Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Interview 6: Rami Mustafa-Middle East is rocking hard

Rami Mustafa (RM) a talented young musician is our weekly interview for this time. Representing his Band, NERVECELL is taking us into hard rock situations and shows us how you may combine an MBA study along with a crazy fan that is swallowing bulbs during the concert that you may perform in your International Tour. A really promising talent in the global music industry is sharing with us his life time story.

DPN: Rami, you play guitar in “NERVECELL” (www.nervecell.net) band, the first metal band in Middle East to sign major labels up to now. Tell us some things about your Band.

RM: “Nervecell” is a death/thrash metal band formed in Dubai in the year 2000. We started performing at local shows in universities and colleges and broke into the international metal scene in 2004-2005 with the success of our first EP “Human Chaos” in 2004 which quickly gained international appeal and also lead us to perform at the Middle East’s biggest rock/metal festival Dubai Desert Rock Festival in 2005 (Dubai) – which is first of its kind in the region bringing international rock and metal bands such as Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Machine Head, Sepultura and many more. From that time and till this day we performed locally and internationally in over 30 cities across the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Australia and North Africa. We are currently signed with Lifeforce Records (Europe) and Spellbind Records (Middle East) and we are managed by Center Stage Management – who is also the main organizer of Dubai Desert Rock Festival. We have 1 demo entitled “Vastlands Of Abomination”, 1 EP entitled “Human Chaos” and 2 full length albums – entitled “Preaching Venom” and “Psychogenocide”. The 2011 album “Psychogenocide” is our latest effort.
DPN: What music means for you?

RM: Music is my passion and lifestyle. I grew up in a musical family including my father, uncles and cousins. My father studied music and he’s a professional pianist, keyboardist, accordion and kanun player. Being inspired by him at an early stage to play music, at the age of 5 I started experimenting with musical instruments – playing my dad’s keyboards, my uncle’s drum kit and then I grabbed my first guitar which I learnt all by myself fully by the age of 7. At the age of 11 or 12 I discovered rock and metal music.

DPN: Who was the musician that inspired you mostly while you were a child?

RM: I grew up listening to lots of bands and musicians, so I don’t really have one favorite musician, but to name a few bands and guitar players that really influenced me and inspired me; Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer, Pantera, Morbid Angel, Suffocation, Deicide, Sepultura, Cannibal Corpse, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and many more.

DPN: hat was the most memorable concert you have attended as a visitor?

RM: Honestly most festivals I’ve been to be ones that Nervecell performed at! One of the most memorable concerts as a visitor and performer was With Full Force Festival 2009 in Germany. I’ve watched many great bands such as Sepultura, Down, Motorhead, Hatebreed, Vader etc. all in one place. There were more than 40,000 fans.

DPN: Do you believe that hard rock music has space to grow in Middle East?

RM: Definitely. As long as there are good bands and musicians there will always be growth. In the past years I’ve seen bands that are great and have lots potential from all over the Middle East. Of course different countries have different music scenes and the music scene does reflect on the exposure of the bands and musicians. Dubai has one of the strongest rock/metal scenes in the region and I believe that bands should keep performing live to develop their fanbase and of course promote themselves with recordings, merchandising and other marketing techniques that will help them build a fanbase. Local media including press, magazines, radio, music labels etc. leads more exposure. So far with the success of the Dubai Desert Rock Festival in the past years definitely helped the scene grow drastically and even pushing the whole Middle East rock and metal scene.

DPN: At this moment where are the next planned tours of “NERVECELL”?

RM: We have recently released our new album “Psychogenocide” which is available in stores all across the Middle East and Europe and also on the Nervecell Online Store (http://store.nervecell.net), so we are supporting the album with upcoming shows and tours including a festival run in Europe this August to perform at 3 major festivals at Summer Breeze (Germany), Rock im Betonwerk (Germany) and Brutal Assault (Czech Republic). After these festivals we are planning to continue touring all across Europe. We already performed 2 album release shows in Dubai last March did an Asian tour in April/May in support of “Psychogenocide” and we’re planning for more tours which we will confirm in the upcoming weeks.

DPN: In your opinion which was the best performance that “NERVECELL” ever did and why?

