Formed in 2000 as one of the first extreme metal bands to emerge from Dubai, U.A.E. and having supported legendary metal bands such as Metallica, Anthrax, Morbid Angel and Suffocation – Nervecell have become the most prominent band to arise from the Middle East and truly are the torchbearers for a Middle Eastern wave of metal. Delivering a unique blend of Middle Eastern death / thrash metal, and maintaining a reputation for highly energetic live performances, got the folks at Metal Hammer Magazine to include Nervecell as one of the "DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH" – listing the band as one of the "50 Heroes Of The New Metal Revolution" in 2011.
After consistently playing the underground metal scene for four years, Nervecell independently released their first E.P. entitled "Human Chaos" in 2004. With the release of the E.P. the band opened for international metal bands Sepultura and Machine Head in Dubai at the Desert Rock Festival in 2005. The band later headlined a tour in Australia in 2007 and even performed at Metal Camp Festival in Tolmin, Slovenia that same year to promote the E.P. It was only until 2009 however, when the band released their debut album "Preaching Venom" under German label Lifeforce Records (Europe) and Spellbind Records (Middle East). The band members decided to focus on touring for the entire year to promote the album and set out to establish their new European fan base for the first time. Soon after booking and completing their own European club tour in early 2009, Nervecell immediately set out on an impressive 2009 European festival tour which included performances at a number of well renowned European festivals such as Wacken Open Air, With Full Force, Rock AM Ring, Rock IM Park, Way of Darkness, Metal GDL and many others, clearly marking Nervecell as the first Middle Eastern based band to ever play at such high scale European festivals. In early 2010 Nervecell hit the road supporting New York death metal legends Suffocation for an entire month on the "Legacy of blood European / UK Tour". With another successful tour under their belt the band continued touring extensively for the rest of the year around Asia and the Middle East next– this saw the band open for acts such as Deicide, As I Lay Dying, and Decapitated.
In May 2011 Nervecell released their highly anticipated new album entitled "Psychogenocide", intertwining the raw brutality of old school death metal with modern thrash metal elements of no-holds barred aggression and speed. "Psychogenocide" featured Karl Sanders (Nile) as a guest vocalist on the track "Shunq" – this made it the first ever extreme metal track to included both English and Arabic lyrics. The success of "Psychogenocide" also gained Nervecell an award for being the "All Time Best Selling Metal Act" in the Middle East and North Africa region. The band received a plaque of recognition from Virgin Megastores (MENA) in January 2012 to certify this huge accomplishment. "Psychogenocide" was also sited as one of the "Top 10 Death metal Albums of 2011" by many webzines, magazines and critics around the world. With the ongoing success surrounding "Psychogenocide", the band had carried on touring consistently, taking their brand of Middle Eastern death / thrash metal to all the corners of the world, headlining shows in countries as far as India, Philippines, Australia, Turkey, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Bahrain, Qatar, U.A.E among many others as well as playing the main stages of such great European festivals such as Summer Breeze, Brutal Assault and Rock IM Betonwerk in the summer of 2011.
In October 2011, Nervecell were selected to open for Metallica in front of 30,000 people in Abu Dhabi as part of the "Death Magnetic World Tour". Shortly after the band had gone on the road for an entire month with Tampa, Florida Death Metal icons Morbid Angel, supporting them on the European leg of the "Illud Divinum Insanus Tour" in November / December 2011, marking the end of what was an incredible year of achievements for the band. The legacy of Nervecell in 2012 certainly looks promising, with a new album in the works for next year, the band remain confident in seeking to achieve their goals and proving to the rest of the world that heavy metal is indeed alive and well in the Middle East!
Well, here Rami (Guitars) talking about NERVECELL.....Let's check it out now :
John Yoedi : Hi there. Thanks first of all for agreeing to this interview. And I Hope you are well there. Kieran James (Australia) and I share for this blog. Anyway, How are things going at the moment for NERVECELL camp? And who will be answer for this interview ?
Rami: Thanks guys! We recently came back from our Middle East tour supporting our latest album “Psychogenocide”. We played great shows in Qatar, UAE, Bahrain and we’ll be continuing with the second part of our “Psychogenocide Middle East 2012” tour with tentative dates in Lebanon, Egypt and hopefully more countries in the Middle East region – exact dates to be confirmed.
JY : Firstly, I want to say Congrats on the great ’Psycogenocide’ album and it was release last year 2011 with 10 track and one an intro ‘Anemic Assurgency’. I know you have been working hard to make this album available in the world. Well, would you like to tell us a bit, how long you been working for this album and also the recording process ?
