[colored_box color=”yellow”]“Pigeonholing is horrible when you’re trying to do your own thing. I think that it’s essential for a band to create an identity.”[/colored_box]
From the mighty depths of hell, and from the universe of vintage rock music, Hail Spirit Noir has raisen. With two successful records and a growing fanbase, the band is currently featured in the record collection of all the fans of experimental, dark rock. Theoharis (guitars, vocals) recently spoke to Metalpaths.com, creating the interview below.
– Kostas Tsotsanis
Greetings Theohari! Congratulation on the major success of your new record. ‘Οι Μάγοι’ managed to receive positive feedback from almost everyone. Our webzine graded the record as a 10/10 one. How do you feel about it?
Thank you for the awesome review and your kind words. A perfect score is always great to see and it can only add fuel to the fire. Plus, it’s really rewarding to know that what we putting our heart and soul into resonates with listeners.
Your latest record was slightly different from your debut one. It is heavier, darker and even more inextricable. How did that change come upon?
It wasn’t really a conscious decision to bring a darker vibe to the album, it came out that way. “Pneuma” was dark and evil in its own way but this time I’d say the “fun” part people mentioned in reviews is not present as much. “Οι Μάγοι” is indeed a heavier record but still full of hooks. I think it’s a bit more claustrophobic and more intense. The catchy aspect of this record comes after a couple of listens, because there lots of little details and melodies that will get stuck in your head and you will find yourself wanting to return to them. It kind of weaves a web and once you’re tangled, it’s over.
While in the studio, what was your goal as a team and how do you collaborate? Did Hail Spirit Noir had a specific plan to follow, or the record just started flow out of a few jam sessions?
The main composer for the band is Haris, since originally the whole band was his idea. He records demo versions of the songs and then we get together and make them into songs proper. It’s really a democracy since we know each other’s strengths and play on them . The jam sessions are really our rehearsals. This is where we add every detail , wehere we experiment with sounds, different instruments, arrangements to achieve the maximum effect and help the songs reach their full potential. They’re really important, it’s a real transformation. The studio experience is a bit different as prior to going in, we’ve already figured the songs out. We always leave room for spontaneity, though. It adds to the album a lot of its character. And given the vintage equipment we used once again, we were adding little parts here and there , tweaking sounds and parts or recording new ones if the flow of the song so dictated. It helped the album breathe but also create this sinister atmosphere we were after. We are really grateful to both Ioannis our session drummer and Dimitrakopoulos, our guest singer, because they have to put up with our whims and sudden brilliant ides!
After getting in touch with your music, I’ve come to the result that Hail Spirit Noir are innovative, unique and no one can fit the band under a specific label. Was this something you’ve always wanted as a band? How important do you think it is for a band or a musician to curve its own path rather than follow just a music genre and scene?
Thank you for saying that. Pigeonholing is horrible when you’re trying to do your own thing. I think that it’s essential for a band to create an identity. It might not happen immediately and their influences might still creep up here and there but the purpose is to be you. To sound like you. We all have our starting points and it’s only natural that without development no matter how good a player, you’ll never create your own sound. We were fortunate enough to almost have a sound of our own almost form the get go. It helped that we had a vision of what we wanted to do and that we know eacj other as players for ten years now. I think with this record we established our identity or at the very least we’re getting there. Innovation is not necessarily the ultimate goal but we wanted to be original and explore paths less or not at all trodden. If we came up with something innovative, it’s not up to me to decide but thank your for saying it. As for following scenes and genres, I think it reflects perfectly the way people feel the need to belong, live in fear of taking risks and abide by a herd mentality that’s hardly productive or positive for their own development.
Your lyrical themes are mostly stories of occult. How much does occult affect your life? Do you consider yourself as a spiritual person?
The occult aspect is just the initial reaction to the stories. It is only a starting point and I’d have to say they’re more Lovecraftian and Barker-esque than occult. There is a philosophical aspect behind each lyric but you’ll have to spend sometime with the songs to figure it out. They’re observations on the selfishness of mankind and how we deceive both ourselves and others to get our own way. And this is where the Devil, or the magicians or however you want to call it comes to play. It’s like a shadow next to you, this deluded nature of mankind. Man Is selfish enough to ignore everyone around him yet is frightened of the consequence and is always looking for scapegoats. The occult is something that is quite important to those who practice it and is not my place to speak about it. I am not really a spiritual person, no one in the band is. I really despise the organized aspect of any religion because it’s like putting your thoughts into little boxes and prevents you from development. The fear I mentioned earlier. We shouldn’t really need a guiding hand to tell us how we should feel and we should act. We need to be able to do that for ourselves. And to be honest with ourselves. Religion is like a crutch that’s already worn out.
You’ve chosen Jens Borgen to perform the mastering part for ‘Οι Μάγοι’. Why did you choose him? He is a very talented and famous producer in Europe.
