Interview by Yannis Dois & Elpida Chokmetidou
“The Second Fall” marks Mahakala’s return and re-introduces them to the people, the music scene and so on. What’s new for Mahakala? What’s the turn you took on musical creation and inspiration? What changed in creative, compositional and thematic level? What is, in a few words, your new face?
Many questions compiled in one! Hahaha! Let’s see how’s this going to work out…Well…At first the band’s line-up changed. Besides me, the other three left the band and were replaced by new members. We’re always influenced by religious mythology and dark fiction, matters that always seemed magical for me, and beyond the lyrics’ aspect these themes lead the way to the whole atmosphere of music, in a sense. As far as the music goes, we dig and listen to metal! Personally, I can here Judas Priest and Eyehategod with the same big pleasure, so here you can draw the conclusion by yourself. For the song-writing part we worked more concentrated and were less chaotic, attributing much importance to conducting, in comparison to “Devil’s Music” where a much more jammy[sic] vibe was present. Our new face…is the face depicted on the cover of “The Second Fall and here I have to thank you for the pass!
Upon listening to your new record, I felt that beyond the power drawn from your songs in a strict musical/song-writing level, they extend to maybe an informal rage or a need to burst. I think that this kind of channeling your emotions is a first-timer for Mahakala or at least that’s how I experienced it. Is that correct? Did you feel the need to burst? Does releasing “The Second Fall” work as some kind of redemption?
I’ve got to thank you deeply for noticing that. I’m glad that the slick producing didn’t “bury” the emotional aspect of the music and you managed to feel it. Yes, there’s quite some rage in there. There’s outburst, disappointment, the redemption of rebirth and an “I’m back, you’re fucked” mood. Hahaha! If you watch us live, you’ll get exactly what I’m saying. Our drive for the new material is such that the songs are communicating vessels with our souls in such big way that every note and drop of sweat we spill while we play is a small part of ourselves. Thank you so much for getting that. It seems that we did something right there.
Despite the fact that the band exists since 2005, your releases are scarce and I’m saying that without being judgmental. Apart from the standard issues like line-up changes, conflicting ideas and perceptions etc, were there any other difficulties that prevented you from releasing new material? For example, did you experience any problems with record companies, lack of inspiration and so on?
Be as judgmental as you please! The shame is ours! Hahaha! Everything you said happened and I’m not joking. Line-up changes to infinity! Conflicting ideas, perceptions, etc? Most definitely and that’s why we suffered so many line-up changes. Did we have problems with record companies? Of course we did. The problem is they don’t exist! Lack of inspiration, eh? Ehm…I think even that happened! That’s how things work. Everyday life amputates you in every aspect. Songs for “The Second Fall” exist since the summer of 2015, maybe sooner. This whole time I moved twice and cruised through more waves of career and financial instability than what AEK (F.C.) has been through in 20 years. Hahaha! For better or not, we live in a country that won’t allow you to exist as a creator or artist. Whatever we do is against reality and I’m not exaggerating.
I could ask you about technical stuff behind the record (recording, mixing, mastering, artwork, etc.), but anyone interested is a click away from all those information on your fully updated bandcamp page. Share something about the record that hasn’t been mentioned anywhere so far.
We recorded it naked. Hahaha! Just kidding, of course (or not). Something worth mentioning is that its recording was widely spread through time because of everything I mentioned above. We recorded drums, three months later the bass, a year later the guitars…Absolute chaos! Recruiting our last reserves of mental strength and our drummer’s (Hector) dedication who took over producing, recording, mixing and mastering with great danger of melting his ears and brain, we managed to finish the record in a really difficult time for all of us. That’s something “The Second Fall” is going to bear forever and I’m really happy for it.
In general, Mahakala outlived many misfortunes. As far as I’m aware, around 2008 you pressed pause on the band. Why did that happen?
