It’s a hot afternoon in Trikala where we meet Helena Kotina, at the Cardinal bar downtown chilling enjoying the last hours before heading back to the trenches playing with Nervosa at Wacken Open Air. A couple of days before the… storm, which hit the German village and tortured its thousands guests, Helena unfolds the story of her musical career so far, from getting into rock and metal through her brothers, up to now, where she is always with suitcase and guitar on hand touring the globe with Nervosa. Actually, on September 3rd the band plays it’s first show ever in Greece at Gimme Shelter Open Air Festival, which is surely going to be something special for her, as well as the fans of the band in our country.
Interview: Yiannis Dolas, Editing: OneManArmy
Rockpages.gr: How did you first got into rock and metal and how did you start playing guitar?
Helena Kotina: I started from my older brother, who was really into music, without playing any musical instrument. Both my brothers love music. Through him I first was exposed to classic rock. Later on I started exploring stuff on my own until when I was 13, or 14, where I felt that I wanted to actually play music. Apart from listening and keeping up to date with what was going on, I felt the need to do the same thing myself. At that age I asked my parents to enroll me in a music school, so I could take some lessons. That’s how it all begun. Later on, at school when I was 15 we started forming the first bands playing covers and getting gigs. Then, I moved to Trikala in order to go to university and during my first years here we formed Daffodil. With whom we released an EP and an album and now we are finishing up the new record. And quite recently Nervosa came into the scene, and this is how we got where we are now.
Rockpages.gr: You’ve released a solo E.P. in the past. Do you plan on releasing a full album?
Helena Kotina: Somewhere in between finishing the recordings with Daffodil and right before starting touring with Nervosa I already had some songs, that were almost ready, they were actually drivers and I decided to make a mostly studio project. It’s not my intention to form a band, go on tour, play shows etc. I just wanted to do that project and release it. I wanted to release an E.P.. I don’t know what the future holds, but that was it. It was released and that was it.
Rockpages.gr: Do you realize the distance you’ve gone through from all that to touring the world with Nervosa?
Helena Kotina: Living in a smaller town is something I was used to, since I come from Volos, which is a small town. What I enjoy is that you have the whole day at your disposal. You are not wasting any time on nothing. You just wake up… And go straight to work. Whatever else you want to do, you can do it quickly. Of course, you need to travel to Athens to some more work, recordings etc. But that’s OK. To be honest, when we come back after touring, or playing in festivals I enjoy coming back here, because you instantly feel calm. You relax, recharge your batteries and get ready to return on the road.
Rockpages.gr: On September 3rd Nervosa are playing for the first time in Greece. What should we expect from that show?
Helena Kotina: That’s a show we’ve been waiting for a long time. Because it’s the first show for Nervosa in Greece. My first time playing live with Nervosa in Greece. The venue is amazing, Technopolis, at Gkazi and on the bill there is Firewind also the original lineup of Stratovarius with Timo Tolkki. Actually, this night is getting better and better as we are getting closer and the names that were added. We really can’t wait for it, because during the previous years Nervosa’s ex-drummer was also Greek the crowd is getting closer and closer to the band and they were asking about a show in Greece. So, the time has come and everything will be done the proper way.
Rockpages.gr: Is Hel Pyre a permanent member in Nervosa? What’s the situation with Mia Wallace?
Helena Kotina: Elina is a member of the band, she played in the music videos, toured with the band’s new lineup and played festivals Mia is still a member of the band, but due to personal obligations she cannot leave Italy for a long time. So, we didn’t want to fire her and tell her “you can’t go on”, so we gave her the opportunity to stay with us. “Whatever festival, or show you can play, we can do it together”. But, Elina is involved in everything we do.
Rockpages.gr: How did you hook up with Prika Amaral and how did you become a member of Nervosa?
Helena Kotina: Through the internet. Instagram, YouTube… Before started chatting with Prika I had some material, either on YouTube, or my stuff or some covers I’ve done in the past and Prika always wanted to have two guitars in the band. After releasing “Perpetual Chaos” though that it was the right time to do it. So, we started chatting via Instagram at first, then she asked me to for a video call. But, she haven’t told me what the reason was. I thought it was to be supportive as a woman in metal. At the end of the video call she said: “to be honest with you, I’d like to ask if you are interested in being a member of the band”. And I replied “absolutely”. That’s how we started, but because back then they were touring and supporting the previous album, “Perpetual Chaos”. We started working, at the same time, on riffs and ideas for the next album. So, by the end of “Perpetual Chaos” cycle I was getting more and more involved in the band. We also did together the tour in Latin America, because at the last moment Mia couldn’t make it, so I joined playing bass. And from the on everything fell into place. We wrote the album and ever since everything we do is here in Greece. Recording, rehearsing, everything.
