Freedom, Glory, Be Our Name!

Last night The Frogge went out to support a very important cause. That cause is freedom in Iran. Unfortunately, freedom is not always free, and the people of Iran are paying dearly. There are many Iranians living in America who feel helpless as their brothers and sisters in Iran are fighting with all their might for the basic right of freedom. That said, instead of sitting back and doing nothing here in America, as countless, innocent people lose their lives in Iran, four Iranian musicians who now reside in New York City have formed The Freedom Glory Project. (More information available at FreedomGloryProject.com)

The members of The Freedom Glory Project include Johnny B Azari of Electric Black (also a member of The Dirty Pearls,) Raam of Hypernova, Ali Eskandarian, and Esfand. The purpose of the Freedom Glory Project is to raise awareness in America about the situation in Iran and to show our support and solidarity with the Iranian people.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview Johnny B of Electric Black, and this is how it went… (Normally, I would have written a much longer introduction but I really feel the interview speaks for itself and covers all bases… I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed being a part of it.) 

Johnny B of Electric Black

Johnny B of Electric Black

The Frogge: I am here, sitting in a very shady room in the basement of The Mercury Lounge with Johnny B, the singer of Electric Black… now you also play the guitar for The Dirty Pearls, correct?

 Johnny B Azari: That’s right…

 TF: Why do you go by Johnny ‘B’ when your last name starts with an ‘A?’

 JB: Because ‘B’ is the first initial of my first name, my real name…

 TF: And that is…

 JB: (Johnny says the name but I have no idea how to spell it! I will find out and get back to you!)

 TF: Very Persian… Does it mean something?

 JB: It means… distinct color… but everybody who translates it says something different, so I stick to my father’s translation, which is… a splash of red paint on a white canvas.

 TF: From what I know of you that seems very fitting. You seem to live up to your name, do you not?

 JB: I leave that for other people to determine for me. I try to keep opinions of myself small.

 TF: Very humble of you, that is a nice quality to have. Okay, so tell me a little about Electric Black…

 JB: Electric Black is the most ‘punk-rock-country-blues-chamber-orchestra on Earth.’ We had our debut show on March 26th of this year. In four months we have sold out that show, The Delancy, got a full page review in the Brooklyn Rail, appeared in the NY Times, the Brooklyn Vegan, played in front of 900 people at Irving Plaza… we pretty much shot out of a cannon.

 TF: That is unbelievable.

 JB: Yeah, I am pretty frazzled. I was talking about it with my manager yesterday, about what we have accomplished in less than four months… and now we are taking August off, but in the fall its going to all start up again… and we are going to go for bigger and better things.

 TF: Why are you taking August off?

 JB: Because I need a goddamn break! And everybody in August needs a goddamn break, so there is no point in working through a dead month. August is vacation time.

 TF: I thought you had some shows scheduled with The Dirty Pearls in August?

 JB: Nope, The Pearls are taking August off too… I am going to take August to travel a bit, and I haven’t had an opportunity to be an artist in a year or so because I have been working so hard on this band that the songs I get are just like a… ‘spiritual enema’… for lack of a better, prettier description… they just come out, because I haven’t had a chance to sit down and create anything… so I really just want to sit down with my pro-tools and be an artist instead of a manager, business man, tour manager…

 TF: That’s how you feel? Like a manager?

 JB: That’s what I am… I mean, I have my manager, but we split the workload, and it’s a lot, we need like seven or eight more people to help us.

 TF: The Frogge will help you if you need help.

 JB: Alright, then… it’s a date.

 TF: High 5!

 JB: That was a low 5…

 TF: It was actually a medium 5, but ANYWAY, I’d love to sit here and argue with you about high and low 5’s all day, but we have important things to talk about because we are all here for a very important cause tonight…

 JB: We’re here for, not for Freedom Glory Project specifically, but everybody came out to show a sign of solidarity with the people of Iran who are struggling for their independence from despotism and fascism right now. All Iranians outside of Iran are very, very heart broken and left in a state of paralysis because they have no access to actually do anything that would directly affect the turn of events in their country. So me, alike them, we have the same feelings, so I got together with Raam from Hypernova, Ali Eskandarian, and Esfand… it was very organic. We just decided to do something with our art. And you may ask the question, does this really have any kind of an impact…

 TF: No… I will not ask that question! Because I do think it has an impact.

 JB: I think so too, the emails we are getting are very, very touching. And also, the other thing is, its about participation, not perfection. The only way you can deal with these sick tyrants is in a mass, a tidal wave, a tsunami of love, hope, and solidarity. When they have the whole world against them, there is no way they can stand. The Green Movement [the color green is the official color of the resistance] just needs to get bigger, and it will get bigger, we are helping it get bigger. I know a lot of non-Iranians who didn’t know about the situation and specifically because of Freedom Glory Project, they are now informed and coming to protests.

 TF: That is exactly why I wanted to sit down with you and do this interview. Because I would imagine that most of the dear people who read The Frogge are Americans and I want them to know about what is going on in Iran, if they don’t already know. Even though I am not Iranian, I am with you on this cause, because as a human being, I think we all, no matter what our ethnic background may be, need to get together when a whole country of people are being denied something as basic as freedom. It disgusts me when freedom is treated like a luxury, instead of a necessity… because it is a necessity.

