Disharmony – If we could escape the slavery of the flesh and the material world, we could be something like gods

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I consider them as one of the best Greek bands, even if their name never became as big as it should be. Was this because the frequency of their releases is inversely proportional to the years they have been in the scene? Was this because there were other factors? Be that as it may, Disharmony with the amazing “Gods Made Of Flesh” delivered for me the best album of the year by a Greek band so far. The singer and one of the founding members, Chris Kounelis, talks about the new record, the difficulties they faced and proves that if you have an appetite and passion for music, you find ways to do great things. Interview: George Terzakis

Rockpages.gr: Hello Chris. First of all, congratulations on the new record. I think it’s the best and most complete work you’ve made so far. Tell us how long it took you to finish it, from songwriting to recording.

Chris Kounelis: Hello George and thank you very much for your kind words. From time to time too many ideas come to us, both to me and our guitarist John Karousiotis, we write various demos and keep them aside. When it’s time to prepare a new record, we start working on them to make something more complete. So, I definitely can’t tell you when the songwriting started because some initial ideas go back many years. The plan was when “Shades Of Insanity” was released in 2014 to do some promotional activities like concerts. The truth is that there was a bit of a disappointment because it was supposed to come out in 2011 and we were pushed back by various events, like record label scammers, and it came out three years later. After all that effort we put in, I told the guys that there’s material and it’s a shame to have music sitting around. So, I suggested we start with an EP and then release a full-length. The full-length is “Gods Made Of Flesh”. The EP would have been “The Abyss Noir” and it supposed to serve as a precursor. But it was released by the label as a full-length after an extra track was added. In general, the process started in 2017, but the main part was three years. A year to shape the songs to get them to a very good point and then we spent a lot of time recording, editing, mixing, testing with plugins, during which we also faced problems with the computer we were writing on. Add another year’s delay from the label because they didn’t have free dates to release it. Add the quarantine to all of that, you understand.

Rockpages.gr: This is what I wanted to ask you, did it delay you at all?

Chris Kounelis: There was a positive and a negative. John took the burden of the mixing and mastering process, as in his house we have our own home studio, and because he worked remotely, we had more time to work together. The problem was how to go and when to come back, as we had the curfew after a certain time.

Rockpages.gr: Was it all recorded in a home studio?

Chris Kounelis: Yes, entirely in a home studio. Now you’re going to ask me about the drums, huh?

Rockpages.gr: You read my mind.

Chris Kounelis: We borrowed electronic drums from a friend. We had settled on sounds and after the departure of Thanos Pappas (Outloud, Stray Gods, Scar Of The Sun) who no longer had time for us, Nikos Miras who we play together in Bigus Dickus took over and helped us a lot. We gave him some guidance but he also brought his own ideas and, in the end, we had three or four takes per song to choose from. He gave tremendous energy to the record. This is something that “The Abyss Noir” lacked.

Rockpages.gr: The truth is that the sound is amazing, it doesn’t give you the feeling that it came out of a home studio.

Chris Kounelis: Thank you very much, we feel the same way. I wish we could have an unlimited budget for big studios with expensive equipment and as much time as we want for recording and corrections, but for this work to come out the way it did, we had to have our own studio. And since we don’t have our own regular studio, we focused on our home studio and got the best we could. There was a lot of studying, especially from John, and we got to the point of comparing productions from favorite records and saying that we stand very well compared to them without any major differences.

Rockpages.gr: So, is this the first time you’ve recorded like this or the first time it’s been so organized?

Chris Kounelis: We had also written “The Abyss Noir” like this, but this time there was much more studying and we improved some things like the processing in the bass area for a more solid sound. I believe we achieved that.

Rockpages.gr: Regarding the cover art and the title of the album, I guess it has to do with a concept?

Chris Kounelis: Quite right, it is a concept. Inside the booklet, anyone who will get a copy should see that each title has a subtitle. Each song is about the enslavement we experience from the moment we are born in different areas. In fact, we are never completely free beings. So, each song deals with a different aspect on it. In that sense it’s a concept, it’s not an evolving story but it’s all around a thematic axis. The artwork was done by Achilleas Gatsopoulos, brother of our bass player Panagiotis, and we are very lucky in this as he has worked with bands like Dark Tranquility, Candlemass, Nightfall and many others. So, when he asked us what we would like on the cover, we told him that one of the songs raises the question of Plato’s Cave [you should read it, it’s quite interesting – Ed.] who in one of his works mentions that the world that we live in may not be completely real but something like the Matrix. On that idea, he made us this awesome cover.