Rockpages.gr: Is it easy to switch from guitar to bass and vice versa?
Helena Kotina: The good thing is that I already had started learning the songs on guitar, I had the sestlist in mind, but as a guitarist. It was a bit weird. Because at the last moment I had to learn how to play the songs in a different way. But, at least guitar-wise I knew what was happening. So, on bass I just sat down and listened thoroughly how the bass was played on the older songs. Everything was O.K.. The switch from bass to guitar was tough. Because, for two months, the tour was quite long, I was playing bass, I hadn’t touched a guitar. So, when I came back my guitar playing was a bit sloppy. “Let’s start from scratch”, I was practicing, but it was all right. Comparing to the whole thing we experienced it was nothing.
Rockpages.gr: What do you think about Prika’s decision to handle the lead vocals?
Helena Kotina: When the former singer announced that she was quitting then and there we talked with Prika and she told me that she wanted to take over on lead vocals. I said “O.K.”, on one side that was interesting, on the other since we didn’t have a lot of time to finish the album and record I asked her whether she was sure that she was going to make it. Because, she always sung backing vocals but, that’s different, singing lead, being in the front. She says: “I’ve got this. I started doing lessons and I am in this mood all day long”. Actually, I remember that we’ve finished guitars, drums, everything and we were about to record the vocals she gets in at the end of the day and when she was finished she told me: “listen”. She had recorded the first track and it was something that I wasn’t expecting. I knew that she could handle the heavy brutal vocals, but I wasn’t sure about the changes to more flexible kind of stuff. And I’m like “O.K. that’s great”. After that we went out to play some shows and did the first mini tours where she got used to playing guitar and singing at the same time and endure the entire set. So, we saw it worked and it worked pretty well. What we get on stage is what we wanted.
Rockpages.gr: What can you tell us about the new album, “Jailbreak”?
Helena Kotina: I can say that the new album has everything. There are fast tracks, slow tracks, groovy ones. There is a lot of melody. Since this is the first time we have two guitars, we have more solos. There are twin solos with me and Prika. That was something that made us more flexible, because having two guitars means that we can do a lot more stuff. So, this is a very good combination that we’ll see from September 29th onwards…
Rockpages.gr: What concert had the more active crowd so far?
Helena Kotina: I am sure so far it’s Latin America. I don’t know where… Because, wherever we played after Mexico it was full on, 100% every single night. Maybe it was Chile, I remember in Santiago that night was something I’ve never experienced before. We got on stage and from the first song to the end, everyone was going crazy. We even stopped in between songs, because they were shouting all the time and we couldn’t go on. What happened that night was incredible. For me it was something new. So, maybe I’ll go with Chile, but actually all the countries we played, Mexico, Brazil, were all amazing.
Rockpages.gr: Have you met your idols? How was the experience?
Helena Kotina: Yes. This happened quite recently when we were doing the mini tour in the U.K. we were playing at Wolverhampton, at the venue of ex-Judas Priest guitarist, KK Downing. We knew that he owned the venue, but we didn’t know if we could actually bump into him there. I remember that we arrived a bit earlier for the soundcheck and we kept seeing parts of equipment inside the venue. And there was a guy from the crew who told us: “are you guitarists? You’ll find this interesting”. And he opened an ancient huge box containing the first guitar pedal boards that Priest were using in the ‘80s. Actually, one of the first pedal boards ever made. And he started explaining to us how they worked. For me that was even better than visiting any museum. And all of the sudden, while we were seeing all that… I am in shock, I want to cry. Because, Judas Priest is one of my biggest loves and the duo of KK Downing and Glenn Tipton has always been unbelievable. So, seeing the man himself, who you were listening, playing and studying since you were 13 years old, was amazing. And he was very cool. We sat there, chatted, talked about guitar and equipment, about his new band… When this was over I was like… what was that?
Rockpages.gr: You recently played with Paul Di’Anno. What did you get from those shows?
Helena Kotina: Right before we finished the Latin America tour, I got a phone call whether I was interested in playing guitar for Paul Di’Anno. Yes, of course. After that I found that the other guitarist I was going to play with was Gus G. This was another incredible thing, which I realized after it was over. It was three shows, where every night the venue was crammed the crowd was singing all the melodies from the first two Maiden albums. I was on stage looking at Paul Di’Anno, Gus G, then the crowd… And I was like… “great, that’s amazing!” That was an incredible experience, which didn’t last long, but personally helped me a lot as a guitarist and as a musician, in order to evolve.
Rockpages.gr: What’s your wildest dream?
Helena Kotina: My wildest dream? In general there is no roof for that. The higher you go, the wildest it can get. The wildest for me would be to go on tour with Scorpions and Judas Priest. For me these bands are the reason that started everything for me.