TarantisT are a three-piece Heavy Metal band formed in 2000 that were originally based in Tehran, Iran and currently reside in Los Angeles, California. They are made up of brothers, guitarist Arsy and bassist, vocalist, & producer Arash Rahbary, along with their drummer, Omid. We caught up with Arash, who spoke out about the Revolution going on in Iran, what it was like secretly playing & rehearsing shows in small basements in Tehran, and more! You can watch the interview above and/or read the article below. 🙂
Arash grew up listening to a lot of Rock as his Mother would play a lot of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, despite the Music not being allowed in Iran, “I grew up towards Rock type of environment, and then later on, in the school, with our friends…We didn’t have any satellites back in the time, so we had tapes and VHS, friends and family were sneaking those kind of MTV video things into the country, and then we’d been seeing them later on in the CDs and then on satellites…That way, we started getting exposed to the Music, to the good Music. One of the first types of Music, it was definitely Black Sabbath, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and then Metallica. Metallica had a huge influence on everyone, including myself,” he said while laughing and citing that their Kill ‘Em All song/album is the reason why he wanted to play Music.
Metal bands are not allowed in Iran, and Music in general is not allowed unless you have permission from the government, from the morality organization. Arash insighted the details about what some of the specific standards are in order to play Music, “The lyrics need to be in whatever way, or shape, or subject that they want. The Musicians need to pass the security clearance and things like that. You cannot be independent, on your own, create yourself, release, and promote…You cannot do that. Everything is being monitored and controlled heavily by the government and the officials. Metal bands, Rappers, they go into the jail, they go to prison, and at some point, they just give up or they’re living outside the country, like myself.”
Arash continued to speak about how bands in other parts of the world can take what they do for granted, “You know, you just go to a store and buy instruments, you call your friends, there’s a garage, there is a studio, there are rehearsing rooms, you get together, and specifically these days, the Internet is self-produced, self-published, it’s very easy. But back in the time, it was not…Even if they were seeing you walking the streets having an instrument, which happened to me and a lot of my friends, you were getting harassed, you were getting beaten, you were getting arrested. You are having a hard-case or soft-case instrument hidden in it.”
When TarantisT would rehearse their shows over twenty years ago, it was always very quiet and secret, in the basements where only a few people could fit. Before the band members would get home from school or college, their friends were lining up behind the door of the rehearsal room waiting for them to play two stories below the ground, “the passion has been starting from there, and then, they’d been recording songs with a very basic, digital camera, like the beginning of digital cameras and smartphones. And then, they’d been posting them online or Yahoo Messenger was one of the major sources of communication for us. We had been selling tickets on that for secret shows. It was amazing, you’re a teenager, you have no brain, and you just keep doing things.”
TarantisT risked their lives to perform and rehearse, knowing that they could very well be kidnapped and executed at any moment for doing something they Love. “We were expecting it any minute to happen, but we were lucky. At some points, we had incidents that we got attacked, our instruments had been broken, our friends got arrested… But at some point, we were lucky. By the time that the news was getting spread, we were already out of there, we got invited to play shows and festivals, so we came out by that time. It was very quick, everything happened very quick, and we were fortunate to not get killed or arrested, something like that. But the pressure was heavy. You knew that any minute the door might be broken, and some brutal guys might just get in and start beating you and arresting you, taking you away. We gambled with our Life when we were teenagers.”
“At some point, we had been playing two sets each evening, and each set I think we had around 30-35 people in that tiny basement, everyone was headbanging, sweating all over the place…And that one was one of the best memories, one of the highlights. I think we played 4-5 days, each day two sets, and each time, at least 30-35 people were showing up.”
Growing up in Iran, Arash would see planes in the sky that weren’t regular planes, they were warplanes setting off bombs and exploding things, “These are the images and pictures of my childhood. All for nothing, just for war and killing, the genocides, and killing Humans for nothing, for having more money and more power, what the fuck? You can do it another way. You don’t have to start being barbaric and kill people. There are other options. It’s a shame that a Human being can get that nasty, that doesn’t have any fucking limit on it.” However, getting through his time in Iran, he would listen to bands like Death, Slayer, and Testament. “Thanks to Metal, it helps us. It’s a healing process. It’s a healing thing for everybody.”
Arash eventually moved out of Iran to America when the band started getting mainstream media attention and invited to play festivals like South By Southwest [SXSW], “You move, you immigrate…But your homeland doesn’t get separated from you, it goes with you, it remains here,” he said while patting his heart.
TarantisT released a new song a few days ago titled Revolution, the lyrics are mainly all in English, to raise awareness for the revolution going on in Iran. “Since around 44 years ago, there are some occupying regimes, with some insane beliefs and kind of policies, they’re occupying the country, they’re killing people, they are taking the Freedom away from the people of Iran, and it’s just ridiculous. It’s nasty. With the name of religion and some nonsense regulations that they come up with.
Women don’t have any rights, they need to be covered all over, Freedom of Speech does not exist or anything. And for even not wearing a proper type of head cover or scarf or dress for women, you will get killed in the streets, besides all the nonsenses or violations and brutal things that have been happening [over these] 44 years.
