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It took over a year to get this from audio clip to article, but it's lost none of its relevance in the process. KvltSite legend guitarsmash aka sodom hussein aka Sriram aka The Mayor of Chennai picks the brains of Matt Johnson and Tim Aymar. Be warned, it's a lengthy chitchat, so come into this with plenty of time to spare.
The audio recording of the whole interview can be accessed here, for those who'd prefer to listen to the whole conversation.
Sri: First, I'd just like to say I'm hugely excited because I'm a huge fan of you guys and all that, so it's a real pleasure for me to be doing this.
Sri: Ok, let's start off with Matt. I've heard that you're like a really huge metal fan and I'd like to talk first about your collection of CDs. It's become kind of legendary right now. What's the number going on right now?
Matt: It's a little over 5000 CDs right now. I also have a small vinyl collection, but that's mainly collectible stuff and stuff that never came out on CD. I'm not like a vinyl freak and I don't keep tons and tons of that stuff, but I probably have about 100-150 pieces of vinyl. And a lot of that is pretty rare stuff, like I have all the original Pantera albums - you know, the ones before Cowboys From Hell ...
Matt: ... the first Seduce album, the first Samael 7-inch - I've got a lot of cool shit. I'm a pretty big music fan overall. I mean, not all of the 5000 CDs are metal, probably 3500 or 4000 of them are metal. So people look at my collection and they're like, "Oh yeah, but it's all metal," and to pretty much anybody I can go, "Yeah, but I have more non-metal than you!" so ... (laughs)
Sri: (laughs) That's true. I also read on your site that you'll be doing your first live show in April.
Matt: Actually, we did our first show already. We played in Germany in April at a festival called Keep It True.
Sri: Ah ok, that's already done.
Matt: Yeah, that was our first gig. We're playing our second gig actually this coming Saturday. We're playing at a little festival in Chicago called The Ale Horn of Power. It's kind of like a lineup of Cruz Del Sur bands in America. The lineup is Icarus Witch, Pharaoh, Bible of the Devil and Slough Feg - all of whom are Cruz Del Sur bands - and then the headliner is Trouble.
Matt: Yeah, should be interesting.
Sri: You guys like the band Trouble?
Matt: Oh yeah, I love em! Tim, you're familiar with Trouble, right?
Tim: Yeah, I'm familiar with Trouble. Actually, a couple of friends have played for Trouble, have worked for Trouble and a couple of the guys in Icarus Witch as well, from Pittsburgh. And I haven't seen them for a long time; it'll be fun and really cool to see them and jam with them finally. I've never jammed with a lot of them so...yeah, we're friends from Pittsburgh.
Matt: Yeah, all those bands are great. I mean, for just a tiny festival in Chicago, it's a pretty kickass lineup. My only concern is, I'm wondering how Kory Clarke is going to sound fronting Trouble. You know, Eric Wagner is kind of the man for Trouble and you know, Kory Clarke has big shoes to fill and I hear that so far he's not been doing too great, but you know, those were early gigs and they've been practising some more so I hope that it works, because I've seen Trouble a few times with Eric and they were always great, so...we'll see.
Sri: Yeah. So, how's the reception been to the new album, Be Gone, so far?
Matt: It's been mostly great, but one of the things that me and Tim were talking about is that this time around, we actually got some middling and bad reviews of the album, which we didn't really get for the last one. I think that there are a few reasons for that - one is that probably a lot more people are aware of Pharaoh now, so it's not just the album being reviewed by traditional power metal zines or anything like that. It's reaching a broader audience, so of course you're going to have people who are not as much into that sound.
But on the other hand, I think that it's not as immediate an album as the last one, I think it's got more depth and complexity and I mean, I personally think that it's a much better album. I think Tim agrees.
Tim: Oh, absolutely.
Sri: I've got to say, I loved The Longest Night, but this has trumped The Longest Night by a small margin to become my favourite Pharaoh album. I mean, the kind of songwriting that you had on The Longest Night was incredible, but I feel you guys have stepped it up a notch for this album. The guitar work and Tim's vocals as well, they've gone to a whole new level for this album and I just love it.
