Sometimes they say that dreams can come true especially if you insist and keep on dreaming even though it seems quite unlikely that these dreams will eventually become reality. So many of us have been waiting lots of years for this specific dream to become reality…Warlord in Greece for three shows…unbelievable! Well, come to think about it, if you had told me that Warlord would release a brand new album after so many years of absence, I’d have said the same thing.
We met Bill Tsamis and Mark Zonder at the hotel where they were staying and covered many and hopefully interesting topics. Once again, both of them proved to be humble, down to earth and gentlemen…it was an honor!
Interview: Sakis Nikas
Rockpages.gr: Bill, let me welcome you to Greece. How does it feel to be playing for the very first time in front of your Greek fans?
Mark Zonder: It’s a great feeling…it is something we have been dreaming of for a lot of years and tried to make it a couple of times but couldn’t. We are very happy, very excited and we are looking forward to it very much.
Bill Tsamis: We are happy to be here. We appreciate the fact that everything came together for us to make this trip down from Germany to Greece because this is the epicenter of metal and this is like Mark said what we’ve been dreaming of for many years.
Rockpages.gr: Yesterday you had the chance to meet some of your fans in Athens (ed. note: the interview took place on Saturday morning, the 27th of April). From your perspective, why do you think there is a special bond between Warlord and the Greek fans?
Bill Tsamis: That’s a good question. I hope it goes beyond the fact that I have a Greek descent. I think Warlord has not only an epic quality to it but a very melodic quality, too. And I think Greek people in general are accustomed to melody. For instance, if you listen to just ethnic music, Greek ethnic music…it’s very melodic. I think Warlord kind of fits into that vein. I don’t know if that’s the correct answer or not but that’s my perspective.
Mark Zonder: I think it just sort of speaks to the people as far the style, the sound….it definitely has an ethnic sound to it. You know…the guitar playing, the leads, the melodies. It fits right in. It is definitely not an American sound. We don’t sound like Bon Jovi or Bruce Springsteen which are great bands but I think it’s the style of the music alone that speaks to the people in Greece.
Rockpages.gr: Mark, you achieved commercial success with Fates Warning. Do you feel at home with Warlord?
Mark Zonder: Oh yeah! I’ve always said that. I’ve always said: “that was my band”. Even (when I was) in Fates Warning, I said that. Without a doubt, I feel…I could go on and on but you said it best…I feel at home! I feel most comfortable. I feel respected and I feel at home.
Rockpages.gr: You released recently “The Holy Empire”, the next chapter in the Warlord history. How did it feel to be recording a Warlord album once again?
Bill Tsamis: It felt great. Mark and I have always known that the quality of the Warlord material was excellent. And we always knew that it needed to be recorded properly; it needed to be recorded in a big time setting. You know…proper production and excellent engineering. Since “Rising Out Of The Ashes” and now “The Holy Empire”, we are able to attain that and bring that big sound to everything. We are happy with that. With “The Holy Empire” what we wanted to do is to revisit a few…I don’t wanna say “old Warlord songs” because I reworked them; Mark and I reworked them. “Thy Kingdom Come”, “Father” and of course “City Walls of Troy” which is a very old Warlord song. We decided to close that chapter and we did have a few other songs; new songs that we could have worked with as well. But we would have lengthened the process and unfortunately the c.d. would have been released long after April. So, we wanted to close that chapter and have the c.d. out before we came to Europe.
Rockpages.gr: You mentioned “Father” and “Thy Kingdom Come” which were actually recorded right after “And The Cannons of Destruction Have Begun” with Rick Anderson actually…
Bill Tsamis: Yes.
Rockpages.gr: Are there any differences between those two versions?
Bill Tsamis: There are a lot of differences…the lyrics are completely different because on “Thy Kingdom Come”, I pretty much forgot all the lyrics except for the chorus! But riffs like that stay in my head and I think if they are staying in my head that long, they must be good. “Father”, as a song, is almost identical as when I wrote it at that time, in 1985. Now the way we played it, they way we presented it is different of course…
Mark Zonder: Well, the production is different; it’s tighter, it’s in time (laughs)! I mean, it’s the maturity of the band. It’s also what Bill told earlier about being able to record it with a proper production so you can hear everything; you can hear the voices. It’s not an 8-track recording when everything is shut down and you can’t hear anything. So, a lot of it was production…just how “clean” it is, how tight it is…I think there’s a lot of power in it, in “Father”, as compared to how we used to do it in the old days. So, it’s a little different.
