‘The Eternalist’ release which marks the Agatus’ comeback in action brought the awaited commotion and not without reason. That’s why I meet again an old friend, the honourable sir Vorskaath in a nostalgic atmosphere, having a lot of questions, in order to narrate again Agatus’ story. Don’t be afraid, there is a little bit of Zemial, for their fans. Did you think I would leave you without it?
Hello Vorskaath thank you for your time and your willingness to answer my boring questions.
Hello Chris, I thank you. We will see if they are boring at the end. I assure you that I will answer only the ones that are interesting.
14 years have passed since your second album. Why so much time? Am I to suppose that the band was to split up or you just have stopped working together for a while?
There are several and many reasons that caused that delay. We never split up officially, but we worked with other bands and other musical directions and genres. We were pleased with what we did in black metal, so we had the need to work on other types of music. Even before Weaving Fates, we created the epic metal project Alpha Centauri and the rock group The Watcher, with whom we made some recordings and live appearances. The same time there were Zemial, as well. But the most important thing, at least as far as I am concerned, was that in 2000 I started being engaged in orchestral percussion and classical music. That lasted until 2006, when I left Australia and I moved to Germany. There, of course, our role as a band, which was rehearing and composing music, ended. In the second half of 2011, both of us moved to Greece and my brother decided to make something with Agatus so it seemed we could start it again. So “The Eternalist” was the result.
In general, there are long intervals between your releases. Is that a kind of tactic that helps the process of writing? Is this the mentality of the band to speak when it has something to say or you don’t have the time to make music more often?
Again there is not only one reason. It is true that we don’t think it is necessary to speak all the time, to release something that doesn’t represent us totally, in order to continue existing in discography. When we write, it has to be something meaningful and with quality, without fillers. When we reach that point, we will pause to see our compositions with a critical mind, the production, the arrangement… Without the pressure of time. It will be ready when it will be ready. On the other hand, Agatus is our first priority, apart from a short period time which eventually led us to other bands.
You came back to discography in 2011 with “Nightmares” EP. Should we consider that these last five years is a new page for Agatus? I am asking because Gilgamesh “from 2012 ep” found its way into “The Eternalist” so I somehow connect them. When was the time that you started composing “The Eternalist”?
You connected it fine. As I mentioned, when we reached Greece in 2011, there were many possibilities to come to a new cooperation, that’s how it happened. The previous Ep announced the comeback and showed our new direction. I must point out that I didn’t participate in percussion in the Gilgamesh ep. I only mixed it. About “The Eternalist” now, the biggest part of it was composed in 2008. But it was in a very different form from the one that was released on October of 2016.
How did you compose the new record? In general how are your songs born? In general, although I know that from time to time you play live, the way I think of your band is as a studio band. Is this the case?
We compose every song and every release in a different way. Many times, Chris, brings us an idea and we try it on drums. Other times, we play them with two guitars, or a guitar and keyboards. We discuss about the form, the rhythm, the sound. My brother is always the guy who starts an idea. I am there usually to filter the quality and control the flow of the ideas and the arrangements. The main producer somehow. Chris presents the ideas and I comment on them, I add new themes in the instruments, I suggest other development, changes or readaptions, in the parts that I think it is needed. The song changes character. We retry it and we judge it. My brother builds and I ruin, but finally what remains is only the part that it is not to be ruined.
From composition to recordings. Did it take you a lot of time? Is something that changed during the recording process in comparison to what you had in mind during “The Eternalist”s creation?
In 2008 Chris recorded the album with our friend from Destroyer 666/ Nocturnal Graves on percussion. As I heard the result I thought that the production was not good and the way of playing was without sentiment or fantasy. Overcoming his enthusiasm, I managed to persuade him, that it would be a mistake to release it. He left it. So when we met each other in Greece, we started focusing on the details of the recordings and on the arrangements so nothing else changed afterwards. We wanted true performances, natural sounds, without tinkering or weaks. We finished the process of mixing and mastering in the same way in Matrix Studio Athens, with the friend sound engineer Jim Misirli and the record fitted perfectly.
