There are some bands that you cannot refer to them as it’s a good one for a greek band, you don’t go to their gigs because you need to or because there are your pals. Greek grind scene has nothing to be jealous about from anything that is happening abroad and Stheno is one of these bands that came to confirm just that. Their first full-length came to comprehend our hunger for more grind/black vomit which with its destructive energy has come to destroy our ears. Leon Douras talks about everything and then some and we are here to suck everything from this new album.
Do you think you could give us a small bio of the band?
Do you think you could say hello for a start? Hahahaha. Ok, so, Stheno was born at the end of 2013. I was back from Poland and the guys from Unfit Earth (crust band from Volos) suggested to go into the studio and jam in d-beat rhythms, so of course I said yes. From the first rehearsal I heard Vaggelis’ throat and I realised that it is made for furious music and that d-beat is not enough for it in any case. So, jamming turned really fast to meaningful rehearsing and we managed 5 songs in 8-10 days, which we recorded in a home studio of course and then released our first EP. From this moment on Stheno continues its course.
What is it that pushed you to express yourselves through this kind of music? This mixture of crust/grind/black metal sounds relevant, but it is also a “trendy” approach in today’s extreme sound. Is it closer to your style or the things that you want to express “demand” extreme enunciation?
We were pushed by nothing in particular, the whole thing progressed to this mixture on its own. You don’t need to play something extreme to express your ideas, see Crass or Amebix for example, they expressed so many stuff and their music was so simple, especially Crass didn’t even use music in the sense that we have it in our head. Now, in reference to the fact that it is trendy to blend certain genres, I think this is positive, trendy is not necessarily something bad, it is being thought of as something wrong, because very often it is being made without conscience and entails imitation, but it is not always like that. For us grindcore, black metal, crust and punk in general are the sounds and the lyrical issues that we grew up with, so unconsciously our music has those as a basis.
Which are your musical influences and which band do you think you share certain characteristics (deliberately or not) with?
Our musical influences are mentioned in the previous answer, they begin from Crass’s anarchopunk, Subhumans, Amebix and go to “Panzer Division Madruk”, this album is a great influence because it has a fury that you don’t get to meet often. For sure Napalm Death – Brutal Truth – Hateplow – Terrorizer are big influences for the band. There are times that music is influenced clearly by lyrics only, namely the last song of the record, “Poisoned Tears Of The Blessed”, that is our only slow song and probably has nothing to do with all the others, was written on top of the lyrics and it couldn’t have any other melodic lines to make the match that we want. There are no musical rules, the bands are free to do whatever they like and not to drag labels with them and everyone can judge and listen to whatever he wants, some people like it, some don’t. This is always on a DIY level, if you start dancing with a big record company, I believe that your musical freedom as a band is restricted and you lose a big percentage of it, but this dance has other positive things. It is all about choices and luck.
How difficult is it to create a band in the Greek province and how much more when one of its members is gone abroad for long time?
I can speak to you about Volos, even though I believe that in all provinces things are more or less the same. Especially before 2000 there was no studio to have a proper rehearsal, I am not talking about recording, this is a privilege of the popular Greek neofolk artists, namely “bouzoukia”, and some jazz/rock bands that did some live recordings, but without any outcome. But if we are talking about metal it was just impossible, so we were all creating our own spaces in houses, basement, warehouses or wherever we could. Imagine that when we started Bedlam, in the first rehearses we didn’t even have drums and we were using a feta cheese tin, hahahahaha. As much as it sounds like a joke today, we were so fired up to do it, that we rehearsed even with these conditions. Now things are much better in terms of rehearsing, but as for recording we get the same shit. Even more, to make a gig happen you have to set it up on your own with your friends and let the faithful gather. And back then the faithful were plenty. About Stheno, the fact that I am living in Poland is good for us, because we weigh things more as far as having gigs and recording is concerned. And as Vaggelis says, if we were all living in Greece the band would move on in such speed, that at some point we would definitely crash, hahaha. The point is if you believe in what you are doing and above all you understand it, nothing can stop you, neither the distances, nor the not so good facilities in a studio.
Volos had a few groups like Atavism, Convicted, Bedlam that were playing nice and extreme music, but with smaller “success”. Is there a scene in the city now? In general and talking about Volos, is there a thing such as a Greek scene? Or are we just kissing each other’s asses and gossip around because of envy?
Volos had many and good bands. Not having a big success can also be a matter of age, because when you are young you can’t manage well certain things. There was no internet back then and it was not the easiest thing to promote yourself. But of course success means something different for everyone, I personally feel a champ with Bedlam because we managed to record two demos in a city with all the difficulties that I just mentioned. We were 17-18 years old and we wanted and managed to play grindcore, we recorded in a kitchen with 15 dogs outside and we felt like kings, because we were actually kings in a small kingdom that we built alone, for us. Take for example Atavism, they played in a jazz Bar in Volos in 1996 and it was full of punks, metalheads and freaks in general. It was chaos, total cult. This can be called a success for Atavism because nowadays you don’t see the same things in live shows. Now there are chairs in the pit and air drumming, back then you couldn’t sleep from the banging. This whole thing made its circle, there is no such thing in Volos anymore, there is only one place where you can listen to metal-punk etc., but the people who support it is the ones who were left and some younger people that like the scene, but the flame is still there and it is not going to vanish, even with less people. Now about the Greek scene… I am a fanatic of the scene, I grew up in it. The best you can find is in mid 80’s punk, early 90’s crust and of course the black metal scene which is a huge chapter. Back then there were much fewer bands, nowadays everyone has a band or two, which is not bad, but it is often indifferent. Every day you can check a new band, but the ones who really touch me, are few. Playing wise the level has upgraded a lot, the productions are very professional. But how many people actually go to the gigs? I am not saying there is no support, in any case if you don’t like something why would you go and support it? But in such a way what is written is not history, only notes with good production. In squats the situation is a bit better, but there ideology has the primary role. Even there, situations like with Villa Amalias and the crowds it could gather are gone. But for sure there is always going to be one band that will stick out of the chaos, like Katahnia and Antimob, which personally is one of my favourites.
