PHARAOH “Ten Years”: an Interview with Matt Johnsen

Today is the official street date for PHARAOH‘s “Ten Years” CD Ep… without wasting time to rave more about the details and track listing we have already described profusely in previous posts, we have reached guitarist Matt Johnsen for an exclusive interview regarding this Ep and some anticipations on the band’s new full-length, tentatively scheduled for the fall of 2011…

“Ten Years” EP is finally out, what are your feelings about it, and how do you think it can preview the material on the upcoming new album?

The EP does not, really, preview the fourth album at all, since everything on it was written contemporaneously with the songs that appeared on Be Gone.  We knew, even before we hit the studio for that album, that we had too many songs for a single LP.  We’re of the belief that an album shouldn’t be too long, and that “too much of a good thing” is a very real concern, so we decided to fork off a few songs that didn’t fit with the general vibe of Be Gone, record a few cover songs, and release all that extra stuff as an EP.  Truth be told, it probably should have come out at least a year ago, but for various reasons, it’s only coming out now.  I don’t think that diminishes the impact of the songs, which are not to be considered also-rans or lesser compositions.  They just weren’t exactly of a piece with the others we slated for the album, and as a result, you could say they represent a different side of Pharaoh.

You have covers of New Model Army and Slayer as some of the tracks… can you explain the reasons behind the choice of covering two such different bands on the same release?

The New Model Army cover was done on my insistence, as they’re one of my all-time favorite bands.  I was introduced to the band (who started in the UK post-punk scene but continue to this day as one of the most vital rock bands in the world) through other metal covers, specifically Anacrusis‘s version of “I Love the World” and Sepultura‘s version of “The Hunt”, and I’m eternally grateful to those bands for bringing NMA into my life.  As such I wanted to do what I could to pass the torch, and hopefully our cover of “White Light”, which, unlike the songs I mentioned earlier, is not immediately obvious as a choice for a heavy metal rendition, will inspire a few metalheads to check out a band whose music as so inspired and moved me for many years now.  As for Slayer, we’re all big fans, and this is a song we’ve talked about covering for years.  That first Slayer album is very melodic; it’s practically NWOBHM compared to even the next release, and as such it was an easy task to double down on the harmonies, in true Pharaoh style.  We added mountains of guitar parts – I ended up harmonizing nearly every riff in the song, sometimes with two or three additional parts.  And while it’s hard to argue that anyone in Slayer sounds out of place on Reign in Blood, on the debut, it can safely be said that more melodic vocals couldn’t hurt, and Tim of course brings exactly the blend of aggression and melody that the song really needs.  We’re very happy with how it turned out.

So far, the critics have highly spoken of “Be Gone” as Pharaoh’s best. Is there a reason behind the choice of including two cuts off those same sessions on this release? What can we expect from the new album you guys have in the making?

Like I said, the original songs on this EP were all written in line with the other songs on Be Gone, so there was no way to avoid the connection between that album and the EP.  As for the new album, it’s more complex
and a bit more experimental, although perhaps a little less dark in tone than Be Gone.  We are not interested in repeating ourselves, but after several albums, it gets harder and harder to write in a way that does not
at least partly refer to earlier works.  Everyone can name a band whose career ended in limping retreads of earlier successes, and we want desperately not to fall into that trap, so hopefully the new album will contain enough surprises to keep our fanbase on their toes and engaged with what we’re doing.

Remember you can buy a copy of Pharaoh’s “Ten Years” Ep through our online store, just click on the Buy Now button and place your order!!!

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