Kaveh Afagh's name is associated with many things rock: From being among the first wave of modern rockers and banned from playing in public, to underground music, outlandish comments, and the love he expresses to his homeland. His albums, Scarf, The Blue Room, and Stranger have all worked together to make him a household name among the youth, a generation that loves more menace and wants to see it in cinema, theater, music, and visual arts.
Your last album, Dances with Pills. How was the reception? Did it meet your expectations?
Any singer would like to claim his album is a hit; that it’s top of the chart. My last album received positive reviews. But we still have a long way to go. I released my debut album ten years ago. And I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. If I find, I will stop making albums. I’m still rocking, keeping the flame live.
You were much closer to rock when you were with The Ways. After that you have tried to make mostly popular music. Is this just some speculation out of the blue or is there more to this than meets the eye?
I have always tried to make popular music. If this part of my music has become more visible now, that’s because public taste in music has changed over time, not my music style. Ten years ago, people hardly listened to rock. They like to listen now because they feel the genre has become more popular. After all, it’s the music of middle classes. If the trend continues, it would make other styles obsolete.
Ten years ago, no website wanted to play The Blue Room. They never wanted to play soft rock. Now they are doing just that, even without me asking them. People share it on social media and sing alone with us in live performances. The essential form of the music never changed. My style never changed; it’s public taste that’s changing. They want rock, but they want it fast. We make music for fans.
Any prospects for Iranian rock genre?
Following its inception, Iranian rock genre has been going strong for some time now. It will take time to become more popular, especially pop-rock. Ten years ago there were just about five rock singers against a backdrop of some 500 pop singers. They are still everywhere, even on the IRIB and satellite TV and music channels. Still, rock is prevailing and trending. Rock will move forward anyhow because it comes from under people’s skin.
Any upcoming new album?
We have a new album that has 12 songs. Five will be old tunes, like from Scarf. I wrote and recorded most of them. It’s slow pop-rock. We tried to contemporize for younger fans. There are fresh sounds as well. I make my own albums and see little need for outside help. But if I find new talent, I get him on board. This included music talents like Arad Aria and Pouya Sabeti. We worked together on Where’s My City, Your Scent, and The Blue Room. Others include Ashkan Dabbagh and Shahab Afaghi. This is my way of collaboration.
Who are your inspirations?
Pink Floyd, Queen, Supertramp, Chris de Burgh, The Beatles, Bee Gees, and suchlike.
How would you choose your band members?
The criteria include ethics. I left The Ways because of some moral issues. I couldn’t dismiss every band member. So I quit the band instead. I will do the same if the new one also doesn’t meet my criteria. I never try to impose my will on others. You have to come and see our concerts to find out no one is above the band. I started without money and I worked hard to be where I’m now. I never had the time to think of myself as better than others. We are bandmates and as long as we are on good terms, we will be bandmates.
You always wear an Iranian flag armband. What’s the idea?
Some might think this is for show. It’s not. I’m a patriot, that’s all really. I wore it after forming The Ways. I used the English name because the primary plan was to sing in English. Then I realized, wait a minute, no sign of Iran in the band? I said we needed to show something that says this is an Iranian band, or at least to show I’m an Iranian singer. This is it. I have been wearing the Iranian flag armband ever since and I’d like to be remembered as a patriot.
You once tried to have duo with Anathema’s singer. What went wrong?
We had some copyright issue and we had to pay 15,000 euros to fix it. Over here, fans know the band but not the singer. It didn’t make economic sense for us. The British rock band form Liverpool had once played in Israel. That was a problem for those who were going to give us the permit to have a duet. Anyways, we never got the permit for Vincent to sing in Iran. I finally managed to make a duo with Vincent. You can listen to it on mobile phone for a few seconds because we couldn’t release it.
Are you having live concerts after the fasting month of Ramadhan?
Our new album will be released soon. Then we will have concerts in Tehran and other cities. Some provincial authorities still don’t know I can write and record music. Some must see me on TV to accept that I’m officially allowed to. Our first live performances would be in Rasht, Shiraz, Isfahan, Ahvaz, Kerman, and Sari.
Translation by Bobby Naderi