This interview was conducted in 2018 when I met Rockabul´s director Travis Beard at the Inferno Festival in Norway where the film was screened. The interview remained unpublished since then, but with the current events in Afghanistan it feels right to publish it now - to give an insight into not only the creation of the documentary, but also a glimpse into the dreams and struggles of the Afghan people - who want to shape their own lives - Espen J. Jörgensen
It's hard to find a good and "worthy" story when you´re a filmmaker. Did you stumble upon the story, or was it the band that "stumbled over you"?
It was both - the band found me, because they were into metal, but they had no one to guide them. Actually the 2 brothers and 2 cousins didn't know each other and I introduced them all. From there they formed a brotherhood through metal music. But I also wasn’t planning on making a doco, they just came to my practice studio and I saw something different - metal/islam, so I pressed record. You worked on the doc for something like 7 years, I guess there were some challenges along the way, but when you look back - what were the biggest challenges in getting the film finished? It took 8 years because of $$$ or lack of. I had some funding at the start, but had zero experience, so that money ran out soon. Then I spent 5 years smashing my head against a wall trying to find funding and finish the film, with not a lot of success, then in the last year, I met my now producer and she helped to find funding so we could finish the film the right way. Beyond the challenge of making a documentary in such a difficult environment - what do you hope this doc can do globally and for Afghans? I hope it will do several things: Reveal another side of Afghanistan that a lot of people have no idea about. Reveal that not all Muslims are living in the dark ages, many are progressive in ideals and artistic interests. That Afghan teenagers are just like teenagers the world over, they want to rebel, rock out and have fun. Show the everyday life in Kabul, not just the war that the mass media focuses on. Highlight the war/diplomatic machine that is behind the billions of dollars that we accepted as the foreign community there. Illustrate that music is the only true global language and that within that, metal music is one of the most far stretching genres globally. The band members had to flee the country - to regain safety and peace. You have the expression "there's no place like home", but - how are the guys now that they're scattered all over the map, trying to cope with a new home, and not able to play together?
It is tough for them, they miss home, I miss Kabul too.
Bill Gould is the film´s executive producer. How important was it to have him onboard?
It is hugely important to have him onboard. Not only for his neutral perspective/feedback on the film's evolution, but as well the weight he can pull in the music industry and beyond, helps us to get our foot in the door more than others. Plus I've been listening to FNM since I was 14 when Angel Dust came out, we were blown away - I would say it is one of the best albums of the 90s.
Why was it so important to be a producer for this documentary, and not "another mainstream metal doc"?
Bill Gould: There are plenty of people already doing “mainstream” metal docs. The word mainstream when related to music is all about conformity to me. There’s a lot of lip service paid to groups that supposedly do what they want on their own terms, but coming from a place like Kabul takes this concept to a completely different level. The kids in DA had the attitude that originally inspired me to play music, and did it in a place with real potential consequences. It’s not necessarily sexy, there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it’s music made out of need. What also made me want to be involved in this is that it shows a side of Afghanistan that people rarely see; in some ways very exotic and different, but in others, strangely familiar and believable.
You’re talking about making another doc about Afghanistan. You got a lot of footage already, and there's a different angle there, but if you were to return there's a chance that there's a price on your head, right? So, the big question is: Is it worth to die for a film?
Travis Beard: Well the new film will be heavily based on the archive already in our hands, but yes there is a chance we might need to go back to Kabul - but I'm not sure if I would have a price on my head.... I'm not that famous there, a little, but not enough that people would stop me in the street, although that has happened. The risk would be more that if I was to be kidnapped and that is more regular these days
, that my captors did their research and found out what I had done, then for sure they would cut my head off. But not before that they would get the highest price possible for my head!
Again - it´s important to point out that the people that were portrayed in the documentary - the musicians - had to flee the country because of being in a metal band. One member were even arrested after they played a concert in "the wrong territory" - outside Kabul. That territory is basically Afghanistan now.
Let us hope the people will take back their country one day, and that they´ll experience peace again.
You can read more about Rockabul and the musicians here: https://rockabul.com/