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Ravenheart Music: Interviews

PERSONA INTERVIEW

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I am rather impressed by the debut album from Tunisian band PERSONA. So much so I thought I would interview their singer Jelena. So I did and here it is.....

....Hi Jelena, many thanks for letting me chat to you. Can we be introduced to the members of the band and can you tell us how you all came together to form PERSONA?
Jelena: Hi Dave, and thank you for this interview! Persona started in 2012, first as a project between Melik (lead guitarist) and me (vocals). We were first experimenting and composing for fun, but eventually decided to form an actual band. Yosri (guitars) joined soon afterwards, followed by our drummer Youssef, then Walid (keyboard) and Nesrine (bass), who is the newest band member.

What was it that made you think: "I want to be in a rock band"?
Jelena: My dad is a musician, my mom’s a music lover, and I was surrounded by music since always. Besides classical (my dad’s and mine musical background), there were always records of ABBA, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Rush etc… in the house, so I eventually started discovering that world as well and I was quite impressed. I was singing all my life and that’s always been my favorite form of expression, but it wasn’t until my first year of college that I actually got an opportunity to be in a band. That was my first and last band before PERSONA, it was called “Inumbro”. I loved the experience and it was then when I knew “this is something I really want to do in life”.

And as for the name PERSONA - Can you tell me more about the name?
Jelena: It is based on psychological concept of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, and it stands for personality that one displays in public, as opposed to inner self. According to Jung, Persona is kind of "mask“ that one wears in everyday life, which helps in interaction with other people and conceals one’s true thoughts and feelings. We chose it because it’s what we experience when we compose and perform on stage: each song must be given its particular identity and therefore we must go through different emotions and states of mind that sometimes don’t really represent how we feel in that particular moment.

Are any of the band involved in any other musical projects?
Jelena: Almost of us have some musical projects on the side, be it cover bands or original song writing. Melik is also a member of a band Hemlyn, currently working on their first album (it will be a fusion/metal mix). Yosri plays in a cover band “Post It’s” and Walid in “Garage band”. Nesrine and I have individual side projects, mostly focusing on songwriting for the moment.

I do like your debut album 'Elusive Reflections'. Can you tell us a little about the album and what the studio experience was like?
Jelena: Elusive Reflections has 10 songs, all describing different moods, emotions and states of mind. There is no concept, songs sometimes have similar topics, but they are all quite different musically. And our studio is actually our home, so we were quite comfortable and relaxed. But recording is always a little bit stressful and everything has to be absolutely perfect, because both you and the audience will listen to it numerous times and mistakes of any kind would ruin the whole impression.

Who are the main songwriters in the band?
Jelena: it’s mostly Melik and me who come up with initial song ideas, but then we share that with the band during rehearsals and each member continues to develop sections for his/hers instrument. Also, we all decide together about changes that might occur and also final form of the song.

Tunisia it has to be said is possibly not on the tip of many people's tongues when it comes to Rock&Metal, so what is the Metal music scene really like there?
Jelena: It’s true that Tunisia is not the most convenient country in which you’d start and manage a metal band. There are numerous obstacles: lack of media support, no labels, no recording studios nor music producers that specialize in rock/metal (same goes for music videos), lack of venues, and other things… Most bands just give up before they achieved anything significant. On the other hand, there is audience for this kind of music and I hope the conditions will improve in the future, for the sake of bands and also people who support them.

Locally, what has the media reaction been like to your band and your music?
Jelena: As I’ve mentioned before, there’s practically no media support for this music genre in Tunsia, except for few local webzines, and they’ve got it covered. That’s why we’re mostly focused on webzines and magazines abroad in our promotion.

And for those unfamiliar with your music, how would you describe the music on your record, and do you yourself have any personal faves on the CD?
Jelena: I already gave you a hint in one of the previous questions: it’s a gallery of different emotional and mental states, lots of personal impressions and expressions. We describe our genre as alternative metal because there are many different elements in it (due to different musical preferences of each band member I suppose), but people usually hear symphonic, power, even gothic and industrial influences. That’s all very individual though, and it varies a lot from person to person, so it’s best to leave to each listener to form their own impression. It’s really difficult to choose favorites, especially because that changes from time to time. At this very moment, I somehow hear “Forgotten” in my head, and also “Ageless” comes to mind. I very much enjoyed writing lyrics for both those songs, besides the pleasure of creating vocal melodies.

The TITLE of ALBUM...Can you explain it's meaning?
Jelena: It stands for the conflict and duality within human nature that sometimes distort how we perceive the world and ourselves.

As a female in what in the past has been seen as a male-dominated genre, was there ever a problem with being taken seriously by fans or the media?
Jelena: Not according to my experience. Besides that, female-fronted is in full expansion, but even if it were not the case, I strongly believe that it’s not the gender that matters, but band’s talent, conviction, persistence, originality, and most importantly, honesty and authenticity behind their music.

And have you yourself had any vocal training?
Jelena: I have, most of my life. First lessons I had were with my dad, then I spent years singing in different choirs during high school and college, and at some point I started taking individual lessons again. At the moment I’m in a self-training phase ;).

Do you think an image is important within a band set up?
Jelena: It definitely is, this is the era of all things visual. If a visual identity of a band is not quite clear or interesting enough, their music might not get enough exposure.

What are your musical inspirations at the moment, and what/who do you listen to when you are chilling out or relaxing?
Jelena: These days I’m listening mostly to classical music, because I need to concentrate a lot and usually something from baroque period helps me with that (Bach, Handel, Purcell…). Sometimes it’s classical, like Mozart or Beethoven. Sometimes I just need silence :D. But when I listen to music for pleasure, it depends what am I in the mood for; it can be some progressive metal bands like Leprous, Pain of Salvation (old albums), Dream Theater… Old albums of my favorite Kate Bush, or some jazz like Malody Gardot, Gretchen Parlato, Kurt Elling… I’m currently loving piano works of Sergei Prokofiev and I listen to them a lot as well.

When not making music, what do you do to pay those all important bills, and what hobbies do you have apart from the band of course?
Jelena: Actually, in a way I do make a living from music, because I teach piano and singing, and until recently I also played in a cover band. The only hobby I actually have time for is reading, but there are so many other things I’d love do - making jewelry and any kind of handcrafting, photography, writing…

And if someone was to wave a magic wand, what band/artist would you just love to tour with and hang out with?
Jelena: Okay, let’s say that I have two magic wands at my disposal, one that can do anything possible, and another one that can do impossible things too :). With the first one, I’d love us to go on a tour with Delain or Anneke Van Giersbergen, and to meet both Anneke and Charlotte Wessels personally. Now about the second magic wand, meeting members of the original Queen would be just amazing!

Are there any gigs in the pipeline?
Jelena: We have one gig coming up at the end of February, some in March and two or three in April. We’ll publish all news about that in our social media.

Well, thank you for your time and good luck in all your future endeavours. We wish you all the very best for the future. Finally is there anything that you would like to say to anybody across the world via this website?
Jelena: Thank you, Dave, for this opportunity! And to your readers and our current and future fans, I’d just like to say a big thank you for all the support, and stay tuned, because we have more music and news coming up soon!
Dave Smith (Feb 16, 2016)