Interview with Amadeus Awad
Band: Amadeus Awad's Eon
By: Black Cat - 2014-03-27
Not many people in the Middle East can have their name regularly associated with the biggest artists in the world of western Rock and Metal music, maybe not even anyone else has such privilege, it started with him and any other similar experiences are placed in the shadow of the pioneer of this trade: AMADEUS AWAD
Three studio projects in three years, fourth one about to be released and new one being recorded, the man who refused to be called a guitar virtuoso – “There are kids who play better than me” – is way too busy but was kind enough to answer my questions and give us this interview along with his main vocalist the famed Elia Monsef and the newly added female vocalist Natalie Ziyadeh.
JZ: Amadeus, I would like to start with a question about your latest release "Schizanimus", though the critics considered it a Prog Rock album, but I sense that there are other influences everywhere, how did this mix of genres come together?
AA: Nothing was planned! things were happening on the go; I would be writing a full section of a song and Elia would look at me and say “Why don’t you get out of your zone a bit and try a jazzy movement here? I would like to hear a Jazz solo in after this”!! And I would argue forever that I cannot do that and then do it, this particular section is the second guitar solo on “A song for a loner”.
While working on the album Elia introduced me to great bands that actually influenced me heavily and we sat down together and worked without giving much attention to how the album will sound like when it is done!! I would point out that the biggest influence of arrangement came from O.S.I, the band of the greatest keyboard player in the world Kevin Moore, he influenced the way I worked on the synthesizers and how I composed layers and layers of that under my guitar parts.
JZ: So there is no typical method that you use to compose and arrange your music.
AA: My compositions are never ever planned, they reflect and are directly inspired by my experiences in life, sometimes I have a feeling that I never composed or wrote any song, they were there all the time and I simply discovered them.
JZ: Moving the topic of the hour! When can expect “The Book of Gates”? Why was the release postponed many times?
AA: "The Book of Gates" is a freaking logistic nightmare; we went to hell and back to make it happen! Just imagine writing all the songs and arranging them, contacting all the artists that you think will do the project justice, get their approval, send them the songs, working closely with them on delivering the best they can and then listen to all the recorded material and convince your perfectionist self that it is all sounding exactly the way you wanted and even better!!
And in the middle of all that you have a dispute with the drummer of the project and you are left with no drums! Finding another drummer who is suitable for the style and who is free to record and fixing all this up was really a huge nightmare.
After that we went hunting for the right mixing and mastering engineers for the project. Oh and did I mention that all the above came at a cost of around 5 kidneys?
JZ: What caused the dispute with the drummer?
AA: Very trivial matters; I was too depressed to continue working on the project and he thought I did not want to release it anymore which meant that the drum tracks that he was very proud of were not going to be heard by people, this lead to a huge dispute and we decided to end our cooperation. Sadly, his great drumming will not be heard.
JZ: I think it is so natural to ask you when this opus will be released.
AA: You will not like “Soon enough” as an answer. Just let me tell you that we are in talks with venues and sponsors for the release event, which means that we are closer than ever. I know how frustrating this is for our fans who waited all this while, but hey IT IS worth it: if you feel bad that it is late imagine how me and Elia are feeling. The best is being done, the very very best, and you will have a copy of this album on your desk sooner than you expect it.
JZ: What about the idea of recording more songs for "Schizanimus", can you tell us more about that?
AA: We released three songs in the first edition of "Schizanimus", but back then I already had the core of a 4th songs ready, after the release I decided that I should revisit that song and see how it can develop.
I ended up with a new direction and a new sound and more songs. I presented my ideas to Elia and he was so excited and contributed heavily to how things were shaping up.
In the new Edition the songs will be more proggy, a bit more aggressive and we needed a drummer that will be all over the place with insane beats, so I contacted the drum wizard Marco Minnemann and he loved the music and the vibes, recording with him was so much fun!! And to complete the wizardry in the rhythm section I picked the best bassist to my ears Kristoffer Gildenlöw. The new songs are sounding really cool, I am in love with the new sound!
JZ: Should we expect any more surprises about this record?
AA: Well in the vocal department we have few VERY special guests that we will be announcing soon and in the keyboards department a great international keyboardist is adding his touch to the already massive synthesizer sound wall that I composed.
JZ: Moving on to talk to the other Lebanese prodigy, Mr. Elia Monsef. You are linked as a vocalist to 2 of the most respected acts in the Middle Eastern Metal/Rock scene: OSTURA, which is a Symphonic Metal Band and AMADEUS AWAD, which is a Prog act. My personal opinion is that you excelled wherever I hear your voice, but where do you find yourself, what is Elia Monsef as a vocalist made of?
EM: I do what feels right a given moment. I was there during the foundation of OSTURA and my involvement there has been growing exponentially. I started with OSTURA as a session singer but as I was recording my parts I turned into a full member and later manager and music director. I love everything about this band and on the personal level it satisfies my urge as a singer to deliver power and range in a theatrical manner. Lately I’ve been writing the story for a new opera with Danny Bou Maroun and I’m writing down the lyrics for the new opera as well.
With Amadeus it is all different. I auditioned for Amadeus back in 2010 and we both grew from there. I had a very wide range of experimenting with Amadeus and we are constantly pushing our limits. As a singer I look at vocals here in an all different way. Vocals here are an instrument. It’s about a certain timbre a certain emotion and a certain performance that I go for rather than what my voice can physically do.