Rami: “Psychogenocide” is our second full length album released on Lifeforce Records for Europe and Spellbind Records for the Middle East last year. We pretty much started coming up with ideas for the album mid-2010 in between our European tour supporting Suffocation and other tours happening at that time mostly in Asia and Europe. It was a very busy period for us - starting the writing process and being at the end of the touring cycle of our previous album “Preaching Venom” was pretty challenging. Writing the album was a pretty cool experience - coming up with the guitar riffs first - as we usually do when we write - after that we throw parts together and we start brainstorming unto forming full complete songs. The writing process was completed around 3 months before entering the studio. We locked ourselves in the studio for a good month just focusing on arranging the songs, recording demos, working on the drums, and lyrics and everything in between. It was fun times with a little bit of pressure - aside from the writing process I also produced/engineered the album - recording the guitars, bass, vocals in Dubai, as well continued sessions in Qatar. The drums was recorded in Australia by Dave Haley (Psycropitc), and we sent the final recorded tracks to Hertz Studio in Poland who handled the mixing and mastering process.
JY : And what has been the reaction/feedback thus far from medias/fans?
Rami: The reactions were great! The fans are definitely happy with it and we were very happy as well. The media and press gave us overall great feedback with reviews so we were very satisfied.
JY : On this album, especially for ‘شنق - Shunq (To The Despaired…King of Darkness) song , you’re an invite Karl Sanders as guest vocals. This made it the first ever extreme metal track to included both English and Arabic lyrics…that’s awesome. Would you like to tell us about this ? And how did you get in touch with him ?
Rami: “Shunq” is the only song on the album that has Arabic lyrics/singing parts. The idea came up when James (vocalist/bassist) wanted to use Arabic lyrics on the album which is pretty much a first timer in extreme metal. We thought “why not bring another person to sing the English parts to make it more versatile vocal-wise?”. So we thought Karl Sanders would be a great addition as we are fans of his music and his vocals style which goes well with the style of the song. So we got in touch with him and he was very interested to do it and he did an awesome job!
JY : Also would you like to tell us a bit about Official Video of ‘شنق – Shunq’ (To The Despaired…King Of Darkness) featuring Karl Sanders ?
Rami: Karl Sanders was invited to our album launch in Dubai. So we thought it would be perfect to shoot the video together since he’s already in the country. We planned it ahead and selected a location in the desert of Al-Ain - a city in the UAE with beautiful nature which fits the mood and theme of the song perfectly. The video's been out now for a while you can watch it online at our official Youtube channel.
JY : How do you feel ‘Psycogenocide’ compare to your previous album ‘Preaching Venom’ ? Are there certain things you would like to have changed ?
Rami: Overall it’s a heavier album. It has it’s “thrash” and it’s “death” metal dose spread out well. Some listeners classify it as "technical death metal” sometimes, which is surprising in a good way, and I do agree it’s in a way technical yet it’s not intended to be classified as “tech death”, but it’s cool to hear so for sure. We mixed it up and tried our best to balance it out as much as possible. I feel it’s less melodic in most of the songs, yet some songs are melodic too. It definitely got a dark vibe to it, which happened pretty naturally in the writing process. It’s definitely a mature album as well. We matured as musicians as well as persons, so it’s bound to happen. I wouldn’t say that we wanted to change anything on this album but we will definitely push the envelope in the next one.
JY : Any new and different techniques you have approached this time ? And do you think the new one is more ‘old school’ or ?
Rami: It’s definitely old school with a modern sound and production, and that’s what we wanna keep in our music really. I see both “Psychogenocide” and “Preaching Venom” are old school death/thrash metal yet modern sounding albums on the same level. Our techniques are pretty much the same in “Psychogenocide” yet we do keep exploring new ideas and techniques and we do bring them in whenever possible as long as it sounds good.
JY : Which bands have been your biggest influences and how much inspiration do you actually take from them?
Rami: I grew up listening to thrash metal and death metal mainly. Some names would be Testament, Slayer, Megadeth, Death, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Suffocation and many more. The rest of the guys have more or less the same influences. Some of us like hardcore, black metal, and other sub-genres.
JY : When you released Full length album ‘Preaching Venom’ , for behind the drum kit was David Haley, as we know he is Psycroptic Drummer. How did David Haley came to play on drums for this album ?
Rami: We came across each other after our first tour in Australia in 2007 and I was in touch with him since then. His drumming style is pretty much what we are looking for. So I spoke to him and agreed to record our first album and we worked with him again on “Psychogenocide”. He recorded all our drum tracks in Australia where he's based. We pretty much worked together through sessions going back and forth.
