Incidentally I got on the page of the Namibian metal band Arcana XXII and what they did sounded interesting. I dropped them a note and soon I had their CD in the mail and Johan agreed on doing an interview by email. So, here is the interview with Namibia's first metal band!
The band was founded back in 1997 and you released already your debut album. Please tell us something about the early days of the band!
Well, basically five frustrated musicians got together and decided to put an end to jamming in the garage and get some serious songs going. After trying out a cover version to see, if things would fit, we started working on songs immediately. Our fist local shows went down very well and we attracted a big audience from different age groups. From there on we pretty much went from strength to strength.
How did you come up with the name? What does it mean to you?
After weeks of pondering we decided on Arcana XXII, because it means 'mysterious, something unexplained' and comes from the word 'arcane'. We feel it best describes our style, seeing that we incorporate gothic elements and the lyrical content often deals with everything from alternative religions to eerie personal experiences etc.
For us in Europe it's unusual that a band like yours is played on the radio... Is metal played on radio more often in your country? Or was it a surprise to you as well?
We do get airplay from one station locally, but it is not like they push metal. I think for that there is no market here and there are also not enough local bands. A lot of local stations refuse to play our stuff. So seeing that metal has almost zero audience here, radio coverage is minimal. As far as local television is concerned, we do get our videos played a lot. Once again, it is great to have your stuff aired, but we are largely reaching a black audience with our national television shows and they are not into metal.
In July 2001 you released a video compilation. How come? Please tell us more about!
We had a lot of footage from shows and we got Boli Mootseng (local TV presenter) in to do interviews around the tracks and it just kind of materialized. I think it was pretty spur-of-the-moment and it came out well.
In 2001 you played at Wacken open-air. How you got on the billing? How was the reaction of the fans there? How do you experienced it?
Our bio did not mention that we played in WOA. Only that we got invited to do promo, which we did in the backstage area. I asked Holger, if we could get a slot and after canceling on me various times (I think he felt bad knowing that Sven (guitar) and me would come to the WOA anyway) he offered us backstage passes to do promo. We managed to contact a lot of people, like Alex Beyrodt and Achim Köhler, who have given valuable input and have shown great interest. They even offered us a recording and production deal at a very good price, but seeing that our currency devaluates every five seconds, we had to decline. A great pity.
Now your 2nd release is out, even if not distributed in Europe yet. Where is it available? Anywhere outside Namibia?
You can contact Olaf at Morbid Records, he's helping us out with the label hunt.
Why you decided to name the album The Burning Darkness?
We had the song title first and we felt it fit quite well with our sound. Also, it just sounds cool and different.
What is the difference for you between your debut and The Burning Darkness?
Well, the debut wasn't up to scratch as far as sound is concerned. The songs are heavier and I feel they have also matured in many ways. To me it just kicks much more.
Here in central Europe there are many studios... What about your country? Is it easy to find a recording facility? Is it expensive to record?
There are quite a few studios locally. Studio 7, where we recorded, is quite affordable and it is an older analog studio. The others are digital studios and far more expensive, making it financially impossible for us to use them. A bigger problem though is the lack of producers and people who have a thorough knowledge and experience with metal.
The opening track is called Ramses... Do you like to talk about historical themes? Or do you think that a decent mixture of topics is best?
Many call Ground Zero in NYC a hallowed ground.... Did that inspire you?
Not at all. Hallowed Ground is a more introspective story from our vocalist.
What influences you lyrically? Please tell us something about the lyrics!
That's actually our singer's department. But I think a lot of it is as I said introspective. Many titles also deal with alternative religions and a lot of Nordic mythology.
Which song is musically and/or lyrically the most important to you? And why?
Once again, probably our singer's department. Since I dedicated Breathing In Me to my late father, I'd choose those lyrics.
You combine different musical styles, influences... What are you're influences mainly?
Personally I'd say very old school. Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden etc.
Namibia is a white spot on the map of metal... Isn't it hard for a band like Arcana XXII to survive?
It's difficult, since there is no scene. We can't complain about audience attendance at our shows, but the spectrum here for sales etc is very limited. Our aim is therefore Europe, and I think that's where it gets really difficult for us, cause we can't always be there for shows and to establish contacts.
As far as I know you played quite a few shows in your home country. How is the reaction of the fans? Have you already build up a following?
Like I said, we've managed to build quite a cult following here, but it has reached its limit and we need to focus on Europe where Metal is happening.
Are there any other metal bands meanwhile who are around in Namibia?
I heard that you played at a festival where other metal / rock bands played... Do you think that it develops little by little? That there is a scene crawling out of the dust....
I wouldn't say that. I think the opposite is happening and a lot of factors contribute to that. Lack of drive from musicians, lack of proper venues, ignorance towards rock music and also a lack of good sponsors.
Do you think that you influenced others to start making music?
Maybe they will still form bands. But so far there haven't been bands that have sounded like they were influenced to do metal in the style that we do.
Do you think that it's positive for you to come from untypical country? Or is it harder to catch the interest of labels? Magazines, etc?
Yes and no. I think the exotic factor wears off very quickly and another fact is that only certain styles are pushed by labels at the moment. It's either the Gothenborg sound or it's the typical German style or US metal.
Do you think that especially for a band like you who comes from a country which hasn't a metal scene, the internet is important? Opens up possibilities?
Absolutely and I hope we can use it more in future, by doing CD sales directly from the site etc.
Famous last words.... Anything you want to say to the fans?
Thanx for the interview and check out something fresh that you haven't heard before. Check out Metal from Namibia! Check out Arcana XXII!
I think that this wasn't the last time that we heard from Arcana XXII and I can recommend you to give it a try. A first glimpse you get on their homepage where you can listen to some tracks.