Some time ago a Hot Water Music interview that I had done appeared in the Swedish fanzine Colors Make You Blind. In return Johan, the editor (cheers Johan!), sent me an interview with Combat Wounded Veteran to use for Voice of Reason. Not this time we decided to "trade" once again, he got the interview I had done with Fall Silent, and he sent me one with Hassan I Sabbah that you can read below...
Hassan I Sabbah was: Chad – vocals, Mike – drums, Ryan – bass, Tommy – guitar, Zac – guitar. Pat was the one who took video and drove and did all the other shit. The majority of us are from Boston Massachusetts, USA.
This might be a dumb question, but it would be really nice if you could explain your name – Hassan I Sabbah.
RYAN: It’s not a dumb question, hahahaha, but it will be a dumb answer.
TOMMY: Hassan I Sabbah was a Muslim leader in the 4th Century who figures into a lot of conspiracy theory (see the Illuminati Trilogy). We chose his name because of his conceptualization of reality as unfixed and malleable. Much of his ideas also run parallel with atheism as well.
RYAN: He was also said to have created the ”order” or ”cult” of assassins in 1090 A.D., which were the begging’s of the Bavarian Illuminati. Not much is documented of his life, but by the majority tell the story of a tyrant. He would have his cult of assassins, rape, pillage, and murder any opposition. The assassin’s were said to be drugged up drones on Hassan I Sabbah’s invention, Hashish.
Do you think that that Hassan I Sabbah’s music can fully represent who you guys are as people or musicians?
TOMMY: No. As a collective effort, several things get compromised when writing music or anything else. There are moments in our music/lyrics that may reflect specific aspects of us. Music is a peculiar vehicle for expression because it does require compromise and prohibits any kind of 'full' representation (if that is possible anyways).
ZAC: The music we wrote was a product of our emotions (as all music should be) so I think that it represents us in a sense, but I don’t think people are going to find out anything about us by listening to our records. Even by reading lyrics, you can gain some insight into the life of the lyricist (Chad), but it’s not like you know all there is to know about him by reading them. If you wanted to know any of us, write us a letter or come say what’s up.
Do you listen to your own music? Are there specific songs that you like more than others?
RYAN: I am partial to the new 7”, due to the way it came out. We gave Robodog so much shit, and he took it and turned it into the best record I’ve ever done. I like ”Not so in Tune with Shells,” because of the floor punch mosh at the end.
ZAC: I personally have not listened to our own records that much, but I do think that almost all of our songs are pretty damn good. Not trying to come off cocky or anything, but I wouldn’t want to put out a record that I didn’t think was amazing. I know in a few years or so I’ll probably look back on this band and think "yeah, that’s what I was doing when I was young", but right now, I think it’s a pretty good record.
TOMMY: I don't really listen to Hassan songs either. We listened to them as we wrote them, trying to figure out what we liked or disliked. By the time our music comes out on vinyl I'm generally tired of playing it and/or hearing it.
Has the collaboration with Robodog Records and The Electric Human Project been to your satisfaction? How did you get in touch with these labels?
RYAN: Robodog has been fucking amazing. I sent the kid who runs Robodog, Andy Low, a tape of our third practice, when only Tommy, Mike, and myself were in the band. It was a three song tape of no vocals, one guitar, and recorded with one shitty microphone in a basement to a four-track, and he loved it. Elapse time six months after he wanted to put out the record, and you’ve got our self titled.
ZAC: Let me tell you, Robodog Records is the best label on earth to work with. Andy Low is so amazing. Everything he did for us was great, he worked with us well, and made sure we liked what he wanted to do. We definitely worked together in a sense. With the EHP, it was more like "here’s our tapes" and then a few months later "here’s the record." We weren’t pleased with that record so much, but I guess it taught me that communication is pretty vital, since we never really talked with the label about the record.
TOMMY: Andy Low bent over backwards for us on more than one occasion. He's got a tight handle on his label and he knows how to work with bands. If Hassan had stayed together we would have undoubtedly continued to work with Andy and Robodog.
Did you often get band to band comparisons? What bands were you most often compared?
TOMMY: Any band to band comparison is too much. We got compared to Portraits of Past, Mohinder, and other bands from 94/95 that influenced us.
ZAC: We got some. We often got compared to early Gravity bands (Mohinder, Antioch Arrow etc.)
How do you feel about being compared to other bands?
ZAC: Well I think comparisons are good. if someone read in some zine "the Hassan record sounds like (insert band here)" and decided to buy it and liked it, than that’s awesome.
What was it like to work with Kurt Ballou? What did he bring to Hassan I Sabbah that you didn’t have before?
RYAN: He didn’t really bring too much other than patience, Tommy and myself live with the asshole, he has supported us from the beginning, he knew what we were aiming for.
ZAC: Working with Kurt is like working with anyone. It is awesome to work with someone who knows about hardcore and such, and knows how we want to sound and what we want, but I don’t think he brought us much.
TOMMY: He brought lots of leftovers and great cooking that we never had.
Who did the artwork for the split-7” with Usurp Synapse?
RYAN: Chad did it, we’re sick of full colored, glossy, eye-catching covers. Listen to the music.