JY : And who is permanent drummer for Nervecell ?
Rami: Unfortunately we do not have a permanent drummer. We have been sessioning drummers since 2008. We've been working with Louis Rando from Australia (The Furor, Impiety etc.) for a good 3 years and now our current session drummer is Kevin from French metallers Benighted.
JY : The current members of Nervecell is James Khazaal (Bass,Vocals), Rami H. Mustafa (Drums Programming, Guitars) and Barney Ribeiro (Guitars). And the members are from Lebanon, Jordan and India. How do you manage to adapt to things and get the job done, because each other not living closer ?
Rami: The band is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and this is where James and I went for our university and met Barney. We all come from different countries but we are based in Dubai.
JY : I know you are all good and highly impressive musicians. What was the reason or the inspiration from you all then decided to playing Death / Thrash Metal music for NERVECELL ?
Rami: Thanks. We all pretty much started listening to metal at a young age. I come from a musical family. My father is a professional musician. My uncles are musicians as well. None of them played any rock or metal but my inspiration and passion for music started being around my family really. I started picking up different instruments like keyboards, bass, drums, guitar when I was young and just fiddling around, you know, instruments laying around the house growing up. I got my hands on a guitar at around the age of 5 and started teaching myself. I started getting into metal when I started listening to bands as Megadeth, Metallica, Sabbath etc. and gradually getting into other bands and styles.
JY : I assume you write the music individually but how is the whole process of putting a song together ?
Rami: We start with writing guitar riffs or musical parts individually and collectively. It really depends. We then meet up or send each other ideas to develop into full songs or we keep them in a library/bank to try out with different ideas and so on. Once we start forming a skeleton for a song, we layer down the drums demo or patterns and then pass them on to the drummer. Lyrics and vocals are then worked on at a later stage.
JY : The lyrical themes of death /thrash metal usually talking about Hate, Humanity Issues, Society, Misery, Corruption, politic, Injustice and etc. Did you write the lyrical themes as I said before or ? Are they based on reality or fiction ?
Rami: We speak about reality. Whether it’s personal or describing what’s happening around us in the world. Metal is all about reality.
JY : And how do you approach a song, given that you use so many different layers, styles and elements ? Did all the band members throw ideas into Nervecell music or did you have one uniform concept from which you built the picture up gradually ?
Rami: As I mentioned it’s mostly guitar driven. We come up with guitar riffs first, drum patterns next, and write the lyrics. We always push each other and recommend to each other ideas all the time. We keep in mind that we want the best for each other and we go ahead with ideas once we're all satisfied with.
JY : What gears do you use to record and do you use the same amp/guitars, drums and etc for live shows ?
Rami: for "Psychogenocide" we used ENGL Special Edition amp head. TC Electronic G-Force for some guitar effects, which I use live sometimes as well. For guitars Barney used an LTD and I used a BC Rich Assassin which I don’t use anymore since I’m currently endorsing Ibanez. For bass, we used a Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver DI and Spector basses which James uses live. Dave used Pearl drums, which I’m pretty sure he uses live as well.
JY : And do you have any endorsements ? If yes, please tell us ?
Rami: I’m endorsed by ENGL amps, Ibanez guitars, EMG pickups, GHS strings and In Tune Guitar Picks. Barney endorses Madison amps, EMG pickups, GHS strings and In Tune Guitar Picks. James is endorsed by Spector basses, EMG pickups, GHS strings and In Tune Guitar Picks. We all endorse Monster Energy Drink.
JY : How did the deal with Spellbind Records ? Are you satisfied with things like promotion and such ?
Rami: We signed with Spellbind Records which is based in Dubai for the Middle East region as we got approached back in 2008. For Lifeforce Records (Europe) we spoke to the label as we were seeking for a European home and they were very interested and we signed with them after our European Festival Tour in 2009. We are very happy to be the first extreme metal band from the region to become officially signed. They are both good labels, very hard working, so I would say so far so good.
JY : Has there been any offers from any big labels yet ? Independent or mainstream label, which of these would you choose to be on ?
Rami: We are on 2 independent labels so I don’t know how it is like to be on a mainstream label yet , but we did speak to major labels before yes. For us as long as we have creative control and we are free to do what we want with our music then it doesn’t really make a difference. Sure, mainstream labels would be bigger but not necessarily better. It all depends really.
JY : I know you never been tour to Indonesia. Lots of great bands have toured to Indonesia like Dying Fetus, Disgorge (San Diego-Ca), Suffocation, Misery Index, Kataklysm, etc and Indonesian has a reputation as a country with a strong metal fan base. Did you have ambitions to come here ?
