The Metal Minute: You guys are the first band I have come across with the title “philosophical metal.” I must say, after reading your lyrics, content, and song names, you guys do seem to be intelligent and you helped me understand the meaning of “philosophical metal.” In regards to your lyrics, where do you draw your inspiration from and is there any particular message(s) you are trying to convey to the listener/reader?
Rhiis D. Lopez (lead vocals, keyboards): Thanks for the compliments! As far as lyrical inspiration goes, I'd say it comes from my interests in religion, mythology, philosophy, psychology and science. I put a lot of value in music that has thought-out and meaningful lyrics. It's nice to be able to come back to an album over and over and be able to take away something new each time. The Burial Tree had months of time invested in working out lyrical ideas and concepts. I tend to read a lot of non-fiction and I like to jot down notes if something jumps out at me, or if I have some epiphany that I think may work for Ana Kefr's material. The Burial Tree began as a massive amount of notes and ideas. When the musical body was complete, I then began whittling down the ideas, organizing my notes, developing some while throwing away others. It all begins with a ton of notes.
As far as any specific message, it's hard to pinpoint one because I discuss a lot of different things through the songs. I'd say a common conceptual thread that runs through pretty much everything is the importance of truth. Truth has been politically incorrect for a long time; it's just gone out of fashion, if it ever was in fashion the first place. We find glossy lies and distorted reflections every time we attempt to reach out and connect with something real. Individuality--something that actually means something important--has been given a brand name and is used to sell sports cars and food. It's kind of surreal. Being an individual these days, or to understand truth, is basically equated with joining a herd and taking on their behavior and dress patterns. This reminds me of the title of an album by The Locust, Follow the Flock, Step in Shit. If you haven't heard them and if you enjoy loud and strange music, check them out.
MM: Continuing with lyrical content, I really like your song names, as they are quite unique like “The Giant Who Had No Heart In His Body.” My favorite by far though is “Tonight We Watch the Children Burn,” although I have also seen it titled as “Tonight We Watch the Fucking Children Burn.” I certainly do not promote child burning--or people burning or actually anything but a controlled fire burning for that matter--but this title is so evil and metal. I love it! What is this song really about?
RL: It's funny that you ask about this, because a lot of people have assumed that the song is promoting the burning of children, or that it is about doing some horrible, violent act. Ana Kefr would never stand for something like that. "Tonight We Watch the Children Fucking Burn" is about the Palestine-Israel conflict. It takes forever to fully explain a song, but the short and sweet version would be: if we are to believe the quasi-mythological history of Israel (as given in the Torah), then we find that the nation of Israel began by completely wiping out seven different nations that lived in ancient Palestine--the birth of Israel was in genocide.
Fast forward and we find that Israel was then the victim of genocide (i.e., the Holocaust). Fast forward again and they are occupying Palestine now, gunning down school children, and it's all done because God allegedly gave them the land, regardless of who was living there for decades or how many must die for them to live in it. I find a sick irony in the history of Israel; it goes from them wiping out nations and leaving nothing alive to others attempting to do the same to them. The song is discussing these things, also touching on the similarities between the Nazi ideals of the Fatherland/Master Race/Third Reich and the Israeli Promised Land/Chosen People/Kingdom of Zion. The title itself is basically what I see the rest of the world doing as they sit back and watch it passively, excusing it because they believe it is blessed by God. It's like sitting back with your bowl of potato chips and a can of Coke, turning on the television. "What are we going to watch?" The song title is their answer.
MM: Your style of music is very progressive, but not in the traditional sense. When I hear progressive rock/metal, I immediately think of Dream Theater or Rush. You guys really bring something new to the progressive table as your music is a constant journey. Did you guys intentionally set out to specifically sound the way you do, or is this just what the natural excretions of Ana Kefr sound like?
RL: Thanks for the compliment! I'd say our sound is for the most part what naturally comes out. We all listen to a pretty weird variety of music, and when it comes to writing we just don't hold ourselves back. In a way, I guess you could say it is somewhat intentional because one thing we don't want to do is set out to be a band that sounds like X, or something that has to be written like X because we want to be some certain kind of music. We don't want to define ourselves or box ourselves into a genre. Doing that would severely limit any artistic expression. There are very few rules in the band when it comes to writing, but one rule would be to not repeat ourselves. It's okay to have the element of a certain style in the music, but for every song to use it and to make it something you could expect is kind of against what we try to do. It's important to us that we try new things and that each song stands out individually. It sucks when an album is good but every song basically sounds the same. That's too easy to make. I think the real challenge is in writing an album that is obviously from one band but whose songs span all across the musical board.
MM: In regards to your sound, I find whether you like it or not, your favorite bands and artists help develop and make up your sound. What are some of your musical influences?
RL: My influences would be Tom Waits, Pink Floyd, Mr. Bungle and classical music--especially Modeste Mussorgsky and Zbigniew Preisner. The guys listen to everything from The Roots, Rush, Radiohead, Killswitch Engage and dub-step techno.
DW: The band name Ana Kefr means “I am Infidel” in Arabic. Arabic is a language generally not associated with heavy metal. Why did you guys choose this name? What does it mean for you? Do any of you have a connection with Arabic?
RL: I lived in Egypt for 3 years. I worked as a casting director in the film industry there. I am pretty decent at speaking, reading and writing Arabic, so that would be the band's Arab connection. I came back from Egypt to visit and ended up staying after I met Kyle. Things really just fell into place. I'd written the lyrics to an early song called "Takeover," and in it there is the chant 'ana kefr,' which means "I am infidel," as you said. We were going over different band name ideas and a friend pointed out that part in the song and said he thought that sounded perfect. Well, we have him to thank for that one, since he was right. For me personally, the name reminds me of a lot of my experiences living in the Middle East. I traveled to Jordan, Israel and Palestine for months and it just changed the way I look at everything. For me, the band name is perfect because it kind of encapsulates the defiant and angry spirit of metal while, beneath the defiance, there is a whole humanistic philosophical side. I love it!
(c) Copyright 2011 Devin Walsh