Dubai-based Bull Funk Zoo drop their most honest and aggressive album to date
With such A bizarre name for a band, and songs that blend the power of rock, blues and funk, one might be completely misled into believing that Dubai-based Bull Funk Zoo (BFZ) is one of those groove-driven outfits that you often hear around. But you'll be in for a sweet surprise when you listen to their music (their songs are available online, but be warned, keep the volume at tolerable levels if you're using headphones). The sound is heavy, rocky, catchy and will have you head-banging in seconds. That's what their music is capable of doing.
The band's main appeal lies in its heavy guitar-driven riffs backed by lyrics that deliver strong messages and a lot of this reflects on their latest album Down & Dirty - out on November 13 - which perhaps is BFZ's most aggressive and honest album to date.
BFZ is the brainchild of Dubai-based guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer Assaad Lakkis who formed this one-man act that often uses session musicians for recordings, touring or playing live shows.
Following on from his last album titled Dangerous Radio, BFZ's new album draws its inspiration from a deep place inside. "We live in a distorted reality on a virtual platform with twisted politics," says Assaad.
"What fuelled this album is the need to make music about music and not the image. Prior to virtual media, we would put on a record and make up a mental picture of the artist. There was a magical mystique about that, I want to make a dent and get people to question more, I want to revive that with Down & Dirty," he added.
Assaad honed his musical skills while studying in the US where he even had to resort to pumping gas to buy his first guitar.He then sharpened his talents by playing with various musicians in different genres. Then in 2000, he came back to Dubai and continued experimenting with different types of music. He started his musical journey in the UAE by founding the band Abstrakt Collision while also working as a session guitarist.
BFZ's debut self-titled album in 2013 got critical acclaim from the likes of Rolling Stone ME who dubbed it as, "the highest rated album by an unsigned artist in the region". The album entered into the IMA & ISC Awards in the US, with the song Oblivion reaching the semi-finals. Assaad followed it up with his second album, Dangerous Radio, for which he wrote, recorded, produced and performed all the parts. His latest album, Down & Dirty, fuses together elements of rock, punk, blues and funk. We speak to Assaad to know more.
Run us through the Bull Funk Zoo (BFZ) set up. Introduce us to the band.
Primarily, Bull Funk Zoo is myself (it is also my stage name). I write, play, produce and record all the instruments except for the drums. I write the drum parts and then have a professional drummer record the parts for me (with their own take). On Bull Funk Zoo's latest album titled Down & Dirty, I had Tom Dupree III (a top-rated session drummer) record all the drums parts. There are a couple of songs where I featured my brother Rami Lakkis and Alan Short on bass, and a couple of songs has backing vocals featuring Adnan Mryhij and Asper Casper.
Bull Funk Zoo is an unusual name for a band, how did that come about?
It's a combination of three things. Bull represents perseverance, passion and strength; funk is the quirky side of what the rhythm section is based on and zoo represents a bunch of wild animals running around on stage and being silly.
Tell us a bit about your latest album Down & Dirty
The concept behind Down & Dirty, although I do not consider it a 'concept album', is its pure form - of honesty, rawness, self-expression and the reality of day-to-day life. What is it that your subconscious emotions tell your conscious self/mind? How do you feel? Why do you not always express it openly? Do you see your political correctness as a valid long-term point of view or is it a façade? Is the truth you speak accepted with open arms or is it frowned upon? Does your profile picture speak to the world of who you really are? How have your values changed? Where do you stand today? These are some of the messages I'm depicting in Down & Dirty, but on the other side of the coin, the reality is, well at least in my opinion, you keep falling, failing with something that you believe in, "who cares" what others see you as.
Were you always passionate about music?
My music evolved over the years. I had a passion for music right from a very young age. I was inspired by the likes of James Brown, Motown, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Steve Vai, Frank Zappa, Steve Ray Vaughn, John Scofield, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, to name a few. So yes, it was a mix of genres that I used to listen to that helped me evolve as a musician.
With EDM growing in popularity, what can rock music do to stay relevant?
There is no better time for rock music to be relevant. Music in all genres will always be relevant at any time. I believe time is not a consideration when it comes to music and arts.
Where can one see BFZ perform live?
BFZ is performing at a special concert next month at Moto Raunch & Staub in Al Quoz. To know more details, follow BFZ on Instagram, Facebook @bullfunkzoo or visit www.bullfunkzoo.com.
What scope does Dubai offer musicians?
It's irrelevant where you are, you have to create your own opportunities.
What has been the most memorable highlight in BFZ's career?
Playing never-heard-before material in front of 30,000 people at Beats On The Beach (in Abu Dhabi), and getting the crowd to sing along to songs they've never heard before.
If given a chance, which international bands would you like to perform with?
It would be great to perform alongside rockers like Clutch, Queens Of The Stone Age and Jack White.
What is your advice for upcoming musicians?
Be true to yourself, listen to everything, keep your ears/mind open, and work hard at achieving your own sound.
What's next for Bull Funk Zoo.
Making more albums and working on a European tour for the summer of 2019.
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