In general, we’ve changed about fifteen members and it kept us back all these years, combined with everything I mentioned before. Being the only founding member, I can’t hide the fact that I got ideas that it might be my fault a little! Maybe I’m one of those people that you need to love with their flaws to stand by them. Screw it. Not all people can do together. That’s a fact. The past is the past. The important thing is that the team now is strong and –as it seems- ready for its next clumsy step!… Whatever that is!
Recently, new members joined Mahakala. How were they chosen? In what criteria must someone fit into to join the band?
The choice was based on their beards. Whoever didn’t grow any wouldn’t walk the door even! Hahaha! There are no criteria. When I was left with a –half completed- record on my hands (like a widowed mother) I crossed paths with my good, old friend Hector who was just back from Canada where he resided for some years. We wanted to make music together for some time (we have worked together on some projects in the past) and things got quickly on track. I knew John from our collaboration in Black Soul Horde, when one night at Chris’s place he himself was self-invited (let him cry now) for the part of the guitarist. I think that in some way it happened all spontaneously and nice. It’s like starting your first band in school, but with much more cholesterol and triglycerides.
Judging by the band’s name, one would expect that the lyrics’ themes of “The Second Fall” would be about Hinduism, Buddhism and so it goes. Instead you decided to deal with the long time favorite, Lucifer. Did it come naturally as a topic or internally the myth of Lucifer shares some points/meets halfway eastern myths?
I’m glad that you’re asking me that. If you read studies like “The Devil: A Biography” by Peter Stanford, easily enough you’ll understand that miscellaneous deities are just reincarnations of good and evil that differentiate because of each place’s cultural and social characteristics of their people. Yes, religion is universal, has the same manifesto and, give or take, preaches about the same thing and has a common goal: To control people with fear. More specifically, the name Mahakala stands since 2005 when we started out, where we had nothing to do with religious themes (I wasn’t even the bands lyricist then…As a matter of fact, we didn’t even have lyrics, just screams). The thing that it etymologically and conceptually represents, which is the concept of the absolute black and evil, comes in terms with our themes in general, which draws influence from the dark side of everything.
Expanding the question above, why did you name your record “The Second Fall”? What does the new fall of Lucifer has to offer and what does it symbolizes (if it does) for Mahakala? Is Satan a symbol of constant rebellion or just a cult figure that survives in the long run as influence for artists?
Thank you for the perfect question! Here we’re talking metaphorically about our “Second Fall” through our second in row recording creation and literally for Lucifer’s Second Fall, this time from the throne of hell, a lyrical concept that unravels from song to song during “The Second Fall”. You know, for me this whole process, from writing the first riff till a concert at earth’s last hole, even the intermediate, more “bureaucratic” procedures for promotion, making merchandise or whatever, are a beautiful spiritual journey. We’re dealing with many kilos of endorphins, serotonin and adrenaline, really. It’s amazing for me diving back to all of this and maybe that’s another meaning of the Second Fall. Philosophically speaking, Lucifer definitely is a symbol of rebellion and freedom and that’s the point of his myth. That’s an interesting prism to see through “The Second Fall”, because just like in many art pieces that influenced me, you’ll get to know a diverse Lucifer where sometimes you’ll feel sorry and sometimes…really scared. Suffer the trouble to look up the story behind the lyrics and I think that you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Sakis Tolis, who needs no further introducing, provided guest vocals for “Infidels”. Why did you choose Sakis? What’s different about him than any other guest? His participation came in the way or was the idea was there before so you wrote the song accordingly?
We had just finished the first mix of the record and I e-mailed Sakis to tell me what he thought of it. “I can sing a refrain, if you like” was his first reaction. Of course I did! It was a pleasure and honor for me and I made it happen despite his busy gig schedule with Rotting Christ. Just like all nice things, it happened somehow randomly, as you can see. In “Infidels” he impersonates Lucifer at the moment of his transcendence from victim to hero-avenger. It was a very crucial moment for the record both conceptually and musically.
