With Myrath a very interesting prog power band from Tunisia is stepping into the spotlight. Desert Call it their second album and can easily keep up with the genre's best! All members of Myrath took time to answer my questions and for enlightening us about Myrath!
Desert Call is your second album, but still many metal fans don't know you, so please introduce yourself! And tell us a bit about Myrath!
Malek Ben Arbia (guitars): First of all I would like to thank you for this interview and for your valuable support.
Myrath is an emerging Metal band from Tunis-Tunisia, a small touristic country on the Mediterranean coast. What started out in 2001 as a teenager cover band (which I formed when I was only 13 years old), became in just few years a relatively well known and respected band by the international prog-power metal community.
After 4 years of playing covers of our favorite bands (mainly Death and Symphony X) we have released in March 2005 (in Tunisia only), 'double face', a self produced album.
But the turning point in Myrath carrier was when we opened for Adagio and Robert Plant in the Mediterranean guitar festival which was held in Tunisia on 24 March 2006, that day we met Kevin Codfert (Adagio keyboards player and also sound engineer and producer) who later on became Myrath producer.
Thus Kevin produced our official debut album Hope which was released worldwide in October 2007 by the French label Brennus-Music; the album was acclaimed by the critics and contributed to improving the band notoriety and expanding its fan base.
In November 2008 we recorded our follow up album Desert Call, but due to factors beyond the band control (delays in mixing and lengthy contract negotiations with various labels) the album release was delayed to 25 January 2010 by the French label XIII Bis Records (exclusively in Europe) and by the American label Nightmare Records (worldwide except Europe).
Musically you combine prog power metal with Oriental sounds. Some bands did it at a song, in your music you can find this influences everywhere. Have you ever had doubts, if it might be too much for Westerners ears? Or have you been confident that metal fans would get into the mix of Orient and Occident?
Zaher Zorgati (Lead vocals): I thing that with Desert Call Myrath has (or is very close of having) a style of its own with a mix between prog-power and traditional Tunisian tunes.
By putting the emphasis on more Arabian orchestration some of the tracks might be indeed too much for Westerners ears, however I think that it brings something that is fresh and exciting to the prog-power mMetal genre especially that nowadays there are just too many progressive metal bands that sound alike.
Even though It may take some time for metal fans who are not very open to other cultures to get used to this mix of orient and occident, we are confident that we will win the hearts of many fans worldwide the same way a band like Orphaned Land did, that does not happen overnight, it just requires patience and self confidence, we got both.
Myrath means legacy. Did you choose this name to take your musical legacy to new shores? To introduce music fans around the world to the music of your homeland?
Elyes Bouchoucha (keyboards /vocals): Not really, we actually choose the name Myrath (which is the Arabic word for legacy) to pay tribute to the music legacy of our predecessors as all musician start out by learning from others then come up with a genre of their own.
But who knows, maybe one of these days Myrath will be part of this legacy for generations to come.
You made the first steps into the spotlight with Hope, your debut which was released via Brennus. Now you moved on and get more promotion. Already feeling the effect of the label change?
Anis Jouini (bass player): Yes, it does definitely make a difference to be backed by bigger labels.
Thanks to the superb promotion strategy of our labels (Nightmare Records and XIII Bis Records), Desert Call was reviewed by several webzines worldwide as well as prestigious magazines such as RockHard and Hard Rock and was played in many radios in several continents.
We are also getting numerous interview requests from radio shows, webzines and magazines.
All this media attention has obviously contributed to improving the notoriety of the band to the point that some festival organizers such as ProgPower Europe have already confirmed Myrath in the lineup of their 2010 edition.
We trust that some more invitations will follow from other festivals.
Desert Call was well received and you got a lot positive feedback it seems... Did the overly positive response surprise you?
Saief Louhibi (drummer): The new album Desert Call is indeed highly appreciated by the fans and acclaimed by the media as expressed in the numerous reviews.
Now, are we surprised by such positive response? Honestly not really, mainly because all the labels who listened to the album prior to its release offered to sign us, so we knew that the response will meet our expectations.
However, we were a little bit worried about how the die-hard progressive metal fans will react to the new mix of Arabian tunes with metal especially on the vocals side which might be surprising to those who were expecting an album similar to Hope and who liked us because of the Symphony X influence.
Some indeed did not like it, some changed their minds after few spins but the overwhelming majority did like the album, and that make us very proud.
