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Interview with

Zet (vocals, guitar), Sfinx (vocals) and Sareeta (backing vocals, violin) of Ram-Zet

After having reviewed RAM-ZET’s newest release, ‘Neutralized’, I got a request by the label for an interview. Curious about this possibility I agreed and demanded an interview with Zet and Sareeta. In the end also Sfinx joined and I received an e-mail with answers of all three. Here is what the three band members have to tell:

Reflections of Darkness (RoD): At first, thank you for taking the time for this interview and congratulations to your new record. My first question: If you had to describe RAM-ZET to a person, who never heard your music before, what would be your answer?
Zet: Hi Ricarda! Well, it’s been slightly difficult for our labels to describe our music, and as you know, it could be hard to describe your own music, but let’s try. It’s atmospheric and rhythmic metal, with industrial elements, growling and female vocals and a violin. The songs are rather complex, without being directly progressive, at least not technical progressive, and there are some really soft and beautiful calm parts as well.
Sfinx: Thanks! We are quite happy with the album ourselves, but the response so far has been overwhelming. “Ram- Zet is diverse” would be the best way to describe us. Our music is a mix of black, industrial & progressive metal with scattered elements from jazz, rock, pop and folk music. Our own name for it is Schizo-metal since it has so many twist and turns. RZ is like a mixed bag of candy and most people can find something in it they like. It is technical and challenging music and not for the fainthearted but elements like soft piano parts and female vocals brings out more than just brutality in the music.

RoD: How would you say does your new album differ from its forerunners, concerning the process of creation and musically?
Zet: This album took all in all, more time to create. The writing process was longer and the recording process was longer. However, it occurs to me, that we got more of a live sound this time, and that’s probably because the band are better than ever, and we play better together ‘cause we’ve been rehearsing a lot both before and after the recording process. Apart from that, I think it’s fair to say that it’s unmistakable RAM-ZET, and the characteristic mixtures of elements are still there. We have some choruses this time, which are rather catchy I think, and it seems that we’re hitting a bit wider this time, in regard to whose listening to it.
SfinX: In general this album is much better than the forerunners in my opinion. Everything just sounds better, we all play/sing better and the songs are in general stronger on ‘Neutralized’. The process of recording the album has also been a bit different as we used almost a year to record it. It is well worked thru in every way and we took our time to perfect the things we felt needed to be perfected.

RoD: Are there any main influences you could name?
SfinX: For RZ in general I guess you need to ask Zet, but for myself I must say Meshuggah, Mike Patton, Pantera, NIN, Tom Waits, Björk, Billie Holliday and the list goes on and on….
Zet: If, you’re talking about bands, I think you can draw a line from Cradle of filth and Dimmu Borgir, through Opeth, Meshuggah and Soilwork (Swedish collection…) and down to old Queensryche and Dream Theatre, finally ending up with some Massive Attack, N.I.N. and Björk.

RoD: Are you still content with the result and are there any favourite tracks by the two of you?
Zet: I like the result surprisingly good... ha ha, but for favourites, it’s various almost from day to day. I love to play ‘addict’ live, so that’s kind of a favourite, and then I think ‘222’ has some of the best moments in the RAM-ZET history, but that could depend on some great memories from the time when I wrote it.
Sfinx: I am, as I said earlier, very content with this album in every way. I believe we always have potential to do even better, but if I didn’t then we could just give up right now. It is important to always have something to aim at. If I stopped believing that then I would not be able to grow as a vocalist and musician. I have 8 favourite tracks on this album, haha, but if I have to say two it will be ‘I am dirt’ and ‘Addict’.

RoD: Zet, you started the band as a one-man project. At the point of foundation, have you thought of it going the way it has? Where do you see positive and negative aspects concerning the development?
Zet: I don’t really know how far into the future I dared to watch when I started this project, so the expectations haven’t really been there too much. When I started recording “pure therapy” there wasn’t a band at all, and I wasn’t at all sure that there would ever be one. But then the wish to play live with those songs was too big to ignore, and from that point, there was never a doubt that RAM-ZET are a band, and not a one-man project. The positive aspect is that the commitment from all the members are very good and even if I write all the music, I think they’ve got a strong feeling of ownership in the songs, and rightfully, ‘cause they sure put their own fingerprints on the music. The negative aspects… I don’t think there are any at this point, but in the past, we’ve been far too defensive, taking care of our own career. Now, we know that we have to work hard all the time, and that the hardest work starts, after the album’s been released.

RoD: How is the atmosphere in the band nowadays?
Zet: We’re going through some changes that we’ll see the final result of sometime next year, but I have to say that we’re more hungry than ever to work hard with this band, and I think everyone are really happy with ‘Neutralized’ and we eager to meet our fans all over the world, so hopefully, there will be some touring next year.
Sfinx: We are a bunch of strange and creative people and as in every band sometimes we have our discussions and tribulations. However, we are now aiming high and want to go as far as we can go and therefore the spirit is high and we all work our asses off to get where we want. We have become like a family and we love each other to death. So the atmosphere is very good and we are always working to keep it that way!

