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Interview with Atif Death

By Rameez Asif

Hi, Atif. How are you? Whats up? Hows life?

Im fine, thanks. Im busy with work these days and digging old school rock and
roll and classic heavy metal.
Are you still doing music these days or is it all over for you?

These days? Im not doing any music at all. I havent been for a long time now. Its
been almost 3 years since the last gig and there havent been any jam sessions. Lots
of reasons behind that. Coming to the last part of the question, its not over yet. I
will come back to haunt some wannabe mother f****** out there. Commercial and
so-called rock bands-WATCH OUT!
Your major influence which forced you to do music?

Lots! I have had an ear for music since the early age of 7 or 8 years old. My elder
brother used to be a music freak. He wasnt into rock, but 80s pop and country
music. I later realized that I needed to listen to something different to satisfy my
angry side. The urge to actually do music came later when I got into rock, metal,
death metal and then black metal. The list goes on. Thanks to Usman (Seths Guitar
player) who introduced me to lots of s***. Also, very special thanks to myself for
developing an ear for aggressive music, which got me through everything and still
does. If you are asking about a specific band that led me towards going for vocals,
then it was Cannibal Corpse. I love that mother f***** Chris Barnes. His vocals
on Butchered at Birth, Tomb of the Mutilated, and Slayer are great. Same
goes for Morbid Angels and David Vincent. I could go on for ever
Tell us about your band Seth. Was this your debut band?
Yes! Seth was my debut band.

When I got to Pak Aims in 96, I met Usman Sohail, who was into the same kind
of music as I was. We started to hang out and I found out that he played the guitar.
He had an acoustic guitar which he was just learning at that time. I expressed my
interest in singing and we used to talk about music and creating our own band.
There was this other guy, Khurram Javed, (actually Usmans friend) who also
played the guitar and they used to jam together. With me entering the circle, the
need for a singer sort of went away although I had never practiced that vocal style
ever.
So, Usman got a real fine Gibson Les Paul with a Peavy Amp. He started to get
better and better at playing. We started jamming in his room. That was when I
started growling on a stereo with a f****** up microphone, for the first time.

Tracks:
Oath
Attitude (Cover)
Roots Bloody Roots (Cover)
Slave New World (Cover)
Stain of Mind (Cover)
Territory (Cover)
No (Cover)

The first few songs he worked out were Slayers, South of Heaven, Raining
Blood, Deaths, Pull the Plug, Sepulturas Territory, etc. Khurram went
out of the picture and another Khurram (also Usmans friend) came in as a bass
player. The sole reason for his entry was that he owned an electric guitar and was
into the same aggressive s*** as we were. I guess he also wanted to be in a band
that played metal. It was sort of a dream for us. At least it was for me.
So, the three of us jammed in an apartment and had fun and talked music and s***.
We were on the look out for a drummer, which was harder than it sounds. We
somehow ended up at Farhad Humayuns place. We were treated like newbies. I
also remember we had got in touch with Atif Saeed and jammed with him once at
his place. Things didnt work out. We even tried (heera mandi kay drummers) but
nobody could play the way we wanted them to.

We kept on looking. We got frustrated with the whole thing and decided to pull an
open jam thing and invited people over. We did that in Defence in 97 at a vacant
building that is now Bismillah Store. The news broke out that there were some
new boys in the scene. The open jam served its purpose. Abid Khan from Coven
also came. Everything done at that jam was without a drummer. Another guy,
named Amir, (Red Nests DJ) was also there. He had just come from the UK and
was really into death metal. He introduced us to 2 brothers, Hassan Yasin (guitars)
and Shuja Yasin (drums).
These two brothers were from USA and were really good at what they did. We
auditioned them and things worked out. We jammed for 2 f****** months
non-stop. We did our first gig in October 98 at Alhamrah Hall 1, which was self
sponsored by all means. Seth came into the picture.

Our 2nd gig was after a whole year in October 99 and that also was self sponsored
with a little help from ASIA School. Thats where Hassan and Shuja studied at that
time.

Seth covered a lot of bands in the first few gigs that one could only have imagined
doing in reality, considering it was all done in Lahore. Bands like Morbid Angel,
Slayer, Bolt Thrower, Sepultura, Six Feet Under, and Death were covered.
We got known in the scene as a death metal band after just two gigs and were made
fun of by the so called giants at that time.
What really brought Seth into the picture was the Gulls Rock Festival in January,
2000. Seth stole the show and was really put into the limelight after that.
Everybody came to know about us and what our band was all about.