Jens was responsible for the debut’s mastering as well so we were comfortable to leave it to his hands and he really did deliver on all fronts. Dim Douvras did a phenomenal work mixing the record. It might not be obvious on first listen but there’s a ton of details in there. There are voices and synths almost constantly but they’re so subtle and work only in aid of each song’s atmosphere. So once we sent the mixed record over to Jens, we knew we could trust him but stil, we were worried all of Dim’s work might suffer. Byt Jens not only managed to get the full details he also gave a brighter and modern sound to the album while keeping the vintage part intact. Bogren has worked with almost everyone in the metal scene and all of his work no matter how compressed or dense with instruments always breathes and snaps giving the record the peaks and valleys it needs to really shine.
As far as your sound is concerned, why did you choose a retro- sounding, influenced by 70’s prog rock? Ι must say I’m totally impressed by the way you managed to mix up black metal with vintage prog rock.
When Haris began writing the demos back in 2010 for what would become our debut he wanted to combine his love for black metal and the psychedelic and progressive aspect found in late 60s/70s rock and horror films. And once all of us got involved the whole thing evolved into what was Pneuma. We had no idea how it would turn out, we just felt like doing something like that. There is enough common ground, in our minds at least hah, between the atmospheres of the two genres and we brought them to the fore in our own way. We also needed to emphasize that this is a record of today, thus the kind of modern vibe to it.
70’s Prog rock is maybe your basic influence. I couldn’t resist asking… which bands from the specific genre and decade do you consider your favorite?
Well, Haris’ love for Manos Hadjidakis is never ending and in particular the “Reflection” record he did with the New York Ensemble back in 1969 is one of his main inspirations. King Crimson and Eloy are really important to me. Yes as well and Genesis particularly their Gabriel years (predictably enough heh). Can and Gong are equally inspirational artists. But I am also big fan of the more commercial if you will side of prog like Kansas. You can’t go wrong with a voice like Steve Walsh’s
In the last few years there’s a comeback of the seventies’ raw sound and plenty of metal and rock bands embrace a vintage sound, without losing their modernism. What is your opinion about the specific change, as a member of a band which looks back in time and absorbs many positives of the music back then?
What I really envy about that time and the way they created their records is that there was total disregard of boundaries an rules. There was no textbook way of writing and composing. They weren’t afraid to take risks. Not everything was a success and a lot of the times they came across as overly pompous and pretentious. But that lack of discipline, so to speak beacause trust me, there is tones of discipline in records like Tango Mago, is what gave birth to masterpieces that have stood the test of time. A lot of today’s music in general follows really particular rules leading to endless repetition and stagnation. I think it can only be agood thing as long as those who do it, really have their hearts into it and are not just onboard the bandwagon. Time will only tell if this revision and expansion of the past will last. But new things will surely come out of it.
Let’s get back to Hail Spirit Noir and their history. Tell us about the band’s creation and beginning.
It was all Haris’ idea. 4 years ago, we liked his first demos and…here we are. I have to tell you that we always thought this band was going to be a ‘love it or hate it’ one.
As far as the music scene is concerned, how difficult is for a musician today to make his dream come true, in Greece especially? What kind of difficulties did you come upon while making your first steps as a band?
It depends on the kind of dream he has. If it’s to make money, gain fame and all that well, he can forget it unless he is willing to sacrifice pretty much everything for it. The state Greece is now is quite prohibitive. Or a good chance to get out of here and get things done. I’m still undecided on that.
Since the very beginning and ‘Pneuma’ how much have you changed as musicians?
We got a little bit more mature in the new album but when we look back at ‘Pneuma’ we don’t really find something we would like to change.
You and Haris were the first members of the band, and since Dimitris joined in, you are now a music trio. However, in your band page, on facebook, you stated two more persons as guest musicians. Why guests though? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to search about full-time members and become a full band?
Well, we really work well together and since we are the creative core of the band we see no reason why would have to drive other’s crazy with our whims and general lack of sanity. Both Dimitris and Ioannis have been more than extremely helpful so far and they’ve tolerated our decisions even if they are at truly short notice. We will probably start looking though because we need to get a show prepared if we ever manage to tour or perform live.
Will we ever have a chance to enjoy your music on stage? Are there any plans about a tour or concerts?
That’s been a huge problem since day one. Due to various obligations we couldn’t tour for the debut and now we are trying to put a show together but we’re quite there yet. But we really want to present the music onstage. And it needs to be as much of a spectacle as possible to do the music justice. We’re working towards it.
How do you conceive the future of Hail Spirit Noir? Are there any plans for another record? Or a split? It would be fun for the band to collaborate with another hot name of the Greek music scene.
There will obviously be a new record but that’s way too early to talk about. We’re still digesting “Οι Μάγοι” ourselves haha. As for splits it would cool to get something done but let’s just wait and see. As I said we want to perform so that’s where our hearts are right now. I just hope we make it this time around.
Well, last but not least give us a message for all the fans!
Thank you for your support , it really is much appreciated. Be yourselves, abandon conformity and beware of your own nature, the Spirit Noir is always within.