GreekRebels.gr Webzine Interview (EN)
Nikos Siglidis from GreekRebels.gr interviewed the band. Read the entire interview translated in English!
Heading to a well-known beer house in the center of Athens (Thiseion)… Yours truly along with three members from ILLUSORY, Dee Theodorou (vocals), George Papantonis (guitars) and Costas Koulis (drums), to talk about their début album. Enjoy!
A very good evening to ILLUSORY.
ILLUSORY: Good evening, Nikos!
Congratulations on your début – or is it your sophomore album…
George: Our début actually…
How do you feel now that it’s been a while since your album release date? What’s the feedback you’ve been getting so far?
George: Based on what we hear, read and see, reviews are quite positive and so is the feedback. It really shocked us, all of us, the amazing feedback we’ve been getting from Japan. We knew that Japanese fans love that sound, however… Things are going well in general.
Is there anything that you would change in the album, now that you have taken your time to listen to it?
Dee: When you’ve got perfectionism in you… You can never be totally satisfied with the result. Personally, I’m a bit “contaminated” with that thing, yet I would change just a few of the “ingredients”. I would surely deal with the production part… In general I’m happy with it, in terms of the money spent on production, however I’d want a lil’ bit better production.
There’s people not familiar with ILLUSORY. Would you like to tell us a few things about the band, when they were formed and the current line up?
Costas: I fear I’m the least suitable to talk about this issue; the story of ILLUSORY is the continuation of the story of the Ivory Tower, established in 1992, cuz it’s all about the Ivory Tower band. Due to the fact that there was a German band featuring the same name, although later, we changed our name. Yet the band started in 1992 and moved on, with the usual “interruptions” due to members academic studies and mandatory army obligations. Then the band returns in 2003.
George: We started working on some songs in 1999-2000 and we hit it off in 2003.
Costas: The promo album was released in 2006, with the same track list. It’s “circulating” through fans and live events; many fans find out about the band and the promo, as we do a series of gigs in Athens.
Dee: We get a bunch of reviews and our promo wins the spot “Demo of the month” in the Greek Metal Hammer edition.
Costas: We also get a spot in Rock Hard magazine – Greek edition – and that’s the second review in a printed magazine. From then onwards the band is dealing with the whole thing professionally. We want to take it further up, not just play in rehearsal studios… We meet up with a manager in late 2008 – early 2009 and the whole album is being re-recorded.
Dee: We also re-orchestrate the whole album.
Costas: Precisely! New ideas enter and we start working on a whole new level, the old members and the new ones. A label is approaching us in 2012… They come with an offer. We’ve had offers in the past, however we were sceptical about them… “Do they want us or do they want to exploit us”? Then The Leaders Records comes along with the best proposal. The six of us talk it over, decide and the album is out on May 14, 2013.
George: It was released in Europe on May 14. Japanese edition was out on August 21.
Costas: First thousand copies are sold out in less than two months.
George: Mostly via pre-ordering.
Costas: And we proceeded with the second edition, which is already in the market. We are happy that a band of our caliber is saluted by that many people in the Metal scene.
What happened in the meantime? Between the promo album and your début, music-wise and regarding your attitude, back then and now.
George: We have definitely grown up and matured, musically that is. We have become better, we have listened to more stuff that affected us on the way. We are also working on new material and have already entered pre-production, recording in our own iCave studio; the album will be released next October – hopefully. Since we have the material at hand, we don’t need to push back.
No need for such a big time gap…
Dee: No, no! The gap from 2008 to 2012 was a big one. The 2008-2013 era was the only one we’ve had a steady line-up since 1992. And you know how hard it is to achieve such a thing. Having a steady line-up, we could re-orchestrate, re-record and then try to find a label, with lots of live gigs in between. From the moment we found our label, we made our move. Should we found the label earlier, we could avoid that gap. Before 2008 and our supporting slot with Blue Oyster Cult, we didn’t have anyone to become interested in us, in order to represent us. A few months after that live gig we met with Alexandros, one of The Leaders owners and he was the one to put us in the right course. We moved really fast, wrapped up our materials, however The Leaders Records was not established yet, it was a management & network services company back then. We’ve had two offers at the time, both by German labels. Alexandros said to us “We’ve got a couple of offers, you guys, you know what though? We start with our own label”! We knew the boys, they have given us the best offer and we released our album via The Leaders Records.
