So, the virtual tour from MetalTalk Towers to visit our brothers and sisters in Metal in the Middle East and Asia continues with our interview with the very talented and wonderful Nervecell. They have been on the Metal scene for over a decade and many of us are already familiar with their music as they travel and tour relentessley making sure they get to as many Metal fans as possible. Here we caught up with Barney Ribeiro, guitarist and Asian food expert.
Who are Nervecell and what brought you together?
Barney: "We are an extreme Metal band based in Dubai, U.A.E. The band formed in 2000 and has grown gradually ever since. We're proud to raise the flag for extreme Metal in the Middle East and we've been very fortunate to be able to do this with the help our ever-growing fan base.
"Nervecell consists of James (bassist/vocalist), Rami (guitars) and myself (guitars), unfortunately we don't really have a permanent drummer simply because there isn't any drummer based in the Middle East who is either committed or capable to work to the extent we do. It's just something we've constantly faced as a limitation based here among many other factors too of course. Due to this we rely on session drummers and so far we've managed to be able to make it work.
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"In Dubai, we have such a small scene so most musicians and Metal heads know each other already. When we first started out, we had a very different line-up and sound too for the first two years. I only ended up meeting James and Rami at one of the earlier Nervecell gigs during that initial stage. We had instantly become friends and changed numbers; about a year later they eventually ended up joining the band too.
"It was kind of inevitable as they shared the same interest musically and passion for music that I had myself, ever since then (2003) onwards the three of us have been the key members in Nervecell. As for influences, we all grew up to the mid 90s death Metal era with bands such as Morbid Angel, Bolt Thrower, Deicide, Death and the classic thrash Metal bands too such as Sepultura, Slayer, Testament, Megadeth, Pantera etc.
What is it like being based in Dubai, what is the music scene like there and how much support is there for Metal?
Barney: "Dubai has only been around for 42 years and we've been a band based here for the last 12 years, so you can imagine there is still a lot more to learn here with regards to the music industry. Just like everything in Dubai it's all completely westernized and completely trendy. So the music scene that exists here has always been dominated by the same chart topping hits you'll hear all around the world on radio stations, of course there is also the Arabic pop music that seems to dominate here too.
"Having said that, we only experienced a rise in rock and Metal music pick up in the Middle East somewhere around the late 90s. This had a lot to do with channels like MTV being broadcasted here, music magazines and the internet starting to become more accessible for all of us to discover new bands. You also need to realize that we never had access to going to a music store and buying a Metal CD as the stores here at the time didn't really have a Metal section. So it wasn't very easy or common to get into Metal music in the first place.
"Regardless of all the lack of initial support we've still been able to accomplish a lot as a Metal band based in Dubai, right from releasing albums, touring etc. If you were to tell me 12 years ago that we would one day get to open for Metallica, I would have thought you're either being too kind or assumed you're crazy! But hey what do you know, it did happen in 2011 with us and we're out there today continuing to put Dubai on the map for Heavy Metal!"
Barney and James celebrate + collect Nervecell's Best Musician of the Year 2012 award from Esquire Middle East
You have announced on your FB page that you are heading back to Europe and Asia. What are your plans?
Barney: "That's right; we will be heading back to play in those territories starting from February 2013 right until the summer. So we are looking at touring extensively for the first half of this year for sure. We enjoy touring a lot and it's really what we love to do for months on end. For now we've got a few European festivals and tours being worked on and a number of one-off dates in Asia tour, which makes for a good amount of travelling.
"I can't really say much about the shows at the moment but the dates will all be up shortly I'm sure, so keep checking our websites for the exact dates and festivals that we'll be performing at this summer. We've been fortunate to play at some killer festivals over the last few years, mainly Wacken Open Air, Rock AM Ring, With Full Force, Summer Breeze and Brutal Assault among many others.
"As for our favorite countries to play in goes I'd have to say Germany, Belgium, Holland, France, India and the UK have all been extra special every time we're out there."
Tell us about your latest album - 'Psychogenocide'.
Barney: "With 'Psychogenocide' we wanted to write a heavier and faster album, yet keep an overall darker feel to the songs. So we created more dynamics within the songs and added a whole lot of different feels for the album, which happened in a very natural way.
"New ideas did come up on the table while we were writing the songs, of course during the pre-production period as well which was cool because we were making the songs even better. We did take our time writing since we recorded and tracked the entire album in Dubai ourselves, and then handed the recordings over to Hertz Studios in Poland for the mixing and mastering stage.
