Interview with Myrath's Zaher Zorgati
A few weeks ago, Katia Filipović caught up with Myrath’s lead singer Zaher Zorgati, in anticipation of the release of the brand new album which will be unleashed on the 3rd of May.
Tunisian music is strikingly diverse and original. Due to Tunisia’s location and history, it has been deeply infused with various influences which take their roots in countries like Andalusia, Greece via Turkey and Persia. It is an undoubtedly vibrant melting pot of notes and scales and an ethnomusicologist’s dream.
So it’s no wonder that Myrath, a band that produces a unique blend of heavy metal and traditional music, hails from Tunisia.
Having been signed in 2016 by a major label, Edel, the home of artists like Alice Cooper, Deep Purple or Al Di Meola, has allowed the band to expand its horizon in a significant way.
15 years of extremely hard work and an undying passion for their craft seem to have finally paid off.
A few weeks ago, I caught up with Myrath’s lead singer Zaher Zorgati, in anticipation of the release of the brand new album which will be unleashed on the 3rd of May.
Katia Filipovic (Musicngear): Myrath’s new album is called Shehili. What is the meaning of this beautiful word?
Shehili is the hot desert wind coming from the South of Tunisia. In Europe, it is known as the Sirocco.
We simply named the album after a song we wrote called Shehili. The word itself is in ancient Berber, which is a native Tunisian language and it refers to our culture, roots and music too. It’s something original and mystic.
Musicngear: For this album, you have worked with 3 different producers. That is quite an unusual approach! Why did you decide to work like this?
Actually, to start with, it wasn’t supposed to be the case. But it happened spontaneously. Our producer, Kevin Codfert, whom we’ve worked with for more than 15 years, mixed and produced the album. When the arrangements were finished, he went to Sweden in order to mix it and do the pre mastering with Jens Bogren, who is one of the most talented producers in the metal industry. Jens had already worked on our previous album, Legacy.
His job was only to mix the album and to pre master it. It was very hard because it is full of instruments like the violin, the clarinet and percussions. Mixing this album properly was a real challenge. Whilst working on our album, Jens fell in love with our songs. So he started tweaking
and changing some things here and there, altering the production itself. He did this with Kevin’s assistance of course.
Then Kevin went to Hamburg and presented it to our label manager at Edel so that he could listen to the mix. He loved the album but he found that the sound of the drums was a little bit harsh, too bombastic and lacked an organic quality. That’s because we did not really have the financial means to record the drums. Our manager wanted us to have a really professional drum sound, which is very hard to achieve if you don’t have access to a professional studio with a big hall and a specific form the captations…
So he booked us into the legendary Chameleon Studio with the song writer and producer Eike Freese. Eike is an extremely talented guy who has collaborated with artists such as Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Gamma Ray…
Kevin and Morgan ( Berthet, Myrath’s drummer ) recorded the drums again. In the meantime, Eike also fell in love with the album! He started tweaking some songs and sounds too, suggesting some changes...
So, in the end, we ended up with 3 producers, 3 different ways of thinking and working, 3 different sounds but 1 vision.
Musicngear: This is quite an achievement!
It really is. We are very lucky.
Musicngear: Are there any unusual instruments that Myrath has used for the first time on this album?
Yes! The Tunisian violin as well as the Oriental middle Eastern clarinet. It has the same sound as the classical clarinet but is much more difficult to play as it has quarter notes. We used native Tunisian percussions too, such as the darbuka.
Musicngear: How easy was it to get in contact with musicians who play these instruments?
It was very easy to get in touch with great artists who can play them extremely well. We do this with love which we believe is the ingredient of the best recipes. In our case, we think that the use of these native instruments gives us an element of mysticism and freshness.
It’s always good to introduce artists which aren’t part of the mainstream to the public and to expose the struggles that they go through
Musicngear: Are you planning on performing a gig with traditional Tunisian musicians?
Technically, it would not be a problem but logistically it would be rather difficult to organise. We recorded in Tunis with the national Tunisian Orchestra. The challenge is how we would bring all these guys together on stage with us though.
Musicngear: I guess that it would be just a one off event!
Yes, just like Metallica did with Michael Kamen for S&M!
Musicngear: Let’s crowdfund this!
Yes, good idea! Maybe one day…
Musicngear: I’ve just mentioned crowdfunding because you used this method very effectively in 2016 in order to produce the video for Believer, which ended up being viewed more than 10 million times on youtube!
