By Eckhard Doll, July 26, 2016
Myrath is an emerging Tunisian oriental metal band. They started out as a death metal cover band in the early 2000s but soon moved on to what should become their trademark sound: progressive power metal with traditional Tunisian music elements. We had the opportunity to speak with the keyboardist and manager, Elyes Bouchoucha.
Elyes, Myrath has always had a very unique sound with lots of traditional oriental elements. Was this a natural choice when you started writing your own songs for your debut album Hope ten years ago?
It was both, as in: it was a natural choice, given our heritage, musical influences and the rich folkloric background we have in Tunisia which will inevitably leak into our creative process while writing music. It was a decision made when making the first album to create a unique musical signature for Myrath, a distinguishing factor that would leave its mark on the listeners, making our music recognizable whenever it is playing. And I must add that Kevin Codfert, our producer, has a grand role in encouraging us to incorporate more Tunisian/North African elements into our music, helping us shape this distinctive sound we have today.
Would you consider this decision beneficial or did it turn out to be an impediment to your career?
I think, on the one hand, the music we have been creating is richer and far more versatile due to this merging of elements together and, on the other, it was a solid factor in defining Myrath’s own sound, which separated us from other metal bands. I believe that Myrath’s popularity and continually growing fan base is owed to that decision made to incorporate our rich musical heritage into metal and introduce metal fans to a different fusion of sounds.
In many Arabic countries, playing metal music or even wearing a metal band shirt can lead to serious conflicts with the authorities. Fans have been arrested and bands have been banned from performing in public in some countries. Is this something that affects Myrath as well?
While this statement is unfortunately true in many Arabic countries, it is not the case in Tunisia. In our country metal music is not banned or frowned upon and we never had any confrontation with the authorities. We have played multiple festivals in Tunisia, alongside big names such as Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, Epica, Symphony X, Anathema and many more.
The only downside I can think of is the lack of governmental support or sponsorship for metal bands — or the metal scene in general. Official entities seem to focus on more pop or traditional music, but I think this might be similar to other European countries as well where metal is usually the least favorite when it comes to governmental support.
You joined Myrath in the early days back in 2003 as keyboardist and vocalist. When did you start making music, and what is it that made you choose the metal genre?
I started making music around the same time I joined the band, my first metal experience was with Myrath. When Malek and I started making music, prior to recording our first album, we were like all other young musicians, aspiring to play like our idols. Before that I was studying violin and piano at the conservatory and took my degree specializing in oriental and occidental music.
My father introduced me to rock music with Pink Floyd and after that I began listening to various bands and musicians, like Symphony X, Yngwie Malmsteen, Stratovarius, Majestic (which I admired for their great keyboardist, Richard Anderson) and of course Adagio, whose keyboardist (and our producer) Kevin is still my top favorite musician. I also loved Dimmu Borgir for their atmospheric sound, similar to epic movies soundtracks, so what interested me in metal were the bands which played a fusion of classical music with guitars and distortion.
Do you remember your first encounter with Cubase?
Of course! It was when Kevin came to Tunisia to record Hope in 2005. It was with Cubase SX2, I admired it the moment I discovered how it worked, the VSTs and I became a devoted user until now. Kevin helped me learn how to record using Cubase. I continued learning by myself reading and watching tutorials and of course via producing for other artists, so I’m a Cubase and Nuendo user since 2005 until now.
What was it that convinced you stay with Steinberg software?
I think Steinberg is one of the reasons behind me becoming a music producer and so it’s kind of love story! To be honest, I’m still using it because with Steinberg, you have two interfaces, a simpler one for beginners who’d like to record a simple melody, and a very advanced one for the professionals. So basically you find everything you need depending on your ability. Steinberg is the master of MIDI technology and the interface is very well made. Since 2005 and up to now I’m still discovering new tricks and techniques in the product, which I then show to my students. To sum it up, in the end I can’t do anything without my Cubase and Nuendo!
Is there anything you especially like about Cubase and our other products?
The VSTis are perfect for anyone who wants to create music professionally. I’m using the same VSTis from Steinberg like HALion since I started recording and there was no need for me to look for something else, as it contains everything I need. The Grand 3 for the amazing pianos which I discovered during recording. In the end, all Myrath’s creations are made with Steinberg, Cubase and Nuendo, to record, edit and mix, and we are using only three VSTis: HALion Sonic for pads, leads, cellos and brasses alongside the legendary Yamaha S90ES Piano. This piano sound was used on “Believer”. Then, The Grand 3 and Dark Planet were used for dramatic sounds. I used the audio interface UR44 to record, which is very simple to use with top quality and very little latency to record with MIDI.
For many years you have been working with producer Kevin Codfert from France. I know that you have been traveling a lot between Tunisia and France, but have you also considered using VST Connect and VST Transit to communicate, rehearse and record?
Yes, Kevin taught me how to use it when he came to Tunisia to record the first time. We got the same Steinberg products which he recorded the album with anyway because when we wanted to send him our pre-productions we didn’t need to export and edit anything. By installing the same products we were able to effortlessly send what we have and he could see what’s going on for each instrument and make modifications if needed. It’s the best way to save time and have a greater vision of the songs.
The first video “Believer” from your current album Legacy has been crowdfunded. Despite the growing success and intensive touring in 2016, do you consider crowdfunding a veritable alternative to the traditional ways of funding new releases, videos or even tours?
Crowdfunding is not merely a tool of gathering money for a project, in our case it was a clear indicator of Myrath’s popularity, and the far extents our fans are willing to go for us! We are astounded by the amazing response to Believer campaign, as the money gathered has exceeded our target, and expectations! This in return enabled us to create a visually stimulating video, meeting our fans’ expectations as well. When done right, I think crowdfunding can be a splendid act of solidarity between the band and the audience, coming together through the process of co-creation.
Can you tell us a bit about future plans for Myrath?
We are currently preparing for the second leg of the Legacy world tour, which will see us playing in many European cities starting this July until the end of the year. We will have a small break in January, then we continue in February or March. Fans can visit www.myrath.com/tour-dates/ for exact dates! And alongside the tour we have already started working on our next album.
Elyes, thank you for your time and good luck with the upcoming shows in 2016!
All images copyright © 2016 Nidhal Marzouk