Traditional Sludge/Doom isn’t widely spread in Greece, in my eyes at least, comparatively with other metal genres. Is this a match point for a Greek band’s evolution in general? Specifically, how did this affect, if it did, your own existence?
Are we Sludge/Doom? Nice! I’m glad to hear it. In my opinion, despite being faster and adding cleaner vocals, we always sound somehow doomy and sludgy. In Greece psychedelic sounds, krautrock and 70’s revival are extremely popular lately…You can’t think that way though. Always there’s going to be something in trend and usually you’re not going to. All that matters is being sincere on what you are. Build a temple and believers will come.
For better or not (it’s purely subjective) musical influence of our time is impossible to be counted, to be weighed. At the same time, you’re part of the world, so the constant brainstorming is endless. Have you ever got the feeling of being “flooded”? Has everyday life affected you as a musician? Have you ever founded yourself to be overwhelmed trying to filter your influences and your surroundings to create something yours?
No, it’s nothing like that. When I compose music, I try to turn emotions and images that are on my mind to sounds. I might have heard Rush or Eloy and before that Megadeth or Slayer and the last month to have my stereo stuck at Devin Townsend’s new album, but mainly for the part that concerns Mahakala, I know every time what I have to do almost, without thinking in restraints or being chaotic. I’m guided a little in all of this by my musical comrades. I can’t suddenly bring a funky riff to John for example. I’m going to end up with a guitar in my head.
I noticed the tremendous strategy of placing your record on social media and the internet with three music videos, one of them in 3D animation. It’s a bald move that accompanies a very good record. Is it always like this though? Does always a flashy cover reflect on what’s on the inside, after everything you’ve seen?
I don’t know about what other people do and I’m not interested to be honest. We believe in what we’ve got in our hands and decided to promote it in the best possible way. By being active ourselves in matters of music production and promoting, we didn’t depend on anyone and just did what we believed as right. There are more music videos coming your way. Our goal is to invest on each song with a music video that says something about us, our aesthetic, the album’s concept, our influences, our way of thinking, etc. We want to give people surfing through social media something valuable and not selfies that show how beautiful we are, because we’re f*cking ugly!
One of the band’s members is part of a promotion company that mainly deals with the music industry. Do you believe that this certain fact has opened doors for you that maybe you wouldn’t get the chance to open or you would have to work much more to do so?
That would be me! Hahaha! I wouldn’t say that we found any open doors and I’m being truly honest here. On the contrary, the environment consisting of people who we’ve worked with in the past acted out really skeptic against our music and ambitions and as a result I had to put much more effort than I thought it would take. I’ve told you and I’m going to tell you again. Everything’s about quality. Only quality will open the most doors. Take a glance at Bus (the unknown secretary). They can barely do a facebook post and everyone invites them to perform just because they kill. You can’t get that as much contacts you have. Sooner or later the masks drop and there will be clear who you are and what you do in the end. I don’t want to be all sour about it though. Being busy all these years with PR and publication, I knew where to look, aim and how to do it, when I needed to for my band. I did it by myself, just like we produced and created the layout for the album by ourselves (except the wonderful painting by Dimitris Protopapas) and many other things. I’m happy that our knowledge and network allow us to do the best we can for our music and such a big percent of our efforts flows directly from the band.
You supported the record with two gigs so far in Patras and Athens along with BUS (the unknown secretary) and Void Droid and some more in Thessaloniki, Volos, Larisa and Ioannina. Share with us your experiences.
I think it was nice. There were many people in Athens, enough in Patras and the smaller venues we played in the rest of the cities/towns were mostly full and warm. We were applauded, found old friends, made new ones and our merchandise is almost sold out…I think that we couldn’t ask for more right now.
Is there a Europe tour ahead?
Probably in October with some festival shows on the side and some more dates on the Greek countryside as well. All or nothing!
Jim thanks for your time. We should get together soon!
I absolutely thank you so much for our in depth conversation, the many beautiful questions and the chance you gave me to say so much. It had a great time, really. Talk soon!