Navid Rashid is frontman (vocalist and guitarist) of Iris Divine. Sometimes people mix up his first name and surname. Navid is his first name and Rashid is his surname. Navid grew up in the ’80’s, in those days hard rock was very populair. Navid had plenty of exposure on radio and MTV. He still loves what now is called “hair metal”. Due friends he started to listen to heavier sounds, like Iron Maiden. “This band flipped me over to the ‘dark side’ of becoming a full-fledged metalhead, and then onto more heavier music from there. Though, looking back, Headbanger’s Ball on late night MTV certainly exposed me to some heavier stuff, as well as some more underground radio shows (like Rebel Radio in Chicago). So many of us used to stay up late to catch those opportunities”. said Navid with a smile.
Sorrow & the Spire
Heavy music brings us to Eyes of the Nile, Navid is the frontman of this Iron Maiden tribute band. He looks so comfortable on stage without guitar and his performance is full of energy. So it looks as if he never hadd to get used of “singing only”. But it wasn’t easy for him to get used to perform without guitar. Navid told: “Bruce Dickinson is one of the greatest rock and metal frontmen of all time. I watched lots of live Iron Maiden videos for some guidance and inspiration. I incorporated that energy into a stage presence that felt natural to me.”
Besides Iris Divine and Eyes of the Nile, Navid has a solo project called Sorrow & the Spire. That sounds like a busy bee, with many hours a week filled with music.
But it’s less than it probably seems like. It goes in phases, depending on whether he is actively working on writing for a particular project or album.
Navid explains: “During those writing phases, I can become pretty preoccupied, for several hours a week, over several months, but once I’ve completed something, I usually need a little time to refill the creative well and can go months without picking up a guitar to write anything.”
Iris Divine was going through a lineup change, and there was a lockdown. Navid was getting a bit restless. So he wanted to work on something totally different. He wrote commercial hardrock songs with roots from 80’s and 90’s. He added a touch of more modern bands like Eclipse that have a bit of a throwback feel. He focused on catchy pop hooks, as well as guitar riffing and solos that also pulled more from that era. He wrote an EP Castles In The Air, he released three singles and videos. Navid hopes that it will be released through Golden Robot Records in nearby future.
Navid and bass player Brian Dobbs never left the band, their chemistry is pretty important. Bass guitar is a big part of the band’s sound. Navid is the main songwriter. So despite the line up changes, the overall style and musical character have remained pretty consistent. Navid let me know that the feel of musical chemistry changed. “Both new drummer Scott Manley, and ex member Kris Combs (keys and drums) are very talented, but because they have some different musical influences and approaches to writing drum parts, it’s been fun for me and Brian to adapt to different drumming feels, grooves, accents etc. while making sure that it still sounds and feels like us.” said Navid
The new album ‘Mercurial’ was released at the end of May, through Layered Reality Productions. Mercurial refers to the ever-changing nature of human emotions, and their power to lift us up or drag us down. The title track actually pulls some spoken word passages from several different religious scriptures of different faiths, all of which share wisdom about human nature, and the tensions between our emotions, thoughts, perceptions etc. in the struggle to elevate ourselves. The lyrics are not always easy to understand. I was wondering if there are “hidden meanings” in (some of) the songs. Navid replied with: “I try to thread the needle between being too direct and too cryptic, so while I wouldn’t call them hidden meanings, I certainly make liberal use of metaphors.”
He clarified ‘Bitter Bride’: “It’s a sarcastic take on a particular type of generational and societal ignorance to be found in America, that has sadly endured over decades. The words ’back slapping’ refer to a self-congratulatory echo chamber, which connects to the above lyrical ideas. In a way ‘apple pie and freedom’ is about freedom, patriotism and prosperity. But really, it is calling out the use of such imagery as hollow and manipulative catch phrases to telegraph blind nationalism.”
We also talked about ‘Breaking the paradigm’: ‘paradigm’ refers to a pattern or framework. The song is about self-empowerment, or making choices to break through our old personal and internal patterns and framework to find something stronger, more powerful, and more resilient. As the chorus says, “Defeat or deliverance, I draw the line – we are the rising tide”.
