Since we were a little late into celebrating the excellent new album shehili by Tunisian metal merchants Myrath, we decided to try and get it covered on the next opportune moment but then the band’s busy summer schedule pushed things a little further back. At last we were able to talk with keyboard player Elyes Boutchoucha Des about the past, present and future of the band, the live shows, the forthcoming DVD release and so much more... Enjoy...
Myrath band pic
Hi Elyes, congratulations on “Shehili”. It managed to equal or your past effort. How’s things in Myrath currently?
E: Things are awesome! We are now in the middle of our Summer Festivals run, having already played one hell of a show, actually two shows in the same day, In Sweden Rock Festival followed by another blazing spectacle in the International festival of Hammamet and in a few days we’ll be rocking Wacken! We are hyped and on a roll!
Do you think “Shehili”, differs much from “Legacy”? Or is it just a more refined version of it?
E: Every album is in some way or another a continuation of what preceded it, but in my opinion “Shehili” goes beyond those terms to be the very first album of Myrath in the genre of Blazing Desert Metal. It is a unique in its own way while staying true to the signature elements which makes Myrath music what it is.
Is there a concept in “Shehili” or at least an under-running theme of feeling homesick? Is it the name of a wind?
E: “Shehili” is the name of the hot wind blowing from the desert, it is synonym to sirocco in Europe, and as you can imagine the name is closely tied to our identity as a North African band and also connected to the birth of Blazing Desert Metal as a genre. “Shehili”’s doesn’t have an under running theme per say but holds together a varied assembly of emotions and metaphors in perfect harmony; homesickness, hope, perseverance, battling inner wars and so on.
Can you give us some information about the songs on the album? Their respective themes?
E: The album includes songs in the theme of finding inner strength and overcoming betrayals and disappointments, such as “Born to Survive” and “You’ve Lost Yourself”, another prominent theme is the ever-present undying hope which can be felt in songs like “Dance” and “No Holding Back”, struggling with inner demons and fighting internal wars in “Monster in My Closet” or fighting literal wars with outdated ideas and tyrannical forces in “Darkness Arise”; it also includes emotional odes to longing and love such as “Stardust” and “Wicked Dice”, and a node to spirituality and universal laws in “Mersal”, to finally conclude with “Shehili”, the song of homesickness and the journey back to one’s own homeland.
Would you ever consider doing a pure “concept” album – ie based on a character or a well-known story?
E: Nothing is off the table, if we find an idea that we feel would be better presented in a concept album then we would go for it!
Also you were able to collaborate with a rather famous Tunisian tenor on “Lili Twil”, which is a cover, how did both of those things come about?
E: Actually, we collaborated with the great Tunisian tenor Mr. Lotfi Bouchnak on “Mersal”, not “Lili Twil”. We have always wanted to collaborate with Mr. Bouchnak, the opportunity finally came on “Shehili”, and we are beyond ecstatic for it. As for “Lili Twil”, it is originally a renowned song by Brothers Migri from Morocco; we felt that the style and feelings in the song are a perfect match for Myrath’s music and wanted to interpret it our way.
You’ve now consolidated your deals and are with earMusic internationally, I think? Do you think it’s an easier way to deal with things on a business level?
E: It is definitely the best way, and also the most professional way to go forward on a business level especially that earMusic is a juggernaut in the music industry and home to some of the most esteemed artists in the world, such as Deep Purple, Alice Cooper to name a few.
The whole Sultan Omar posts on social, was it like a fake “story” you were trying to push, or does it tie in with the album?
E: I guess you haven’t watched the video clips then? Sultan Omar social media stunt was part of a marketing strategy promoting the album and the videoclips!
Once again you’ve created some rather opulent and expensive videos for your singles and it seemed that “Legacy” really exploded in no small part due to the excellent videoclip of “Believer”. Do you think the visual side of things has become so important that sometimes it even seems to overshadow the music (not of Myrath but in general)?
E: The visual side of everything has become indeed very important, sometimes so important that you can lose interest of a really good song or concept if the visuals accompanying it are dull or non-stimulating. I am not talking about a huge production or excessive use of CGI for example, but even a basic live concert footage needs to be presented in a visually exciting manner to complement the song and give it that extra impact.
