Lebanon has a great rock and metal scene. Since the 90s their scene emerged with all metal subgenres and growing. And finally today they have their only female thrash metal in Lebanon – and maybe the Middle East? – I’ve chatted with Slave To Sirens to know more about them, about the band and what are they hiding in their agenda…
To start the interview, be kind to tell us a brief history of your band.
Lilas: After playing with a few bands locally – which never made it live – the idea of trying something different and new was always on my mind. So, I decided to form a female thrash metal band, and my search for interested musicians began in late 2014 and it was futile until I received a phone call from Bassem Deaibess – Blaakyum’s frontman -about his girlfriend, who was a guitar player in a previous death metal band. I met her the very next day in summer 2015, and this memorable meeting was during a riot outbreak and a protest against the Lebanese government regarding the garbage crisis. I had also contacted Tatyana – drummer – before I met Shery, back when I was in a band that lacked a drummer, but she wasn’t able to join at the time. I met Alma – bass – through Facebook and Paula Wehbe- vocals -joined us for a short period of time but had to part ways due to her many commitments. Maya Khairallah- vocals-Ex ZiX band – joined later and everything else just fell in the right places. We started covering songs and writing our originals at the same time, and currently recording with the help of our good friend Mood Yassine – from Turbulence. We debuted our first live performance on November 1st during Phenomy’s album release night.
Shery: Before Slave To Sirens, I was in a band that was going nowhere and it was holding me back personally but the most talented one in it was Tatyana. I met Lilas at the riot against as mentioned before and then asked Tatyana if she’s interested in joining and she was definitely in.
Did you learn to play instruments by yourselves, or you went to classes, or some sort of school for musicians?
Lilas: I am a self-taught guitar player who struggled along the way, I couldn’t afford music schools and didn’t have internet at home but I had an incredible support from friends around me especially Bassem Deaibess – Blaakyum’s frontman – who gave me my first basic guitar lessons back in late 2012 for couple of months then I continued learning on my own afterwards.
Tatyana: I personally started learning drums in a music school for 2 years, and then I tried to develop my skills and speed. After that I started taking lessons with my current teacher Mr. Simon El Khoury, who’s been very influential regarding the techniques I need in order to become a better drummer.
Alma: I went to a music school for a few years to learn the piano and guitar but then I was very interested in playing bass so I taught myself.
Maya: Speaking from a “my voice is my instrument” point of view, I am a self-taught singer, not a day passes where I do not sing – and I’m really not exaggerating, you can ask my family…”Maya shut up!”I’ve been doing that since I was maybe 10 or so. I joined my university choir for a year back in 2013, which really helped in controlling my voice, and learn breathing techniques, and it has helped me achieve my goal of alternating pitch and notes in split seconds with no transition. I stopped because I had no time with my schedule, but I always train and practice what I learnt during that year.
Shery: I remember very well when we were kids, my friend and I were in love with Slash, so one day she told me “Dude your dad plays the guitar let him teach us” and I thought that was a great idea! How have I not thought about this before? So he taught us basic lessons for a year. I really look up to him. And the only music school that I went to wasN-jam Music School in 2014 for about a month.
Describe us a moment when you first were introduced to heavy metal genre?
Lilas: It was the day my parents bought a home stereo (HIFI), and I accidentally found a CD in it,which most probably used for sound quality testing, so I played it and that was when I heard bands like Evanescence and Linkin Park and I fell in love with sound of distortion in guitars. It was a real life changing moment; it was where I decided to be a guitar player! A good friend of mine introduced me later on and ironically I didn’t like it at first, but here I am today thrashing hard.
Tatyana: The first time I got introduced to metal music was during the annual metal concert held every summer in Lebanon: Summer Fusion, nine years ago. My sister’s boyfriend was a drummer so I accompanied her and that was the turning point of my whole musical orientation, it turned me from a hip-hop dancer to a death metal drummer.
Maya: I had the advantage of being introduced to heavy metal from a really young age thanks to my sister. I remember walking into my sisters room while she was watching an Iron Maiden concert, and because I was an annoying little being she kicked me out after few minutes, and when I went back to steal the tape I couldn’t find, so I picked up a random CD which happened to be Manowar’s Sign of the Hammer and love was in the air.
Alma: I introduced myself to heavy metal. It all started when I went to an event when I was 13 years old and I became passionate and curious about this music ever since.
Who are your musical and non-musical influences?What is your main inspiration to play and produce music?
Lilas: I am a Thrasher so anything that gets me moshing has a huge influence on my music today especially the 80s Thrash, watching my favorite bands play live such as; Kreator, Slayer, Arch Enemy, Testament, Megadeth, Carcass etc.I also look up to a lot of female musicians in Metal/Rock such as Lzzy Hale from Halestorm, Joan Jett, Nervosa and Crucified Barbara to name a few. As for my non-musical influences I like poetry and I am a big fan of Alexander Pope, Gibran Khalil Gibran, Charles Boudelaire and HP Lovecraft, also all the wars, injustice and the messed up political situations fuels my anger to express myself through music.
Maya: My two main musical influences as a vocalist would have to be Ronnie James Dio and Eric Adams, who were among the first voices that made want to sing! At a certain point I was really into the 80’s hair/glam/rock/metal scene, and Lita Ford and Joan Jett from the Runaways were the women who made me want to be this badass metal vocalist.
Shery: Well my all-time favorite band is Iron Maiden, I grew up listening to these guys but I love other bands as well, such as; At The Gates, Carach Angren, and Immortal etc. Even Heavy Sludge bands like Black Label Society, so basically bands from various Metal genres.I get inspired when I watch live concerts and videos of great musicians like Marty Friedman for example.