As far as I know there was a line-up change after Hope... A new singer was needed. How difficult is it to find a suitable voice in Tunisia?
Malek Ben Arbia (guitars): It's very difficult to find a quality singer in Tunisia. As a matter of fact Elyes started out as just a keyboards player then since we could not find the right singer when we started playing Symphony X covers back in 2003, we 'forced' him to sing so he worked very hard and has improved so much over the years that he did a fantastic job on Hope.
However, when in June 2007 Zaher Zorgati (the most talented, versatile and respected singer in Tunisia) became available we all agreed to ask him to join Myrath as he was the perfect front man we needed to take the band to international levels.
Zaher versatile and melodic Zaher voice as well as composing skills had a great impact in Desert Call and allowed the band to come up with a style of its own by using more Arabian tunes even on the vocals. Zaher has also improved the live performances of the band; he is such a great charismatic front man.
So far Myrath is the first metal band - at least I know of - from Tunisia... Is there a real scene we don't know about?
Anis Jouini (bass player): First of all I would like to emphasize the fact that Tunisia is a peaceful touristic country, very open to other cultures, this is why there are many metal bands in Tunisia that play gigs in a regular basis. We have even a weekly metal show on the national radio station, which has also a website with a streaming 24 Hours web radio (www.zanzana.net/).
The biggest event we have is the Méditerranéen Guitar Festival held each year since 2004, which allowed many famous bands such as Robert Plant, Adagio, Bertignac, Epica, FireWind and After Forever to play in Tunis in the past few years.
If you don't hear too much about the Tunisian metal scene, it's simply because metal bands in Tunisia face a lot of challenges to get their music across the borders, mainly because of the lack of labels, producers and support from the sponsors and local mainstream media.
To have a better idea about other Tunisian Metal bands just check out the following Tunisian webzines / forums that support and promote the local and international metal scene:
www.zanzana.net/, www.metal-waves.com and www.sombrearcane.com/
Most start learning an instrument on their own, sometimes take lessons later or even start studying music... How did you start?
Malek Ben Arbia (guitars): When we got into metal, we all started out as self taught, by learning and improving our playing techniques on our own, it's just something you have to practice for a long time. In addition each band member attended a conservatory or a music academy. Personally I started playing guitar when I was about 12 years old. I first took basic guitar lessons with a guitar teacher then I developed my playing skills using mainly video lessons of well-known guitarists. At the age of 18, I have attended a prestigious guitar school known as M.A.I. (Music Academy International - Nancy/France) and graduated In July 2006, which allowed me to improve my playing and composing skills.
Elyes Bouchoucha (keyboards /vocals): I stared playing piano at the age of 8, violent at 10, keyboards at 12 and metal singing at 17. I'm a 2003 graduate from Tunis conservatory (classical and Arabic music major) and next year I will graduate from Tunis Music College.
Saief Louhibi (drummer): I have attended Tunis conservatory for a period of 4 years. And I play drums since the age of 15.
Anis Jouini (bass player): At the age of 12, I took piano lessons for about 2 years then I have attended Tunis conservatory for a period of 4 years (classical guitar), then I started playing bass at the age of 15.
Zaher Zorgati (Lead vocals): I sing and play guitar (mainly acoustic) since the age of 10 but I have also taken numerous lessons in basic music theories and vocal techniques with well-known music teachers.
How do you write songs? Is there one main songwriter or is Desert Call more a band effort?
Zaher Zorgati (Lead vocals): In Myrath song writing is a team work, each band member contributes to the songwriting process even though Malek, Elyes and I, are the main composers and our friend Aymen Jaouadi is the main lyrics writer.
When we compose, we just do it naturally by letting our inspiration of the moment guide us throughout the composing process, each song comes from the heart, we never fabricate music and this is certainly the main reason why the tracks of our albums are so diverse.
Most lyric are written once the music is composed so we let Aymen Jaouadi our friend and lyrics written express in words what the music we composed inspires him.
It seems you always keep an eye on the melodies, not just showing off skills... Is that important to you? To make your songs more accessible to fans?
Elyes Bouchoucha (keyboards /vocals): Yes, emotion and melody is what we try to emphasize when we write our music, we also use our playing technical skills in such a manner that it will blend perfectly with the music.
We are not interested in showing off our technical skills, we are musicians not demonstrators.
