Total Punk Rock From Saudi Arabia To Southern California
By: Ginger Coyote
Fred the bass player from Clepto contacted me recently because they had scene the interview I had done with The Barb Wire Dolls from Greece. It seems that Clepto are originally from Saudi Arabia so I jumped at the chance to learn more about them. I hope you enjoy the interview.
Punk Globe: Thanks for the interview. Can you tell us who is in the band and what they play?
Clepto: Alex: Rythm Guitar, Vox
Niko: Lead Guitar, Vox
Fred: Bass, Vox
Phil: Drums, Witty Banter
Punk Globe: How did you come up with the name Clepto for your band name?
Clepto: A friend of ours in high school kept saying the word Clepto for about a week, and Alex, having no idea what it meant, automatically assumed it was some sort of sexual reference. Seemed appropriate at the time. Now when people ask us, we usually say that we steal the show, or that most of our music is stolen in one way or another. Isn’t every ones’? It means something different to each of us.
Punk Globe: Is it true that the band originated in Saudi Arabia?
Clepto: Yep, all four of us met in Saudi and formed the band there. Our families moved there for work and the connection was inevitable. Phil and Alex were best friends throughout high school and started playing music together. Freddie is Phil’s younger brother and played music with them whenever they jammed. Niko was the kid who would visit during the holidays (he was a boarding school child in Canada). Eventually they formed Clepto.
Punk Globe: Can you tell us how well a punk band is received in Saudi Arabia?
Clepto: Punk bands and/or Music in general is not an accepted practice within Saudi society. The culture in Saudi Arabia is run by a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. Playing and listening to music takes away from focusing on prayer and can encourage ‘negative’ thoughts therefore it is not considered a good thing. It could actually land you in jail and punished for promoting ‘Western’ values which, in the government's opinion, would corrupt the younger generation. There are a lot of people who do play music there, but it’s mostly kept pretty quiet. That being said, Phil and Freddie had one of the first live musical performances on Saudi Channel 2 with Phil on the piano and Freddie on guitar and vocals. In another appearance, they had a public tv performance with their metalhead Saudi friends playing Racer X’s song ‘Technical Difficulties’. In a way, you could say that we were there in the beginnings of public musical acceptance. Nowadays you hear of underground metal and rave scenes popping up in the middle of the desert and we’d like to think we had a part in starting it up.
Punk Globe: I do not know if the basic person in Saudi Arabia would know what the word Clepto means. But if they figured it out that could bring you some real problems.. Was it hard to find people who wanted to play with you?
Clepto: Mostly, the people we played with were people we knew, either from school, or other friends of ours. People who play music are always down to play music, and we probably wouldn’t want to play with anyone who takes shit so seriously if our name is so offensive anyway.
Punk Globe: How easy was it to find shows there? Is there any venues that would cater to punk rock?
Clepto: There are no venues period. People who lived in Saudi Arabia but not originally born there mostly lived on compounds. They’re like gated communities that house people who work in Saudi but come from elsewhere in the world. For us, the only spots we could play where at school talent shows, and people’s birthday parties on compounds. That’s pretty much it. We mostly just jammed in Phil and Freddie’s garage, our first jam space aptly dubbed the Shit Pit. On an interesting side note, that jam space was destroyed the year after we left Saudi during some terrorist attacks; unrelated to the music, we hope!
Punk Globe: I do not think we have ever interviewed a band from Saudi Arabia. We have interviewed bands from Jakarta who of Muslim faith. But never anyone so close to the hotbed of the Middle East. When did you decide to leave?
Clepto: None of us are actually Muslim or of Saudi decent. We lived there because our parents worked there. Niko, a Greek Canadian, was born in Winnipeg Manitoba and Alex in Montreal Canada with a Portuguese background. Phil and Freddie are Lebanese Armenians both born in Limassol, Cyprus (the island, not the city). Freddie and Phil lived in Saudi a total of 10 years. Alex lived there for 6 and Niko lived there for 5. When Phil and Alex graduated high school in 2002, they pretty much had to leave. In Saudi Arabia, there isn’t really much in the way of post secondary education for guys who aren’t born Saudi. We had to go elsewhere to get any sort of post secondary education.
Punk Globe: When you were formed in Saudi Arabia. How many people were in the band and how many left for greener pastures?
Clepto: In 2001 it started out with just Alex, Phil, and Freddie in the band. We really wanted a four piece so we could get some lead guitar in there. We went through one guy who sucked, one guy who was a pain in the ass, and then a year later we got Niko and it’s been us four for a decade now.
Punk Globe: Do you ever go back or keep in touch with anyone from when you lived in Saudi Arabia?
