ProgPower Interview: Myrath Talks About Past, Future, and Family
Myrath is not just one of those bands that comes along every few years to give the world a taste of something new and fresh -- It is a hundred-year flood, making quick work of anything in its path, engulfing whatever it touches. There’s nothing subtle about their latest album, “Tales of the Sands” (reviewed here). It’s bold, truly novel, and a loud statement. It’s a thunderous storm across the desert, changing the landscape. At ProgPower USA XIV on September 6th, Myrath made their mark on America for the first time, putting on an unforgettable live show, flooding the ears and hearts of all in attendance.
Confirmed by many fans, as well as a member of the ProgPower crew who came to see the band backstage during my interview with them, they had owned the day. To quote the crew member (Mark), “You guys stole the show.” Humble but calmly intense vocalist Zaher Zorgati replied, “Hopefully,” to which Mark immediately retorted, “No, there’s no ‘hopefully’ about it. I tell ya, it’s what everybody’s talking about.” Metal Injection’s David Pando was also there during the interview purely as a fan, alongside Myrath’s band manager and photographer Nidhal Marzouk. Shedding some light on the ridiculous effort that Myrath had to put forth just to make it to Atlanta, both Zorgati and Marzouk opened up, moving on into the touching story behind the kind heart of their recently-deceased former band manager and father of their guitarist.
The band also discussed plans for the next album, previous tours and their accompanying thrills as well as debauchery, who they wanted to see at ProgPower as fans, and much more. The two of them had an infectious energy even a couple hours after the show, played on just four hours of sleep in the last two days. The two couldn’t help finishing each other’s sentences, belying years of closeness. They were right -- Myrath is no mere band, but a family, extending to everyone in their crew, as they were about to tell me.
Zaher Zorgati: I waited 20 hours, they waited 22 hours.
Frank Serafine (Progressivity_In_All): Did you sleep at all?
Zaher: I slept, in all, 4 hours. With the flight from Tunisia to Paris, 20 hours, and then from Paris to Atlanta, 8 or 9 hours. In all, I slept 4 hours. I came here directly a half hour before our show in a rush, and it was short. We had a lot of stress!
Frank: You didn’t look tired at all! You actually looked way better than some of the other performers.
Zaher: I had drunk four Red Bulls.
Nidhal Marzouk: We should probably have a sponsorship from Red Bull.
David Pando: But your voice! You know, to sleep jus four hours and be able to deliver all of that…
Zaher: Yeah, but it’s a good thing that I didn’t speak the whole way!
Frank Serafine: Vocal rest.
Zaher: So that was nice for me. You can imagine the stress…
Nidhal: The problem, from the outside, I say… If one of them is missing, the whole work becomes business.
Frank: You guys are irreplaceable.
Nidhal: Especially the singer! We tried to figure out what if he couldn’t come, we’d maybe make a karaoke special show. (laughs)
Zaher: We spoke with our producer, Kevin, the keyboard player, and we said that even if I don’t make it, to put my vocals on a backing track. He (referring to Nidhal) would grab the guitar and sing. (laughs) What a shame, you know? After all this time, people were waiting for us, and after that…
Nidhal: We were thinking about if Malek (Ben Arbia, guitarist) can’t come, making a special acoustic show… All the scenarios, you know?
Frank: Well, I would have been able to tell the difference between you (Zaher) and him! (laughs) You don’t exactly have the straight hair and…
Nidhal: Yeah, but if you hear my voice on the stage, it will make the difference! (laughs)
Frank: As a manager, it takes a hell of a lot to make the best of situations like this sometimes.
Zaher: He’s doing a hell of a job, really. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Bigger bands have production and all the stuff. Sometimes, you find two tour managers. You’ve got the producer with you, the crew, the security, everything. We are just six people. He’s doing all the connecting jobs. That’s hard.
Frank: No kidding, we were talking about the planes earlier, but for the record, how much work was it to come to the states?
Nidhal: I will answer to that. The negotiations began more than 8 months ago, and it wasn’t me. It was Mr. Ben Arbia, Malek’s father, who passed away in January. The full thing fell into my hands, and I was just trying to make it happen. It was a big difference, because he managed to pay everything by himself.
Zaher: He didn’t tell us. He told us that “Okay, guys, you are in good hands and you will play ProgPower.” And that’s it. After he passed away, may he rest in peace, we discovered the truth. He meant to pay everything, but didn’t tell us.
Frank: That is incredibly sweet.
Zaher: After he passed away, we managed to do some concerts and collect some money, which was really hard.
Nidhal: All the concerts we played this year, we just had one goal: Just to come here. Collecting money, making merchandise, everything, just to come here. We had to make some appointments at the embassy to get the working visas for them. That took several weeks, and after that, we had to get flight tickets. That’s why it was kind of difficult for us, because it’s the end of the holidays in Europe and Tunisia, too.