George: It was the best offer, pound for pound! The Leaders is a new label; they look after their bands and that’s what we like the most.
Dee: Not only have we not regretted working with them, I do believe that this cooperation will last far beyond our second album. I don’t like to talk about long-term issues, yet we are really glad about our decision to work with them.
Isn’t that the most important thing after all? To feel like home…
Dee: Naturally! Whether you’re in the studio, in a band or with your label. To know that they don’t treat you as a “customer”, that they won’t try to expose you, to bite you.
How many tracks will the next – sophomore – album contain?
Dee: Twelve plus one for the Japanese edition. We are talking about 71 minutes duration for those twelve songs.
George: It was a beautiful moment… To choose off an eighteen songs set.
One of the good things about this job…
George: Just like you said it!
Let’s go back to “The Ivory Tower”. The album is out, the name of the band is ILLUSORY. We talked about the name change and all that. Were you thinking about releasing brand new songs? Did you just say that this album had to be released “again”?
Dee: Tell you what… These songs are our “first born children”. The promo album we released as the Ivory Tower, was our means to find a label… We had already decided to release the same songs, with professional standards this time. The fact we changed our name does not mean we had to throw away the materials we had worked so hard for. That is why we named the album like that. The concept around “The Ivory Tower” is the actual link between the past and today. The whole thing, you know, expressing yourself via music, is really romantic and nobody gives up their dream, their love, their soft spot just like that. I’m in the band since 1992 and you can understand how I felt when we decided we had to give up our name. We had to do it! The album was released in the same manner; we changed the band name due to legal and commercial criteria. We have already started recording new material, yet to throw away the “old stuff” because of the “new one”… I don’t know what kind of people does that thing… We surely don’t!
George: We wanted to release those songs with the proper production. The promo album was done in a home studio…
Recording, mixing, mastering and all that… How and where did you do it? Who was in charge?
Dee: I will not state that we operate as a collective, however, we started recording at our own studio. Fortunately, we are one of the bands which can actually rehearse and record in our studio! When we were done with recording, we did the next, most natural, thing. To find the person to mix and master the album, provided we could meet their financial demands with our budget. You just search for the one to do the best job in comparison with the money you will offer in exchange. In our files we have correspondence by more than a dozen people dealing with our case. We decide to work with R. D. Liapakis and C. Schmidt, cuz we had a good offer and we wanted a producer who’s well-known and totally respected in the Metal world. Our début should bear the signature of a producer with a distinctive European sound, as we wanted to sound European; we ARE European after all! And the job they did with the guitars… It was 99% of what we wanted for the album!
Who was in charge of the album artwork?
George: Panagiotis Sfyris (en. Hammer in English), hence his nickname; Hammer. He’s a very good friend of Dee’s and mine, we used to sit in the same desk in school. I do remember that our desk used to be filled with various bands artworks, like Anthrax featuring Judge Dredd and all that. Panagiotis had done our very first art cover, the “Society” demo tape, back in 1994! You can find all artwork in our website, it’s all Panagiotis’ work.
Dee: Ivory Tower back then and ILLUSORY today… we act on a family-based level. Panagiotis is actually the seventh member of the band. He’s always close to us, artistically. We never had to look for an alternative cover art. Panagiotis is a real painter, he’s not just another photo-shoper. 80% of what you see is being done in hand; that’s what we wanted. Since our sound is also based in the mid 80’s, we would love to have an equally “traditional” art cover. Steven’s story is being portrayed on the cover, you can actually see bits and pieces of his story on the cover and the back cover.
Costas: The cover art is Steven in various moments of his life, moments we describe in our songs.
Steven, as a mascot, is something we will see again in your work?
Dee: As a mascot… No! I don’t want to sound like that… Eventually we will see him again, this is not our purpose though. Steven will also be part of our music again, on the next album. It will not be concept, however, one of the songs will carry on with his story. We are thinking about having a couple of Steven-story songs in the third album as well. I think we are not going to feature him in our next art cover though. On the other hand, his story will evolve through our albums.
The new band logo has been made by the same artist?
Dee: Yes, it’s the same artist and the font of the ILLUSORY logo is the actual font of the Ivory Tower logo. We have kept many things from our past.
Costas: The name “ILLUSORY” itself is so close to the essence of the Ivory Tower.
George: The Ivory Tower means “utopia”, it’s one of the phrase interpretations. ILLUSORY means almost the same thing.
