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Hi Zaher and welcome to TrueMetal: in a few days your new album will be released; it’s been 5 years since Tales of the Sands, how did it take so long?
It took so long because of many reasons, one of them is the death of our godfather, Mr. Ahmed Ben Arbia, our guitarist’s father. It was a big shock for us because he was the engine of the band financially, mentally, he always pushed us to the limits and always encouraged us. Secondly the revolution which happened in Tunisia in 2011 slowed us down.
Did the revolution influenced the music or the lyrics in the new album?
Not the lyrics, I didn’t write them, our friend Ayman and our producer’s wife asked me the privilege to write them and I said yes. Musically yes, I think it influenced us in a way; I think that with this album with brought our music to a new level, you know, it’s more mature.
What topics do you deal with in the lyrics of Legacy?
All the lyrics are mostly about love, about how to deal with losing someone you love, you know, it’s a sad love. There are two songs that speak about heaven and about being out of the system, about being yourself, about liberty and freedom of speech.
Your new album is entitled “Legacy”, Myrath means legacy as well, what is the legacy you refer to?
The most important thing is the legacy of our culture and of our traditional music as well. Culture because Tunisia is the last country on the top of the African continent and since Carthage thousands of years ago it’s always been a country open to the western world, and to this day is one of the Arab countries mostly open to other cultures, alongside with Morocco.
Can you tell us something more about Legacy’s cover?
On the cover there's a hamsa, a traditional sign against the evil eye, we used to use it in Tunisia and it’s a 100% Jewish Tunisian sign. So it’s not from the middle-east, not Persian, it Tunisian; you know, if you go to other Arab counties you won’t find it often, because it’s not part of their culture. On the cover by the way it is mixed with our logo; it’s like part of the legacy.
As you mentioned the religion, what’s your relation with the religion?
I think that as an open country Tunisia has always been a quite tolerant country toward religion. We have a small Christian communit and there are Tunisian jews as well, the majority are Muslims, but we are mostly very moderate, you know, you can easily find and drink alcohol without problems [laughs]. For Myrath, I’ve always said that our religion is music; religion limits some things, you know, I prefer to say that our religion is music and everybody is welcome to it.
Your funded the recording of the videoclip for Believer with the money you raised with Indiegogo, why did you choose this method and did you expected such a great success?
Actually we didn’t expect anything like this, we thought “Well, maybe we’ll get 50%” and then in only one month everything changed and all the money was raised and we were so happy, not about the money but about the generosity of the people, we were so happy to see how many people love the band. This is such a warm feeling for us, it warms our hearts to see such an amazing support, we are so thankful. We love them just as much as they love us.
Believer’s video had, to me, a kind of Prince of Persia vibe, where did you take inspiration from for that video?
Actually I love Assassin’s Creed, but of course you can’t copy that because of the copyright so we did a kind of mix between that and Prince of Persia, but we let the director lead us according to his ideas as well. So we let Ivan [the director] do his job and then we had to find the money to complete the CGI; it’s not a huge video, it’s nothing like the movie 300, but for a Tunisian band, for a young band I think it’s okay.
After 9 years since your first album what are your greatest achievements so far and your hopes for the future?
We opened for Dream Theater in France, we are now on tour with Symphony X, one of our biggest inspirations, we did the ProgPower USA. And often when doing interviews some people tell us “When I listen to this album I wonder what could you do in the next one” and this is great to us; we think that every time we do something from our heart, something true and mechanical, people will understand that and will feel it.
You are now on tour with Symphony X, how is it to tour with such an important band and, above all, such a huge inspiration for you?
Malek, our guitar player, he is 28 now and has been a Symphony X fan since he was 12 and now look where we are. Michael Romeo heard that and hugged him when they first met, can you imagine how he felt? And it’s the same for all of us, we are extremely motivated. Tonight, for example, we are playing in a really small space because Symphony X equipment is already on stage behind us, but this whole experience is more valuable than all this shit and we don’t care.
How is the scene in your country?
There’s a metal scene but not like it was in the ‘90s; back then we had like 25-30 bands, not many but very very good and talented bands. Right now I think it’s like 3 bands in the whole Tunisia; the problem is with the society, the regime, the revolution...you lose hope and motivation. We are very lucky to emerge from this chaos and to be able to go on like we are doing.
Do you ever feel the responsibility to represent your country?
Of course, we have the responsibility to represent our country but, it’s sad to say, Myrath is the least thing our country think about. I’m not talking about the people, I’m talking about the government, about the Ministry of Culture, I think Myrath and our kind of music is not a priority in any way. We do it mainly for ourselves; we are a French-Tunisian now anyway with Morgan, our French drummer, and the French embassy helped us somehow, more than our own government.
Looking outside of Tunisia is it a challenge to sing in arab?
Actually I like it to sing some parts in arab, not all the songs, it would be silly, but yeah, I like the music and the arrangement where you can find some signature elements, also in the lyrics you can find some distinctive elements in Tunisian language.
How’s the response from the fans to this kind of lyrics?
The like it, they find it exotic, it’s something new in metal. I don’t want to say that we are doing a revolution in metal, but I think we are bringing something new to it. There are a lot of bands out there imitating each other, we are always working hard to find some inspiration and some way to improve ourselves in an original way. Even some other “Oriental Metal” bands sometimes just use some clichés from the stereotype of oriental music, that’s not what we do.
Can you foresee a future where you move toward a more metal or more folk sound or do you think you’re going to stick to the balance you have now?
I think in this album we found the perfect balance, not too metal and not too folk. We found our recipe, in a way, it’s like Tales of the Sands but more mature in the way we composed and recorded it. The main composers are Malek on the guitar who does the metal riffs, I build the structure of the songs, and Elyes does the folkish parts. So, I build a structure, Malek makes it more metal, Elyes makes it more oriental and then the rhythmic section comes in and they tell us if we have to make it more groovy or anything.
What is your relationship with other so called “oriental metal” bands? I know you toured with Orphaned Land…
We know only Orphaned Land and we are really good friends with them, we keep in touch; half an hour ago Uri [Zelcha, Orphaned Land’s bassist] texted us saying that he just saw our new video and he loved it, we are in touch with them and we love them, but we don’t really know any other oriental metal band.
Are you hoping to do more touring with other oriental metal bands in the future?
Not specifically, a tour with Orphaned Land would be great because we love them and there’s a good chemistry, but we are looking for any opportunity. We are doing this tour with Symphony X which is amazing, we see them every day, we talk them…it’s crazy! Our next step, I’d love to do something with Dream Theater, but it’s not up to them; they know us, our music and they love it. These are not my words but Jordan Rudess’s, he just shared our video on Facebook a few days ago saying how much he liked it and we’re so happy about it. Anyway it depends on money, you have to pay a lot to make a tour with them and we’d become poor [laughs]
Well Zeher, I have no more questions for you, if you have a message for our readers…
Sure, I hope you’ll enjoy the interview, it’s been a pleasure to be interviewed by you, and I hope you’ll like the album and to see you all soon!