Interview with EMIR HOT

Emir Hot

MER: Hello Emir, thanks for meeting with us! Since a lot of our readers might not be familiar with you, how about telling us a little about your background (e.g. how you got into music, musical influences, studies, etc.)?

Emir Hot: Hello there and thank you for this interview.

I started playing guitar at the age of 6. I saw my brother playing some cool songs and that was my first contact with the instrument. At the age of 10 I went to Classical music school in Bosnia and soon I was invited to play with many established musicians from my country – Bosnia and Herzegovina (at that time it was Yugoslavia). The first band I had was a Trash Metal band – Hatred. I was only 12 years old and started gaining stage experience.

When I was 14, a terrible war started in my country and it was very difficult to make any progress in music. It was a very bad time but I didn’t stop playing. When the war stopped I formed a band “Neon Knights” and we released a CD Deserted Land in Italy. We toured a lot in Europe with some famous Metal bands.

Later I joined another Bosnian band “Southern Storm” and we released an album 1999. Since it was not possible to take music as a primary profession in Bosnia I decided to do music in some different country. In 2004 I moved to London – UK where I am still trying to make some progress in my career.

Last year I graduated from the “London Guitar Institute” and I was also the overall winner of the big competition “Guitar Hero UK 2005”. In March 2008 I released my first CD Sevdah Metal as a solo artist and that is where I am now.

I have many influences. The list would be too long but they are mainly Rock and Metal roots from 70’s and 80’s. When I play as a session guitarist I play many different styles that sometimes have nothing in common with Metal.

MER: You currently live in the UK but were born in Bosnia. How was it growing up in Bosnia and being a musician and how did you end up in the UK versus any other country?

Emir: Before the war, 1992, life in Yugoslavia was great. Everybody enjoyed the life and very few countries in the world enjoyed such respect as Yugoslavia did during those shiny times. Later, everything changed and it was difficult for everybody, not only for musicians. The country was destroyed by a terrible war and now (13 years after the war) things are better but far from enjoying the life. It will take at least 10 more years to recover and catch up with the stronger European countries. No market, no economy, no laws – a very depressive atmosphere.

Music helped keep me from going crazy from that kind of environment. I was looking for some solutions in different countries to see if there is any good chance for playing music professionally. I passed an audition in Germany for the “Berklee College of Music” in Boston USA, but I couldn’t finance that myself. It was very expensive. The alternative was the “Guitar Institute” in London where I enrolled in 2004. That’s how I ended up living in the UK.

MER: Do you play any other instruments besides guitar? Anything from your homeland or heritage perhaps?

Emir: My main instrument is the guitar. I also play a bit of drums but I am far from a good drummer. We have many different traditional instruments in Bosnia but I never really learned how to play any of those. I only know how many different instruments work in the arrangement so I am not afraid to use them in my songs. Whenever I need some other instrument I call people who know how to play them properly.

MER: The title of your latest release is Sevdah Metal, what is the significance of “Sevdah”?

Emir: “Sevdah” is a Turkish word which means “love” but in Bosnia we call our traditional music “Sevdah”. It’s a musical style with a huge history and tradition. 500 years ago we were under the Ottoman Empire so the traditional music in Bosnia and Herzegovina sounds very “Eastern”. “Sevdah” can also be defined as a state of mind where someone is dying of love and strong feelings for a loving person. My idea was to try to mix that style with Heavy Metal in order to create something new and interesting. That’s why I called the album Sevdah Metal.

MER: What’s the significance of the album’s cover with the young, innocent looking girl in awe of some form of gateway that leads to a sunnier place?

Emir: There is a part in the song “Stand and Fight” which says: “We’re standing at the crossroads where we need to decide, which way we should be moving on tomorrow…”. We all get to that point in life when we have to decide about our future. That girl on the cover was at that very point and her future looked bright from the other side of the gate. If you look at the back cover, the gate collapsed many years after, so the girl definitely made a good move and didn’t stay in the dark where the “World Was Set on Fire”. There was just one black bird standing on the broken gate stones which reflects that some story or history happened at that place which for the next generations unfortunately remains a mystery.

