Interview: Raam of Hypernova

by Jack Diablo
If there’s one freedom we as Americans take for granted, it’s the right to rock. It’s really hard to believe that in some countries, making rock music not approved by the government is actually a crime. But for the Iranian band Hypernova this was their reality. As veterans of the Iranian underground, Hypernova started their musical career the same way most of us do, playing house shows and basements. The difference of course being, if they were caught, they faced more more than a noise violation.
The group now resides in Brooklyn where it is not only legal, it’s practically mandatory to be in a band. Because of their unique situation, they’ve received a ton of press and there’s even a clip of Hypernova’s lead singer, Raam, being interviewed for CNN after the fallout of the Iranian elections.
Hypernova will bring their dancey, poppy, post-punk to Jacksonville later this month. EU was able to speak with Raam about his experiences and how it feels to simultaneously be free of the harsh oppression of his home country and achieve such sudden notoriety.
EU: First off Raam, tell us about the current tour you’re on.
Raam: We are currently on a national US tour and will be traveling from NY to LA and all the way back. We love touring around America. Every State has its own beautiful unique culture and history. There is no greater freedom than being on the road. You don’t have to worry about the rent or bills, all you care about is the next show.
EU: You and your band have received a lot of attention from the very beginning. Does it ever feel overwhelming or even undeserved at times?
R: When we first came here to the States we really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We really didn’t have any plans of staying more than a couple weeks. When we received the first wave of press, we honestly were overwhelmed by all the attention and felt that it all was quite undeserving because our music really sucked in the beginning. But I guess the story of our struggles really resonated with a lot of people. Everyone was rooting for us. We were the underdogs who against all odds had somehow made it here to the States to get a shot at the American dream.
EU: What is the perception back home of what your band is doing here in the states?
R: We are considered to be pioneers back home. We’re the first band to ever come from Iran and get signed and make it on the level that we have. There is still a very long way for us to go and there is a lot more that we have to achieve. This is only the beginning of our careers as musicians. Until this point we have faced many different struggles and challenges just to survive in both in the underground of Iran and over here in the States, but our will and passion for music is so strong that we feel nothing can stop us from achieving our dreams but ourselves.
EU: While no one can blame you for simply wanting to rock, do you feel pressured at times to deliver a message of some kind? Is there any reluctance on your part to act as a sort of ambassador for Iranian youth and sub-culture or is this a role that you gladly accept?
R: We never wanted to be ambassadors of any sort, but as the Spiderman quote goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.” We really don’t have any power though, but what little platform we have we will use to send a positive message of our people and culture. We don’t even have to do it in a direct preachy way. By being musicians and rocking out a show we send the most powerful message that music transcends all race, religion and boundaries.
EU: There are actually government-approved rock bands in addition to those that remain underground. Is there any resentment from the underground towards bands that have “sold out?”
R: Well it depends on what you mean by sold out. There is only so much you can do in the undergrounds of Iran. When you’re not allowed to perform or distribute your music, what ultimate purpose can a band have in such an environment? We have been doing our country much more good by becoming successful on this side of the planet. We give so much hope to all the kids back home who share the same dreams that we did.
EU: Most people probably aren’t aware, or have forgotten that Iran was once a very different place with a vibrant music scene not to mention its own unique traditional and folk music. Are there any Iranian musical influences in what you write?
R: I think the Iranian influence was sucked out of us, like so many other things that were forced to us at a young age. Being the rebellious teenagers that we were, whatever our teachers or parents told us to, we’d do the exact opposite. So instead of listening to Iranian music we listened to punk, techno and rock n roll. But as we’ve gotten older and have matured in our musical taste we are beginning to appreciate the beautiful intricacies of traditional Iranian music. Maybe one day we’ll even incorporate some Iranian elements in our music.
EU: Now that you have been living in America for a while, have you found any new influences that have changed the direction of your music?
R: Bands like Sisters of Mercy, Depeche Mode, Chameleons, Bauhaus, Justice, Muse, Soul Wax, Slowdive are some of the things that have really influenced our new sound.
EU: Are the themes in your songs unique to your experience or do you try to make them more universal?
R: All the songs in “Through the Chaos” are written from the perspective of a kid who group up in the undergrounds of Iran but in a very global context where anyone can relate to the things that we went through.
EU: Do you see yourself playing a show in Tehran one day? Do you believe something like that is a possibility in your future?
R: It would be a dream come true to one day go back home and play for all our fans over there.
EU: What should the American people know about Iran that they probably don’t?
R: The majority of Iranians are a very hospitable, sophisticated, generous and intelligent people, unlike our current president. He gives us such a bad rap. And unfortunately the media over here doesn’t always portray Iran in a proper and positive light. I think everyone should always keep an open mind and put a little more effort in terms of understanding another country and culture.

About FOLIO

april, 2022

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