2016 received one of its early treats just a few weeks back with the release of the self-titled Sahona album. It was the debut release from the new melodic rock project of vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Charly Sahona of progressive metallers Venturia. It is a release which is, in our own words “a rousing drama of sound and imagination.” Offered the chance to find out more with Charly, we grabbed a hefty chunk of his time to explore the creation of the band and its first album, and simply the creative heart of the man…
Hi Charly, many thanks for sharing time with us. How are things in the Sahona area of the world?
Hello, thanks for the invitation. Well, things are fine here. The album is out and so far, reviews have been very positive about it . We’re about to release a new music video and shoot a new one. I’m working like crazy in order to perform these songs live as soon as possible . So, I can say I have a good life .
Before we look at your excellent debut album, would you tell us about the first days of Sahona. It was originally meant as a solo project for you?
Oh thanks, I’m glad you like it !!! Sure, you’re right , at first, the album was meant to be a solo project and more precisely, the follow-up of Naked thoughts from a silent chaos released in 2010 but the songs are quite different and so are the musical arrangements and the line-up. So, the first days of Sahona as a full band are recent but the writing of the songs began in 2013. Oh It actually took a lot of time before we recorded and released it .
What sparked the creation of the project; what was it you wanted to explore different to your music in progressive metallers Venturia?
I really wanted to do something different with this one. I like my musical-making to be in a constant motion. At the same time It’s necessary to stand back with the last thing you released and start something new with fresh ideas and enthusiasm. For this project, I wanted to write something without any heavy riff played on a 7-string and focus on different musical textures, guitar sounds and new grooves.
You touched on it earlier, so you had a collection of ideas and songs already in the works before you invited fellow musicians to help out?
Yes, after I finished the first 4 demo-songs, things were clear in my mind and I knew who I wanted to work with. I like to make music with talented people of course but it’s always better when you do it with your friends. So I first asked drummer Stéphane Cavanez to join me , I’ve known him for a long time, he’s a brilliant musician, very enthusiastic about things. After hearing the demo version of On this winter night , he said he would agree to play on all the songs . Same thing with my long-time friends Fabien Paraillac and Cédric Artaxet; I don’t remember exactly if I sent them the first four demos before asking them to join me but anyway, both of them agreed. I was very glad and happy they all said yes to join me for this project. I knew they would sound great together and that my songs would have been transcended thanks to them .
So what was the catalyst to changing the idea of guest musicians to a full band?
It was something I had in mind for a while , as the songs have a different sound compared to the things I did before. As we were recording, there was an obvious musical chemistry going on and it reinforced me to think about having a band name for this project. So I talked about it with Chris from Dooweet agency and to my buddies. We all thought that the idea of the band was obvious and as the name Sahona sounds cool for a band too, the choice was done, easy to make and I didn’t have to scratch my head during days in order to find a new name . The other thing is: as the musicians are my friends, the idea of having a band together was something natural. More, I really like to immortalize music with talented friends.
Was it an easy to decision to ‘share’ your songs with I am guessing musicians with their own adventurous ideas when creating music?
Sure, it was very easy as we’re all professional musicians . There was no ego thing that could have been hard to deal with . I wanted a more organic sound and a sophisticated modern rock approach and I knew what my band mates were able to do .
For example, the drums I programmed were done in a prog-metal style and Stéphane brought a more refined rock groove, I let him do his stuff as everything was matching .
As I’m the lead singer and as there are many guitar layers on these songs it was obvious to ask for help and some back-up . I couldn’t imagine another guy than Fabien to play the guitar with me on this album. We have the same guitar approach but he’s more rock than me.
We recorded a lot of different guitar takes and during the mix, we chose what was best for the song no matter if it was him or me playing….
He did an amazing job on the mix too. Just like his guitar sound, all the songs sound powerful and organic.
Regarding the bass, there was a couple of things I asked Cédric to play the exact same way I did on the demos. But as my bass programming was voluntary basic most of the time, he added his own personality and groove that matched perfectly Stéphane’s drumming . He even changed some root notes that at first surprised me, and the more I listened to it, the more I liked it.
In the end, everything felt easy and natural.
Did their input mean your songs changed or evolved from their original characters once the band was a full involvement of all?
No, not really but I guess things will evolve when we’ll perform live. It’s a natural process and it’s important for us to make slightly different things when we play the same songs over and over.
When writing songs, do you come at them from different angles or have a general way of bringing them to life from idea to sound?
I usually have a precise idea of how the album or a song will sound like even though the root of all songs is based on a guitar or keyboard chords progression and a simple hummed melody . Then, I’ll program a midi file of what I just did. If the melody sounds good with a bad flute midi sound and a midi bass line, I keep the idea and will have a clearer vision of how it will sound like with all the instruments. Then I’m thinking about what kind of drum beat, bass line, guitar riff, and keyboards texture would fit with the idea of the song and at this moment, the creative process is growing fast. Or, not that fast actually because getting the right keyboard sounds or guitar effects takes me a while very often. When I’m programming , I have in mind how my band mates would play it and that’s the reason why I’m never really surprised (although I’m always amazed) when they bring the songs to life with their style and their sound. It sounds obvious to my ears and at the same time I’m so excited to hear what they bring to a song and to discover how it takes the song to a higher level.