 JB: Its very touching to hear you say that, and your motivations are definitely coming from a place of love and decency, which unfortunately, I hate to say, is a rare quality in people these days. The fact that you care is really beautiful, and I think more and more people are starting to care… and I think when people realize how easy it is for them to participate, even though we are not in Iran, I think we can get a lot more people. All it really is… is keeping Iran in the press…you have to tell your news stations to keep Iran in the press. That is the role of the west, because if the west stops watching, there will be a complete massacre and slaughter.

 TF: For those people that don’t really know what is going on in Iran, can you explain the basic situation?

 JB: Well, it’s very hard to get accurate information about what is going on [because the media is controlled by the government and clearly, they do not have freedom of speech] but the basic situation is, there was an election and it was rigged. After that the people… but this is difficult to explain in a few sentences because it doesn’t start there… this is thirty years in the making! For thirty years there has been unrest, and the people have been brutalized and oppressed by the government and this is the spark that set off the powder keg that is the Iranian people. The election is what set it off and now it turned into something way bigger than the election. But my role and anybody else’s role in the US is to show solidarity for the people of Iran…

 TF: Why is the official color of the movement green?

 JB: I believe that it was originally Mousavi’s color… and it just turned into something way bigger than that. It is the color of freedom and resistance to the tyranny.

 TF: How did it feel to collaborate with other Iranian artists? Unfortunately, I missed Esfand and Ali Eskandarian, but I caught Hypernova… they did a great job. What was it like working with them?

 JB: Oh, I love working with Hypernova, and Ali, and Esfand. One of the nicest things about this project for me personally is the spirit. I have lived outside of Iran since I am two years old…

 TF: You were born there?

 JB: Yes, but we moved when I was two, so I haven’t felt Iranian in a very long time. And I am really feeling Iranian again for the first time.

 TF: I actually know a lot of people from Iran, and I have people from Iran in my family… and I think that the Iranian people are very special, they have a very big passion for life… But moving along, this is the question I have been meaning to ask you the whole time… What is the difference for you, when you are playing music just for yourself verses when you are playing it for the political cause… for The Green Movement?

 JB: I can tell you a nice little story, I have this song on my record called Weary Path [it’s available in Itunes, by the way…] the verses are very introverted, but the chorus is, “I’d rather die on my feet, than live on my knees.” When we were doing the first Freedom Glory Project show at The Delancy, specifically for the Green movement… it really hit me what that song was about… the spirit of it, and I just howled it, “I’d rather die on my feet, than live on my knees.” When you are trying to get your voice to go to the end of Tehran [the capital and largest city in Iran,] it helps, its beautiful, its very rewarding. This is the most rewarding thing that I have ever been involved in.

 TF: I am very young, and being that I am very young, I think this is the first time in my life that I have ever seen ‘strife.’ Also, because the economy in America has always been so strong, and now we are in a recession… it just seems like we are all living in very turbulent times, but even though it can be scary, it can also be very beautiful because our generation can be responsible for a lot of metamorphoses… It reminds me of the 1960’s, and how I always used to think to myself, “Man, I wish that I could have been at Woodstock! I wish I could have felt what it feels like when the art, when the music has a political purpose… when that purpose is anti-war… when that purpose is peace, when the purpose is freedom!” I think this is like our generations version of that struggle and it’s really amazing to be a part of it…

 JB: The guy from CNN said it very nicely, he said, “NO REVOLUTION CAN SUCCEED IF THE ARTISTS DON’T GET BEHIND IT.” And I feel it’s very true. No revolution will succeed if the artists do not embrace it.

TF: I couldn’t agree more and that is why we were all here tonight in the name of The Green Movement.

Freedom Glory Project: Raam of Hypernova, Johnny B of Electric Black, Ali Eskandarian & Esfand.

Freedom Glory Project: Raam of Hypernova, Johnny B of Electric Black, Ali Eskandarian & Esfand.

The Freedom Glory Project show had a great turn out; The Mercury Lounge was packed, solidarity and support were shown, and awareness was spread. There were many photographers and videographers present to document this event. CNN also came to interview members of the bands as well as people who attended the show. You can check out what CNN had to say by watching the youtube video I have posted below…

Normally I would talk about the show and how great the different bands were, but today, I do not feel that is appropriate. These musicians played last night in the name of freedom for Iran. It was not about them, it was bigger than them, and they would be the first ones to agree. That leads me to…

THE RIBBIT OF THE DAY: Lets all just take a second to appreciate how lucky we are to live in America. Yes, we have our problems too, as every country does, but we are fortunate enough to have freedom… so lets all stop complaining about the economy for one second, and look at the silver lining… we are free. 

Love your teary eyed friend,

                                                 The Frogge ❤

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2 Responses to “Freedom, Glory, Be Our Name!”

  1. Wow,Amazing ,thank God they r safe in our greatest country ,USA,and they can spread the word and do what they love to do which is MUSIC.PEACE to all,MAKE IT A GREAT DAY,S

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