We were labeled to play death metal and thats exactly what I wanted to hear.
Others had a different opinion, especially Usman. For Usman, Seth was just a band
that could make a head bang.
Seth continued to play gigs and was on the right track. Seth was also called up for a
Rock Fest in Karachi and also kicked some serious a** there.
As far as I have been told, Seth was one of the very first few metal bands in
Pakistan. How was the whole experience of doing metal in a country where
people are illiterate in terms of music?

Honestly, it was just great. We had a limited audience that understood what it was
all about and I guess we wanted to keep it that way. Or at least I wanted to keep it
that way. We played music for ourselves and not for anybody who wanted to enjoy
being at our gig with some other interests, which could be any.
The first few gigs, I recall there were just handfuls of people, 100 to 200. Out of
them, not all were into death metal. The main focus was to bring extreme music
into the picture. That was at a time when bands like Trip, Mind Riot and Entity
were ruling. We just wanted to create awareness about our type of music i.e.
extreme music. Call it death metal or whatever. It was just an attempt to get away
from all that was going around and coming up with something new. Which we
didI think.
Why Metal? Why not pop or rock? Do you think Metal reflects your nature?

HmmmI seriously dont know. I get a kick out of it and so I do it. I have
progressed a lot ever since I stepped into the underground music scene. As I
mentioned in the beginning, Im digging rock and roll music and others, maybe
Im getting old because all I did in Seth was my early to mid 20s. With Incision, I
was in my late 20s. I really got into metal, went to the top very soon, ended up
listening to Satanic bands, extreme f****** metal and all that crap. It all makes
sense.
Metal becomes your nature and you live with it for the rest of your life. You
progress, listen to other s***, but by the end of the day, you do come back to your
own self that reflects f***** Metal. You cant really say Im f****** pissed and
Im going to kill somebody or burn down something in a pop song now can you? I
dont really think so.
Metal for me is a way of life and thats all I have to say. I hope that answers your
question. ?

You are known as Atif Death in the Underground music scene. Was it named
after the band Death?

(Laughing) I got the name Atif Death because of the distinct death metal vocal
style and not because of the band Death. I wish somebody would have named me
Atif Death after the band, because I respect that band a lot. They have inspired me
a lot. I wont say I was the first one to have introduced the vocal style because
there were others as well. I guess they did not pursue it the same way I did. I have
been doing it for 10 years including the first time I ever growled and I still will till
the very end. I have no f****** intentions of changing my vocals. Its going to
stay this way and might as well just get worse
You were kicked out of Seth. Mind sharing what happened?
Well, to cut a long story short, Amir, who I told you about in the beginning, was a
really good friend of Hassan and Shujas. He later became one of Usmans as well
and started interfering in the band to such an extent that it was hard for me to bear
him. He also influenced Seth to cover bands like Deftones and Slipknot.
Amir claimed to have a death metal band in UK and could growl, perhaps better
than I did, but was influencing the band to go towards nu-metal. Amir was also
hired as a guest vocalist on one of the Rock Festivals. I just didnt appreciate his
presence in the band and openly communicated this to the rest of the members.

Usmans musical influences were also changing, or at least thats what I thought.
Usman got more into aggressive, angry nu-metal and thats when things really
started to get worse.

I was getting accused of not being able to keep up with the bands pace and
expansion, as I just wanted to do death metal and thrash back then. Usman started
making nu-metal riffs and considered Amir a better option to sing for them.
My last gig with Seth was Rockfest 2K in Karachi in July 2000. When we came
back to Lahore after the gig, I was laid off and it triggered a non-stop f******
battle between me and Seth and also between people who were in my favor and
who were in Seths favor. All in all, Amir successfully got me removed from the
band and became their singer.
After Seth you joined/co-founded Incision. Was it hard to form another Metal
band because guys are afraid to do metal?

Well, it was not really hard for me to start Incision back then. It was easy. I had a
following and there were musicians who wanted to do metal, including Salman
Albert (the only one who could help me with drums at that time). Salman Albert
played two gigs with Incision back then. There were other musicians who were
backing me in doing my own thing after the Seth days were over. Faraz Ahmed,
Qasim, Salman Albert, Shahzad Hameed, etc. I had support, motivation and
players who could pull it off and so they did. Incision played its first gig ever in
October, 2000, the same year I was kicked out of Seth. My previous band members
were present there to watch me play with my own band. Although I had once
considered Seth my own too, but things change.
What do you have to say about members of Incision?

