Haggard must be one of the most unique metal bands on the face of the earth today. Apart from the fact that they are considered to be ‘the biggest and hardest classical/medieval metal band of the world’, they just have something so indescribably enjoyable and original in their music. After a period of silence the band is back on track doing some festivals. So our writer Boris Van Berlo used this opportunity to talk to Asis Nasseri, the band's friendly front man and mastermind, right after their outstanding gig at this year Summer Breeze Festival in Germany on August 18th, 2005.

Hello Asis. How are you doing?
Apart from the disastrous ending of the fucking gig here I am very fine [What happened: The arrogant stage manager switched off the power just 20 seconds or so before the ending of the last song ‘Awaking The Centuries’, disrespecting band an fans without any truly necessary or rational reason - BVB]. We are stamped with this continuous curse and we have to keep on carrying this burden, but besides that I am feeling very good. We had a few good changes in the band the last year. I made a few decisions… well, it sounds hard but I dropped some people, brought new musicians in the band and the harmony is very good now as you probably saw on stage.

Yeah, I did see a few new faces on stage.
So, I am feeling really fine and she [pointing at his girlfriend/wife? - BVB] is also a part of the reasons why I am feeling so good.

That’s very important!
Yeah… I have a few new ideas for the next CD which isn’t that far away so I am happy with the band at this moment. Of course the ending of the concert was…

Let’s forget the ending of the concert. How do you feel about the show when you leave the last few minutes out?
The fans were marvellous! There are no words to describe the reactions from the audience. Well it’s like in the song ‘Awaking The Centuries’: feed the spark. You just need a spark to make them burn and this was really great. The atmosphere was tense and very positive and just 100% in gear and that’s what I appreciate and also the rest of the band appreciated very much. Of course they will see us again on tour in October and… it was a very good thing to play here.

How long will the set be when you play on the next tour?
Longer than 2 hours. I think with the additional songs and the reprise 2.5 hours or maybe 3 hours. Now we were giving them a quick wash, it was a drop of water and I want them to take a bath, so they should get 100% Haggard. We will take one or two support bands with us but they will start as early as possible so that there is enough time left to play every little note of every single song that I wrote. This is my intention to play this tour and the fans deserve this.

So I guess you are looking forward to this because it has been quite a while since Haggard did a more extensive tour?
Yeah, we did a few shows in between but the last big tour was in 1998, the tour with Atrocity and the second headlining tour with Tristania. But that’s not the problem. Every tour goes the same, in the beginning everybody is going: ‘OH, YEAH! let’s go on tour’. Doing ‘party, party, party’ the first 3 nights and then the next 3 days they are like: ‘Oh my head, I can’t move’... It’s always like that.

So single festivals are better?
No, a tour is fun though, a lot of fun.

Coming back to the ending of tonight’s show. It had a kind of ‘déja-vu’ feeling to it because a few years back on Wacken Open Air it was just the same scenario.
As far as I can remember, I am not 100% sure, but it has been 4 or 5 times at a festival that we didn’t have power at the end anymore. We weren’t even given the chance to speak to the people in the audience and that’s the worst thing. Normally, they can turn down the music but they have to leave a microphone open so we can apologize to the fans and of course we will never ever play at the end of a festival again. Maybe some metal festival promoters think that Haggard is something like a band you put in a cage and go ‘whoow’, like a freak-show. But the people should get a special end, because our fans are very, very important to us and are not lesser in numbers. There are many fans, lots of them.

Yeah! And you always see this, like today: the fans kept standing and applauding…
…ok, but what happened today was bull-shit! They said ‘we pay a fee to the city to play, a fixed amount and fixed time’, but 15 seconds never ever make a difference! They think they can do this with us, and they did it, so the point is that this was the last time someone is doing shit with us because we don’t need it anymore!

But the fans and audience know that it has nothing to do with the band. They kept standing and applauded, like on Wacken in 2002 when you did the a capella version of ‘The Final Victory’. We all stood there singing and applauding until the security forced us out, and you were still standing on stage thanking us.
Yeah, so that’s promotion for us.

And we all know it’s not your fault.
I mean it’s something psychological. To play the last note at a concert is very important.

They should have respect for the artist and let him finish the song. They asked you to play so they should respect you!
Yeah… for 15 seconds, its bull-shit!

Was the line-up tonight complete, or were there some people missing on stage?
The oboe was missing, the flute player and also two violins were missing, but it was nearly complete.

So could you maybe introduce the new people in the band?
I found a new singer and her name is Suzanne. The problem with our last singer Gaby was that she was an average singer, but very engaged to the band. I saw that my future plans and her capability did not fit together. She gave it a 100% for the band but she was not good enough. When Suzanne came and she started singing I had an ‘a-ha’ effect, something like a sun going up. So, a year ago I decided to drop Gaby because I didn’t wanne have 3 singers and there were a few other personal things.

