interview with District Unknown

Have any of you played in other bands?

Our current guitarist and clean vocals singer, Sully, was an active musician for years in Denver, Colorado before joining the band. He was approached to record the song "Portraits" for DU and mix it and he ended up with the band. 

Our bassist, Qasem, is a visual artist doing painting, installations and mixed media. He was a part of an experimental band called "The Ring of Steel" in Kabul Afghanistan. He has also played as a session bassist for the Afghan blues rock band "Morcha". 

Our frontman and vocalist, Yusuf, has been a part of a trio called "Hybrid Pharaohs" with Sully and another Afghan person. They were doing hip hop in both English and Dari.    Our Drummer, Pedram, was a part of a 2 piece rock project called Lap-o-Jap in Kabul with Travis Beard from "White CIty". (Travis followed the band for 5 years and is at the final stages of a documentary about District Unknown called "Martyrs of Metal"). 

How is it that you started playing music? In late 2008 , Pedram met Travis from White City through a mutual friend and asked if he could practice in Travis' home studio. Travis knew a couple of other guys who were trying to do the same thing. He thought the 3 could start a band. Those 2 guys were cousins Lemar and Qais who later became members of District Unknown. Qasem, Pedram's brother, started to play bass making Qais the second guitarist. Travis offered his practice room and in return he wanted to film the band. and hence the documentary started to be filmed. Lemar ended up leaving the band at the early stages. After around a year, current front man Yusuf joint DU. and then Sully was added the band to make it a 5 piece, then Qais was fired and now we are a 4 piece. 

What are your names? / Who plays what? / How old are you?

Yusuf (Yo Khalifa)- 24: Vocals, keys, 

Soleiman (Sully)- 26: Second vocalist, guitarist
Qasem-28: Bass

Pedram-27: Drums  

Have you had other previous members? Yes, Lemar, Qais, and a bunch of musicians who came and went off very quickly.  

Did you make music even when you were young? Sully did. Everyone else, no.  

Where are you from? We are from Afghanistan.  

What year did the band form? 2008 

What's your style of genre? We are  some sort of a Rock or Metal. But if you want more details, we have some these elements in our music too: progressive, ambient, punk, 

What inspires you? All of us like to be at the other end of the concert, on the stage, rather than in the  

How often and where do you reherse? With band members all over the world now, we are don't rehearse together, rather we have a dropbox were we put our new ideas and develop on them from there.  

How have you developed since you started with the music? We have developed a lot and still developing and evolving. We think Anatomy of 24 hour lifetime was a good starting album for DU, but we think our next Album that we are working on is going to be more mature and dynamic.  

Do you have other interests of work outside the band? Yes, we all have normal every life. 

Are you looking for a booking agency, and what are your thoughts around that? Not before our next Album is out. For now since all members are apart, we are just writing new material. That's the only way DU can survive for now. 

Are you looking for a label, and what are your thoughts around that? It is out of place for us to think about that now. We need to be closer to the end of the writing process of our coming album to decide. But there is a good chance we do it independent again. 

What made you decide to make this music? Nature. We love writing and playing music.  

What are your songs about?

Our songs describe our thoughts and states of mind in an indirect and surrealistic way. Anatomy of a 24 hour lifetime was a theme album about the life a young afghan guy living in Afghanistan. (which could be any of us as band members) 
We think one of the sharpest cutting edges DU has as a band is the creativity in the concepts, lyrics and arrangements. 

Who does the composing and writes the lyrics?

Composition: All the current members 

Lyrics and concepts: Qasem and Sully 

Do you start with the music or the lyrics?

It differs from time to time. There is no structure. A lot of times they happen at the same time. When we compose we put names for the riffs and that name is the reflection of the feeling we were looking for when were trying to make that riff. From there the idea expands and lyrics show up. 
But we really don't have an structure. Sometimes we do drums first which is not very usual. For one of the song for the coming album, we did the drums for the entire song, then wrote guitars, then bass, then keys, and then refined it and THEN had lyrics written and composed. So... absolutely no dominant approach. 

We think this makes it harder and more time consuming to create new songs, but it's worth it and ends up with unique songs rather than another version of a song you have already heard from a larger band. 

Do you compose in a certain inviroment? Not really, we compose everywhere. All we do is play the composition and send it to the dropbox.  

Have you done any covers live? Yes. Sweet dreams, They Say (scars on broadway) , Harvest (Opeth), Enjoy the silence (Depeche mode), among others. 

What language do you sing in? We sing in English 

What are the least and most people to attend one of your gigs? From 10 people to 300 people have attended DU concerts. The biggest crowd we played to was around 5000 people in a festival in India.   

What ages are most of your concert attendants? Mostly ranging from 16, 17 to 30 years old. 

Do you always play the same songs live, or do you vary? We try to vary as much as we can.  

Do you have a regular place you play live often? Not anymore. Band memebers are all around the world. We used to play in a few cafes and venues in Kabul more than others.  

What was your first gig like? Terrible obviously. We were covering songs beyond our technical capabilities and it went bad. 

What was your latest gig? Latest gig was almost 2 years ago, at sound central arts festival in Kabul Afghanistan (you can google and you will see coverage). It was a great show with a lot of good response from the fans n all. After that it took us almost a year (+ spreading all around the world+ firing a guitarist) to get our album out in 2014. and now are working on our next album while hoping we get tour it.  

Have you had to cancel a gig? Yes, security reasons in Afghanistan caused it. I don't want to draw too much attention to it since it's not the purpose of this interview. But yes. (In fact, we were dubs so many different things from anti-religious to political to even satanists, all of which of sheer nonsense. And even had threats)   

Where have you played live this year? No. unfortunately.   

Where do you plan to gig the comming year? If the album ends up releasing in 2016 (per schedule), yes. Starting a tour. 

When did you start to sell merchandise, and what do you have for sale? We have songs for sale on iTunes if that's what you mean. Our music is free to listen to on SoundCloud, and many other places like Spotify, etc.  

Where can people buy your merchandise? iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and free listening at SoundCloud.  

What do you think about people downloading music instead of buying records now a days? Absolutely the way to go.  CDs n DVDs n all are vintage. 

How do you think the music industry have changed because of this? It has changed to give us ppl like us to put our music out there. DU would absolutely not have the chance to release an album in the 80s.

Is it easier to find inspiration from older bands, or bands that are more active today? Mix. We like Metallica, Slipknot, Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Between the Buried and me,  and then PinkFloyd, Ozzy, and then Bjork. So it's a crazy mix. 

What have been your biggest obstacles? Security, lack of access to practice room   

What advice would you give other bands or artists? Study yourself a bit. Be yourself.  

Do you have any new material? New Album hopefully coming out 2016.

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