~ Interview mit Michael Stavrakakis ~
In den kommenden Wochen erscheint ein neues Werk von der hellenischen Doom-Größe DOOMOCRACY. Zum Warm-up und zur ausführlichen Vorbereitung auf ´Unorthodox´ baten wir Sänger Michael Stavrakakis um ein Interview, das für uns kein Geringer als Hagen Schmidt, bekannt von den mittlerweile wiederbelebten PAYNE´S GRAY, führte.
Und so begegneten sich eines Morgens zwei, auch privat befreundete Musiker und redeten über Gott und die Welt, und natürlich über DOOMOCRACY.
Hagen: Good morning! Are you ready to start our little chat? I’d like to begin at the beginning, as I actually don’t know much about how you guys got together and there is not much to be found on the net. I myself only found out about DOOMOCRACY with your second album, and missed out on what happened before, so please enlighten me about your pasts. It says on your website Angelos, Minas and you are childhood friends and have played in bands together all your lives?
Michael: Good morning! I guess no one thought of making a Wikipedia page about DOOMOCRACY. 😀
After we’re done with this there will be no need for a Wikipedia entry. 😀
Me and Minas have known each other since we were five years old and we both met Angelos when we were 18, so we’ve known each other for a long time. Minas has been playing with Angelos since then in various bands. I joined them around 2005 as I only started singing at the age of 25. But I was always with them in their previous bands as a “sixth member” writing lyrics or vocal melodies. Although we all worshiped Doom Metal (along with thrash and progressive metal) it was on a rehearsal in July 2011 that we decided to form a Doom Metal band.
So DOOMOCRACY is actually your first band per se as a singer?
DOOMOCRACY is actually my 5th or 6th band I think. I used to play in cover bands singing rock, metal, blues and soul anthems. We also had a Hair Metal band with Minas and Angelos back in 2006. Then in 2008 I formed another band called MASTER RESET. The idea with this band was to play Progressive Power Metal in the style of SYMPHONY X and early DREAM THEATER. Now in the middle or rehearsals and after a friend of ours joined us on guitar the band slowly turned into an Alternative/Nu Metal band. I obviously wasn’t satisfied with the shift in genres. I had to change my voice and singing style and sing songs that I didn’t feel confident singing. I had some good but mostly bad times with this band, one of the good ones was when we recorded at Fredman studio which was a learning experience. So as soon as the album was released I decided to quit the band.
Angelos was living abroad and he was in Greece for the summer of 2011 and Minas who was living in Athens at the time was also in Crete for summer holidays. So when we got together during that time we went to a studio to jam songs from our Hair Metal project. During that rehearsal we also jammed the song ´Hanging Puppet´, which was a song that Angelos and Minas had written for their first band called STATIC PROGRESS back in 1997. The song as you may have heard in our debut album ´The End Is Written´, has a great doomy vibe. We really enjoyed playing it at that rehearsal and that lead to our decision of forming a Doom Metal band. We’ve always wanted to play Doom Metal, but we didn’t feel ready until July 2011.
Are you listening to MASTER RESET now? 😀
Yes, found it on amazon.
We all make mistakes and we learn from them.
Never look back. Doesn’t sound too bad, my first impression…
Are there any pictures of that Hair Metal band?
Uh…. hopefully not ! 😀
Ok, so you formed DOOMOCRACY, wrote ´The End Is Written´, what did you have in mind? I feel your style right from the start wasn’t just doom, If it weren’t for the band name, I don’t think it would have been classified as such, I mean, of course it is doomy but so is Hexenhaus.
So later in 2011 we were joined by Manolis Schizakis on bass and Harry Dokos on guitar. With the line-up completed we started composing the songs that would end up in ´The End Is Written´. The situation during that time in Greece was dreadful. Riots everywhere, economic depression and state oppression. A tyranny disguised as a Democracy doomed to fail. A Doomed Democracy, a Doomocracy. It was fitting for the style we play and coming from Greece it was a nice twist of words.
