Greek thrashers Exarsis will be supporting Canadian legends Voivod in both Athens and Thessaloniki and that’s a great chance to catch up with Nick Tragakis about the shows that are coming up, as well as the Greek scene, the bands next moves, as well as the albums that changed his life. Interview: Yiannis Dolas
Rockpages.gr: After so long from being away from the stage what were the things you missed from playing live are and you remembered, when you played in Cyprus, a few days ago?
Nick Tragakis: First of all thank you for your interest and this interview! It’s been 4 and a half years that we haven’t played live… did we miss it? Cyprus was very important gig for various reasons; we were back in the game, a chance to check if the band still works well playing live, a test for the new lineup and an opportunity to get better. But, most importantly to remind us the feeling of becoming one with the audience, bang your head and sing with them, a feeling we always feed off and made us better. The audience of Cyprus was wonderful and we thank again the guys who invited us and treated so nice.
Rockpages.gr: After the shows in Athens and Thessaloniki you travel to Bulgaria. Three shows in three days. How are you going to respond to that challenge and what should the fans expect from you?
Nick Tragakis: Our first European tour was 31 shows in 31 days, also the next three has similar analogies, so we are not strangers to that, no matter how many years have been ever since. I’ll use the cliché, it’s like riding a bicycle, it’s something you never forget how it’s done, mind you that clichés became clichés for a reason. I agree with the term “challenge” though, because every show is one. Especially, since we are playing live in the two biggest cities in Greece and for the first time in Sofia! The crowd should expect from us a complete thrash metal show, energy, in the same way that we expect the contribution of those who are going to attend these shows.
Rockpages.gr: In Greece you will be opening for Voivod. What can the support band can gain?
Nick Tragakis: We’re opening for Voivod, both in Athens, as well as Thessaloniki and we are thrilled about that. We’ve already opened for several of our favourite bands, like Judas Priest, Anthrax, Kreator and every experience you gain playing with bands like those is a useful lesson. It’s a lesson about how you can organize a complicated mechanism, such as a band, how to deal with merchandise and the people who is around your band, how to treat to your fans both on and off stage, as well as the do’s and the don’t’s on how to treat your colleagues from other bands, smaller and bigger. During the 10 years we’ve been touring both inside the Greek borders, as well as beyond, I think that we’ve become a bit wiser following both positive and negative examples, but still we don’t have a clue. We are still in the beginning.
Rockpages.gr: What is the “roof” for a Greek metal band today? Can a thrash metal band become as popular as 1000 Mods and Planet Of Zeus, or are you addressing to a specific audience?
Nick Tragakis: That’s a good question, but I am not sure if we come up with a conclusion if we compare ourselves with heavy rock bands. Their sound, their philosophy and their crowd is much different to ours. By saying that I have to say that I admire their work ethic, as well as their music which I follow from their early days and I’d also like to say that we’d be delighted to play a show with Planet Of Zeus who are killing it, as we’ve already played with the Mods! On the other hand, if you look at what Rotting Christ, Septicflesh and Nightfall who in theory play something that’s more difficult from the average fan, have achieved, you never know what the roof is. Of course, there is always the most recent example of Suicidal Angels that made Greek thrash a global thing, which led to a lot of people from abroad paying attention to bands like us. Hard work and stability always make you gain ground and achieve a goal at a time.
Rockpages.gr: What’s the next move from Exarsis? Do you have new material, are you going to release a new album, a single, or a video?
Nick Tragakis: Our latest album was released exactly two years ago and the first show to promote it was in Cyprus a few days ago. Despite that the songs for the new album are 30% ready. For the time being we focus on the upcoming live shows and next year we will decide what we should do.
Rockpages.gr: What are the five albums that changed your life?
Nick Tragakis: I will answer with random order. My favourite and the most important band for me is Iron Maiden; listening “Best Of The Beast” with my brother, but as far as my favourite album, that’s “Seveth Son Of A Seventh Son”, as it contained all the stuff that made them great in the 80’s and it was the point where they completed a circle, fulfilling a vision. The same year, the greatest concept metal album of all times was released; “Operation Mindcrime”, by Queensryche, which after every spin makes me so escited, just like the first time I listened to it, when I was in high school and made me feel things that I wasn’t expecting music could create. On that record I can find several fragments of myself. For a long time, Judas Priest were my favourite band above Maiden, now they are my second favourite, as I haven’t yet realized the importance of their presence, their greatness, the quality, the quantity, the variety, the influence, their cool as fuck and their love for what we call heavy metal. I am a child of “Painkiller”. Indeed! We were both born in 1990. That was the year when speed and thrash went all the way on the flawless “Rust In Peace”, although Megadeth were never even one of those. The fact that no band, not even them, played like that before says it all. Even now, when I listen to it and watch the photos from the booklet I feel like the first time that I’ve heard it: it’s like discovering a secret alien’s nest and what I see and hear cannot be described in human languages. Finally, another of my all-time favourite metal albums, a wish and a curse, the album that every time I play I die and born again, Candlemass’ “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus”. See you in the battles.