In 2006, Pharaoh released their second album, The Longest Night, which was a consistently strong album, with mature sound and songwriting. While their first album, After the Fire, was a good recording, The Longest Night surpassed it in every way. Singer/songwriter Tim Aymar (who also sang for Chuck Schuldiner's Control Denied) recently had a chance to speak with Sea of Tranquility's Scott Borre.
Read on for the full interview!
Sea of Tranquility: Tim, I am a big fan of Pharaoh, as well as your work with Control Denied. But today I want to focus on Pharaoh. Pharaoh's latest album, The Longest Night, has received great reviews, so congratulations on that. First, can you describe Pharaoh, what the band is about, and for people who haven't heard the band yet, what they might expect to hear?
Tim Aymar: Sure, Pharaoh is a metal band, we're somewhere between progressive and power metal, fairly old school but with some modern enhancements. I'd much rather point folks to http://solarflight.net to hear the music themselves than try to explain what it sounds like.
SoT: Do you have an indication of how well the sales are going with both Pharaoh albums?
Tim: Yes both are doing about the same, very well. Of course neither have gone gold or platinium yet, so until then, we'll keep pushing. If you'd like to
help us reach that goal you can buy the CDs at http://cruzdelsurmusic.com.
SoT: Can you talk about what you are doing when you are not writing music, playing guitar, or singing?
Tim: Sure, when I'm not making music I'm either sleeping, bathing, doing laundry, washing the car, cooking, mowing the lawn, and all the stuff big rock stars do. I'm pulling your leg here, but I know what you mean. When I have the chance, I like to go out and see bands, and go out in the woods and do nothing. Doing nothing is hard for me, I don't have much practice at it, but I enjoy the hell out of it when I can. I also keep in touch with my friends and family on the internet on a daily basis as much as possible.
SoT: How does the song writing, including lyrics and music, process work with Pharaoh?
Tim: It's a little different every time. If you look at the credits in the CDs, you'll see. Sometimes Matt or Chris K., or Chris B will start with the music and send it to me or one of the others to write lyrics, or they'll finish it themselves. We'll swap project files back and forth until we've decided a song is fleshed out and ready for the studio, and when we have all the songs ready, we go in and track. The first record was a little different because I hadn't actually met the Chrisses yet. Matt dropped off mixes of the tunes, and I had Chris Zenner, a good friend who is also a producer/singer and JimDofka help me track, then I stem-mixed the vocals at my studio and sent them to the studio they tracked all the instruments in, and they mixed it all together there.
The second record, we all tracked in the same studio, but at different times, Chic B was already finished when I started, so I only got to see Matt J and Chris K, and of course Matt C while I tracked my parts. But I had met and actually hung out with everyone for a weekend when we did our photo shoot before the recording, and again for a day after it was released. This time around, I'll probably track at my place again, but I'd like to find an assistant to run the rig while I sing. I just hope his name isn't Chris or Matt because it's confusing enough already.
SoT: For a lot of bands, the lyrics are secondary to the music. They often feel forced, rushed, and generic. But with Pharaoh they are something to respect. It is poetry, and each band member seems to have a different style, but a dedication to the lyrics. Can you talk about what the song, "Sunrise" means to you?
Tim: The very moment I was trying to write those lyrics was so frustrating that it inspired me to write about it. I was always used to having peace and quiet and all the time I needed to write lyrics. But, a few months before I started on the second CD, I'd moved into a very busy, and very noisey neighborhood, my brother had just moved in with me, and we were on opposite schedules, almost. Just about the time he finally turned off the TV, which was screaming in my head for another hour after he turned it off, I would start to listen to the track, and by the time I'd get an idea started, the birds would start singing outside my window, the jackhammers would start pounding , and all the chaos of daylight began. The rising of the sun meant to me that any time for reflection or inner peace I was going to have was over until midnight or so. It just seemed that the very thing that keeps this entire planet alive and thriving was keeping me from fulfilling my purpose, and drowning out my existence, like it does to the night sky. So when I realized this was a theme I could work with, it just rolled right out.
SoT: There are bands out there that if you have bought one album, you have bought them all, because they sound so similar. What is the key to making songs, and albums that stand alone, are distinct, and identifiable to the band?
