For most of us, walking down the street wearing your favourite metal band t-shirt is the norm. However, for Nikan Khosravi, singer and guitarist of Iranian/Norwegian thrashers Confess (read our thoughts on the record here), his love of metal and his music resulted in his arrest and subsequent imprisonment in one of Iran’s most brutal prisons.
Following his release from prison, the Iranian relocated to Norway where the band set about recording Revenge At All Costs, a raw, brutal protest inspired by life as a persecuted heavy metal fan. Following the release of one of the most anticipated new metal albums of 2022, V13 spoke to Nikan about his experiences, how they’ve shaped him as a person and, the story behind Revenge At All Costs.
Thanks for your time, Nikan. Are you doing well?
Nikan Khosravi: “Yeah, I’m fine. Thank you very much.”
Excellent. First of all, really appreciate your time. Thanks for talking to us. It’s been an interesting journey for you over the years. Lots of ups and downs. What I wanted to do was go right back to the very beginning because I believe you discovered metal, like most of us did, through school friends. What was it about the music that resonated with you?
“Slipknot got me into metal music mostly, Slayer, Pantera, Lamb of God, and so many other bands. I was introduced to so many other bands and it was the first time I listened to metal music. I was like eleven maybe ten years old. So it’s been 18 years of enjoying this genre of music.”
What was it about the music that really connected with you?
“As a person, I’m not really sure, but it just woke something inside of me, I guess it was this tension and this victorious sound. I always loved to play electric guitar before I even really listened to metal. I listened to rock music through my dad who was a big Pink Floyd fan. When I was a kid, I remember like listening to The Wall, Alice Cooper and Jimi Hendrix and all that. I always loved the electric guitar. When I saw that it’s a very important instrument in heavy metal, that was one of the things. Other than that, the sound of metal is just so moving. It’s just so inspiring so, along with that frustration and that anger in the music that was the thing that really got me.”
You mentioned the bands that you got into like Slipknot, Slayer, and Lamb of God. Was there one song that you really felt was your song?
“I still remember the first thing that I saw was Slipknot performing the song ‘(Sic)’ on this Southeast Asian TV channel back in 2000 and something. I was just watching as they set each other on fire and was like, ‘Holy shit. Who are these people?’ That was the moment that I was like, ‘I don’t know what they’re doing but I just love this and I’m going to do this.’ This music is just something that worth living for.”
Before everything that happened in your life, what was it like growing up as a heavy metal fan in Iran? What was that like?
“I always explain this that we do not really have a metal scene there. There’s not a metal festival there or there’s not a metal magazine, but there’s a very huge fanbase that exists in a society that has been listening to this music for decades. We had rock music before the revolution. The first rock bands in Iran started in the ‘50s and ‘60s then, after the revolution, this went underground. I left in 2017, but I remember that, in the last years, you could see more dudes wearing metal shirts and listening to metal music in their headphones. It’s growing in popularity all the time.”
What was it like growing up, because there was no real internet back then? What was it like accessing new music and things like that?
“Well, I was born in 1993 so, by the time that I was like ten years old, the internet was becoming more popular, everyone was getting access to the internet. Mostly, it was with the music videos being captured from satellite TV and burning CDs, giving them to a friend and all that, then it was downloading music.”
Up to that point in your life, things seemed fairly uneventful, right up to the point where you released your album, In Pursuit Of Dreams. What changed then? Could you talk us through the events leading up to your imprisonment?
“Yeah, in November of 2015, me and my bandmate were arrested by the Revolutionary Guard in Tehran for charges of blasphemy and propaganda against the State. Then we were held in solitary confinement for three months, interrogations on everything. Questions after questions and then they sent us to the public section of Evin prison. After that, we made bail and then, a couple of months later, the first court gave a six years maximum sentence for both charges and then I asked for an appeal, but at that time, I decided to leave the country. Later on, in 2019, they added multiple charges to my sentence, and they turned it into two and a half years plus 34 lashes.”
You’ve never been back to Iran then since? Do you still have family there?
“Yeah, my family is still there. They’re fine.”
You were put in solitary confinement in one of Iran’s harshest prisons. How did that change you as a person?
“Jail is a horrible place no matter what you’ve done and especially if you’re there for a National Security matter case. It’s just something that changes a life and it took us time to recover from that. I think music helped me the most. The hope that one day I’ll be able to put out music again and talk about my story in this album. To, in a sense, take my revenge at all costs, from the people who tried to hold me down. But, you know, it’s just something that happened, and it just changes you no matter whether you like it or not. It always lives with you, but we never let our past define us.