I’m not one or the other… I do what the music needs. I’m a Prog fan and I always loved what Heavy Metal singers do. I try to be as versatile as I can be: to deliver everything in full integrity. I pushed my limits… sometimes it works and sometimes it fails. I’m too young to define myself... I have a lot to learn from both worlds.
JZ: Amadeus says that your contribution on his albums both in melodies and in arrangements is priceless, can you tell us more about this process?
EM: Well I will try to put it in words. Amadeus doodles something cool (progression, riff, lick, whole ideas…) he brings it to me… I tend to imagine where this goes and we decide on a direction as to where this thing could go. Amadeus works on more parts and then we work on structure. I take off some parts that don’t work keep some... Reshuffle stuff into one good sequence of ideas.
Amadeus in turn develops this sequence into a full song. We work on basic arrangement. Once we have this figured out... I work on melodies and of course Amadeus has his own melodies there too. We record the basic stuff and start the give and take process of arrangement and production. In a nutshell, I produce him … and he produces me. We both produce the artists we work with.
JZ: It is known that vocalists tend to pen their lyrics, why does Amadeus write all the lyrics to his songs?
EM: Well Amadeus is a solo artist and he has things to say. Major decisions are done by Amadeus… and what to say in our songs is part of this. It is one of those subtle agreements that we had… Amadeus handles lyrics for our songs. And I actually think he is one of the best writers I know. On the other hand the things I want to say and express are in the upcoming OSTURA album.
JZ: "The Book of Gates" features amazing names! What was your reaction as a singer when you knew that you will be face to face with the great Russell Allen on the same album? How does it feel like?
EM: At the time we were deciding on who to sing the Pharaoh Parts. We had 4-5 singers contacted and Russell wasn’t one of them. We got Russell out of nowhere and it was absolutely mind blowing. Russell is an all-round amazing singer and a hero of mine.
I’m very humbled that Russell sang our melodies the same way I recorded them in the demos and he did a fantastic job bringing his own into our songs. The mind blowing part is how much detail Russell put into recording his part and the dedication and professionalism of the guy. The fact that Russell is onboard pushed me to a better performance… you just can’t sing anything when you are in a faceoff with such a mighty voice.
It’s a big sense of achievement… I’m extremely proud that I worked with such a great singer. These people don’t need some band from wherever to put their voice on. If they are not interested they are not. And the fact that he put his whole into this gives us great push forward.
JZ: Amadeus says that even though you and him are so different in character but you read him so well and you are in total harmony musically, should we expect you guys to even explore new genres of music together in the future? What are your plans as a vocalist?
EM: It is true… each has his approach to things and to composition, and of course production. We have different tastes and different influences and we do have a shitload of common ground. On the personal level we are opposites and there is always the character struggle. But when you’re making albums there is no room for that. I think you can have harmony when you have respect and trust to what the other brings to the table. He has what he has to offer and I have what I have. Each has a job to do. Amadeus was extremely flexible as a musician and we both sailed new grounds and came a long way from when we first met. I’m bringing the best out of him as he brings the best out of me.
We are always on the move from Instrumental Rock, to Progressive Metal, into Ambient, to Djent. We have to keep on moving and evolving. As a vocalist I’m always sailing new grounds try to do things I’ve never done before. I have a busy year ahead working on "Schizanimus", releasing "The Book of Gates", writing the new OSTURA, and I have an appearance on a local Progressive Metal album. Some cool stuff are cooking afterwards, all will be revealed in time.
JZ: Thank you sir. I would like to ask the new female vocalist Natalie Ziyadeh few questions as well. Natalie, tell us more about you as a singer, what is your background and how did you come to join Amadeus in his future plans?
NZ: Music and singing have always been a passion of mine as well as my escape. I come from a Pop/Soul background and I have performed in a lot of shows around Beirut. Honestly, I never thought that I would take part in a Prog Rock project. From what I know, Amadeus was searching for a different type of voice to integrate in his music. We both met on common grounds regarding this and felt that with my voice and his music we can explore very interesting colors.
JZ: Amadeus is known to be as one of the most, if not the most acclaimed Prog act in the Middle East, how do you feel about being part of his plans?
NZ: In all honesty, I am proud and excited as much as I am freaking out. Not only is this a new experience for me vocally, but the fact that I am joining an act that already established a name in its genre is a huge responsibility in itself. I am hoping for the best, and I believe that the fans are in for a treat.
JZ: It is widely known, as communicated by the maestro himself, that Amadeus is a control freak when it comes to his music and how everything and everyone should sound; what are your thoughts regarding this? And how do you plan to fit in his world?
NZ: We already had some very fruitful sessions together, and Amadeus managed to really understand my voice, my strengths and limitations. Had we not been able to work together in harmony, we wouldn't have taken the step to announce my involvement. We both know what we can give and what we want in return out of this project.
JZ: Back to Amadeus, any words for the Middle Eastern fans, specially the Jordanian fan base?
AA: We will be touring to promote both this record and "The Book of Gates" this summer, and we already confirmed a couple of dates in the region, and I am sure that the Jordanian fans will delighted to know that Amman is on the already confirmed list of cities. We thank you very much for your endless and unconditional support, we love that you love our crazy ideas.
Thank you Jorzine for publishing this interview, you keep proving that the you are the hardest working Metal/Rock webzine in the Middle East. Much love to the team.