Mesopotamian black/thrash pioneers MELECHESH return with the release of their new album “Enki”, on March 10th. Metalpaths caught up with the singer of the band Ashmedi in order to gain further information concerning the recordings and the lyrics of the album as well as the special guests that featured on it.
So, your new album “Enki” was recorded in Devasoundz Studios in Athens during last summer (2014). How was the Mediterranean experience and why did you choose Greece to record the album?
To be accurate, the drums were made in Devasoundz and the rest was made in Grindhouse with Bokos. Then it was mixed in Sweden and mastered there. I wanted to record in Greece because I feel at home there, I like the weather and the vibes are very close to the vibes that when Melechesh started, you know? So I wanted to feel a little bit authentic. And besides, there is a really good scene there and we have lots of friends so I knew we were in good hands. And we do it our way, you know, we lead we don’t follow so we step out of the box. We’re offered studios in Sweden, in England, in USA, Canada.. We said “No, we were going to try this, go to Greece”. It’s not often that bands fly from Germany, Holland to go to Greece to record, I don’t know why, that’s good quality. So, we did that and we pumped something also in the local economy, haha. Because we spent three months going out to dinner, taxis. Better in Greece than in a rich place like Sweden, they don’t need us there, haha.
Hahaha, thank you very much for that! (laughing)
I’m kidding, it’s nice to support the scene but there are always good people, good weather and the culture is very close to mine because I’m Armenian-Assyrian and it’s exactly the same culture.
I totally understand. That said leads me to the next question. You’re friends with Sakis (Tolis) from Rotting Christ. Is that right?
He made a guest appearance in the album (“Enki”). Could you tell us more about this co-operation? Is it because you’re friends all these years and why didn’t it happen before? I expected it in the last album too (“The Epigenesis”).
The thing is, it’s not about your friends coming on the albums. We’ve got many friends in the scene – you know, everybody would be on it. It’s about respecting the talent and also about the fact that it’s suitable to the music. When I came to Greece, he let me know, he told that it would be cool if we cooperated because we’ve been talking about it. And he has different vocals than mine, a little bit lower-pitched and I love his Greek accent, it’s so charming. So, I thought it would be really cool on this mid-tempo mystical song to have him and he’s a gentleman as well. That’s pretty much how it worked. I really like his band very much and he likes my band – it’s an artistic appreciation. We toured for five weeks in the States and it was really fun, we all got along so well.
Okay… What are your thoughts on “Enki” now that is complete and ready to be released?
It’s a damn good album. At first, I was so exhausted I couldn’t be objective but the record company said it’s a really good album. And then now, I had more time to listen to it and I do agree – it’s a very diverse with good composition skills and that’s one of my best compositions so I’m very proud of it. I hate saying like some people say when there is a new album “This is the best”. I don’t like that bullshit but you know when it’s not bullshit, it’s not. These are very good compositions and I’m proud of them. I think I was more liberated and confident in songwriting – the older I get I guess, I don’t know. I look less around and I keep my eye on the ball. It’s this whole ‘create’, not ‘recreate’ mentality. Sometimes extreme metal can be conservative that it could limit some bands. So, I didn’t want that limitation.
I agree. Where does the lyrical them lie in the new album?
Well, as a theme or general ideas it’s the duality, Middle Eastern mysticism, the occult, the cosmic connection and the origins of mankind. These are all things we play with so it’s not per se Mesopotamian mythology repeated like a story ‘he said, she said’. It’s more like a reinterpretations and there’s always dual meanings. Songs like “Lost Tribes” have dual meanings, songs like “The Palm the Eye and Lapis Lazuli” has a strong message. But I don’t want to serve it all, I want to let the readers enjoy the lyrics, trip out because it’s like taking LSD or something and on top of that, try to find the meanings in it. Because that would make it a little more playful or a bit more personal experience. So yeah, the order, chaos, duality, the mystical references from things in the middle East from the ancient Mesopotamian Sumerian mythology, the cosmic connection and the origins of mankind. These are the general aspects of the album.
In the track “Lost Tribes” Max Cavalera features a guest spot. How did this collaboration go?
He likes Melechesh a lot and when we were at a festival he came said he does (like the band) and he’s always wearing our shirts in videoclips and photoshoots of other bands he’s in. He’s always talking about us in the media and he said it’s cool if we cooperated on Soulfly. And I’m like “definitely!” and when we were doing “Lost Tribes”, I thought we needed that thrashy vocals so we asked him and he loved to do it happily. He was on tour, very busy and he still managed to find the time to do it. That’s how it was done.
