Interview with a Luthier - Howlin' Rooster Guitars & Such

May 27, 2017

I recently dug out an old American Telecaster, I never played it much ever since I got it, so decided to give it a go. As expected, I knew it was a bit out of shape so decided to drop by at Basil's workshop. Something I've been meaning to do for a while, but never did only because it felt like it was two continents away (Sharjah, nuff said). I finally took the time and dropped in at Howlin' Rooster Guitars and such - first off, I was completely mind blown at how far Basil had come with his passion as a luthier. Second, it really didn't seem that far once I got there. 

Anyway, I dropped off the tele and returned after a week or so, the axe sounded a lot better than before so I was quite pleased. However, Basil's dedication and passion reminded me of how I go about my music, we connected on a level of perseverance. I realized I'm now friends with someone who is working his way to be a master luthier, let alone the only one I know in UAE. For this reason I decided to interview Basil, one musician to another, for the first Mastery Blog Post. Here it is. 

A&M: In few words, tell us about yourself. 

BA: My name is Basil, I love the music that I love and everything surrounding it, I guess that’s my passion. All the other passions stemmed from this one.

A&M: Take us back in time, when it all began.

BA: Howlin' Rooster started when I got back from studying in Canada. That was is 2013. I started working at the factory with my family and I found an opportunity, being surrounded by big tools, machinery and scrap material. I quickly got to work, reigniting a childhood passion of mine, building things. I started with a few cigar box guitars and took it from there. 

A&M: Did you struggle? Is yes, what was the hard part?

BA: Sure, I guess there were struggles but I never felt like I was struggling to do anything. I just love doing this work and whatever challenges came, I always managed to enjoy it. It terms of challenges, I would say sourcing tools and materials was the most difficult. People don’t make guitars here and it’s impossible to source the majority of what I need locally. That being said, it has led me to make some awesome contacts, locally and internationally, and come up with great solutions. I think that contact base is the wealth of my work.

"Sourcing tools and materials was the most difficult" - Basil

A&M: How did you get into the luthier business? 

BA: Reading books and watching YouTube videos. I started with the videos, checked out all the guitar factory tours, and then started watching more specific videos on guitar building as I needed. After that I bought a few books and then some more. Most of the learning came from actually building though.Later on I did an apprenticeship in Canada and now I learn from everywhere, everyday.

Proudly displayed certificate at the Howlin' Rooster workshop

A&M: A cigar box guitar and a normal one, whats the difference?

Essentially the concept is the same. The box is the body of the guitar. The main difference is the tone and the look. The feel is the most controllable aspect. You can build them rough and dirty or silky smooth. 

A&M: Where do you source raw materials?

BA: It’s been changing. When I started, everything was salvaged. Wood came from old demolished buildings, abandoned construction sites, beaches, trash cans, anywhere really. I always had my eyes open for something whenever I was driving and if the piece was too big; I’d make a mental note of the spot and come back with a pickup truck. The cigar boxes came from the cigar shops, free of charge. They would have thrown them otherwise. Recently, I started buying woods too. Eventually as your work gets better, you will see the limitations of salvaged woods in some areas of guitar construction. Still, using salvaged wood is very important to me and I will always incorporate it into a guitar. It is the artwork on my guitars. 

This Cigar Box guitar is made from salvaged wood.

A&M: How many types of guitars do you make? Are they expensive?

BA: I make 3 types of stringed instruments, Box type stringed instruments which can use a cigar box or some other kind of resonating container, solid wood acoustic guitars, and recently I started making solid body electrics too. I also make a bunch of accessories for them, like bottle neck slides, guitar straps made from old seat belts and cigar box amplifiers. Prices range from 50 AED – 10,000 AED. I also do repairs. 

Slides made from used beer bottles.

Various Cigar Box Guitars.

Handmade Micro Guitar Amps

A&M: Are customers hard to deal with? Tell us a story.

BA: Some are, yes. When I was making instruments in my earlier days, I was selling them for a lot cheaper than they are now. They attracted customers who were buying them as works of art to hang on the wall instead of playing them. Off course, I built them to perform and that was and is what drives me when I build them. A lot of customers wouldn’t understand the effort that went into that since they weren’t musicians and didn’t intend on playing them. They would try to haggle and that was hurtful. Anyways it made me commit to making the best instruments that I could, and then the customer base changed and started to include a lot more musicians, which are more understanding. Off course, the musician is a breed onto himself, and they too can be very difficult.

A&M: How do people find you? 

BA: Through my links Official Website Instagram Facebook 

Hope you learnt something here, If you have any questions or feedback, leave a comment and don't forget to follow Apes and Men on FacebookInstagram and Twitter!

