There’s something incredibly rewarding in interviewing the veterans of the music industry whose posters once adorned your walls. There’s that immense feeling of mission accomplished whenever you help spreading the word about a young band just a step away from the well-deserved stardom. But a real privilege is to put a spotlight on people whose hard work behind the scenes keeps rock’n’roll alive – producers, sound engineers, music promoters, album artwork designers and – last, but not least – music journalists. Here’s Michael Spiggos – a Greek radio personality and mastermind behind The Michael Spiggos Melodic Rock & Metal Show – chatting with me about his radio show, the twists and turns of music journalism, his involvement with Melodic Rock veterans TEN… and a lot more!
Alexandra Mrozowska: As I’ve already stepped into your interrogation room twice, Michael, now it’s time to switch the roles…
Michael Spiggos: First of all, I would like to say that I am honoured to be here! As you know, I have been watching your work and your progress closely and I have to say that what you have achieved all these years is impressive! Once again you’ve managed to turn your new endeavor into something unique and captivating at the same time. I wish you all the very best with it!
AM: Thank you! So, having started on such a positive note, let’s continue with good news. Since the beginning of August, your show – The Michael Spiggos Melodic Rock & Metal Radio Show – will be airing on Wacken Open Air’s Radio Station, Wacken Radio. What’s prompted such a change? Was a previous experience with Rock Radio UK a positive one?
MS: Yes, as you very rightfully pointed out, I was fortunate enough to join Wacken Radio a couple of weeks ago. A friend of mine, who has actually been featured on the show a couple of times already, Aura Gabriela Danciulescu, the singer of the Romanian Heavy Metal band Scarlet Aura (check them out if you haven’t already), dropped me a message asking me if I would be interested to join the station (Wacken Radio). Aura is presenting her own show there as well (entitled Go Wild) and both the station, as well as the network that owns it – Rautemusik, was looking to expand on its roster of English speaking presenters. I was presenting my show on Rock Radio UK for 5 years already by then and despite the fact that it has become a family after such a long time, I thought that a big network such as this would offer me the opportunity to challenge myself, grow as a presenter and of course allow me to showcase the featured bands to an even wider audience. After all, I have always made a point that the bands are the centerpiece to it all and this is the main reason I’m doing the show in the first place. I have to note here that Rock Radio UK was not my first stint on Radio or internet radio in general, since I started out about 10 years ago on a local FM radio station here in Corfu, Greece. Then, I made the jump to UK Radio, namely Firebrand Rock Radio, Platinum Rock Radio, I had a short stint to an American Radio network named 365 Radio Network and then finally to Rock Radio UK. I’m really excited about what the future will bring, Alexandra. Even more so for the fact that everyone in the Wacken team has treated me like a family member since day one. The least I can do is to say a big THANK YOU for your trust!
AM: The main part of each of your shows is an interview with a guest – usually, an artist. Why did you decide on such a formula and was it always this way?
MS: The idea was that seeing as everyone on radio is practically DJ-ing – as in picking a number of tracks and presenting them to the listeners, I thought that bringing the artists on the forefront would be a nice change of pace for the occasional listener. Back when I first started out of course, there wasn’t a clear cut plan as such. But as time wore on and my collaboration with the record labels, the publicists etc. became more substantial, the idea dawned on me – a show following this format is something that I could definitely provide. As I started requesting more and more interviews I ended up thinking that I should turn this into a different kind of show, where the music presented will belong to the same genre as the featured artist. After all, I was always after the musical approach when it comes to putting a playlist together, since the track that followed had to somehow connect with the track that preceded it, always following a certain musical sensibility. So, it was only natural that I would finally come up with this format in the end. Having said that, as far as the interviews themselves are concerned, I am perfectly aware of the fact that the attention span of the casual listener is short. However, I like to think that people following the show are not only interested to listen to the featured music (and find out about some new and exciting bands as well), but also to get to know the person behind the music, especially since I’m consciously trying to stay away from the strict question-answer-question-answer formula when it comes to the interviews themselves. I’ve made a point to allow all the featured interviews to flow like a conversation, as per the example of the late night shows on American television. I’m honoured to say that it has worked out brilliantly so far. After all this time, it has become more like a friends reunion really, since the bands are appearing and reappearing year after year, following their album releases closely. I have to say that I’m extremely happy for that and of course about the fact that over the years I have made some good musician friends. Plus, if I could also point out the self improving aspect of it all, it has also allowed me to work on my listening skills. People do tend to forget how important it really is to be able to listen to what the others have to say. It makes a whole world of difference in everything really.
