What inspired this album, lyrically and musically?
Musically speaking, we started with the premise of "Burning Flesh" then "Hilal" and "Salam" is the logical next step. Our only goal was to incorporate in a more pronounced way our oriental influences. So, "Salam" continues the direction initiated by "Hilal".
This album is more melodic and a more prominent part was given to oriental moods and harmonies. We worked on the insertion of the oriental parts within metal compositions. We really wanted that a mysterious alchemy was created leaving in questions the oriental or metal musical aspect of each part. Arkan was never intended to do two identical albums / EP. The compositions of our releases are different but follow the same connecting thread.
Concerning the lyrics, we were inspired by events around us, the geopolitical conflicts and misunderstanding between peoples who are yet supposed to be brothers. Specifically, “Salam” relates timeless and universal fears and resentments of two peoples with two different religions which coexist in the same area. Everyone feels its hatred gradually rised inside them and that the point of no return has been crossed. Cause of intellectual manipulation and propaganda, both peoples decide to make war but, exhausted by it, people are increasingly distancing themselves from their instincts of hatred. Having committed all these massacres, and cohabitation seeming the only possible way, they decided to turn their eyes towards the others. Our tour with Orphaned Land under the « Tour Against Racism » have confirmed our choice of theme of Salam.
What is the metal scene like in France? Did geography have any influence on your style?
For years, the French metal scene has suffered from a bad impression. Fortunately, things are slowly changing. I think we have some very good bands in France whose technical level is comparable to Scandinavian and U.S. Bands. Bands like Gojira or Dagoba are currently restoring the reputation of French metal scene.
I think also that the French public is looking for some musical originality and wants more cultural innovation. The mixture of cultures in the West favors this openness. Metal fans are becoming more curious and want, particularly via the Internet, new musical experience. Arkan is trying to meet this need and offering an original music.
Generally speaking, we would like to create a bridge between people from different musical and cultural backgrounds. We are facing this diversity of cultures in our everyday lives. Out of our music we create a rallying point that is representing what we stand for.
Arkan's members also reflects this culture mix. I was born in Paris, but because of my parents I have Moroccan roots. Abder, Mus and Samir were all born in Algeria and finally there is Florent, who was born in France as well and is of Italian and Greek origins. Although Florent is the only non-North African, he grew up with friends from Maghreb; so this kind of music was not new for him. The proposal was made to each musician to use the music of the countries of our descent to delight everyone, despite the fact that we are die hard fans of metal. This mixture was fairly new for a French band and our desire to tap into the cultures of our origins was naturally linked with our desire for a revival of this country's metal scene. So, I think it's a non-sense to assimilate Arkan with an unique nationality.
Your style is so varied and eclectic. How did you come to that marriage of sounds?
The idea to combine metal and oriental music in this project goes back a long way and even pre-dates the time when I joined The Old Dead Tree. I have always wanted to combine my cultural origins with the music I am most fond of.
Except a small number of bands, oriental music was not represented in the European Metal scene. I thought this project might bring a new breath in trying to mix two very different styles: oriental music including chaabi which is the musical style the most popular in Maghreb and a powerful metal with growls and hard riffs.
It is 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. My inclusion in The Old Dead Tree helped me to build my experience in a professional band and create a social network in this scene.
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.
Do you have plans on touring in America?
Unfortunately not yet! Even if we had the opportunity to do gigs abroad, for now we primarily focus ourselves on French territory.
However, our albums are distributed all over the world and we start to be solicited for playing in foreign countries. We have already played in Holland, Tunisia and Switzerland with bands as prestigious as Septicflesh and Orphaned Land.
We're booking an European tour scheduled for the last quarter of 2011 and several dates following the release of Salam begin to be planed.
Do you have any bands (big or small) that you would want to tour with?
At this time, we made two French and European tours with the two bands mentioned above for which we have a big respect. It was a very rewarding experience musicaly and humanly speaking. We had the opportunity to work with people passionate by their art. The atmosphere of harmony and mutual respect between these bands and us has generated a lot of good times and the worst of its was the time of the separation.
There is a lot of bands we would like to tour with like Behemoth, Opeth or Anathema. But we must not forget that the most important thing during a tour is the contact with our fans and the emotions shared with the public and this situation doesn't only depends on the band you tour with.
What are your thoughts on the downloading of music? Do you see it as a problem, or is it helping to spread great music across the world?
It's a very complex problematic. I think the situation is different depending on the notoriety of the band.
It's true that a little band which wants to become known needs to spread its music in particular via Internet. In this case, this media is a fantastic vehicle for broadcasting the composition of a young band.
Conversely, downloads of very famous artists' songs does not shock me. The biggest music major companies which own copyrights on these songs have collected a lot of money. So, the downloading of this tracks doesn't jeopardize the economic health of the musical industry. Morever, we must have in mind that of lot of this famous songs has just been downloaded for fun and the downloaders would never buy this albums.
However, the situation is more critical for bands which begin to be well-known but doesn't succeed to generate sufficient money to live through their art. For them, the impact of downloading is very harmful. Musicians which succeeded to modestly live through their art before the expansion of downloading must now seaching a job in order to live.
I don't want to be too sanctimonious but I think that this situation is sad and is not beneficial for the musical diversity.
What does the future hold for Arkan?
Regarding "Salam”, I think I can say that the hardest part is behind us.
So, we are working on upcoming gigs and in particular on a gig on headlining in Paris. The changes in the performance of our new album due to the departure of Abder require an adjustment period in order to give our best on stage.
Several dates following the release of “Salam” are being booked and we're going to plan an European tour scheduled for the end of 2011.