Born from the mind of frontman Ashmedi, Melechesh has been defining the metal realm in its own terms since 1993. Having originations in the very heart of the Middle East, their music has been the subject of controversy and acclaim. As the band turns twenty this year, their grasp on Assyrian black metal remains firm and finds the band exploring the depths of their own consciousness in composition. I had the opportunity to ask Ashmedi a few questions about the band itself and its volatile cultural surroundings.
What’s been your journey as a musician? Starting from when you first felt compelled to be a musician to where you are now, what’s led you to this point?
Well passion for music is one of them. Maybe this is a cliché but I felt music was the right outlet for me. Maybe due to the societal setting I was exposed to I turned to music. Heavy Metal in particular was the ideal outlet for my state of mind or personal experiences. At one point I got the urge to play so after saving up I bought a crappy electric guitar and started playing, teaching myself and eventually composing. I was met with ridicule by my family and school and many said you can’t even play, how on earth do you think you will ever release any albums let alone release albums while living in Jerusalem? It did not faze me. I did not think about it too much. Just played.
What is it about the metal genre that drew you in to create music yourself?
I was always into extreme things from BMX to skateboards, anything with an edge I was into it. In hindsight, living in Jerusalem exposed me to certain demographics and tensions there, plus my own family setting perhaps made me appreciate the sound of metal more. The guitar and drum correlation, angry vocals etc… it was ideal for me. At the time I knew nothing of the herd mentalities in metal and conservatism and so on. I just liked the music so it was ideal. Naturally at this time I see the ups and downs . Anything public in the hands of people ( esp over-empowered persons with a sense of self entitlement may offer also a down side ) But the music was ideal for me I wanted to add a different touch or spice to it , maybe contribute a leaf if not a branch to the tree of heavy metal if there is a such a thing .
As the metal genre evolves, it seems that fans’ response to it evolves as well. For you, what seems to be the main difference between American reception of heavy/experimental music and the myriad of other cultures’ reception to it? What do you feel is the main causality for this difference in reception across cultures?
America is a large place so not one answer or perception is accurate. There are multiple truths. I feel there are a lot of conservatives , it is not a bad thing they preserve the essence of Metal and they’re the ones that appreciate the boundaries being pushed . Both are necessary for a healthy scene. I believe metal music does transcend cultures because it is a subculture on its own, so you would notice pretty much similar receptions worldwide provided they are exposed to same level of information . I see a global picture rather than a regional one.
When you go into your head space to compose a song, what’s your process like both when it comes to the musical composition and to the lyrics?
It is quite an abstract process, I am not sure how it happens, at times I feel frustrated and at times it is like a moment of zen the music flows and the music creates images like a film trailer or such from there I keep developing it . I later add the exact wording, the lyrics. Sometimes I start with a verse some inspiring lines then add music to it so there isn’t a blue print or a formula, it’s a mix of order and chaos I guess
You’ve been performing as Melechesh since 1993. How have you personally seen the band as a whole evolve since then? What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Well the band grew and became a credible musical entity. I never planned for this I just wanted to make music that I felt was good. Biggest challenge is human element. Imagine pirates trying to run an organization like company or school… it is not easy. You meet many great people but also many insecure and frustrated characters with giant egos it is hard to deal with them. So I learned to just do what is right to the music or the Melechesh banner we carry and not play into people’s dark side of their minds. I try to avoid that.
What do you see as the greatest detriment to heavy/experimental music in the 21st century? Conversely, what do you see as its greatest asset in the age of immediacy?
The detriment would be shallow music and shallow consumers, who alternatively seek to get music for free claim to be rebels but bow in awe to well off corporations such as Sony and Apple, yet still have no issue in hurting the musicians. This is a generalization though. One of the greatest assets in this age of immediacy is technology. With one click the world can find out when a band tours and where. Can see the merchandise and news and hear musical samples. It is good. Technology is like fire and can be used in a positive or negative sense. Also in this age the real music lover is exposed to more music that perhaps normally they would not have been exposed to. So as you see with my answer I do see the pros and cons. This is life.
When you’re not writing or touring with the band, what do you like to do in your leisure time? Any books you find yourself engrossed in? Please elaborate.
The band does consume most of my time when I am not touring or writing I am managing and baby sitting . For leisure I like to escape it all and travel to sunny places, because I live in Amsterdam and I miss the sun there. I like to cook or go and dine out. As for reading I like to read a lot about current issues in the world be it political, social or economic. I also always try to find time to read archaeological anthropological and mystical readings if I find the right and interesting subjects.
Thanks to Ashmedi for his time.
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