An Interview With Oriental Metal Band Arkan Founder/Drummer Foued Moukid
Arkan is s rising star in the "eastern" metal genre. Led by bands like Orphaned Land and Melechesh, this genre has exploded recently, because, as Arkan founder and drummer Foued Moukid says, "the listener needs now more originality in music and wants cultural innovation," instead of, say, more blast beats and screaming. Moukid was kind enough to take some time and answer our questions via email from Arkan's home base in France, and his thoughtful and reasoned answers are excellent insight into a rising band's mentality. Please enjoy.
Bloodofheroes: Why/How did you come up with the idea to mix death metal with oriental and other similar styles of music?
The idea of combining metal and oriental music in this project goes back a long way. I have always wanted to mix my cultural origins with the music I like most. Except a small number of bands, oriental music was not represented in the European Metal scene. I thought this project might bring a breath of fresh air as we try to mix two very different styles: Oriental music including chaabi, which is the most popular musical style in the Maghreb and a powerful metal with growls and hard riffs.
I must confess that it's difficult to find good musicians to form a metal band, but it’s even more difficult to find great musicians playing both metal and North African music. In 2005, Mus and Samir, former members of an Algerian death metal band named Worth, and Florent, a former member of Whisper-X, joined me with the same desire to try something new.
Bloodofheroes: With bands like Melechesh and Orphaned Land leading the charge, this style of metal is becoming quite popular – how do you try to set yourself apart from the growing pack?
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. There are so few bands which incorporate such influences into their music and Orphaned Land as well as Melechesh being pioneers in this field, the association with us is natural.
Nevertheless, we are more inspired by European 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.
Generally speaking, you're right when you said that oriental metal is becoming quite popular. I think the listener needs now more originality in music and wants cultural innovation. The mixing of cultures in the Western societies promotes openness. Metal fans are more and more curious and are looking for, especially via Internet, new musical experience.
Bloodofheroes: Why do you call it “Oriental” metal? Is there significance to that particular term instead of “Arabian” or “Middle Eastern” or other similar terms?
The music of our origins, the Chaabi and Charqui, are music styles we listen from our earliest years. These musics come from Maghreb. However, for Salam, we wanted all the oriental parts are different and don't bore the listener cause of redundancy. It was therefore important for us to draw our inspiration from the different spheres of oriental music. But I confess that when we compose we don't question ourselves to know if a part sounds more Middle Eastern than North African. Labels don't matter us, only the emotion generated by the music is, to our opinion, important. So, we use the terms “Oriental Metal” because theses words are usually used by others and we think that this formulation is easy to understand.
Bloodofheroes: What music do you draw your influences from? What is a band or style that influences Arkan that isn’t obvious?
Most of us grew up with typical artists of North Africa. This kind of music have an important part in our musical background. The oriental music which influence our compositions is as vast as that of our influences in the Metal sphere. It's impossible for me to clearly tell you where one drum beat or one guitar riff come from. It is the same thing concerning the east side of our music which comes from the Middle East to North Africa and via Andalusian.
Generally speaking, that is valuable in Arkan is that its members listen to different music styles. This ranges from Pink Floyd to Nevermore and Dahmane el Harachi (Algerian pop singer) to Fairouz (Lebanese singer). This shows the wide range of our influences!
Bloodofheroes: Is there meaning behind the band’s name?
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.
Bloodofheroes: When going into the studio to write “Salam,” how did you want it to differ from “Hilal”? We’re you successful?
The process of composition we used was different for “Salam” compared with those of “Hilal”. "Hilal" is an Metal album with oriental music. The purpose of this album was to mix Metal music and Middle East music. Our compositions were essentially Metal. The appearances of the Oriental parts are separated from the Metal parts.
"Hilal" is a compendium of everything we loved, listened and wanted to say at this time. This album also covers 60 minutes. It's intense. It is a very rich album and we intended to show to everybody "Hey guys, look at what Arkan was able to do."
