Myrath is one band that progressive metal fans should be getting excited about- earlier this year the Tunisian group released Desert Call and received glowing reviews from both fans and critics alike. This album is a radiant follow up to their fantastic debut called Hope, another must-hear if you are a fan of the genre. Sea Of Tranqulity's Scott Jessup recently spoke with the entire band and was given some very informative feedback. Read on for this exclusive interview with Myrath's talented members.
SoT: Hi guys! Myrath's two releases Hope and the latest Desert Call have been awarded especially positive reviews and deservedly so. How have the sales been?
Malek Ben Arbia (guitars): First of all I would like to thank you for this interview and for your valuable support! The sales of the album HOPE were not bad for a debut album of an unknown band coming from a small country that some didn't even know that it existed.
Concerning DESERT CALL we have still not received the statements from our labels but I presume that based on the very positive reviews it is selling relatively well considering that. The music industry has become a very competitive market facing many challenges especially the illegal downloading which is hurting mainly emerging bands such as Myrath.
SoT: The more time I spend listening to Hope the harder it is to choose a favorite between that and Desert Call; it is one of the best debuts I have heard. How do you feel Hope compares to debuts by other progressive metal bands?
Elyes Bouchoucha (keyboards /Backing vocals): Well I don't know about debuts by other progressive metal bands but I guess what the media and fans liked about HOPE was that it has a Middle Eastern feel to it yet it is still progressive metal.
You know when we composed HOPE we were all still in our teen years so everything we did was spontaneous, we had no real guideline we just followed our inspiration of the moment ,you can easily tell that our music comes from the heart and not fabricated, just from the fact that the tracks are so diverse. Our Arabic roots and occidental influences are certainly major factors behind the distinctive sound you can find in HOPE and that may has been very attractive to many progressive metal fans
SoT: Who comes up with the music and lyrics?
Zaher Zorgati (Lead vocals): In Myrath, songwriting is a team work, each band member contributes to the songwriting process even though Malek , Elyes and I, are the main music composers and our friend Aymen Jaouadi is the main lyrics writer.
I wish to emphasise the fact that when we compose, we just do it naturally by letting our inspiration of the moment guide us throughout the composing process, while most lyrics are written once the music is composed , we just let Aymen Jaouadi our friend and lyrics writer express in words what the music we composed inspires him.
SoT: I noticed on a You Tube clip that Roland V Drums were being played. Were these used for recording?
Saief louhibi (Drums): No, the Roland V Drums you see on youtube is what we have used for the pre-production process as it's much easier to compose the rhythmic patterns with a midi drum. When we recorded the album we have actually used real acoustic drums which we have enhanced with several samples during the production process.
SoT: Desert Call wont be an easy album to surpass, any ideas of what you would like to do with your next release? Will it be a similar CD?
Anis Jouini (bass ): Will the new album be better than DESERT CALL? That will be for the media and fans to judge, but at this stage all what I can tell you is that it will be in line with the shorter tracks of DESERT CALL (such as forever and a day and tempests of sorrows) but with much more oriental elements ,it will have a distinctive sound proper to Myrath. Our producer Kevin Codfert is currently in Tunis to work with us on the pre-production of the album that we plan to record by next November so we can release it during the first quarter 2011.
SoT: What are the tour plans for Myrath in 2010?
Malek Ben Arbia (guitars): We are currently working on tour dates in Europe starting next September; the exact dates will be announced soon. We will also be playing in progpower Europe 2010 which will take place in Baarlo -Holland from October 1st through October 3rd 2010. We have also been offered the opportunity to play in other European festivals but so far we are still in the negotiation phase.
SoT: Is it hard to reproduce all that we hear on the albums live?
Elyes bouchoucha (keyboards /Backing vocals) : Well we have already played the album live and everyone who attended our shows will certainly tell you yes. Actually I have personally worked very hard on the arrangements of the oriental parts in such a way that I can use my keyboards to reproduce live all what you hear in the album.
SoT: I take it Symphony X are an influence on Myrath; which do you feel is their best release and why? I like them all but have always preferred V, there is just something very special about that album.
Saief louhibi (Drums): Yes I agree Symphny X V is our favorite album too, all the tracks are fantastic, very well written and played by extremely talented musicians, the simpler tracks and the very complex ones blend together so beautifully that this album will remain a masterpieces for many years to come.
SoT: Which other progressive metal bands do you listen to?
Zaher Zorgati (Lead vocals): We actually don't listen to progressive metal bands as much as we used to do; we mainly listen to new releases of progressive bands such as Dream Theater, Adagio and many others. Actually each band member listens to the bands he likes the most ,but what I can say is that we listen to bands of various styles such as Killswitch Engage, Disturbed, Rage, Kamelot, Lamb of God( just to name a few ).
Personally I listen to all kinds of music ranging from metal to oriental ,Turkish and even Japanese.
SoT: There is a lot of competition out there with so many top bands, which is great for the fans but the pressure must be on the bands to keep delivering with each release?
Anis Jouini (bass ): Yes indeed competition is really tough as nowadays there are more and more quality bands worldwide.
In addition the music industry is facing so many challenges mainly illegal downloading which makes it even harder for bands to survive as many cannot sell enough albums to even get their production cost back.
As far as we are concerned we work very hard to come up with a distinctive sound and I think that, with DESERT CALL, Myrath has brought something new to the prog-power metal music, by a somewhat new genre which mixes metal with traditional Tunisian tunes in a way different from what other band did before (As far as we know anyway)
We intend to follow on the same path on the next album and put a much bigger emphasis on the oriental elements in such a way so as to have a distinctive style.
