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OPTIMUM IMPACT INTERVIEW


Ahráyeph – better than the chocolate

By Jo

Raf started this project many years ago, when some of you were still twinkling stars in the school nativity play. The denizens of Leuven in Belgium may not yet be fully aware that they have stars in their midst, but Ahráyeph are attracting interest across the globe thanks to Myspace and the Heartland site (a place for dodgy goths, dodgy goths in denial, and the rest of humanity that like a bit of a darker side to their music). After many years of toil and bubble, they've signed a deal with French label D-Monic and all systems are go. The debut album 'Marooned on Samsara' will now be released in March/April next year, and there are of course tracks on Myspace to listen to right now. People have even travelled from GLASGOW to see them, so you've no excuse for getting along to listen, buy and dance. I cornered Raf via MSN to conduct a reasonably random interview – here are the bits that made sense:

Raf: ok, shoot

Jo: Ok.. not that I had much time to prepare but hey… *switches to almost sensible mode*

Raf: mhehe – I thought journalists were like boy scouts : always prepared.

Jo: Yeah they say teachers should be, too. Right… So, I hear you got signed – what's the story?

Raf: I heard that too. And since the label posted it on their website, I suppose it's true. Basically, we've been previewing songs off the album on our Myspace page. Laurent and Laurent (I kid you not) from D-Monic came across them, liked what they heard and let me know they were interested in a release. So I sent them a CD with all the songs and there you go : a record deal. Sometimes it is that simple.

Jo: I think some people would be very jealous, actually, I can think of at least two… Blimey, a bolt from the blue.

Raf: FGG's album will get a release as well, I'm certain of that! (FGG – For Greater Good – a band of our acquaintance)

Jo: Aw, wasn't referring to that! Mind you, that makes three… Hard work pays off, then. Bearing in mind that most of my readers won't have a clue what you do, can you fill them in a bit?

Raf: What I do, or what we do?

Jo: umm… you collectively.

Raf: Ok. Collectively, we play music I wrote… Basically, what I wanted to do was to take the music that influenced me and do my own take of it. Since most of these bands say they're not goth, I guess we play 'non goth' *evil grin* I started a band in 1996, but that never panned out. Ahráyeph is actually a continuation of what got started eleven years back, but slightly updated and with musicians I can depend on. Mind you, up until a year ago, Ahráyeph was just a one man project.

Jo : Not 'goth in denial', then? What happened a year ago? You suddenly got your arse in gear, or several musicians landed in your lap from the heavens?

Raf: The latter, actually. Here I was, working on the end phase of the album's recording, when all these musicians came crawling out of the woodwork and offered to play in a band with me because they liked what I did. Once again : it was as simple as that. Having gone through a few ordeals when it came to the right personnel for a band, I was a bit weary to say the least, but it turned out great. We even got ourselves a real drummer, something I didn't fancy at first. Drummers take up tons of space on stage and they always steal the most interesting groupies. It helps that Steve is a nice bloke, a great musician and already has a girlfriend, so we're safe.

Jo: Well I never knew that about drummers… I shall check that one! Are you a very lucky boy, or have you sold your soul?

Raf: I sold my soul, just like everyone else in this business. What else can you expect from a Pagan?

Jo: Well, I dunno. It might have gone earlier on something else.

Raf: Nah, music is what I always wanted. My heart is another matter. Women divided that amongst themselves. It helps the songwriting, though, so I should be thankful to them.

Jo: We have our uses… mind they don't claim royalties! So how many influences have you managed to fit in, do you think? Do they gel nicely?

Raf: Mmmmm… tough to say. Some people who heard the songs even refer to bands I know and like but were never consciously an influence. I do think I managed to put in several of them. As far as gelling nicely goes… IZ remarked not too long ago that a cover song we did (Eurythmics' 'Here Comes The Rain Again') could just as well be an Ahráyeph song in its own right. It made me realise that we have what is determined as 'a signature sound'. So there's the gel…

Jo: I should think that's a major compliment, then. Does that relate to lyrics as well?

Raf: Well, that's a whole different matter. My lyrics are my own and I take more cues from literal writers than I do from song writers. You could never compare my lyrics to eg. Carl Mc Coy's or Ian Curtis's. Nor would I want to make comparisons to either of them. I write lyrics the way they come out. It's part stream of consciousness, part hard work. Sometimes the music dictates what the lyrical subject for a song will be. Hence, you can't really say where they come from.

Jo: How IS the general music scene in Belgium, and how do you fit in?

Raf: Most of the scene is either commercial techno stuff or alternative rock. The latter is quite interesting because, whether you loathe or love them, the bands can play and have good songs. But, we don't fit in with them at all. What we do is being shunned and ridiculed by the mainstream alternative music media down here even more than metal. They take their cues from their UK colleagues, which I'm not sure is a good thing.

Jo: Pish, no, they don't know a good thing most of the time, and they like to destroy when they've built. This internet thingy is a bit of an asset, then.
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Raf: Well, let's say Myspace is a blessing of sorts. And so are all kinds of music forums. It gets your music to the people that like it without the middle man. The digital medium has certainly been beneficial to us as far as promoting ourselves goes. It even got us the deal with D-Monic, so you won't hear me complain.

Jo: I should hope not, young man. Is gigging difficult, given what you said?

Raf: It's not been easy to get gigs from the start. We have been offered some gigs next year, but since we're still largely unknown, these are few and far between. Once upon a time, you toured to promote your album. These days, it seems to be the other way around : you release a record to promote your live gigs. So we hope that's what will happen when 'Marooned On Samsara' is released because we love to play live.

Jo: Anything lined up right now?

Raf: We've got another gig in our home town next April and some offers to play in countries as diverse as Poland and the UK.

Jo: Oooo way to go. Try and play Norwich, or Leeds (not on a school night).

Raf: If we play, it'll be Wolverhampton, and James is apparently trying to get us a gig in Glasgow.

Jo: cool!

Raf: indeed, we've been lucky with people in the UK trying to help us out to get gigs there. It's something I find important, because the music that inspired me to do Ahráyeph all came from there – give or take a few exceptions.

Jo: Aye, we ain't done bad over the years. The next step is – gig as much as possible and get all worked up for launch date?

Raf: As strange as it may seem, the next step is writing new material. I've been having a creative outburst lately and with no confirmed gigs before early 2008, I felt it better to ride that creative wave, in order to start production on the new album somewhere in the middle of next year. We know the old songs by heart now, so we require few rehearsals to get ready for new gigs, should the opportunities arrive.

Jo: Taking the bull by the horns whilst you can? very wise.

Raf: Thanks. I lived long enough to seize the moment when it presents itself.

Jo: Carpe diem… what question do you want to be asked?

Raf: "Will you marry me?"

Jo: *snork* Rephrase… what do you want us to know that we don't already?

Raf: Everything that's being withheld by the evil forces of government and religion in order to dominate and control. Knowledge is power and freedom rolled into one.

Jo: when you find it all out, pass it on…

Raf: Hence the reason I'm making records.

Jo: Thinly disguised as governmental leaks?

Raf : See? it's working!

Here follows a history lesson on the origins of Belgium and an attempted explanation of why there seem to be 4532 governments in place there. Interesting, but convoluted…

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