Facebook is like a knife, you can cut half of your bread and give it to someone, but you can also stick it into his throat. You post your songs, you get the likes, people say wow etc., but what happens in real life? How many will buy your record when it is out, how many will come to your concert? Not even the one third of all those that glorify everything that is uploaded. So, in a way we live in a virtual reality and we try to grasp the air. There is a lot of shameless ass licking going on and you can say that it has always been like that, but the amount of saliva nowadays is incredible, it reminds me of people that run around political party offices with pride. Maybe some of them are like that, who knows. There is this general attitude that I help you, because I know that I can profit from you or because I already had. I can call you brother-friend-man till you stop serving my interests, then fuck you and you are ok. But there is always light out there and there will always be that will make a difference. For sure they will be less and less, but there will be some. As you can see, I am preparing for the gallows, hahahaha.
As far as I know you have always been a traditional heavy metal fan and its extreme branches of course. Do you continue to listen to the bands that you grew up with or have you left the traditional sound behind? How harmless has classic metal become? Has it always been the soundtrack of rich kids wanting to react to the way their parents made money?
With traditional metal you obviously mean classic heavy. I was never a fan and I don’t own even one record, imagine I don’t even have one Iron Maiden song, not even in a cassette, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t respect this sound, without classic metal and classic punk we wouldn’t have anything. I grew up with punk and until now I have a high esteem for that and I might comprehend it even better than before. As for metal, if we are talking about Slayer – Bathory – Motorhead – Venom – Sepultura, they are under my skin. Through punk I went to grindcore and for me this is just the evolution also with connection to metal. To answer the question about how harmless metal is, it not harmless at all, I believe it still provokes everything and everyone, it wakes up the most animalistic instincts and creates believers, not just listeners. From Black Sabbath in 1969 to Behemoth in 2016 metal is this heavy iron that will level everything, end of story! If you can also put your hand in daddy’s money to buy a good instrument or pay for a proper recording then why not, we all earn money somehow, some are working for them, some are stealing them and some take them from daddy.
“Liberty Crawls in Waste” was recorded in 2 different studios, if I am not mistaken. Was this a conscious or a necessary choice because of the cost/distance that is between the band members?
Basically it wasn’t recorded in two different studios, it was just recorded in Dry Field Studios, owned by our friend Kostas Anagnostou at Volos, save the guitars. Guitars and mix/master was taken up by Stelios Koslidis, who is one of the best sound engineers for the extreme sound in Greece, for me he is the best. He is maybe the only one who manages to get a polished production with so much filth, it combines the devil and the divine and the outcome is hellish. So it was very much a conscious decision.
How happy are you with the result? Which is the strongest characteristic of the album?
We are very happy with the result, for sure we would add something now after listening to it so many times, but this is reasonable, the more you listen to it, the more things you find that you want to change. The strong characteristic is that in the blastbeats everything become one. Which means guitars, bass, drums, voice sound like one instrument, this is something that we wanted to and Stelios managed it. So, you listen to a classic crust part and then suddenly everything transforms into a tank that marches for attack and back to the classics till the next attack. This is what Stheno does anyway, cools down until she flips and then goes out to kill a few people, hahahahaha.
How different would the record be with different lyrics? Are the lyrics as important as the music for you and your sound?
In someone’s ears there wouldn’t be any musical difference, even though the voices are heard clear, but for us it would make a huge difference. Lyrics are as important as the music. To sing about bullshit has no meaning for us. In the same way I write music, Vaggelis is writing the lyrics, we don’t consider them as something that just comes along in any case, ink and pen have more power than the guitar pick.
You recorded the song “Corporation Pull In” for the official Terrorizer tribute. Why this particular song and what happened with this release and the company that rejected it?
This particular song was something I wanted to record even before 16 years. Of course Terrorizer are a huge influence for the band, so this tribute was a good excuse to do it. Finally, we cancelled our participation for clearly political reasons. We received some emails from people that we know in other bands about some far right anomalies concerning the team that would release the tribute, nothing is out yet as far as I know, so we thought that there is no need analysing it and we called it off.
The split you did 2 years ago with Grassroll was excellent. When should we expect the splits with Facada and Abyssus and how did these collaborations came up?
The split with Grassroll was excellent, because they are our musical family. The splits with Facada and Abyssus are programmed for 2017, it is too early to talk about exact dates. As for Facada, one day I received an email saying: Hi, how are you, I play in a band from Brazil called Facada, I listened to your record and I am a fan. I thought somebody was trolling me, because Facada is one of my favourite grindcore bands. But eventually it wasn’t a joke and since then we are talking with James about once a week. One day we were talking about Facada’s plans and it turned up that we should do a split because we agree on music about 666%. Concerning Abyssus, Kostas Analytis, with whom we are communicating since 2000 told me that they are planning to do a Terrorizer cover themselves and we should do a split with both covers and a couple of new songs of each band. We are very happy for both bands, because we are talking about two low profile people that are easy to communicate with.
How do you see Stheno in 10 years from now?
This goes too far, if the circle we opened continues till then, I think we will be playing something like industrial/noise in 666bpm, hahahaha!
The closing is yours.
First of all thank you for the interview and the questions. But most of all I would like to thank the people that are with me in this musical path and help me achieve with Stheno what I didn’t achieve with Bedlam. The two Vaggelis are to blame! Blackened Sonic Hooliganism for free minds!