Zaher: Especially, for us, because we are North African and Arabs, also. As an Arab, you are a “bomb-maker” or you are a “terrorist” or you are “a threat”, so this bad imagery remains from a long time ago. It was really hard to get the visa and everything. Thanks to Nidhal and Kevin Codfert, and Elyes, our keyboard player also, they fixed it. Even now, when we entered the airport, they asked “Where are you eating, where are you sleeping?” I said, “Look, the visa mentioned ProgPower Atlanta. This is our purpose: to play. I’m a singer. I’m not a threat.”
Now, I told Nidhal just a few minutes ago, that I cannot imagine that I came here, played, and it’s like a flash -- like a movie -- for me now. It’s a dream come true, really. As Nidhal told you, we collected the money and paid everything out of our pocket just to come here and satisfy our friends and fans that have been waiting for us for so many years. Thank God everything went well!
Frank: You got a standing ovation from everybody!
Zaher: It was really cool! Motivating! Now we are thinking about the next album. I told the guys, “NOW, the next album must be at an even higher level.”
Frank: Have you played much in other countries outside of Tunisia?
Zaher: Yes. We did almost all of Europe except some countries like England and Russia. Portugal, Poland, and the rest.
Nidhal: They played in India, too. Dubai…
Zaher: Yeah, we played in India. We played in Dubai. Algeria, Morocco not yet. Dubai Rock Fest -- We played with Malmsteen, Epica, and Dark Tranquillity. We opened, we did a tour with Tarja Turunen, who is the ex-singer of Nightwish. We opened for her on a French tour. We also did a tour with WASP.
Frank: Interesting combination there!
Zaher: The people who came were not progressive fans, for sure, but it was really really nice, because they appreciated something new! One time in Rennes, a city in France, we played the first part of WASP. The singer of WASP, he had an infection.
Nidhal: No, it was Lille.
Zaher: In a city called Lille, the first show of the tour. Blackie Lawless had an infection. He said “No, I will not go on stage.”
Nidhal: They didn’t go on, so I went on stage at the end of their show and told them “More, more! Play more! Just play!” (laughs)
Zaher: “Sing more, two songs!” That’s it, we played it and then, after, the promoter came on the stage, and said “We are sorry, WASP will not play because blah blah blah…” With Tarja, also, we had nice shows. Who else? Orphaned Land. Our first tour.
Nidhal: 25 concerts.
Zaher: 25 concerts in 14 countries. We were four bands. Orphaned Land -- Jewish. Arkan, Algerian -- Half Algerian, half French. Artweg, French. And us. It was like the “peace” tour. We were Arabs, Jews, Christians, Atheists, living on the same tour bus. We were in tears when everything was finished. This was one of the best experiences of my life. That’s music!
Frank: That is. Well-put. I was wondering if you could explain some of the instruments that you used on “Desert Call” and “Tales of the Sands.”
Zaher: We used a lot of violins, but played in a Tunisian way.
Frank: Like on “Sour Sigh.”
Zaher: Like on “Sour Sigh.” Nobody can play like this -- any plain classical musician will never get that sensitivity and that feeling, the way to play… For percussion, daraboukas. A Tunisian flute. I don’t like to say that it is “oriental” metal, because it is “Tunisian” metal. In Tunisia, we were conquered by the Ottoman Empire, which now is Turkey, and Andalus, which is Spain. We are Berberian, also. Not barbarian, but Berberian. (laughs) We have had a connection with Romans before. We’ve got a lot of background and legacy.
Tunisian scales. We have different scales, like the Andalus scale, which is influenced by the south of Spain, with Flamenco and stuff. It is married to our traditional music, which gives an Andalus style. Ottoman scales. When you go to Turkey or Egypt in the middle-east, and you tell them to play a Tunisian scale, they will never do it. But we can do theirs.
Zaher: That’s why I’d rather say “Tunisian metal.”
Frank: I got the chance to review “Tales of the Sands,” and it was like nothing I had ever heard. How long did the album take to fully write and record?
Zaher: One year. Now we’ve spent two years touring and giving concerts. Now we are in the process of writing the new album, but I think it will take a longer time to put it out because we don’t want to calculate. We want to make it spontaneously and with complete transparency. We want to take our time and do it with feeling, and to be true so that people will feel it.
Frank: Are you going to work with Kevin Codfert again?
Zaher: Of course, always. Even when Bob Rock comes to us. (laughs) Because it’s a family. Like I said to the crowd, when you are with family…
Nidhal: It makes you stronger.
Zaher: The union makes you stronger. We are united as a family, and Kevin is like a brother and a friend, member of the family of Myrath. We have had propositions from some labels and different producers, but we didn’t want to proceed like new bands do.
Nidhal: I can add something to that. We don’t want to put our feet in the music system as it works now.
Zaher: Like Gojira, for example. They signed for five years.
