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Ravenheart Music: Interviews

CHARLY SAHONA INTERVIEW

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I have recently reviewed an album by the French band SAHONA. They are an all guy band fronted by Charly Sahona, who is also involved in the female fronted band VENTURIA. I felt like interviewing him, so I did!

Hi Charly and it is my pleasure to have this interview with you. Not only have I really enjoyed your latest S/T album, I am also aware of your involvement with the female fronted band Venturia, so may be I could kill two birds with one stone as they say. Not that I kill birds you understand :) Here goes!!
Hi, All the pleasure is mine :-D I’m glad and honored you like the album and to know that you want to know more about it !!!! … Good to know you don’t kill animals ;-)

Just fill me in a little bit about yourself and how you became involved with the music business?
- Hi, I’m Charly Sahona, I’m a french musician and songwriter . I play the guitar , the keyboards and I also sing . I play in the prog metal band Venturia which is a female fronted metal band and I also have this new melodic rock project I'm extremely happy to tell you about called Sahona. Well, for my part, I will divide music business into two categories: the one that makes you earn some money and the one that makes your songs exist. But let's focus on the one we're here to talk about. As far as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a musician. I really wanted to make albums and tour the world. When I was a teenager, recording a good album or even a decent demo involved a lot of money, so I've spent a lot of time frustrated not to have the means to record something decent. But in the early 2000's as the internet and home studios were growing, you finally had access to tools like DAWs, plug-ins and amp-modelers that allowed you to record with very good equipment . This way, I could record my first songs and instrumental stuff. Thanks to the internet (I didn't have home at the time) I got some feedback from guitar lovers and one of them told me that I should get in touch with a record company called Lion Music who intended to release an instrumental tribute to one of my hero: Shawn Lane who just sadly passed away. The record label was interested in having me on the album. A few weeks later, I had the opportunity to meet Lars Eric Mattsson (Lion Music boss) and made him listen to the track I recorded for the tribute and at the end of the meeting, I told him about Venturia and gave him our first 4-track demo . He got interested in the band too and ...That's how I got my first contract and I was involved in the music business for the first time. So far, I released 5 albums of my own compositions, did a bunch of guest appearances and recorded for various tribute albums too.

How are things at the moment in the Venturia camp?
- Things have changed a little bit in the line-up section … Unfortunately, our female singer Lydie Lazulli decided to quit for personal reasons we had to accept . It was really sad for us as it was great working with her and her voice was part of the sound of the band. But when the heart is not there anymore you have to let go and let people follow their lives the way they want. During one year, the band activity was close to zero and I could focus on this new album and project called “Sahona”. But since last summer I met an amazing young and beautiful female singer called Claire Pinochi . As we were talking about our musical interests I told her about Venturia and that we were looking for a new singer. She was curious about the band and wanted to know more as she was not familiar with this style of music. In the end of the conversation she told me she would be interested in singing for us . I shared the stage with her for a different musical activity and I can tell you she's a really good singer, with a great technique and on the top of that, she's a very nice person, very easy to work with. This autumn, we did some rehearsals with Venturia and played a gig for a festival in Switzerland with her. Things went very very well and it seemed like she's always been part of the family. She felt very comfortable with the songs, with the three of us and even on stage. So having Claire with us is a bless for sure .

Can we expect anything new from Venturia in due course?
- Indeed !!! I'm writing new songs right now and to date I have 4 songs almost finished. It's too early to describe how the album will sound like, but I can already tell you that this one will be more prog than “Dawn of a new era” , with new and modern influences. It will sound darker and the songs will have strong and catchy melodies as usual. We already played 2 new songs the last gig we did and we're very excited about it and we can't wait to finish the writing of the new album so we can record and share it with you all.

Now onto yourself. Have you yourself released any music prior to the latest SAHONA album?
- Yes, in 2010 I released a melodic metal solo album called “Naked Thoughts from a Silent Chaos” where I was the lead singer for the first time. And more recently, I was asked to record for three different tribute albums based on classical music . The first one is a J-S Bach rock tribute album, the second one is a tribute to Mozart and I just sent yesterday my contribution to the Vivaldi tribute that will be released soon. This new SAHONA album was supposed to be the continuation of “Naked Thoughts ...” and it should have been released under the name “Charly Sahona” too. But, as the music approach and the line-up are different, I was wondering how to introduce this new album to the audience. Moreover, as we were recording the songs with my bandmates, there was an obvious musical chemistry going on and it reinforced me to think about having a band name for this project. So I decided to talk about it to 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 .