Rami: It would be great to perform in Indonesia! We are very aware of the metal scene over there. Some of my old high school friends are Indonesian so they keep telling me about how good the metal scene is over there. We also get alot of requests from Indonesian metal fans to come down for a show so we stoked about that. We are touring in Asia this September with Decapitated but unfortunately we're not doing Indonesia - yet hopefully we'll make an appearance in the near future for sure.
JY : What has been your touring experience since the band was formed ? What other bands have toured with and what countries has the band performed in ?
Rami: when we started we never knew we will be traveling and performing so many countries. Its phenomenal to think all about it now. Being based in the Middle East was also a challenge for touring but that never really stopped us. Fortunately we have traveled to play many countries and regions so far including Europe, Australia, Asia, North Africa and Middle East. We directly supported, toured, and shared stages with bands such as Metallica, Anthrax, Morbid Angel, Suffocation, Deicide, As I Lay Dying and more.
JY : On September 13th 2012, your band will be touring to Singapore with a great band ‘Decapitated’ from Poland. And then Decapitated will be continue to do tour in Indonesia. Will you coming to Indonesia with them on September 15th 2012 ? It would be nice if your band could be coming to Indonesia. And I really want to watching your great band here.
Rami: we are touring with Decapitated on certain dates including Singapore, Thailand and Nepal in September 2012. We are super excited and we were hoping to play Indonesia but unfortunately we wont this time yet it's gonna happen one day.
JY : The cover artwork from your all album is awesome and very sick … i like it very much . Who came up with the concept, and how many designs did you have to wade through until you came to this one ? Is it same artist for all cover Nervecell album ?
Rami: he's an artist named Bjorn Gosses from Germany who we basically told him what we are looking for. We gave him the album lyrics for some inspiration and which we worked on it further. It's our first time to work together.
JY : And how important do you think the artwork is ? Should there be a certain synergy between the artwork and the music ?
Rami: we always work on getting the artwork to be related and complimentary to the music and lyrics. It can be very challenging sometimes, but for sure its important to work around artwork that is distinctive, unique and meaningful.
JY : And Just as a side question, What do you think about Busuk Webzine ? On Busuk Webzine we just trying to make two language, English language and Indonesian language.
Rami: you guys are doing a great job supporting metal! Keep up the great work!
JY : Honestly I don’t know much about Extreme Metal bands in Dubai. What is the current situation of real metal scene in Dubai ? Any bands I should be checking out ?
Rami: there are very few metal bands in our scene nowadays. Back 10-15 years ago there were more metal bands. Unfortunately nowadays bands break up or do not take their music seriously so very few bands do last. Check out Perversion and Midway - those are the only metal bands I recall now.
JY : Are you going to tour in support of ‘Psycogenocide’ ? If you could go on tour with any old school bands in the world, who would you choose such as Slayer, Iron Maiden, Hammerfall, and Exodus ?
Rami: since the release of "Psychogenicide" we have been touring a lot actually. We've toured Europe, Asia and recently the Middle East in support of this album. To tour with Slayer would be crazy!
JY : And how did you feel when your band ‘Nervecell’ as opening for the big show with Metallica, which took place in Abu Dabhi, United Arab Emirates last year. And I think it was awesome show and a 30.000 audience came to there.
Rami: it's really the pinnacle of our career. We've been a band for more than 10 years now and to open for the biggest name in metal music is a dream come true. Not only we got the chance to exclusively open for Metallica, but we had the opportunity to meet the band, and get to watch them perform live for the first time. To perform for our home crowd with Metallica cannot get any better.
JY : Would you like to tell us a little bit about your lives away from NERVECELL? Work, Interest ….. ? And if you were not a musician, what do you think you would have done as a day to day job ?
Rami: we all graduated from universities and we have our side things going on other than the band. I run a small business. Barney works in a record label and James freelances different jobs.
JY : Before closing this interview, I want to asking about what is meaning the ‘BIG VAL’, the nick name from James Khazaal hahaha.
Rami: if you ever watched the infamous Pantera home videos you'd be very familiar with Big Val. He is one of Pantera's crew member and James simply looks like him haha!
JY : Well, many thanks for your time and support. Best of luck for Nervecell. Would you like to say something to the readers here ?
Rami: Thanks for having me. I would like to thank the readers. Hopefully we will visit and perform in Indonesia soon! Keep up the good work and stay metal!
Rami / Nervecell
(Interviewed by John Yoedi, July 23, 2012)
If you want to know more this band, please click this link below :