RM: We had many great performances especially at festivals including Dubai Desert Rock Festival 2008 and 2009, Rock im Ring/Rock im Park 2009 (Germany), shows in Europe, India, Bahrain and more. But I’d say Wacken Open Air Festival 2009 in Germany was my personal favorite. Not only we had a huge crowd response, but playing one of the biggest and most respected metal festivals in the world made it even more special!
DPN: Your band has loads of fans in Middle East and not only. What is the craziest thing that a fan ever did?

RM: Wow! There are lots of crazy stories to tell. A recent one was at our last Asia Tour (April/May 2011) during our second Philippines show in the city of Cebu, a guy comes on stage while we were performing, bites a neon bulb right next to me and swallows it…he literally eats the glass bulb! That was pretty insane!

DPN: When you are on the stage what your feeling is?

RM: Put it this way, writing a song in a room, putting the song together with the band and then going on stage in front of fans to perform it live making them all hear the song is just phenomenal! It doesn’t matter if it’s for hundreds or thousands of people, this feeling is always the same. Nervecell’s music is really energetic and usually drives the crowd into crazy moshpits and seeing the crowd interact back to our music with such energy brings a tremendous amount of happiness to my heart! It’s just a great head rush that no words can really explain it until you go on stage and experience it yourself!

DPN: Do you have any nickname? If yes, from where did is come from?

RM: Honestly I don’t have a “fixed” nickname but many do call me Ram and Romeo, mostly the ladies like to do that. It really came from my real name Rami, but I don’t mind being called with my real name anyways.

DPN: You are originally from Jordan but spend most of your life in Qatar. What Qatar means for you?

RM: I came to Qatar when I was 1 month young. Lived in Qatar till the age of 18 and I really feel it’s my home you know. It’s a very humble and peaceful country. I moved to the UAE when I graduated from high school to study at university in Dubai and lived there for almost 10 years and of course I also had lots of great times in Dubai too which I feel is my second home!

DPN: What was your favorite place to hang around while you were a teenager in Doha, Qatar?

RM: Hanging out in the desert where it is most peaceful and quite, that’s pretty much outside the city, but within Doha city hanging out at the beach was another favorite place for sure.

DPN: You have the look of the hard guy who enjoys only playing hard music. Apart from that you have completed great studies including Bachelor in Information Technology and also an MBA. How come this consistence from your side to build up a strong educational background?

RM: I’m a full time musician and my background in music comes from a very specific style, I wanted to peruse my education no matter what. I’ve always believed that education and knowledge is an essential part for any human’s success in life along with life itself being the real practical experience that we all learn from. Balancing out my musical endeavors and studying at the same time was a very challenging task especially when I needed to go the extra mile to tour and make sure I submit my projects on time and pass my exams. Luckily enough, I managed to do both music and education and I’m very proud and fortunate of being able to handle both.

DPN: Apart from the Band you have also established your own business in Qatar, “SHREDDERS PLANET” (www.shreddersplanet.com). Will you describe us your business?

RM: Shredder’s Planet is a musical instruments store that I and my partner and good friend Ramy Aziziah established a couple of years ago. I wanted to do a side business along with my musical activities. My background and experience dealing with musical instruments (especially guitars and its components/accessories) together with what I learnt during my studies definitely helped me to establish my own business. We are the official dealer and distributor of major brands such as B.C. Rich Guitars, Randall Amplifiers, Cordoba Guitars, GHS Strings and currently expanding. We also have an online store, which is the first of its kind in Qatar where we sell directly to to customers in Qatar and all over the world.

DPN: You spent period of your life also in Dubai, is this city the “superstar” of the Middle East?

RM: I moved to Dubai in the year 2001 to study in the University. I did a bachelor’s degree at the American University in Dubai and I graduated in 2005. I persuaded my graduate studies in a Belgian University (Dubai branch) called EHSAL European University College Brussels studying International Master of Business Administration and graduated in 2009. After that I moved back in Qatar. I would agree with the term “superstar” of the Middle East, for Dubai, as this city does help bring out individuals who are passionate and hardworking in what they do best. During my study period, most of my time was dedicated for the band and till this day I travel back and forth to Dubai whenever we have tours, recordings or any other activities to do with the band. Dubai definitely opened up lots of opportunities!
DPN: If your life was a song what the refrain of it would be?

RM: The instrumental song “Ratios” from our album “Preaching Venom”

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