Interview with Andreas Becker – Keyboards, Toufik Bougherara – Guitar, and Sven Hill – Vocals
Interview by Lee Carter
How did Khaima come to be? What is the origin story of the band?
Andreas: It’s a long story of old members, young members, changing members and this basement we use as a rehearsal-space that has a history of it’s own. About 7 years ago Markus searched for other musicians to sit in said basement with.
How did you settle on the band name? Is there any meaning behind it at all?
Andreas: The meaning of KHAIMA is much more than just what it translates to: “the tent”! It denotes the tent of life, a symbol of humanity, a symbol of foreign existence. An eschatological dwelling place for humans.
The saying goes that “you have your whole life to write your first album”, so how does it feel to finally be releasing your debut in ‘Owing To The Influence’?
Andreas: It sure is really exciting and difficult. Even though you have so much time on your hands, it all musically condenses in this short amount of time in the studio. It’s exciting to go this way and put yourself out there with what you’ve created, but we have such a supporting environment with Barhill Records and our close friend and producer Mike Balzer who really took off and put on the edges on the right places.
The band formed in 2013, so how have you all changed as musicians and people in those ensuing seven years?
Toufik: The influence of music is commonly one of the reasons people change! Since 2013, we all became obsessed for the same purpose, to write some fabulous music, we’ve had the motivation, ambition and drive to improve within our goal cycle. All Khaima individuals have built their lives around the dream of being a rock star in their own world.
How does the songwriting differ between now and those early days? Does the band get together to write, or do you write individually and then share?
Andreas: The songwriting in its structure has been the same most of the time, with tiny unconscious improvements here and there. As for the involvement of the individual parts, it’s a good blend of both. Toufik spends every free minute in our basement and writes riffs all the time. We meet, rehearse and then try out many different ideas involving the whole crew.
Your press kit notes that the band would be of interest to fans of Alice In Chains, King Crimson, Deftones, My Sleeping Karma and Tool – would you say these are key bands that have influenced your sound?
Andreas: We definitely are influenced by whole lot more than just these bands and it was a really hard process coming up with mentionable influences to our album. Coming from a wide variety of musical backgrounds we could start mentioning groups, artists and musicians until the next album drops. But when it comes to how the album came out, yes, these are the key influences and bands that came to mind when listening to the finished piece.
Aside from contemporaries, what else inspires you? Where else do you draw your influence from for writing music? What inspires you to write?
Toufik: The basement, thus silence, is one source of my inspiration. Most of my ideas are born out from there, where I feel full of true creativity, lightness and can let the music appear without any interruption to achieve a result; intuitively through those riffs I may hear quietness.
Beyond the aforementioned artists, Khaima’s sound draws from a wider palette of music, including the Middle East and Africa – how do you balance such a seemingly broad reach into something coherent?
Toufik: The influence of Assyrian, Arabic rhythm and tonality might be heard unconsciously throughout my guitar picking and pull ups, mixed up with some heavy riffs. I try to bridge the gap between cultures and music genres, shaping this to make a new impressive form.
Is there ever a time where an idea is considered “too out there” and is left on the cutting room floor, or do you work on it and make it fit?
Toufik: Tons of ideas are waiting for the time to be put together! In Khaima’s world it is generally assumed that songs usually take time to be done whereas the ideas shoot out from a gatling gun! But once a decision is made, everything changes, we do work on one idea ’till we make it fit and move on to the next!
As a band that easily fits into the “progressive” side of rock and metal, what does “progressive” mean to you?
Sven: It’s actually a culture and a mindset for us… Of course there might be a baseline for of all these progressive styles but in fact it’s a stamp that comes on top… The mix of different styles and rhythmics. Something that breaks it up and shifts the walls which are expected from a certain genre. Genre rebels 😀 Progressive was always a synonym for kinda like… Yes we could do it in 4/4 beats and play it in G major, but no thanks.
When did you begin recording ‘Owing To The Influence’? How was the recording process, and working with Mike Balzer?
