Interivew With Barney And Rami (NERVECELL)

The UAE's premier “All Time Best Selling Metal Band” NERVECELL, have accomplished an array of achievements. From the early days of Dubai Desert Rock Festival; NERVECELL have shared the stage with some of the biggest acts in the international metal scene, such as: Machine Head, Mastodon, Opeth, and Motorhead, later the band would perform at the 20th anniversary installment of Wacken Open Air in 2009; then last year the band opened for heavy metal giants Metallica on their historic show in Abu Dhabi, UAE at the Yas Arena. This was just a quick overview of NERVECELL's achievements. The band continues to set the bar for the region's metal scene.

Recently, Nervecell embarked on their first ever Middle East tour in-support of their latest album Psychogenocide. The first part of the tour included stops in Doha (Qatar, the first official metal event to take place in the country), Manama (Bahrain), and Dubai (UAE; where the band performed 2 back-to-back shows on the same day).

Today, the band is in the process of unleashing their venomous riffs onto Asia along with Polish extreme metallers Decapitated on their current co-headlining Asia Tour (find dates here); which includes stops in Thailand, Singapore & Nepal.

We got a chance to catch up with Rami and Barney, the band's very own shredders to talk about the "Psychogenocide Middle East Tour," collaborating with Nile's Karl Sanders, opening for Metallica, plans for an upcoming U.S. and European tour, writing for the new album, and much more!

Here's how it went:

NERVECELL recently wrapped up part 1 of its first ever Middle East Tour in-support of the band's latest studio album, Psychogenocide (Spellbind Records, Lifeforce Records). How has the experience been so far heading out on a Middle Eastern tour (a first for any metal band in the region)?

Rami: The tour was great! We performed 4 shows in total for this first run of the tour in Qatar, Bahrain and Dubai. We worked hard to bring this tour together as we always wanted to do a full consecutive tour in the ME region, yet it wasn’t really easy in the past years and we are very happy it finally all came together pretty well. We performed in Qatar for the first time. No metal bands really performed there so we felt it was very special. We also played Bahrain returning back after a year and we had a killer time! It was essential to return back to Bahrain as we have a strong fanbase over there. The Dubai shows were pretty cool as well. We played 2 shows in one day back to back! Hours after our show in Bahrain we caught an early flight to Dubai, landed, went straight from the airport for soundcheck at the first show and a few hours later we started performing. We’re used to such situations but we never did 2 shows in the same day back to back so that was challenging haha! We basically played an “all-ages” show first, and few hours later a “21+ show” at a different club, which was basically at a nightclub and the younger kids wouldn’t be allowed to enter due to age restrictions that was the reason to host 2 shows as we received numerous requests from our younger fanbase in Dubai to have an all ages show, and luckily we were able to book it last minute and they both took place on the same day. Both shows were fun for sure!

The tour included a show in Doha, Qatar (Sponsored by Shredder's Planet) which marks the first time NERVECELL or any regional or international metal act performs there. Can you tell us about the show?

Rami: We have a pretty good fanbase in Qatar and we’d always get requests to perform in Doha. So it only made sense to make it happen and make it part of this tour. Like I mentioned no metal bands performed there officially, therefore no promoter was able to host the show. So I decided to take care of that with the support of the business I run – Shredder’s Planet Musical Instruments – which fully sponsored the gig. It was at the Qube club which is the biggest club in Doha with a capacity of 1500+ people. We promoted the show really well and the show went great. The fans were extremely satisfied. It was a lot of fun!

For support bands, you guys featured local acts during each stop of the tour. Can fans expect the same from the second part?

Barney: Absolutely, we wouldn’t have it any other way! It’s the first official Middle East Tour that we’ve put together ourselves in our 12 year career as a band. So having local support acts from each country to join us on this run is quite essential, especially since there are many good local Middle Eastern bands of different genres now on the rise more than ever.

Being one of the region's most notable and successful international exports, why did you choose to tour the Middle East now?

Barney: Quite frankly we’ve considered touring the Middle East for a good many years now. I personally have constantly shared ideas via interviews and simple casual conversations I have with bands and promoters alike on how bands from each country should play an active role in the countries they reside in, taking responsibility to handle putting together a show for other neighboring bands to come in and share the stages with them. That way it only splits up the responsibility and job tasks down a whole lot and obviously makes things simpler when organizing such a tour. Obviously no one really took the idea seriously. The main issue we face here and which is really a mere fact about the Middle East Metal scene is that no one really supports each other here, whether you are a band or a promoter, everyone sees each other as competition and for some reason always play the act like their in some way, shape or form better than you. Fortunately for us we’ve isolated ourselves a long time ago, we’ve always let the music do the talking for us and we leave it to the fans to decide for themselves to support us if they truly like what we do. We play death metal for *coughs * sake…this isn’t a popularity contest especially for such a small scene that exists in this region!

