I Am Revenge are a hardcore/punk band that hails from Hamburg-Germany. On Saturday the 28th of September, they are set to join a host of local bands like Refuge, Vale of Amonition, Petrika and Straight Line Connection in this year’s edition of the Nairobi Metal Festival. I had a chat with band members Jonas (bass) and Okan (vocals) on their experience as a touring band and their expectations on this maiden foray into an African local metal and rock music scene.
1. Being from Hamburg Germany, how different is it from other scenes you’ve been to?
Jonas: The Hamburg scene is pretty saturated, as are most major cities in Europe and the US, I’d say. Hamburg has a population of close to 2 million, so there are Metal/Hardcore shows constantly happening (pretty much every day). Faced with that many choices to make, most kids end up only going to bigger shows (i.e. tours with 3-8 international bands), with no money and time left to spend on smaller/local bands.
This was way different when we founded I Am Revenge almost 10 years ago. Despite that decline of our local scene, there are still really strong bands coming forth once in a while, which is a beacon of hope for us.
Considering other scenes, we love visiting other big cities of course, but we’re always most excited about visiting “terra incognita”, as in areas that don’t get a lot of attention by artists – be that a rural area or small town in Europe with a tightly knit scene, or a place like Nairobi, which we’re excited beyond words to visit!
2. You are a band that tours a lot nowadays and I imagine this is every rock fans dream to tour though we never imagine what it’s like till we get there. When did you first go on tour and what was your experience like when you first went on tour?
Jonas: I can remember our first real tour with our friends in RISING ANGER back in 2013, probably the most intense touring experience for us ever. This was kind of a DIY tour – we booked all of the shows on our own, some were sold out and others had less than 50 people that showed up.
It was the most awesome experience for us to play shows in different cities every night, meet new people and make friends throughout the tour. But after a few days of touring, all the movement and strain really takes a toll on your health and well-being – our singer got sick, we were constantly hungover after overdoing the drinking on the first few nights – that definitely taught us a lesson as well, haha!
Currently, we’d like to tour a lot more than we’re doing right now, but it’s getting harder since we’re all at an age now at which “grown-up responsibilities”, like a career (or just holding down a job to pay rent) or even having a family (which both our guitarists Pascal and Gabriel are currently preoccupied with), really get in the way. In that sense, we’re all the happier that we were able to actually make our trip to Turkey and Kenya happen!
3. How would you guys describe your music to someone whose never heard of you?
Jonas: Think “music to lift heavy weights or do intense workouts to”
4. Hardcore shows are generally very explosive and that would require lots of energy. How do you guys prepare for such a show to ensure you give a satisfying performance?
Jonas: We do actually do some warm-up workouts before stage time to get our energy going and to curb a (very real) risk of injuries; our singer warms up his vocal chords with different vocal exercises, but the most important thing is the crowd. To us, it doesn’t really matter whether there are 10 or 1000 people, but if the crowd’s excited and thirsting to move, we’ll get it lit, no doubt!
5. You guys have a healthy catalogue of albums to your name. Which ones are you most fond of?
Okan: While all of our records spark individual memories – both of songs we still love listening to as well as single aspects that didn’t quite turn out as we would’ve liked them to, my favourite is definitely our latest record, “Violencer”. Musically, it’s our most “complete” and homogenous record to date, and also lyrically and topically, I feel like we’ve really been able to hone in on our message and our clearly anti-racist and socio-critical stance on current events on this one.
6. What crossed your mind when you guys were approached with the opportunity to play a show in Nairobi and what expectations do you have if any?
Okan: Oh, man – so many things! Rico (from the Hardcore Help Foundation) and I were chatting at a festival about a benefit show at the HHF, having known each other for a while now & played one or two shows for the HHF – when he asked me whether we’d be interested in playing in Nairobi.
At first, it just sounded unreal – we couldn’t even fathom making that happen! But when we had a serious conversation, we decided to do whatever we can to make it happen – we’re incredibly excited about the scene in East Africa (and Africa as a whole), and apart from our drummer Bert (who’s actually half South African), none of us have ever even been to Africa before!
As for our expectations, of course, we’re hoping to also draw attention to the local scene, as well as the HHF and their projects. But most of all, we’re super excited to visit a part of the world that we’ve never been to, connecting to people through music, and giving Nairobi’s local scene a night to remember!
7. What are some of the social issues you are most passionate about and how do you use your music to get your message across on these issues?
Okan: We’ve always been a somewhat outspoken band, but we definitely went a bit further than usual with our latest record, “Violencer”. The album generally has a very dark vibe, because we were channelling all of our frustration and anger about events – both happening around the globe, but also right in front of our doorsteps. Without getting into too much detail at this point, we recognize that industrialized nations are to be held somewhat responsible for conflicts and disasters happening in other parts of the world, which cause people to seek refuge and then turning those victims away. We especially see this happening through politics that we strongly oppose, and then right-wing/fascist movements and people displaying inhumane behaviour against those marginalized by said politics. This is something that we passionately oppose, and we want to use our collective voice to amplify that message, raise awareness and contribute to movements dedicated to improving people’s lives across the world, as well as in our home city and country.
8. What is something that is happening in your particular music industry that you would like to see change?
Okan: Honestly, I feel like a lot of things are constantly changing, and that’s a good thing if you choose to see it that way. I guess we’ve all come to terms with the fact that recorded music has become a commodity and that most of the money is made outside of that, but what I’d really like to see changing is that despite the fact that through social media, more artists than ever have access to global distribution and marketing, the market is still widely dominated by a few large names, and as Jonas mentioned initially, it feels like the local scenes are actually worse off than they used to be. In that sense, it would be awesome if people went back to going to smaller & local shows and paying more attention to their local bands & scene. The same applies to management or booking agencies – take a look around your city, you might discover bands that have much more to offer than you would’ve thought!