Rockpages.gr: Who are these gods mentioned in the title?

Chris Kounelis: As I said before, we are slaves to various things and one of them is in the material world. We may be the most intelligent and evolved beings, we have achieved so much, we have tremendous potential to do awesome things but unfortunately there is a limiting factor that does not let us evolve further. All this has to do with the weakness of the flesh as the great Warrel Dane once said [“The Fault Of The Flesh” from the iconic “Dreaming Neon Black” of 1999 – Ed.]. If we could escape the slavery of the flesh and the material world, we could be something like gods. In a good way of course.

Rockpages.gr: Will you make a video clip for the record with or without Achilleas?

Chris Kounelis: Unfortunately, his time is very limited and we do not have the budget to satisfy his wishes. Whatever we do with him is when he has free time. There is an intention to do a video clip, even if it’s something simple. Of course, his touch is remarkable, so even if he films us rehearsing in the studio, he can edit it and produce something extraordinary. There is an intention that he might manage to find time to do something for us. We will release a video clip one way or another but it is still not sure how. We have a variety of options and great people to work with. We’ll see.

Rockpages.gr: Regarding the label, I wanted to ask why you went to a relatively small one abroad instead of finding one of equal or greater status in Greece. Or did you checked for bigger ones and couldn’t come up with a deal?

Chris Kounelis: Once, at the time of “Shades Of Insanity”, we had knocked on various doors and we came relatively close to being signed by Century Media, which could understand the genre we play but did not proceed. There’s a problem with our music, it’s not easy to digest. Musically it’s not straight-forward and that seems to make it difficult for audiences and labels alike. We have received many negative responses from labels who wanted something more classic. In the end we came to the conclusion that to get a good deal with a good label like Noisehead who released “Shades Of Insanity” and then closed, I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, you have to pay a lot. So, I found by chance Satanath and sent them to check out “The Abyss Noir” even though I knew they mainly release black metal. They liked our music and suggested to release it under their label-partner. This is how GrimmDistribution came about, which made us the best possible offer. Yes, the promotion won’t be the same as with one like Noisehead for example but the deal they gave us was the cleanest and most honest and they always responded immediately to anything. So, for “Gods Made Of Flesh” we didn’t look to change at all. Unfortunately, the situation with the war happened [the label is based in Ukraine – Ed.].

Rockpages.gr: It seems strange to me what you said about your music, because as a main influence you have Nevermore, who were a huge name. In “God Made Of Flesh” we can hear heavy, doom, prog, thrash. How hard is it to fit all of this onto one record without losing in flow and connectivity? How much work does each song need to make it sound complete and not a sloppy mess?

Chris Kounelis: You don’t even work on your influences, it just comes out as an experience. So, in that sense we don’t get tired of fitting it all into one track. It’s stuff we like and luckily, we’re open-minded enough to listen to a lot of different things. The fact that many compare us to Nevermore, who are our gods but we don’t try to copy them, has a point because they were also open-minded enough to put different elements in their music. For us, for example, there are parts that remind us of Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride or even Candlemass. This is done as I said before effortlessly. The only thing that needs to be worked on is to limit our ideas so that the songs won’t be too lengthy.

Rockpages.gr: Is there anything else you want to mention about the album?

Chris Kounelis: Yes, we had some guests. Kostas Platanias played a great solo in “Cruel And Bitter”, for the second album in a row Matthew Dakoutros, with who we are bandmates in Art Of Simplicity, has given us his violin in “Under The Waves”, Aspa Lambropoulou has given us the her voice in the atmospheric parts of “The Shores Of Our Destiny” and “Under The Waves” and Eleni Tzatzaridou has given me some lyrics which I used in a track and I thank her very much for that. In “L.I.F.E.” that closes the album we have used excerpts from Kazantzakis’ works, whose lyrics are influenced by him. Finally, whoever gets the album will see in the booklet that it is dedicated to the memory of Warrel Dane, who besides being a poet, performer and anything else you can attribute to him was and is a great source of inspiration for us. And we hope soon to continue the tribute to him with Bigus Dickus, which we had done for two years and stopped due to the well-known circumstances.

