I want Ahráyeph to be more than just a small footnote in music history.....I will keep pursuing it till the day I die!
04/11/2011, Jurgen VANVLASSELAER
One of my favourite discoveries of the last couple of months is the Belgian goth rock band Ahráyeph.Their debut ‘Marooned In Samsara’ came out in 2008 and with a new album in the pipeline it was more than time to have a chat with Mister Ahráyeph himself:
Raf, Ahráyeph is a band built around you.There have been several line-ups since you started, what is the line up these days?
The line up these days, besides me on guitar and vocals, is Xavier Rossey on lead guitar and Ness on keyboards and laptop.
How did you come up with the name Ahráyeph and how do you pronounce it?
Ha! ha! ha! I had to explain this already 4 times today, one of which was to an ex-member of Crucifire, even. Crucifire was our bandname when we started in 1996. In those days we even had a drummer and a bass player. When I decided to continue with the project on my own after the millennium, I didn’t think it was a good idea to do so under that name, because it sounded too metal for my taste and in the meantime a thrash metal band from Australia had taken on the same name. As I was the only remaining band member, and because the music and the concept were mine, I decided to name it Ahráyeph. It’s a playful phonetic English spelling of my first name. It’s simple once you know it, so it’s pronounced as R.A.F. in English.
Ahráyeph are often compared with Fields Of The Nephilim. Are you pleased with that or do you find that annoying? It is of course always handy for journalists to describe your music and people/readers always like to have some kind of reference.
For journalists is it indeed quite handy and I am not going to deny that this band had a big influence on me. But I think there is more to Ahráyeph's music than just Fields Of The Nephilim. Next to the usual suspects like Bauhaus and Joy Division, you can also find a lot of The God Machine in Ahráyeph, for instance.
The God Machine is not really an influence that I hear in your music to be honest. Are there more bands who are and were important for you, but that people don't really associate with you or Ahráyeph?
In the same vein as The God Machine I would put Swans. Certainly the albums they made at the end of the 80's, beginning of the 90's. Another band that, to me, is quite obviously an influence when you listen to Ahráyeph is Pink Floyd. Less obvious, maybe, are The Doors or the old Marillion with Fish on vocals. Especially lyric wise in the latter’s case. There are also a few bands that influenced me in terms of atmosphere, such as Mazzy Star, Portishead and Massive Attack. You maybe won't immediately hear those influences back in Ahráyeph, but they influenced me in the way that they showed me how to create the atmosphere of a song just as much as The Doors or Pink Floyd do.
I find your debut Marooned In Samsara pretty impressive. It’s going be very hard to do better, I think. Do you agree with this or are you pretty confident that the new album will be better.
Thank you very much Jürgen. I am still very happy with our debut, but when I hear the songs we have in store for our next album I am pretty confident that they are a step up. I know all musicians use that cliché, we’ll always say our next album will be better, but I think as a musician you have to strive towards raising the bar with every record you make, without losing the direction you set out in originally. Take, for instance, the collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica. I am fan of both (by the way, could I add The Velvet Underground to the list of unusual influences?), but I am not at all impressed by what I’ve heard. Bottom line: yes, I do think the next album will be a step forward. I’m not over my creative peak yet. Not by a longshot, I hope.
Would you change something about your debut if you could?
I think the mix of some tracks could have been better. In the beginning I had a tendency to bury my vocals in the mix. That had everything to do with insecurity about my voice of course.These days I am pretty satisfied with it, so I would mix my voice more to the front now. You can find new versions of The Rain Suite and Misanthropia on our Bandcamp page. The vocal mixes are much better, the overall mix has more balls and some atmospherical elements were emphasized more. So yes, there is always room for improvement.
I am pretty sure that with a decent label and the necessary promotion Marooned In Samsara would have done much better. A new album is on the way. Will that be released on the same label (D-Monic)? Were you happy with the promotion they made for Samsara?
I agree that with more promotion it would have done much better. On the other hand I’ve worked together pretty well with D-Monic, so I don’t have anything negative to say about them. But they work with a small budget and should we collaborate again in the future, we’d need to talk about things like more intensive promotion etc. So nothing is decided yet label wise. They also weren’t able to give us tour support, so Ahráyeph didn’t play live nearly enough in my opinion. Which is important, because promoters won’t book a band they don’t know. It’s one of the hard lessons I’ve learned the last couple of years. Luckily we have a booking agent now who has lots of contacts with promoters all over Europe, so that’s going to change.
A new album is on the way, what can we expect? If I understood well, chances are small that it will be released on D-Monic again?
Well like I said, nothing is decided yet. I would love to work with D-Monic again, because they are great people with a heart for music. But like I said, we’d need to talk about a budget for promotion and tour support and I don’t know if they could manage that financially, so I’m just looking around, seeing what other labels could offer me. Because in the end I want Ahráyeph to grow and become a bigger name in the scene. We want to pull our own weight to achieve this by playing gigs, but we can’t do everything ourselves, we definitely need support.
What can you expect from the new album? Well, the new album will be much darker than Samsara. The last couple of years haven’t been easy for me, euphemistically speaking, and you can hear that in the new songs. So it will be a concept album, but not one where the songs flow into each other like say, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, for instance. But the whole album will definitely tell a story. Musically I’m trying to distance myself from that Fields Of The Nephilim label, carving out more of a direction of my own, but you’ll inevitably keep hearing some of my influences. Love /No Love, which you already can listen to on our Facebook page, was heavily influenced by Joy Division songs like The Eternal. Besides that, you’ll of course hear lots of elements that also can be found on Marooned On Samsara, just differently ha! ha! ha!