“It’s a story to be proud of. We are proud of what we stood for, but of course, it gives you so much stress and suffering for years that I cannot say that I’m the same person as before. We try to use music and our dreams as something to move us forward and won’t let a tragedy decide our life.”
While you were in prison, were you writing material for the record? Was that where you were getting your inspiration from?
“Kind of. Basically, I was just writing the blueprints of the ideas in my head because they come sometimes to check your stuff so you cannot really write lyrics there. I remember that, for example, the clip that you hear at the beginning of ‘Evin’ in the album is the actual phone call that I made from prison and it’s in Persian. It actually says, ‘this call is from the inmates of Evin prison.’ The operator was coming on the line every two minutes and this was the thing that he was saying. No one picked up the phone so I talked enough that this voice comes on the answering machine. In the end, I said do not delete this. I will use this for later.
“The first thing that I played when I get back home when I made bail was what I had recorded on the answering machine. I had the idea that I’m going to use this for a song. Yeah, so the idea of making music always lived with me in the jail. That was the thing that actually kept me alive because I knew that one day I will get out of here and then I will know what to do. It was that anger and sense of retaliation.”
I was going to ask what kept you going?
“If you want to put it in a feeling, then anger. Yeah, fuck you to these guys. One day you’re a student going to university, having a life, then you’re a musician, and at the end of the same day, you’re arrested. It makes you fucking angry. So anger was the fuel for me. I found my salvation in my anger.”
At the same time, though, the songs on the record like “Phoenix Rising” and “You Can’t Tame The Beast” have a very positive message to them. They’re very positive songs. How does it feel now to have the freedom to be able to live your dreams?
“It’s a sense of relief. It feels like it wasn’t all for nothing, because of the sense of this fact that you can tell your story while you’re alive. It’s amazing because not a lot of people get the opportunity to tell their stories while they’re alive. Yeah, it feels like freedom. I mean, it’s like I’m in this big, huge galaxy, and as a person, I’m in the right place doing the right thing, and because I remember how far I was from this place in my life, I’m not talking about location, I fought my way through this. It’s the experiences that I got during these years added to what we put out and me as an individual.”
How did it feel when you were recording the record and revisiting that time?
“Cathartic. Yeah. It hurt. For example, when I was recording some of these songs, I was just really putting myself there and then I just ended up almost crying. It was very cathartic, especially the night of the release. The album came out on Friday the 21st and I really felt like my baby’s born. It wasn’t like doing the first album, it wasn’t like doing the second one, this one was very different. It took us seven years to put out another album and that was very different.”
I’m assuming you’re aware of the interest in the band now from all over the world? For example, in the UK it’s been looked at as one of the hottest new metal albums of the year. Given all you have been through, for you that must be really rewarding and quite satisfying?
“Definitely man, it’s like a dream come true. As a musician, you always want your art to be heard. If it’s as honest as this you really feel deserve to be at least given this chance to tell that story. To tell what happened to you as a person and enrich you as an artist. You feel that this can add to someone’s life if you get an outlet, and it is received very well by the metal community and the media. We’re very grateful for that.”
Taking us right back to the beginning then. What was the teenage Nikan say if could see how life turned out?
“Going nuts, I guess? I think he would be going ‘just take me there.’ I don’t want to live all of those years. I’m exactly what I wanted to be. At that time, I would be saying it was meant to happen but I would not really know how. I believed in myself enough to get here because the setup of my family and a bunch of friends, nobody really believed in this. People would say I was taking myself seriously because it was not going to happen. I mean, not even being a rockstar in the sense of the term but doing rock music. I don’t know.
I just want to put my life in the contest and see if you can get your craziest, craziest dreams. I guess it’s happening right now. We just try to live for the moment, we are as hungry as ever. We’re just starting man. The next album is not going to be another seven years.”
What are your ambitions going forward?
“A world tour is something for sure. We got to do a tour. We always aim for the sky so, even if we can do a Scandinavian tour, that makes me satisfied for a while. Just playing live shows and festivals in Europe is something that we are trying to do, maybe not for this year, but maybe for years to come. We will bring it to a stage in the near future.”
Hopefully, that will include the UK as everyone here has got a lot of love for the record. Just to finish then, what does the future hold in store for Confess now? What can we expect from you now you’ve got the chance to follow your dream?
“We want to go bigger. We want to keep continuing what we’re doing on a bigger scale. We want to look for more opportunities. We would like to work with important dudes in the music industry. We are trying to build up a team as a backbone to really work with us, to help and lead us on the right path because the music industry is a very tricky one so you have to be very careful with the people that you’re working with. We are excited about the future. We are hungry. We are healthy. We are trying to stay focused on what we’re doing.”