A story started with passion and ends to the international stage. NerveCell we probably heard that name in “EgyptMetal” Festival in 2007. We’ve seen them in “Global Metal” documentary movie. One of the few Arabian metal bands who conquers the International stages. We –Rock Era- get closer and exclusively know their story…
Were the 4 of you the first who started the band or do you have an old line up?
Barney: We certainly did have an old line up. I started the band back in 2000 when we were a 5-piece band back then. I’m the only original member today and it was only until 2003 when we found a strong, solid and secure line-up.
Rami: Nervecell went through some line-up changes in the past but since the year 2003 Barney, James and I were the line up and never changed since then. We had session drummers both live and on records.
Are you all originally from the UAE?
Barney: None of us are! We are all just residents here. I was born here but I’m half Indian half Portuguese. Rami is Jordanian, James is Lebanese and our current drummer Loui is Australian!
How many demos, EPs and albums have you released? What are they?
Rami: We have three releases so far; “Vastlands Of Abomination” (Demo self-released, 2003),” Human Chaos” (EP on Nerve Damange Productions, 2004) and “Preaching Venom” (Full length on Lifeforce Reocrds/Spellbind Records, 2009)
Tell us about your lyrical themes in each.
Rami: We have philosophical and personal views on how the world is dealing with hate, misery and the society.
What do you think makes you stand out from all the Middle East bands?
Barney: The fact that we never spoke about what we were going to do or brag about who we are at any given point at all, we always let the music we write speak for itself and do the talking. I never started this band to have fun or as a trend, we were always serious about it from day one! Fortunately for us we ended up making a lot of fans in the Middle East and internationally too and that only motivated us to keep going on and to continue to achieve as much as possible, in spite of all the difficulties you face being based in this part of the world.
What influenced your music and lyrics?
Barney: Old school death metal and the good old 80’s and early 90’s thrash era musically! Lyrically it’s a little different as some of it has to do with our singer James personally and also a lot of what goes around in the world like humanitarian issues, injustice, society etc…
Why did you choose NerveCell as your name? Does it have any significance?
Barney: It just sounded cool to me at the time when we had to think of what the band would be called, of course you have to adapt sense into your band name hence the word NERVECELL is really a combination of two words – the nerve is an essential part of the human body and we all know that when your frustrated or bugged by somebody or something that anger basically “gets on your nerves” and you just want to explode or seek for an outlet. Hence the word cell comes in which develops this feeling of being locked up and imprisoned with nowhere to go or escape. So basically it expresses this state of mind where you are left all alone in a cell with no escape and you are about to explode having to deal with a lot of frustration and difficulties that we all go through in our day to day lives.
Since you guys play an extreme genre of metal, haven’t you been accused of being Satanic?
Rami: No! We haven’t, simply because we do not deal with such topics and we are against it in the first place.
How did you manage to go from local to global?
Rami: A lot of hard work really, especially where we come from and with such a niche metal scene/market here which never really helped (laughing) ! We knew we had to push ourselves way harder than so many other bands based in other regions as Europe or America. We just did it the old school way never knowing what’s ahead of us. We wrote songs that we liked without compromise, putting all our passion and hearts in it. We were constantly performing live, gaining a bigger fan base in the local scene. We released our music and self promoted those releases within the local and international media receiving positive feedback which lead us to perform bigger events as festivals. First official festival for Nervecell was at the Dubai Desert Rock Festival in 2005 alongside Sepultura, Machine Head and others and at that time we never expected that our music was gonna go that far really (laughing)!! So we decided to push ourselves even further and perform outside the country so we got onto MetalCamp Festival 2007 in Slovenia being the first Middle Eastern band to perform a European major festival. This led to a tour in Australia the same year. We released our full length album entitled “Preaching Venom” in 2008 in the Middle East and performed at Dubai Desert Rock Festival again that year which was a great come back for us in Dubai, and we just did not stop promoting the album. In 2009 we signed a management deal with CSM who are responsible for Dubai Desert Rock Festival and since we had strong relationship together, things worked out greatly! We were pushed onto bigger festivals in Europe in 2009 performing at With Full Force Festival, Wacken Open Air, Rock am Ring, Rock im Park and so many others which was the “European Festival Tour 2009” with more festivals in Portugal, Belgium and Germany. We were searching for a label to release “Preaching Venom” internationally, that’s when Lifeforce Records were interested after a long search. Lifeforce is a great label so we signed a deal with them and released “Preaching Venom” in Europe, kicked off for the “Preaching Venom European Tour 2009” to promote the album in Europe and just kept going really… End of last year we toured Sri Lanka with As I Lay Dying directly supporting them, toured with Suffocation, Annotations Of An Autopsy, Fleshgod Apocalypse and Burning The Masses on a full European/UK tour last March/April 2010 and recently Turkey with Deicide.
We know that the first demo “Vastlands of Abomination” received great credits. But what about your first time live? Where was it? And how was it?
