ZiX from Lebanon should be your first choice if you are hunting some obscure Steel nowadays. and please let me clarify that I am using the word "obscure" to describe their music as I believe that they are delivering their Steel o their own special way: They are totally into the classic Heavy Metal mood however they are adding some unique elements on their music that would help you to recognize their stuff among a thousands bands, thanks to Ziad and Juan's double guitar attack, thanks to Maya's trademark vocals and thanks to the power and mystery of their compositions. Their WarWhore EP is an absolute must. In here we present the very first interview that the band ever did. Enjoy:
Ok let's start with the basics, where and when was the band formed? What was the initial line up?
Maya: I first met Ziad through a Metal movement and he told me that he was a bassist in a band - in Lebanon- (which was going on for a long time with constant line up changes) but at the time, they were not working on any material because it difficult since he was living in Kuwait while the rest of the band lived in Lebanon. I joined the band soon after, and we decided that I would work them in Lebanon, and we would record and send the tracks to Ziad in Kuwait where he could mix and master. However, problems arose and the band split up but Ziad and I were not ready to give this up - I think we were the only two anyway who were really serious from the start. So then him and I were on the hunt for talented musicians who really understood the direction we were heading in in our music and we recorded some songs with different guitarist such as Patrick Ziade and Fadi AbouKhalil, but then we met our savior, Juan Christ! OOPS I mean Juan Carrizo, who had the perfect tone and understood exactly what we wanted, him too being satisfied with the music. Even though Ziad was still in Kuwait, and I in Lebanon and Juan in Argentina, we manage to work together really well and SO easily and I think that's the most important thing in a band to be able to succeed and I am really proud of each and every one of us for getting this far! The band was also supported by the band's good friend Maroun Srour who's constant motivation and faith in us allowed us to complete the EP.
What does the name ZiX mean? Is there any specific concept behind it?
Ziad: ZiX had been my nickname in high school ever since I can remember, so when the decision came to split the previous band, I decided that I would do a solo album with my cherry pie Maya and she didn't object to name it ZiX! In fact she never brought it up! The moment Juan joined the band he made a statement: "proud to have joined ZiX" so I figured he didn't object either. So, there is no concept behind it…actually there is one but it's kinda embarrassing: my brother always wanted a dog, and he said he'd name him "Zix" if we ever got one. We didn't get one so he gave that nickname to me. uhm,..
In your own words, how would you describe your music to someone who has never heard the band so far?
Ziad: To me it sounds like classic heavy metal but played with an exotic twist, the elements are the same, the structures, the progression- if you listen closely you will see a bit of Iron Maiden, a bit of Dio and a bit of Manowar, but it works so well together that you tend to think its completely a different genre, while in fact it is classic heavy metal with power metal influences.
Juan: At first sight you would probably be over whelmed by the epicness and density of the songs: strings, piano, ethnic instruments + 3 guitars and a hell of a vocalist, all of it along a killer upfront drum and bass. Truth is that underneath that all, there is a classic heavy metal structure and feeling. I like to think that ZiX is how Iron Maiden would have sounded if they had started today, if being grown up in a 3rd world country. ZiX have the perfect balance between power and intellect colored with and Intercultural palette.
Which bands or artists would you point as the main influences in your music?
Ziad: Iron maiden, Ronnie James Dio, Manowar…these would be the primary factors behind my motivation and the music.
How do you compose your music? Which was the first song you ever composed?
Juan: Ziad is the one who mostly launches the first stone. The first rhythmic and structural scheme comes from him to our shared Pro Tools session with bass and guide drums already recorded. I usually grab my guitar and keep it plugged while listening for first time so I can record right away with no first thoughts for the song. I finish the guitars and then Maya adds her magic. During that time I usually work in other arrangements. When vocals are finally uploaded I quite always change some guitars arrangements to serve better the vocal line. At this point we usually chat a lot about "what do we want for the song". Weird thing about all the creative process is that at the point the EP was released, we had never met before. Somehow we have managed to make music this way. It's like music just speaks for us in several ways more than we are aware I think.
Ziad: Most of these songs were ideas for a very long time, I knew the bass lines in my head but lacked the skills to create the guitar parts that I wanted. The many members I played with have also either criticized a lot of the songs or didn't get the right idea on how I wanted them to sound. The first song I ever wrote was split into 3 songs actually, two are already released on the EP and are called: Heaven's Eyes and Shadow of a Dying Sun. The third one will be on the album, it has the major parts of the original first song I ever wrote and was called: The Tides of the Metal Storm, which was the first song that Maya record with me too, however we didn't decide on the new name yet as we didn't finish the lyrics yet.