Matt: Yeah, that's what we were shooting for, but you know, at the same time, The Longest Night, every song in there is sort of immediate and hits you in the gut and you know, if you're going to like that sort of thing, you're immediately going to like this. Be Gone, it's a little different. I mean, in general, our response has been really good. We've gotten some amazing reviews from some really big outlets. Like in Rock Hard in Germany we got a 9.5 and we were #2 on their listening polls for the month.
Tim: And the 9.5 on Blabbermouth.
Matt: Yeah, Blabbermouth. So, we've gotten a lot of really great reviews, and we've definitely done a lot more in the way of interviews. I've even done some radio interviews this time, which I never did in the past. So yeah, I mean the reaction's really good and I think it helped us a lot just to play that single gig in Germany. I think it raised our profile and hopefully doing this show in Chicago will do that a little bit. We make what we think is the best possible album and hopefully people dig it.
Sri: Do you like being bunched in with the whole power metal scene? I mean, as far as I know, the current scenario for power metal has all these shitty, cheesy European power metal bands that come out trying to imitate Blind Guardian and Helloween and they just end up sounding really, really bad. And I know for a fact that you don't like Dragonforce too much. (laughs)
Matt: Yeah yeah...well...I'll let Tim answer this one.
Tim: I don't see it as a problem to be included in any of the genres that metal has turned into. You know, just to be recognised, period - good or bad - is a good thing. We were lumped in as a Maiden tribute band (Matt laughs) from the very beginning. We fought really hard to steer ourselves away from that, and finally with Be Gone, I think the references to Maiden are gone, and the pure references to being a power metal band...I've seen less derogatory statements about it in reviews and things like that. Like I said, I've seen negative reviews and it turns out to be a good thing, because not everybody's going to be a super metal fan. There are critics out there who are into other kinds of music and legitimate styles, and whatever their tastes are, they don't have to agree with everyone else that it's a great album or a great band.
Matt: Yeah, and you know, it's like, I'm a power metal fan from way back and at one time, it wasn't quite the derogatory term that it is now.
Sri: Exactly, that's my whole point. You know, you had greats like Manilla Road and Crimson Glory and all those bands playing the true American power metal of the late 80s...
Matt: Right, Vicious Rumours and Jag Panzer ... you know, that's kind of the tradition that we're in. When we started this band, I was really into a lot of the European bands, like Angra or Gamma Ray or Scanner, and the fact that it's turned into such a cartoonish genre doesn't really diminish the fact that there is value to be had in power metal and if Pharaoh's one of the bands that's wrecking the curve for everybody else, that's ok by me. (laughs)
Sri: (laughs) I just meant it in the sense that when people try to bunch you in with other bands that you don't feel really connected to, does that make the reviewer seem a bit uninformed, or do you take his review seriously in that case?
Matt: Well, I mean yeah, on one hand, you would expect the most accurate reviews to touch on the sort of classic metal bands - like I said, Vicious Rumours, Jag Panzer or something like that. But you know, one of the nice things about metal is that it's constantly regenerating, there's always someone young coming into it, and I'm not going to hold it against some kid writing a zine, who's 20 years old and who's never heard those bands. If his frame of reference for melodic metal begins at Hammerfall, then you know, he's going to have to use those touch points to describe things.
And at the same time, even though we don't sound like Dragonforce or one of these really happy, hippy-dippy type power metal bands, because we are melodic and still are heavy metal, and we're a serious band, I think that there's plenty of room for crossover there. Just because we don't sound like a bad Helloween tribute doesn't mean that people who like Dragonforce or that sort of thing couldn't get into us. So if that's a gateway, so be it, you know. It would be weirder if they were comparing us to our sort of non-melodic influences, like if people were writing reviews and comparing us to At The Gates (laughs) or you know, early Arch Enemy or something like that. (Sri laughs) Yeah, they could compile references and mainstream listeners have no idea who those bands are anyway, so why does it really matter? They could go, "These guys really sound like Triton! You know them, right?" (Tim and Sri laugh)
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Re: Pharaoh interview
Oct 14 2009 00:01:12
Finally up. My fingers ache, but well worth it. Killer interview.
Oct 14 2009 00:19:58
Re: Pharaoh interview
Oct 14 2009 15:23:54
I owe you big time for this chack black!