Nervecell are a death/ thrash metal band based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. They released their second album “Psychogenocide” last year. I reviewed the album here. I interviewed their guitarists, Barney and Rami for theunderground.in before they co-headlined the Deccan Rock Festival in Hyderabad in May last year.
Since this interview, Nervecell have opened for Metallica in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. and also toured Europe with Morbid Angel.
Hey guys congrats on the release of your new album “Psychogenocide”. Can you tell us a bit about the album?
Rami: Thank you very much! “Psychogenocide” is set for release in March (Middle East via Spellbind Records) and April/May (Europe & UK via Lifeforce Records). Well I can say it’s a very brutal, thrashy, dark and progressive album. Fans can expect lots of heavy elements and groove with a fair amount of melody and oriental/Middle Eastern touches. There are some new things we tried in this album; we added Arabic singing and instruments. On the intro track “Anemic Assurgency” the “Oud” instrument was used. For the song “Shunq (To The Despaired…King Of Darkness”) which also features Karl Sanders on vocals, our vocalist James added some awesome Arabic phrases while Karl did most of the English singing parts. In the song “The Taste of Betrayal” which is an instrumental, we added Arabian/Gulf style percussions! We experimented a little bit on this album and it turned out to sound great yet it’s a full on death/thrash metal! I hope the listeners will enjoy it a lot!
Are there any surprises on the album for those who have been following Nervecell since the release of the “Human Chaos” EP?
Barney: Surprises! Hmmm none that I can think of except for the fact that we have incorporated some G.C.C. traditional Arabic instruments on this new record. We want this album to stand for itself and represent the band for who we are today, a lot of the album deals with what’s going on in our present lives and you best believe its one dark and angry record! I mean “Preaching Venom” was an obvious step up from “Human Chaos” in the song writing and technicality wise, also in the production too of course. I don’t think that we’re the kind of band who experiments to the extent where we let our fans down. We’re a metal band with old school death metal and early thrash metal influences. I guess on “Psychogenocide” the old and the new fans alike will realise that we seem to have developed our own sound as we progress and grow as musicians. I think we’ve accomplished a lot being a Middle East based metal band and the music has and always will speak for itself!
The track “Shunq (To the Despaired…King of Darkness)” is your first track with Arabic lyrics and also features Karl Sanders on guest vocals. Why the use of Arabic on this song? How did you manage to get Karl Sanders to do vocals?
Rami: As we are a Middle Eastern based band and James (our singer) speaks Arabic and he reads lots of Arabic literature and poetry we wanted to try something different and use Arabic language on the album. So the idea around this song came from quoting the well known Arabic writer/poet Hassan Bin Thabit who talks about his struggle with Satan/the devil, which is based on true experiences and stories. James wanted to express his similar feelings towards the devil and the devil’s evil doings towards humanity and used the word “Shunq” which is Arabic for “hang by the neck” to express the disgust towards the devil and how the devil will be judged towards the end of time!
We felt it would be awesome to have someone else sing the English parts of the song and thought Karl Sanders would be a perfect fit! We are big fans of Karl’s music and style that he relates to the Middle East too relatively close to the song’s topic and of course his singing style is perfect for the song! We got in touch with Karl and he accepted to work with us on this song, which is a real honour for us!
How different was the song writing process for this album compared to “Preaching Venom”?
Barney: Well with “Preaching Venom” we wrote that album over the course of 4 years, some of us juggling with our university degrees and jobs etc. For “Psychogenocide” Rami and I were writing the music for the whole of last year in between the tours we were doing in Europe and Asia. A lot of the ideas were shared using the internet for a few months and then we both locked ourselves together in the studio for an entire month and worked on song arrangements and putting the songs together, sharing ideas etc. I’d like to say we learnt a lot too being on the road and being a full time touring band, it made us want to go back and write some new music in fact! I think the time was right and we did a damn well job given the schedule we were dealing with to put this new album out.
The album was recorded by Rami in studios in Dubai, UAE and Doha, Qatar, Any reason behind this?
