RCM writer Fidel Beserra sat down with Israeli rap-metal band HotBox to understand the challenges they face navigating politics and society as an independent band. Their case serves to illustrate how an artist with little to no backing can thrive in a hostile environment.
Hailing from the lawless desert south of Israel by the Egyptian border, HotBox has been impressing on the local metal scene with their gritty, raw sound and all guns blazing attitude and live performances. Having recently released the 24-track album Legacy in 2021, they are also planning a global expansion, which includes them featuring here on the RCM blog.
RCM: Hi Daniel. It is a pleasure to talk to you. First of all, I would like to understand the big picture. What is the independent music scene like in Israel?
HotBox: The independent music industry is not an easy one. Most of the time you, will find yourself facing many obstacles, mainly in terms of funding, and most musicians in Israel are required to work a second job to finance their music, studio hours, venue rent, etc. However, we’ve always found different ways to mitigate this. We built our own studio with the knowledge we acquired when we worked in construction. When they did not want to give us a stage we started with street shows and when they did not accept us at festivals we set one up ourselves.
RCM: Thanks for the clarification. Now, on the type of music you play, is rap/metal a popular genre in Israel? is it welcomed/frowned upon?
HotBox: Rap metal is the least common style in Israeli metal, so uncommon that we are among the only bands in the genre, if not the only one. At first, neither the metalheads nor the rap fans appreciated our style but that did not stop us. We joined forces with certain underground bands and invited them to perform together in street gigs. Our name slowly caught on and we started to get opportunities on different stages. Today, we are already entering the “big names” leagues, along with the same bands that did not want to play with us in the past. Currently, Hotbox is considered one of the most colourful bands in the scene.
RCM: How did having to complete national service impact the development of your career. Is it just an accepted part of life, or can you object?
HotBox: Military service does take three years out of your life. You can not do much and must serve. You can try to get out of it but most of the time it will require you to sit in jail. While bands based in other countries can already go out on tour at the age of 18, you are forced to leave everything and serve in the army. Despite this, there are many positive things that can be taken from military service. I don’t regret it.
RCM: And how much did growing up in Israel impact the type of music you make? is it a product of your environment and how does religion or politics influence it?
HotBox: Growing up in Israel does its thing. The government’s treatment of musicians is very poor, but I must point out that sometimes these things build you up and teach you. Yes I would be happy if the government would give more to culture but politicians do not seem to change and the only thing they care about is themselves. Our music is a product of a desire for social change as well as our own, as a band and as part of a community. We want out of the situation where we were born, which is a world without a choice, whether caused by a bad financial situation or a bad society.
RCM: Thank you for your sincerity. Now, on the metal scene in Israel you mentioned before, How strong is it?
HotBox: The metal scene has some of the most talented musicians I’ve ever seen and it does not get enough credit, in my opinion. The number of professional bands that exist here is crazy and I’m glad we get to be a part of this thing in spite of everything. Today I am more than happy to see new generations of kids coming to shows and continuing the life of this scene, in the end, we make our music mainly for young people.
RCM: Thanks for explaining it. Now, this is a sensitive matter. What’s your relationship with metal bands from Palestine? I know there are a few of them.
HotBox: We didn’t have the opportunity to play with such bands, but we would not refuse to do it, as long as they are focused on the music and as long as they promote peace and not an agenda of hatred against other people.
RCM: Do you see HotBox achieving global success?
HotBox: Yes, I think this is very much possible. Otherwise, I would not even bother to be talking to you. We invest every moment we have in the promotion and development of this organism. I prefer to believe that the real question is not if but when. I think we are not far from reaching the whole world and we are working hard towards this goal.
Fidel Beserra Thank you for your time, Daniel. This was great! I wish you all the best in the future and I hope we can talk again when you and your band have reached new heights.
Daniel (HotBox): Thank you very much, Fidel. I wish you all the best and I hope to hear from you again soon.
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Words Fidel Beserra. (Answers edited for brevity and clarity).