After all music is all about emotions and feelings this is the reason why we always write music with the inspiration of the moment without targeting any specific audience.
You mainly use English lyrics, but also have some Arabic ones. Will you keep a mix of the languages? Or like other bands record the vocals in both languages to suit the different markets?
Saief Louhibi (drummer): This is a tough question, because we are not sure that most metalheads will appreciate listening to lyrics they can't understand.
The European version of Forever And A Day has indeed lyrics in both Arabic and English, but we did so on the request of our French label XIII Bis Records (the American release of the same song is all in English).
On the next album we may have a couple of songs in Arabic or Arabic/English (probably for the European market only), but the remaining songs will be in English as we have to keep a balance otherwise not too many people will appreciate it, because they would not understand the lyrics.
However we will wait and see what the requirements of our labels would be, knowing that we are lucky to have a versatile singer like Zaher who can sing in Arabic, English, French, Italian and other languages as well.
Talking about the lyrics... You lyrics are about daily life and it seems you avoid political and religious topics, a deliberate decision? Isn't religion and politics also an important thing in everybody's life? Effecting everybody somehow?
Zaher Zorgati(Lead vocals): In general most lyrics talk about today's society, love, deception, hopes and fears, but we never write about any political or religious issues. This is done deliberately, because we believe that religion and political opinions are personal matters, we are not here to give lesson to anyone nor spread any given opinion. However we believe that music is what brings people together not withstanding their ethnic background, or religion, it brings a message of love and peace to all nations. All metal bands and fans share the same passion and the same values; they are alike no matter where they come from or what the religion of their country of origin is.
Playing live is more important then ever with record sales going down. Can you play a lot live in Tunisia? And what about shows outside your home country? I know you'll finally play ProgPower Europe, anything else on the way?
Anis Jouini (bass player): We used to play a lot in Tunisia, but since we were signed by the French and American labels we play only few gigs a year mainly in big events such as the Mediterranean guitar festival or when we release a new album.
Our most recent concert was last month (on March 24th 2010) when we shared the stage with Haggard in the 7th edition of the Méditerrannéen Guitar Festival.
Our county is just too small and the metal fans who attend the concerts are most of the time the same, ones, so instead of taking the risk of having the fans getting tired of listening to the same songs all the time, we prefer to dedicate most of our time to compose new song and search for concert opportunities overseas.
So far we have played in France in Prog'Sud festival in May 2008 and we have been included in the lineups of ProgPower Europe (Netherlands-October 2008) and Metal Rock Festival (Norway - August 2008), but we had to pull out because of extraordinary circumstances.
For this year we will make a mini tour in Tunisia and another one in Europe to promote the album, we have no firm dates yet but our labels are working on it.
I addition and as you have mentioned Myrath has been confirmed for ProgPower Europe 2010 which will be held in Baarlo (The Netherlands) on October 1st, 2nd and 3rd 2010. We also hope to be given the opportunity to play in other summer festivals.
You were supposed to play ProgPower Europe in 2008, but had to pull out. Are you happy to get another chance? And what do you think about the billing so far?
Zaher Zorgati(Lead vocals): We were really disappointed that we had to pull out from ProgPower Europe in 2008, it was a tough decision, but we could not do otherwise due extraordinary circumstances.
Now that we have been offered a second chance we will definitely not miss it. We take this opportunity to thank Rene Janssen for offering us this new opportunity, for his understanding and valuable support!
The bill so far looks pretty good even though the headliners have still not been announced yet. However what makes ProgPower Europe festival so unique is that it is somewhat a family reunion of the faithful progpower community.
We are really excited to meet everyone; and are looking forward to having a good time and playing the greatest show possible.
What's next on the bands schedule?
Malek Ben Arbia (guitars): We are currently working on a new album, we have several tracks already completed we just need to put the final touches on few more tracks then we should be in a position to record it sometime in the fourth quarter of this year so we can release it early 2011. We are also working on tour dates and festival appearances we hope to be able to announce firm dates soon.
We wish to take this opportunity to thank all our fans for their valuable support and invite every metal fan who is not familiar with our music yet to check us out in our MySpace (www.myspace.com/myrathband) and official website (www.myrathband.com).
I have to thank the guys and it's always cool, if everybody is putting in his 2 cents. Fans should mark the ProgPower Europe festival weekend in their calendars, but hopefully Myrath get the chance to hit the road....