Interview: Arkan – Somber Secrets of “Sofia”

Posted by Morgan Ywain Evans on Monday, June 9, 2014 at 11:25 AM (PST)


The evolution of our music to Sofia is natural for us. We must take into account the emotional background where the loss of a loved one allows a whole entity to forgather and compose an album. We didn’t intend to adapt our composition to a specific musical style. It was rather a question of writing a love letter, both sad, poignant and sincere. Everyone of us has experienced this tragedy in his own way, and like many things, an event that affects one of us, affects us all. Sofia is a reflection of our state of mind today. As Salam represented our concerns of the moment. – Foued Moukid

Arkan caught my ear a few years back with their debut full length Hilal, an adventurous journey into metal with an Oriental influence. Foued (drums) was once a member of The Old Dead Tree, of whom I am still a big fan to this day, so when ARkan was getting off the ground I had to know more. As it was, a few years passed and I hadn’t heard much from the group, though admittedly they were very busy. It is my own fault due to helping raise a child, being crazy busy all the time and other factors in no way related to the quality of Arkan’s music. Shit, I wish I had kept closer tabs on them but it was a nice surprise to be floored with a new promo of their latest effort Sofia, an album of tight arrangements, melancholy sentiment and attention to finest details.

Somehow Arkan’s shifting music can manage to hold a light up to the world and illuminate hope, sorrow and personal growth amidst the yawning void of time. Click HERE to learn more about this always evolving, superb metal act.

It was a thrill discovering Arkan when Hilal came out, as i was a considerable fan of The Old Dead Tree and thus, Foued’s playing. Ut was fascinating to find a band with French roots who had embraced moroccan and algerian influences as well. can you tell me how the band has grown and some journeys since the early days? Obviously the vocals bear mentioning, haha.

Foued Moukid (drums): Arkan was created in 2005 by me after joining the band The Old Dead Tree. I wanted to launch a musical project that combines metal and oriental music. For this band, I wanted to work with musicians who had the same passion and aspired to the same goals.

Samir Remila (bass), Mus and Florent joined the band in summer 2005, and Sarah collaborates with ARKAN since the end of the composition of « Hilal ». In 2006, we released our first EP  Burning Flesh. Subsequently, we began the composition of our first album Hilal which was recorded at Studio Fredman in 2008 under the leadership of Fredrik Nordström.In order to promote this album, we realized several tours (through France, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Tunisia) including two tours with Septicflesh and Orphaned Land.In 2011, the band released its 2nd album with Season Of Mist and travelled throughout Europe for a month and a half in order to defend every night its album in two major European tours headlined by two prestigious bands : Orphaned Land and Arch Enemy.Fully satisfied with our collaboration with Fredrik, we wanted to repeat the experience for our third album, Sofia which has just been released.

Yes, I am very excited to help tell more people about your band.”Endless Way” is so catchy and confident but real. it will remain in your head and has lovely, moving acoustic parts as well as strings. Did you have the powerful introduction and vocal melodies in mind ahead of time, stuck in your head (s)? or was it a band thing that got jammed out. It is one of the better rock songs of the year and I love Sarah’s bewitching vocal performance.


Foued : I don’t think Mus had this melody in mind before starting the composition of Sofia. He has really, once again, surpassed himself in composing and recording his melodic parts more present and more subtle on this album. It was important for us to go on exploring new sounds in the continuity of  Hilal and Salam. For Salam, we were quickly frustrated by the variety of sounds offered by our respective instruments. Arkan had to find new sounds. We had the opportunity to work with several professional musicians, fans of the band. They have all adopted the concept we worked on. Thus, for several weeks, Vitali, Andrei and Alain worked with us providing with instrumental arrangements bringing our music to new dimensions.No guidelines on how our next album will sound were fixed at the beginning of the composition process. We have for sole guideline to consolidate our individual musical backgrounds in order to serve a common goal. For ” Sofia “, the emotion surrounding the writing process unconsciously directed to quite dark bands that have marked our youth like Paradise Lost, Opeth and Katatonia . But the evolution of our music to reach ” Sofia ” was really natural for us.

What are some of the aims/themes of the album Sofia this time for Arkan? it feels like there is quite a story in these songs. “beauty asleep” is truly moving, remniscent of some of the best work of M. Rizzo of Soulfy. How did you face challenges of production living up to the lyrics power?

Foued : « Sofia » is someone who deserved to live. I don’t really want to tell more because of this private matter. But I’m sure that everyone can understand how it’s difficult to live after a terrible loss. Knowing that no words can reach the friend, the brother, the mother that we lost. Our album is this letter, poem, last words to a close member of our family.The whole writing process was influenced by the circumstances of this tragedy. Writing Sofia was a necessity, a visceral need: losing someone and tell her we love her. If this event has affected only one of us, it has evoked for each of us something harrowing, intense or sad experienced in his own life. Being together around a single prayer has brought us a lot.

The title track “Sofia” summarizes this broad emotional background in which we were immersed at the time of writing this new album.


