by Sofie Vakidou and Elpida Chokmetidou
Hello Jeff, I’m Sofi and I’m Elpida! Hope everything’s good for you. Are you anxious to find out what’s the fans feedback here about the upcoming album?
Yeah, I’m very anxious to find out what the Greek fans’ feedback is. We have played in Thessaloniki and Athens and I’m ashamed to say I was unaware that the Greek underground metal scene was so vibrant and alive out there. It really felt like a time machine back to the 80’s, so any area that is so into underground metal I’m always anxious to see what their feedback is.
What’s the main reason you decide to do a comeback with the album “Revelations of Oblivion” after almost 32 years?
I wouldn’t so much call it a comeback. I just a long winter when I was recovering from my gun shots and I had to get my shit together. When my first guys quit on me, my original attention was always to try to reform, but I was tragically cut off in my prime. In order to get back into the game, the recovery took me seventeen and a half years and then I’ve been touring with Possessed again since late 2006 – early 2007. What we’re doing is playing old stuff and trying to write new material too. My intention was always to create music, but I hadn’t found the line-up. I had to give the new material justice and in order to do that, I had to find the right guys, I had to make sure that they could tour the old stuff because we are touring three times more than the old Possessed. It’s a long time process of getting the right collaboration with the right bandmates together, until we had enough visibility so that people knew we were back, until it felt right. When I told the guys about making a new album, they were really tentative, “why mess up the good thing – people love the old Possessed” and I said, why don’t we try it as a cherry on top, a new song at the end of our set. We did that and it flew pretty well, people started liking it. We got a demo and showed it around, and then got some offers. When we found Nuclear Blast, it lit the fire and we finished the album in a year or so.
Was it difficult to compose new material after many years?
No, I’ve still been playing all this time and I’ve been collaborating with a lot of other bands. If anything, we’re veterans now and we were children before, I was sixteen at the time of “Seven Churches”. We’ve been a bit older and more experienced and hopefully, you get some knowledge over the years.
Yeah, of course.
I mean it was definitely challenging, because the thing was, we wanted to put out some good music, not some tired shit, or you know, kicking the dead horse. We didn’t want to be one of those bands that come back and try to make money, we’re artists and the ultimate goal is to entertain people and make something that’s viable and people really dig and enjoy. That was the most stressful part, making sure the song were good enough.
I understand. Do you have a goal for this album or this comeback in general?
My goal is to go gold, my first albums went gold and I would like this one to go gold too. But more than that, I would like people to listen to it and enjoy it, and rock out.
Setting aside the fans of the 80’s and the 90’s, right now we would both agree that Possessed appeal to a younger audience as well, other than the older crowd. There are many people half your age / my age that love Possessed, buy your records and merch and stuff. Why do think is that, how does it make you feel? Why do you think the younger crowd is so interested in Possessed?
Well, I think Possessed are one of the first bands to use the term “death metal” and the one that created the genre. That holds a lot of weight and people trust the established bands, they like that we are an established name that you can trust. And it’s fun to see the first death metal band coming out with a new album, I guess. Maybe they like the old stuff because they have reached a cult status. We’re trying to take this to the next level, we would like to please our newer fans and keep the trust of our older fans as well. Music goes over all ages, as long as its internal and heavy we will get that respect.
“No More Room In Hell” has already become a sensation and the feedback has been awesome. It made people wanting to see you perform again. Is the crowd and the affection it shows you the primary fuel for wanting to record again, or is it a different reason?
Oh, it is always the audience. As an artist, the reason we create is for the people and of course, that fuel of the crowd when they’re getting into it in the pit or on stage is always the main focus. Going up and doing the best show, entertaining people and playing good music. It’s not about anything else than the music.
What would you say is the biggest difference between the 80’s and nowadays in general, and about the band?
Back in the 80’s, there were a lot of drugs around, which is not the case now, but I don’t wanna talk about drugs, hahaha… The crowds were different, I am more together now and more aware of my surroundings, I am able to take it in enjoy it a lot more. Of course the crowds are bigger, there’s more people and back in the 80’s nobody knew who Possessed was. We were young, we hadn’t been around that long, we had a compact tight net of people. With my absence, these connections blew up, and now that we came back we also played our first European festival, to people who knew who Possessed are, our songs and our repertoire.
