If youíre tired of listening to all those typically uninspired Black Metal bands, and youíre looking for something that sounds fresh but keeps the basic values of this extreme Metal music, then Agathodaimon is probably the band that youíre looking for.
Interviewing Sathonys, the band's main axeman, was a pleasant experience. The polite German explains why he considers his latest effort - Seprentís Embrace - to be the bandís best release so far, and what his plans are for the future.
Agathodaimonís new album, - Serpentís Embrace - is my first ever contact with the band. Searching on the internet to find more information, I realised that there is a very interesting history behind Agathodaimon. Would you like to share it with us?
Sathonys: The band was founded in September 1995, and we did record two demos - one in 1996 and the second one in 1997. After that our original vocalist Vlad, whoís a native Romanian, came all the way from his country to Germany in order to record material with us. He stayed in Germany for a while, and right after the release of our second demo, he decided that he wanted to return back to Romania in order to visit some relatives and friends. His plan was to stay there for a couple of weeks, but when he tried to return back to Germany, the authorities didnít allow him to do so. They claimed that the main reason was because, at that point, Romania was a safe country to live in. He needed a visa in order to come to Germany. So many problems occurred in the next couple of years. It was so frustrating, because we wanted to bring him to Germany to participate in the recordings of the album and we couldnít. He is also a very good friend of mine and I didnít want to let him down. With the first album we didnít manage to achieve cooperation, so we thought that the best idea would be to move the rest of the band to Romania for the recordings of the second album. That is also the main reason why our second album has a very weak sound. The production didnít really go that well, because the producer there wasnít experienced.
We are talking about the - Higher Art of Rebellion, which was released in 1999!
Sathonys: Thatís right. But after the album was recorded, we realised that the vision that Vlad had as a vocalist was different than the one the rest of the band had. He was more or less trying to get the band into a more commercial direction, and at that time, we didnít think that this was a cool thing to do. We had something like a mutual agreement that both parties will go separate ways. We continued our efforts with - Chapter IIIĒ, which was supposed to be a summary of everything that we had done up to that point. This time, we managed to make a far better production, and with - Serpentís EmbraceĒ, we took things one step further. All the elements that you find on our last album are more or less used in our previous albums, like clean vocals and less traditional keyboards. The new album is the most natural that weíve made so far. We took more time in order to record the material. - Chapter IIIĒ was a more spontaneous album. The sound on the - Higher Art of RebellionĒ is a totally different issue. When someone is living 3000km away and you cannot rehearse together, then the final result will definitely sound much different. With - Chapter IIIĒ we tried things the other way round. We wrote most of the material in the studio during the recordings, and with - Serpentís EmbraceĒ we took it more relaxed. We made a pre-production, listened to the songs really well trying to figure out which details to change!We also had two other members that left the band right after the recordings of - Chapter IIIĒ, either because they didnít have any fun playing with the band anymore, or had health problems like our bass player Marko who underwent a stomach surgery many years ago, and always had problems with his stomach while we were on tour. It was a very painful experience for him, so he decided to quit playing music. We have a new line up as we speak.
I was really impressed by the guitar work of the new album. Seconds after I was listening to the opening track - Cellos for the InsatiableĒ, I realised what I had to deal with. How did you manage to come up with such killer riffs?
Sathonys: Thatís probably the hardest question, because we donít just have one songwriter in the band. Everyone is allowed to say his opinion on how our music should sound like or compose material. I think that this new album was a common effort by every member in this band. Our song writing process is very complicated because a lot of different influences are mixed. When I look at my personal influences for example, they are totally different than the ones of the other members. Some members enjoy more traditional Metal, some more extreme Black Metal so there are a lot of ingredients mixed during the song writing process. Thatís why you see that there are many differences between most of our songs. Our music is something like a - best ofĒ from the whole of the Metal scene.
I agree, and thatís probably the main reason why youíre so difficult to be categorized as a band. I would say that the foundations of your music are based on Black Metal, but apart from that there are many different styles involved. The perfect example would be the song - SolitudeĒ. Whose composition was that?
Sathonys: This was the only composition that our new Keyboard player did. At first we wanted to have an instrumental track for the album, but it turned out so nice that we thought that we could do it with vocals instead. The girl whoís singing in that song, Ophelia, had also made some more guest appearances in previous albums. Itís really funny how this album turned out to be, especially since it was meant to become an instrumental song!
