Wastefall released their third album 'Self Exile' earlier this year. I asked guitarist and vocalist Alex Katsiyannis lots of questions in order to find out a bit more about his background, what the music scene is like in Greece, and how he keeps positive when things go wrong, how they come up with their ideas and what Wastefall have planned for the future.
You supported Black Sabbath at "Rockwave" in Athens last year. Was that a memorable gig?
Alex: It was an awesome experience. When we were informed that we were going to play with Black Sabbath we thought that it was a sick joke! We felt honoured and proud about that gig. We played on the same stage with the ‘'fathers'' of heavy metal. We played in front of 16,000 people and they were really supporting and enthusiastic. It was a day that will always be remembered.
And you've had some difficulties obtaining a visa, which has meant you've been unable to play at "Progpower" in the USA this year. That must be really disappointing, especially as it was your first gig outside Greece?
Alex: Yes, we had some difficulties due to some bureaucratic stuff. We felt really disappointed since we were expecting this gig for a long time and also the people in the States were really looking forward to seeing us perform live. Nevermind, as we say in Greece, every problem or misfortune stands for a good cause. We are aiming to perform there in the near future along with more gigs abroad.
You've gone through a few line-up changes, for example you've recently recruited a new drummer. Has it been difficult to remain positive through the more turbulent times?
Alex: No, it was never difficult for us to focus on our vision. We wanted the Wastefall members to stand as one on stage and in the studio but also shine as unique entities. We enjoy being friends but above everything is the hard work you are willing to do in the band. All the previous members were not so into the Wastefall schedule and attitude. We work hard and we have fun by doing that. Whoever can follow is welcomed! The current line up is by far the best one and guess what! We are very close friends. That's rare and it is not a fake. As I tell you, No 1 priority is the will to work. Now, we are also very close and we feel very lucky.
I guess it must help that the two core members, Alex and Domenik, are still in the band?
Alex: Exactly. Domenik and I are responsible for this band and we take the final call. We are dedicated to our vision and we feel really happy that right now there are three more ‘'fanatics'' J with us!
Does that also help with the decision-making process in that you have the final word if you can't agree on something?
Alex: Well, the final call is always a difficult situation. We can't all agree in everything. So, someone will be unsatisfied. But Domenik and I know what's best for the band and the guys understand that. Right now of course all suggestions are taken under deep and serious consideration since the rest of the guys love the band as much as we do. What you hear in the final product is a work of 5 and 2 people.
You've released your latest album through a new label - has that been an improvement for you? Are you comfortable with Sensory?
Alex: We feel very proud and lucky about our collaboration with Sensory and Intromental management. They respect us and we respect them. It is really rare for Greek bands to find their way abroad and we feel lucky and rewarded for all the hard work done. Sensory is a label that cares about quality and not quantity. It is an 'elite'' label. That feels really cool. So far we are very pleased and I feel that our collaboration will stay as good and fruitful as know.
There's more of a hard edge to your music than some progressive music, and your lyrics have incorporated subjects such as drugs and materialism. Where do you get your inspiration?
Alex: Self-Exile is the heaviest and harsher Wastefall album so far. I don't think that this will happen again in the same scale. Our times are wicked and hard. Music is a reflection of reality and criticises it. So, we can't be mellow and easy going since our times aren't likewise. We can be inspired from anything. It can be a political or social incident, the people we know and those who we don't know, solitude, books, philosophy and poetry, a smell, a memory even a dream. It can be anything. The spark is inside and all we need is a cause and living a life is pretty damn good cause! J Materialism and capitalism are the causes of our decandance and fall. Modern Philosophy and poetry fight them; music should do that also.
I noticed a folk element to some of "Self Exile". Is folk an influence for you and is there much of a Greek folk scene?
Alex: There is actually a Greek folk tradition. It runs in our veins and our collective memory we have as a tribe. We must be honest to our music. We play heavy metal and there is plenty of space for personal testimony. We come from Greece therefore we can not eliminate our tradition and long history. You will find it in our music. Heavy metal is what we are and Greece is what we are. Check out Angra or Soulfly or Metallica in the ‘'Load'' album. They engraved their tradition into the metal music and the results were awesome!
And the metal scene? Here in the UK we are very lucky with the amount and variation of bands that play. What was it like growing up as a metal fan in Greece?
Alex: In my time we were lucky because metal music was strong and you could listen to metal music easily. Of course there is not a good structure concerning studios and engineers for the metal sound. That must be changed since there are so many bands down here. Greece has a long tradition in the Black Metal scene with bands like Rotting Christ, Septic Flesh and many more experienced bands. In the last years there seems to be a massive change though. Many progressive metal bands have emerged and to be honest they are really good and hopeful there is going to be a strong progressive metal scene in Greece. Bands like Fragile Vastness, Horizon's end, Art of Simplicity have shown really good work so far. I hope that the prog scene in Greece can stay united because that's the main problem here in Greece.
Bands are jealous of another band's success and tend to make things harder. That's a shame because if the bands here in Greece stayed focused in their music and not in a stupid and bad ‘'competition'' then the Greek scene would have been truly respected and more fruitful!
From your metal roots, how did you develop your progressive sound?
Alex: I really don't know. We let our instinct guide us. All we did is work on our songs as much as possible. That is the only thing planned. We listen to every kind of metal music and not only that. We are a multicultural band despite the fact that we all come from Greece! That makes us I think genuine children of the times. Domenik and I are listening into more extreme metal music along with bands like Porcupine tree, Pink Floyd e.t.c. Kostis on the drums
I'm listening to Tool and Meshuggah. Christos is more in the 70's rock and jazz, while Nick loves classic heavy metal! It's quite a mess but it works so far!
"Self Exile" is your third album. Some bands experiment more than others. Do you think you will change your style very much or even try a completely new direction for the next album?
Alex: Whatever it may be! So far we have released three albums, all in a different mood and aspect. We find out about ourselves by making and album and all the time we discover something different. I believe that man is a very complex, diverse and multi-layered entity. Thus I think that the next album will be something different.
Are you currently working on new material?
Alex: Yes. There is lots of new material and I promise you it is going to be something different and special and provocative. That's all I can say so far. We will start working hard on it in about one week so, we will see where we will be led by it.
What about live dates? Do you have anything planned at the moment?
Alex: No. Not so far. There will be some gigs here in Greece and we are working hard on playing abroad in the near future.
There's a good deal of variation on "Self Exile". Is that because different tracks are written by different band members or is it just a reflection of your different influences? How do you actually put your music together?
Alex: As I said before we all carry different worlds in our backs concerning music. We all contribute in the making of a song in a way. Creating a song is fun! First of all Domenik or myself come up with the main idea and theme. We explain the rest of the guys what the song is about and then all together we give birth to the structure. When this is done, we try to find what every instrument is going to play and why in order not to insult or alternate the main feeling of the song. Then we rehearse it many times and the final product is ready. The schedule is the same but every new song leads us in different ways. We just stand in between the muse and the soil J
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you'd like to add?
Alex: I thank you for your interesting questions. Enjoy the album and take care! I hope we see you on tour or in a gig somewhere.
ET IN ARCADIA EGO!
Interview © December 2006 Amanda Hyne
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