At this stage of our young international carrier we are very pleased with the recognition we are getting from the media and fans and hopefully with the new album we will have a much bigger fan base and be more successful.
SoT: Myrath members are very competent musicians- how long have you been playing together and can you tell us about your musical background?
Malek Ben Arbia (guitars): I was born on August 2nd, 1987 in Tunis-Tunisia; I'm the band founder, it goes back to 2001 when I was only 13 years old (so Myrath is the only band I have ever played for.)
I discovered Metal music through friends of mine, so I started playing guitar when I was about 12 years old. I first took basic guitar lessons with a guitar teacher then developed my playing skills using mainly video lessons of well known guitarists.
At the age of 18 I 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 was born on 17 September 1985, in Tunis-Tunisia I joined Myrath in early 2003, before that date I played briefly with 2 bands
I'm a 2003 graduate from Tunis conservatory (classical and Arabic music major) and next year I will graduate from Tunis Music College. I stared playing piano at the age of 8, violent at 10, keyboards at 12 and metal singing at 17 .
Saief louhibi (drummer): I was born on 10. November 1985, in Tunis-Tunisia, I joined Myrath in June 2005, before that date I played briefly with another small local band
I have attended Tunis conservatory for a period of 4 years. And I play drums since the age of 15 when I discovered metal music.
Anis Jouini (bass player): I was born on 20 April 1982 in Tunis-Tunisia I joined Myrath in August 2006, Before that date I played during 7 years with Propaganda a local heavy metal band known mainly for playing Metallica covers .
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).When I turned 15 I discovered metal and started playing bass.
Zaher Zorgati (lead vocals): I was born on 20 July 1982 in Sousse-Tunisia, I joined Myrath in June 2007(that is after the recording of the album HOPE) I have played, previously for about 9 years with 2 other local progressive metal bands (Pirania and Introspection)
I sing and play guitar since the age of 10 but I have also taken numerous lessons in basic music theories and vocals technique with well known local music teachers.
SoT: As Myrath are from Tunisia, how popular is your style of music there?
Anis Jouini (bass ): First of all we would like to remind those who may not know much about our country, that Tunisia is a peaceful touristic country, very open to other cultures, it's situated on the Mediterranean coast within less than one hour flight from Rome (Italy).
There are many metal bands in Tunisia (made mainly of students), that play gigs on a regular basis, we have a weekly Metal show on the national radio station, which also has a streaming 24 Hours web Radio (www.zanzana.net/).
We also have a Mediterranean guitar festival held each year since 2004 that allowed many famous bands such as Robert Plant, Adagio, Bertignac, Fire Wind, After Forever and Haggard to play in Tunis in the past few years. Epica (in 2005), Dark Tranquillity and Anathema (in 2010) have also performed live in Tunis . In addition to that, we have very active Tunisian metal webzines such as www.zanzana.net/ ,www.metal-waves.com and www.sombrearcane.com/ that support and promote the local and international metal scene.
Obviously like in other western countries, some people do not appreciate metal music and have a very negative opinion of the metalheads. 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. So many of them end up by giving up when they finish school and get a regular job.
SoT: Are there any other bands from Tunisia that you could recommend? Maybe your success will inspire others.
Elyes bouchoucha (keyboards/vocals): Well I would rather not mention any names (so as to avoid upsetting anyone). I suggest instead that you check out the following Tunisian webzines/forums so you can have a better idea about other Tunisian Metal bands:
www.zanzana.net/ , www.metal-waves.com and www.sombrearcane.com/
What I can say is that there are few quality bands in Tunisia that can follow up on Myrath path even though they will have to 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.
They just need to work very hard ,be patient and remember that it took Myrath 7 years to get some international recognition ,we just have the advantage of having started the band when we were still very young(13 to 15 years old).
SoT: Has it been difficult to get Myrath's material heard in other countries?
Malek Ben Arbia (guitars): Well, when we first start writing our own music after playing exclusively covers for four straight years, we were fortunate enough to have met Kevin Codfert (Adagio keyboards player) in 2006. He became our producer and best friend so he dedicated a lot of his time to produce, assist and promote our debut album ''HOPE'' ,he even helped us getting our first label deal with Brennus Music (France)
Now that we are signed to two major labels (the French label XIII Bis Records for Europe and the American label Nightmare Records for the remaining continents) we are getting a much better exposure.
Thanks to the superb promotion strategy of both of our labels ''Desert Call'' was reviewed by over 100 webzines worldwide as well as by most prestigious magazines ,in addition the album 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. However we as a band do our part by promoting our music through the various social networks with the valuable assistance of some faithful fans. We believe in what we do, so we continue working very hard hoping that sooner or later we will get a much wider recognition to make it in this tough business.
SoT: Thanks for the interview and so much great feedback. Lastly, what would you say about Myrath's songs to anyone who has yet to purchase your releases?
Malek Ben Arbia (guitars): Thank you again for this interview and for your valuable support! The best way to put it is as summarized in the following extract from one of the reviews:
"Myrath - Desert Call is to date, my favorite album of 2010. It deserves to be one of the best that's for sure. This music has everything a Progressive metal fan could want. Hugely based on this bands playing, and writing abilities. Beautiful music that is sure to get you both head banging, and filling your heart full of raw, metal emotion. Natural exotic sounds, that come naturally, and amazing musicianship make Desert Call a must buy!
Photos courtesy of the Myrath MySpace Page
(Click here to read our reviews of Desert Call