In which phase is the album now? Is it as good as finished and is it just a matter of finding a good decent label or do you still have lots of writing to do?
That line is never really clear to me. I keep writing songs all the time, of course. Before summer I decided to see whether I had enough songs to make a coherent album and sorting that went quite fast, I have to say. Last week I listened back to all the potential album songs I had written in the last couple of years and it became clear that I could easily release a double album if I wanted to. That makes for some hard choices, because what do you do with the songs that don’t make the album? Releasing singles is not an option. For now I think the album I put together with all the finished demos before summer is the album that will be released next year. That’s also the album I had my good friend Sandy Nys from Hybryds listen to. He is not really the biggest fan of guitar based music, but he was very enthusiastic about these songs. If your songs can convince somebody who has no affinity at all with guitar music, then you know you have something great on your hands. Meanwhile, I’ve written even more songs, so I really need to sit down and decide which songs I’m going to use for the new album, which should be ready by the end of january. I’ve written all the songs, but Xavier and Ness will play their own parts on the new album. That wasn’t the case on Marooned In Samsara, on which I played everything myself.
Sandy from Hybryds also recorded the new videoclip. Can you tell us something about that and when can we see the result?
The clip... Well I can announce now that we made the clip for the track White Square. It’s a track from the old Crucifire demo that has been made available as a paid download on Bandcamp recently. The song was just too good to be left unused. And the story behind the track lent itself perfectly for a clip. But as usual the production process is delayed and we’ve decided to reshoot the entire clip, also because we’ve now found a better location. We’re all in favour of this and Sandy’s on board as well to shoot all the scenes. I will then take on post production myself, which will take a lot of work , so hopefully we can release the clip by the end of November, or at the very least before the December holiday season.
You made an excellent coverversion of Hooverphonic’s Eden. Did Alex Callier ever hear your version? Will there be covers on the new album?
As far as I know Alex knows about the cover. I don’t know if he ever heard it though. So far he never contacted me, ha! ha! ha! Geike Aernaert (former vocals of Hooverphonic) is one of my Facebook friends, but I don’t even know if she knows about the song, and I'm not going to bother her with it either.
There will be no covers on the new album, but there is still the idea of putting together an album with only cover songs. Over time, I’ve become good friends with Robin Proper-Sheppard, the guy behind Sophia and former singer and guitar player of The God Machine, and he gave me permission to make an adaptation of Leaving, a track from the latest Sophia album. I don’t like to call these songs covers, by the way, because I don’t simply copy them. I always try to give the songs my own interpretation. On the Ahrayeph Bandcamp page you can find our version of the unreleased Sisters Of Mercy track Summer, which we never released, but have made available for listening. And then there are a few covers we sometimes play live, such as Eurythmics’ Here Comes The Rain Again. The Ahráyeph sound was ‘invented’ when I recorded The Cure’s A Forest, years ago. That song still holds up great, I think.
What about Ahráyeph live? As far as I know you will play at the famous Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig, Germany next year. Are there more gigs in the pipeline?
Well as a matter of fact, 2 more gigs have just been confirmed for next year. We will open the Porta Nigra festival in Aarschot, Belgium (17th of March) and Cologne, Germany (18th of March). All three of us are very excited about this. Like I said before: I wasn’t really happy with the fact that we barely played live lately and now we’ll double the amount of gigs in 6 months and we are really looking forward to proving ourselves live. Chances are we’ll do some warm up gigs between now and February in smaller clubs with the new line up, to evaluate what can be improved in our performance as a band, so we’ll be ready when the bigger gigs kick off. The whole band is really motivated to prove that we are on par with our colleagues in the genre.
Do you have projects other than Ahráyeph? Or do you see yourself recording, let’s say, an ambient album?
Hmmm interesting question. I’d see myself doing something like that in the future, yes. My musical taste is pretty broad. As you know I am good friends with the guys of For Greater Good. I really like what they do and that has nothing to do with our friendship. Same goes for Sandy of Hybryds. He and I will be collaborating more closely in the very near future. He would like me to sing on one of the future Hybryds projects and there are plans to write the soundtrack for a short film together.
Also, an industrial metal project with Jurgen from the pagan metal band Theudho and Izzy from For Greater Good, in which I’ll be singing, is in its embryonic stage right now. I recently received some early demos from Jurgen and we’ve been discussing song subjects. It’s looking really promising.
How would you like to see Ahráyeph evolve? What are the plans of the future?
I am convinced that with more gigs and decent promotion Ahráyeph can reach a bigger audience. We have the songs, it’s just a matter of presenting them to audiences in the right way. Everybody wants to be the headliner at a festival. That should be our goal. That people will notice us because we are good at what we do. I want to get everything possible out of this band. Because of the crisis in the music business this may happen a little slower than expected, but that won’t stop me writing better songs and working harder. I want Ahráyeph to be more than just a small footnote in music history…or a Fields Of the Nephilim clone ha! ha! ha!
That must be our goal and I will keep pursuing it till the day I die!
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