Iranian Band CONFESS Breaks Silence on Their Arrest For Playing Metal, Current Safety & Metal Musicians Who Reached Out
It's been over a year since we first wrote about the Iranian metal band Confess. The Iranian metal duo, Nikan "Siyanor" Khosravi and Arash "Chemical" Ilkhani, were arrested in November of 2015 by the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution and had some serious charges levied against them: blasphemy, advertising against the system, running an illegal and underground band and record label promoting music considered to be Satanic, writing anti-religious lyrics and granting interviews to forbidden foreign radio stations. At the time, we reported the band faced a maximum penalty of six years in prison, or worse, execution. Very little was public about the case at the time.
After looking into the matter, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Iran, Raha Bahreini, revealed to Noisey in January the band is not facing execution charges. Bahreini also explained the seriousness of the charge:
“The forbidding of music in Iran goes beyond Western art,” Raha explains. “Any music not licensed by authorities is considered illegal. This includes solo women singers who are banned from publishing their voice since the Islamic Revolution; it includes artists who do not conform to the authorities [rules], and it also targets artists who tackle taboo subjects or criticize socio-political subjects.”
Confess made bail, paying $30,000 USD each, early last year and have been under the radar since. During that time, Metal Injection began receiving messages from metal heads from within Iran questioning the validity of Confess' arrest. The accusers pointed Metal Injection to Confess frontman Nikan Siyanor Khosravi, via his only active public profile, an Instagram page. That's when things got interesting.
We contacted Nikan and spoke to him via Instagram messages. While Nikan was unsure as to why people would accuse him of lying, he provided ample evidence to Metal Injection that put no doubt in our minds that Nikan and his bandmate were absolutely arrested. This was no lie, it was a nightmare. The duo are currently laying low, awaiting the appeals process to finalize, so they could hopefully clear their names. It should be noted that while originally we reported there were three members of the band, but Nikan noted that the third member was not permanent and was no longer in the band at the time of their arrest.
Nikan was willing to go on the record with Metal Injection for his first interview since the band's shocking arrest. Metal Injection has gotten numerous requests over the years for an update on the band and were finally able to provide one from the band's frontman himself. The following interview was conducted over email. The answers have been edited for clarity.
Are you safe right now?
If by being safe you mean not worried about losing your life, yes we are safe. We are with our families and our loved ones living day by day. But if being safe is having peace of mind, then no, we are not. We don't know what is going to happen to us, as human beings and as artists.
Can you tell us what happened the day you got arrested?
It was eight in the morning. I was in bed and no one else was at home but me. Somebody rang the bell, but I didn't answer. My mother came back to home at about 10, and then the bell rang again. As soon as my mother opened the door to see who is there, eight guys and one woman rushed into our house. It was the I jumped out of the bed to see what was going on. They saw me and asked me "Are you Mr. Nikan Khosravi?"
I answered yes and they showed me the search warrant. They then took me back to my room. They wanted me too sit down against the wall while they were chewing up my room.
One of them started searching my cellphone, another one was searching my personal computer and my hard drive's data. Three of them were in the hall, and the woman was staying with my mother outside of my room. They took away all my instruments, metal shirts, magazines, books, Hollywood movies (a lot of which were forbidden in Iran because of their content), the notebooks that my lyrics were in them and other personal belongings.
While they were gathering my items in the hall, they were trying to play with my mind. They were saying things like "You are done.," "We took you down," "You thought we never find you, huh?," "Does your family know what are you doing?," "Tell us about the stuff that you are hiding here?"
I didn't speak a word but I was totally shocked by how they treated me like a real criminal. I didn't know what to say to them because I knew that from living, at the time, 22 years in Iran, our worlds and ideology are too far away from each other. I knew that someone like me would not be able to convince them or change their mind. Once they were done gathering my things, they told me to get dressed. They handcuffed me, grabbed my arms and took me to the exit. My mother asked them, "Where are you taking my son?" One of the guards who showed up a little later, claiming he was my main investigator answered her calmly and happy "The Evin Prison. You can ask about him there." [Note from Ed.: Evin Prison is considered the harshest prison in Iran]
Why did the Iranian police specifically target your band when there are other metal bands in Iran?