I’m sorry for your loss. “My Reverence” has an intro which also maybe among the best metal I have heard in years. I am falling in love with all these songs. so catchy and yet the metal is good. i can really feel this sound becoming part of me. i was sad when the band Ava Inferi broke up a few years ago, and have had a void for somber and sweeping melodic female vocals paired with darker metal. “My Reverence” all in all is just full of life. can you talk about what that number is representing?

Foued : As the other tracks from Sofia, Sarah’s role is really important in this song. She invests herself in this project as never. She puts considerable energy into interpretation, composition and adaptation of her vocal parts. Her voice is like an instrument even if it appeared late in the composition process. So she had the daunting task of subliming the instrumental parts already rich and expressive. Her emotion and her technical capabilities have enabled the album to reach a level of singing which is pretty amazing. Every person who listened the album told me how Sarah’s vocals touched them by her grace and melancholy.

“My Reverence” is a track from a whole piece which has to be listened from the first track to the last one. I have never taken the plunge, but it’s conceivable that one day Arkan does so for an upcoming album, like Edge Of Sanity and its album Crimson : an album of 50 minutes, 12 songs, but a single track. I love it as a listener. The album becomes a real musical partner during a particular trip. First, listening is passive, then gradually it becomes active : looking for a specific time, a vocal line, a guitar solo.

Did you travel to different places to inspire this album? It feels like I am watching a film, while listening to it. “Scar of sadness” is so seriously fucking intense.

Foued : To be honest, the tragedy as a background of this album didn’t encourage us to travel a lot. However, we needed to be together away from anything with just one thing to think about : playing music and writing our next album. Thus we found ourselves isolated, cut off from the outside world in a house in the deep Calvados for a week.The frame of the melodies and rythmic parts have been created at this time. Moreover, I wrote most of the lyrics helped by the fact that we could’t be distracted by anything other than music.The goal was for us to reflect musically as closely as possible our feelings at this time. Each of us has responded in their own way to face this tragedy: sorrow, injustice, anger, denial, violence … feelings not always obvious to exteriorize without clash. We had to control them in order to incorporate them into a coherent whole. This special moment was a real turning point in the band’s life. The alchemy expected was created and gave birth to Sofia.

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How do you think, as a world, we can best make peace today?

Foued : It’s difficult to spread this kind of message avoiding naivety.We clearly need to believe in a better future. We must keep this hope. Our previous album Salam (which means “ Peace“ in Arabic) dealt with that, peace between peoples. We are convinced that this is possible. During our previous tours, we saw that the public was convinced of our message. The path to peace is difficult, we are not the first to advocate this, and not the last. We have to believe and continue to fight against prejudice.

We did two tours with Orphaned Land, and we became friends with all members of the band. As I said previously, we must keep hope for peace. Kobi is trying to convince the whole world that without peace there is only chaos. And he is perfectly right. Europe knows that, Middle East knows that. Even America is aware of that.

As musicians, our duty is to use music to convey such messages. I hope that our message will exceed musical spheres!

Awesome. I love the slower, whispery chanting parts and beauty of the sound. voice, heart, spirit, skill…it is all there. thank you for caring this much about music. what you do is like growing medicine. what do you enjoy about creating a mood the most?

Foued : Obviously it depends on our own mood when we compose. As you know now, because of the emotional background of « Sofia », we focused on melancolic atmospheres. Thus,Sofia is more melodic and a more prominent part was given to melodies and oriental moods. The evolution of our music to Sofia is natural for us. We must take into account the emotional background where the loss of a loved one allows a whole entity to forgather and compose an album. We didn’t intend to adapt our composition to a specific musical style. It was rather a question of writing a love letter, both sad, poignant and sincere. Everyone of us has experienced this tragedy in his own way, and like many things, an event that affects one of us, affects us all. Sofia is a reflection of our state of mind today. As Salam represented our concerns of the moment.

I wish often that there were more animated films with great music like this that examine cultures from around the world. do you think that would be a popular way to exchange knowledge?

Foued : I think it’s useful for a 21st century band to use all communication means to spread its music. You mentioned animated films as « Waltz with Bashir », or « Persepolis » I guess. Of course, those project need funds and support. As far as I know, our music is already used in French Movies, but not in the animated ones. In order to spread our music throughout the social networks, we are about to make our first video clips with a french director.

We never thought about using this “art” to express our music until Sofia. Because of the story behind the album, it’s more obvious to mix music and images. So, for now, our projects are to collaborate with directors in France and in Europe to bring our music to an other dimension.

Fantastic. Have you been able to listen all the way through to Sofia objectively yet? it travels to many places. You should be proud. It really brings everyone to another world.

Foued : I think it’s too earlier for us to be aware of this.Each album is like a child: we give birth to it, we breed it and then the day comes when it cuts the apron strings and flies on its own wings. So, like for a child, it’s difficult to be really objective on what we created.The only thing I can say is that we’re very excited by the release of Sofia which allows the fans to discover our last achievement. We put a lot of energy into this album and we’re proud to be able to show it to others.


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