Prior to the EP, is there any release -for example demo- that we are not aware of?
Ziad: There was a few singles released with Fadi and Patrcik and were really good, however I decided to reissue the songs with Juan as he is a permanent member and wanted his own touch on the songs as Fadi and Patrick have their own bands already and were just helping me out.
Let's focus on the EP. When and where was it recorded and in how many days?
Maya: The EP was recorded in 3 countries, at home! Each of us would record their part at home and send them to each other, through Dropbox, to see what to fix or enhance and then Juan would mix and master the songs. We worked on the same programs, so anything recorded on my computer would automatically transfer to Juan and Ziad's computers. The EP took quite a bit of time because we were constantly remaking songs and asking friends and fans to give us feedback and criticize as much as they could which helped a lot because without those wonderful criticisms we wouldn't have been able to release a successful EP!
Juan: The recording of the EP was overlapped with the production process of the songs so it takes us about 6 month (Feb to Jul) to have it ready for mastering and printing. Each one of us recorded in his own home studio. Ziad and maya sent the tracks to me and I produced, mixed and finally mastered the songs.
Please present your EP to the people that still are not aware of it. What is the title, how many songs does it include, etc...
Ziad: This is our debut EP, it is entitled "The WarWhore" and it contains six tracks. It is sort of a concept album on the war machine that is grinding the Middle East and who is represented as a whore, thus the name, and it ties everything happening today with what the book of revelations from the bible warned about. The words are put together so well that sometimes it is impossible to tell if we are pro or against this world order, and sometimes in songs like "Heaven's Eyes", the verses acknowledge that there is something wrong and all the signs point to the apocalyptic prophecies. However, when the chorus comes, it questions faith and the existence of God.
Were there any line-up changes on the recording line-up of the EP or has the line-up remained the same since the day you started?
Maya: The line-up was always changing when we first got serious about the EP, trying to find the ones who best fit in and who was on the same page as us! But none of what was recorded before Juan are on the EP so no, the final EP has a constant line-up.
Have you released the EP yourselves? Or is there a record label behind it? Is it a factory CD press or CDr?
Maya: We do not currently have a label so, yes, we released the EP by ourselves. It wasn't as hard as people might think. We had the Internet on our side for more exposure, and we also went to Wacken Open Air where we were able to give out some CDs for free to anyone who was interested.
Ziad: We also met many fans on our facebook page in Wacken who were waiting for the hard copy of our EP and managed to get more fans from all over the world like Russia or Mexico, and we were happy to see that they contacted us on Facebook after Wacken!
You have also decided to spread the EP digitally on the Internet. Do you think that the world wide web helps new bands to promote the music?
Maya: Definitely! We all work and have responsibilities so it is very difficult for us to travel around and meet new people / labels, so the Internet has really helped in spreading our music to the masses, and has given us so many opportunities because new people are discovering us every day which I think is brilliant!
Focusing more on the music of the band and leaving behind the influences you have pointed earlier, I still think that the band has a very unique style of presenting their Steel. You sound mysterious and obscure meanwhile heavy and passionate. How do you compose your songs?
Juan: Regarding guitars and musical production overall, I had to make a choice at the very beginning of the project: should I respect what is expected for a metal band in terms of soloing and sounding OR should I be as honest as I can with the musical road I've taken all this years and take the risk of being "out". I think the choice is quite obvious and fortunately and even though we have never ever talked about it, Maya and Ziad share my thoughts. That's how we made fit modern guitar techniques and sounds into a classic heavy metal style. That is one of the many flavors that makes ZiX a remarkable band and that's why you hear that passion, because we are doing it completely focused, with heart and soul. And by the way I'm quite grateful that you notice that blood behind the music.
In your music I have noticed some traditional elements. Not only traditional instruments, but also some exotic traditional forms represented in Metal forms.. Am I right? Do you want to talk about this combination?
Ziad: The main idea was to transfer the mood and feel of traditional heavy metal into an oriental exotic one. So the idea was simple, take the normal structures and elements and play the whole album with oriental tunes. The lyrics of the songs on the EP make that also easier to happen, it is sort of a concept EP on the idea behind the book of revelations in the Bible.
What is this instrument on the intro of "Heaven's Eyes? And what about the one on "Shadow Of A Dying Sun" intro?
Ziad: I too, like Steve Harris, want my signature bass guitar sound! :P
Juan: Shadow's intro is nothing but the bass and a flute-ish synth playing unison with wild amounts of delay. Heavens Eyes intro is a mix of instruments I made to join the original Ziad's bass intro. There are Tango style Acordion, a kalimba, a sitar and a shamisen (that Chinese 3 string instrument that is played with a kind of plain spoon. The big drums on the intro is a mix of several type of taiko drums and orchestral percussion. All virtual instruments bundled into pro tools!
