Some time ago I did an interview with Nader Sadek, a New York based Egyptian artist and sculptor. His latest project encompasses an extreme metal album, together with a series of sculptures and videos, all under the “In The Flesh” umbrella. For the album he enlisted the musical talents of Steve Tucker (ex-Morbid Angel), Rune Eriksen (ex-Mayhem) and Flo Mournier (Cryptopsy). Together with them and a host of other guest Nader produced an album, which is eerily similar to Morbid Angel’s classic works. During the interview he saw things a bit differently, however he had a lot to tell about his latest project, his art, working together with so many different musicians and his take on the current political changes in Egypt, his native country.
Hi Nader, thank you for doing this interview. With your latest project you’re venturing into the death metal realm. How did that came about?
Hi Raymond, thanks for the interview, its my pleasure. Well, I’d say its not really the first time. DM has been in my vocabulary since I’ve started thinking about art conceptually around 97-98. This when I was introduced to works by Marcel Duchamp and the like, which brought me to “contemporary art”. But since I’m a big death metal fan, I was also heavily influenced by that and a lot of the subject matter was dark and also to a certain degree “Nietzschean”. One of my first shows for example, “Paradox Complex” focuses on men’s belief in immortality, and the failure of the consequence of that belief. So I would like to think, that even though they’re might not be any actual DM music playing, its still a DM concept.
From what I’ve heard the album is just one piece in an elaborate multimedia project. Can you tell us something more about that?
Absolutely, “In The Flesh” isn’t just a record, and this isn’t just a band either. It’s an idea, which influenced and continues to influence all those things to come together. The centerpiece is the music with the videos. The idea of petroleum dependency and my fascination with the fact that formerly living creatures (the base of what petroleum is) are being converted to energy, have led me to find the appropriate team to build this creation. It felt like the idea had potential for several outlets. So the idea influenced the team, the team wrote the music in demo form, the demos influenced the sketches, the sketches influenced the lyrics, which influenced the recording and the finished drawings simultaneously, this in turn gave inspiration to the videos concepts, which resulted in the creation of sculptures (or props) which air in the videos. This while process was uroborically influenced and transcended from one medium to the next.
On “In The Flesh” you’re working together with some very well known musicians in the extreme metal genre, like Flo Mournier (Cryptopsy), Steve Tucker (ex Morbid Angel) and Rune Eriksen (ex Mayhem). How did you manage to get them aboard and how was it to work with them?
For each one it was a different situation. Steve and I have worked on a previous project called Faceless, so I’ve known him for a while. Flo and I a have also worked together, and I have known him since about 2002, honestly I don’t remember how we got in touch, but we’ve been in contact since. Rune, I approached after having worked with Attila and Mayhem, although Rune wasn’t a part of the 2009 Mayhem tour I worked on. He was familiar with some of the masks I had made for him and he seemed excited to have received this proposal from me. He later asked me to make a mask for his other bands singer.
You’re not a musician yourself, so was it difficult for you to translate your creative vision on the album into music? What can you tell about the creative process of “In The Flesh”?
Sometimes, but not really, I think my biggest struggle were some things in the production. Prior to the studio though, I was extremely careful in choosing the musicians, I could really imagine their collective sound, and so there was a bit of intimidation in the beginning, for example, will there any be chemistry, will they get along as individuals and so on. This is something I could not foretell, so it was a risk I was willing to take; if it did work it would be brilliant. The idea was to try to create a sound that complimented my sculptures, and to design it in a similar way. Most of my sculptures are flesh like renditions of mechanical tools, like for example a wrench rendered as poultry, or an engine rendered as a slab of meat. So the goal was to create the sounds that would compliment that.
The music on “In The Flesh” shares the same dense/suffocating atmosphere as Morbid Angel’s “Blessed Are The Sick” and “Covenant”, albeit from a black metal perspective. What are your own thoughts on that? Has Steven Tucker something to do with this?
