Pentagram celebrates 30th anniversary in music
CENK ERDEM - ISTANBUL
Pentagram is the biggest heavy metal band in Turkey and can easily be regarded as a kind of informal school of rock in Turkey, after a 30-year career with talented musicians who have left behind beautiful memories for their rock fans.
Although they have pointed out that heavy metal music represents industrial cities with high populations, in a way, Pentagram still means a lot for the history of Turkish rock music.
Their live performance at the Harbiye Open Air Theater this year was a celebration of their 30th anniversary for all their fans.
At the initial stages of their career, the difficulties the rock band faced led them to perform at wedding houses, creating commotion as a metal band.
Although they had struggled at the beginning because of the prejudices they faced from conservative groups, it is now time to appreciate their valuable work.
After releasing the album “Pentagram Unplugged” to honor their 30th anniversary, they have now been working on a video series sharing their memories with great rock singers, musicians and bands in Turkey like Şebnem Ferah, Mor ve Ötesi, Athena, Murat İlkan, Ogün Sanlısoy and Demir Demirkan.
We had the chance to ask some questions to learn more about Pentagram.
Can we say the year 2017 somehow proved you had done fantastic work throughout your career with the release of your unplugged album on your 30th anniversary?
Cenk Ünnü: We are not the ones who are supposed to say it is fantastic and everything, but we released a very different 30th anniversary album with acoustic renditions of our work. As we had very special guests on the album, we very much liked what we did.
You have shared the very same stage with legendary bands like Manowar and Metallica at festivals many times, but do you remember your very first exciting experience when it comes to sharing the stage with internationally famous bands?
Cenk Ünnü: In fact, our first exciting experience was sharing the same stage with the German band Grinder, which became the very first metal band ever visited Turkey in 1990 at the Harbiye Open Air Theater. It was an incredible experience.
Tarkan Gözübüyük: Grinder, Pentagram, Akbaba; it was the lineup of our first concert after releasing our debut. Grinder was on tour after releasing a new EP. We got along so well with the band. The band members were older than us. Just before the day of the concert, they came to our studio in the Göztepe district. We even played football together at a field, which was the property of the Meteorology Institute. We listened to some music and chatted a lot. We talked a lot and asked each other many things. We even learned how to open a beer can with a lighter from them.
Your music had somehow been restricted by the primitive views of certain populations here for a while, so did this fact bring out some interesting memories too?
Cenk Ünnü: Pentagram has never been so popular in the mainstream. Our work was a kind of summary of what we experienced through all with no commercial concern. Of course popular music channels, shows and even sponsorships were inevitably affected by those populations and that restricted us.
Tarkan Gözübüyük: The very first period of cable channels was kind of strange. We tried to promote our work attending various shows. We always had decent communication with TRT. But the cable channel executives looked down on us in a way. We never felt we belonged to the artificial environments behind the scenes. Behind the scenes were much like a hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy.
You became the biggest metal band in Turkey, but after you disbanded, group members also brought some good work too. Can we say Pentagram is a kind of informal School of Rock?
Tarkan Gözübüyük: We learned the best from each other. It’s much like the same for our generation of musicians.
The performances in your unplugged album feel like a pop rock band with 80s vibes. Eighties vibes were irreplaceable, weren’t they?
Tarkan Gözübüyük: Eighties vibes of pop rock may remind people more of bands and artists like Toto, Prince and The Police. Pentagram’s Unplugged album sounds more like the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Jethro Tull and the early Scorpions, and even sounds like Moğollar from Turkey. It’s much more folk rock.
Doesn’t it feel very kitsch for now when you look back at some of your ventures, like your performances at the Bağcılar district wedding house?
Tarkan Gözübüyük: It didn’t feel any different back then. We were glad and felt lucky to be able to do what we loved back then at our very young ages.
Rock music is a great value for young people who don’t feel they belong to the system, but is it enough for them to challenge the system or to help them be themselves nowadays?
Tarkan Gözübüyük: Nowadays, it’s not easy for them at all. They have to have a profession, some even have to support their families. Thinking free or being an opponent of the system is not easy at all. It depends on personality.
It’s important for young people to say no in order to grow, so how do you describe the encouragement that rock music provides for youth with its antisystem attitude?
Tarkan Gözübüyük: Rock music projects the feelings of high-populated industrial cities. It projects their feeling, their aspects, the psychology of people living in those cities, the loneliness. It’s the same everywhere from Indonesia to Canada, from South Africa to Norway, from China to Portugal, from Russia to Brazil, from Germany to Iran. Every song tells a story of the real emotions experienced, different emotions, perceptions and stories. It connects the ones who feel close.
The high energy in dance music and rock music feel much like the same to me. For instance, you get the same ecstatic feeling from any Prodigy or Marilyn Manson song. What do you think?
Tarkan Gözübüyük: Both Prodigy and Marilyn Manson define the situation through the industrial machines.
Can we say your next project could be unplugged renditions of some of the songs you play at your live performances, even though you didn’t record them for the last album?
Cenk Ünnü: Yes, but we are not clear about our priorities after our 30th anniversary. We may bring out a new album or new single too.
Tarkan Gözübüyük: Some of our performances were recorded. We may release some of the recorded stuff on the internet too.