Tatyana: My musical influences now are mainly Jojo Mayer, Mario Duplanteir and George Collias.
Alma: I am fan of bands like Foo Fighters, System Of A Down, Megadeth and Iron Maiden.
What obstacles you had to overcome to form the first all girl metal band in your country?
Forming an all-female band wasn’t easy at all and it took us a while to find each other.It is still a relatively new concept around here, sincewe live in a Middle Eastern patriarchal country,although in Lebanon it’s still better than other surrounding Arab countries when it comes to expression of oneself.But we still get to be called ‘satanic’ just because people do not understand our music,and parents are conservative and all of that is worse if you’re a girl, especially if you have to stay out late for a gig, recording or rehearsals and also trying to manage between our university studies, work commitments and the band.
In your band, who is composer and who is a songwriter?
Lilas: Shery and I come up with riffs and our ideas always seem to complete each other and Tatyana writes her drum parts. I also write lyrics for our songs mostly but Maya is recently contributing to some as well.
Have you thought about your album yet? How is it going to sound, lyrical themes?
We are really serious about what we are doing and at the time being our first album is a priority for us. Since we are new to all of this we really can’t have a final answer about itbecause we are still in the writing phase,but we can picture it from what we have so far as something aggressive, dark and a mix of all our inspirations.
You have already achieved a great thing – you formed “Slave to Sirens”. What are your other goals?
Our first goal is to finish our album at the moment. In the future we would like to get recognized in bigger countries and hopefully tour with bands we look up to.
Tell us your opinion about playing in clubs? Is it better than playing on stadiums and arenas? Do you think that club is preferable because the auditorium is more honest about their feelings for the band?
Thrash metal is a genre usually played at clubs/pubs because it’s not just that the audience is more honest about their feelings, but it is a place where they can do stage diving and stage invasions as well as moshing. The distance between the band and the crowd is small and you can connect with them faster and feel all the good energy. But as a band like us that started just under a year ago, we think that smaller venues are just a preparatory phase for later on bigger arenas and stadiums that need much more experience. At the end of the day, it’s about enjoying our time and sharing this joy with others.
What is your opinion about bands who sound great on albums, but not that good on live concerts? And what do you think if the situation is reversed – if the band is bad on the album, but live sounds much better?
In these days, anyone can sound great on an album. With the technology and endless possibilities, almost everyone and everything will sound good. In a live concert, you discover their true talent and you may be disappointed or you may not.
How did you come up with the name for the band? Does a siren, as mythological being, mean something special to you all?
Choosing a name for the band was a real brainteaser and we always used to discover that every single name we come up with was already taken by other bands. Shery’s boyfriend suggested Power Slave first but we didn’t want to sound as the next Iron Maiden tribute band so he came up with Slave To Sirens. We felt like it was a bit alien when we first head it, but not until we all dwelled in its true meaning that we eventually embraced it. Hence Sirens were beautiful but dangerous creatures that lured the sailors with their beautiful voices and music to their doom, causing the ships to crash on the reefs near their island, capturing some as slaves. Having that said, of course this name means something special to us because we’ll lure you in! (haha)
Who do you want to share stage with from Lebanon? You guys have a great metal scene.
We are having incredible support by a lot of friends from our metal scene, especially Metal Bell Magazine, and we are grateful for the support we are receiving from bands like Blaakyum, so we want to share the stage with them. But we would always like to share the stage with other dedicated successful bands in our country.
We heard you had your first live experience on the 1st of November. Tell us about it. Funny moments, inspiring moments..etc.
Lilas: I had the privilege of sharing the stage with our friends from Phenomy and InnerGuilt and it was really exciting to debut our original live for the first time,also covering songs like Gojira; ‘Wisdom Comes’, Kreator; ‘Destroy What Destroys You’, Slayer; ‘Black Magic’ and ‘Mandatory Suicide’, At The Gates; ‘World Of Lies’ and Onslaught; ‘Killing Peace’. One of the funny moments I had on stage, actually it wasn’t a moment it was during the whole set, all my hair was covering my face and I couldn’t see anything and I felt like I was in another world.
Shery: I really enjoyed performing live that night; it was definitely a better experience than the other times I got on stage! The funniest part was when the electric fan was next to me and all my hair went inside of my mouth.
Maya: That performance was probably the most enjoyable performance I’ve done so far, everything was pretty awesome, apart from that fact that as soon as I’d step a bit back I couldn’t hear shit from the monitor and the wind from the electricfan was pissing me off – haha. I’d have to say the funniest part was when I was singing the outro of Slayer’s‘Mandatory Suicide’, and a guy from the crowd kept pointing at something behind me. I got all mixed up with my words, got really worried, and then I see my boyfriend smacking him on the head. I immediately turned around to stop myself from laughing and carried on with the “correct” words.
Alma: I would honestly say that I was a bit nervous. But the crowd was incredible and we had a great feedback from everyone who watched us that night. I enjoyed playing live with my band so much, we have great a chemistry and I am so proud of my girls they are so talented and special in every way.
Tatyana: As the girls mentioned it was really an awesome night for us and we cannot wait to get back on stage and play our own music while sharing the stage with great bands.
Tell us your message to the world.
Just never give up on your dreams, never let others put you down, and this goes especially to the young female metal-heads out there: this is no longer a male dominated musical genre, so do it! And we hope that after you watch one of our shows or listen to our music it will inspire you to pick up your instrument and face the world!
Oh and… ALL SHALL BE OUR SLAVES -hehe.