“There’s always a pulse in Metal ....”
Carthagods caught my attention in 2015, when the band released their self-titled debut album, and now, with the release of their sophomore album, “The monster in me” I thought I’d take the opportunity to ask founding member, guitarist Tarak Ben Sassi, some questions about the band, the Tunisian metal scene, and of course, discuss the album.
''How are you doing?''
Tarak: ''Hi Andrea, feeling great! Thank you for writing about us''
''Before talking about the music, I am curious to know some things about the band. First off, how was Carthagods formed?''
Tarak: ''Carthagods was formed by kids passionate by Metal Music. There were not many metalheads in Tunisia at that time. So those who could play or listen to Metal music were rare and in this tiny community we knew each other. From original lineup to the current one there’s only me and Zack left.''
''How difficult is it to be a metal band in Tunisia nowadays as opposed to the ‘90s? Have things changed for the better since you started making music?''
Tarak: ''Absolutely, it’s much better now. A lot of things have changed. Today we have music shops, venues, rehearsal rooms … I guess Internet made things more accessible. In the last years there are also people that started to invest in Metal music.''
''What kept you going?''
Tarak: ''Definitely passion, once you get into metal it’s really difficult to get out of it. The Band has always been a priority even during the times where we were feeling
low. Between family life, each other’s career outside of the music, Carthagods had always been our main focus''
''I would say that Carthagods is, alongside Myrath, a very promising band, coming from Tunisia. As an insider, how do you see the Tunisian metal scene?''
Tarak: ''Contrary to my compatriots, I think that we have a great metal scene in Tunisia with a bright future. We have excellent bands, a new Metal Music Label that invest in bands, gigs with thousands of people, metal organizations, official media that write about metal … and the most important thing is that it’s moving in the right direction. So far those bands didn’t have the opportunity to show their potential. For those bands not being mediatized doesn’t mean we will deny their existence.''
''Carthagods has played alongside many great bands, as support or opening act. What have you learnt from these experiences?''
Tarak: ''This has added a lot, since 2006 with EPICA when we had no idea how a professional band works. Having the opportunity to see the keys of success and what makes those bands so great, dedication, hard work & their love of the fans. Definitely also the exposure, having your band name linked to another great one during a show is great publicity.''
''Can you single out some career highlights over the years?''
Tarak: ''I enjoyed every single show we played, to name a few. Last Year with Judas Priest in Bucharest because this band is one of our main influences. And the PLUG era when a lot of legends joined us on stage like Max Cavalera, Tim Ripper Owens, Paul Di Anno …''
''I know you have been collaborating with Timo Somers for a long time. Is he a part of the band, or a guest musician (besides being a producer)?''
Tarak: ''Timo Somers now is a band member. We get along very well and I think he’s one of the best guitarists in the world :)''
''And speaking of guest musicians, you also have a long-term collaboration with Mark Jansen, as he is featured on both records, and during some live shows. How did this come to be?''
Tarak: ''Epica was the first international metal band to play in Tunisia and Carthagods played also on that show. So from this very special date for both of us we became friends with Mark. He recorded with us in both Albums featured with Carthagods on shows .. But also last year we played 7 shows with Mayan in Netherlands, Belgium and Baltic .''
''How would you describe the last couple of years for the band?''
Tarak: ''It’s the most important years. We signed with Darkside Records Europe which allowed us to make our second album with the production we hoped for. But also to have confirmed a lot of dates like direct support for Slayer.''
''Your new album, “The monster in me”, has been out for some time now. How was the reception?''
Tarak: ''Very good. Almost all the reviews are positive. The new sound of the band has been in our opinion a key of success, having the collaboration of Vikram on the keys and with the contribution of Timo we can only be happy with the results.''
''What can you tell me about it in terms of lyrical content, musical styles and influences?''
Tarak: ''The main subject is mental manipulation. We are talking about those who are working for the purpose of controlling or influencing the thought, the choice and the actions of people. Each member has his own musical influences. We can talk about Judas Priest, Black Sabbath but also Dream Theater, JORN …''
''Vikram Shankar, Mika Jussila, and Timo Somers and some of the names involved in the making of this album. How pleased are you with the end-result?''
Tarak: ''We are more than satisfied by the result. Vikram made a huge work for orchestral and keys. Timo played guitar, produced the album and made the arrangement also, Mika made the mastering. Bas Trumpie and Imre Bareeds took care of the mixing and editing. I can also mention Niklas Sundin (Dark Tranquillity) who made the artwork.''
''What is your favorite song from the album, and why?''
Tarak: ''Very difficult to answer. I will say “Whispers from the wicked” because it’s a powerful track with a melodic chorus so it defines our music. In addition we had Mikael Stanne’s voice on it, big song!''
''I am quite intrigued by the video for the first single, “The monster in me”. What can you tell me about it, and how does it relate to the music?''
Tarak: ''We worked a lot on the video with our friend Fouis Djamel and his team. The video and the song are inspired by Picasso’s work “The Remains of Minotaur in a harlequin costume”. This work is a mirror of the soul of every spectator that reveals in him a part inhuman and vehicle its own demons, but also can meet a positive dimension in the meaning of life. The shooting was done in four days, during which M. KHEMA had to learn the whole song backwards as we felt that the video must start at the end to get to the beginning according to the timeline of the lyrics story.''
''I know the songs “A last sigh” and “Memories of neverending pains” from your debut. What made them fit with the tracklist of this album, as well?''
Tarak: ''It all started during our show in Utrecht when our sound engineer Bas Trumpie told us that it’s pity that especially those 2 tracks have as much impact on the audience and when they go home they listen to the old production.''
''How is the upcoming tour shaping up?''
Tarak: ''For the moment we don’t have a real tour, maybe late this year or beginning 2020. But we have already some cool date announced like Direct support for Slayer in July and 2 festivals: Chania Rock Festival and Agglutination Festival''
''Can you tell us something about Carthagods that the fans might not know.''
Tarak: ''A lot of things can be said :) I will say Carthagods are involved on most of the international metal events in Tunisia.''
''How would you continue the sentence “Music is…”?''
Tarak: ''Music is an industry today. There’s always a pulse in Metal and this pulse is what keeps it alive.
''Do you have any kind of life advice for our readers & us?''
Tarak: ''No matter what you may be going through in life, there’s always a sense of coming out on top.