Barney: We played the battle of the bands 2000 in Abu Dhabi, it was our first ever show as Nervecell and we ended up winning 2 out of the 8 awards that night “Best guitarist” and “Most creative band”.
I’ll never forget that night (laughing)
Did it ever cross your mind that you’ll join the stage with bands like “As I lay Dying”, “Sepultura”, “Cradle of Filth” and all these legendry bands?
Rami: We shared the stage with As I Lay Dying at the Dubai Desert Rock Festival 2008 and directly supported them in Sri Lanka last year which was great to meet again in a new country for both of bands. We performed with Sepultura for the first time in Dubai Desert Rock 2005 and shared the stage again in Germany at With Full Force Festival 2009, another band that influenced all of us in the band and it’s an honor to simply be on the same bill really! Andreas Kisser Sepultura’s guitarist interviewed us at the festival, which made it to the official DVD along with one of our songs that we performed at the festival. We feel so great!
What did you learn from this?
Rami: That nothing is impossible!
Who is your idol?
Rami: I guess you mean musically? Well so many bands and artists have inspired me like Megadeth, Pantera, Sepultura, Death, Slayer, Deicide and many more…
Who are the bands that you still want to share the stage with?
Rami: Cannibal Corpse and Slayer! We already shared the stage with Suffocation and Deicide, two of US death metal legends and CC will be seal the deal (laughing). Of course Slayer is everyone’s dream (laughing)!
Tell us about your experience in the movie documentary “Global metal”
Barney: That was really cool. Sam Dunn was hanging out with us and we took him out for a drive to a location where he could get a good impression of Dubai. He wanted to interview us in a place that was a desert but you could also see the the skyline of Dubai as well in the distance. It was really a quick interview where we spoke about the local scene and how metal is slowly getting recognized in this part of the world!
What did you like about the Egypt Metal Festival in 2007?
Barney: It was cool to see so many metal heads come out to an event that wasn’t publically promoted you know, I mean it was all very underground and word of mouth from what I saw which is great. I mean just to see so many other local bands be there and play original music was great. I remember particularly most of the bands covering children of boredom (laughing) that night. We headlined that festival and it was just nice to see we had a fan base their basically that we never knew existed.
Rami: Very nice festival. The Egyptian metal crowd was crazy and we loved it! We had lots of fun! we felt Egypt was like our second home.
What are your plans for the following year?
Rami: Releasing a new album and more touring. Hopefully the US for the first time!
Have you guys reached your aim yet? Or is there more to come?
Barney: There is always more to come. I mean technically I’ve had the honor to share the stage with some of my favorite bands already which is awesome! We never had an aim exactly; we just wanted to be a touring band which is where we are today. I guess we would want to tour a lot more and be able to make a reasonable living from music, that’s all. I guess every metal band’s dream would be to play at Wacken Open Air Festival, we didn’t even aim for that (laughing) but it happened!!!
Is your music downloadable?
Barney: Definitely and unfortunately (laughing). Nah! it’s cool man, if someone wants to check us, are sites out there you can download our music through but if you like what you hear then come on man go ahead and buy the album 😉
The band is now 10 years old. Are you guys satisfied about the current position of the band?
Barney: We are very proud of what we have accomplished as a band based in the Middle East for sure. The first 6 years were hard because we were still in University studying so it naturally made us work at a slower pace. Once we all graduated we were more focused on the music more than anything else in our lives and that’s when we also started touring outside Dubai more often. Once “Preaching venom” was released we got some amazing reviews for it and we firmly became an international band after that! Eventually CSM our management signed up with us and we also got signed to Lifeforce Records which was awesome. We have never looked back ever.
What’s the biggest problem that faced you through your career as a band and how did you overcome it?
Barney: Dealing with crappy promoters who don’t believe in paying the bands that they get to play for their events and having no access to proper recording studios and experienced producers / engineers.
We didn’t overcome it; we just went against it and went our own way. We stopped dealing with promoters who wanted to make money of us and we worked with studios internationally rather than waste our time with in experienced producers / engineers in Dubai who charge ridiculous prices in the first place!
What do you tell your Egyptian fans?
Rami: I know there’s lots of metal fans in Egypt which is awesome! We played before in Egypt and we hope to be back again sometime soon!
How do you see the rock and metal scene in the Arab world nowadays?
Rami: It’s getting much better now. With globalization things everything is improving in the region. We all know what happened in the late 90’s with the “Satanism” crap which have affected the whole metal scene/society negatively in the Arab world, and I think this caused drawbacks with the metal scene in the region, but we know things are better now! Bands in the Arab world are now focusing on the music which is the main thing really and hopefully there will be a bright future for the whole metal scene.
What’s the advice you would give to the new young bands out there?
Barney: If you believe your music is strong enough then take it out there as far as possible, don’t sit around for people to help you out! You have the internet – get a MySpace, get a website, record an album – a good one, send it out to anyone and everyone, play anywhere and everywhere and practice practice practice!!!
Interviewed by: N.J. and Yasser Mohamed