I love archaeology because it is in my nature to be curious about all unknown things and Anatolia is one of the places on earth which I call a land of mystery and magic. Indeed it is one of the archaeologically richest places on earth, as it has been home to many civilizations throughout history, such as the Hattians, Hurrians, Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, Greeks … Turks. It is the same for the culture and the art of the people who are living in this land too; very colourful, also various cultures and artifacts can be seen in Anatolia, which I believe were created over thousands of years by many different nations. It is amazing!
As I previously said, I was in Istanbul recently and curious to know more about the Turkish metal scene. Pentagram is the answer to the question, “What is the biggest metal band in Turkey?” which I asked any metalheads who I met in Istanbul. A band’s name which was not new to me. I knew the Turkish PENTAGRAM and their music from about 10 years ago, however as you will see and read in this article, the band had to change the name to MEZARKABUL due to the fact that several bands used the same name. However they still use PENTAGRAM for the band’s releases in Turkey.
MEZARKABUL formed in the God’s gift city, Bursa, in 1986 by guitarist Hakan Utangaç and drummer Cenk Ünnü. Some critics believe they are the pioneers of heavy metal in Turkey. The band has released six unique studio albums up to now which are genius mixtures of Anatolian elements with western heavy metal music. I had the chance to meet three members of the band, Hakan Utangaç, Tarkan Gözübüyük and Metin Türkcan in their studio during my stay in Istanbul. I was also lucky as Tarkan and Metin accepted to sit in front of my camera for a video interview.
To begin with, I started with a question about the band’s names and how they feel about having two different names at the same time. Tarkan explained: “It sometimes causes confusion. We started the band with the name PENTAGRAM, but about 12 years ago we made a record deal and the company told us there are several other bands – in the USA, Chile and India. Currently it is a common name among metal bands! So, outside of Turkey we use MEZARKABUL and PENTAGRAM in Turkey.” I also asked him about the meaning and the reason that they chose MEZARKABUL, “No reason, it came from a ritual, two different words brought together and it felt right. Mezar means grave, Kabul means acceptance. It’s basically about accepting we are going to die one day and about being spiritually prepared.”
Being and chatting with Tarkan and Metin was a big chance to discover more about the Turkish metal scene to find out the view from the side of two members of the biggest metal band in Turkey. So I asked them about it and its difficulties. Metin answered me: “It’s not getting bigger I think, most of the bands are retired. Most of the recent bands couldn’t continue, new bands are coming but not enough bands and some of them change their music style to popular music. ” He continued to explain the reason: “Most of it is because of economic issues I think, I am sure all want to go on but after the time it’s going more harder. ”
I also asked them about the differences between the music industry inside and outside of Turkey, Tarkan answered me with the following: “All around the world musicians struggle, it’s not easy. In Europe or the USA it’s a bigger industry. In Turkey and other countries bands don’t get much support from the industry. You need to be lucky to be noticed by a record company.”
I was curious to know more about if they played with big metal bands in the past and thanks to Tarkan who helped me with his following answer: “We got the chance to play with big bands such as ACCEPT, IRON MAIDEN, METALLICA, TESTAMENT and QUEENSRYCHE inside Turkey, but outside we played in many countries like Germany, Denmark … and also we played some big festivals like Wacken Open Air 2002. We recently got a very kind invitation from ORPHANED LAND to support them in their tour.”
He also said: “We are going to record albums and play music as much as we can till we die. That I can promise to you (laughs).” When asked if it would be next year, he answered: “Why not, you never know. We try to do our best, we’re older guys with families and children, so it’s not that easy, not that smooth to make a record every year or tour every year. It’s not possible for us. But we will do the best we can to continue, we will not stop until we die.”
My next step was asking about the band’s influences when they are writing music. Tarkan is an amazing person indeed, I can tell you that I was really impressed by his words: “We’re basically all comic book fans from our childhood, so maybe that’s why we play this kind of music. So the music we play has a lot to do with fantasy. But our philosophy comes from the things we read, things that nurture us. The ideas that we feel, expressing our point of view, we always read about those matters, they are one of the main influences for our songs. But also the political and social environment is a lot to do with it. From childhood, we have a connection with people around us, not only through music, but physically, emotionally and spiritually. We are all connected to people around us – our friends, our family, our neighbours. We always try to express through music what we feel, what we think, what we see. All those yearnings, those feelings and emotions become a starting point for us. For example, recent events. These are always in our songs, always true feelings and ideas behind our songs. We are trying to establish that in order to have meaning in the future as well.”
Perhaps you read or saw on the news about the protests in Turkey, especially in Istanbul. I experienced it all with my own eyes, skin and breath, tear gas, smoke and plastic bullets … so we went forward and discussed their opinions about the recent events in Turkey; “The segregation, the language, the regional division, are all dangerous for humankind. It’s going to be difficult for everybody around the world, especially in Turkey right now. What happened in Turkey last month was a violation of justice, a violation of human rights, a violation of freedom of speech and we had to stand against that. The worst thing is, the media was blindfolded and most of the people in Turkey maybe don’t know exactly what happened. It’s an obligation for us to tell everybody what was happening during these protests and what was the reason.
I believe lots of artists in Turkey are going to write or draw and express their opinions about what was going on recently. So we are not going to hesitate to express our point of view.”
I was lucky to have an exclusive preview of the bands brand new video for the song ‘Apokalips’ which was not yet published. It was an honour to be the first person in the world (except the band members) to have the chance to watch the video. It was a pure heavy metal song and amazing video, the story and atmosphere of which reminded me of Dr. Frankenstein and also the amazing Tim Burton’s movies.
You can watch the whole of my interview with Tarkan Gözübüyük and Metin Türkcan on the Youtube player below:
( I could edit this video but honestly I didn’t want to, as I wanted to show you what an amazing and patient person Tarkan is and what a wonderful father Metin is!)
Interview by Mohsen Fayyazi