By Ashley Alleluya
When our team first encountered Van Boom at his show in December, we were captivated by his music and the person behind this mask. My first write-up on him must have betrayed the intrigue, because soon after, Van Boom agreed to meet with us and speak about the image he had crafted.
Van Boom is already waiting for us when we arrive with his mask on but courteous when we apologize for being late. For someone whose music has a confident, extroverted sound, he is shy at first, but quickly warms up once we discuss his work.
We begin with his musical origins, and Van Boom credits the chaos and turmoil of the world around him. “The past three years were a difficult time with school, forced jobs, watching my dad flip through the news about distressing times for the world and countries like Palestine and Syria shook me up,” he recalls. “The character of Van Boom is a response to this, a personality cultivated from the subconscious who converts the darkness into positivity through music. I noticed that our brothers in these troubled areas were mostly executed wearing masks that were mostly black. This helped me conceive the look of Van Boom’s pink mask – a positive color,” he adds.
Van Boom then spent the next two years finding his identity as an artist and honing his technical skill and emotional range to compile his debut album. Skrillex and iiWaves were inspirations and Van Boom wanted to use his work similarly – to give out his message to the public, available to all but possibly only understood by a few. Production of the first album took two years, from learning the technique to recording samples on completed tracks.
When I ask him for his favorite track from the album, he struggles with the answer for a second, going with a diplomatic reply on his first try. Van Boom quickly amends his answer and names “The Void” as the one that holds meaning to him. “This track has a sample I recorded of a friend’s voice on the day we first met,” he reminisces. As he elaborates, we discover that Van Boom has imbibed every person who has made an impact on him into his tracks. “At one point, I did not have any friends, so I spent time by myself with my music,” he confides. However, he found himself gravitating towards the relentlessly creative people around Kuwait, those who were constantly working on their craft and giving back to the community that shaped their identities.
Farah, or xxMantras, is a poet whose words and cadence caught Van Boom’s fancy a few months ago. Another person Van Boom holds close to his heart is photographer Aziz Mutawa. “I met him at the Contemporary Art Platform and instantly became a fan of his work,” Van Boom tells me. “For being the generous person he is and for supporting my music, Aziz will always be special to me,” he shares.
According to Van Boom, his only musical training includes learning the drums as a child “just to make some noise”, but he seems to have quickly graduated to music production. From discovering music in everyday sounds to buying his own equipment, Van Boom has already put the positive feedback for the first album behind him and is deeply immersed in album number two. A believer of the magic of sound, Van Boom pours into his work the music of his surroundings. “Sounds are endless and you can create so many original themes from the environment around you – and I always want to be original, never copy anyone,” he gushes. While his first album toyed with distortions – both audio and visual – in everyday sounds, his second album aims to fuse two very polarizing sound families – Kuwaiti folk music and electronica. “I want to continue introducing sounds into Kuwait that begin a new movement within the community.”
I ask him about his plans for the immediate future – does he see himself achieving the level of success that his inspiration, Skrillex, comfortably thrives in? “If I could, I would be so happy,” he laughs. “I want to be able to take my work to the crowds in Dubai, London, Los Angeles and Amsterdam someday”. For now, though, he seems perfectly content making music and collaborating with those artists interested in turning his new album into a project that introduces to Kuwait “something they haven’t heard before.”
Check out Van Boom’s latest music by listenting to his sets on soundcloud.com/realvanboom.