Clepto: Unfortunately we haven’t been back to Saudi since we left in 2002 because of the restrictions they have on who can and cannot enter the country. You basically have to have a job in order to get in and that’s the only way. We do hope to somehow go back and play there again. In terms of keeping in touch, we believe strongly in good friends, family and personal connections. We look back on our friends from Saudi see them as family that unconditionally sticks together and helps each other out. For example our good friend Chris Evans was Niko’s old neighbor in Saudi Arabia, they were the best of friends, they stayed in touch and 11 years later reconnected in San Diego this year. That’s when Chris bought a camera, started coming out on the road shooting photos and promptly becoming Clepto’s photographer. I mean the guy makes us look good! Now he’s on the road with us all the time shooting for all kinds of bands, I think his even got some of his work in Punk Globe now! Another good example is Matt Debellefule who did our art work, Nasser shat all over our tour, Dani Nash and the Villains have been supporting us here in Los Angeles and we tour with them regularly. Lets not forget the awesome jams at Adam and Indis place. We try and keep in touch with everyone we meet on the road. It’s basically keeping the connections going; all geared towards helping out and having fun, like the good ol’ times.
Punk Globe: Where in Canada did you move?
Clepto: In 2002 Phil, Freddie, and Nick all moved to Ottawa Ontario, and Alex moved back to Montreal. A couple years later Nick moved to Toronto not making it that much easier for us all because of the long distance band relationship we had to keep. We bit the bullet, and met up whenever we had shows set up, practiced the day before or the day of the show and rocked out every time.
Punk Globe: Tell us who were some of your inspirations before starting the band?
Clepto: Each of us had slightly different pre-Clepto musical pasts. Niko was the metal head of the group, Alex had a thing for early 90’s Skate punk, and the two brothers listened to whatever people gave them. Put it all together and you get NOFX, Tom Waits, Pennywise, Bad Religion, Flogging Molly, Rancid, Megadeth, Metallica, Opeth, Jimmy Hendrix, CCR, Blink-182, Pantera, Nirvana, Guns’n’Roses, Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley, The Roots, Atmosphere just to name a few.....
Punk Globe: Who writes the material or is it a group effort?
Clepto: It really depends on the song. Someone, usually Alex and/or Niko, comes into the jam room with a full song done front to back. Niko and Freddie are also a strong co-writing team but more often than not they might think the song is done, but everyone starts to play around with it for a better result. Sometimes we all work on songs together. It depends, every song is different.
Punk Globe: Do you do any covers?
Clepto: We used to do a sick Lionel Richie cover of “Hello”. Also we might bust out some “Linoleum” and “Bob” by NOFX if we cant decide what to play. We also had a period where we stuck “What’s Left of the Flag” by Flogging Molly in every show.
Punk Globe: Have you recorded anything yet?
Clepto: Of course! We have three albums out at the moment. Handmade was recorded and released in Chateaugue, Quebec in 2005 at B-Side Studios with our friend Ivan. Our two newest albums, Sonic Rape and Acousticide were both released in December of last year. We also have an archive of recorded jams and ideas that haven’t made it on albums yet. Since we’re fully in the spirit of DIY we’ve created Olystis Music and Productions and have decided that we won’t be happy unless we record it. It might take alittle longer but it’s always worth it.
Punk Globe: Has it been released if so on what label?
Clepto: Yup, we have all three albums on online retailers all over the place. Itunes, Lastfm,, you name it, and if you can buy it online, you can probably find our stuff on there. Sonic Rape and Acousticide are released under Olystis, has been recorded and mastered ourselves. DIY all the way!
Punk Globe: Are you now living in the United States?
Clepto: Yes. We are alive and in the United States. Think we might be able to crash on your couch....? We live where the next show is and So Cal has been good to us so far! We sold all our shit and live in our van driving to where the next gig is; somehow we survive.
Punk Globe: What are your thoughts on the punk scene here in America?
Clepto: More people, more punks, more shows, more fun! Scenes are really all over the place these days, not just in America but everywhere. It’s our job to bring everyone together and work for the one thing that’s real; the music.
Punk Globe: Tell us about your favorite venues to play?
Clepto: We gotta give a shout out to our boys back in Ottawa at the Dominion Tavern - the best punk dive bar in town! We saw DOA there for free (our bouncer buddy Lance the Pirate let us in for the show), we played there on New Years and had a crazy fucking show, and whenever we had a bit of cash to go out, we’d always stop by and have some beers on the patio (if it was warm enough of course). Oh and they had maybe the best poutine stand right next door. Best drunk food in the world. If there’s people moshing and having fun, it’s our favorite venue! We love to rock trusty Doll Hut and the unorganized South Central Hood shows. We also have to mention our favourite Hosers and Pyrate Punx at The Yard and the Ruby Room in San Diego. Get a taco next door, and you might even catch a tranny fight!