Are you the one taking credit for the albumís lyrics? Are they your doing?
Sathonys: No, not really. I do the clean vocals - the Black Metal vocals are performed by Akaias. We donít have a certain concept for the album. We also try to make lyrics that donít have a specific story behind them. We try to make lyrics with some kind of poetry involved, that they would be strong enough to support the songs. We want our lyrics to add an additional feeling to the songs. Of course, there are different types of topics that we write about. When I look to the lyrics that I write for the album, they are quite abstract - itís not like the reader will have an exact idea what Iím talking about. They are very abstract so that a lot of people can have access to them. I want them to be as - openĒ as possible, so no one can give a direct interpretation to them. I always try to focus on the way of writing that our original singer had. He had many influences in his lyrics from Romanian poets such like Eminescu. Itís almost something like a tradition for us to use a poem from Eminescu who is Romaniaís favourite and most famous artist. I wrote some lyrics, but we also had some guest contributing. For two songs of the album, the lyrics were written by a guy called Julio Angel Olivares Merino. Heís really into the dark side of life. Weíve been in touch with him for the last four years, and he always tells us how much he likes our music. When I heard that he made some lyrics for other bands, I asked him whether he wanted to write some lyrics for us too. We gave it a try, and he ended up writing lyrics for two of our songs. Style wise, theyíre totally different because of the amount of extra words that he knows and he can use. We, who are not native speakers, do not posses such a vocabulary. Our lyrics sound clumsy and childish compared to someone like him. Good lyrics, in my point of view, are those of Cradle of Filth. There are a lot more words to be used that you only know if you have learned English at school, so in away we are always limited when it comes to writing lyrics. Of course, we always try our best, and by the end of the day itís much different writing lyrics than talking - you can always use a vocabulary book, and make sure that the words youíre using are correct (laughs).
An album of that specific style of music should have a good clear production. Which were the studios that youíve used this time, and who sat behind the console during the recordings of the - Serpentís EmbraceĒ?
Sathonys: We used the same studios in which we recorded - Chapter III, which are Kohlekeller Studios, which are partly named after their owner Kristian Kohlmannslehner. Heís not really very well-known in the Metal scene, but heís a really cool producer, and he has a really well-equipped studio. He has produced, for example, the last Crematory album, and I think that there will be a lot of bands coming to the studio in the future. He not only tries to do a really good job with the sound, heís also a really good producer. He always has some good tips on how you could add some things to the songs, and suggests how things could be done differently. Compared with the people that weíve worked with in the past, those were just sound engineers and not really producers. We were in touch with him for quite a while, and it was certain that we would record something really great in that studio, and I guess that we will continue with that tradition on the next album. Itís also very important that the studio is quite close to the rehearsal room. Itís not like we have to travel to another country - that is also an advantage of course.
How did you enjoy working in the studio? Did you have enough time to sit down and do a proper job?
Sathonys: There is always a deadline that is quite close, and you never have a chance to really relax and do nothing for example. I am a person that works more effectively when I get into a stressful situation and I know that thereís a deadline that I have to keep. I just try to be as creative as possible. We did have enough time to make a good production. We did have a certain budget to work with, and we also invested a certain amount of money ourselves, to ensure that the album will be good enough to match our criteria for what we consider being a good album. We had a very bad experience with our previous albums as I mentioned earlier, and I just didnít want to have another album in my hands that would suffer from a bad production. We wanted our album to be strong enough in order to compete with all the others that are out in the market.
Even from the release of the first demo, you had the unique ability to attract the interest of big labels, first being Century Media. Now you are signed with another big label, Nuclear Blast. How does it feel to be a part of such a big team? Are Agathodaimon treated the way you would wish them to be by the label?
Sathonys: Yes, we are satisfied. We donít get of course the same treatment as Dimmu Borgir and Nightwish do, but they always try to give the band a proper support, to see how they can give their bands better chances in order to promote their music to a bigger audience. I met a lot of people who work for labels all these years, and I have to admit that Iím really happy that weíre signed with Nuclear Blast. At the moment, I couldnít imagine ourselves being with any other label.
What are you going to do in order to promote the new album? Are you guys going to go on tour pretty soon?
Sathonys: Well, touring is always just a little problem, because we donít really make a living with the band. We have to follow a day job, and some of us are attending the university. Every member of the band is fond of touring, and even though itís extremely difficult, we try to do it. In my opinion itís the best part, because that way you get a feedback from the people who come to your gigs. There are many countries that we would really like to visit like the United Kingdom!we just hope that we will be able to do it by the end of the year.
Iím pretty sure that you know that Metal fans are really sceptical when it comes to bands that combine many different styles in their music. How easy do you thing it is for Agathodaimon to attract Metal fans?
Sathonys: I donít really know (laughs)!
I can almost picture a Goth standing next to a Metalhead in one of your gigs!
Sathonys: All the members of the bands love Metal music, and we did make a certain evolution concerning our musical tastes, our personal favourites. I think that there are a lot of people who also follow this kind of evolution. When you grow older, you realise that thereís a lot more than just True Black Metal or whatever that has something to offer, and thereís also of course a certain amount of people that enjoy a specific style of music and theyíre bound to it. Right after we recorded our first album, a lot of people complained about us being - so commercial these daysĒ!I think that most of the people complain because weíre trying to have an adequate sound on our albums. I have made so many discussions with narrow-minded people who didnít understand our way of writing music. This situation has both advantages and disadvantages!it wouldnít be fulfilling for an artist if all he did was to repeat himself, and therefore I can say that there is always going to be some sort of progression in our music. I just wish that there would always be a lot of people who will still like the band, because the basic ingredients and the feeling of the music is probably still the same as it was in the past.
Itís funny!the same people who complain when a band is not recognised, are the ones who criticize it when it becomes more acceptable and popular - itís like a double-edged sword!
Sathonys: Thatís right. Especially those people who say - thatís my favourite band and theyíre so coolĒ, as soon as their band gets some sort of reputation and success they say - well, I donít like them any moreĒ. They donít pay any attention to the music itself - just to the image. This is something that is a little bit stupid in my opinion.
I totally agree with you. I know that you have toured with many important bands in the past, some of which are Benediction, Dismember and Hypocrisy. How would you describe Agathodaimon on stage? If Iím to attend one of your gigs, what am I to expect from you guys?
Sathonys: Sometimes it all depends on the venue. If the venue is big enough, we always use things like fire-breathing and good old school Black Metal stuns. There are so many bands that just concentrate on their instruments when theyíre on stage, and they donít move at all. We, on the other hand, are always trying to be in some sort of movement when weíre on stage. Our budget doesnít allow us to have many special effects on stage, but we always try to bring some movement to the audience and deliver a good show. I cannot play a gig if I donít sea any reaction from the crowd. I would probably see them and think - are they bored, are they depressed or something?Ē If you enjoy being on stage, the audience will know it for sure!
Whatís your goal as a musician and member of Agathodaimon?
Sathonys: I can almost dream about it! It would be cool if we could make some sort of break through, if a lot of people were to like our music. I would like to be able to invest some more money into the band, because most of the time youíre very limited as to what you can produce based on the budget that you have available. You cannot go to the studio that you want, some other times you have really cheap equipment to work with! Letís take for example a band like Dimmu Borgir. They have really good resources to work with. The orchestra that they hired for the last album cost four times as much as the whole of our album. Of course it would have been really cool if we could have a similar budget to work with. I have so many ideas that I would like to turn into reality, but money makes the world go round, and thatís always the main problem.
Is there a specific personality from the music business that inspired you enough in order to become a musician?
Sathonys: This is quite an easy question for me to answer. When I was a teenager I didnít know anyone that was into Metal - I used to see people walking buy with Iron Maiden t-shirts, and I remember thinking - wow, this must be a really cool music to listen to!
I once saw an old Iron Maiden video by accident, and thought that it was quite cool and melodic. Thatís how I bought my first Iron Maiden album, which was - Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.
A few weeks later I visited the same record store and wanted to buy some more Iron Maiden albums. Also the Venom video - The Seven Gates of HellĒ, recorded in the Hammersmith Odeon, where I saw Cronos taking an amplifier and throwing it to the audience (laughs). This was really inspiring for me- I just wanted to become as cool as him, and so I convinced my parents to buy me a guitar and that was in the way the turning point for me.
Sathonys, I want to thank you for answering the questions that I have prepared for you, and I wish you all the best for you and your band. Any last thoughts that youíd like to share with us?
Sathonys: Thanks for all your support, and of course, have a nice evening!
Interview © 2004