How to Train like a Boss in Ramadan

May 26, 2017

There's nothing new about this topic. Every year around the holy month all my health conscious bros start talking about how they'll 'Detox' for a month and 'get fit'.I got news fellas, it doesn't work that way. Just because you quit your alcohol intake and fast during the day doesn't mean you'll be fit.

You see, while Ramadan is a month of fasting and charity, share, care & family - fitness is hardly ever the top priority. Most of us either have really heavy suhoors (early morning pre-Fajr meals) or just a glass of water - then lazy around all day OR over exert your body - then hog like a beast for iftar OR an early dinner ending it all of with a unconscious sleep pattern OR a shisha session that goes on till early morning hours. Sound familiar? 

The thing is, you can still eat as much, sleep in and hang out late night. All you need to do is plan your regime. We all know the usual routine - morning suhoor, working hours, rest, pray, iftar and so on. PLANNING IS KEY. The next few steps will help you in in maximizing your spiritual self this month by staying sharp, focused and active. 

Firstly, remember - when you're fasting your body is dehydrated but its less dehydration compared to an intense workout. So its vital that your workout should happen before or after you begin to fast. This way you can hydrate your body without tiring yourself and risking fatigue. Always remember, when you're not fasting - drink loads of water

Personally, I think the best time to train is later at night, around 9:30-10pm. By this time you're well hydrated from Iftar, the food you ate is digested and you can focus on a good workout just in time to rest for the night. A 30-min workout would be good at this time. But if you're planning on doing some Cardio, then I suggest a 30-min run prior to Suhoor, early morning around 3:30-4am (yep, true story). If you CAN pull this off then the best thing to do is get up and drink plenty of water with a cup of coffee, green tea, or oolong tea, wait 30 minutes and perform 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio work like a brisk walk. If you CAN'T, then the next best time to do cardio is approximately 30-45 minutes after a "light" iftar. Keep in mind a good sprint can work really well, that's running crazy fast for 30 seconds and walking for 1 min. This cycle is perfect for a cardio routine in Ramadan. 

When it comes to weights, keep it light. Firstly, if you're going to get into weight lifting remember to be very well hydrated. I can't stress this enough especially in Dubai's heat and Ramadan combined. Try and avoid full body weight training, this takes more time and keeps you exhausted longer. Instead, combine your cardio with 4-6 sets of each body part; 1 day chest, next day legs, next day shoulders, next day back - this way you stress your body less, have a great weight session and feel active throughout the day. 

So now that you've got a good idea for a Ramadan workout, whats the most important part? your before and after fasting mealsI've done the below in the shortest way possible. Will personally be trying to follow a nutritious diet, eating the right foods instead of the fried usual heavy foods. 

Also note that these meals depend and vary on your own body mass index, so adjust it accordingly. Feel free to look up various meal plans online. 

  • Eat 2-6 egg whites (with one yolk) 
  • One bowl of plain oatmeal w/cinnamon, raisins and a banana
  • 1 teaspoon all-natural peanut butter or olive oil or flax seed oil 
  • Plenty of water (16-24 oz.)
  • Fruits - Orange/Apple/Grapes/Banana/Kiwi/Watermelon - whatever you can get your hands on
  • Chicken breast - roasted, grilled, boiled. 
  • Fish - Salmon works great for me, over-roasted really slow with lemon and herbs. 
  • One Bowl of brown rice
  • 3 Dates and a Nutrition Shake 
  • Plenty of water
  • Arabic Harees (a porridge of sorts, coarsely ground wheat with meat)
  • Grilled Fish
  • Plenty of Fruits or Salad
  • Grilled Chicken or Fish
  • Salad
  • Jacket Potato
There you have it Gentlemen, you can find various other meal plans online, create your own - the idea of this blog article is to get you motivated in the right direction. I'll do a post Ramadan training blog after 30 days and share my personal results too. 

There's no excuse, feel free to share this with your alpha ladies too, they may be able to guide you better. #noexcuses

Finally, to finish off, The Holy Month of Ramadan has a lot to do with charity, so while you're taking care of yourself and your body, do the same for others. Donate some food, clothing and some earnings if you can to help others in need. It only makes you more of a Man.

Hope you learnt something here, If you have any questions or feedback, leave a comment and don't forget to follow Apes and Men on FacebookInstagram and Twitter!

10 Books every Musician should read

May 24, 2017

Books based on the lives of musicians are quite often not talked about. Especially in today’s Hollywood era where magic castles, secret closets and 50 shades of bullshit are backed by thousands of dollars in PR. Very few books about music/musicians make their way into people’s homes, probably because you’ll literally need to find a bookshop, find a section on performance arts and then hope that in some miraculous way, the memoir you’re looking for is available. Of course, you can always order online but where’s the fun in that.