And can you introduce to the members of your band? How did you all meet up?
- Sure, there is Stephane Cavanez on the drums. He's an amazing drummer, with a great groove, energy. He puts all his heart and passion on every drum beat he plays. It's very communicative and so easy to play with him. I've known him for a while, something like 15 years. We've played many many times together for a big cover band and the choice of having him as a drummer on the record was just obvious. Fabien Paraillac has been a long time friend too. He's a great guitar player and sound engineer. We haven't played together on stage very often but we're close buddies and we like hanging on with friends. We have the same guitar approach but he's more rock and organic than me. As I'm the lead singer and as there are many guitar layers on this 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. He did an amazing job on the mix too. Just like his guitar sound, all the songs sound powerful and organic. Cedric Artaxet is the bass player. Although we never played together before. I've known him for a couple of years now. We had the opportunity to talk many times about music, he's a wise man with a big musical knowledge I knew he was the perfect musician for us. I was very glad and happy that the three of them 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.

Apart from Venturia, are you or any other band members involved in any other musical projects?
- Drummer Stephane Cavanez is about to release an album of his own compositions called “Nomad Synergy”. It's a dark electro album with a very strong identity. He has a great sense of song writing and I guess the album will be highly claimed by medias when it'll be out. I wrote some lyrics on this one. Thomas James Potrel (bass player in Venturia) has recorded a solo album.It's a blend of world and jazz music. He's an amazing composer. My other bandmates are professional musicians they play for different local artists and for cover bands too.

Listening to the SAHONA album, it seems that you have taken Melodic Rock by the short and curlies and dragged it into the 21st century. Awesome stuff! I understand that you yourself produced the record. Can you tell us what the recording experience was like, and was there any major headaches?
-Oh thanks, I'm honored you see things this way.Yes, as times are hard for music business I decided not to have any record label and produced the album just like the way I wanted. Not to say I couldn't do what I wanted with a record label. Writing and recording this songs was very easy to do.What I mean by that is as there were no deadline or expectations for this album, so we took our times to record it and the rule was to get together when we were able to do it only. It was job, tasks and family priorities first. This way, we were in a very relaxed state of mind and every time we got together, it was fun. So there was no major headaches only for me who has the tendency to overthink when I'm writing and recording.

Where was the album recorded?
- Home, mainly for the guitar players .Then we used the re-amping technique in studio . All the bass and guitar tracks were recorded home. When everything was done, we took the dry signal files of our instruments to the studio and re-injected it into the amps. This way, you have to focus on the mics position and preamp settings only. You don’t have the 'time is running out' stress of the multiple takes needed when you’re making a record. The drums were recorded in the same studio near from our houses in the south of France. I programmed and played the keyboards home just like I did my vocal takes. A friend of mine lend me a great microphone and a class A preamp. This way, I took my time…I was recording one track a day and the day after, if something was not exactly the way I wanted to be, I just had to press « rec » again and it was done. Fabien mixed 9 songs out of 11 home in his studio. "On this winter night" and "A modern sleeping beauty" were mixed by Carryl Montini for Artsonik studios in Switzerland. My friend Brett Caldas Lima who recorded a huge amount of metal albums did the mastering .

Do you have any fave tracks on the album?
– Yes I do. My favorites are the ones that contains strong melodies, powerful riffs and grooves, nice keyboards textures and different ambiances at the same time. But to be more precised, I would say that “Light of day, sense of life”, “Fires of Passion”, “On this winter night”, “Under my skin” and “ A modern sleeping beauty” are my favorites songs of the album.

And for those unfamiliar with your music, how would you describe it?
- When I was asked to describe the music of the album for the first time I did it this way : “melodic rock music characterized by a blend of metal, progressive and electro, where two guitar virtuosos are exchanging solos and uniting on heavy riffs over a very efficient bass and drums section". Settled down on mysterious, spacy, powerful, torn and passionate climates, the melodic vocal parts are evolving, with lyrics that deal with introspective themes, such as spirituality, psychology, frustrations and turbulences of love.” I like to make songs that reunites the Yin and Yang elements, make a balance between them and create a strong atmospheric musical landscape.

