There are now boundaries for where metal goes. ASCENDANT are proof of that. Anders Ekdahl ©2018

You have one of these names that tell me that some thought has been involved in the choice. How hard was it to come up with the name?
Ashish: It was very hard. We took a couple of months to come up with a name, and nothing really clicked. Choosing ‘Ascendant’ was a happy accident, really. I had a track titled ‘Ascendant’ which was released with my other band Blood & Iron, and I was showing Alaa (the other guitarist in Ascendant) the lyrics. He liked the song title and suggested that we use that for our band name, and we haven’t looked back since.

The competition is a killer these days so please tell us why people should buy your latest album?
Ashish: There are a couple of reasons. Most importantly – it’s real. Our songs are about what’s really happening in this world, and it’s straight from the heart. 3 of the band members grew up in Syria and have experienced the heartbreak and cruelty of war firsthand, as well as the triumph of the human spirit – and this album reflects these experiences.
We are not singing about vikings, dragons and the other stuff that seems to be the staple of some metal bands nowadays. People who buy this album will know they have something truly unique and genuine. These are human stories.

Do you notice that there anticipation for you to release an album? Have you built a large enough following for people to eagerly await a new album?
Ashish: Yes, In Dubai and in the wider Middle East, we are pretty well established. While the metal scene as a whole is rather small, there is a devoted fan base. We owe a lot to them as well as the other bands in the metal scene – there is genuine comradery. When we initially started the band, we were just having fun and playing shows – and then a lot of our fans pushed us to put our songs down in an album, so we did just that.

When you started the band did you do so with a clear intent of what kind of music you wanted to play? How hard was it to come up with a sound all your own?
Ashish: We never put rules on the kind of sound we were going for, we let it happen naturally. The only criteria for musical ideas was a) whether it sounded good, and b) whether it served the spirit of the song. So if you listen to the album you’ll hear hints of many, many different styles of music and genres. I think this sort of creativity happens naturally when you let 5 musicians collaborate in a constructive way. We’re not trying to sound like anybody or be like any other band – we are happy being ourselves, and that’s enough to achieve this unique sound.

Something I have often wondered about is if you feel that you are part of something bigger and greater when you play in a band, that you are part of a movement sort of?
Ashish: Yes, definitely. In one sense – the band is greater than the sum of its parts. But in a more general sense, I feel that all musicians, and all artists are part of a movement towards greater understanding and compassion. Art unites us all – and it’s probably one of the greatest tools we have to try to elevate us to our higher selves.

When you play the sort of music you play do you feel that you can have whatever you like as art work for the cover of your album? What is a great album cover to you?
Ashish: No, the artwork, like every other facet of the album, had to have purpose and meaning. With 5 strong willed musicians, we had 5 very different visions and ideas for the artwork. In some ways, agreeing on the artwork was probably one of the tougher things to we had to do. However, our guitarist Alaa is also a brilliant artist and he came up with this wonderful album art.
To me a great album cover has layers of meaning while conveying a message.

I have a great fear that the change in how people consume music today will eventually kill music as we know it. What is your opinion on digital verses physical? Is digital killing music?
Ashish: Digital isn’t killing music – it is, however, changing the environment, but the music industry is definitely experiencing growing pains as we move onto new technologies.
I think a couple of things need to happen to help the musicians, and the music industry of today:
a) Change the attitude of music’s consumers. Most consumers think music should be free – but it isn’t and it never was.
Before we had the ability to record and playback music how did local venues entertain their customers? They had to hire local bands. Bands got work and practice simultaneously, and the good bands pulled a crowd and were consequently in demand. Today, all pubs/bars/coffee shops/ etc need to do is stream a playlist without paying a dime. That needs to change. Artists need to get paid every time their work is played, anywhere.
b) Technology should be used to enforce artists’ rights. You can’t steal patents, or infringe on copyrights – so lets apply the same standard to intellectual property in the domain of music.
These might not be popular opinions, but true musical talent needs nourishment and opportunities.

Is the era of great arena tours as thing of yester? What kind live scene is there for bands like yours? What does the touring circuit look like today?
-Ashish: Yes, great arena tours aren’t possible for everyone except for the biggest of bands. The live scene in Dubai and in the greater middle east is rather small and intimate. We might fill up a place and get about 200-400 people a night playing at local venues here, provided the show is properly marketed. Bigger venues aren’t an option unless a well recognized international act is touring in the region and then some local bands have the opportunity to open for them. Obviously much larger crowds are possible there – but these are the rarities.
As for touring – as everyone knows it’s become an industry in an off itself, and by that I mean bands pay to play. Opportunities exist if you can spend – and many bands do because of their conviction in their music. Things don’t change all that much once bands start getting more recognition, it’s still very much an uphill slog and a rather ruthless business.

When you play live is it a happening or do you see it more as a party?
Ashish: Well, I think it’s actually a bit of both. Metalheads and music lovers come out to have fun and forget about the rest of the world for a few hours – and we basically tell stories in a musical format. The party-aspect definitely increases after the show 🙂

What would you like to see the future bring?
Ashish: For the band – a bigger audience for our music, because I genuinely believe our music has a message worth hearing. For everything else – peace.

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