John Mcris – whether you talk too much, or not, it’s good to have something to say

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He was introduced to the public many years ago as the new guitarist of Greece’s comedy metal heroes, Anorimoi (Greek for Immature). Since then, he evolved as a musician and composer while being established as an excellent sound engineer in Hell’s Kitchen Studio and Soundflakes Studio. We are talking about Giannis Makris a.k.a. John McRis or Satrigiannis who released his first amazing solo album, “Ark”. The opportunity to contact him was the next logical step and he talked about many and interesting topics. Interview: George Terzakis

I remember that many years ago in Kyttaro club, while you were performing with Anorimoi, the others left the stage and you played an instrumental track. Was this the beginning of the idea behind “Ark”?

You hit an incredible spot now because this is the last track of “Ark”. I never imagined anyone would ask that. On the record, however, it is not as I played it then. Later I worked on it because I liked the basic idea and it ended up coming in after everything else was written. That is, I had written the other seven tracks and I remembered that I had a piece that I liked the atmosphere and I thought it would fit, so I worked a lot on it. It has little to do with what I played at that concert.

So, when did you start writing something outside the band, something purely your own?

To write something to release it under my name, I had not tried that again. The first time is now. However, that track was not written because I wanted to make an album but because I wanted to have a spot in the concert where I could present something different. For no particular reason, I started writing music three years ago on a summer vacation. I did not have in mind to release an album but I ended up having seven tracks in a few days, without rushing it at all. We had recently released “Apovlakocic” with Anorimoi, so there was no plan for new music. I also liked that there was a difference from the material of my main band, not great of course, so I thought of making an album for myself and see what will happen.

The stuff you wrote three years ago, how much did they change until they got on the record?

Except for the last track, very little. Some additions were made, the material was built differently with the addition of the other instruments.

In other words, it was not something you were planning, it came to you naturally.

Yes, because what I do in Anorimoi covers me 100%. I did not need to express myself differently. In the band it is not that someone brings a song and dictates the others. We bring our ideas, we discuss them and we start practicing them.

I was about to ask about something you said before. You have been in Anorimoi for nearly twenty years and during all this time you have played for a while, either as a regular member or only in concert, with bands like 4Bitten, Fragile Vastness, Seduce The Heaven and almost System Shock. Do you really feel that good in your band that you have not had the desire to participate normally in another side-project?

It may sound a bit strange but I like the convenience I have in Anorimoi, where everyone does a part of the job. I think the band is more of a team sport and I think I work better within the team. Starting something and having to carry it on my back alone, dragging others from behind, begging them to do their parts, seemed like a waste of time. I am absolutely happy in my band. Anorimoi cover me as a composer but also as a person. That is, the comedic element in our lyrics is who we are. I do not want to be another guy. I am that guy. It suits me. And I can dress it with my music. A piece of music is not comedy, how you choose to dress it lyrically is another matter. As I have said before, the relationship of Anorimoi with comedy stops at the lyrics. We take everything else very seriously.

Let’s go back to the album. When you were looking to find the musicians who will accompany you, why did you only get the drummer from Anorimoi?

I did not want to baptize Anorimoi with a different name. I could get them to play on my personal album, however I think there would be a lot of similarities. Angelo Giampouras is a man who has no selfishness in music. That is, you will write him something and the first thing he won’t do is change it to make it his own. He will suggest something better than what you have given him but he will respect the material. He is very fast, he is very good, easy to work with and he has a very nice sound. The truth is that when I was composing the material, I had in mind that he would play. Regarding the bass, a child friend of mine, Bob Minetos, with whom we started playing music and have played together many times, as soon as he heard the material, he told me that he wanted to play.

Did you write the bass or is it entirely his?

I had written some simple guides, as a tool. He changed a lot of things and in fact most of the bass on the record is his own work.

About the keyboards, because there are four people involved including you, how did this idea come about? What did you write?

I had written some things but they were basic ideas. I gave different tracks to people I know, having in mind what would suit each one best. I played in three tracks and this is because I did not have in mind that I would have guests in them. The rest are played by Manos Gavalas of SL Theory, Vangelis Tsimbinos who is actually a guitarist and plays in Dead South Dealers and Bob Katsionis.

In total, how much did it take you from the time the recordings started until it was ready?