How is this album differentiated from the previous Melechesh works?
I don’t know, I don’t compare; it is like having two sons saying how different the one is from each other. They’re different; obviously, the first difference is that it represents Melechesh now. It’s my state of mind as a composer, my skills as a composer now. That’s the main difference, it was recorded with 432 hertz tuning, I used 12 strings in the entire album. That is something I haven’t done before so these are little differences. The songs are very confident – I won’t say more confident, but just as confident. And they sound different – each time there’s something new we offer because we’re moving on, we’re not looking back.
Do you as a musician prefer being in the studio recording new material more than being on the road touring?
I used to love being in the studio building a new song but this experience, the last album, was so exhausting I really do like going on the road. Playing it on stage is really cool and having people relating to the music is gratifying – you feel fulfillness.
Which is the most important step on your career after having released 5 albums and 3 Eps?
Most important step? I don’t know – this is the sixth album now and I think we’re playing all over the place and that’s the strongest thing to do for a band to really be a band, a music band. I think that’s the most important thing and we’re signed on a pretty large label that has a reach to let people hear our music and to get recognition that here’s a band that pretty much invented extreme metal from the Middle East like thrash metal. That’s having a legacy that bands try to copy it – that’s a very big honour.
After all these years of your career is there something you’d like to achieve and haven’t achieved yet?
I like that what we’re doing is kind of like having a legacy, there’s bands in the Middle East acknowledging it. Haven’t achieved it? I think there is something – it’s my own vision of a DVD which is not per se ‘live’ in a concert but more like a jam session in the desert. Try to convince that to the labels – not so easy. So, I’d like ot do that once – I think it’s a very genuine way to look at a band making music. That is the core of making music – jamming. Communicate together with the feelings and just keep on playing without planning it ahead of time.
Very interesting idea, I hope you fulfil this goal.
I’ve bitching about it for a couple of years – trust me. People are like ‘I don’t get it, why?’ and I’m like ‘Because’ – ‘I don’t get it. Why?’ (laughing).
It’s the reincarnation of music for you and the fans…
Yes and it’s ok, you see cameramen, you see whatever so we could talk together in between it’s fine, it’s making music. It’s kind of like having people around in the rehearsal room with us. I say the desert because it looks good but also it’s one of the best studios in the world. The sound doesn’t bounce; it gets absorbed like inside a studio. So, sonically it’s also correct to do it there.
That’s a really good idea, I would really like to see something like that.
I’d like to do it as well.
In Greece, last time you played, you played in Thessaloniki along with Nile. I think it was 2011.
Yes but we were there in 2012 with Keep of Kalessin and Samael also.
What were your feeling when playing for the Greek audience?
Good because they are warm to us – they like us (laughing). I like people when they like us (laughing again). It was really cool, you know, you’re all over in Europe and then you come to Greece and I start having this association of home and that kind of stuff so I felt good being there. The weather was good and people were enthusiastic in the concert and that’s very important. So, I felt fantastic, I loved it and when we came back again, the same thing happened so definitely it’s a great feeling and I just hope we do Athens once also.
Any plans for coming back? This time for a live concert after last summer?
I don’t know. I mean in May we have a tour but I don’t know the routing of the tour yet. We’re going to tour for the whole month – I sincerely hope we will go to Greece and if not, then some Greek booker would better get on their a*s and book us to come to play, you know? Not one-off show, I hope we come with the tour bus to do Athens and Thessaloniki but I can’t promise because I don’t control these things. I tell my booking agent and they agree with me but they have got to make sense with the routing of the bus and stuff like that. If the bus is in Portugal, you cannot play in Athens the next day.
Any future plans in general? How would you think of the future of the band, of yourself maybe?
My self and the band are tied together because I’m a slave for it. Everything I plan in my life is for the band. It’s my full time job. I have a master’s degree in Business but I don’t use it because all I do is Melechesh at the moment. All I plan is travelling the world and touring; we have a lot of festivals and offers and when I don’t, I like to visit my family in Jerusalem or my friends in California and family there too. I’ll follow the sun or maybe in Greece as well, I don’t know. So, the plans are really lots of touring because now we’re negotiating American, Canadian tour, the South American tour and there will be a lot of touring. In the last album, we did 8 tours; I hope we’ll do just as much for this album.
I really hope so for you and the band. That was it. If you want something to add.
Efharisto poli malaka (laughs).