What led you to co-found the UAE’s first Smash Room?
The idea for Smash Room was inspired by a difficult time in my life – in April 2017, my grandmother, who was my best friend, passed away and I couldn’t cope with her loss. I tried the traditional mechanisms of coping but they just weren’t cutting it. So I took old junk into the backyard and smashed it to bits and it made me feel massively better. Right then came that light-bulb moment: This is an [amazingly] good idea! I teamed up with my best friend and partner in craziness Ibrahim Abudyak and we brought The Smash Room to life.
As a trained psychologist, what mental health benefits have you noticed people gaining from venting out the frustrations physically in a space like The Smash Room?
The Smash Room is an alternative way to release stress, anger and any frustrations. Anger, like all emotions, exists for a specific purpose. [Anger] is a signal that something is fundamentally wrong and we need to address it. Our customers leave happy, invigorated, sometimes even elated, but definitely transformed and free from whatever was troubling them. This is a healthy way to let anger out and it’s not hurting anybody.
Is it possible for people to construct new bonds and relationships through destruction?
We bring people together by destroying judgements, conventions, taboos, labels and stereotypes with every swing of a bat, axe or sledgehammer. At team building events, people get to see their coworkers in a brand new light! Even the ones who come in hesitant and reserved, leave The Smash Room in a positive vibe, always vowing to bring other people back with them.
Do only stressed-out people let off steam at The Smash Room? What’s the most offbeat event/party The Smash Room has hosted?
It’s for everyone. Lately, we’ve seen an influx of couples for date nights and groups of friends throwing their birthday parties with us before they head out for a night in the town. The [most offbeat] event we’ve hosted is a break-up/divorce party; the old break-up cure of a tub of Hagen Daaz and chickflick movies is history. The ladies all came down to The Smash Room, booked the venue exclusively, and went ham on some TVs, and a box of [their significant other’s] stuff. I can confirm there were no tears, just lots of laughs, screams and celebration!
How is The Smash Room different from rage rooms elsewhere in the world?
During the business planning and research stage of the idea, I discovered that there is a simple version of the idea (a rage room) in my hometown, Montreal. I went and tried it out, took the time to understand their business model compare it to our planning, and then ‘Dubaified’ it – the rage room in Montreal is a low-key establishment on the ground floor of a residential building, with no signage or theme. That would not have worked in Dubai. We focused on merging Dubai’s glitz and glamour with edgy, grungy and ghetto [vibe], ensuring creativity in our tone of voice and package names, and ensuring our location had instagrammable features.
What are you favourite weapons of destruction and why?
The Baseball bat – I grew up playing baseball and softball plus, I’m a big fan of A-ROD and Babe Ruth. Hence, it’s my go-to weapon!
Why not use a yoga or a stress ball, why break things? Doesn’t it promote aggression?
If you eat one salad, you’re not a vegan; and if you break things at The Smash Room, you aren’t aggressive. The Smash Room is a judgement-free zone. You can do whatever you want in the room – smash, dance, cry or laugh, curse or sing! Can you do all of that during a yoga session? I bet you can’t. It’s a way of expressing your emotions and having a fun time.
A Smash Room seems like the polar opposite of a motivational speech – while one’s so aggressive and physical, the other is about communication, mindfulness and positivity. How do you reconcile these two aspects of your personality?
My values are tolerance, acceptance, and contribution. True tolerance means don’t judge or try to stop people from feeling their emotions or living life their own way. Acceptance means fostering an environment where everyone and everything is respected. Contribution is about focusing on helping, giving to and supporting other. Both motivational speaking and The Smash Room are birthed from these values.
What kind of music do people usually smash things to? What’s your favourite tune to wreck stuff to?
We’ve played everything from Heavy Metal to Mozart! We’ve also had Frozen and Ariana Grande requested. My choice would be Eminem’s Lose Yourself as this song is the perfect combination or inspiration and aggression and an upbeat theme. The lyrics speak to me – they are very motivational and focus on having one shot or one opportunity to seize everything you ever want, and whether you would capture it or just let it slip?
Once they’ve borne the brunt of angry souls, what happens to all the wreckage? Where do they go?
We care about the environment, so even before we launched The Smash Room, we ensured that we tied up with a sustainability partner to map out the best most environmentally friendly solutions. After a day’s smashing, everything gets divided, cleared up and recycled.
Why do you think there’s been an upsurge in rage rooms across the world recently? Are we becoming an increasingly angry and dissatisfied society?
The reason is boredom. People live to try new things and to have new experiences as they are bored of the same old routine. Every time you go a rage room, you can be in a different state of mind and experience a variety of different things both, emotionally and physically. This variety adds fun to our lives. Of course, everyone leaves the smash room with a smile on their face saying they feel ‘zen-like’. That’s an average of 50 people a day who are now stress-free and probably driving a lot better on the roads free of road rage and stress from the hectic lives we lead here bringing us closer to making the UAE a happier nation. You’re welcome Dubai!