Without focusing there, I did it in my spare time, it took me about four years. As soon as I came back from vacation, we wrote bass/drums and then I left it aside. I occasionally wrote guitars and keyboards with the guests. We also put some well-hidden choirs that fit very well with the keyboards, which were written by Niki Rosa Frei who is mezzo soprano. So, it took its time but I did not push myself, it came very naturally and as a hobby.

How many guitars did you record it with?

I think two.

Only? How many do you have in total?

I think [laughs] I have seven or eight, along with my acoustic.

How easy is it to name a song that has no lyrics?

That was the easiest thing. Mainly because when I was writing each track, I had an image in my mind. The album is called “Ark” because I’m a fan of science fiction movies and I have an open concept in mind. We are destroying our planet, so we have to leave and spread our species to other planets. One such could be an ark that would start the human species from scratch.

So logically you will also like soundtracks. Would you like to compose one?

Yes, I like them very much and I would like to but this is a completely different thing. It requires a lot of knowledge and I would like to experiment with it at some point. I could say that I tried to do something like that from my own point of view and made this record. That is how I would make a soundtrack using basic rock elements, such as guitar/bass/drums.

Which instrumental albums do you like and why? What is it that you do not like about them and did not want to put in yours?

As you said earlier, I do not like never ending technique that does not say anything. Not that I don’t like fast paced players or virtuosos. I just think you have to have something to say. Whether you talk too much, or not, it’s good to have something to say. I avoided blabbering technique, I avoided very high tempos and I think I came up with something that I and others like. In fact, many people tell me they like it for the same reason and it fits well to listen to it in their car. And I would suggest the same to anyone who can do it, listen to it while traveling. As for instrumental records, I am generally not a fan of the genre but I really like Joe Satriani’s first works because they have this philosophy. Yes, it is a guitar-driven record but he doesn’t play solos for four minutes. He will play solo as much as he would do in a song with lyrics and the rest of the time the guitar behaves like a voice. That was the purpose of my album, to be complete tracks that you can sing [I confirm that, the melodies are easily sung, Ed.].

So, you chose Bob Katsionis’ Symmetric Records for the release. The first press is 200 copies on CD. Are you preparing other forms?

CD only for now. I would definitely like to make vinyl, cassette and some other format that will make people wonder. Not reel, it is too expensive and no one has a player to listen to it. I have a format in mind and we will see how it goes.

Will there be a next one? Will you chase it or will you wait for some inspiration to come again?

I do not think that one should be pressured to write music. The music is coming. I think I will make an instrumental record again or a record that will be largely instrumental but not immediately because my need was met. But I’m working with a very talented singer on new material and at some point, there will be news about it.

Another side-project?

Yes, me and this singer are writing new songs. Then we will see if it will become a regular band or if we will get some session musicians. The material is very different from “Ark” but also from the music of Anorimoi. It is more towards progressive rock I would say. With less speed, lots of melody, lots of keyboards, weird structures and lots of guitars.

As for concerts, I know that it’s difficult to present the album alone. Would you do something similar to what we said in the beginning like in Kyttaro? That is, Anorimoi leaving the stage in order to dedicate ten or fifteen minutes to it?

I do not know whether the audience of Anorimoi is interested in listening to my personal material. I think those who come to see us, come for the whole package. I would not try for something like this to happen but I would not say no if others suggested it to me. As I would not try to bring this project on stage as I have it in my mind. If there is an opportunity, we will see.

Before we close, what news from the Anorimoi camp?

We have already written our next album at 90%. Me five songs and Dimitris, the other guitarist, six. We do not know if we will use them all, we have not even rehearsed them all together to decide. We have done pre-productions, the other members listened to them and said that they liked them, so when we said to start rehearsing, the end of the world came [laughs].

So, is it ready from last year?

Yes, since last summer. It will take a lot of work until it becomes a record but the most important part is completed.

So, when do you see it to start recording?

I do not know because I do not know when it makes sense to release another album. We released “Kolasi” and did not promote it as much as we would have liked because the pandemic caught up with us. In other words, his circle did not close so that we want to do something new. I do not want it to be left behind because it has songs that we like very much and we want to share them with our fans on stage and have a good time.

Can’t you record it now and release it much later?

If we write an album now and it is released after a year and a half, we will want to throw it away. We will have other ideas then, other songs will have been written then. The material reflects the phase of the band during each period.