Every rhythm track was doubled
Of course, we sproke about his guitar parts. On ‘Mercurial’, you can hear more than one guitar. Navid explains: “Every rhythm track was doubled, with some overdubs for texture, guitar solos, or added impact. There aren’t as many layers as it may seem like. I try to write guitar parts that can be delivered effectively in a live setting with just one guitarist (me!). My favourite parts are actually probably the simplest, which are usually just heavy, double-tracked guitar riffs. Good examples would be the very last riff of ‘Bitter Bride’, the intro riff of ‘Breaking the Paradigm’, or the second-to-last riff section in ‘Sapphire’, right as the last verse ends. I actually don’t use many effects at all. Another device that can be cool is to double-track a guitar solo (inspired by Randy Rhoads or Dimebag Darrell), which I do in a few spots like the short but effective ‘Negative Seed’ solo.”
‘Mercurial’ is the first album that wil be release through Layered Reality Productions.
It was Vikram Shankar, the fantastic prog keyboardist/ multi-instrumentalist, who mentioned Tom de Wit and his label Layered Reality Productions. Threads Of Fate, one of the bands of Vikram, is signed to LRP, and he thought that Tom might be a good connection for Iris Divine. “I have to say, I think he was right 🙂 It has been a blast working with Tom, who had a very positive and supportive energy and some good ideas for his bands.” confirmed Navid
Because Kris left the band, there’s no keyboard player mentioned in the line up, but you hear keyboards/programming. Navid wrote all of the keys/programming sections. He also used sounds from ProTools. Navid continued: “Our producer Tony Corelli enhanced and replaced the tones with stuff that was way more cool and sophisticated sounding, as he has a seemingly endless library of options to choose from. It made a big difference in terms of creating atmosphere and integrating into the mix more effectively.”
Scott has a very interesting musical background, he studied percussion formally in college, has toured in punk and alternative type bands, and has an appreciation for everything from contemporary/ modern classical to tech-death and black metal. In addition to the iconic prog metal influences (Rush, Dream Theater etc.). He and Navid have a shared affinity for 90s hard rock and post-hardcore music (Quicksand, Helmet, Soundgarden etc.) and a more punk vibe.
This made Scott a great fit for the material Navid had. Scott is a groove-oriented and economical player, who can still do some pretty intense things when indicated. He also seamlessly weave in the odd meters which are also an important aspect of the Iris Divine sound. You still hear this sound at ‘Mercurial’. The review I found wil be available at at my blog as well.
It was Scott who was more involved in art direction, based on photographs and a concept by photographer Shane Gardner. Navid describes the meaning of the cover. “The flowers being on fire could relate to the intensity of our emotions. The shrouded person reminds me of the line from the title-track “we are ghosts in the darkness”. So, there are a lot of contrasts inherent within the imagery light/ dark; life/ death; passion/ reason, etc. I think there’s enough there for people to read into, based on the lyrical themes and concepts, and just as importantly, the feel and vibe of the artwork fit well with the music and it just looked really cool to us.”
Don’t compromise on improving your skills
Navid has been in the music business for a while now. So I asked him what advice he would give to young musician.
His answer was:
“First: Don’t compromise on improving your skills. As a younger musician I took some ‘shortcuts’. Looking back, I wish I had spent more time, or gotten more instruction, to develop technique and better habits. The formative years can set the stage for your entire career, and that is when our skills are still in development. The older you get, the more you become set in your ways. On the other hand, our limitations also become part of our style and can even be used to our advantage.
2). Rhythm is absolutely critical, no matter what instrument you play, and no matter what genre of music. Rhythm (and related concepts like groove, pocket, swing etc.) is what makes things feel good, what makes your body move, etc. And if your rhythmic sense isn’t developed, it will hinder you in both studio and live performance.
3). Find a balance between ambition and creative joy. Even as you are working to promote, or build your brand, or gain more fans, it doesn’t come at the expense of being able to enjoy what you are doing “in the moment”, and find contentment in the creative process.”
With these wise words I’ll end this interview. Thank you so much Navid for your time.