I noticed many different musical influences in that record. Was composing music with so many influences a kind of challenge?
I do not see their combination as a challenge. This combination came rather naturally for both of us. In the biggest part of the release, there is a heavy metal base. On that base, we put elements from other musical genres and with the suitable approach of production, we managed to put them all together. It was more of a challenge to find the suitable melodies, rhythms etc.
From the 70’s, guitaristic prog rock references, to classic heavy metal and to black metal practices, in an epic atmosphere. That’s how I understood it. To which audience is the record targeting?
To those who love hard music coming from the soul, without marketing. And something more, prog rock is connected with Heavy Metal and that last one with black metal. Is it possible to listen to one of these genres without liking the others?
Let’s admit that this is the first album which represents Agatus musicallyliberated. Is the black metal audience ready to accept this kind of music?
For some years, I have noticed that the black metal audience tries listening to other musical genres, mainly in metal and in rock with positive results. There are always people who like good music in general, who don’t separate, who are not fanatically narrow- minded. So far, they are becoming more and more, and black metal audience open their ears more and more. It seems, from messages, reports and web comments that those friends who listen to black metal embrace it, and even more so, people who listen to NWOBHM and classic metal. There are no limits any more.
Are there any bands that influenced the new Agatus? You could name some or you can describe them. If you were asked to briefly describe the new record, what would you say?
It is difficult to characterize this record efficiently, without leaving anything out. But I could say that while I was playing it on drums I was thinking of my favorite drummers from rock and old metal like Saxon, UFO, Black Sabbath (Appice), Iron Maiden, Witchfynde, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Eloy, with a dose of Steve Gadd, Simon Phillips και Tony Williams. I know that my brother is influenced by Marillion, Eloy, Scorpions, Warlord, Sabbath, Maiden, Michael Schenker and others.
And more generally, could you mention musicians, bands or musical trends that have influenced you the most?
Where should I start from? Influences on drums? On compositons? On guitars or keyboards? There is a huge number of musicians and bands that I have studied and they have influenced me. To mention some names but it is not, of course, a complete list: Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Genesis, Eloy, Tangerine Dream, Magma, Camel, Igor Stravinsky, John Cage, Phillip Glass, J.S. Bach, Terje Rypdal, Tony Williams, Robert Schroeder, Markus Stockhausen, PFM, Michael Hoenig, Joseph Schwantner, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Dio, Judas Priest, Bathory, Celtic Frost, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, ELP, Aphrodite’s Child, Yes, Deep Purple, Rush, Scorpions, Gong, Hawkwind and many many others. Musical trends? Progressive rock, hard Rock, heavy metal, classical music (all periods since antiquity), modern jazz, electronic music, the blues, blue-grass, avant-garde of all types, minimalism, atonal music, country music, Byzantine chants, folk music and many other genres. I continue discovering different kinds of music and learning from them.
Will you give us some information about the lyrics?
The different manifestations of the meaning of eternity through humans, their history, their culture and their mentality.
Is there a connection between instrumental “Oneiro” (from Nightmares ep”) with the “Dreamer” which is in the record?
Not musically, but thematically of course.
In ‘The Εternalist’ I can clearly listen to the most interesting and groovy drum record you have ever made. You often leave aside any clear metal forms, and you give a personal element to your songs. I know that you have played many kinds of music, which is something that must have influenced you. Am I right?
My main aim was what you said: groove. I wanted the rhythms to move you and transmit music and tension. Intentionally, I left out the most perplex fillings and focused on the simplicity and the more discreet fillings, in an inconspicuous way. That helped our music more. Anything I have played, studied, or practiced has influenced me as an artist. Of course, the result is me.
Which was your most interesting moment apart from Agatus/ Zemial? Do you want to mention some for encyclopedic reasons and not only? Which means that when I listen to more jazz sections in Agatus, I realize that I have to do with a restless spirit!