Punk Globe: Who are some of the bands that you have played with so far?
Clepto: We played a show with the Voodoo Glow Skulls at SlideBar in Fullerton - we were really exited because the place was packed early, the crowd was psyched to fuckin be there, and we were just happy to play in front of people! We’ve also opened for the Riptides and Cancer Bats, Cobra Skulls, Death From Above 1979, Ball harness, Barb Wire Dolls, Piss and blood, Grimwolf; all of them awesome bands and shows. It’s been good so far and only gonna get better!
Punk Globe: Have you toured?
Clepto: Indeed we have! The first tour was a freakin’ disaster. Us four in the band, Elvis our dog and our buddy Nasser which we went to high school with in Saudi, who was no goddamn help by the way (he’s Pakistani, worst roadie ever, always said his people were too good to work with their hands... freeloader). We decided it would be an awesome idea to go from the eastern coast of Canada, all the way out to the West Coast of Canada, to British Columbia. We calculated that we could get there in three days - exactly 72hrs if we drove non-stop, in shifts.The day that we went to pickup Niko (who was living in Toronto at the time) , we blew our first trailer tire, and we had only been on the road for like 20 minutes... Took about an hour and a half to fix and we got to Nikos at like 6 am the next day. The next 72 hours were kind of like a really long day, but we learned the best way to smoke a sheesha pipe in a moving vehicle on the highway, how to effectively drive a car that can’t go into first gear or it’ll shut off, how to fix an oxygen sensor with the butt end of a flashlight and some kinetic energy. We also learned that there are an unacceptable amount of Tim Hortons coffee shops placed throughout Canada, there need to be more. Once we got to Vancouver, we got a video camera, two cellphones and a laptop stolen out of our van, which led to us splitting up looking for em, which led to Niko going to a bar, getting drunk, going home with a stranger who later threatened to sever his appendages, which led to him sleeping under a bridge for the night. As for the rest of us, we roamed the streets of East Hastings till three o'clock in the morning, famous for its hundreds and hundreds of residents that look like zombies, when in reality, they’re all drug addicts on welfare-pay-check-day getting their fix. We seriously thought Niko got lost there, and we were gonna find his severed head in a dumpster. We found him after he managed to find alex’s phone number at an internet cafe and called us collect! Since then we’ve played shows mostly in Eastern Canada (Toronto/Ottawa/Montreal) until this last July where we embarked on our biggest tour; Clepto Goes to America tour now on our 9th month, yup a whole pregnancy! Make sure to go to our youtube channel and check em out!
Punk Globe: If you had a chance to put together your dream show.. With anyone that you wanted on the bill. At any venue tell us about it?
Alex: Would love to play a show with NOFX at Foufounes Electriques in Montreal!
Phil: System of A Down, NOFX, Megadeth, and Clepto at a summer festival somewhere in the middle of Germany.
Freddie: Private show party on an island in the Mediterranean with System of a Down, Gogol Bordello, Manu Chao, Tom Waits, Clepto and all our friends we made in Saudi Arabia.
Niko: Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Megadeth, Clepto anywhere!
Punk Globe: Who do you want to win the new "Unfinished Business" Amazing Race this season?
Alex: You know, we had to look this up on Google to figure out what the hell you were talking about? We hate reality TV. That being said we like Keesha and Jen for the win.
Phil: Are they hot?
Niko: well I actually got rejected from being on that show before even submitting my application so I hope none of them win the money
Freddie: I was doing laundry at a laundry mat when they looked this up online. I have no idea.
Punk Globe: Tell the readers your thoughts on Kathy Griffin?
Alex: Also had to look this one up on google. I’m slightly disgusted, slightly aroused, and a bit hungry. Seriously though, i’d still hit it if I didn’t think I’d have to talk to her afterwards. Her voice is like needles in my ear.
Phil: Very witty and doesn’t give a shit so I’m down.
Freddie: Who the hell is that?
Niko: meh
Punk Globe: Do you have any website addresses that you can share with the readers who may wanna get more information about Clepto?
Punk Globe: What is in the future for Clepto?
Clepto: A suitcase with 252,000 dollars, a yacht in the Caribbean, a submarine for when the floods hit, a murder mystery and women. We also gotta have the weapons storage container for the zombies; but I’m sure everyone's in the same boat.
Punk Globe: Any partings words of wisdom for the Punk Globe readers?
Clepto: We are at a point where we have the resources and knowledge to do what we want to do. Our mission is to keep touring, playing and making music!!
Get Fucked, Lets Rock!
Thanks for the fun interview.. I love Kathy Griffin and on the bus with Phil and I am rooting for Kent and Vyxsin to win the Amazing Race....Clepto seem to be on their way to much success.....

All photo's by Chris Evans unless noted.