Recently, a young girl, a twenty-two-year-old girl went in the street, and in the street, she gets arrested for having a strand of her hair being out. She gets beaten in the head, no medical treatment, or anything, and then she dies, and gets murdered by these crazy people. People have been protesting a lot, the past few years specifically. They’ve been getting murdered with the war weapons inside the country, inside the streets of the different cities. This time, things got worse and worse and worse, people are staying outside. They’re staying out in the streets, taking their stand, and standing up for their rights, and the protests have been going and going and going.
And as usual, heavy war weapons and tanks are in the streets of different cities in Iran killing the people for protesting, and it is not a protest anymore. It just turned out to be a huge nationwide uprising and revolution, because people want change. People want everything to be changed, they don’t want any reform or anything in Iran. They just want these nasty people to be gone. And with my band, we’ve been always creating or writing about social or political situations of the country, we’ve been always vocal about all of those issues. The history of the band, if you go through the songs, all of them are about this nonsense that some stupid people are trying to impose their barbarian beliefs to the whole new generation in society. “
“You will see things in maybe a Sci Fi, fictional movie, and things like that, maybe even not to that extent, but all this violence, all these crazy things are daily, normal living of people inside Iran. It’s just ridiculous. And the world used to be very quiet about that, they haven’t been saying anything, but recently, that’s amazing that a lot of people are putting their steps into this, they are talking about what’s happening inside of the country…A lot of public figures, actors, Musicians, politicians, influencers…Everyone has been trying to raise awareness and participate in this. This is a movement that mostly women are living it and all the men are supporting them, shoulder by shoulder. It has a beautiful slogan. Women – Life – Freedom.
During all these protests, they’ve been arresting young kids in elementary school or in primary school, young girls…Everyone has been kidnapped, tortured, and raped into the jails and prisons. They are kidnapping people, young girls, minor girls, and they are raping them inside of the prison. Why? Because their god or their prophet prefers that? It’s ridiculous type of Life. That nonsense. Some made up regulations that a god or whoever is imposing for Human beings, that doesn’t make any sense.”
An eight-year-old kid got killed and murdered. A ten-year-old genius kid got murdered. A sixteen-year-old girl, beautiful, young with lots of hopes and plans for our future, just getting killed…Shot in their heads with the snipers and shotguns, it’s just crazy that it is going on. We want all the World — the entire people of the World — whoever has Faith in Humanity, they need to be woke up about this, they need to do something, they need to talk about this, raise awareness. At some point, these nasty people, they need to go, and if they keep doing this, they’re going to spread out into the entire World. Their entire ideologies will take over the entire World.“
The Music that Arash writes for TarantisT is inspired from all of the social and political happenings in Iran, while monitoring the news, speaking with his friends, and family members, combining all of it to come into the shape of Music, “These riffs and these beats are tunes of my everyday living, it’s just the second I grab the guitar, something comes up. And what is happening, is a major and main influence of all the subjects, all the anger into the beats and riffs…All the anger and passion into the lyrics.”
The band does songs in both English and Farsi, more recently Arash has been writing in Farsi more, to leave a legacy in his native language. “And then I decided to do things in Farsi because no one else was doing it, no one else was able to, and people that have been moving out to the other countries, yeah, all of us get very busy to make a living, find a job, to adjust to the new system and new situation, so Music becomes the last priority, surviving would be the first thing. So, I wanted to do things in Farsi, to have something as a legacy.”
However, when it comes to writing songs in English, like their Revolution song, it’s to make sure the entire world knows what is happening, “although, we’ve been releasing the translation of the songs, and close captions, things like that on the videos…It’s still English, if it is in English, which is a mainstream language into the world, has more effect…People will listen to that more. So, we switched back to English again mostly to just raise awareness.”
He continued speaking about how it is a responsibility for all of us as Human beings to do something about what is going on, “If we see someone is getting killed in the street, yeah definitely, we need to be active, we need to get involved and do something. Like, what has happened here in the States a year ago. But things like that, a hundred times worse than that has been happening every single day in the last fucking 45 years in Iran. Well, during this Halloween, there was this slogan going on in the Iranian community, they were posting; they were saying the word that this Halloween fantasy thing that you guys are imagining, these are the scary things…let’s get scared and have fun… It’s ten times — a hundred times worse than that…A real dangerous thing is a daily normal living of the people. It’s a fucking normal situation of the people inside Iran.
Hopefully very soon this revolution gets the result and things get changed in the best way for people in Iran, and also all around the world, because a free Iran would be a best place for the entire world to go there, to enjoy, to see it’s beauties, to see a real, beautiful people, hospitable people. A lot of history is there, even older and ancient than what you see in Egypt or other countries. Things are a lot older and ancient inside Iran.
People have already made their minds. They’re divorced with this fucked up situation and government. It’s got its own ups and down. It’s like a sonic wave thing, bad days and good days. But it’s going to happen very soon.”
When it comes to bands who aren’t speaking out, Arash said it’s disappointing for not only him, but the Iranian Metalheads, “they are disappointed, they need Metallica, they need other bands to talk about this. I’m actually planning on posting a video, putting a campaign together, and asking the fellow Metalhead Family to just be vocal… If you play Heavy Metal Music against the stupid things and beliefs, and against some fucking bullshit the government imposes to you, if you are a Metalhead, if you play Metal, this is the right fucking time for you to just be vocal about it, to do something about it, why do you call yourself a Metalhead if you just want to remain silent and not even say anything about the fucking ayatollah.”
Article & interview by Jenna Williams, The Scream Queen