Who’s idea was it?
Dee: Our other guitarist, Dimitris Kourmousis, came up with that name. I’m sure you know the procedure, we were searching for a name like crazy, we’ve had more than 200 names on the table. ILLUSORY was the last name that popped up…
George: We had chosen three names… When ILLUSORY came up though…
Dee: Yes, it instantly clicked to all of us.
The band has not played a live gig for a long time now…
Dee: Yes, before the album release.
Any chance to see you on stage soon?
Dee: Yeah, we are working on it as we speak. First live gig as ILLUSORY will probably take place in March. I just can not share more with you as we have a label working for us now and we have to be certain of the things we share with the Press.
George: Our very first video is also ready. It was directed by Domenik Papaemmanouil and we shot it near Piraeus and our homeland, Moschato. We chose “Pale Moonlight”, maybe the most powerful and heavy track on the album.
Dee: Yep, the fastest track!
Will the next album sound the same as “The Ivory Tower”?
George: It will sound a lot more Progressive. It will be a Heavy Metal album with many progressive elements. “The Ivory Tower” features songs five-minute to ten-minute long. The next album will even have three-minute long songs.
Dee: What you will listen to is us. It will still be ILLUSORY. We all have our influences, you know that; we manage to bolster our own music identity though. There will be a “bigger” progressive touch, nothing to do with Dream Theater’s Prog though. It’s like comparing “Powerslave” with “A Matter Of Life And Death”, regarding Metal and more Prog elements.
George: Not even with Savatage’s or Shadow Gallery’s Prog.
Costas: If I may… To quote George and take it a bit further… We managed to evolve as musicians all these years… That evolution was about the generation of new ideas. When one of us was bringing a new song in the studio, we were talking about it, we were adding and subtracting and all that… Our sound and songs structure also evolved, along with us.
Dee: This is the way we move, composing-wise. Many bands feature one or two “writers”, these guys work on the song and the rest are simply follow orders. This band is moving as a team… It’s the family essence and it doesn’t have to do with the money we spent, it’s far more romantic… For instance, George may come up with a basic riff and a rhythm part… Then we will contribute, in order to set it up, to make it presentable and interesting. After creating a demo song, we play the song live and every member is adding their own ideas.
George: Imagine that in many of our demo songs there are no bass or keyboards part! We have recorded a guitar and a vocal part and the rest of the people are contributing. Unless there is a tutti part. I just love working like that and this is how we do it since 2003.
Dee: The fact that every member can act freely is the main difference, comparing it with bands moving based on personal inputs regarding composing.
What about your future expectations?
Dee: As a band, as human beings we say “one step at the time”. The first step for us was to find a label to release our album. Then we proceeded with promoting the album. Since it was out in the market and until now, we are working towards that direction. It was released in Japan, we are also looking for other markets and we are planning on playing live, as it is the “classic” way to support an album. Our sophomore will be out in 2014 and what we all want, as a band, is to make good music. We are here to stay, to meet new people, to make them discover and love our music. This band moves on learning new things, becoming better and better, composing new songs; this band is ready to play live the moment they are requested to do so. We rehearse one day a week at least, we freshen up our songs and we are simply ready!
Would you like to add anything else?
Dee: Our début album is a concept one. It’s about the life and deeds of a Steven Towers and the name was not chosen randomly. This guy wanted to be the best they’ve ever seen. Born in a small village, he had so many dreams… he moved to the big city and made a fortune, based on deceit, lies and kick backs. And one day he saw everything he had “worked for” collapsing… His wife left him, his companies went bankrupt, his best friend turned his back on him and Steven was committed. Inside the sanatorium he tried to recuperate and he returned to his village, to find inner piece. That’s where the album ends… Steven’s story will continue, as we said before.
Thank you for the interview! Would you like to send a message to our viewers?
Dee: Thank you all! Thank you for supporting the Greek Scene, thank you for understanding what it is about. We maybe musicians, yet we are also people listening to music. The Greek Scene has now become Metal Scene. There is no Greek or American or European Metal Scene, there is just one Metal scene and this is where we belong, for years now. It’s a good thing to support the local bands. Amazing albums are being released; singers, players and composers can play with every foreign band out there and it’s a pity to avoid supporting them. It’s a pity to avoid buying their albums. These bands work for the best and, even when circumstances are really bad, they manage to win! Thank you once again!
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