When it comes to music, Cairo Gossip rarely wavers from the walking gods on earth that are DJs. But Cairo is a city full of talent and none more so than Egyptian metal band, Scarab.
But what makes these guys unique?
Well, having started in 2006, Sammy Sayed, Al Sharif Marzeban, Tarek Amr, Sherif Adel, Mohamed El Sherbieny and Hatem El Akkad have performed and opened for some of the biggest metal bands in the world, including Amon Amarth, Anathema and – the only one I’ve heard of – Motörhead, at festivals and gigs across the world, including in Germany and the UK.
On November 25th, Scarab will make a rare appearance in Cairo, performing at El Sawy Culturewheel on a line-up that also includes Egyptian metal peers, Anarchy.
We got comfy with drummer, Hatem, and bassist, Sherbieny, to delve into their obviously sick and twisted metal minds, only to discover that they’re actually good, intelligent human beings. What a disappointment.
Not a lot of CG readers will be familiar with the type of music you guys play. How would you explain death metal to someone who’s never heard it before?
Sherbieny: Oh wow, this is a serious interview! We started with 80s rock, specifically Queen – real music. Death metal is hard to get into; you have to go on a journey. Your ears have to get used to the sound. There are so many layers to it; you have to separate the harmonies.
Hatem: It’s not a genre to start with. None of us started listening to death metal. It’s usually very intense…
S: And technical.
H: Yeah, like in tempo. It’s usually characterised by heavy vocals that we call ‘growling’. The reason why it’s so intense is because most of the subjects are so…
H: And deal with violence, drug addiction, or politics.
What types of music are you guys influence by and what inspires you?
S: I listen to music that has depth, layers and brains behind it. It doesn’t have to be metal. I’m usually into progressive music that always changes and never stays the same in the typical verse, chorus, verse format. Like, music that builds up to something…that evolves. Some days I listen to Bjork…other days you’ll find me listening to bands that are very complicated, like Riverside.
H: Musical influences? Pretty much anything and everything with the exception of cheesy Arabic sh*t. I go anywhere from jazz, old metal, new metal, or rock. The drumming aspect also has something to do with it. Like if I have a favourite drummer, I’ll listen to their bands. Mike Portnoy moved me to listen to Liquid Tension Experiment; also Gavin Harrison, and George Kollias from Nile. Someone like Joey Jordison is a huge idol for me.
Scarab have played a lot of international shows with some of the biggest metal acts. Which gig was your favourite?
S: My favourite was the one in Germany because it was our first international gig. We got to hang out with Phil Anselmo from Pantera. We also got to see Vader for the first time and meet Peter Wiwczarek.
H: The Bloodstock one [in England] was amazing. The crowd was absolutely insane. We had the smallest stage in the venue and it was packed with 5000 people all chanting our names.
Usually the drummer and bassist share a special chemistry. Was that the case with you to?
S: I’m always telling him to either slow down or speed up. The band relies on us to keep the tempo and the music we play has to be kept tight. But, yeah, now we’re sort of ‘friends’, I guess.
Do you think people will feel cheated to discover that you guys don’t walk around in corpse paint and kick small animals?
S: We don’t wear corpse paint or anything, but we’ve sort of developed an on-stage persona because our lyrics talk about ancient Egyptian things, especially the eye of Ra…we’ve created our own style.
H: Like with the eyeliner and clothes. This one time, we left our stage prop in the airport and we had to improvise with torn up shirts and Egyptian flag.
S: Someone once wrote a review about us playing and they said that we looked like we came out of an ancient Egyptian tomb. That was very cool.
What do you want Scarab to have accomplished in 10 years?
S: A stable career; we want to be signed to a record label and produce our albums – like professional musicians.
H: Tour the entire globe, obviously. Like literally, every country; we want to play in every venue.
Scarab has a gig tomorrow at El Sawy Culturewheel; how is playing in Egypt different from playing in international venues?
H: The technical aspects of Egypt are obviously worse, but we like playing in our hometown. The fans try really hard to get into the music we play and their support is what we strive for.
S: We always play one concert in Egypt a year; something to show our appreciation. Before, when we first started, we felt as though we weren’t given the credit we deserve, but as soon as we started getting international gigs we got more respect from our fans back home. It feels amazing to have someone in Egypt recognize who you are - especially in the newer crowd; when we give them an album of ours, they get so excited.
Who pulls in more tail? Is it easier picking up chicks if you’re in a band?
H: I think you better answer this one…
S: Well, it has to be the vocalist (Sammy Sayed). He fronts the band and he’s the closest one to the people in the crowd.
H: Not like me, I’m always at the back! After a show, there will be loads of pictures for everyone and like two for me!
S: It’s really cheesy to say that you’re in a band to a girl, very cheesy. But when they know who you are, it’s definitely easier.
What are some of your favorite Egyptian bands?
S: I really liked Worm, when they were still playing. Also Mascara are good and Anarchy, who we’re playing with [tomorrow night].
H: Yeah, Worm were amazing, Crescent too. Mascara are really hard workers. They’re very energetic on stage. They’re not really metal or anything, but they’re different.
If you could play with any metal act or musician, dead or alive, who would it be?
H: Any of my influences; Dimmu Borgir, Slipknot, obviously, Nile. Cradle of Filth, too, even though I don’t like any of their new stuff.
Here's a little taste of Scarab in action. I'd find a good chiropractor before going to their gig.