Who is playing the keyboards on the "Dark Days Of Babylon" I love them.
Ziad: Juan did most of the keys, after I had played the basic keys on a midi keyboard. He took them and made the complicated lines that you hear as he has more experience. And that is how he became Jesus! haha
Do you want to focus a little on the lyrics of your songs? You have some very interesting titles "Shadow Of A Dying Sun", "Rising", "Night Of Evil" etc I would love a little reference to the lyrics of each song.
Ziad: The title track lyrics written by Maroun Srour, it shows the chauvinistic nature of the warlords ruling our earth with their evil nature which is depicted too in all the songs.
"Shadow Of a Dying Sun" and "Rising" are connected while "Night Of Evil" is a story about witches but fits the main theme perfectly since the whole album is referring to demons whether in the real sense of the word or just a metaphor and in this song they happen to give the witches their skills. The first two songs talk about the war machine, and one minute you can interpret it as being against and the next as being pro, for example rising during the whole song, it warns you about the war machine but suddenly at the end invites you to join it or be crushed! Shadow of a Dying Sun on the other hand shows the human weakness from the perspective of the Evil commander however on the chorus, it shows that he too beneath the skin wants out of the horrors happening and he becomes "cold as a mountain, and his true colors are not shown" meaning he has lost the taste of life and nothing makes him smile anymore.
Maya's voice is the ultimate trademark of the band. How did you find her?
Ziad: I was once chatting with Maya on msn having no idea she sings, and out of the blue she presses F2 and records a voice clip, it was Rainbow in the Dark by Dio. I was blown away, the next thing she sang was Kill With Power for Manowar, and that made try to convince other members to hire a powerful female vocalist, not to mention that she is gorgeous too!
Juan: One night I was walking down the cemetery, suddenly a hand took my foot. It was coming from the underground. I freaked out. The thing starts popping out of the ground as I looked for my lighter. When I finally reached it, I turned it on and see this beautiful creature! I managed to domesticate her (it results to be a "she").happy was the day when I discovered she was able not only to talk and spit but even to sing, scream, kill, destroy and defeat em all with power and charm. (Yeah Maya, you can use it for your bio hahahaha).
Has Maya faced any kind of difficulties choosing to sing in a Metal band? I do not know how exact circumstances are going for women in Lebanon, that is why I am asking...
Maya: I am part British so I have a totally different mentality than the Lebanese, but to be honest, there are many female Metalheads out here, and there are a few vocalists/musicians in the Metal Scene. The Metal Scene is very discrete and pretty small in Lebanon, not many people really know about any local metal bands. But then again, no one cares! I think that that would be the only difficulty - that no one actually appreciates the music or the talent that is behind it and it's a shame. I bet that if people payed more attention to us, they'd see the beauty behind this music and metal would no longer be disregarded. I say disregarded because no one in Lebanon would ever give you a record deal if you are playing metal. Those bastards!
In general how difficult is to form a Metal band in Lebanon? Is there total freedom down there for people that want to hear or play such kind of music?
Maya: Yes, the freedom is there, (and the the rest of the people don't care) but as I said, you will not be able to succeed if you do not have connections outside because there is no future for Metal in Lebanon, at least for now!
Practically speaking how difficult was it to play and record your music? Are there any studios in there? Was it easy to set up a rehearsal space, find instruments etc?
Maya: It was pretty easy because each of us have our personal little studio at home with the equipment needed to record at home. There are studios here, but they are way too expensive, and we thought we'd save that for when we want to record the full length album!
Have you gave any live shows? Is it easy to play live down there?
Maya: We haven't given any live shows yet, since we are all in different countries but I will be singing some songs off the EP in October, and we are hoping to play at Wacken next year!
Back on the EP. Have you been reached by any label for a possible re-issue on CD or vinyl?
Ziad: We have been reached by three labels so far, no decisions were made, it is still a honey moon phase for us. We do not quite understand what is going on, my personal lawyer is reviewing some offers. To be honest we had no idea any of this would happen!
In what status is the band now? What are your future plans?
Ziad: We are currently working on the full length album! We will be announcing the progress soon on our facebook page and giving sneak peaks and a single will be released. There is also some talk going around about a video clip.
Juan: We are working on full album as we listen to proposals from labels so we can make it better in terms if production. We are also looking for the way to get all of us together in a rehearsal room and make some noise.