Anyway, when we started composing ´The End Is Written´ we wanted to make an Epic/Doom metal album. From the start we wanted the Doom element to be present and dominant, but we all have influences from other genres which we filter in our music style. You could call our music Epic, Progressive or Doom. I’m fine with that. And I think you can listen to progressive patterns in our debut album too.
So, now that we covered the bands beginnings, let’s talk some about the present. You have, with your first two records built up quite a reputation in the underground, switched to a bigger label, recorded your third album with the help of some prominent people…it all looks like you are getting ready to take a step out of the underground and level up a step. What are your expectations on release of ´Unorthodox´?
I think our first two albums paved the way for us to reach ´Unorthodox. ´The End Is Written´ was raw and emotional yet a very strong debut album that we really love. It introduced us to the metal community and lead to many concerts around Europe. Our second album ´Visions And Creatures Of Imagination´ was a more mature step forward, an album that was well structured and delivered and which was praised by critics and fans.
It is said that the 3rd album is a defining one for every band. If that’s the case, I think ´Unorthodox´ can lead us to bigger stages and to a wider recognition. We recorded it at „DevasoundZ“ studio with Fotis Benardo and we mixed it at „SolnaSound“ studio with Simon Johansson and Mike Wead. All these people helped us to achieve the best possible sound for ´Unorthodox´ and we thank them very much!
We are very confident about it from start to finish and with our shift to a new record label “No Remorse Records”, we have an opportunity to really get things going with DOOMOCRACY.
Ok, tell us about the Swedish connection. You had, on ´Visions…´ already guested Maestro Miguel Robaina of MEMENTO MORI & HEXENHAUS fame, how did this come about, and did it lead to Mike Wead guesting on the new album, and Simon Johansson mixing & mastering?
When we were composing ´Visions…´ we thought of adding some keys to the songs. We could do it ourselves as Manolis our bass player is great with keys too, but in the end we made contact with Miguel Robaina from MEMENTO MORI. We love his work in MEMENTO MORI, so he was our first choice. Thankfully he was positive in doing it and this lead to a very successful cooperation, so we had to have him back for ´Unorthodox´ as well!
In 2017 we played with MEMORY GARDEN at „Doom Over Scania“ festival in Sweden. There we met all the incredible guys from MEMORY GARDEN and I invited them to play at a festival that I was co-organizing in Crete. WOLF from Sweden also played in that festival. As you know Simon Johansson plays in both bands, so we got to know each other well and in time he told us that he would love to work with us on our next album. Mike Wead also works with Simon at „SolnaSound Recording“ so they worked together and did a great job with mixing and mastering ´Unorthodox´. We asked Mike Wead to play a solo on one of our songs (´Catharsis´) and he was gracious enough to accept. We are really glad he did, his incredible solo fits our song perfectly!
Yes, I agree. Actually, I think the only band I would compare DOOMOCRACY to would be HEXENHAUS, so it all makes sense to me. How about Daniel the videographer? Also a Swede? You made four videos with him? Tell me about it.
That’s a great compliment as we love HEXENHAUS! When the time came for us to promote our album, we decided to shoot four video clips. We had seen Daniel Wahlstrom’s work with Swedish bands like SORCERER, WOLF and MEMORY GARDEN. We have friends in all those bands and they highly recommended Daniel so we made him an offer and he was eligible to fly all the way from Sweden to help us shoot these videos. We had a lot of fun and the outcome was great! Daniel is a great easy going videographer who despite the long hours of shooting, never got tired!
Any fun anecdotes? Usually videoshoots have some deleted scenes worth a laugh.
Well, it wasn’t easy… one of the band members was sick during those days, so it was a bit hectic to continue shooting for three straight days/nights in five locations. Of course we had fun doing it, but I can’t remember a specific anecdote from the shooting…other than some sarcastic jokes about “Van Life” and my car’s engine stalling in the middle of nowhere.
You got a painting by Mariusz Lewandrowski for the cover. Was that commissioned to fit the concept or did you choose an already existing picture? Did you get to talk to the artist before he passed away recently?