AM: Out of all the radio interviews you’ve done so far, can you think of any that were particularly memorable? Any funny stories you’d like to share?
MS: I’m honoured to say almost all of them! All the guests that have appeared on the show over the years have been brilliant in one way or another and I’m happy to say that I remember all of them very fondly! Even more so for the fact that we’re talking about very unique personalities, each and every one of them! If I should really namedrop some artists, I would definitely have to mention Darrel Treece-Birch (TEN, Nth Ascension, solo), with whom we’re always having so much to say and he’s usually the first guest every year, opening it with some of his musical picks, Liv Kristine, with whom we’re always having some very insightful interviews and also of course, Dianne Van Giersbergen (Ex Libris, ex-Xandria), Heidi Parviainen (Dark Sarah), Chris Bay (Freedom Call), Michael Voss (Mad Max), Karl Groom (Threshold), Michael Schenker, Mark Jansen (Epica), Zuberoa&Gorka (Diabulus In Musica), Caterina Nix, Fabio D’Amore (Serenity), Jyrki 69 (The 69 Eyes), Maestro Mistheria (Vivaldi Metal Project), Roy Khan (Conception), Helge Engelke (Fair Warning), Morten Veland (Sirenia), Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon), HJ & Sonny (Nemesea), Brittney Slayes (Unleash The Archers), Kobra Paige (Kobra And The Lotus), Greg McKintosh (Paradise Lost), Noora Louhimo (Battle Beast), Anton Kabanen (Beast In Black), Tuomas Seppala (Amberian Dawn), Aydan (Elvenking), Bjorn Strid (The Night Flight Orchestra, Soilwork), Maaike Siegerist, Pi (Lord Of The Lost), Jennifer Haben (Beyond The Black), Michael Ehre (The Unity), Siegfried Samer (Dragony), Nils Molin (Dynazty, Amaranthe), Chandler Mogel (Outloud), Marco Hietala (Nightwish, solo), Jesse Damon, Peter (Feuerschwanz), Paul Logue (ex-Eden’s Curse), Melissa Bonny (Rage Of Light, Ad Infinitum), Leon Russell (Warmrain), Hans Ziller (Bonfire), Luca Selitto (Stamina, solo), Edwin Premberg (Metalite), Mike Andersson (Tungsten), Irene Jansen, Leah, Dave Bickler (ex-Survivor), Robert Tepper, Sophia Aslanides & Zombie Sam (Season Of Ghosts), Dani (Last Days Of Eden), Henrik Flyman (Evil Masquerade), Hein Frode Hansen (Theatre Of Tragedy), Elina Siirala (Leaves Eyes & Angel Nation), Marco Pastorino (Temperance), Will Graney (Damnation Angels), Maja (Forever Still), Marco Pavic & Joe Calabro (Pavic), Ben Christo (Sisters Of Mercy, ex-Night By Night), Mona Miluski (High Fighter), Fernando Ribeiro (Moonspell), Aura (Scarlet Aura), LG Person (Beyond The Katakomb), Anna Bowman (Ann My Guard), Alexandra Revontulet (Alexandrite), Linda, Ken & Victor (Follow The Cipher), Lieven De Wolf (Megasonic), Marko Vehmanen (Crow’s Flight), Asa Netterbrant (ex-Zephyra), Tim Manford (Dante Fox), Steve Newman (Newman), Jorn Viggo Lofstadt (Pagan’s Mind, Northward), Clementine Delauney (Visions Of Atlantis), Anna Brunner (Exit Eden), the guys from Sleeping Romance, Victor Smolski (Almanac), Oliver Hartmann (Hartmann), Micke Larsson (Coldspell), Joaqim Broden (Sabaton), Frederick Thunder (NeonFly), The Crusader (Warkings), Tony Clarkin (Magnum), Lance King, Andy B. Franck (Brainstorm), Piet Sielck (Iron Saviour), Fiona Creaby (Fallen Arise), Jan-Christian, Nikolas and Markus (Mob Rules), Markus Siepen (Blind Guardian), Udo Dirkschneider and Doro. There are so many stories to tell really… Perhaps when (if?) I get my pension, I’ll write a book or something. Who knows? Maybe people will find it interesting! No matter what though, I have to say that EVERY interview has been a learning experience for me as well and I’m saying this even though I am a self proclaimed anti-social and a proud introvert (laughs). Among the established ones though, there have always been a number of up and coming bands/artists who just happened to have made their radio debut on the show. Seeing them sign to major labels and/or performing on world tours and appearing on the biggest festivals around, makes it all worthwhile really for me.