In 2010 I made a very ambitious step between two extremes. One weekend we played with Zemial and Agatus in Hells Pleasure Festival in Germany and we came back on Monday. On Wednesday I recorded my first jazz record with Markus Stockhausen for Eternal Voyage. That music was by nature improvising. From black metal to a jazz feast in 3 days. It was so satisfying to know that I managed to deal with so different genres in such a small period of time. And the keyboards/ drumming duet that came from these recordings remains one of my highlights, see there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euCgNiMaUT0). Apart from metal, for 4 years I was a member of a band called Elder Wind Ensemble, an orchestra that plays modern classical music and I also played in different percussion ensembles, like Japanese drumming, latin, modern compositions for percussion, I played jazz with Markus Stockhausen for 3 years, and we made the worldwide tour for his famous composition of Karlheinz Stockhausen “Goldstaub”. Among them there were many other projects and sessions, on other different genres. What else could I ask for? But I always push my limits in any Agatus or Zemial release, in order to go somewhere that I have never been before, as a player and as a human being. Endless journey of discovery.
Will there be any live appearances for the record? During all these years, which was the live activity of the band and how are you transformed from a live band to a studio band?
We are considering the possibility of playing and we have some invitations from some festivals. We are arranging a line- up and we will play in some selected lives where we will present “The Eternalist”, or the biggest part of it, in the worst case. Once we did some lives with Agatus in Australia, but soon we wanted to change direction so we created Alpha Centauri. At that time, we put Agatus aside. To be transformed into a live band clearly involves hard work and calculations. Always hard and always beautiful.
Looking back at Agatus, now that I have the opportunity, I would like a short reference to Zenial.
On 30th of September my new ep “The Repairer of Reputations” was released which is one of the songs in the record that follows and is called “Lurking”. It is a turn of 90 degrees from the point we were, something that I am still discovering, having it in mind as a music journey. You can listen to it or get the ep from bandcamp in that link below: https://zemial.bandcamp.com/album/the-repairer-of-reputations, This album includes different kinds of journeys, more introverted. After that, we will tour and we will present all the material live, before I move to the second part of Lurking.
Which are the basic similarities and differences between Zemial and Agatus?
It is difficult to answer that. The first thing that comes into my mind is that with Zemial I feel more comfortable in the sense that I try and I experiment with things. On the other hand, both of these projects do not stop moving on so that is of course one similarity between them.
Are you at present active in any of the bands you have worked with in the past?
For the time being I am focusing on completing Lurking something which is the most “out there” that I have ever tried and I want to pay all my attention. From the beginning of the year, I will be open to new participations.
11 years have passed since the moment that you gave me that cd- r with the Alpha Centauri’ material. Is there a plan to finally release it officially? I think that people should listen to that beautiful hidden epic little diamond.
Your question came at the right moment. The contract is ready and fortunately, this noted little diamond, that made Fenriz and Goetz from German Rock Hard fanatics, and all of those who have listened to it, will be released in the spring of 2017. There will be announcements soon.
You have lived in different parts of the world. Was it something that influenced in a good or in a bad way the bands you have created or participated in, generally in your career? Where is your base now?
Undoubtedly! In fact very intensely. In Germany, for example, I literally lived in the forest and spending so much time in the heart of the nature, had a great impact on the way I was and I am still thinking. There, I started spending more time on composing more complicated ideas and experimenting, fully influenced by my surroundings. That led to how NYKTA was shaped from what it had been and to where I head as a composer the recent years. I am back in Greece now which is the closest to what I could call a base, at least spiritually. The future is there to come.
How did the cooperation with Hells Headbangers result? Are you pleased with it?
I had cooperated with Hells Headbangers for the first time with Zemial for some releases and then we approached them for Agatus. It is too early to evaluate that relationship. It will be revealed with time if they support Agatus record as it deserves it.
What are your expectations for the new Agatus album? Obviously you are happy for the fact that the vinyl became sold out before the official date of the release, but for an artist a sold out is not the only thing that matters. Am I not right?
Correct. One musician expects his release to be heard by a big audience, his hard work to be recognized and to be rewarded financially. If all these three things happen, then we can talk about a success.
Basically, that is all I wanted to ask you. Thank you for your time, your marvelous music and your trust.
I thank you for the very interesting interview which I hope will give your readers the image of Agatus’ engine room.