I was so pleased to finally get the chance to talk on the phone to one of the best composers for the Greek heavy metal scene. Dimitris Selalmatzidis talked to me about SARISSA, their new album "Masters Of Sins" and all the difficulties that the band faced during the 10 year absence. Enjoy a very interesting interview. |
Dimitri, thank you for your time.
Dimitris: No problem my friend.
The first thing I want to ask you is how you feel after 10 years that you are finally able to release an album with SARISSA?
Dimitris: How do I feel? I feel wonderful because even if we have split up as SARISSA, I never gave up as a composer. I always had in my mind to continue at some point with SARISSA. We got together again at around 2000, with the old line-up (and without the old singer) and then we had the usual problems with the band line up once more. It took us around four years to finalize this CD, "Masters Of Sins".
I am going to ask you about these facts; however I was asking my self if "Masters Of Sins" is a concept album. What are the things that you go through lyrically on this album?
Dimitris: Lyrically we talk about the New World Order on the album. We deal mostly with the wars that took place on Iraq and the Middle East region...excuse me one moment...my drummer Bill just arrived. Anyway, to go on, in a few words, yeah we are dealing lyrically with the New World Order as it comes out today.
You weren't maybe a bit afraid that with these lyrics you may loose some potential listeners, because there are people out there that believe that a war on Iraq for example was necessary.
Dimitris: No no, no problem with that whatsoever, we just speak out our minds and the album grew to be an epic one. When I am talking about epic I mean it with a modern style referring to real events.
Now as it comes to the music, I don't think there is a comparison between the old material from SARISSA and the new album. As I wrote on my review, the melodic, atmospheric and sometimes the progressive elements take the upper hand on the album. Was that your intention when you begun composing the material for "Masters Of Sins"?
Dimitris: Look, personally I don't feel that we have changed that much. The musical forms like the oriental scales and folk greek elements are there as they used to be on our first self titled album "Sarissa". The big difference that I see, of course there is a 10 year difference between the CDs, but the big difference would be on the production. Other than that I think we have a lot of elements from the 80s as well as from the modern period of the 2000s. I think it is a mix between the first album as well as of the modern style of metal. If you listen for example 'Bleed (till the end)' or 'The Ancient Land Falls', these two songs could have been easily on the first album in 1994. But believe me, the big difference is the production, finally we have managed to have a very good sound on the CD.
Well, I don't think that the production on the first CD was that bad, but anyway. I wanted to ask you, there are quite a lot of symphonic arrangements on "Masters Of Sins", where those real instruments or just samplers?
Dimitris: Well these should be samplers. To bring a whole orchestra on the studio you need enormous amounts of money.
Yeah I know, but they just sound very beautiful and so real.
Dimitris: Well, we worked them quite a lot and to a big extend and after that is how you use them on the arrangements.
And as it concerns any live you might do, will this make it a bit more difficult?
Dimitris: Well not really, since we are going to have the orchestrated parts pre-recorded, as almost all the bands do, since it is going to be very difficult to bring with us on the stage 20 people to play with them. We just synchronize them with the drums and we just play.
As it concerns any live gigs, have you planned anything for "Masters Of Sins"?
Dimitris: We had a lot of propositions, but due to the fact that it was summer and each one of us has his own job to take care of, we didn't make it. For sure, now from September and October we are going to have some live concerts. However, nothing is for sure at this point.
Well, something else I wanted to ask is that, although the album moves towards melodic standards, the closing track of the album 'Hypocrisy Crusade' is a whole harder. Sometimes it reminds me of black metal moments. Does this has anything to do with preparing us for what SARISSA will sound like in the future?
Dimitris: Look, on this track I sing and I have a very raw voice which makes things a bit harder. And after all, lyrically this is the hardest piece on the album so we wanted to achieve that. You can say that on this song we have a lot of influences from the 2000s and after. But no, this is not what we are going to sound in the future. We are going to have some references to sounds like on 'Hypocrisy Crusade', but without dominating the whole music. We don't want to be nostalgic, whenever we listen to something good and we see that we can put it on the music of SARISSA we will put it. We don't want to be stuck on a certain formula for our music, whatever is good we just put it.
