Music is a universal language, but to speak it anywhere universally is a different thing. For 10-20 Project to be a psychedelic jam unit in their country of Tunisia in Northern Africa is a complete world apart from any similar band in a regular city in Europe or North America. Even apart from the political turmoil in the country you can imagine this to be true.
For me music is just music most of the time, and especially these kind of instrumental jams. However, there is a completely different spirit haunting over 10-20 Project‘s sounds. More than anything I have heard this year so far this jam session called Snakes Go Dark To Soak In The Sun is a ritual celebration of pure unadulterated freedom. The use of saxophone and didgeridoo strengthens this ancient ritualistic feel, as if you were present at a wild shamanistic dance in the desert around a gigantic fire.
Playing the music they play does not feel like killing some time or shooting the shit, it feels like an act of rebellion, and a cry for freedom. Hell, even from my own Western safe haven I felt a bit more alive and free cranking Snakes Go Dark To Soak In The Sun at actual venue level volume through my speakers. Such is the power of imaginative improvisation, and 10-20 Project wield this power with expert skill and a deep, rich soul.
The sonic rebellion is here, joining is easy. Just find yourself a vinyl copy of this record, play it really loud, and sail freely through the endless desert.
I reached out to the band through the the boundless channels of the interweb and found 10-20 Project at their home in Monastir, a city on the central coast of Tunisia. I taked to bass player Dhia Eddine Mejrissi and he introduced me to the rest of the band consisting of Marwen Lazaar (Guitar), and Ismail Bnouni (Drums). Together they are “sonic rebels”, and if you want to know what that means I happily invite you to read on, my dear reader…
How are you? How has the pandemic period been for 10-20 Project?
Hello, and Thanks for asking. We’re doing fine. I think the pandemic was manageable, we succeeded to survive. How does it affect the band ? For Rock music in Tunisia, with or without the pandemic, it’s nearly the same situation.
Can you introduce yourself, how did you meet, etc?
Well.. where to begin ? we are instrumental, DIY, free-form band that plays heavy psychedelic sounds. We change musicians so often.. But due to the fact that marwen and I are the core members, we take control about everything, the style has not changed, but the sound and emotions always depends on the musicians who are involved in recording or live concerts. Our Current line-up is : Marwen (Guitar), Ismail (Drums) and I, Dhia (Bass).
How did we met ? Since we live in Monastir, a small Town in in the central coast of Tunisia, everybody knows each other. We started playing together in 2009, in different bands and line-ups. 10-20 Project is a continuation of all this musical dynamics in 2018. We didn’t really start it with any ambition in mind, or… there was no plan. We wanted to do something different. To create something out of our confort zone when we came to a conclusion that structured songs are restricting and that’s just not how we like to play. 10-20 was born as a meme, all revolve aroud the way we perceive freedom, out of all kind of concepts, ideologies and constructive narratives . Just living the present and playing music the best way it reflects us instantly , we worship human imperfection and we FREAK OUT !! .. We have never been ones to abide by conventional styles or certain artistic norms.. we love to act like « Sonic Rebels »
What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?
We are in the middle of our 30s now, so a lot of music… As teens we were lucky to witness the best era of Tunisian independant underground music in the 2000s. Bands tried out all sorts of musical genres, moving the boundaries of what is considered underground, the frequency of concerts was acceptable. The scene was so real, resilient and decentralized. You know .. The notion of underground music is really diffrent in Third world countries ..
Marwen played in a heavy Metal band called Passchendael. I joined him at 2009, in a cover band called Stone Age, we tried a lot of Hendrix, Rory Gallagher. I think that era really shaped our musical growth. In 2013 we started another band Green Bottles Blues and we began experimenting with our own primitive sounds and recording it. Generally, our taste is eclectic. We share a lot in common regarding our musical taste, even I’m softer than marwen (laughs). It saved us a lot of grief in 10-20, all music is made by consensus. Maybe a lot of Blues/psychedelic rock from the ’60s and ’70s in our bags. In my opinion, there’s a lot of freedom and originality to the music that bands from these genres show us and no one does it quite like they do. The sounds and the ferocity they express have such a strong impact.
What does a regular day in your lives look like?
In Tunisia, no regular days. We have to improvise.
What is the best thing about the new album?
Ammm.. The way it was done.
We came out from the lockdown with kind of sounds resonating in our mind like Snakes , it’s hard to explain it.. We just decided to play it and Sailing Stones asked us to film it We combined their visual background with our sonic know-how.
As a band we tried to give a psychedelic model of how things could be done collectively and independently from ashes, we gave all people involved a free space to contribute in our music the way they feel it. It was strange. It was an odd process, but at the same time, it was really creative. And I feel like it kept us a band, as a reference of what we can do and what we have to change…
So, It was an honest recording for us, It’s just kind of like… whatever happened. It was important to make like, not super cleaned up. It was really fast to put together. Do a quick mix, master. And it was done live..
Where do you live and how does it affect your music?
Well a lot of things have to be said here (laughs).
Honestly, if we talk about the Rock music scene, it is now in clinical coma, it is practically non-existent.
Last decade, it was an era of social and political instability. We witnessed how all kind of ideologies and constructive narratives turned into its opposite, producing violence, Frustrations, insecrurity, angst about the futur, dividing people and turning them into isolation. It’s deadly environment for co-operating things like rock music, and the scene has simply collapsed ..
The lack of ressources too, has turned the scene into more cost effective solo projects and the underground music is more depending on Authority and Europeans Funds depriving it from an important amount of freedom, shaping how the music must be created.
We’ve been upset about this situation, maybe accidentally we turned all these limitations into our own favors , into primitive sounds, loud music and manipulating feedbacks.. it’s like turning Hendrix into our own reality and environment. All these emotions are melt in our music. I don’t know, maybe a kind of nostalgia, not nostalgia for a past that was missing, but a nostalgia for the present, a nostalgia for there to be link to the past once again.
We are stubborn, we’re doing things from ashes by our own terms and we hope we’re doing it well.
Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?
Hard question .. still active ? Earthless, Earth, Colour Haze… Sula Bassana (all the stuff), sharing music moments with him on stage was one of our best memories. Temple Fang was one of our best discoveries in 2022. Maybe something related to Tunisia, Pärson Sound, From Tunis to India in Full moon.
Can you tell me about how you went about composing and recording songs?
How we compose ? It’s all about emotions and flow. We’re not story tellers, we play above our heads.. Mostly it just one take and done. We just choose a key and we go through it, I keep the time and mark changes in modal themes for the fuzzy guitar of Marwen. And we feed off of eye contact in a certain way… kind of vintage psychedelia.. we have our tricks..
For recording.. old cheap gears, a mixing console, simple daw, with some eq, compressor, low cut etc… the usual stuff.
What are your immediate and long term future plans?
We live day by day, We don’t have future plan. We’re excited about our first Vinyl and we’re happy our music has found its way into a bigger psychedelic family
What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?
To Take it easy but take it.