MER: You’ve managed to enlist the talents of vocalist John West (ex-Royal Hunt, Artension) and drummer Mike Terrana (Masterplan, ex-Malmsteen, Axel Rudi Pell, Artension). How did that come about?

Emir: I have known Mike for several years. When I wrote this album I called him to see if he was interested to play on it. He wanted to help and came to London to record it. His help wasn’t only drumming. It was a lot more because he is Mike Terrana with a great career history and incredible experience. Some people tried to sing on this album but none of those satisfied my needs. Mike Terrana and Lasse from Lion Music suggested John West who had just left Royal Hunt. I knew all about John West and I was sure it would work great with him on vocals. They helped get him on board and shortly after John came to London and did a great job.

MER: Did John West and Mike Terrana contribute any input or were they in more of a passive role? Was it intimidating at all working with such great musicians?

Emir: This album was entirely written, arranged and produced by me. I knew what I wanted from the very beginning but their performance made it sound even better. They suggested many cool things and most of the time I accepted those suggestions as long as we are staying close within the original idea. They had a good amount of freedom and that’s probably why many people say that John doesn’t sound like the John they knew from other bands. When they understood my whole point about the sound I like, the rest was a routine job. I wasn’t even present in the studio when they were recording some songs. Every time I hear a song finished I was always happy with the result. It took four days for Mike and five (days) for John to record the whole thing. With that kind of musicians you never really have a headache. It’s just relaxing to work with such professionals and it’s always fun.

MER: How did you go about writing for this album? What were your lyrical inspirations?

Emir: It has always been my dream to make something as a solo artist and work with some great popular musicians. Most of the material was written while I was still a student at the “Guitar Institute”. It took more than a year to put the whole thing together and another year to have the CD ready. I had my little home studio and I recorded the whole album at home as a demo. Some good friends helped with vocals on the demo but the rest was all my playing and programming. Later we did the whole thing again in the proper studio. In my lyrics I write about the state of the world today. Most of the time it is about a not very promising future in front of us but that’s just the way I see the things. There is also a love song called “You” which is different.

MER: How did you decide to take on the challenge to produce this album? Is being a producer any harder than being a musician?

Emir: Because I knew exactly what I wanted, it was not that hard to conduct the whole project but it can be stressful sometimes. The only important thing when producing is to have your ideas defined crystal clear. Other people will help make it sound the way you want such as the sound engineer, mastering engineer etc. I know a lot about studio and sound stuff but production is not only about that. Production is also about making responsible decisions, arranging music; managing a big team of people and making it all work together. That’s all a long way before the end stage of your product. I was involved in many other things apart from playing guitar. I was writing, arranging, financing, organising, recording, mixing, travelling and a lot more. It was really a huge amount of work. That’s all part of the production process.

MER: How about talking about the epic twelve minute long “Sevdah Metal Rhapsody” track that includes several guest musicians and a Mike Terrana drum solo?

Emir: That song is a medley of traditional “Sevdah” songs from Bosnia and other Balkan countries around. Everybody in Bosnia knows all those melodies. I wrote different lyrics for this track but I kept original melodies. We don’t know who wrote some of those themes as they are sometimes a couple of hundred years old. The idea was to see how that style would work with Heavy Metal. For some people it might sound very strange but it was an interesting attempt for something new in Metal music. I invited many good friends on this track to thank them for their support over the years. Some of them make a good living by playing “Sevdah” in my country and they are experts on that style.

The drum solo on this track wasn’t my idea before Mike came to London. One day I was helping him extend his passport in the American embassy in London and also get visa for Japan because he had to go on tour with Masterplan straight after he finished recording my album. That day we didn’t record but we talked a lot about his time in previous bands and friendly/business relations with many of them.