Rockpages.gr: In my review of “The Holy Empire” I wrote that it is kind of a crossroad between Warlord and Lordian Guard…musically speaking. Was there ever any thought of having Mark playing drums on the Lordian Guard songs?
Bill Tsamis: I have always told people that Lordian Guard was kind of a project; it was kind of a surprise to me when it was presented to me the opportunity to do it. I did what I wanted to do but it can’t be repeated, it can’t be done again. Of course, we can take certain Lordian Guard songs and make them Warlord songs but…for instance on “Rising Out Of The Ashes” some of the songs like “War In Heaven” or “Battle of the Living Dead”, these were old Warlord songs…“Winds of Thor”…but as far as the other Lordian Guard songs, sure we can do them but I think they need to stay where they are.
Rockpages.gr: Why didn’t you use keyboards on “Rising Out Of The Ashes”? Keyboards are such an integral part of Warlord music…
Mark Zonder: I didn’t write the songs but it seems to me when I think about your question is that a lot of the songs on “Rising Out Of The Ashes” were more guitar-based…“Invaders”, “Sons Of A Dream”…I mean, yes…keyboards can enhance but the songs are more guitar-oriented; I wouldn’t say like “Child Of The Damned” but “Battle Of The Living Dead” is more of a guitar-oriented. From my point of view, I don’t think that anything’s missing. Obviously, keyboards can enhance anything but I think these were more of guitar-based songs…more edgy, I think you can say.
Bill Tsamis: In 2002, I have been out of the music business for quite a while. I really wasn’t listening to much metal and my impression was that the metal fans wanted to hear to a guitar heavy album. So, I withdrew keyboards but one thing that people don’t comment much is that behind the guitars there are a lot of high harmony guitars that decorate the songs and kind of soften them up…
Mark Zonder: Sort of like what the keyboards would do…
Bill Tsamis: Yeah, sort of like what the keyboards would do…exactly! Sure, when we play them live now, when you hear “War In Heaven” or “Winds of Thor”…something like that, you will hear a lot of keyboards, orchestration things like that. Live…they sound amazing; there’s no doubt. But I think those type of songs from a compositional standpoint they can go either way.
Rockpages.gr: If you had to start all over again with Warlord, if you had the chance to time travel would you change anything?
Mark Zonder: That’s an interesting question. The only problem with that question is…yes, it will be great to sit here and say all the positive things…change this or change that and obviously that would have an effect on other things down the line. We might not be here right now…you never know. The only thing…it’s just our problem with the singer (laughs)…we always had it. That was the only thing we always hit a wall. But bands have that problem; we are not the only band with that problem so…a singer; a full member kind of guy. That would be good…to be into it and really understood it.
Bill Tsamis: If that had happened we would have naturally gone out and play…however well we would be received…we don’t know. So, like Mark said, it’s all speculation because it didn’t happen. A lot of other great things happened in our lives and we are now here, back together doing once again what we were doing when we were 22 years old and enjoying the whole thing.
Mark Zonder: I mean it’s amazing to think that…there’s no question how old we are because obviously we didn’t do records when we were 4…OK? So, to be able to do that and play in front of crowds, like we have in the last two shows or like the ones we are gonna have in the next two shows…it’s really hard to ask for anything else. There are a lot of guys right now in our position that they are driving in a van playing shows in front of 100 people and eating sandwiches…you know what I mean. So, it’s a real good time for both of us in our lives to make it happen cause it takes a lot of time. People don’t understand that all these gigs…the KIT and the Greek stuff came up like 5 months ago. So, we started playing; we started practicing and going over the songs. Bill would do practices with the singers and Paolo (Viani), the guitar player, and Angelo (Vafeiadis), the keyboard player would be at Skype. This is not like “hey, guys, you wanna play tomorrow?”. There’s so much work into it and you gotta have the time to do that. It worked out really well.
Rockpages.gr: Now that you mentioned the singers, the problem with the singers…from all the singers that crossed the path of Warlord with which one you were happier with?