Is image important within a band environment?
– Yes it is. I understand that some people want to focus on the music only and It's ok with that. But having a good band image is part of the music business. People will identify with you and will recognize you. It will help to stand out from the crowd and you will be recognized as a pro too. And that's what people want to see. It's funny because as I'm saying that, I realize that we should work more on this aspect. But at least we did our best to wear matching clothes. Same thing with the artwork of your album and the video you want to make to promote your band. Ok, sometimes it's a lot of money involved but if you want to go to the next level, this is something you really have to pay attention to.

There seems to be a rather good music scene in France. Are there any other French bands that you would like to tell us about that one should keep an eye on?
– Yes, I'm proud to say that there's a lot of talent here . I know and I'm friend with amazing musicians. There are amazing people all over the world and internet is an amazing tool for discovering great artists and bands from everywhere. About the famous French bands, Gojira is a very good extreme heavy metal French band. I'm sure you've already heard of them if you're into this kind of music. Dagoba and Eths (female fronted metal) are really really good too. I'd like to mention my friends from Adagio as well who are working on their upcoming album.

Does music pay your household bills?
Yes it does, not My music, but music in general. If you want to make a living with music, you have to be versatile, and be able to play or sing many different songs. Giving lessons is a good way to earn some money too. You have to be good at many different things. Knowing how to record and mix on your DAW will allow you to save money for your projects and work for different bands that will need you. Same thing with the video stuff as it's a media all the bands need to master. For my part, I play covers in small, medium or big clubs. I give lessons sometimes but I try to keep a lot of free time to focus on my projects. Ok I don't have a lot of money but I can pay my bills and I feel extremely happy and grateful for that. Of course I've always wanted to earn money and tour the world with my music only but you know what they say: “If you want to make god laugh, tell him about your plans”.

And what do you do when not making awesome music?
– I think about what I could do to make it better. Well, everything I do is related to music and it has always been like that. I live in a small apartment, I have my internet connection, my instruments, my computer and I feel like the happiest man on earth. But to be honest, I like to be with my friends, going to the restaurants, I like movies and going to the movie theaters a lot.There was a time when I was really into indoor air pistol shooting and I was getting pretty good at it. Of course I used to train everyday to the club and won some competitions until the day I realized that I should focus more on my singing. So, of course I'm extremely involved with music and if I don't practice for a day or two, I'm getting nervous. But I know how to seize the day, enjoy life and the people I like. That's a gift of life I appreciate every single day.

And has the band got any plans to gig of the back of the new album?
– Yes, and no … I mean, all the band really want to tour and play this songs live. And that's what musicians are meant to do as well. But the thing is, if you want to go to the next level and get more audience, you have to tour a lot. This means a lot of expenses, sacrifices without getting your money back. That's how music business worksnowadays. We were asked a couple of days ago to be the opening act for a really big metal band for their upcoming french tour. I had to say no as the other band mates were already involved with cover bands that will pay them at the same time and most of them don't agree with the principle “If you want to play your songs, you'll have to pay for that” ...I understand completely and I respect that even though it's sad to say no to big opportunities like this one. So we will play a couple of gigs in France in September and we just hope we'll get more contracts to play in Europe and for festivals.

If you was given the choice, who would you just love to tour and hang out with?
– About touring, I like to play and share the stage with cool and nice people as music is about sharing positive vibes. On a professional side, I would say yes to any cool band with an audience that will potentially like your music. For example, with Venturia, I would love to tour with Dream Theater, Nightwish, Periphery, Tesseract. With Sahona, that would be with Porcupine tree, Dead letter Circus and let's dream big: Muse!

Thanks for your time Charly. Finally, is there anything you would like to say to readers of this website?
Thanks for having me. Sure, I would like to thank the readers of the website for the interest and for reading so far. I know you guys are really passionate and curious about music and that's a great thing !!! I encourage you to go on this way and spread the word to your community about the music you like.
Dave Smith (Mar 4, 2016)