Tell us about the lyrical themes behind the album.
Sure ! I decided to do something I never really done in the past. I wrote about the most widely expected subject in the world: Love !!! But not the way girls like it though (no offence intended girls, I’m just kidding !!!) .
Reading and writing romantic and soppy stuff are not my thing at all as I’m a cynical and rational guy . So the majority of these lyrics are about love and its frustrations and turbulences . It’s way more interesting, true and realistic in my opinion. But when I say “love”, It doesn’t only mean the feelings you have for your girlfriend or your boyfriend, I use it for the passion you have for your art or whatever that excites you too, it can be painting, sport, your beliefs and then we’re slightly get into the spiritual aspect and themes I like to write about as well.
Most of my lyrics are not explicit, this way people can identify with them and make their own story.
I usually prefer to describe impressions than reality.
What about the recording of your self-titled debut? How long was it in the making?
It’s funny because it took a long time to finish it (something like two years !!!) but the writing and the recording were actually very fast and easy to do. As we’re used to record in studio, we know how it works and we’re getting more and more efficient and good at it. But as we didn’t have any deadline or expectations, we took our time to record it. The rule was to get together when we were able to do it only. It was: job, touring with cover bands, tasks and family priorities first. This way, we were in a very relaxed state of mind and every time we forgathered, it was for fun.
Ok, the album was supposed to be released in late 2015 but for commercial and administrative reasons it got more delayed .
Did you approach its recording differently to creating releases with your other projects?
Yes and no … As it’s the 5th album I’m producing , I’ve learned through the years with amazing people and I’ve also learned from my mistakes. Today, I know the importance for everybody of being prepared and how to record the best way possible taking into consideration the people you work with as every musician has his own preferences and personality. And that’s how a recording session can be different from the ones you experienced in the past: it depends on your line-up as well. So I asked my band mates about the way they wanted to record and I just let them do it their way as it’s extremely important for artists to work the more relaxed and efficient way possible.
But the thing that changed a lot for me was to share the guitar parts with Fabien but it was so exciting to hear him play with a different strumming and sound than mine and then mixing our guitar tracks together. I really enjoyed it .
Oh, and there was another great thing : My vocal takes were recorded home with a very cool equipment a friend of mine lend me.
This way, I took my time…I was recording one full song a day and the day after, if something was not exactly the way I wanted to be, I just had to press the « rec » button again and it was done. I don’t like the feeling of recording in a studio with time passing, all the money you know you’ll have to spend, the people around you even if it’s your friends. I did it many times in the past and I can tell you how relieved I am to work and to record alone at home, it gives me so more freedom and offers you more possibilities.
Have you found there has been an instinctive urge to do things with Sahona and the album differently to your other ventures elsewhere, just out of the want to try different things?
Yes, as I told you, I wanted to have a different musical approach, a different sound, a different line-up. But on the top of that I really wanted to express myself to another level, and the best way possible as a singer and I’ve been working hard to achieve that. Maybe, being the singer of your own songs reinforces the introspection aspect of the creation. This is not to say that this album sounds more like “me” than the previous ones I did with another lead singer, it’s just different . But as you give more of yourself as a performer, it makes the thing more introspective and maybe more intense and that’s what I wanted to achieve too.
I always imagine a debut album breeds new ideas and opportunities to try and explore further in its successors. Elements not imagined and expected when composing that first encounter. Were there any which arose for you in the making of Sahona’s debut?
I’m always excited to explore new territories, new sounds, new chords progression, new ways of making music. Having a more or less precise idea will always push you to go further in order to create something new and interesting. Listening to different music, going to the theatres, reading books, talking with people, playing with musicians…All this things are inspiring and maybe it if it’s not always a conscious thing, it will incite you to evolve as a human being and inexorably in your art and in your life indeed. This is something I like to be aware of and thankful to.
What comes next for Sahona and its individuals?
We have to play live as soon as possible and we have to work hard for that. We intend to begin a tour in our country in September. Then we will focus on the next album as we’re all really happy about this debut one.
My thanks again Charly for talking with us; Anything you would like to add?
Thanks for having me !!! Congrats to the readers for reading this interview so far and thank you Pete for spreading the word about the music you like whether it’s mainstream or underground .
And finally, give us an insight into the records and artists which could be claimed to have most inspired your own life and creativity.
Oh my god, they are so many . But let’s try to do it fast. I’ve always been a fan of classical music but the one from the early 1900 with composers like Ravel, Bartok, Debussy, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff. As a guitar player I’m a huge fan of guitar heroes like Steve Vaï, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, John Petrucci. I’ve always been into progressive music with bands like Genesis, Rush, Yes, Dream Theater, Frost, Opeth and I’m really into their contemporaries with the young prog underground scene like Destiny Potato, Disperse and especially with the metal djent scenes with bands like Periphery, Tesseract, Monuments who took progressive music to a new level. I like rock and pop music too with bands like Muse, Radiohead, Keane, Dead Letter Circus.
All these bands and musicians have inspired me in many ways indeed.
Check out our review of the Sahona album @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/sahona-self-titled/
The RingMaster Review 21/03/2016
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