"You'll notice we experimented a bit too by adding a little touch of Middle Eastern/Arabic instrumentations on the album on tracks such as 'Anemic Assurgency' and also added Arabian-Gulf-style percussions in the instrumental track 'The Taste Of Betrayal'. The most interesting addition to the album is Arabic vocals/lyrics in the song 'Shunq' and that was a really challenging step for the band since it's not really that easy to have Arabic growls in a death Metal song, we did work on that and it turned out pretty good!
"The track also features Karl Sanders from Nile on guest vocals, which makes it extra special. It's very important for us, as musicians to be 100% satisfied with our songs and if we keep the fans satisfied too then there is nothing like it!"
Who are Nervecell's heroes?
Barney: "It would have to be Dimebag Darrell for me, even though he was more of a role model being a guitarist myself. I admired Dimebag not only cause he was phenomenal as a musician but also because he had such a positive attitude and was always about having a good time. Long Live The Legend \m/ "
Who do you recommend MetalTalk readers keep an eye out for from the Middle East in 2013?
Barney: "It's certainly not an easy task being a band based in the Middle East, however I do respect anyone who tries to follow something they believe in regardless of the limitations we all face living here. Some of the bands from the Middle East that I'd recommend are Creative Waste (Saudi Arabia), Scarab (Egypt), Smouldering In Forgotten (Bahrain), Perversion (Dubai) and Benevolent (Kuwait/Dubai).
"Each of these bands either has an E.P or an album out and they are definitely worth a listen. We in Nervecell have sacrificed a lot to get to where we are today and if anything, we'd like to see more bands arise from the region, work hard and follow their dreams too!"
What are your top five tracks of all time and why?
Barney: "Top five tracks of all time, wow that's really difficult as I listen to a lot of bands of various styles but if I'd have to choose the top five that spring to mind right now, they would be:
"At The Gates – 'Slaughter Of The Soul': I've always been a fan of Swedish death Metal bands but I think At The Gates nailed it with this track. I could pick a dozen other tracks from bands such as Entombed or Dismember but this track just got it all…melody, speed and the high screams, such an influential album too, 'Slaughter Of The Soul'. Gosh I miss the mid 90s era of Metal!
"Sepultura – 'Dead Embryonic Cells': I've always been into thrash Metal and Sepultura are that one band that I fell in love with instantly upon first listen. Everything from their lyrical content and music itself just won me over. That entire album 'Arise' will always be something I'll never get bored of listening to from start to finish.
"Testament – 'DNR': When this album 'The Gathering' came out it was in 1999, thrash Metal in particular was just going nowhere and all we ever saw or heard of during that period was the rise of Nu metal bands. I remember being really stoked that Testament were putting out a new record and when I finally got my hands on it and heard the opening track 'DNR' I can't tell you what a relief it was!
"Pantera – 'Hollow': I love every record Pantera put out with 'Vulgar Display Of Power' being my favourite, but I choose this track out of all the other awesome Pantera tracks especially because it highlights the legacy of Pantera. It's hard to listen to that particular track and not be reminded of Dimebag. R.I.P.
"Alice In Chains – 'Would': Alice In Chains have always been a unique band to me and this particular track just reminds me a lot of my upbringing and childhood."
MetalTalk noticed you on Headbanger's Kitchen. What are your favourite foods and which countries do you enjoy visiting the most in terms of cuisine?
Barney: "Hahaha - that was a fun day at Sahil's place. He was nice enough to invite us over when we were down there on tour in India back in 2010. I believe we were the first band ever to be guests on Headbanger's Kitchen too. The guy's certainly a great cook; he's got a lot of time on his hands and patience to venture out into cooking, apart from running a label and keeping Demonic Resurrection active. I would vote Sahil for president of India if I had it my way. The country would definitely be a better place with nothing but good food and killer music.
"Going back to your question... my favourite type of food is definitely Indian; I'm just a huge fan of spices, gravies and curries etc. My Mum is actually an amazing cook, so I've been very fortunate to have some of the best home cooked food ever growing up. The guys and I in the band always insist on trying out other cuisines wherever in the world we go and perform in.
"I'd say from all the countries we've visited, in terms of cuisine anywhere in Asia would have to be among our favourites. It's a known fact that hospitality in Asia is certainly the best in comparison to other parts of the world, so food is a huge point to consider ha-ha. It will be really hard to choose one country eh, so I'll go with India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Turkey and definitely Thailand to be among our top list of countries with regards to cuisine."