Also Robin the bass-player has been dropped. For your information: he did not play a single note on the last CD. He joined the band at the end of the production and I decided at that time to put his name on the record but he did not play a single time. There was a guest musician playing the bass.

At the beginning of 2005, Johannes, a cello player, joined us. He is very young, but a very good player. Then there is Claudia, another cello player. She joined us a short time ago, actually a few days ago, and … so who is also new in the band? It’s so hard because there are so many people… we have to see, but Claudia is a very good cello player and she liked it, I saw it today, she was like ‘ooh cool… playing’ because it was something different. Of course all the cello players know Apocalyptica and also want to play rock music so it’s very popular for cello-players playing rock music and this is cool. So these are the changes and I feel very comfortable with them.

When you look for musicians, is it important that they like metal music?
No it’s not important, they should like Haggard’s music. So we have a lot of people in the band listening to classical music, jazz, rap, hip-hop,… I don’t care about that.

I meant it more in a way that when you are on tour playing every day, touring with other metal bands, on festivals like this… they do not have to love metal but…
…they have to accept it, of course. No, they have to stand behind the band a 100% and have to love the sound that we do. So it’s not like somebody comes and plays only because it has to be played. I want them to have their respect for the music and for what we are doing.

Are most of the member’s full-time musicians or occupied with other things?
Some of them are students as well as full-time musicians, normal workers, semi-professional musicians…

There was a tour planned in January/February but it got cancelled. Were the line-up changes the cause for this?
Yes, that was the reason. There were a lot of changes in the band so the sea was not quiet, it was storming. I want to have harmony, the musicians that play with me should like each other. Those were the main reasons. Of course the tour was planned but there were some coincidences that made it very difficult for us, mainly business coincidences: people saying ‘yes’ but then mean ‘no’. But the tour will now be played in October.

Sometimes it’s better to postpone something and do it right afterwards than to do it half.
Yes. I am not doing a tour with 20 musicians and only play one leg.

Especially with Haggard, I assume that it’s more difficult with so many people and all the logistical things. Are you used to it by now?
That’s okay, it’s getting better and better.

Now that the website is re-launched, you also posted that you are writing new music. Can you tell us something about that?
The next CD will not be about a famous person but it will be a story of my own. I am writing an own story.

And will it be once again a concept album?
Yeah, I think it’s the best thing to write a concept album with Haggard but not only one theme for 4 or 5 CDs. Every time a new theme is the best.

How does the writing go? Do you write most of the parts?
I do the storyboard and then work together with an author. It’s the only way.

And for the music, do the separate musicians have their input?
I also write some things and then we are working together on how the themes fit together. Then the musicians ask if they can play this or stop the line here, but I do the composing.

Do you also play most of the instruments?
Me? No, no! [laughs]

So you write music for an instrument and you are familiar with the sound but you don’t practice it?
I think it’s enough, it’s chamber-orchestral style and this is what I like.

When you look back now at your last album ‘Eppur Si Muove’: are you still pleased with the result?
I like it a lot! Of course afterwards there are always things that could have been made better but that’s not the main thing. You have to be satisfied with your work Well, I really like it but the next one will be more medieval oriented. ‘Eppur Si Muove’ is still and album I have positive feelings for. The medieval things on it are a bit less and the classical things a bit more, so the next album will be fifty-fifty.

Did you ever think about writing music for a stage play or so?
Yes, there are some plans for an artist living in America, but it is just a plan, it’s not something you can really touch. It’s in my head getting shape.

To finish up: how does the programme for the next months look like?
Preparing for the next CD, then playing the tour and after that entering the studio.

When can we expect the new album?
Beginning 2006 we will enter the studio because Drakkar wants to have a new album. So sometimes around May-June you can expect it, we hope to be a little faster.

And is most of the music already written?
It’s all existing in my head. [starts singing ‘In my head’ from ‘Zombie’ – The Cranberries]

Do you have any final words for our readers and your fans?
Thanks to all the fans out there. Also to all the Scandinavians. My secret passion is Scotland and Norway, so I am learning ‘Norsk’ at this moment. Norwegian and also Swedish are such beautiful languages.

Will you get up there with the tour?
Yeah we hope so, in 2006 I hope. We will play in Denmark, Norway, Sweden… we will play everywhere. It will be great!

And then off to South America?
Yes, to our crazy fans in South America.

Thank you for this interview and good luck with the next album and everything.
Thank you very much.

Thanks to Sebastian Stähr from Drakkar Entertainment for setting up this interview.

Links of interest:

Drakkar Entertainment
Summer Breeze Open Air