– Hello, and thank you for your time. First of all, congratulations on ‘Salam’; it sounds great! How does the band feel about this album?
We put a lot of energy into this album and we’re proud to be able to show it to others. Each album is like a child: we give birth to it, we breed it and then the day comes when it cuts the apron strings and flies on its own wings.
For now, this album has a real success in all specialized websites and magazines and it’s a sign of openness that pushes us to go further in our artistic works. Eastern music has a place to take inside Metal.
It’s always nice to see that a lot of people with diverse backgrounds like our music despite the distinctive and particularly of our compositions.
Moreover, at each place during our various gigs, we received a very warm welcome from an open-minded public which was very receptive to our music.
– ‘Salam’ has more soft and melodic parts and is overall less brutal than your previous album, ‘Hilal’. Was this a specific choice or rather a natural process?
I confess that we never thought about the musical direction of our next album with terms like “violence” or “melody”. We started with the premise of «Burning Flesh» then «Hilal» and «Salam» are the logical next steps. Our only goal was to incorporate in a more pronounced way our oriental influences. «Salam» continues the direction initiated by «Hilal».
This album is more melodic and a more prominent part was given to oriental moods and harmonies. Arkan was never intended to do two identical albums / EP. The compositions of our releases are different but follow the same connecting thread.
– What are the main influences in your songwriting? How do you try to blend the traditional oriental parts with death metal?
Our inspirations come primarily from our musical culture. Each of us has in the memories of his childhood, a musical style inherited from his parents. Portuguese, Spanish, German, French, Scandinavians have in their cultural background a real musical richness. Each country has its folklore, its stars.
We, Arabian children, have grown up with Maghreb oriental music and this music that was undergone during our childhood years is now perceived as a musical legacy. Oriental music comes from Middle East countries but Egypt succeeded to disseminate it in all North African countries. In the case of Arkan, we have consolidated in our compositions the essence of oriental music.
We worked a lot on the insertion of the oriental parts within metal compositions. We really wanted that a mysterious alchemy was created leaving in questions the oriental or metal musical aspect of each part.
– Do you invite guest artists to record the traditional instruments or can you play them yourselves? Are they present when you play live?
For the recording of our album «Hilal», two musicians from the Algerian Gnawa band Djemawi Africa registered the mandola and several parts of derbouka. We initially approached them by sending a mock-up of our album. They responded without hesitation and considered our artistic vision interesting.
The Arabian male voices in Hilal were recorded by Adel Abdellaoui who is a Tunisian professional singer. He is a singer in a traditional orchestra that includes major performers of Oriental music like Farid El-Atrache, Fairouz & Oum Kelthoum. He listened to demos of the album and we asked him to sing on the two traditional titles.
Concerning «Salam», due to pratical reasons, Mus played all the accoustic and oriental parts and Foued took care of all percussions. Sound recording was made in Paris so that it maximizes our time at Studio Fredman.
– How was working with such an experienced producer as Fredrik Nordström, compared to your previous album?
The recording of “Salam” with Fredrik was a fantastic experience. Working with Studio Fredman was our own will. The sound of an album is as important as what it comprises. We greatly appreciate the Fredman’s work including his performance with such bands as In Flames or Opeth.
For the Metal parts of Hilal, we wanted sound perfection. And for us, there was a person abled to produce this desired sound and his name is Fredrik Nordström.
When I contacted Fredrik with two pre-produced pieces of Hilal, he listened to them and said: “I like that kebab boogie music!”. We immediately liked each other. For us he is a legend and we wanted to work with him, but that seemed like something inaccessible. After we got in touch with him he was very much and quickly interested in our album. When we arrived at the studio, some recordings were done in Algeria, but we brought traditional instruments with us that we wanted to record there. When he saw my percussions, he said: «What do you want to do with your funny toms?” I have been struggling to convince him to use my percussions on the recording, which was something new for him. In the end, he confided in us and the result was quite amazing. He is and remains the absolute master of his art.
Having been fully satisfied with the Fredrik Nordström’s work on Hilal, our choice was logically focused on him for the registration of Salam. However, we wanted a slightly different sound from the first album and Fredrik has understood the art direction we wanted to take. The sound is exactly in conformity with our expectations in terms of power and precision. It was an unusual job for him but he did a very amazing job.
Concerning mixing and mastering, we had confidence in Fredrik and Henrik Udd, his assistant, the pair not having to show their ability for this kind of work !
– Please tell us a bit about Arkan’s history; how did the band get together?
Arkan was created in 2005 by Foued after joining the band The Old Dead Tree. He expected to launch a musical project that combines metal and oriental music. For this band, he wanted to work with musicians who had the same passion and aspired to the same goals.
Samir, Mus and Florent joined the band in summer 2005, and Sarah collaborate with ARKAN since the end of the composition of Hilal.
In 2006, we released our first EP «Burning Flesh». Subsequently, we began the composition of our first album «Hilal» which was recorded at Studio Fredman in 2008 under the leadership of Fredrik Nordström.
In order to promote this album, we realized several tours (through France, Switzerland, Holland and Tunisia) including two tours with Septicflesh and Orphaned Land.
