Interview with Emir Hot of Emir Hot Sevdah Metal
Interview by Militia
Having once featured an interview with a Bosnian band AGONIZE, it is with great pride and pleasure that I once again bring you a unique interview, this time with a guitar virtuoso of a new metal project known as Emir Hot: Sevdah Metal. Thanks to this project, Emir will go into history books as a creator of a new genre of metal you will get to know as Sevdah metal. So read on and find out just what its all about…
HailMetal.Com: Your current band - Emir Hot Sevdah Metal - plays progressive sevdah metal. When and where was the band formed?
Emir Hot: This band/project was formed last year in London UK. It is actually Emir Hot and musicians I hired. There is no proper band with full time members. I had songs written and I called musicians to come to London and record it. We played a couple of shows but with different line up. John West, the singer, was the only constant member from the album line up on all shows.
HM: Can you please let us know in as much detail as you can of what Sevdah is and how did you come about playing Sevdah metal?
Emir Hot: “Sevdah” is a Turkish word which means “love” but in Bosnia we call our traditional music “Sevdah”. It’s a musical style with a huge history and tradition. 500 years ago we were under the Ottoman Empire so the traditional music in Bosnia and Herzegovina sounds very "Eastern". “Sevdah” can also be defined as a state of mind where someone is dying of love and strong feelings for a loving person. My idea was to try mixing that style with Heavy Metal in order to create something new and interesting as well as to promote music from where I come from. That’s why I called the album Sevdah Metal.
HM: Not many people would know but your previous band Southern Storm also played folk metal. Would it be fair to say that for you it was a stepping stone, helping you mature as musician? Now because of that experience you’ve managed to form this new band and release the excellent Sevdah Metal album?
Emir Hot: Southern Storm was also a metal band but with some elements from our traditional music. I have always found interesting to mix that style and metal. On this new album I have done all I had in mind for a long time. My songwriting skills are much better than when I was in Southern Storm so I took a chance to mark the period where I am now and show all my potential as a musician. I don’t really know if I am doing a right thing but according to many critics and reviews, things are looking very positive.
HM: Do you know if there are any other bands today playing this exact form of metal?
Emir Hot: From where I come from I don’t know any band with similar orientation. But there are many bands from different parts of the world that use their traditional music mixed with metal. I think it is a very interesting and positive thing.
HM: An accordion is one instrument used to play Sevdah that is also on your new album. Are there any other instruments native to Bosnia that appear on Sevdah Metal?
Emir Hot: “Saz” used to be the main instrument in Sevdah music many years ago. Later, as the music progressed in the world, people added more instruments in arrangements like accordion, flute, etc... Saz sounds like kind of Sitar but has a different tuning and shape. They use it in Turkey as well. The intro in the song “Sevdah Metal Rhapsody” starts with Saz.
HM: Is this the direction you’re taking Emir Hot? Are you going to release further albums with Sevdah elements in your music or is this going to be the first and final one?
Emir Hot: If I realize that some of those elements can work well in a song then I will use them, why not. I am always careful not to overdo it. My music should mainly be metal music so those elements don’t always work but I do use them sometimes as it brings something refreshing on top of usual metal riffs and structures.
HM: Is this a project or a full time band? How serious are you about it? Do you intend on following in the footsteps of Joe Satriani or Yngwie Malmsteen? Greg Howe? I think you are well on your way becoming one of the greats!
Emir Hot: This is now a project but it can easily turn into something else. I am trying to make a full time band but I need one more album and a couple of tours so I can sit down and seriously make that plan. I don’t make a living of music yet. Now I am happy that I can have musicians when I need them but of course every time I have to plan things according to their schedule. This is really difficult for me because people I want to work with are very busy in other bands. I am not that much active with touring so I can not offer anyone something safe in this project and request that this should be their priority. About the other part of your question, becoming a star like you mention above, this would be great but I don’t really know if I will ever become one of those. Those are really big names and today you have thousands of similar players so chances are small but you never know.
HM: Of course we remember Mike Terrana from bands like Gamma Ray, Savage Circus and Axel Rudi Pell to name a few. With John West on vocals (who worked with Chris Caffery and Metal Mike Chlasciak), it’s some line-up especially considering this music is a recent arrival onto the scene. How did they come on board?
Emir Hot: You didn’t mention the most important names. Mike played with Yngwie for a couple of years and John West spent 9 years in Royal Hunt and also 5 or 6 albums in Artension with Mike on drums as well.