In the case of "Salam," it's the other way around. We began to compose oriental parts we followed like a thread in the composition and, with this melodic base, we have created the different atmospheres. The aggressive parts communicate with melodic parts and Metal is not an end in itself but a tool of communication.
This album is more melodic and a more prominent part was given to oriental moods and harmonies.We really wanted a mysterious alchemy to be created leaving in questions the oriental or metal musical aspect of each part.
"Salam" is not intended to prove anything. It is just the continuation of our musical approach. We no longer want to scream to the world that we exist. We just would like to share our passion for Metal music with our audience by adding a touch of musical diversity.
Bloodofheroes: Now that the album is written and about to be released, is there anything you would change on “Salam?”
We began the composition of Salam a long time ago, there have been many developments since the beginning of the process of composition. Salam is the result of lots of hard work, personally I wouldn’t change a thing!
We are very proud of all our achievements. Each album corresponds to a different objective. "Hilal" was intended to show what was capable Arkan. Nobody was waiting for us at that time and we wanted to draw attention to our qualities of composers and performers. So we consider that "Hilal" accomplishes this purpose because it allowed us to sign with Season of Mist and received a warm welcome in the press as the many reviews published show it.
Concerning “Salam,” it is still too early to judge the opinion of the press on this album because it will be released on April 18th. In all cases, we are very proud of this album which represent for "Arkan" a new stage and a new level reached.
Bloodofheroes: How has the reception for “Salam” been so far?
Reactions are different because between both albums there is a real musical evolution. First, we have voluntarily increased the oriental aspect of our music, but also, while conserving aggressive dimension, we focused on atmospheric and acoustic parts. All these elements in this album may be more complex to listen but with a variety of significant atmospheres. 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.
Moreover, we played many songs from “Salam” at our last show with Paradise Lost in Paris, and the public responded very well. We are waiting for the official release on April 18th, and hope that our audience will enjoy it!
Bloodofheroes: When playing live, what songs/parts of the music do you enjoy most? Are there any parts that are you can’t play live?
We like to play all our songs due to their contrasts and complexity. If we were to play only pure metal parts, I think our pleasure will not be as high. The reverse reasoning is also true. The originality of our music comes from the mixt between modern Metal and eastern parts. We therefore really wish to reproduce these atmospheres on stage. So it is the heterogeneity of our atmospheres that makes Arkan's music very pleasant to play. This feeling of pleasure is also tenfold when you feel the enthusiasm transmitted by the public when it moshes on Metal parts or when it dances on acoustic ones.
Concerning the performance of the oriental acoustic parts, we must distinguish two kinds of configuration. If Arkan plays in headlining, we don't hesitate to use traditional instruments like oud, derbouka or bendir in order to create a real intimate atmosphere. However, it's not always easy to have the opportunity to use these instruments in particular when we play in first part of a band. In this case, we adapt the way to play our songs to conserve the sound particularity of Arkan.
Bloodofheroes: You are hanging out with friends on a pleasant summer afternoon – what are you listening to?
All members of the band are musically very opened. We therefore listen to very different bands which have no connection with Metal. It is important for us not to be locked into a particular style without trying to add external elements tap into the different musical styles we listen. Moreover, when your band has the prominent place it has for us in our life, sometimes you want to “clear” our minds by listening softer and less violent bands. For my part, I listen as much Metal as French music (Brassens, Juliette) and jazz (Eric Truffaz). So, we can listen to an album of Zakk Wylde during a BBQ or to the discography of Pink Floyd in a more quiet party. Everything depends on the mood.
Bloodofheroes: If there is one core message you want to leave the Metal Underground readers with, the time for that is now!
Thanks for this interview. You can learn more about our news by visiting our official website (www.arkan.fr), our myspace and our Facebook page. At this precise moment in time we want to go out on a tour and nothing else matters. We are currently preparing our upcoming dates, the next one will take place in Paris in May. We are also preparing a video that we want to complete for the release of the album. So, stay tuned!
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