 years ago. We wanted to settle down for a while in New York, play some concerts and learn a lot of stuff from the music scene in here.
Do you wish to stay in Iran as long as possible or to settle in New York like Hypernova or London like the two members of Take it easy hospital ?
Actually we stayed long enough in Iran, 3 years being an underground band in Tehran was long enough. We couldn't even think about making a living with throwing underground concerts in Iran, and right now we are thirsty for playing concerts and enjoying this new freedom that we have. We love to travel and play music everywhere, as long as we can find the money. Right now we want to stay in New York and play for this audience, I can not estimate for how long.
What was your reaction when the director Bhaman Ghobadi spoke to you about his movie ? How was the experience ?
We got excited because he is a famous director in Iran, untill then there was no good film about the underground music scene of Iran and we liked to be part of the musicians playing in the movie.
The experience was pretty cool, we had to be just ourselves and play our music, a lot of the dialogues were made during the filming.
You are still very young, how did you come to rock culture and then create a band ?
Our guitarist LooLoosh and our bassist Koory were members of Hypernova back in 2005 and 2006, when they were in Iran, at the time that Hypernova decided to leave Iran they started their own band, they found the drummer Ziiina and after that they found Me (Obaash) to sing and play guitar. We were really young at the end of 2006 when we started The Yellow Dogs, respectively 17, 18, 19, and 20 years old and still after 3 and half years we are the youngest iranian rock band for sure !
We all knew each other from a park called Ghoory which was the place to hang out for punks, hippies and skaters. When we were teenagers we used to hang out there a lot.
Can you speak a bit about your underground concert place?
It was in a basement/garage of our friends Free Keys,they are also an underground progresive rock band, we are close friends with them. Arash, their drummer is the older brother of our guitarist. One day Pooya the vocalist and guitarist of Free Keys told us that we can sound proof the whole walls and windows, destroy some walls and make an underground venue just for our live shows. So we worked for a month and built that place together, with a stage, we also found a genius light man for creating a real underground rock place for our concerts with a capacity of 200 people. Those concerts with Free Keys in The Basement were the golden times for us.
For those who did not watch the movie, can you describe what would be the daily life of a rock band in Tehran ?
Its not the same for every rock band in Iran but for us in Tehran it was like this, wake up, sometimes late enough to eat lunch in spite of breakfast, work a little bit in the house on the computer, go to our tiny practicing room on the roof top, play music for 3 to 4 hours, after that hang out in the night with friends until we got tired enough to sleep. We like to travel a lot, specially camping trips in middle of nature away from big cities and stressful city life. Iran has all types of nature, desert, beachs, jungle, rocks, high mountains, we had a lot of choice for running away from cities where we could easily be ourselfs and do whatever we wanted to do, have fun with our friends, without getting noticed and without bothering others.
After the release of the movie, what were the feedbacks in Iran and is there a reaction of the regime against the bands that appear in it ?
We left Iran to Istanbul 2 or 3 weeks after the release of the film in the streets of Iran, they used to sold it in the streets for 1 $, that is exactly what Bahman Ghobadi wanted to do. I think right now majority of Iranians have seen it, specially youngsters, it will be a part of Iranian underground music history and at the same time Iranian independent cinema.
Until we left Iran, government had bigger problems, they did not arrest any of the bands and musicians of the film, but honestly I can not predict it.