Tim: For us, I think much of it is in letting everyone have a part in it and writing each song as a separate entity. Our musical vocabularies and tastes are diverse enough that it pretty much takes care of itself. Also, not being opposed to trying to make something work when it's different than the way you would normally do it is a major factor in Pharaoh's sound. We all have different approaches, that when not stifled by anyone's musical austerity, are combined, to make our music truly our own.
SoT: I read that Pharaoh is currently working on their next album due in 2007. What can we expect from this album? What will make this album stand out?
Tim: This time there will be a concept. Not necessarily a concept album, but there will be a running theme. You'll have to buy it to figure it out. As far as standing out, I think that since the band has had this much time and experience writing the way we do, the sound will be much more definitive of Pharaoh.
SoT: Many bands start off as a bunch of people hanging out together who play various instruments, grew up listening to the same music, and started a band at their parent's house. So then when it comes to play live they might start playing at local clubs, then perhaps find a label, and tour outside of their safe haven. With Pharaoh, and with a number of metal bands, this just isn't the case. What is it about metal, do you think, that there are so many bands that will get together and record albums, sometimes with never even meeting face to face?
Tim: They love metal, and want to make the best metal possible. Sometimes there just isn't the level of talent, or commitment it would take to do that right in your own back yard, and no matter how much you love your friends, they just may not cut the muster on tape or on stage, or you don't work well enough together to accomplish anything, or they may be committed to other things that make it impossible. It was something new to all of us to record all we've done this way, but it was more out of necessity than by design. I'd much rather have us all working together in person, but who knows, that might just kill us as a band.
SoT: What is it going to take to get Pharaoh to play live shows?
Tim: We're working on that. At this point we need to see the interest level. For about the last month, there's been a button on our myspace pages at
http://myspace.com/pharaohstreetteam and http://myspace.com/timaymar called
"Demand It!", and it's there for us to try and estimate the amount of fans who want us to play in their city. It's obviously going to take money to send us out on the road, and we would be idiots to go on tour when only 8 people in Orlando, 1 person in Philadelphia, and 1 person in Singapore have formally expressed an interest in buying tickets. Record sales would be an indication as well, and the numbers are looking like we won't lose our homes and families if we do decide to rehearse for a couple weeks hit the road for a few gigs.
SoT: How did you develop as a singer? Did you take vocal lessons? Or did you have a natural ear and just sang along to Rainbow, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest?
Tim: A lot of both. I started being taught in grade school, sang in the choir, and played trumpet in the band. Trumpet takes a good ear to play because the instruments intonation has to be fine tuned by ear. It also developed good breathing and strong lungs for screaming metal. I sang along to everything all the time. I used to annoy the hell out of people because I wouldn't stop singing sometimes. And you couldn't talk to me when the radio was on or a tape playing because if I wasn't singing along, I was listening to the inner working and details of the songs, part by part, measure by measure.
My first job was in the kitchen at a restaurant, and my chef was the singer in a band, and he insisted we have the radio up loud and be singing along at all times. It makes the work go faster and there is a sense of brotherhood and team spirit when everyone sings together. When I got into my first band at age 15, I had quit the school music program and started learning guitar from the guitar players I sang with. Since I could read music by then, it came a lot easier. At about 23 I started studying voice on my own, and was working with a producer who was a music teacher. I had been coaching the guys in my band with what I had been learning and he taught me some more and encouraged me to learn even more. Eventually, the band and our producer talked me into teaching. 2006 was the first year I've been off from teaching since 1989.
SoT: This was once asked by somebody in an interview with Frank Zappa (several times actually), and I believe its very revealing about an artist, and person: How would you describe the state of the world?
Tim: Hey, whatever Frank said, I know I'll go with. Frank also once said that sometimes you just can't write a chord ugly enough to express how you feel so you need to use a giraffe full of whipped cream. That I can agree with. I know I don't want a better world for tomorrow. I don't trust there will be a tomorrow because every time I wake up, it's today. I'd like to ask the powers that be, who control what changes and what doesn't, please, whatever needs to change so we're happy here, needs to change now, so we can all enjoy it. Or at least let us enjoy it until we're dead, and then you can change it back to your way. I've asked this before, but they keep trying to skip ahead to the "we're dead" part.
SoT: Thank you very much for your time. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Tim: Yes, visit us at http://pharaohstreetteam.com and join the crusade!!!
(Click here to read our review of The Longest Night)