Yeah, its a bit hard to answer that because- well I don’t see the comparison really, there’s only one song, that I think has one Morbid Angel inspired riff, so its strange when I hear people say the whole thing sounds like MA, Steve was in that band, but before that he was just a musician who had a very distinct style which he brought into MA, so really, in that since he was writing stuff for Trey and Co that MA started to sound like him… be influenced by him, so to speak. However the two other songs that Steve wrote I really don’t think have any resemblance to Morbid Angel at all.
Besides Flo, Steve and Rune and yourself being the core, there are also a lot of guest musicians on the album. Can you give a quick summary on them? What did they add to the project in terms of music and vibe?
Travis Ryan from Cattle Decapitation provided some very sick guttural low-end vocals that Steve doesn’t do, which adds a new layer of dynamics. The way I approached this project was like directing a production and so as much as a single album. I tried to think big, and so each time there was a guest, it’s like adding a new flavor or a new dimension to the whole thing. Travis is pretty much on every song with vocals except “Sulfer”. Nick McMaster, a bassist in NYC, did an unreal job with the bass. He’s one of the most underrated bass players in death metal. He did a great job! He played bass on the entire album. Tony Norman, who was in Morbid Angel and Monstrosity added layers of solos, very beautiful stuff. I love his work in Monstrosity a lot, so i was very excited to have him join the team. Destrcthor who is currently in Morbid Angel, but off course I was only aware of his wok with disown band Myrkskog, which is one of the best blends of death and black metal I’ve ever heard, brutal stuff. His solos are very memorable and catchy, adding tons of emotion. Lastly Mike Lerner, one of my favorite guitarists of all time, was really able to turn some of runes most chaotic passages into face melting melodies with his solos. There’s also Miles Kay, who plays the cello and Guadalupe Peraza, an opera singer who chants in “Of this Flesh”.
I would like to move on to your work as an artist. You’re known as an sculptor and you’ve done the artwork for Mayhem and SUNN O))). How would you like to describe your own style?
I really cant, I guess its all very therapeutic, for me making art is an outlet, but not a methodic process. It’s as if I’m trying to rid myself of a certain type of insanity, and by making a sculpture or any kind of thing, I’m finding a way to entrap this insanity, and thus I divorce myself from it, and I can look back at the object that I have created, and I think about those emotions that were put in it. I guess it’s strange to say but its like expressing a demon and keeping it in an object. So to me it’s very process driven, the end result is simply the aftermath, the left over-and I’m honored that someone like Attila would pick up on that, or find it interesting enough to want to incorporate it in to his aesthetic.
What are your sources of inspiration as an artist and how do you translate that in something tangible?
As I mentioned its very process driven, but also elaborate, its also always different in making the video, there’s a lot of control in the editing part that needs to be harnessed and steered correctly, so for each media part I have a completely different process. As far as inspiration goes, it’s best when one isn’t inspired by other art, at least for me, I try to get inspired by everyday things that i took for granted when i was younger, just opening my eyes and seeing what’s really out there, or trying to…
You’re from Egyptian descent and you’re currently based in New York. This gives you an unique perspective on the recent political upheavals in the Middle East in general and your native country in particular. What’s your take on the current events? Will this be a possible theme in your future artistic endeavors?
Absolutely, I wrote an article for Artinfo, an online art magazine, in which I discuss how the metal scene in Egypt was instrumental is the process of forming the revolution and the eventual fall of Mubarak . Two of the biggest activists, who basically created the protest on a facebook page, where victims of the “Days Of Satanism” in Egypt, a time where metal was quite popular in Cairo and Alexandria, and then everyone was arrested and in some cases tortured for being metal fans, as the government viewed metal as a threat as it is a rebellious and subversive medium. So its quite amazing too see how the government created this monster which is metal-heads turned activists, which tore down the government to the point of impeaching the president. This is an extremely great example of what art is capable of.
As a final question I would like to know what music you’re currently listening and what band and albums do you recommend to our viewers?
I wish I could but I really haven’t listened to music for a while. I apologize really-but I’d rather be honest as possible.
If you got any last thoughts and remarks, please put them here:
Thanks a lot for interesting questions and giving me the opportunity to explain my work, I really appreciate it. I really do hope that people can immerse themselves into this piece and truly enjoy it.