As it concerns the cover version for the song 'Starvation' from SOCRATES, how did this come to your mind to do it?
Dimitris: The first thought was that we always wanted to do a tribute to older Greek bands. When we were talking one day I said: "why don't we do the SOCRATES song?" and it just came out. I made a raw version of it on the four-channel I have home, it came out good and also we played it live. We loved it and as I told you basically we wanted to do a tribute so that was it.
So, Nick and Bill made an amazing work on the vocals and drums respectively. Can you tell me how they became members of SARISSA?
Dimitris: Ok wait let me give you Bill to answer that one.
Oh ok. Hi Bill. Was just asking Dimitris how you became a member of SARISSA?
Bill: Hi. Well basically a friend of mine, the drummer of HORIZON'S END(Stergios Gourou) told me that SARISSA were searching for a drummer. I met with Dimitris, we rehearsed a bit, he has showed me the new tracks he had recorded and we really dig each other. This was around 2001 so we decided to move forward. Of course some things I wanted to sound different, Dimitris wanted them to sound a bit different, so the final result would be a mix on what we both wanted to do.
You have made a really amazing work on the drums, which have been recorded on a different studio than the rest of the instruments right?
Bill: Yes, I mean it was a very closed space to get all the drumming equipment on the Marathon studios. The drums were recorded on the Underground studios, owned by the former lead singer of SARISSA.
As it concerns the songs, did you put actually ideas on them or this will happen on the future?
BIll: We all put some bits here and there. As it concerns me, well due to my listenings some things came out a bit more aggressive. We worked on some rhythmical parts with Dimitris. Basically this is what we did.
Ok Bill thank you. Can you please put on Dimitris again since I have some more questions for him?
Bill: Sure, thank you.
Thank you as well. Well Dimitri, I have seen that the sarissa (EN: Sarissa is the spear that the army of Alexander The Great used on their fighting) has left the logo of the band. Why is that?
Dimitris: No, it hasn't left, it is only for this album, because as I have told you it is a concept album, we replaced it with a plutonium bomb. On the future albums of SARISSA we will have the usual logo again.
How much time did it take you to compose all the song for "Masters Of Sins" and if this made you a bit nervous, because the last album contained diamond songs and hailed great reviews?
Dimitris: No I wasn't nervous at all for this matter. Composing the songs for "Masters Of Sins" took around 7 to 8 months, but to actually record and finish the album we had to work for 3 years. Actually we had 6 tracks ready in the middle 2001 and all of the tracks were finished at the end of 2001. However our lead singer Nickos had to do the army duty so this took us a bit back. We had to wait for him to take his breaks from there to come and rehearse the tracks on the studio. It took us also a bit of time to build our own studio that you have talked about with Bill as well.
And I wanted to ask you, is there something you want to tell us about the Marathon Studios, in the matter that are you going to produce any more albums for other bands as well?
Dimitris: To tell you the truth, yes I really want to go into it. If I see that there are some worth noticing bands out there and they want to co-operate with me, then yes I would love to do that. Of course we are going to use Marathon Studios for the future work of SARISSA as well.
Comparing the first album "Sarissa" with "Masters Of Sins", what differences can you see?
Dimitris: I see that "Masters Of Sins" is the natural evolution of SARISSA. As I told you, don't forget there is a 10 year difference between the two albums. As I told you before the main difference would be on the production and the sound, that we managed to have a very good one this time.
Musically, can you tell me any influences?
Dimitris: No, not musically, I cannot say that I have many influences there. Mostly on the sound, that I could name you some bands as NIGHTWISH, EVERGREY or even as you mentioned quite well SYMPHONY X.
I could tell you, 'The Ancient Land Falls' reminds me a lot of SYMPHONY X, which is of course a killer song.