Nidhal: We don’t want to sell the identity of Myrath. It’s not for money. We are not doing all that stuff to earn money. It’s not the first goal of this band. As I’ve said to Glenn (Harveston, ProgPower promoter), to all the people I met here, the sponsors, and the crew, I was really stressed, but I told them that I just need them (Myrath) to be here all together. I know that if there is some shitty thing that happens, I don’t care -- I know that if they are all together, united on the stage, that this show will be THE SHOW.
That’s how it works, too, for the writing process, for the composition of the next album and for all of the albums. They need to stay together, and it includes the crew too. In fact, the last tour we did in France was three concerts, and the keyboard player, Elyes, was at the hospital. He had some problems, but nothing serious. He was unavailable for this tour. To not cancel it, we asked Kevin if he would like to make it on stage with us and he said “Of course!” It was unexpected, to be honest.
I told Kevin to come here two days ago.
Frank: That was very lucky!
Nidhal: We needed a keyboard here, and we sent the rider a month ago. We just had to find a keyboard player. We found the same keyboard as the one Kevin used a long time ago and a floppy disk of sounds! (laughs)
Frank: You explained how it was working with Kevin Codfert. Who is “Apostrophe For A Legend” dedicated to?
Zaher: It’s for Ronnie James Dio.
Frank: How about “Sour Sigh,” is that song a bit personal?
Zaher: Some of them are personal, but I don’t try to put so many personal influences in a song. I try to create a whole new world or a whole new story rather than put personal feelings. There is, in every song, a personal side, though.
Frank: It came from a deeply personal perspective, inside the guy’s brain, thinking about “My friends have died. I’m out here. What am I doing?”
Zaher: Yeah, for sure. I can’t speak about different cases, but I put my own point of view in it.
Frank: So which band are you guys most interested in seeing on the ProgPower stage, as fans?
Zaher: This edition? This edition, okay. Circus Maximus and Shadow Gallery.
Nidhal: Myrath? Because I’m not on stage! (laughs)
David Pando: Another show? Do it again! (laughs)
Frank: Yeah, you guys can play another set, right? 20 minutes? We’ll be back there.
Zaher: For sure, yeah! (laughs) But, for me, speaking about watching bands, I saw Dream Theater live. We were invited by Dream Theater to see them on stage. Nidhal was the bridge between us and Dream Theater because he did photos for them. Most of the photos on their site were from Nidhal. Jordan (Rudess, keyboardist) invited us to see the show and to meet them after the show. It was a dream for me. “It’s okay, now I can die!” (laughs)
They are so humble. I like musicians like this. They don’t play like rock stars. That’s why I love them and their music, of course.
Frank: Awesome. What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you on stage in your years of playing?
Zaher: Funniest thing? To forget the lyrics. That’s mine.
Nidhal: No, no, no no no. The funniest thing that happened was in Romania during the tour with Orphaned Land. It was the last tour date and all of the bands…
Zaher: Ahh, FUCK…
Frank: Ahhhh, now this will be good!
Zaher: This is when I was drunk.
Nidhal: Ah, yeah, but that was just a part of it! (laughs)
Zaher: That is why I don’t drink, anyway. Really! I was alcohol-addicted, so I’ve stopped completely.
Nidhal: Now it’s Red Bull. (laughs) For all the bands, it was the last tour date. It was a real mess on stage…
Zaher: How could you remember this?
Nidhal: Hah, I remember everything! And I have videos!
Nidhal: The Arkan guys and Orphaned Land guys, all the guys came on stage during the show. They were wearing stupid clothes and doing stupid stuff on stage.
Zaher: One of Arkan, he brought a plastic doll, like with boobs and stuff.
Frank: A blow-up doll.
Zaher: One of them! He was having it give a blowjob for the singer of Orphaned Land, which was a complete mess, and people were like, “Ahhhhh!”
Nidhal: The drummer of Orphaned Land came with potato chips and threw them on the drum kit while Arkan was playing! That was really crazy.
Zaher: Then, while I was drunk on the tour bus, I went directly to sleep. Because I was totally drunk, I had passed out. All of them came with Mark, the tour manager for Orphaned Land. They started speaking with me, but I was half-dead, and he was still speaking in Hebrew.
Nidhal: He was just trying to repeat him!
Zaher: Not trying! I was repeating exactly the same, and they were long sentences and long phrases of Hebrew! In that situation, I could repeat every single word.
Zaher: If I were in a normal state, I could never do this.
Nidhal: And he was singing, too! “Happy birthday to you…”
Zaher: I was singing Happy Birthday. I don’t know why. (laughs)
Nidhal: We do a lot of stupid things when we’re touring.
Zaher: As I said, when you’ve got some humble musicians with you and you’re having fun with them, nobody is acting like a superstar… No, this is only about music. Enjoying music. Enjoying spiritual things.
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