Yes indeed. Thanks to our beloved fans, we managed to pay for the video. Believer is the start of our video trilogy which features 2 recurring characters, Sultan Omar and Sultan Jafar. Two new videos have been published recently, Dance and No Holding Back, which is the epic finale to the series.
Musicngear: Were the 2 following videos paid by your record company or did you pay for it as well?
We funded part of it. Our producer contributed, the record company and our tour management helped us too.
People don’t understand that in order to be where we are now, we suffered a lot for 15 years. This is in itself an achievement.
Musicngear: The last video, Born To Survive, was filmed in the ancient Amphitheater of Carthage which is 3000 years old. Performing in such spectacular surroundings must have been quite an incredible experience!
Yes! Playing in front of 8000 people screaming our name was something really huge and mystical for us. We’ll never forget this.
Musicngear: We both attended the first World Metal Congress in London at the end of March. You were part of one of the panels, talking about the challenges that artists face getting their music heard abroad. What were your impressions of the congress?
It’s really positive to gather the community of metal artists from other parts of the world, especially bands who are not known or from far flung places and can’t get financial help in order to achieve their goals. It’s always good to introduce artists which aren’t part of the mainstream to the public and to expose the struggles that they go through, just like the ones we have experienced over the past 15 years.
But I must say that there probably were some misunderstandings though. I did an interview with the Metal Congress media section and they did not show it whereas other interviews were shown. I also did another one with ITV and it wasn’t used either. I don’t really understand why but maybe I’m simply missing something here. So I have mixed feelings and I was a little disappointed. It could be that the media was searching for something juicy, you know? ITV showed the interview with the Syrian metal bands which played just after the documentary about the war and metal music in Syria. Of course, I understand that both were related.
Musicngear: So do you think that maybe because you don’t come from a war torn country, the interest in what you had to say was limited?
Yes, I think that might have been the case. People don’t understand that in order to be where we are now, we suffered a lot for 15 years. This is in itself an achievement. You don’t need wars to achieve your goal, to be known.
Musicngear: I understand what you mean. Funnily enough, the media’s thirst for sensationalism was mentioned by a member of the panel at the World Metal Congress. The Afghan musician Yousef Shah talked about how the Western media’s ears are pricked by tales of bands emerging from war zone, but as soon as the wars are over, their interest wanes…
A few years ago, you said that it was challenging for bands to find Tunisian record companies interested in metal. Is it still the case?
Yes, it’s still really hard. There are no real platforms for metal in Tunisia. Popular types of music are rap or hip hop. At the moment, there is only one metal record company called Darkside Records which started 2 years ago. One of the bands they work with, Carthagods, which is one of the oldest Tunisian hard rock bands, have just released their brand new album called The Monster In Me. It is absolutely fantastic, do check them out!
Darkside Records now deals with European bands too. I know that they have produced one band from the Netherlands quite recently.
Musicngear: This summer, you will be performing at 2 major metal festivals. This must be so exciting for you!
Yes, we are going to Wacken and Sweden Rock. That’s a dream come true for us. It’s a big deal, you know. Both are such iconic festivals and we will be there, on stage, as a band! That’s incredible.
As I said, getting to this point was not easy. If it had been the case, we would have played those big festivals 10 or 12 years ago. But finally now, we have this important major label contract with Edel and that’s made it a bit easier for us to play at such events.
Musicngear: Is there a question that you wish I had asked you?
Yes, there is one…(laughing) What genre of metal does Myrath play?
Musicngear: OK! So…I think that I’ve got a really good question for you…What genre of metal does Myrath play?
Well, it’s a brand new genre called blazing desert metal. It’s a new genre which comes from North Africa and so far, we are the only ones who play it.
Musicngear: So, that makes you the genre’s pioneers…and creators!
Musicngear: Ha ha! Well, it’s been a pleasure talking to you and I wish you all the best for this next stage in your career. I’m looking forwards to interviewing you for your next album, in what, maybe 2 to 3 years?
Oh, I think it might take a little longer than that. People sometimes complain that it takes us too long to make an album. But it always takes time. It’s just like making good food. It must be made with love and cannot be rushed. Otherwise, what’s the point?
“Shehili” will be released as a CD Digipak, 1LP+Download and Digital on May 3 rd , 2019 on earMUSIC.
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