Are you planning a new tour with the release of the new album?
In two weeks, we’re going to Europe, in June. I’ll be up for The Devil’s Over Europe Tour, it starts on June 6th at the London Underground. We’re not going to Greece though, but we’re going to the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, Czech Republic, Norway. Unfortunately it won’t be in Greece, but it will be in the majority of Central and Eastern Europe, I guess. We will come back to Greece as soon as possible.
What captured your interest in Nuclear Blast and how is your collaboration so far?
It feels great, it’s a dream come true. We had these conversations when we put out the demo, because we got back a bunch of offers from different companies. We were wondering, in an ideal world, if we were to pick a label what would it be, and everyone kind of lean on Nuclear Blast. They are like the Apex Predators of metal labels. You open any magazine and you see Nuclear Blast, they are a powerhouse in metal, the biggest metal label on the planet I think. There’s Gerardo Martinez the president for Nuclear Blast USA, and Jeff one for running Nuclear Blast in Europe, they are brilliant, forward thinking and down to earth guys. We’re as much friends as business partners, it feels like we’re a family. It’s not like the old days when everyone was trying to rip you off, they’re not trying to take anything more than what’s contractual. They’re not sneaky, they’re fair and square, everything’s upfront and transparent, and they’re down with whatever. I told them I wanna make a music video, they’re like yeah, let’s make a music video. When I met Jeff in Europe, when we were still deciding I was out in Germany, Jeff came backstage and had a beer. He was mostly focused what we can do in terms of cool box sets and merchandise, cool projects about the cover and concepts. Shadow Cult used to be two words, and he said “Shadowcult” in one word and I liked it, he told me it’s a real German thing to do. They’re real metalheads. No matter fruitless a discussion might seem from the outside, there’s a lot coming out of it. They are fans and metalheads, into industry and it’s cool hanging around with them and it’s cool to have ideas bouncing back and forth with them, and we’re also friends.
For most people, Possessed are considered the godfathers of death metal. How does that title make you feel and do you agree with it?
I was there and I remember back then, I was the one who created the term “death metal” and we were among the first people who played the style of death metal. The reason we actively saw our band as death metal was because nobody else was calling themselves death metal and because what we were doing was completely different, it didn’t have that happy bounce of thrash, it was faster and heavier, apples and oranges different. It was very revolutionary. To fight to have death metal recognized as an art form was what I spent the majority of my career on. Everything else is a lie, Possessed was the first and everybody was there to remember it, my history was almost stolen from me. That sounds a bit petty, and I’m not saying that we created everything death metal, but I’m saying I was the first.
I think most people know that.
I hope so! It’s the only thing I ever did.
Many bands around the world would list you as one of their main influences. When you started playing music, did you ever think that something like that would happen?
Not at all. I remember after we finished recording “Seven Churches”, I thought that there’s a very good chance people are going to hate this. I loved it, we were writing, creating and playing exactly what we wanted to hear but I didn’t know if the world was ready for it. This was a long time ago, and dipping my toe into death metal since 1979, I wrote “Burning in Hell” in 1979 when I was eleven years old. I didn’t know if they would like it so I was pleasantly surprised when the album took off. At that point I was focused on getting death metal recognized as an art form. It wasn’t as cool as it is today, we were shunned and ridiculed, other bands and people did not take it seriously for a long time but we kept playing. The more they fucked with us, the heavier we played and we didn’t care. Then when Chuck and Death came along, that was the second death metal band, I thought that now it’s not only one of us. I know I was taken off after that, but originally I thought Possessed would be the only death metal band, that was what separated us as different. Our hook, our gimmick almost. I don’t wanna say gimmick, but that’s what people saw and when the album took off, I was more than surprised, I was amazed, it felt good to be part of something real and revolutionary. Today, I think death metal is probably the most exciting genre in metal right now. It has gone to so many different directions, it has evolved very much, and I compare it with jazz. So many people are doing so many different things, it surely is the most exciting genre in metal and in music overall, in my opinion.
You can close the interview with a message to your fans, because you know people really love you here.
Much respect to allof my Greek supporters. I have really enjoyed playing in Athens and Thessaloniki, we’re dying to get back, I love you guys and stay brutal.