Rockpages.gr: Let’s go to the distant past. You started in 1996, quickly released the first demos and then we reach 2009 when “Shades Of Insanity” came out in a first form. Why did it take you so long?

Chris Kounelis: Yes, we released the first demo “Harmony Realms” in 1997 and then “When Purity Withers” in 1999 which was something like a mini-CD while we were also giving concerts. From 2001, the issues with the army started, as one after the other would leave to serve. Despite everything, we continued playing concerts, we also had some people helping us such as Stavros Gatsopoulos, brother of Panagiotis and Achilleas who eventually became a permanent member for years and Fotis Benardo (SiXforNinE, Nightfall, ex-Septicflesh). Then the departures began. A guitarist and founding member left permanently for U.S.A., then while we were writing songs for “Shades Of Insanity” the drummer who was also a founding member also left and it all made us feel bad. We saw it as a company of people, we had a great time and we never thought that this gang, the Fellowship of the Ring, would break up. We didn’t see that anything more could be done but there were some songs waiting to be finished. So, the three of us who remained decided to go ahead with it but not in a hurry, we weren’t a complete band to play gigs anyway. The only goal was to get the record out and we let the time flow like in the Jack Daniels distilleries. In hindsight, this was bad for the progression of the band. From 2014 onwards at least we have a consistency.

Rockpages.gr: “Shades Of Insanity” came out as a demo in 2009 before a label released it?

Chris Kounelis: Not exactly, it was almost ready since then and we gave it as a promo at some concerts we did. In 2011 and after we got in trouble with the fraudsters of one record label from England, we decided to make some copies and distribute it to the fans when we supported Sanctuary in Athens.

Rockpages.gr: Did it have a different format compared to what came out of the label?

Chris Kounelis: No, there was no extra recordings or remaster, it was the same.

Rockpages.gr: Regarding “When Purity Withers”, is there a plan to re-release it?

Chris Kounelis: I’ve thought about it too, now that re-releases are also trending, and there are people who would be interested in it. We listen to it now and spot mistakes in the vocals, the guitars, the drums. I think it should be rewritten, I’m ashamed in a way for it to be released like this. On the other hand, it has some very nice ideas. I don’t know, we will see.

Rockpages.gr: Would you prefer a re-release or a re-recording?

Chris Kounelis: Look, recording takes time. So, we’d better spend that time on the new material, which is already there. I believe there is no way it will be re-recorded.

Rockpages.gr: New material, huh? Do you have a plan for this?

Chris Kounelis: At the moment all our attention is focused on “Gods Made Of Flesh”. The label is like dead, it can’t do anything because of the war. We are waiting eagerly for the 10th of September to step on the stage again after years on the first day of Under The Quarry Festival. We were offered a spot for the fourth time, all the others we couldn’t play for various reasons. The most important one was that due to concert inactivity and limited time we were unable to study our songs. It’s easier for example to play a Judas Priest tribute…

Rockpages.gr: With Bigus Dickus…

Chris Kounelis: With Bigus Dickus, that’s right, rather than rehearsing an hour of Disharmony material. It takes a lot of studying, the music has to come out right and it has a lot of details. But we agreed that this record, which we are very proud of, should be supported. This festival is the best that could be found right now. It’s the time of year, the beautiful location, the people who never miss it from the day it started, it has free entry, the whole setting is ideal. Then we will look for the video clip and for any proposal for a concert inside or outside of Greece.

Rockpages.gr: Will you try to do a release show for the album from the fall in a venue?

Chris Kounelis: We wanted to do it for the previous works as well, but there was no time, as I said before. I hope that after Under The Quarry, when we will have the momentum and we will have a second guitarist because Stefanos Georgitsopoulos has recently left [a few days later, Jim Gaianos of melodic death metallers Ephemeral was announced in this position – Ed.], we will be able to discuss more easily about concert possibilities.