Thankfully in Dubai, there’s a few bookstores which can still cater to your needs, my personal favorite being 
Magrudy’s. Others like Kinokuniya are good too. They usually house a huge library of titles so there’s a better chance to find musicians memoirs here.

The thing about musician’s memoirs is that you get to read about the vicarious thrills and historical events that shaped their success (or downfall). It becomes a compulsive read. Sometimes, it’s not even a memoir, it’s a book illustrating their poetry which I rather find amusing. The latter has personally help me develop my songwriting skills too.

So, here’s a list of 10 books which I personally recommend to anyone who still makes time to read a few pages a day. Some of them are about my hero’s and some are educational in a way. Either way, they reflect creativity, drama, conspiracy, abuse and even success and failure of the author. Now, since I’m a rock musician, I repeat these are some of my personal favorites, you can tell judging by their covers. But they’re all great works of literature in my eyes and interesting for reading nevertheless.

Please remember that I’m not ranking these books from best to worst. Top 10 refers to 10 books which I dig. If you’d like to add to this list then please share your favorites in the comments section below.


1) Heavy Metal Islam – Mark Levine 
(full review on Heavy Metal Islam coming soon)

4) Slash : Slash and Anthony Bozza

5) Nocturnal Music in the Land of the Sufi's – Unheard Pakistan : By Jurgen Wasim Frembgen

6) Wilderness Vol 1- The lost writings of Jim Morrison : By Jim Morrison 

9) How music works : By David Byrne

10) Robert Plant - A life : By Paul Rees

Hope you learnt something here, If you have any questions or feedback, leave a comment and don't forget to follow Apes and Men on FacebookInstagram and Twitter!

10 Skills every man in Dubai should know - Part 1

May 23, 2017

1. Tie a neck tie & know the types

This is a no-brainer. You don’t need to be part of the corporate rat-race around town nor do you need to show up with a noose-like fabric around your neck. Every man should have at least one tie, for those occasions when you need to turn up devilishly handsome. But this isn’t about owning a tie, its about knowing how to tie one. There’s several ways which you can find here. Your dad or wife aren’t going to do this for you. 

2. Change a flat on a car

Picture this, you’re on your way to work OR a guy’s night out OR worse, on your way to a hot date – and you get a flat. The only thing worse than getting a flat is not knowing how to fix one. And who knows, maybe you’ll end up helping a damsel in distress. 

3. Re-fueling your automobile

Remember the time Dubai tested a new law, where after mid-night you’d need to refuel your own ride at select gas stations. It disappeared, probably because no one wanted to take the effort or maybe because no one knew how to. Well, give the attendant a break (they work outdoors, you don’t) and look up how to fill your own gas, its easy and will probably come in handy if you ever go back to your home country.

4. Basic Arabic

If you’re new here, or old, or born in the UAE, think about it. Sure its multicultural and diverse, sure everyone pretty much speaks English but imagine being able to pick up or learn some basic Arabic (no, not the swear words) – it would do wonders for you at work, out and about and at any of the official offices too. 

5. Build a camp fire

Contrary to what most people think, Dubai gets pretty much half a year (approx 6 months – November to April) of cool weather. Perfect for the overnight camping trips, desert bon fires and lake-side Bbq’s. So, what do they all have in common; building a proper fire. A lot of guys I know douse wood with lighter fluid and feel like champs but the truth is, there’s a technique to how much fuel you should use OR no fuel at all. Check out this link to know more. 

6. Book reading

Take some time off, go to a café and read a book. You get one, open it, read and close it. Simple. FYI, if you can’t buy one, download one. You’ve got tablets and kindle nowadays. 

7. Drive like a boss

Born and raised in the UAE, I’ve seen my fair share of few cars, more cars, bigger roads and bumper to bumper gridlocks. Truth is, driving with care is pretty much the key. Be aware of your surroundings. Get a handsfree kit for urgent calls. Give way & don’t speed if you don’t need to, best way to tackle this is leave for your destination early. 

8. Ride a motorcycle

I got my motorcycle license much before I did for a car and it was awesome. I made some great biker friends, learnt road safety on a whole other level and enjoyed the cool breezy early morning rides. Motorcycles are one of the pinnacles of masculinity. They’re up there with beer, grass-fed steak, and keeping a beard. They offer a visceral experience: one that requires skill, mental engagement, and risk management. On a motorcycle, your senses are on high alert, and your life depends on two patches of rubber gluing you to the road. Riding a motorcycle is an experience every man should have in his life.

9. Play a music instrument

If I had a Dirham for every time some guy told me he wished he knew how to play the guitar, I can confidently say I’d be making money off music. I learnt by ear back when I was a young teen, I still don’t know all the chords and the complicated stuff, but I practice, that’s all it takes. So it’s not too late, get a guitar, a drum kit, a bass or whatever sound makes you happy and master your craft, perform around town and write your own songs. Plenty of open mic nights around Dubai now too so there’s no excuse.

