Interview with Somi Arian, Mortad @ Hammerfest 2012

Ant May from Planetmosh spoke to Mortad vocalist Somi Arian shortly before their performance on the second stage at Hammerfest.

Planetmosh: OK for anyone who hasnt listened to Mortad before, how would you describe your music?

Somi: Vocally I’m very much influenced by Lamb of God, and musically I think we’re influenced by Gojira, Strapping young lad and the musical parts, the solo parts, are a little bit influenced by more eastern feel.

Planetmosh: You’re often compared to Arch Enemy.  Does that bother you?  Is that just a lazy comparison?

Somi: Very.  I think it’s not fair on Arch Enemy and it’s not fair on Mortad, that’s as straight as I can put it.  I love Arch Enemy, I love Angela, she’s a good friend of mine and I think that it’s not fair to pigeonhole bands just because there is a female singer, I’d like people to just really listen to us and take us for what we are.  In the second album there’s going to be more influence from my Persian background.  We had one song in the first album that included some Persian lyrics.  Second album has more Persian lyrics and also musically and there’s going to be elements of things like Setar, and by the way setar is different from Sitar, a lot of people make that mistake, a setar has four strings and we are going to include more Persian stuff in there.

Planetmosh: Your new album, The Myth of Purity has just been released.  Why did you choose to give the album away with Metal Hammer megazine rather than selling it?

Somi: We got the offer from Metal Hammer, they said “there is this opportunity, would you like to do it?”, and we had just finished the album and we were talking to a few labels, there was a lot of interest from various labels, but not the kind of deal that we wanted to get, so we decided we’d rather wait and build the bands profile because once you sign a four album deal you’ve signed away the next eight years of your professional life, so we all worked very hard and we put our own money into it so we thought fuck it, we’re just going to sacrifice this album, get the bands profile raised, play more live shows, because the band is quite young even though we’ve recorded an EP and a very good album, in the live scene we still have a lot more to do and to build our experience.  We’re not in a hurry.

Planetmosh: Will the album be released for sale – obviously Metal Hammer is only available in the UK?

Somi: Yes we’ve got a few labels interested, even though the album has been released, we’ve got labels interested to re-release it or to release it properly, because obviously the Metal Hammer release is different to a label release, so we’re negotiating.  We might decide to self release it and wait for the second album so we get a better deal, I don’t know, it all depends on what deals are on the table.

Planetmosh: Your EP Pandemic Paranoia has been re-released to tie in with the album launch.  Where can people get it from?

Somi: The reason why we re-released the EP is to build up a bit of awareness about the band before the release of the album, but at the same time this offer came through from Metal Hammer so it coincided.  We’re not actually playing the EP stuff live at the moment, we’re only playing the album stuff.  The EP is available from Amazon, itunes, everywhere.  The album is not yet available but at the moment people can still buy the February issue of Metal Hammer (which has the album with it) through their website, but other than that it will be released very soon.

Planetmosh: What’s the song writing process in the band – is it a collaborative thing or are there one or two main song writers?

Somi: I write the lyrics, Jonathan writes the music, the melodies, then we site together and rip the songs apart and change the structures and stuff and that’s where my input comes in because its important for me what works vocally and what doesn’t, and we set the riffs around the vocals.

Planetmosh: What are your inspirations for writing the lyrics?

Somi: I have no difficulty getting inspiration for lyrics because I come from a Persian backgroung, I come from Iran and where I come from, from learning English to getting out of the country to get educated, I’ve worked in embassies, the United Nations, I’ve seen so much and I’ve lived so much, I’ve been married and divorced twice and married again now for a third time, in such a short space of time – I was married and divorced twice by twenty-two, so I’ve lived life and there’s a lot of inspiration. And of course my education, I’ve got two Masters in Political Science and Philosophy.

Planetmosh: Do politics inspire the lyrics at all?

Somi: Yeah, it’s not political in the sense of swearing at the government – for me that’s not political, it’s more in a way that makes people think and want to stand for their rights and think about the true meaning of liberation.

Planetmosh: Iran is not known for heavy metal music is it?

Somi: There is a scene underground, but for women to get into it is very unusual and very difficult, and in our culture, singing, for a female is basically frowned upon, in pop music and stuff its basically banned, women are not supposed to do it…unless they’re outside the country.

Planetmosh: You’ve got a few tour dates announced for April/May.  Are there more dates planned?

Somi: Yes we are booking more as we speak, I am talking to various promoters to make sure we get enough of a fee to cover our costs.

Planetmosh: Are there likely to be any appearances at summer festivals ?

Somi: I can’t say yet but yes I think we’ll be playing a few festivals- I can’t say for sure.  I think after today…nothing is confirmed but I know there is a lot of interest.  It’s quite likely.

Planetmosh: As well as singing in Mortad you also work for a Persian TV station?

Somi: Yes I’m a producer/director.  I produce a show called feedback, thats my main job – it’s kind of similar to BBC’s Points of View. That’s where I make a living from at the moment, and I do this at the same time, but my goal is to be able to make a living from music so that I don’t have to.  I love my career in media, but I love my music more.  When I’m on stage I’m so happy.

Planetmosh:  Thank you for your time.


About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.