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Exclusive: Australian Guitarist Discusses Visa Battle

Posted by on March 10, 2011

Back in January, Metal Insider first found out that Australian black metal band Ne Obliviscaris was having trouble keeping their guitarist in the country. Australia’s Department of Immigration rejected guitarist Benjamin Baret’s application for a Distinguished Talent Visa because he failed to meet certain standards. Such standards included “a record of exceptional and outstanding achievement in a profession” and that “your achievements must be internationally recognized.” They even went as far to claim that “A metal guitarist with internationally recognized records could be expected to have collaborated with renowned metal bands such as Metallica, Iron Maiden or Disturbed. There is no evidence in the application that it is the case.”

Unsurprisingly, we’re not the only ones who found the Department of Immigration’s reasoning a bit absurd. But the people who are probably the most shocked and affected by this is Ne Obliviscaris themselves. So with that in mind, Metal Insider went ahead and got in contact with Benjamin Baret himself to get the inside scoop about all of his current visa problems. In an exclusive interview, Baret revealed how this all came about, and why his return to Australia is important for the band and himself.

While you originally hail from France, Ne Obliviscaris is based in Australia. How did you come about joining the band in the first place?

Well France may seem like a good place to live in, but really it isn’t. I just heard the call of Australia, I love the music of Ne Obliviscaris, and when they offered me the position I thought “why not”? I am young and ready to eat the world.

Did you and the band ever fear that it would be this difficult to obtain a Distinguished Talent Visa in Australia?

None of us had any experience with the department of immigration really. I know I am not the best guitar player on earth, but I am a part of the band, we work perfectly together and I can’t imagine not going back to Australia for such reasons.  We don’t blame them for refusing the visa but for the excuses they gave.

What was your first reaction when you heard the Department of Immigration’s reasoning behind denying the application?

Do they really think Metallica became that big in 2 years? I am afraid it made me realize they don’t know anything about metal music. But they are the ones who decide. So we have to convince them.

During this whole process of trying to apply for the visa, what’s been the most difficult and most challenging part?

I think the most challenging part has been the uncertainty. I had set up a life in Australia and have been unable to return for many months now, and don’t know when/if I will be able to return. Dealing with that reality has definitely been challenging.

Has this process made you reconsider where you stand with the band or has it made you more determined to continue on?

Being back in Europe now for 6 months has made me realise that I definitely belong in Australia with my band mates. I love life in Melbourne, and I as a person and we as a band can really make something in this country. I know you’d think that being isolated on an island would be a bad move for a band, but the economy is so good there that it is financially possible to record albums and tour, which is not the case in Europe. In 2011 more than ever, Australia is the place to be.

At the moment, where are you currently residing and where do things stand in regards to the appeal?

I was in London for a little back and since yesterday I am in Paris. The appeal is going as good as it can thanks to Tim’s [Charles, Ne Obliviscaris’ clean vocals/violinist) hard work. Hopefully we’ll have some more news sometime soon.

Thanks to Benjamin for taking the time to talk with us. However, we at Metal Insider want to do a little more to help out. Another standard that the Department of Immigration recognizes is winning international awards. Now granted, we don’t know how much this will actually help his standing with the Australian community. But with this “requirement” in mind, we hereby grant Benjamin Baret and fellow Matt Klavins with the first annual Metal Insider Best Unsigned International Guitarist(s) Award.

This award recognizes the work the two have done together from the past year as a guitar duo in an unsigned international metal group. Now before you go and ask “sure, they’ve been through their struggles, but do they really deserve such an accolade/award?” check out this video of Baret and Klavins in the recording studio shredding. Pretty damn awesome and award worthy if we say so ourselves.

So congratulations to Baret and Klavins on receiving the annual Metal Insider Best Unsigned International Guitarist(s) Award. Feel free to hang this accomplishment on your refrigerator, or even show it off to a few friends (*cough* like a certain Department of Immigration *cough*). And if you want to help the band out for yourself, you can sign their online petition to help them get Baret a visa appeal at GoPetition.com.

[photo via]

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Categorised in: Interviews