What I understood was that many of them didn’t like when Mike had a drum solo on stage. For some of them it looked that Mike was showing off and some thought that the band shouldn’t give him that much space on a show because it’s not just the Mike Terrana show. I found that very stupid from whoever told him that. Having that guy in the band is like a pure treasure and you should definitely let him play a drum solo because that’s what people will remember for years.

He is one of the most respectful and best Metal drummers in the world. I have seen Mike many times live and every time he was a pure attraction. That is definitely something which helps a band to become popular. I bet that the majority of the audience will never forget his drum solos from a show but very few will remember how each song sounded on different instruments when the whole band is playing. Also he enjoys playing a drum solo and he is not paid extra for it. His acrobatic tricks on drums should cost much more to be seen than just a concert ticket. This is why you should let such a master of the instrument put your show on a higher level and make your fans happy. Sometimes when a band is not in a good mood for a top performance, Mike’s drum solo could still make the ticket price worth.

These reasons made me not only give him the drum solo on stage but also on the album. He recorded it separately in one take and later I was searching where it fits the best on the album. I chose “Sevdah Metal Rhapsody” because rhapsody itself is the musical form with no defined structure. Unlike symphony or sonata that have defined parts, in rhapsody you can stick anything you like. I picked one neutral part for his drum solo and that was my way to thank Mike for what he did for me on this record.

MER: Any plans for a follow up release yet, perhaps an instrumental release?

Emir: The next album could be out next year. I have started putting some ideas on tape. It will not be instrumental. Instrumental albums are not as popular as they were ten or more years ago. You can’t tour with it as you can with a normal album that has vocals. Gone are the times when everybody used to buy Satriani and Vai records like newspapers every day. Today you have thousands of similar players. I have done an instrumental record with a friend from Croatia – Dean Clea Brkic. John Macaluso will record drums for that project this summer. Dean wrote the whole 12 track album and invited me to play guitar. It could be released this year and the album name will be The Quarter Worlds of Fantasia.

MER: Anything you learned from recording “Sevdah Metal” that you’d like to rectify on the next album?

Emir: You always learn things while you’re working on something. I am sure there are many top famous bands with very expensive production that would fix many things on some of their earlier albums if they look back on it. You can never reach that 100% even when you think you reached it. But that’s just the way it is and I am not worried much about those things. As long as I am happy at that very moment of mixing I am sure I will never regret how I did things. Every album brings something new and you do not always get what you expect, but also you often get surprised at how something that might look non-important turns into something excellent. I always try to make my sound as warm as possible and of course as “Metal” as possible.

MER: On Sevdah Metal there is some accordion used, how does one go about recording an accordion nowadays since the ones most of us remember didn’t have a jack for an audio cable?

Emir: Neither does today’s accordions have one  We recorded it the same as the vocals, with a good condenser microphone. You just need to stay close to the microphone. When played on stage it is usually miked with a normal vocal microphone for live singing such as Sure SM 58 or similar. It’s a very common instrument in our traditional music so I included it in several songs on this record.

MER: You’ve announced a short Summer Tour and enlisted the talents of John Macaluso on drums! How did John get involved and will any more dates be added?

Emir: Mr. Terrana is extremely busy with many bands this summer so I asked John West to help find another guy for this short summer tour. John Macaluso was available and we made a deal. He is also a great drummer. We are working on the tour dates for November and I hope that Mike Terrana will be available. I know there are Artension fans out there that would like to see him live with John West again. This summer tour is just a warm-up with 3 dates to see how everything is going when played live. Next one will be much bigger and will cover many countries.

MER: In closing is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?

Emir: Thanks to everybody for the support and I hope we’ll see you on tour very soon. This is just a beginning of an interesting project so every kind of support is very welcome. We will work hard to satisfy fans with all future releases and live shows.

MER: Emir, thanks for taking the time to share your insights with your fans!

Emir: Thank you again and best wishes from always cloudy UK.


  • Scott Jeslis

    Scott is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He handles a lot of Metal Express Radio's public relations, screening of new music and radio scheduling. On occasion, he also does reviews and interviews. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2004.

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