We were all gathered at our bass player’s house considering ideas for the album cover of ´Unorthodox´ when while going through the works of Mariusz Lewandowski, which we admired a lot, we saw his painting „The Lower of Hope“. We were all stunned and came to the unanimous decision to try and acquire the rights to use his painting as our album cover. That was back in 2019 or early 2020 I think… so we sent him an e-mail and acquired his permission to use his painting. We are thrilled with the outcome as it is a perfect fit for our concept and album title. We were really sad to read about his passing,,,he was truly great!
Also, lyricwise, excellent. Did you come up with all this? The story? And the use of memorable phrases like in god we trust, our will be done, very clever. It seems doing concept albums is popular with epic doom bands at the moment, and the themes chosen, by MEMORY GARDEN and SORCERER on their latest releases, are quite similar, witch hunts and the plague in the middle ages. You wrote a story based on the historic fact of the Gregorian calendar reform in 1582, which skipped 10 days, to adjust a divergence between calendar and the seasons basically. Tell us about the real reason.
The idea for ´Unorthodox´ was born back in 2018. I have known the story about the calendar change for many years now. You know Greece was the last European country to adopt the Gregorian calendar in 1923 and to this day there is still a small amount of people that use the Julian calendar. The change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar happened as you say to adjust a divergence between calendar and the seasons. But what if there was another reason, why they had to skip those ten days… what if something cosmogonic happened that could change the course of the world as we know it forever? What if the establishment had to „erase“ those ten days so no one would ever know what truly happened…? It seemed like a fascinating subject on which we could build a great story, about how religions take advantage of people’s faith and belief, in order to serve their secret agenda.
Production is very good, great dynamics, like the part before the solo on ´Prelude…´ awesome. Great growl by the way.
Mike Wead and Simon Johansson did a fanstasic job with the mix and mastering of the album! As for the dynamics in the songs, we tried hard to make this album more interesting and intense with several passages and mood changes.
I think the growling voice was fit for that part in ´Prelude To The Apocalypse´. The lyrics in this song are referring to an ancient prophecy of a man that is to come to shake the foundations of the earth. So in that growling part I’m kind of letting people think that the prophecy is about Satan.
Well everyone can think of the story as they like… We just wanted to show that whenever some new idea or some radical appears, the church/establishment will say it’s the devil.
People should be enlightened enough by now not to believe any of that, but it still works doesn’t it`?
I can let you know what the concept is really about, unless you want to find out by yourself.
I’ll try to find out by myself before you start telling everybody in your front page interviews.
Hint: Thus, the calendar year has an average length of 365.2422 days. The Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar, which had become 10 days out of synchrony with the solar cycle. In October, 1582, 10 days were dropped from the calendar.
Yes, I vaguely remember.
We say these 10 days existed, but were removed to conceal the coming of this man who tried to change life as we know it.
You can say we created our own conspiracy theory. 🙂
Haha, maybe you will be worshipped one day. 😀 You never know, all religions are based on such things.
🙂 In our case the story is about a man that came to earth and through practice and meditation he managed to cheat death. He tried to spread that knowledge and gained a lot of followers. The establishment didn’t like that…so they tortured him and tried to kill him.
Of course the concept is written in a way that leaves people’s imagination to wonder about what is going on… and I am fine with people receiving the concept in their own way.
🙂 ok, I’ll let my imagination do the rest…
Judging by the narrators accent, your story is geographically set in Scotland?
Not really. United Kingdom adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752. Our narrator is a Scottish friend of ours, with a characteristic voice that we found perfect for that specific part of the story. We have another narrator on one more song with a British accent.
I hear something like a flute in ´Eternally Lost´, it sounds great and rather Greek to me, what is it, and who plays it?
When we were building the structure of ´Eternally Lost´ we thought of adding a brief flute solo after the first chorus. We asked Miguel Robaina (ex-MEMENTO MORI) if he could play the flute. He told us he couldn’t, but he came up with this beautiful flute sound and melody that we just had to use it. I think it sounds great, don’t you?