So anyways having been involved with organizing metal events myself I basically decided that if everyone else is just going to sit around and do nothing about it, we sure as hell are not going to either! It was honestly once we won the plaque of recognition earlier this year for the “All Time Best Selling Metal Band” from Virgin Megastores that really got me thinking that if ever we are to do a Middle East Tour the time is now! So we decided that we’re going to pull this off ourselves and immediately began contacting all the promoters directly and explained how we’d like to put this long awaited plan of a Middle East Tour into action! If anything with all the buzz surrounding “Psychogenocide” and the feedback we received especially from the Middle East fans on the album, we truly felt that we owe it to the fans to go there and play to them live in their own countries, so that’s exactly what we did and will continue to do in part 2 of this tour as well!

The Middle East tour will continue to hammer its way across the region with shows scheduled for Egypt and Lebanon, among other locations to be confirmed. Where else in the region would you guys like to perform that you didn't get the opportunity to do so yet?

Rami: Touring the Middle East isn’t easy. So we had to split the “Psychogenocide Middle East Tour 2012” tour into 2 parts. The first part already covered Dubai, Qatar and Bahrain, and part 2 is being worked on as we speak and we are aiming to perform in Lebanon and Egypt. We would like to perform in as many countries in the Middle East as possible really yet in some of these countries it is very difficult because of either their political situation or lack of venues/promoters, but we are doing our best to cover as many countries as possible for this tour. This September we will be heading to Far East Asia to perform in Singapore, Thailand and Nepal with Decapitated so we will hopefully be doing the second half of the Middle East tour before the end of the year.

Barney: As far as where else we’d like to perform in this region where we haven’t got the opportunity to do so yet goes, I would have to say countries such as Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, as well as Syria, Jordan and Kuwait too. We are well aware of the laws and restrictions that still exist in some of those countries and we think it's just unfortunate. However we remain positive that its only a matter of time that heavy metal music will take its due course and one day bands like ourselves and others will slowly start to tour there in the near future.

On March 31st, 2011, NERVECELL released its second full length album, titled "Psychogenocide" which featured Nile's Karl Sanders on the pulverizing song "Shunq - To The Despaired...King of Darkness." Can you tell us more about the song (lyrical content/shooting the video) and how the collaboration with Karl Sanders came about?

Barney: The idea to have Karl do guest vocals on Shunq actually only came to surface while we were actually in the studio writing the music a month or 2 before going into the recording schedule. So it happened almost spontaneously. It was when James actually started tracking his vocals in Arabic when we thought it would be interesting if we tried getting a guest to feature on this particular track but have his lyrics on the song in English instead. Shunq as a song in itself is almost like story telling of this concept that James came up with which involved bringing everyone to justice for they doings and their influence on others and on this planet. Even if it meant questioning all those who society has conditioned us to fear, be it your inner demons or the king of darkness himself. We shot the video for that song in the desert of Al Ain around these mysterious looking mountains, which made for a great landscape going with the story of the song. We basically shot for almost half a day there with Karl, it was just a great overall experience working with Karl and having him be a part of our music, especially since we are all Nile fans in the band first and foremost. We’ve become really close ever since with him and Nile’s management too.

Then on October 25th, NERVECELL made history by supporting METALLICA during their first show in the UAE, at Yas Arena, Abu Dhabi in front of 30,000 rabid fans. How did it feel to be supporting one of metal's biggest names on their first show in the UAE and in the Arab region?

Barney: I’ll tell you this, looking back to when we heard the news that we were hand picked to be the opening act for Metallica’s first ever gig in the Arab region, like right from that moment onwards it made us realize that all the struggle and sacrifices we’ve been through in this band over the last 12 years all sooo bloody worth it! Being able to be a part of an event of that scale really set the record straight to everyone, be it the fans, peers and the haters alike that we were here to stay. I honestly believe it was a testimony to the fact that we have always remained true to the cause in this band, being persistent in our approach right from the very beginning when we formed this band and that has not at all changed. So yeah being able to finally get that sort of recognition is very comforting and only motivates us to just keep going for as long as we humanly can.

Rami: It’s was a dream come true. Period!

What are your plans after wrapping up the Middle East tour? Will you guys be performing abroad? When might fans expect a follow-up to "Psychogenocide"?

Rami: We’re gonna be touring until the end of the year to support “Psychogenocide”. Next week we are heading to Far East Asia with Decapitated to perform for the first time in Singapore, Thailand and Nepal. Once we return we will confirm the second half of the Middle East tour. We are also working on a US and European tour! Yes we are planning on writing new material for our upcoming album, which we are actually brainstorming ideas for whenever possible. But the official writing process will start once we complete our touring cycle for “Psychogenocide” this year. We should be announcing more details for our tours and new album within the next few months so stay tuned!

Thanks a lot for taking the time to do this. NERVECELL continues to set the bar for the rest of the region's metal scene, representing the Middle Eastern scene on the international circuit with utmost professionalism. We can't wait for the Middle East tour to continue rolling its way across!
Would you like to add anything?

Rami: Many thanks for having us. We appreciate your amazing support! is one of the main supporters for the Middle Eastern metal scene so keep up the good work! We look forward to start part 2 of “Psychogenocide Middle East Tour 2012” hopefully we’ll cross paths and finally meet haha!

Barney: Thanks for those kind words man. We can only do our part being a Dubai based band. It’s such support from mediums such as that add to the rise of the region’s metal scene. So having said that, Id like to say keep up the killer work with what your doing, its always a pleasure doing such interviews with dedicated individuals like yourself!

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