Sheikh Hassan bin Rashid Al Khalifa of the Barhrain royal family tells us about his rock ’n’ roll revolution
In The Desert, eh? Tell us about that, then. It’s very experimental; we wanted to touch as many different rock ’n’ roll styles as we could, so in places it’s very twangy and AC/DC-ish, in other places it’s punk rock and the last track is very prog rock, very Pink Floyd. I’ve been writing music for years now [his previous band, Brothermandude, released one album in 2006] and as it’s gone on, the songs have become easier to write, and I feel like I’m getting a lot better at it. And I just want to get the songs out there now. We can do a killer, intense half-hour set or a nice, long hour set. I can’t wait for a good, six-week tour. So I’m ready to go with Manakin and we’ll see how people react to it.
Speaking of reactions, what did the Middle East’s censors think? Have you had any problems there? Not at all – nobody’s come knocking on my door with baseball bats. The only problems were that on the cover there was a skeleton that you could barely see which was praying, and they said to take that out and to remove the word ‘drugs’ from one of the album tracks. I was like, come on, man, we’ve got to reprint the whole thing! But that’s kind of how it is in the Gulf all over, isn’t it? What can you do about that? Maybe we could start a little revolution over here and go through our own ’60s, though in a way I think that is happening right now. I think there’s a change passing over the Arab world: a lot of the moderates are speaking out and people are venturing into art instead of management and all the boring stuff that traditionally people have been doing. A friend of mine – he lives in Dubai now – was one of the best guitarists in our school, but he became a banker. I remember seeing him at one of our shows – he looked at us with his jaw open and he quit his job and took up a three-year course in music engineering. And I bet you that he’s much happier now. As a member of the Bahraini royal family, have you felt pressure on your music career? Not so much that, but I’m a director in the family’s retail business and it definitely is a hindrance. There have been times that I’ve thought, man, I should just walk away. And if it were just me, maybe I would. But it’s not just me; it’s my brother, my sisters, my mother… Other bands tour, tour, tour, then get back and work on some ideas. But I can’t. I’d give anything to say look, Charlie [Casey, the guitarist], let’s take three weeks off, take this acoustic guitar and get these songs together, but I can’t. But being in the corporate world has taught me not to take anything for granted in my music career. You’ve also got a dance band, Skank Sinatra – how’re things with them? We’ve been getting support from MTV Arabia and people seem to be going Skank mad. The reaction we’ve had from DJs, industry people and listeners has been a lot stronger [than Manakin]. To be fair, it’s a lot easier for people to slip in a trip-hop or dance song, whether it’s at a club a house or a lounge. But it won’t stop me. My heart’s always rock ’n’ roll. Maybe Kings Of Leon can help – we’ve heard down the grapevine that you’re mates with them. Well, they’re friends of a friend. I hung out with them after they played Wembley Arena [in London]. The dream would be them saying, hey guys – do you want to open up some shows in the states? But no phone call as of yet. I’ll keep you posted. In The Desert is available in stores