AM: We both know that musicians are usually wonderful interviewees as they are storytellers. But do you remember any interview that was somewhat of a challenge for any reason?
MS: To be entirely honest, that would be my very first interview with Mark Jansen of Epica. This must have been about 7 years ago or something. Asking for this interview back in the day was a big thing for me and I remember that when I received the confirmation for the interview I felt somewhat overwhelmed. And I’m saying this even though I’m not one of those people who would feel daunted by someone’s presence, stature or popularity. Mark was brilliant though throughout and has been on the show three more times since then. Exactly the same case was my first interview with Liv Kristine as well. I’ve been following her for years and years and so, when the confirmation came, again, I was almost lost for words. I’m always mentioning it to her whenever she’s on the show, and we’re always having a laugh about it! She remains one of my favourite people to talk to, mainly because she’s the living proof of how layered and approachable an artist is and should be, both as a person and as a musician.
AM: Hypothetically, how would you handle an interview with a guest who doesn’t seem too eager to talk at all?
MS: I remember one or two instances, but the problem was clearly the language barrier or the fact that it actually was their very first interview, than any other reason. I’m always picking this up quickly enough though and I’m consciously trying to break the ice so to speak, even though it doesn’t always work. Having said that, I’m proud to say that I’ve never had any instances of negative behaviour whatsoever. I know we’re constantly dealing with different personalities, but so far I haven’t had to deal with any diva-like behaviours. If this was the case, I’d be wrapping the interview up in 5 minutes or something. Respect is very important and that has always been my rule number one in everything I do and with everyone I’m involved in – as long as this is a given for the other person involved as well.
AM: The world of music is full of clichés, Rock/Metal music being no exception to that. How do you manage to avoid repetitions and come up with a set of questions that’s different and interesting every single time?
MS: I’m always preparing a set of about 15-20 questions a couple of days before the interview itself, but I’m only using them as a guideline of sorts. I’m figuratively tearing them to pieces right before the interview begins though, since my objective is to just be the mediator to what the artist has to say and what he/she stands for. My goal is to let their personalities shine through. This is the artist’s spotlight and I’m always making a point that this is the show’s purpose in the first place. That doesn’t mean that if the opportunity arises I won’t delve deep into subjects that I’m very interested in, like philosophy, history, sociology, psychology or even art in general. If there is an opportunity to make a few jokes in between too though, we most definitely will as well!
AM: Obviously, your show usually features artists and songs who can be broadly classified as Melodic Rock/Metal. Can you think of an instance when you’d bend the rules and invite a representative of a genre that’s drastically different from the usual?
MS: Absolutely! And I’m really hoping that I’ll be able to do it again! I’m not going after artists who belong to a single genre really. I can play anything from Power Metal, to Progressive Metal/Rock, to Gothic Metal/Rock, to Symphonic Metal, to AOR, to Hard Rock, to Jazz even. I remember back in 2017 a singer I got to know through her work with the Dutch Progressive Metal band Alarion (a release which also gave me the opportunity to interview the brilliant Irene Jansen – the sister of Floor Jansen – whom you may remember from her work with Gary Hughes on his Once And Future King albums and a number of Arjen Lucassen’s Star One and Ayreon albums). Her name is Maaike Siegerist and back then she released her debut solo album entitled Born Before The Wind. It was a Jazz Rock album and I was very happy to have the opportunity to invite her to the show to talk about it and make a proper showcase of it! She’s a brilliant singer and we’re still in touch! I’m watching her progress and I’m very, very happy for her! Two more very interesting musicians that I have pursued for an interview would be the German Country-Rock singer Van De Forst and Kate Pavli of the Alternative Rock band Finding Kate. Additionally, I think I should also mention Eva Sakellari from Greece. I’m always after promising bands no matter the genre, as long as there is potential and the artists have something to say. There are quite a few out there actually!