Mark Zonder: It’s funny to say that…I think a better question would be: “what can you take from each one to build the perfect one?”. That’s a different story. Jack Rucker had the voice, Joacim (Cans) had the stage presence…it’s not like Joacim doesn’t have the voice I am just picking things and…other people have the intensity or the love. That might be a better question: “how to build a singer” because they are all different; they are all good…
Bill Tsamis: Rick…Rick Anderson has the ability to understand music theory and work together harmonies with me and that sort of thing. So, it’s just like Mark said…each one had the strength and in our opinion they all did what we wanted them to do. It’s not like they showed up and started singing the melody lines according to the way they wanted to sing them. It’s not that they showed up and understood what the Warlord music is about. We had to convey to them very specifically what we wanted. I had to literally tell every singer pretty much “this is the way the song goes”. Some of them understood better than the others but we worked it out.
Rockpages.gr: I said, in the beginning of this interview, that “The Holy Empire” is the next chapter in the Warlord story. Will we see another chapter? Will you see a new Warlord record?
Mark Zonder: It’s not even out for 20 minutes and they are asking for another one (laughs)!
Bill Tsamis: We intend to. I can’t tell you any specifics…it’s not like we have a secret plan or title for the next album or anything like that at this point…but we intend to and I have always said that as long as there are people out there that want to listen to the music, we are willing to play and we are willing to record. At the beginning of this whole thing, back in August of 2011 I was under the impression that Warlord was completely dead, completely unknown, lost and long forgotten. People started to tell me “no, no”. Warlord is still alive and well. And when you have…like we had in this mini tour so to speak…18-year old fans walking up and saying I heard “Aliens” when I was 16 and from that point on I was hooked…I love it. We have a lot of young people who listen to songs like “Deliver Us” and although these songs are old to us…
Mark Zonder: They are brand new to them!
Bill Tsamis: They are new to them. For instance, if we came to Greece 10 years ago or 11 years ago when it didn’t work out with the promoters those fans would have been 8 years old…they would have been 7 years old. It worked out really well this time because we have met so many young fans and of course we appreciate all the older fans that have been from the beginning.
Mark Zonder: I think part of what we are trying to do here when you ask us about a new record is take the momentum from all these shows, from the record, from the merchandising to actually have management people that are actually helping the band instead of ne and Bill trying to do everything ourselves. It really built on that. Actually, we are recording the next two days for a DVD, we are planning the whole DVD package, we are planning the second edition of the biography…we are trying to build on the momentum. We don’t plan on just going home and staying away…there’s a lot of work to be done. Obviously music’s part of it but there is other things too that the fans want to see…the biography, the DVD…cause there are a lot of people that are not able to see the shows cause we are only playing four shows and all in Europe…nobody in America. So, we keep the ball rolling, come up with the next record, work on playing shows like big shows, good shows and stuff like that. And keep it rolling like a business basically.
Bill Tsamis: And not only that but make merchandise available because for a long time there were so many bootlegs…
Mark Zonder: That’s the worse.
Bill Tsamis…things that were being sold at ridiculous prices. We don’t want that. We want to make everything available to everyone for a reasonable price.
Rockpages.gr: How does it feel for you, as musicians, when people, including myself come up and say that your music helped them through some difficult times…?
Bill Tsamis: Honestly, I hear people telling me that all the time…and I have to ask you the question: “how did my music helped you get through these times”? Why does music do that for you?
Rockpages.gr: It’s not the music of every single band.
Mark Zonder: Certain bands?
Rockpages.gr: Just a handful of bands. It might not be only Warlord but there are only one or two more. I am speaking for myself right now but especially the Warlord songs speak straight to the heart. And it’s not only the music but the lyrics, too. Your guitar combined to Mark’s drum sound helped lots of people…it is something that I cannot really describe in words. That’s what I wrote in the review…you cannot analyze the music of Warlord…naturally, you can say a lot of things about “Glory”, “70.000 Sorrows” but it’s definitely a matter of sentiments; a matter of feelings.
Mark Zonder: That’s a great compliment to the band and that’s sort of…myself as a fan I share the same sentiments…like you said to 3-4 other bands. They give me strength. But I know what you are talking about. I understand it…it’s a great compliment. I haven’t really thought it that way. We sort of doing what we do and the fans can make it their own. However they do it, if they like or don’t like it, taking deep like you are talking about or just sitting in their car singing “Lost and Lonely Days” or whatever.
Bill Tsamis: Thankfully, none of this is planned out by us. We don’t sit down and plan…“OK, we wanna write songs and touch the souls of these people”…we just naturally do what we do and we are thankful that it hits that deeply some people like yourself.
Mark Zonder: That’s what we call “The Warlord Magic”! It is what it is!