Trump’s Travel Ban Couldn't Stop The Muckers

Emir Mohseni lived in Iran, served in the army and dreamt of being a musician in NYC.

When he was just 13 years old he saw the music video for The Strokes’ “Last Nite.” The video features the NYC-based band enjoying the dives of the city. Mohseni immediately had a burning desire to live this kind of life. He learned to play guitar and immediately started writing music.

Mohseni formed The Muckers while living in Iran. The heavy rock ‘n’ roll band with a psychedelic twist was eventually joined by Anthony Azar on bass. Another Iranian musician, but who already was living in the U.S., was visiting Iran when he and Mohseni met and started playing together. Azar made his way to the U.S., but Mohseni was denied a visa several times. Still sending each other music, Mohseni was determined to move to NYC and get the band going again.

Only a week into Trump’s presidency, he was granted a visa and on his way to the U.S. However, when he stepped off the plane, JFK was in pandemonium due to the travel ban.

“Anthony was waiting for me at the airport talking to my lawyer to see if they’d let me get in or not—it was a really surreal and intense moment for me,” Mohseni tells BTRtoday, “I was thinking, ‘am I the last Iranian to set foot in America?’”

The Muckers are working on their debut album, which will be released sometime this year. In the meantime, catch them at Baby’s All Right with Jacuzzi Boys and Gnarcissist February 25 and read the entire epic interview with Mohseni below.

Photo by Gabriela Della Corna

BTRtoday (BTR): How did The Muckers come together?

Emir Mohseni (EM): Well, The Muckers is my baby. I knew Anthony when I was in Iran because we were all in different underground rock bands there, but we didn’t know each other that well. I was in the army those years and totally disconnected from the music scene.

Last year during Anthony’s visit to Iran we started to hang and jam out together at my friend’s house. At that time I was in the middle of my visa process after three years of trying and got rejected every time for some bureaucratic process called “background check” and I remember at that time I was really frustrated and hopeless. So, I just kept writing new songs and recording them in my room working on bringing them to the right place that I’ve always wanted to be at and eventually share them with people.

We [Anthony and I] started talking about the future of the band because I was aware that my bandmates and I wouldn’t get our visas at the same time, so if I got my visa this time I didn’t know what we should do. Anthony said he’s down to keep playing bass, so I gave him all my demos just in case he left Iran before me.

Finally, after a very intense week of Trump’s presidency, I got my visa a week before Donald Trump announced the second travel ban and I was at JFK when they announced it. Anthony was waiting for me at the airport talking to my lawyer to see if they’d let me get in or not. It was a really surreal and intense moment for me because I was thinking, “am I the last Iranian to set foot in America?”

The next day we woke up in Bushwick, it was March 17, right after a blizzard. It was sunny, beautiful, cold and I was finally in New York. We started practicing the songs together and booked our first show at Baby’s All Right the day before the 4th of July. It was an almost sold out show and it was the moment that I told myself that the dream was over, I had finally did it—this is reality and I was in it right then and there.

After playing a couple of shows, we played a show at Berlin in mid August and at that time I was looking for a drummer. I saw John Zimmerman playing drums for Newborns. I remember I was looking at him the whole night in a daze. [Laughs] The next day I texted him and asked him to join the band. The week after the show we were in a practice room with John getting ready for the next show.

BTR: Wow. What a story. Who has inspired you and pushed you to do all this?

EM: The first inspirational people in my life were, of course, my mom and dad—they’re both huge music lovers. When I was a child I would always listen to my mom’s Depeche Mode cassettes. She’s always the first person I want to listen to my demos and get her opinions on them.

When I was 15 I started to play guitar and listen to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, etc. If I want to name six bands/musicians that inspired me the most I would say Frank Zappa, Michael Jackson, Led Zeppelin, Lou Reed, The Strokes and Sly and The Family Stone.

BTR: What’s a typical song writing process for you?

EM: It depends on my mood, all the things happening around me and the music that I’m listening to in that period of time with the people I care about. This [new] album is all about love and loss and my frustration of waiting so long and fighting for something that I love. I’m trying to use all the sounds of every song that I’m listening to. My music is like a giant collage of everything, when you’re listening to it anything can happen within 30 seconds.

BTR: Tell me about your history in making music. When did you start writing your own music/found your sound?

EM: My first instrument was guitar and I started making my own music a long time ago and it was so horrible. [Laughs] I wish I could burn them all. They sound so bad, just disasters. But I worked on getting better everyday by listening to more music as much as I can and practicing. I’m still looking for my sound to be honest.

Photo by Kodi Najm

BTR: What do you love to see when you’re playing a live show?

EM: I just wanna see people dance.

BTR: You went through all this trouble to get here, so now I have know, how’s your experience been with the NYC music scene so far?

EM: Well, New York’s music scene has always inspired me and it was my dream to be a part of it. When I first saw the music video for “Last Nite” by The Strokes on TV I was 13 years old and decided that’s what I wanted to do and NYC was where I wanted to do it.

But last year when I came to New York I was a little bit disappointed at first. I leave everything behind to play my music here and for me it was like life or death—I burned all these bridges and there was no turning back and without music, being in New York was pointless for me.

I remember the first show I saw was some local band and it was terrible. The second one was the same. I remember I was at Berlin [Manhattan] seeing a show and was like, “what the fuck is happening here?” Their outfits and instruments were so cool, but when they started playing they couldn’t even tune their guitars. I thought, “oh is that David Bowie trying to play Velvet Underground songs?” They forgot any real reasons for being a musician and were doing something that didn’t help their music—they seemed to just be playing shows for more Instagram followers, you know what I mean?

But after a couple of months going to more shows and searching I just found it and it clicked. I connected with the people that I love, found good music and good vibes. I finally found the New York music scene that I was looking for.

BTR: I know you don’t have any music really out there yet, but do you have a favorite song of your own that you love to play?

EM: Hmmm… Yeah, I think “Golden Summer” is one my favorites on this [upcoming] record. Everyone will hear it soon.

BTR: So, what should we be keeping an eye out for in the future of The Muckers?

EM: Our debut album is coming out—I’m not sure about the release date quite yet, but it’s soon. It’s in the mixing process right now, so get ready. We’re also going on tour this March to Savannah, GA with a stopover at SXSW and Treefort Musicfest, which I’m very excited about it.