Incision I think is the only underground band that has gone through numerous
line-up changes since the very beginning.

Salman Albert, Sami (later Blue Buzz Bass player), Dr Zeerak (no where near
influenced by metal), Shahzad Hameed, Mukkaram, Khurram, etc. All these guys
played their part when they were needed the most. Salman had to pursue other
music opportunities; Shahzad Hameed had a full time band of his own and played
bass for me for just 2 gigs. All in all, everybody who played for Incision in the past
had a major role to play in the bands so called success.
The steadiest line up for Incision was:
Faraz Ahmed (lead guitar)
Hassan (rhythm guitar)
Atif (Vocals)
Waqar (Drums)
Nomi (Bass)

Things change with time and so did this line up as well.

Faraz started to create issues within the band and had already left the band in the
past as well and re-joined but this time around it was worse. Farazs interest in the
mainstream music grew over the years and wanted to pursue his career as a
mainstream artist. By all means was a very bad decision. Faraz was responsible for

the bands downfall in the last few gigs as he was missing jams. He made excuses
for not working out new material for the band, although they were just covers, but
they did need some practice to be mastered. All ideas about making original music
went down the drain just because of his slacker attitude towards Incision.
Why didnt you guys record anything in the studios?

Wellgood question. Back then it was not supposed to be done professionally. We


were just doing music and never thought of entering a studio to record some stuff.
Seth did step into Mekaals studio to record, but it was never done in my presence.
Nobody ever thought of doing so either. No particular reasons behind it. If I
already knew that the scene is going to become so disappointing at one time, I
would have done so just for the sake of good memories. Same goes with when I
was with Incision. It was just: Play hard and tight, head bang, call it a day and
move on to the next one. Its as simple as that, but I guess its not that simple
anymore when there is hardly any underground.
I am curious to know your views on the present Pakistani music scene. Do you
think there is any band doing outstanding music in the mainstream?

Pakistani music scene (mainstream) is nothing but bulls*** if you ask me. Why?
Simple-its just not my kind of music and does not drive me to do anything.
Anything that lacks drive is nothing but bulls***. There is not a single band in the
mainstream that is worth mentioning. They think music is a money making
business.
I would have mentioned Mizraab, but I dont consider them as a mainstream band.
Although their lyrics are in Urdu, the edge is over their music. Whatever Mizraab
is doing can not be compared with any other band, because there is none to
compare with in the local scene.
People in Pakistan are not familiar with Commercial and Non-Commercial
music. Do you think we should differentiate music in terms of commercial or
non-commercial?
Of course we should differentiate. I mean one cannot put Sepultura in Nooris kind
of music category, right? Alice in Chains cannot put into the same category as
Call. Its as simple. People here just dont know about music. Thats the thing.
Our media is not helping one bit. Promoting mainstream with a rock label with a
mention of being underground too, it doesnt work out that way.
All time favorite band? One band you can die for?

Tough onethere are many.Lets not name just one because it will not be fair to
other bands worth dying for...(laughing)
If you were to recommend a band to anyone, which one would it be?

I think if you want to step into extreme metal, then one should start off with
Slayer. IT WILL PAY OFF ONE DAY. I promise!!!
You are the right person to talk about the underground Music Scene of Lahore
because you have been a part of it for a very long time and I am sure not many
musicians can tell us the inside stories.

Underground Music scene 6-7 years back was so strong, but still bands had
differences and jealousies in between them. Do you think that this should have
been a part of music? Professional jealousy is justified as long as you are
competing with a band/artist, but mudslinging is a very non-professional act.
What do you have to say about that?
Jealousy is there and still is between bands and I think should be in regards to
healthy contest environment. I remember when there was that Gulls Rock Fest;
everybody stood as one and supported the scene and each other because the
message was just one: Support Underground Music and to make people aware
its there and they just can not deny it.
Being in the Underground scene, which band inspired you the most?

The Trip. Any given day, they can just go out there and captivate the audience.
Do you think Underground Music scene will rise from the ashes again?

I dont think so. When the concept of Underground Music has changed, it cant be
revived. Urdu rock bands are emerging every single day and calling themselves
underground. When the whole ideology has lost its meaning, I dont think there
is any hope left.
Your best performance on stage? The one you think you can never forget?