Supposedly the first “live” album / DVD is meant to be forthcoming from your big show in Carthage. Can you share any more info about it (release date, title, formats, etc.)?
E: All details will be with you very soon; all I can say is that it is coming this year on DVD and blu-ray and includes some really awesome surprises as well.
You’re definitely not the first band to heavily feature “eastern” elements, but you seem to be on the way to becoming one of the biggest ever. Do you feel any pressure to outdo yourselves with each release?
E: Not really, we only do what we love doing and feel that it is a truthful representation of our creativity. We do not need to overdo it or worry about outdoing ourselves, as long as we are doing it from the heart with full dedication.
Are you afraid that at some point you might hit a creative slump? If that happened would you risk estranging fans by trying out something radical, or would you keep things safe?
E: I don’t think we project to the future in such a fear-based manner, but rather get excited and let our excitement and thrill lead us to wherever we are heading. we never kept things safe for the sake of gaining fans or expanding, perhaps one of the biggest elements of our success so far is the authenticity in doing what we do, that is we do not plan it for gains or to avoid losses!
You mentioned somewhere that Zaher turned down a few bigger bands. Spill the beans, please…
E: Let’s just say one of the bands was a very known band that has been around for some 30 years or so.
It took you multiple releases and more than ten years to reach a point where you have a “serious” enough chance at a career, looking back was it worth investing all that time, even when the outcome isn’t guaranteed? Does “gradual” growth help with longevity?
E: It was worth every drop of sweat, penny spent and moment of fear and uncertainty. The outcome is never guaranteed, even in situations where you’d be so sure of it, so might as well do it anyway and hope for the best!
What’s your opinion about the internet & piracy?
E: That is a bit tricky topic to navigate; on one hand artists cannot possibly be supported or expected to make a living off art when the results of long hours of hard work is being pirated for free, but then in a lot of countries, young people who sometimes cannot afford to buy every new album that comes out or don’t even have the right technical means to purchase music would be left out from enjoying music or films or any other creative product for that matter just because their circumstances don’t allow it. It is not a black and white matter.
How do you feel looking back at the Sweden Rock Festival experience? You performed there twice, playing your normal set and then headlining it as one of the Extreme metal headliners, had to cancel, which exposed you to a huge audience. Do you think that newer and capable bands like you, are not easily afforded these opportunities that could really help you take the next step?
E: I won’t say it was a dream come true because we didn’t even dream that such opportunity could happen, it was beyond our wildest dreams and we are very thankful for Sweden Rock Festival for this golden opportunity. I don’t know how common it is to be offered the closing headliner slot in a festival, but I doubt it happens much and that’s why I won’t say it is easily offered. Thankfully we were prepared for it and managed to set for the bigger stage and prepare ourselves within a very short time.
What other fests are you playing this year and what's your touring plans like? You’re also doing a number of dates with Beast In Black in the fall, any plans past that?
E: We are playing two dates in Japan this September followed by our co-headlining tour with Beast In Black, we are also in the process of planning our Spring tour of 2020 in addition to a North and South American tour.
Is there any chance we might get to see you in Greece?
E: Most definitely, and we are really eager to play in Greece. We hope we can manage that in the soonest time possible.
It’s time for our “weird questions”!!! If you could live in the past, or the future, which would you choose and why?
E: I love the renaissance era in Europe when the arts flourished, but I am also curious about the far ahead future and where we as human would have arrived to.
If you could have a dead musician guesting on your album, who would you pick?
E: Ah, very hard to choose between my idols like Chopin or Mozart and my favourite rockers like Dio or Chuck Schuldiner. I cannot possibly pick one.
What are your 3 favorite movies?
E: It’s very difficult to choose just 3! The Matrix, The Perfume, Amadeus, Pulp Fiction, are first to come to mind.
If you had “divine powers” for a week, what would you do?!
E: It is easy and quite tempting to think that one would change things to his advantage or do the idealists fantasy of ending wars or famine if he had the power, but after some thought, I think things are as they need to be in every given moment and everything, in my opinion, happens for a reason, I don’t think I would interfere in the cosmic order of things.
If your wife/gf sold all your albums (or equipment for those who don’t collect albums) how would you react?!
E: I would simply buy them back; I am a logical person (haha)!