SCARAB are new to me but nevertheless I wanted to know more about them. Answers from Sammy. Anders Ekdahl ©2019
Was it hard to come up with a name? What does the name mean to you? How important is it to have the right name?
-It all happened during a gathering in Alexandria, Egypt in 2006 at Ahmed Abdel Samad’s house, who was part of the industrial death metal band ‘Worm’ at that time, he is also the sound producer of ‘Blinding the Masses’ 2010 & also ‘Martyrs of the Storm’ 2020, he also recently joined Scarab on the bass guitar. We are a fairly big group of friends who listen to metal and play it! And at this time our band’s name was ‘Hate Suffocation’. It was the idea of our friend ‘Tarek Shehata (Kabv) ‘ who was also from the Industrial death metal band ‘Worm’, he suggested that we change our band’s name right when Sammy Sayed joined as a vocalist in 2006. He had already a couple of names written down on a piece of paper. Al Sharif Marzeban (the guitarist) chose Scarab to be the best out of all the names, plus Tarek Shehata also had a cool idea where the logo itself would look like a Scarab, we didn’t know how to do that, but Al Sharif illustrated something and then Mohamed El Sherbieny, our former bassist, refined it and created the the logo (our emblem). The Scarab to us is taken as a metaphor of regeneration, and self reinventing after the ancient Egyptians, the Scarab is the ancient god of rebirth ‘Khephri.’ It was surely important to have the right name and maybe we are lucky because ancient Egypt has a wide variety of magickal archetypes to inspire us. Our name and the meanings behind it has been serving the band a great deal whether conceptually or even by spiritual means, so yes indeed to have the right name is important in our case!
Who would say have laid the foundation for the kind of sound you have? Who are your heroes musically and what have they meant to you personally and to the sound of your band?
-Our sound is in a constant evolution, just like any band. No album can sound like the one before it, there has to be a difference even if it was a slight one. We believe that it is just about everything in the band, from the musicians and the energy they put into the record and obviously the live performance; to our sound producer (Ahmed Abdel Samad) who has a great hand into shaping our sound. It comes naturally. If there was to be an influence on Scarab we’d say that they are the bands we used to listen to and cover before Scarab happened and the list can be very huge. So let’s keep it down to the Death Metal Genre. Bands like Morbid Angel, Bolt Thrower, Immolation, Vader, Behemoth, Nile, Obituary, Decapitated, Monstrosity, At The Gates, Gorefest, Incantation, Opeth, Dismember, Entombed, and the list can go on and on! We like experiments, we believe our sound comes out through a merely experimental approach where in the end we reach an outcome that feels right to us, where there is a concept that we find out after the music has been written and also recorded. Because the way we write records is merely a channeling of energy that we translate into music, later on, we would analyse and make sense of it. Even the way Sammy writes the lyrics is a sort of automatic writing where he contemplates the music and the song titles and just writes what comes out naturally as an interpretation of the music’s energy. Also the sound production can be seen as an interpretation of what this music can represent conceptually within the way it is supposed to sound, that’s also why we think that every album will always sound different than the one before it, but nevertheless, it is as true as it can get to its cause.
When you play slow do you have to think differently arranging the music than if you play faster and vice versa?
-We don’t bother thinking much in regards to things like that, we really don’t know… What feels right has to come naturally, from the heart and soul. There is not much rational thinking involved in here. The rationality comes much later after the process of engaging into writing or performing our music, and as we explained above, it comes in a form of analysis, trying to understand. Not technical things, but more of questions along the terms of ‘what does this represent and how does it feel like? And does it feel right and complete or is there more development that needs to take place etc..’
Will your music work in a live environment? What kind of stage environment would best suit your music; a big stage or a small club?
-We have been performing live as Scarab since 2006 here in Egypt. Our first time to perform internationally was in 2009 with our first two big live shows in Dubai Desert Rock in the UAE & With Full Force Festival in Germany. Most of our shows take place in big venues/festivals such as MetalDays in Slovenia, Bloodstock in the UK. We have also toured the UK in 2016 and this was perhaps the first time to perform our music in clubs. We would always have at least one live show every year outside of Egypt, mostly on a big stage. But both experiences are uniquely different indeed. Performing in a club is more cosey and condensed and that is really cool, makes you very close to the crowd, and you can see those who actually know the lyrics to your music and sing along. But being on a big stage in front of a large audience is one hell of a shamanic/sacred experience, as the energy becomes much more intense between us and the audience on a large scale. Both are great though, we believe our music can fit both.
It is very hard to be 100% satisfied. Everybody seems to be disappointed with something they have released. Is there something that you in hindsight would have done differently on this your latest Recording?
-Yes, with ‘Martyrs of the Storm’ we are very satisfied. We took our time in the alchemy until it would reach its perfect form, and that’s in terms of everything, and all the tiny details that may be even unrecognized in the first plays but are still there and playing a huge role in creating the bigger picture. That’s why we have this sort of slogan on our Facebook page posts where we invite our fans to “Dig deeper into it” because believe it or not… we ourselves are still in the process of interpreting/reinterpreting what ‘Martyrs of the Storm’ could represent in this time at this age, and we sincerely invite everyone to do so along with us. We channel this music in order to connect with the world, not to live in or own artistic bubbles.