RoD: Both of you are also participating in other bands, so is there anything you prefer?
Zet: I’m not sure exactly what you mean, but for me at this point, RAM-ZET is the only band, and then I write some music for Norwegian television as a side project. However, it will be other bands, both projects and guest appearances, and I think that’s for the good, to get inspiration from other people and different kinds of music.
Sfinx: I prefer RZ of cause ;-) But I am honoured and very glad to be able to work with talented musicians in and outside of Norway as well. Two of the bands are ETERAL TEARS OF SORROW and FOR MY PAIN from my second home country Finland. With names like Tuomas Holopainen (Nightwish), Juha Kylmanen (FMP, Reflexion) and Altti Vetelainen (ETOS, FMP). It’s a huge honour to be able to help them out with some vocals when they need it. Very different music and style from RZ, but I enjoy doing various things in music so for me that is a perfect way to grow.

RoD: Are there any plans for future tours / festival gigs or intentions for shows with special bands?
Zet: We’re working together with our very good friends in Madder Mortem to get some small tours in Europe, and then Ascendance are going to hire someone to hook us up on some festivals next summer. We’ve been away for quiet long, so we have to allow for some time to get the really big tours, but it sure is a primary goal to take this band up to a higher level.

RoD: Sareeta, as a violin player myself I simply have to ask this: how long have you been playing the violin and how would you describe its role in RAM-ZET? In which way does it differ from other projects and is it a challenge for you or rather easy?
Sareeta: Great to hear there are more metal-violinists out there! Skål! I have been playing violin since I was six years old. 22 years of both tears and joy :). The role of the violin in RAM-ZET during these years has been changing a bit over the years, I think. It took some time for me to get into the combination with harder instruments when I first started in the band, almost ten years ago (I have a classical background),- so even as the violin parts might have been quite similar in "types" (naturally, because Zet have been the definitive main composer all the way), it have gained an additional function (additional to clean violin parts and solos) as "noisemaker", "fill ins" in the background, part of the "backing group" and so on. This goes especially for live gigs, but you can also find some of it in the last two albums, I think.

In what way it differs from other projects is rather hard to answer, because other projects might differ a lot from each other as well (especially since it’s not that common to use this beautiful instrument in the great genre of metal…). But I guess the violin role in RAM-ZET in comprehension to more "standard" use of violin in metal (and rock generally), would be that violin often is used just as an symphonic element only, and by that I mean something like “long strokes, soft and beautiful” (are you with me?), but in RAM-ZET this is a rather minor part of it. When it comes to challenge in Ram-ZET, it goes from one end of the scale to the other, I’d say. The reason of this is that Zet’s mainly making the parts, and since he doesn’t play the violin, he just makes parts he likes, and I have to play it, haha. That means sometimes the parts are practically made for violin, and sometimes not. So, some parts that sound easy are sometimes hard, and the other way around. But the most challenging, I think, is not the technique, but making it sound good together with the rest of the band. Luckily that’s also the most fun part in practising, and way more fun than the classical-technique oriented way.

RoD: Zet, I assume you are responsible for the lyrics. Where do you take your inspiration from and is there a certain message you want to transmit?
Zet: For both, ‘Intra’ and this album, it’s been me and Sfinx who’s been writing lyrics together, and this time, we’ve left the Schizophrenic subject and concentrate at this planets development, speeding up the limit, in the totally wrong direction. We write about the differences and contrasts in our society, from the deepest poverty, to unbelievable wealth, the hunger for power at the one hand, and the lack of responsibility on the other hand. We’re not preachers and don’t want to spread any kind of personal views through our music. Music is entertainment, but it’s important to write about some issue that inspires, and makes it “easy” to write good lyrics, and this time we ended up with this topic. The contrasts in the lyrics suits also our music perfect in our own opinion.
Sfinx: Heeeyy, haha, many people seem to think so but the fact is that Zet and I both write lyrics and it is split 50/50 on this last album. We do not try to be moralizing one way or another or in any way impose our meanings on people like many artists try to do in their lyrics. We want people to find their own way into our lyrics and find their own meaning. Of cause we have a meaning in them but it is not obvious I guess. This does not however mean that they are not personal to me coz they are very much so!  We simply use elements from things we find interesting, painful and weird mostly. Like the mind of mankind and mans self destructive ways for instance. Both Zet and I have a fascination with this theme. I often find inspiration in my own life and thing that happen, experiences etc. as well.

RoD: Are there already any plans for the future, for a next record? And if so, have you any idea, how it will prosper musically?
Sfinx: I know Zet has some brilliant plans for the new album! ;-) But they are still a secret so I guess you all just have to stay tuned to the RZ channel and find out as the master plan is revealed.
Zet: The plan is: In January, I lock the doors to my studio, and stays there for 5 five weeks, writing material for the next album. I’ve usually been travelling to some cabin to get the loneliness and quietness that I need to write this music, but this time I want to try to make the same atmosphere in the studio, and just tell my friends that I’m incommunicado for this period. I don’t know yet, how this is going to work out, but I really want all the material to be done, so we can start working at it rather early next year, and then we can record late summer/early autumn, and be prepared for a release early 2011. It sure as hell won’t be 4.1/2 year ‘till the next release, ‘cause that’s not satisfying at all, neither for our fans or us. Musically, I’ve got some ideas which also include some new elements, but as things never turns out to be exactly as I think, I’ll keep the cards to my chest for still some time... ha ha. I’m really looking forward to this writing process, ‘cause I’ve got a lot of ideas, that I really believe in.

RoD: Thanks a lot for the interview!
Zet: Thanks to you Ricarda. Have a great day!


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