TOMMY: We did our side as kind of a response to the Usurp side. The tendency in hardcore towards appropriating suicide and depression is absurd. Most of these bands/kids that employ severe depression and suicide as part of their 'gimmick' are generally unfamiliar with either condition. I would urge people that gravitate towards this shit to be skeptical of it. There are people who have real problems and it's not always something that they like to wear on their sleeves or see turned into a marketing gimmick (although hardcore seems to be more about gimmicks and presentation rather than actually presenting something substantial).
Tell me about touring the States. (experiences, shows, funny situations and so on...)
RYAN: My favorite moment was on the way to a festival in Pennsylvania. Hassan and a bunch of our friends loaded into an extended van the night before the show. An hour into the six-hour drive we got bored and decided we needed alcohol. Picture one sober driver, and six fucking idiots, all with either a six or a twelve pack to themselves. When we finally got to where we were staying for the night, we were all sloshed and loud as fuck. The driver (Pat) immediately shot gunned 3 or so beers, and we stumbled inside the House waking up everyone, by throwing shit and yelling. I was probably the most wasted out of everyone, I threw a whole bunch of shit off the porch and bit Josh from Neil Perry’s ass while trying to dry hump him.
ZAC: That Weekend of Wilkes Barre fest was fucking nuts. I don’t think any of us were sober the whole weekend. Anyway, the show started at like 5 in the afternoon the day we played, and there was like 15 or so bands playing, and we were playing second to last. so we didn’t go on until like 3 am. All day we sat around in our van drinking and smoking pot and just being idiots. Anyway, the show finally ended at like 4 am, and right after the last band played, some random drunk guy came up to me and asked if I would play drums for him while he sings some Misfits songs. I, not knowing how to play drums at all was like "fuck yeah." So I got on stage and got on the drums, and started playing sludge beats. The guy was getting mad and kept on stopping me and saying "ok, it’s time to do this song," so I’d lead him on for a second and play how the drums in the song went, but I’d just end up playing sludge beats again. Anyway, the guy running the fest kicked me off stage and then I went to sleep in the van. Later that night I got kicked out of a rest area convenience store for not having shoes on so I pissed right outside the door. That shit was phat.
Doing this interview is to me a bit odd due to the fact that Hassan I Sabbah doesn’t exist anymore. What led you guys to the break-up? Was there a specific incident that caused it, or did you come to a stage where playing together just wasn’t fun and rewarding anymore?
TOMMY: Our break up was due to personal conflicts that arose right before we left for tour. It seemed abrupt at the time. I had also come to a point where I was tired of writing hardcore songs. Had Hassan continued we would either have split because of musical differences or our sound would have taken a much different turn.
ZAC: It’s a long story that I don't feel like getting into, but what it all comes down to is that it was too hard to have a singer who lives 5 hours away from the rest of the band.
The election of your new president, George W. Bush, has been somewhat of a farce. Appeal upon appeal, so on and so forth. What are your comments concerning the presidential election?
TOMMY: The election process is interesting because people are so invested in it although they're aware that it is inefficient. Campaigns and elections both evidence how politics in the United States is simply spectacle. The differences between Bush and Gore were slim and neither had any interest outside of continuing globalization and tightening corporate control. Political discourse in America perpetuates a strange cycle of appealing to 'freedom' and 'liberty' with an agenda that actually constricts any freedom that we have. We live in a nation whose idea of growth is extending capitalist culture into every corner of the world (all with the hope of furthering the growth of multi-national corporations). Citizenship is a matter of consumption and economics. The only positive aspect of placing Bush in office is the slight hope that he will anger and arouse enough people to urge them into political activism or at least encourage them to be aware. The gap (if indeed there is one at all) between the political and the personal is going to become extremely small within the next few years. If people are not aware of what is going on in Washington, they will undoubtedly notice it in the failures that will result from misdirected education reform, the potential for even further strained relations with the Arab nation, a growing division in our economic/political relationship with China, as well as issues such as abortion, 'free' speech, gay rights, gender issues, etc.
May I ask who you voted for? (Please motivate your selection. If you feel that you’d like to skip this question, then do so)
TOMMY: Ralph Nader.
I’ve read somewhere that only between 20-30% of the people in USA actually vote. How do you feel about having a minority (the voters) deciding over the rest of USA?
TOMMY: As I said before, the whole election process is a spectacle. The popular vote went in favor of Gore with the electoral college leaning towards Bush. This disparity shows how inefficient the election system truly is. The voice of the people is a cultural myth that has been undoing itself from the moment it was written into our government.
What can be made to make more people vote?
TOMMY: True alternatives to the way our government is structured is something that has been almost invisible for years. Nader offered a considerably strong alternative this time around. More people are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the two party system. I'm crossing my fingers that the next four years will bring more unrest and lure people to begin thinking of alternatives outside of popular political discourse.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
RYAN: Yeah thanks a lot for this opportunity, if anyone has questions they can email us or write us, 33 Church Hill Street Watertown MA 02472 USA. Thanks again, and look out for our European discography, as soon as we find a label to do it! Peace.