Hey Ahmad! What should the world know about you and Protocol?
Hello! I’m Ahmad, I sing in a hardcore band called Protocol. We started in Tallahassee, FL but we’re from all over these days. A lot of our songs try to confront uglier topics like racism, American exceptionalism, violence, etc. Sounds kinda boring, but I’m not sure there’s much more to the story than that!
What was the driving force behind forming Protocol?
Everyone in the band had been friends for a really long time and we’d always talked about starting a more “serious” hardcore punk band in town but just hadn’t gotten around to doing it. We were all in other bands that had dissolved for some reason or another at about the same time which gave us the perfect opportunity to finally get Protocol started. At the time there weren’t too many hardcore punk bands in North Florida, so I think we were really motivated by a desire to try to create the kind of scene and the kind of music we wanted to see.
What’s the best aspect of the Tallahassee hardcore scene? What’s the worst?
The best part is without a doubt how welcoming and kind everyone is, especially to newer people. It’s such a small scene so there’s no real “cool kids”, no one is trying to The worst part is probably that there aren’t really any good venues for hardcore shows in Tallahassee. The majority of shows happen in at a place called The Armory, a shed in the backyard of the house some of the Armor homies live in. While I personally love house shows, it can be a hard thing to sell to someone who’s maybe newer or maybe just wants to dip their toe in, which is completely understandable. The music itself is questionable enough, and now we gotta put people in a shed? C’mon! There’s a small and dedicated group of people that will come to pretty much everything, but it can be hard to get newer people outside of that group to come out without the show being promoted as more of a “party” vibe, which can be a little disappointing sometimes.
What do you think of “Florida Man” headlines?
Fun fact: a lot of the Florida Man stories come out due to really strong public records laws which allow media outlets (or anyone) access to police records basically the moment things happen, so folks can look around to find some of the more interesting stories that come along. Honestly I’m just deflecting though so I’ll just say this as an Ex-Floridian…there are truly and simply no rules in Florida. Powerful energy down there.
Throughout ‘Bloodsport’ and ‘Bloodsport II’ on your record, Bloodsport, there’s a common theme of questioning whether one is human:
Is pigment a permit? / Am I vermin? / That blood I bleed, those breaths I take – are they worthless?
Can you talk to me about this imagery and what it means to you?
As a Black American, there’s a friction between the principles that are supposed to be upheld by the nation – those of liberty, freedom, justice, and what have you, and the principles that actually are upheld by the nation, which tend to be a bit more sinister in nature. I’m constantly reminded of the ways that, by the virtue of the color of my skin, my life seems to hold less value than it would if my skin was perhaps a bit fairer. Wherever I go, there’s always this question in my mind of how I’m being perceived and this calculation how my Blackness impacts and magnifies those perceptions regardless of my intentions. It doesn’t feel like the law is built for me and it doesn’t feel like the law is there to protect me. So if someone were to falsely perceive me as a threat and react with violence, what would be there to stop them? There’s a hum of anxiety that goes along with that line of questioning I sometimes follow, and I think the lyrics were intending to capture a bit of that.
I caught you guys and Armor on your “Blood Pact/Joy Ride 2019” tour, when you played the Dorchester Art Project in Boston. You guys had a great set. How was that tour as a whole? What did you guys think of the Boston crowd?
It was a blast! It was the first time I’d ever gone on a proper tour. Boston was great, we got to play with C-4 who are sick, the Dorchester Art Project is probably one of my favorite venues I’ve been to, and we got to meet some dope people out there. Hopefully we can make our way back sometime!
What bands do you want to play with in the future?
Playing shows with friends is always my favorite! I will play literally any show at any time with Armor, Jackal, or Deviant. We’ve been lucky enough to be able play shows with bands I’ve loved for a long As far as bands we haven’t crossed paths with yet, I’d love to play with bands like Vile Gash, Nosferatu, and Physique and if time machines are allowed, then I’ll throw Arms Race in there too (RIP).
I love the harsh, electronic noise on the track ‘Divinity’ off of Bloodsport. Was that done by Internet GF? Their stuff is dope! What made you want to include electronics on that record?
I actually had nooo idea there were going to be electronics on the record until it was out! Our guitarist Geoff was working on incorporating the electronics unbeknownst to anyone else, and Internet GF was gracious enough to lend her talents to us. We were trying to make something that’s a bit ugly and uncomfortable, and I think incorporating electronics allows for the introduction of new dimensions and textures that more traditional instruments might not be able to capture. Though I wasn’t expecting it I’m really happy with how it turned out; I think the electronics add a bit of an unsettling dimension to the record which is exactly what we were going for.
The artwork for Bloodsport is really captivating! Amy Dorian and David Settle really killed it. What went into selecting that specific imagery?
Violence is a theme throughout the record, so we definitely wanted the art to reflect that. In spite of us not being able to verbalize this at all and us giving very poor artistic direction, (“uhhhh can you make it look cool? Can it be red? Uhh….can there be a cool knife on it?”). Amy drew up a bunch of really great flash art for the record. We weren’t sure exactly what to do with it and we didn’t have much time to get everything together, so the art ended up being a rearrangement of a lot of the art Amy did, which Geoff and David contributed a lot to.
Any shoutouts or love that you wanna spread? Any hate that you wanna spread?
Shoutout Armor, shoutout 11PM Records, and shoutout to you for having a platform that centers artists of color. Artists of color tend to be either fetishized or ignored by more white-centric outlets, so places like BLACKFISTS are necessary and important. Thank you for doing this and thank you for letting me be a part of it! As far as hate goes…I hate war. That shit is ass bro!