Promotion can be a bitch. Even today with all different platforms it be hard to reach out to all those that might be interested in your music? What alleys have you used to get people familiarized with your Band?
-We believe that it is the normal process for any band out there. Performing our music live was the biggest role in getting people familiar with our music. Also putting it out through record labels. Our first Album ‘Blinding the Masses’ was released through Osmose Productions in 2010 and this was a really great initiation for us. Serpents of the Nile 2014 and Martyrs of the Storm 2020 were both put out through ViciSolum Productions, our current label that is doing a great job into exposing our music on a much larger scale and we are very happy with that!
To me artwork can be the difference between bust or success. What to you, is a great front cover? What should a cover have to make it great?
-In our case, a great front cover for Scarab should be representing the totality of the energies and concepts behind the whole album. The artist should also be channeling the right art that can represent this music. ‘Martyrs of the Storm’ has several artists that worked on it. First the front cover was done by the artist Fiona Garcia. While the front cover represents the total or major view on the album, the booklet art for each song represented the energies and concepts behind each song solely. All of the booklet’s artwork was created by the artist Valeria Misko (Dakonde Art), Except for two songs ‘Circles of Verminejya’ by the artist Aldy Ivan (Ivan Brutal Art) and ‘Kingdom of Chaos’ by the artist Thomas Dimitriou. All of the booklet artwork was digitized by Aldy Ivan (Ivan Brutal Art), and then all of this was put together by the same guy we mentioned in the first question Tarek Shehata Kabv (Senoma Industries). He was the one to do the layout of the CD and the Vinyl. Scarab’s artwork has always played a very important role, as it does represent a very strong aspect of the album’s meaning. That’s why having a physical copy will always have its own magickal quality, Vinyl or CD.
Do you feel that you are part of a national scene? Is a local/national scene important for the development of new bands?
-We are indeed part of the Egyptian Metal Scene since we started. We didn’t grow up to find a lot of people who play this sort of music or any kind of market where Egyptian Metal bands are selling their music, actually it was a very countable amount of bands that played their own music to begin with and the rest were tribute/cover bands, and most of us at some point were part of that tribute bands phase before Hate Suffocation/Scarab was founded by Al Sharif Marzeban. Here is the downfall, most of the bands play covers but that’s that, they don’t start to write their own music nevertheless the idea of recording the music and putting it out where it can resonate on an international level was impossible needless to say also performing it outside of Egypt was unbelievable. We were lucky to break this dogma in 2009 when we performed in Dubai Desert Rock & With Full Force Festival in 2009 after winning the Shamal Battle of the Bands in UAE. We also appeared in With Full Force DVD performing Blinding the Masses on the main stage and this all happened along with our brothers from the UAE Nervecell. This was an eye opener to us, and also to musicians here from Egypt. We believe this was bound to happen and it could have been anyone else, it is just that we as a band were ready for it. Later on another band from Egypt won the Egyptian Wacken Battle of the Bands. The blackened death metal band ‘Crescent’, and this also was something that is very positive for the Egyptian Metal Scene, Crescent also are putting their own music internationally and performing abroad, another band from Egypt is Odious, a Symphonic Black Metal band. Also their music is distributed internationally and they perform outside of Egypt. The problem is, there is no market for metal or any labels here that can distribute this music on international or national scale. It is very minor, so the only way for success and kind of expansion is through international borders. On the positive side, there are a lot of bands that are coming out and wanting to make a change, we believe that this is the only way the Egyptian Metal Scene would develop for now, it is through international recognition, then maybe this would reflect on the national scene in terms of Egyptian labels and more music festivals etc In the same time, maybe if it goes bigger here things would get hostile for us, and it is better to keep it on a minor scale. Let’s see what time will say.
I could just be me but I got the feeling that the live scene is not what it used to be. Could be that more and more people use the net to discover bands instead of going out and supporting new bands live. What Is your experience with the live scene?
-We believe it goes both ways, online and also through live shows. But Let’s talk about the present situation in Egypt. Obviously due to the virus outbreak there are no more live shows worldwide. But even if everything was normal… In Egypt there would be a show every now and then, it isn’t constant. Metal Blast Festival happens and they bring international acts and Egyptian bands open for them and that’s indeed very positive. Of course seeing bands live makes you find more music and it is much more supportive to go see them play live. But as you can see, life is now turning into this plastic thing… where everything is a broadcast on a screen, no more real human contact, we are in a very strange state of separation and who knows how this is going to reflect upon our psyche and social conditioning. Hopefully it is just a process of transition and the changes that will occur is for the highest good of everything.. Plus humans.
What does the future hold?
-That’s a deep question HAHA! It certainly holds the unknown, and we should make the best out of the present that we always live in. For Scarab, we have a lot to do in order to support Martyrs of the Storm’s release. Since we cannot play any shows and 2020 seems like a dead season so… perhaps we will do that in 2021 once things hopefully clear up. Meanwhile we are working on more video material to support the release. Hails from Egypt and we wish everyone safety and empowerment (spiritually, mentally and physically) as we all need that!