BILL GOULD Q and A at the U.S premiere screening of 'Rockabul' in Arizona
We have previously reported on RocKabul, an independent film directed by Travis Beard and with Bill Gould serving as executive producer. The documentary examines the counter insurgency/culture campaign in Afghanistan, while following Kabul’s first metal band District Unknown.
Unlike other bands starting out, District Unknown have to contend with Kabul’s unreliable power grid, zero peer bands and some serious safety concerns - from stone throwing to bombings.
The U.S. premiere screening of the film will be part of the Arizona International Film Festival and will feature a special Q and A with Bill and District Unknown band member Qais.
The festival takes place from April 10th to 21st at the Arizona Media Arts Center.
Rockabul Bill Gould FaithNoMore Interview from Combat Comms on Vimeo.
We had the chance to speak with director Travis about Bill's involvement and the making of Rockabul.
How did you first find out about District Unknown and what inspired you to make this film?
I first heard about 2 members of DU through a mutual friend - they were brothers, one played drums and the other bass and they were seeking other band members. Then from another friend I heard about 2 cousins that were playing guitar and wanted to start a band. So I introduced the 4 to each other at my place. They went into my studio and had a 'jam', it was terrible. But they were so keen, that I said 'you can come here use our gear and we will give it six months'.
What inspired me to make the film, it was actually Heavy Metal Baghdad and how BAD it was. Not the band, they were awesome and we subsequently worked with them later on, but the film makers made this cowboy journalism about metal in Iraq. Which still today is the style / format that Vice is committed to. I was so frustrated in the way this film was made, that it motivated me to make a better film. And I think I did. Our film is made by people who lived in the country, not just visiting. Our film digs deeper into the political context of that country and our film follows the band through to the end, not just the action at the start of the story.
How did Bill become involved in Rockabul?
We met Bill at the 2015 Golden Gods Awards in London where DUs vocalist Yosuf was there to receive an award for best global metal act. I had told the editor at Metal Hammer [who organised the awards] that I was on the hunt for a rock ambassador for the film. He introduced me to many legends, Brian May, Mike Muir, Scott Ian and Dave Mustaine. But the only one who ever replied to me [and he was then on the Sol Invictus tour] was Bill. He was very interested when we met him at the awards and 6 months later when his tour finished, he emailed me and asked how he could help. We chatted, he showed interest in visiting Afghanistan, but seeing that I was not living there anymore and that the country was at a very dangerous time, I advised him to come visit me in Lebanon where I was living. He came to Beirut for a week, we hung out, we rode motorcycles and ate some of the best food the Middle East has to offer. In that week, we viewed a lot of material from the film and Bill was hooked!
What obstacles did you overcome in making Rockabul?
Funding is always the biggest issue, we had about 4 years of the 8 years where we had no money and we struggled to find the path that the film needed to follow to make it to the cinema screen. But luckily with new funding in 2017 we were able to employ professionals so help us unearth the edit that showed the bands lifespan in as efficient manner possible in the 90 mins we are restricted to. Outside of the film making sphere, filming in Afghanistan was and will always be a challenge, because it was hard to capture life outside the practise room and stage, because the band members were not very public about their activities. They had to keep it on the down low and therefore painting the picture of their daily lives was a challenge. And on top of that we had omit so much of the footage of their families, because many family members are still living in Kabul and therefore we could not show their faces in the film. And lastly there was my own safety, as I organised and run this music scene in Kabul, I had to watch over my shoulder and talk to my Afghan colleague to make sure there was no target on my back. We were lucky we made it through and we can now tell that story.
What do you hope that the audience will take away from the film?
One of the many messages in the film that seems to resonate most with audiences is: that the youth in Afghanistan are just like youth anywhere else in the world. They discover metal/rock the same way we do, they progress and evolve as listeners the same way we do and they start bands because of that exposure the same we do. But the differences is the challenges and obstacles in front of them as they try to do what we see as an innocent act: starting a band. Finding equipment, city power cuts, finding practise rooms, heckling on the streets because of your hair and clothes, pressure from your family, being called satanist - which is a crime in Afghanistan, being stoned [throwing] at concerts, being arrested and in some rare cases inside a suicide bombing at an event. So audience members and particularly musicians come out of the film realising that we in the developed world have things very easy and we need to be thankful of that and where possible help people in less fortunate countries like Afghanistan.
What is your next project?
I have 2 films on the go - I am co-producing a film about metal bands in the conservative society of South Korea. Rockabul was screened there and after a young man named Ian approached me and ask if I could help him finish his film. After watching it and seeing that it was in a very similar place to Rockabul back in the day, I agreed to help out. We hope to release that film - Kpop Killers in 2020.
My other film is called the Afghan Bug and is a documentary about the motivations of foreigners to go work in conflict zones and more importantly explore the legacy and footprint left behind from foreign intervention and question whether or not the recipient country is better off.
RocKabul Trailer 2018 from Combat Comms on Vimeo.