So nobody will play the flute on stage?
We will see, we will either have a guest on stage, or our guitarist Angelos Tzanis will come up with a cool sound to play it.
The flute is superb, the little oriental vibes here and there came out great, I still think you could incorporate some more of your culture without offending any of your fans and make you stand out even more among the other 1st. league epic doomers.
We did use the „tampoura“ traditional instrument on two songs. I love the flute too! Which song is your favorite?
There’s a lot going on in this song.
You know, it won’t be easy for me to sing this song on stage… perhaps with one or two adjustments here and there. I love the beautiful solo by Mike Wead and the speedy middle part…“the massacre of the disciples“.
Yes, but the story can’t end there, we need to know what happens then, alternate reality, conspiracy theories, maybe a bit of flat earth etc., otherwise the world just goes back to normal after 10 days of hope, how frustrating. But ok, it’s doom, so you don’t want to be too optimist I get it.
As you listen to the album pay attention to the timeline of the songs…it might not be as you think it is… To be honest I told the guys we should name the album Unorthodox pt.1. Because the story can obviously have a part 2. 😀 I mean…what if the ’stars align‘ again and the Spiritualist returns?? What would happen then?
Probably. Or just 10 more days adjusted… 😀
Are you planning to play ´Unorthodox´ in its entirety, with all the choirs and everything?
Oh, that would be awesome, but it’s definitely a hard task and we will also have to leave many songs from our first two albums out of the setlist. So it’s definitely in our plans, but we shall see.
You have to my ears expanded the range of your Doom Metal, while staying totally recognisable. Do you think some fans of the first two albums will accept the evolution you have gone through? I love it, so I assume everyone else will too, but how do you feel about it?
Writing a concept album means going through different emotions from song to song, so In a way I think we sound more progressive and even thrashy at times, while maintaining our heavy and Doom sound. I had some minor concerns that our more doomy fans might have been estranged by ´Unorthodox´, but the first reactions from all our fans are thrilling. Especially on the more diverse and progressive ´Eternally Lost´ the feedback from our fans was incredible.
Here is a question I have had on my mind for a while: going back to your first album, you did a Lovecraft inspired song, ´The Curse Of Celephais´, tell me about it and what it is about Lovecrafts writing that appealed to you to turn it into music?
I believe anyone that comes in contact with Lovecraft’s writings is drawn more and more into the magical abyss he created. In one of my darkest times and a time of insomnia, the story of the dreamer seemed to mirror what I was feeling, only I was not able to go „down the steps of sleep“. We wrote this song as a tribute to those times and to the delightful and terrible at the same instance thing that is sleep.
Have you been inspired by other writers?
I think we’re all in a way inspired by the books that we read. I like the books of Franz Kafka, Arturo Perez Reverte, Nikos Kazantzankis, Bram Stoker, Dante Alighieri and others. When I’m writing lyrics I draw inspiration from books, movies and video games. I’m generally inspired by everything that surrounds me.
How about musically, of course you love for epic doom and metal is obvious, how about other genres, would you say for instance Greek or Cretan traditional music is something that reflects in your songs?
Other than heavy metal, I love 70’s rock music and especially progressive rock, I like blues and I enjoy many pop artists. I can’t say that I’m really fond of Cretan or Greek music. Of course there’s good music to be found in Greek composers like Hatzidakis, Theodorakis, Vangelis Papathanasiou. Being from Greece and listening to Greek songs on the radio growing up, I might have subconsciously be influenced by them.
So how would you like us to end this conversation? Perhaps tell us about your future plans with DOOMOCRACY?
´Unorthodox´ will be released on the 11th of November 2022. We look forward to taking ´Unorthodox´ to the stage and I hope we can play in Germany again, we love your country and we always have a great time playing there! We really missed playing live because of the pandemic and we want to return to the stage as soon as possible. We are making plans for live performances that we will announce when we are ready. There are also a few more video clips coming…so watch out for that!
Thank you for this interesting conversation and thank you SaitenKult for your support!
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