Dimitris: Well I think we are not that progressive as SYMPHONY X though.
Well some complex parts are on the album, don't you agree?
Dimitris: Yes of course, don't forget that we are out there from 1985 and we evolve as musicians so we want to show a little bit of our art, you know? I want though to make it specific for the readers that our music is not that progressive as the SYMPHONY X material.
No of course not. Maybe a bit of the atmosphere and sometimes the sound.
Dimitris: The sound of the guitar that is huh?
Yeah it is quite amazing, since not only it sounds a bit like Michael Romeo, but also technically you have achieved to reach him. Anyway, another question is like, by comparing the times, when do you think is the most difficult time for a Greek band, now or 10 years ago?
Dimitris: This is a very difficult question Dimitri. Every time has its difficulties. I mean we were looking at a Marshal amplifier 10 years ago on a picture of a magazine and we were asking our selves what was that. I mean at these times we had to work for a year in order to buy a Marshal Amplifier while some other guy in most of the European countries had to work for a month. There were a lot of technical difficulties, no equipment. It was even more difficult to get a record deal, there was no internet.
I remember that back those days you had an offer from Noise Records right?
Dimitris: Yes, the whole band left for Germany in order to try our luck, because we were seeing that nothing was moving in the borders of Greece. We saw that other bands weren't able to move through the Greek management of international record labels so we took the decision to move out. So we talked we Noise at that time and we were selected with another Russian band called CRUIZ. Finally they selected them since you know; it was also this Peace Festival in Russia and a new market opened there. Just for the record CRUIZ sold over 14 million copies in Russia. So, we came back and then the problems start. Our first lead singer wanted to change musical direction, something that the rest of us didn't want to do so we took our different roads, then until we found a new singer a lot of years passed...we could write a book on that one believe me.
I imagine it is not that difficult to find a record label, even here in Greece, the most difficult part is to promote the album right?
Dimitris: Yes definitely, to promote the album is the most difficult thing. Don't forget there is a storm of releases every month, I mean like 100 new albums are out so. Comparing with the old times, you had like 10 albums per month and now you have 100, which makes the fans a bit more lost on what to listen and what to buy. This is the big difference I think. But for me this says nothing because from the 100 releases I believe only 2 or 3 are worth listening to be honest.
Well being one year now on Bleeding and I receive some stuff, to be honest I was quite impressed by a lot of albums. There is quality out there and things are not so bad as I thought it was.
Dimitris: Of course the quality had risen but this is only I believe to the point of production, sound and arrangements. If you ask me I think there is a lot of 'remaking', nothing new and interesting. I am saying that because I worked on a record shop and I had to listen to new stuff, I was impressed by really few releases every month.
The difficult thing is to do something unique I believe.
Dimitris: To do something unique is very difficult indeed. The least you could do though is to try and have an identity as a band; this is what I look out for. If you have something to show then show it. If you play like this or that band, then this is not good at all I think. There are thousands that do this.
Are you optimistic on the European market for SARISSA and "Masters Of Sins"?
Dimitris: We are optimistic from the fact that what we could do here in Greece we have done so. I mean we have signed with the biggest label here in Greece that they also have a big distribution all over Europe. From there it depends on how people like our CD and how the label will promote the CD.
I think that "Masters Of Sins" can easily be compared and win over other releases in Europe or even the world.
Dimitris: Do you really think that?
With all my power I believe that.
Dimitris: Thank you very much.
I don't think you have to envy something from other bands. Anyway, I leave the last words to you Dimitri, if there is anything you want to say to the readers of Bleeding please do so here allright?
Dimitris: First of all greetings to everyone and I hope that if anyone of you has the chance to listen to "Masters Of Sins" from SARISSA please do so.
If they do I am sure they will enjoy it a lot.
Ok Dimitri, thank you very much for you time. I wish you from my heart good luck to everything you do.
Dimitris: Thank you very much my friend.