First of all, the Iranian police didn't arrest us. The Revolutionary Guard did. The reason we got arrested is in my lyrics and the artwork of some of the single tracks, specifically, the lyrics in "Thorn Within" and the artwork for "You Will Payback." We are a socio-political group that protest through our music. Lyrically, we talk about dark feelings in life and overcoming the hard times. I talk about society, politics, war and injected beliefs by the systems all around the globe as well, which it define what we are all about. I'm from the Middle East, god damn it. [Laughs] I was born in a war zone.
What is the status of your case and how are the process and the conditions going on?
We were bailed out at the end of 2015. During this time, we have been waiting for the resolution of our case. We went to the district court in September and December of 2016 in two separate sessions. Our sentences were announced in March of 2017, but we are just going public with it now. The sentence is not good at all. We objected and are waiting for an appeals court date. We still have hope that everything will be resolved with our new lawyers.
[Note from Editor: Nikan did not want to discuss the details of the sentence on the record, as he was afraid it would affect the appeal process. Nikan did confirm that the band is not currently facing execution.]
Have metal musicians reached out to you?
My brother Corey Taylor from one of my all time favorite bands, Slipknot, has been very kind to us. He follows me on Instagram and gave us a shout out, telling his fans to support Confess. We are close and have talked many times. He knows all about my situation and wanted me to update him and ask for his help if I need anything. It's such honor to be considered his friend and I am very grateful for the support.
Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy is another precious friend of mine too. I consider her a sister. She has been so kind and nice to my band and I. Marty Friedman and Stone Sour drummer Roy Mayorga followed me on Instagram too. I've talked with Randy Blythe Of Lamb Of God, Phil Labonte of All That Remains, Mario Duplantier Of Gojira and even Eminem.
The genius producer Ross Robinson who told me that he's interested in my music, which is mind blowing for me. [Laughs]
Metalheads all over the world are rooting for you, what can we do to help?
Well, I want to say that we really love them. We are connected through our music. All I ask for is for them to help to spread the awareness and tell the world about us and our story. Confess is a band of idealistic people who believe in what they're doing, speaking truth to power.
How did you discover metal? What are some of your favorite bands?
I was around eight years old when I started listening to rap music. When I turned 10, I discovered the wicked sound of the electric guitar. A classmate gave me a CD with music videos from a class mate with music videos from Slipknot, Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, Sepultura, Pantera, System Of A Down, Mudvayne, Korn, Static-X, The early days of Linkin Park & Limp Bizkit. Even Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth were very big for me at the time. With my rap background and my new passion for guitar shredding, I became obsessed with mixing the two genres and styles with each other. And that led me to creating Confess.
Currently, I am a big fan of bands like Lamb Of God, Mastodon, Killswitch Engage, DevilDriver, Stone Sour, Chimaira, Hatebreed, Machine Head, Hellyeah, Gojira, Five Finger Death Punch, Avenged Sevenfold and newer bands like Whitechapel, While She Sleeps, King 810.
What is the metal scene like in Iran? What are some other notable Iranian metal bands?
It's much more active than people from other countries might think There are very dedicated fans here. I don't want to talk about any other bands because the scene is truly underground here and I don't want to put any heat on them from the authorities.
Finally, what would be your dream concert lineup to perform at?
Where do I start? [Laughs] It would be a dream to perform either at Knotfest or Download Festival. It's hard for me to pick one line-up for this but off the top of my head: Slayer, Slipknot, Avenged Sevenfold, Mastodon, Hellyeah, Devildriver and Confess.
Here is a short interview with the radio DJ who initially broke the story, while ironically being part of the reason the band got arrested: