Devil’s Train is a new outfit that features R.D. Liapakis (of Mystic Prophecy fame), guitarist extraordinaire Laki Ragazas and two guys from Stratovarius, Jorg Michael and Jari Kainulainen. Their self-titled debut record shares a nostalgic view of the past (and most specifically the late 80s) and the sonic outcome is more than satisfactory. Laki Ragazas calls us from Northern Greece and explains what happens...on the ride with train 666 or more accurately...on the ride with Devil’s Train!
Interview: Sakis Nikas
Rockpages.gr: Laki, please, tell us how did a respectable guitarist like you reserved...a ticket with Devil’s Train?
Laki Ragazas: (laughs)…well, the whole thing started really in the autumn of 2009 when I and R.D. Liapakis discussed about the possibility of forming a hard rock band as he wanted t play something different in comparison to Mystic Prophecy. I had written a few songs and I was searching to start a band like the one that Dimitris wanted. We started working together in March 2010 and in 10 days we almost had the album in our hands…unbelievable chemistry!
Rockpages.gr: You know…I think that the chemistry and the energy are really obvious on the record…
Laki Ragazas: I agree! In January 2010, Dimitris got to meet Jorg (Michael)…it was around the time that Stratovarius were touring with Mystic Prophecy. He suggested the idea to Jorg…he offered him to be the drummer of Devil’s Train and Jorg accepted immediately as soon as he heard some early ideas of songs as he is a big fan of that music.
Rockpages.gr: Is this really a regular group or an one-off project?
Laki Ragazas: We deal with the whole thing as a real band! In the very beginning, it might not have seemed that way as everyone had his own regular thing to think off but now all four of us view Devil’s Train as a regular band!
Rockpages.gr: I grew up in the 80s and personally I think that this was the golden era for the hard n’ heavy sound. Do you agree and if yes, what was the reason for that?
Laki Ragazas: Absolutely…I agree! I was also a teenager in the late 80s and as you can gather I feel really comfortable in the musical environment of Devil’s Train as that kind of music is really familiar to me. Hard rock in the late 80s was at its very peak…no one can deny it. It was a time when there was no internet available, you discovered on your own all the bands, you were looking forward to read even a small excerpt of an interview of your favorite band just to get a hint of the new album or tour…all in all, you were really connected with the bands and the music. Same thing applied to bands, too as their only way of communication with their fans was the concert. Naturally, here in Greece there were very few shows booked but I must say that there was more feeling found in the songs of the 80s. t least, that’s my perspective.
Rockpages.gr: Recently, you shot a video for your version of the classic “American Woman”. Why did you decide to give a first glance of the band through a cover tune?
Laki Ragazas: We talked with the people of our label and they really wanted to push this song. Look…if you listen closely to the song you will notice that there are lots of Devil’s Train elements in there that I dare to say that we made it kind of our own…it’s like a brand new Devil’s Train composition. We left our stamp on a classic song…
Rockpages.gr: Judging by the final result, I’d say that you must have had a great time during the video shooting....
Laki Ragazas: It was awesome…in fact, we were really lucky because there was a great sunny day in Greece at the time. In 24 hours we shot 2 video clips, had barbeque, called the Harley Davidson guys to participate in the video…beers, food, laughs…everything! Watch out for the second clip in the upcoming days…
Rockpages.gr: For which song…?
Laki Ragazas: “Sweet Devil’s Kiss”
Rockpages.gr: Were you aware that “Devil’s Train” was a well-known song by Hank Williams?
Laki Ragazas: Yes! Although, I am not the biggest fan of that type of music, I must tell you that I love the warmness of the blues-based guitar and I hope that this is evident in my playing.
Rockpages.gr: How about the touring plans of the band...?
Laki Ragazas: It’s really too early…we are still talking about it with the label. So, I can’t really tell a lot about that but I am sure that something good will come up.
Rockpages.gr: Will Jorg’s health condition cause a problem to the whole arrangement of a possible tour?
Laki Ragazas: As everyone knows, Jorg had to deal with some serious health issues that appeared around November 2010…when I saw him in January 2011 he was in good spirits although clearly weak. Nevertheless, he was never down-hearted and always optimistic. Now that I saw him again for the shooting of the 2 video-clips of Devil’s Train he was obviously healthy and he seems to have gotten over it. I wish him nothing but the very best because he is not only a great musician but a fabulous human being!
Rockpages.gr: Do you still give guitar lessons?
Laki Ragazas: Oh yeah…I divide my time in between an odium and private lessons here at Thessaloniki. It’s a part of my job that I really enjoy. I think it’s a great responsibility to teach and see your students getting better and better but also discover the mysteries of rock music.
Rockpages.gr: My good friend and chief editor of Rockpages, Yannis Dolas, has told e to ask you this: “Why don’t you leave Greece and follow your dreams in Europe or USA? After all, you are more than capable to do so...”.
Laki Ragazas: In a way this happens now with Devil’s Train. The fact that I am living in Greece, it’s no longer a disadvantage because with modern technology you can record a whole album without even being in the same studio with the rest of the guys. This was almost unthinkable in the 80s and 90s. I am not thinking at the moment of relocating somewhere in Europe…
Rockpages.gr: What are your thoughts of the current social and political situation in Greece? How’s that turmoil influences the Greek music scene in general?
Laki Ragazas: To tell you the truth and be blatantly open about it, I must say that I was always, personally, in an economical crisis. If you choose to make a living by being a professional musician, then you must be ready to endure some very difficult situations. But on the other hand, it makes you a better person, a person who does not rely on others but only on himself! I totally sympathize my fellow citizens who are passing through very hard times but I sincerely hope that this could be the start of a new, better ear for Greece; an era where we won’t need false messiahs and politicians to save the day.