I`ve known Mike since 2003. Since then we have been in contact but until 2006 we never talked about working together. When I had my songs ready for the studio I asked Mike to play on the album and he accepted it. He knows very well how hard it is in the beginning of someone’s career so he really wanted to help. He is an amazing drummer and a very cool guy. Both Mike and my Label "Lion Music" helped to get John West on board who was definitely a real deal. I must say that I was extremely lucky with all these things as it’s not an everyday situation that you get to work with people like Mike and John when you need them as they are extremely busy musicians. John had just left Royal Hunt so he was available to fly in to London and do a great job as always. John delivered something that has both feelings and amazing power. He is also an incredible vocalist and a great person.
HM: How did those guys like working on Sevdah Metal? Have they heard of Sevdah music before they met you?
Emir Hot: They never heard that music before. It sounded strange to them but later they really liked it. It was some new and interesting experience for them. They had a good amount of freedom on this record. When they understood my whole point about the sound I like, the rest was a routine job. It took four days for Mike and five days for John to record the whole thing. With that kind of musicians you never really have a headache. It’s just relaxing to work with such professionals.
HM: These guys have their own bands, is it hard for them to find time to work with your project?
Emir Hot: I guess two things are the most important. If they see a good potential in the project then the first part is done. The second one is the money. If these two are satisfied then the deal is on the table. I think this works in 95% cases.
HM: What has the reception been like to the album so far by the fans?
Emir Hot: I can only tell you from reviews I see on the web and magazines. They are all between 7.5 and 10. I have seen reviews from at least 30 different countries so this is a very positive feedback. I hope we will be well accepted when we go on a proper tour.
HM: I have heard the album and it’s certainly a unique metal experience. It’s progressive Sevdah metal if I can call it that. The track “Sevdah metal rhapsody” is obviously a medley of many popular Slavic songs (Bosnian, etc) and bits even feature choir sections. How would you sell an album like this?
Emir Hot: Selling and distribution is the job my label “Lion Music” is responsible for. I got the record deal because they heard all these songs when they were in a demo stage. When I got signed it meant they believe they can sell it. I wasn’t really sure whether I was going in the right direction but the label was very optimistic about this and so far we are doing really well. They also do all the promotion and I am really happy to be part of their artist team. Their strategy is mostly based on internet distribution but you can find this CD in nearly 60 different countries. Besides Lion Music there are licensed Japanese, Russian and Serbian releases on the market.
HM: Obviously playing sevdah scales isn’t just a walk in the park and yet you manage to play at massive speeds. Do you get tired after a while?
Emir Hot: Not really. I enjoy playing. It is great thing that I like what I do and I never get bored and tired of that.
HM: What gear do you use? How many guitars do you own?
Emir Hot: My main guitar is an old 80’s Hamer completely customised. I bought it because it felt like a perfect neck for my left hand. You can see it on almost every picture on my website. I have 2 Seymour Duncan humbuckers and 1 single coil with Schaller floyd rose. I can get any sound on that guitar. As a backup I have some Strat copies and a couple of acoustic guitars. Slowly I am moving to ENGL amps. They definitely have the sound I like. I don’t really use any pedals but I have a couple of overdrives and delay.
HM: Do you have a sevdah collection at home? What do you think about Goran Bregovic? Safet Isović and the like?
Emir Hot: I have at least 2000 Sevdah traditional songs in my collection. The names you mentioned are the greatest in Balkan. I grew up listening to Bregovic and his great band “Bijelo Dugme”. I learned a lot from that band in my early days of playing. He is an amazing composer and arranger. Safet Isovic was the biggest promoter and interpreter of Sevdah music ever. Unfortunately he died last year. I recorded guitars for a track made by a famous Bosnian folk star Elvira Rahic. In memoriam to Safet Isovic. That was a big honor.
HM: The band “Mostar Sevdah Reunion” are quite popular in Bosnia and they also play in gypsy style. I’ve seen their DVD, amazing show. Thoughts?
Emir Hot: I know all of them personally. Great guys and brilliant musicians. Their music is considered “world music”. Something really unique on each of their albums. I have seen them live several times. Their show here at London’s Marquee was beautiful.
HM: Speaking of ExYu bands, metal band Divlje Jagode must have been one of your bigger influences growing up? As a young fan have you been to any good concerts in time of ex-Yugoslavia that you can remember?