Fully satisfied with our collaboration with Fredrik, we wanted to repeat the experience for our second album, «Salam, » which has just been released.
– Why was the name ‘Arkan’ chosen? Where does it come from or what does it mean?
Arkan in Arabic means “foundation”. This word carries a strong meaning for us, because it is primarily a line of conduct, which has to be respected – a point of connection with our ancestors. It marks the link between what we are and what we were. As native of the southern countries, whose traditions, culture, music are sometimes at odds with our lives in Europe, we need to find a certain balance. «Arkan» is a kind of guide line for this endeavour.
– You are about to go on tour with Orphaned Land (and later on with Arch Enemy). How important do you feel it is to tour with one of the most popular bands in the oriental metal genre?
Orphaned Land is an extraordinary band. Having a very different history, we spent time talking to them in order to know us better and learn more about our respective cultures to quickly realize that we are not really different. A real musical as well human complicity have been developed between us.
Creating a new tour where an Israeli band and a French band with North African members share a new stage each day shows that music can overcome geopolitical tensions and lead to greater solidarity among peoples through dialogue and sharing. We remain convinced that despite all our differences, we can harmoniously live together on this world without killing each other for the slightest pretext. Of course, we are different, but not so different in reality. We are men, musicians with the passion of Metal as a reason to live. On all these points we are the same. We pray the same God in differents ways, that’s all. On this, as on other subjects, Muslims, Jews, Catholics and Protestants should make peace around the world and go to the same direction. The religious wars undergone by men should no longer be a geopolitic reality cause of the challenges we will have to face in the years to come.
– Adding the female vocals of Sarah, ‘Salam’ is often compared with Orphaned Land. What sets you apart from them?
Like Orphaned Land and Melechesh, the Oriental musical roots of the band is the main source of our inspiration. The eastern side of our music is highlighted and therefore the link with Orphaned Land and Melechesh is obvious. Orphaned Land as well as Melechesh are pioneers in this field, so the association with us is natural.
Nevertheless, we are more inspired by European Modern Metal for all electrical parts and the music of North Africa and Andalusia for the acoustic parts.
In all cases, the comparison with these bands affects us for the respect that inspires their career.
– Can we expect Sarah to join Orphaned Land on stage? Are you planning on doing anything special on tour?
It’s too early to say to you which featuring we’ll do during our next tour with Orphaned Land. Kobi Farhi (the singer of Orphaned Land) sang in Salam on the title «Deus Vult» so maybe you could expect a surprise on stage… Come and you will see.
– Being an oriental metal band in a multicultural yet western city like Paris, is there a message you try to give the audience?
France shared a part of its history with the Maghreb countries. These countries have experienced a very close relationship but also periods of violent clash. The French society, cause of its colonial past, created a multicultural society where everyone can find its place whatever its origins or culture.
Multiculturalism in France is a strength, not a weakness contrary to what some politicians want us to believe. Philosophical and cultural exchange has beneficial effects and help us to be open to the world.
Arkan would like to create a bridge between people from different musical and cultural backgrounds. We are facing this diversity of cultures in our everyday lives. Out of our music we create a rallying point that is representing what we stand for.
Arkan’s members also reflect this culture mix. Foued was born in Paris but have Moroccan roots. Abder, Mus and Samir were all born in Algeria and finally Florent, was born in France but has Italian and Greek origins.
I think a lot of fans know that the message we spread in our lyrics is very tolerant. Arkan wants to encourage people to think for themselves and does not try to impose its vision.
– What is the band’s biggest dream? What would be the ultimate achievement for you?
At this time, we made two French and European tours with Septicflesh and Orphaned Land for which we have a big respect.
It was a very rewarding experience musicaly and humanly speaking. We had the opportunity to work with people passionate by their art. The atmosphere of harmony and mutual respect between these bands and us has generated a lot of good times and the worst of its was the time of the separation.
There is also a lot of bands we would like to tour with like Behemoth, Opeth or Anathema.
But we must not forget that the most important thing during a tour is the contact with our fans and the emotions shared with the public and this situation doesn’t only depends on the band you tour with.
The most important thing for us is to make know and share our music around the world.
But we mustn’t take short cuts. We focus for now on the European market more accessible for us and on any countries more receptive to the oriental aspect of our compositions.
– What does the near future hold for Arkan? Do you already know what you’ll do after the upcoming tour?
Regarding «Salam”, I think I can say that the hardest part is behind us.
Several dates following the release of “Salam” have been booked and we announced an European tour scheduled for the end of 2011 through France, UK, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Netherlands, Switzerland, Danmark, Austria, Hungary and Romania with Orphaned Land. We’ll finish this tour with 4 dates with Arch Enemy in France.
Moreover, producing a clip is a current project for Arkan. We would like to produce a clip which could translate the artistic and graphic codes and atmosphere of Arkan.
It’s true that there is less and less media which broadcast metal clips but we hope we’ll succeed to call TV broadcaster’s attention in hosting our new clip on Internet.
The production of it will begin soon and we will let you aware of this when the product will be finished.
– Once again, thank you for your time! If you would like to add anything for your Spanish fans, here’s your chance:
Matthias Van Reepingen