A full fledge Seth concert in October 99. We did like 14 songs and I was pretty
energetic back then. I really went nuts on stage. With Incision, the Peace Fest in
2002 in Jinnah Gardens would be the best one. Pretty intense s***.
There were many other outstanding Underground bands like Coven, The
Trip, Midnight Madness, and Blue Buzz in the past. Do you think the present
bands can take their place?

There cant be another Coven, Dog Tag, Mind Riot, Trip, Blue Buzz or even Seth.
In my opinion an original band is an original band. Nobody can replace these
bands and never will. But one can at least try and that try has to be a darn good
one.
Being with a lot of musicians in the Underground scene, I have noticed that
they have a bad attitude towards Urdu music. To them, if you are doing music
in Urdu you are a sell out and you are commercial, completely ignoring the
fact that its our mother language. What are your views on Urdu music? Do
you agree with the rest of the musicians?

I would say that, the music we listen to and derive our inspiration from is in
English. If you try to achieve the same results by just a language switch, it will
never work. Why Urdu acts are categorized as sell-outs or commercial is pretty
simple, targeting an audience which understands the message conveyed through
Urdu lyrics. Why would somebody want to target an audience that would never get
the message otherwise? Its like forcing somebody to listen to what you are saying,
hence an attempt to broaden your audience. Any such attempts are labeled as
sell-out acts. Its quite simple. If understood properly, the topic and never-ending
discussions would finish altogether.

I have heard musicians saying that making a video and releasing it on different
channels makes you commercial. Recently Shahzad Hameeds video of Fish out
Of Water was released on all music channels. The type of music he is doing is not
done by any band/artist in mainstream. Its the same case with Mizraab. Their
lyrics are in Urdu but the music they are producing is not done by any band in the
mainstream non-commercial. The way I see is that their music will bring a change
for good. Do you agree on that? I need your honest views.
First of all, underground acts are not very keen to release music videos. If The Trip,
Mind Riot, Coven had released a video, it would have made sense. Releasing a
video here means that we will have to utilize the same media that is promoting
mainstream music. There is no dedicated channel or source to release this kind of
underground material, so it can easily be misinterpreted. That does happen.
Hameed (thats what I call the dude), is a very talented guy and has used English
lyrics that will not put him in the same line as the others who call themselves rock
& roll. Plus, the music is different and has a pure underground sort of sound to it.
Mizraabs case is a bit different. The music is different and underground, but the
source is Urdu lyrics, and that means targeting a larger audience in my books. But
since the music is different and has an underground tone to it, it will only be
listened to by whom its intended for and thus will remain underground despite
other accusations.
As for the question, will it bring any change? Only time will tell.

Sell-Out and Commercial. These two words are extensively used in the
underground scene. I think some musicians in the underground were sell outs
and commercial because they compromised and did gigs for free without
getting paid. They didnt take any stand against the organizers who earned
money from the sponsors and still didnt pay anything to the bands. Do you
agree?
Doing gigs for free just might that they didnt have the funds to arrange their own
gig. Playing for free serves one purpose. You just get out there and play, which is
the motive for most underground bands, or used to be. If they can make some
money out of it then its good. However, labeling somebody as commercial or a
sell-out because they did a gig for free doesnt really make sense to me. It just
helps one to play out there, thats all. Its a shame that this motive has been
misused by event management companies and sponsors.
Seth and Incision became an inspiration for a lot of kids to form Metal Bands
e.g. Kain, Corpsepyre etc. The music these bands did was pretty mediocre and
these bands were not even able to perform that good on stage and hence this
became the downfall of such a strong Underground Scene. What do you have
to say about this issue?
Well, maybe their motives for getting on stage were a bit different than what we
had when we used to get on stage. Lack of practice, age factor, it can be anything.
We were all in our 20s when we started the band shit. Look at these kids. 17? 18?
19? I guess they just want to be known. Ever since this entire underground scene
has become popular, a why not go for it type of attitude has prevailed. It can be
anything apart from honest underground music

I have seen a lot of Metal bands praising Lucifer. Why is he related to Metal

music? Are you obsessed with Lucifer as well?

Maybe because metal music shows you the darker sides of reality, which is there
but people just roll their eyes off it. That can be one good reason for it. Thats all I
have to say, its a very sensitive topic. Maybe I will throw some light on it some
other day.
Anything you would like to say at the end? A message to the people of
Pakistan?

It was really nice to talk about stuff that happened years back. I thank you for your
interest in whatever I did while being a part of the underground scene. I appreciate
you for showing interest in my music.

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