Sven: I think it was pretty close to the time corona hit us. We knew we had to close a chapter on these ideas and the concept behind it before iterating to the 200th version of a song. It’s more like a feeling… It just feels right to do that. To work with Mike is just beautiful. He’s a Swiss knife and has a perfect sense of where to step in and shape things up to keep the direction and the sound it needs. In a way, like a lecturer for a writer who helped us immensely to weave everything we had in our minds to a beautiful fabric for our “Khaima”.
Are you the sort of band that had the songs ready to go prior to entering the studio, or were there tweaks, wholesale changes and new songs created whilst in the recording sessions?
Sven: Most of them were ready but were changed a bit in the process with the directive of Mike. “Le Hirak” was written in the recording sessions as it just felt right to create that momentum and the meaning behind it.
Concerning the album itself, is there any overarching theme or concept behind it? Is there something behind the choice of title?
Sven: Owing to the Influence refers to social, industrial, political and cultural influences that interact with each other and reflect on consumption and the ever-widening gap between research and resulting decisions, between knowledge and belief. In this, “The truth does not triumph, but its opponents ultimately die out” (Max Planck). The Anthropocene stands and falls with mankind. Our influence is more powerful than ever, but bigger is the influence on us.
As your debut album, was there any nerves or anxiety in releasing it to the world?
Sven: Of course it is exciting… It’s like watching a baby starting to crawl. If it reaches the table and is able to lift itself, of course you’ll be proud… But you love it anyway, so whatever happens it’s just fine.
How has the initial response been, and how has that affected you?
Andreas: Initial responses were mixed. We’re trying to keep it from getting to our heads too much, but every time you put something out there and people start responding to it, there’s going to be a lot of different opinions and they influence you in some more or less consciously perceived way.
As bands are currently unable to tour for the obvious reasons, traditional promotion has taken a back-seat – how are Khaima going about spreading the word of ‘Owing To The Influence’ in the meantime?
Andreas: We’re supported by kind people that put a lot of effort into helping us promote the release and the record itself (special thanks to Barhill Records and All Noir). We’re also on Instagram (@khaima_music) and Facebook (@khaimamusic) and we’re trying to reach out to people without getting too physically close right now. But as it is our first record-release, we’re also learning a lot about it right now.
What has been keeping you sane during these last few months? Any recommendations you can give to our readers?
Sven: Well the lockdowns in our regions were pretty hard for all of us. I think it brought up the extremes, like being close to the family and being too close, as an example. It really just put everything out of balance. I think the only way to cope in general is to focus on how to compensate and bring back at least a bit of that balance. But it’s also hard to tell this to people who are afraid, as they might have some pre-existing conditions or maybe lose their job in these times, and can be totally isolated. It’s really hard to give a good answer for that but what kept us sane was finally being able to come together in the basement again to rehearse and work on some new tracks, which sadly is currently taken from us again.
Have there been any discussions regarding touring at some point in the future? Have there been any concrete plans made, or are things still up in the air? And can UK fans expect a visit at some point once touring is back up and running?
Sven: We would love to do that… Concrete plans. I think it will be more concrete once a vaccine is on its way. Definitely we would love to celebrate that very moment with the people. I think we all miss that. Especially UK is the cradle of progressive.
If you could tour with anyone and go anywhere in the world, who would you want to share a stage with and where would you most like to go?
Sven: KING CRIMSON!!! Anytime… Anywhere. But there are too many to name them all. What I do really enjoy about being together with these guys is that we are interested in so many genres and types of music. Sometimes we just waste hours in a rehearsal talking about that.
Of course, the band has only just released their debut album, but has there been any movement towards writing for album #2? Or are you all just basking in the moment of successfully releasing album #1?
Sven: We’re actually sitting on a huge pile of ideas and are working on new stuff relentlessly.
If you could incorporate any sound or instrument into the band for future releases, what would you most like to include?
The whole crew: Bongos, Sitar, Saxophone and Accordion!
Thank you for your time, is there anything you’d like to say to our readers?
a. Stay Safe, wash your hands, and be nice to each other.
b. Bleibt gesund, wascht euch brav die Hände und seid nett zueinander.