10. Swimming

Dubai has boats and beaches and a lot of pool parties. Swimming is fun, great exercise and you meet some pretty ladies. nuff said. 

Hope you learnt something here, If you have any questions or feedback, leave a comment and don't forget to follow Apes and Men on FacebookInstagram and Twitter!

Part 2 coming soon! 

Keeping it Handsome at Chaps & Co.

May 22, 2017

A good barber is hard to find. If you're like me, then you know not every stylist with a pair of scissors and razor-blade knows what he or she is doing. 

It took me a few months (yes months) to figure out who my next Barber would be. My last stylist moved back to his home turf in Syria after 10 years in Dubai (seems to be the number of choice for most expats in Dubai I've met lately). 

So here I was, a man without a barber. Now, its not that I'm picky on price, credentials or even if its a female or male stylist upon whom I bestow my hairdo, I've had long hair ever since I can remember and I've not seen many males around town boasting how awesome their stylist is. But my search wasn't just for a hair stylist, it was for a barber who can help me maintain my beard. Over the years my beard has seen various lengths which I've always managed to trim on my own using a handy electronic trimmer and a razor. You can see the change in length between these two photographs.  
But I wanted to try something different, an expert who can look up close and sculpt a mane so bad-ass that it would speak volumes. Someone who can inspect my beard and make it look neat and tidy without having to trim most of it off. This search led me to the dark & vintage-esque barbershop called Chaps & Co. Of course, I had heard of them but usually from crew-cut, clean-shaven guys so I didn't really have 'the right recommendation'. Nevertheless, I booked an appointment with Ahmad via their website and showed up on time to be greeted by the man himself. He was adding his final touches to the previous customer so I chilled out in the waiting area, being offered a soft drink and water, nice touch Chaps. About 10 minutes later, I had a short style discussion and Ahmad seemed eager to get started with his instruments assuring me he knew what was to be done. 

During the beard cut, we discussed how he used to run his own small barbershop back in Syria, before the war, this revelation made me feel both, sad and happy (something rare on my part), Sad because it was a discussion of war, Happy because Ahmad had been in the hair cutting business for several years. He sort of reminded me of a more down-to-earth Zohan (without the death defying army skills and more focus on men's grooming). 

You don't mess with the Zohan Ahmad!

After 30 mins, our session was complete. Ahmad's small talk along with the comfortable dark ambiance, vintage feel and retro tunes, time flew and my new barber kept his re-assuring promise. I was quite content with the way my beard was handled at Chaps & Co. We ended the session with a few style tips, a rub of Black Raven beard oil & an impromptu insta-shoot for Ahmad's Instagram, which I was happy to allow, since he asked like a gentleman. 

Surely I will return to Chaps & Co. Hopefully try one of the other barbers, maybe Jay. 

Till next time, If you have any questions or feedback, leave a comment and don't forget to follow Apes and Men on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

What is Apes and Men?

May 21, 2017

Greetings fellowmen.

Apes and Men is aimed at gents and their unique challenges and interests. We explore all things manly — from lifestyles to trends, master skills to fun and practical to philosophy. We seek to uncover how to live with old school swagger, virtue, and know-how in the present age by cultivating the best of the past to the best of the present. 

The goal is to create an alliance of tradition, modernism & confidence that offers men a way forward and guides them on how to live an excellent, flourishing life.

Ultimately, Apes and Men aims to encourage our readers to be better husbands, fathers, brothers, citizens — a new generation of great men. And no, we don’t rule out the wind beneath our wings so keep an eye out for the alpha females who are as bad-ass and occasionally featured in the blog. 

What will the blog do for you? 

· It will teach you things like male grooming, what products and good and which are great, even which are downright nasty. 

· You’ll be able to use the style guides to manage your wardrobe, impress your lady friends and learn some manners while you still can. 

· You’ll get a positive outlook in life, how to manage your day, not eat crap, build your physique, hang out at the right places, which whiskey to sit back and enjoy…. things like that. 

· Get insights into the local music scene – listen to artists from genre’s you thought are dying and how these indie artists are keeping it alive. 

· Master the skills of manliness; manage your career, your money, your life. Learn something new and live by example.

So for now, I'd like to invite you on this new journey and look forward to meeting you at the crossroads. I don't intend on doing this for money, but if I do make a pretty penny, you'll know, no monkey business (see what I did there).

Apes and Men is a passion project, A place where I will share my wisdom and hopefully learn something from you in return. A place for boys to become men, make some rules, build some principles and be part of a greater global community of gentlemen. 



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