Rami: For this album we didn’t really want to have someone in specific to engineer the album and since I was able to handle the engineering part, and also learning from my past experiences in the production of past Nervecell albums, I was ready to do it myself. It was a great experience really… little pressure too apart from writing music to work on the production of the album at the same time takes lots of energy and concentration, but I gotta say I’m very happy with the results. Most of the album was recorded in Dubai at Spellbind Studio. We took a couple of days off from the studio travelled to Bahrain to perform a show there and coming back to the studio to continue recording I had to leave back to Qatar, so the whole recording studio with the gear had to be shifted to Qatar as we only had very little time in our schedule. All the gear including the studio was shifted to Qatar. The rest of the band and our manager came down and I had to set up a temp studio at my office. Our manager has done a great job shifting all the gear, gotta say that was a plan B! Mixing and mastering was done at Hertz Studio in Poland.
The artwork for the album by Björn Goosses of Killustrations is pretty interesting. Can you tell us a bit about the concept behind it?
Barney: It’s pretty obvious when you look at it; it represents the state of which we are all living under today. A controlled system set to run under a hidden agenda which most of us humans are completely oblivious to! It’s an angry record and we’re trying to have our say through our music and smarten up the ignorant and naive society we are surrounded by. The world is war and corruption at its worst right now, at least in our neighbouring countries it seems to be the case, its time for people to open their eyes and seek the real truth!
The album will be released by Lifeforce records in Europe and US, how has it been working with them so far?
Rami: So far so good. They’re a good label in Europe and are working on our 2nd album so far. Our other label Spellbind Records in Dubai are pushing the album really good so far and working together with Lifeforce Records to make sure the album have a great impact both in the European and Middle Eastern markets.
What equipment do you guys use to get that crushing sound on your albums and also live?
Rami: We actually used some of the same exact gear we use live on the recording of this album. Barney used LTD guitars, I used B.C. Rich guitars, James used a Spector bass and all 3 of us use EMG pickups and GHS strings. The main guitar sound comes from an ENGL SE head…that was pretty much it.
“Preaching Venom” is currently available in India via CdRack.in. Are there any plans for distribute the new album “Psychogenocide” in India?
Barney: I think it’s a matter of time, we’ve had a few options for the new album to be distributed there but I believe even without a distribution deal there the fans will always find a way to get their hands on the music if they really want it, or we’ll just have to come back and tour India and bring a shit load of merchandise along with us to make up for it…haha
What was your favourite gig on your recent India tour?
Barney: The Mumbai gig at the Blue Frog HANDS DOWN! Bangalore and Hyderabad were both great shows in their own way, especially Hyderabad since not a lot goes down there but those dudes in Mumbai certainly know how to have a f#*king good time in the pits!
Rami: I really enjoyed all the cities, but I gotta say Mumbai had the craziest crowd, so much energy it was so awesome!
You’ve been confirmed as Co-headliners of the Deccan Rock Festival in India. How do you feel playing again in front of an India audience?
Barney: We are going to be touring around Asia starting April 2011 in the Philippines with Anthrax, Death Angel and a few more bands, post that in May we will return to play a show in Sri Lanka before heading out to co headline the Deccan Rock Festival 2011 in Hyderabad, India. We played India last year and we said we would be back just seeing how hardcore the fans there are, it is exciting for us to play India again because we do realize we have an incredible Nervecell army of fans there and we just cannot wait to unleash the new tunes onto them! So that’s going to be one hell of a ride kicking off the “Psychogenocide” touring cycle in Asia first!
Will there be more shows in India?
Barney: Not that I know of…but we sure would do so if we get any offers!
What are your plans for rest of 2011?
Barney: To continue touring in support of the new album “Psychogenocide” going straight into 2012!
Any final words?
Barney: India we really enjoyed playing to you all last year and we sure as hell wanna come back and tear shit with you guys again very soon! Stay Sick…
Rami: Thanks for the support, and do check out our new album ‘Psychogenocide’ once it’s out…we’ll be performing the new songs at Deccan Rock 2011 for our fans in India! Looking forward to be back to India soon!
Heres the video for Shunq (To The Despaired…King Of Darkness) featuring Karl Sanders (Nile)