Emir Hot: Sure. I have seen many bands many times live and luckily later I had a chance to meet many of them personally. I also worked with some famous names from ex. Yugoslavia. Bands like Divlje Jagode engraved their name in history of Yugoslav rock music and that is something to be well respected. They have been influenced to almost all musicians in Yugoslavia over the years and many got interested in taking music as a profession because of those bands.
HM: You should check out Sarajevo based rockers Erogene Zone! I have tried to get Almas Smajlovic to listen to Opeth tracks (Swedish prog/death metal) for added inspiration. So far unsuccessful. Thoughts?
Emir Hot: I know those guys as well :) Cool guys and cool music. It’s hard to make a major success in Bosnia after the war but many are still trying hard.
HM: My understanding is you were living in Bosnia during the aggression of the 90s (I have, too). Tell me all the details of your experience, where you lived, what it was like, your worst experience and how did you manage to survive?
Emir Hot: One of the worst life experiences one can have is definitely being through a war. I have seen it all and I can tell you that the war is something I wouldn`t even wish on my worst enemy. I was born in a city called Tuzla. When the war in Bosnia started we couldn`t get out of the shelter for a long time. After about a year people couldn`t stand those conditions anymore so they started to walk normally on the street and do their normal daily things knowing 100% that they are under a big risk of death at any moment. The city was bombed daily about 15 times in series from the local hills which surround the highly inhabited area. The same was with the musicians who wanted to play live without thinking that they can die any moment. The band I was with at the time announced the live show and everyone thought we were heroes, playing a metal show while the city is being bombed. The place was packed with metal fans and we did the first war concert in our city. It looked like they wanted to show their protest to the non-sense war and they absolutely didn`t care if they get wounded. Shortly after, the city government forbade gathering like that on the public places which proved later when 72 died from just one bomb in the city center. Anyway, from bad things you always get something that works out good in the future. I got a lot of inspiration for my songs just by understanding the hard life in my young age and that definitely affects my music in both lyrics and the melody.
HM: …and you ended up playing progressive metal. I would think you’d go with thrash considering you lived through a war.
Emir Hot: At that time I had a trash metal band but later I found that I can’t show all my skills and potential if I only play that music. Metal is not the only style I play. As a session musician I play many other styles like jazz, pop, funky etc... Every kind of music has something special about it. I have done classical music school in Bosnia and I have also done 3 years degree here at the “London Guitar Institute” so I can say I am pretty much a complete musician, at least in what I need for the music that I make.
HM: What is it like living in Bosnia these days? I am sure you are there from time to time?
Emir Hot: There are some very cool bands. I go there a couple of times every year for a holiday. The thing is that you can not really live of metal music in those countries. I have tried all options with different bands and in the end I gave up and decided to move abroad. The law about copyrights doesn’t exist in Bosnia. You can legally buy pirate CDs everywhere and nobody cares. You can even register a company for selling illegal products and pay tax to the country, definitely not a nice atmosphere for an artist. There are no proper CD shops that I can say - no market at all. Those countries need at least 10 more years to catch up with normal European standards.
HM: Aside from metal albums you also recorded music for the television. Amazing! Howe did that come about?
Emir Hot: I have a friend who is a famous composer in Bosnia. He is also a well respected teacher at “Music Academy of Sarajevo”. He got an offer to write a soundtrack for the first post war drama produced by our national TV called “Forgotten Saying”. There were things that he couldn’t make as he is a classical composer so he invited me to do some modern music for not less but half of the movie. Great experience but a very difficult job. The movie got many awards and it is great that I got my chance to contribute. The producer was really happy with my work.
HM: Do you do many concerts or tours with this band?
Emir Hot: Not at the moment but I am planning to start playing next year much more.
HM: Has there been any interest from major labels as yet?
Emir Hot: No. That would be great but I don’t know if I will be the lucky one.
HM: What’s next?
Emir Hot: New album and many live shows.
HM: For people living far away how/when can they hear or see the band play? Do you plan on releasing any DVDs in the future? Youtube seems to have some fan filmed bootleg videos…
Emir Hot: We have recorded a video for the song “Stand and Fight”. It is in the editing process and soon will be posted on my website, Youtube, etc... DVD is definitely a plan but after a couple of albums. It would be great if we manage to travel outside of Europe. I am working on all options and hopefully something positive will come out of it.
HM: If there is anything else you’d like to add please do. Thanks a lot for the opportunity.
Emir Hot: Thank you for this interview and I wish all success to your web site and all your readers. Also thanks for the very positive review of my album on your site. I hope we will visit you in your country and do a show.