AM: What kind of feedback do you get from your listeners and does it happen that they suggest you the artists to feature in the next shows?
MS: There is indeed a very close connection with the listeners, whose opinion I rate very highly. Even more so with those that have been with me and supporting the show all these years. These people are coming from an impressive array of countries like the UK, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Greece, Russia and even Japan. I’m blessed to have these people around me and keep me company every week during the show. I really can’t thank them enough for their precious support and I’m proud and happy to call them friends! The show would be nothing without them! Having said that, I’ve never featured requests on my show, since I feel there are radio presenters around who can do it so much better than I do. I do put a lot of work into the show during the week to do what I do, despite the fact that my daily responsibilities (work, family) won’t allow me much spare time. Picking the guest and the songs that will complement the featured band is a full time job onto itself and I’m putting a lot of thought into it every time. A lot of thought though!
AM: Is there an artist you’d love to invite to the show but haven’t so far?
MS: There are quite a few actually, like David Coverdale, Ville Valo, Tarja Turunen, Joe Lynn Turner, Geoff Tate, Chris DeGarmo, Marilyn Manson or Robert Smith but I don’t dwell on those that I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to yet. I wish I’d have the opportunity to interview Peter Steele or Chris Cornell though, who are not with us anymore. Still, I feel blessed that I’m having the opportunity to talk to ANY and all bands that I do and I don’t really rate a band’s quality according to its popularity. What I do pay attention to though, is the band’s potential, because over the years I have had the honour to be among the first interviewers to bands which ended up rising and signing to major labels, which brings a certain degree of satisfaction and makes it all worthwhile. Having said that, if I had to go across a different genre entirely, it’d be great if I had the chance to interview Adele. She appears to be a great person to interview and I must admit that I love her voice.
AM: It’s hard to deny her talent. So, as your show is certainly not about nostalgia, can you think of any exceptionally talented young acts we should keep on our radar from now on?
MS: Many Alexandra! I have made a point since my first day on Radio NOT to fall into the nostalgia bandwagon. I’m playing music that I like listening to and I’m certainly not dwelling on what has been before. No matter what though, from my third year on radio or so, I found myself getting more and more interested to signed artists, no matter the popularity of the label they belonged to. If I could mention a couple of very interesting bands, these would be Warmrain, Delta Enigma, Metalite, Ad Infinitum, Angelwings, Forever Still, Blue Rising and Scarlet Dorn. I’ve recently taken note of a very interesting band from Australia, Victoria K, who very recently released a brilliant debut album, entitled Essentia. From the melodic rock genre, the band Wildness released a brilliant album some years ago and I am looking forward to the new solo albums of my very good friends Darrel Treece-Birch and Steve Grocott, who are both playing in TEN.
AM: Now let’s look back a bit. Was the radio – as a medium – an important part of your childhood and youth?
MS: Funnily enough… Not at all Alexandra! Radio in Greece is… all over the place really. I hate the so-called traditional or national music of Greece and to be honest I didn’t grow up with these sounds at all. There is no “mainstream” Rock/Metal education here in Greece and I feel that there’s a deep sociopsychological reason for this. It’s not part of the mentality of the people and most of them don’t rate music the same way as most people in Europe do… The western musical forms are not part of their education, hence it is not familiar enough for them.
For many here in Greece music is just background noise, a passing sound and I have noticed that this hasn’t changed with the passing of the generations. It’s only getting worse really. The language barrier is of course, another reason. There are brilliant underground Rock/Metal bands though. Having said that, there is also a strong Blues movement as well, but this is another genre I never understood. It is a genre that needs to be done exceptionally well in order to get my attention, otherwise it feels contrived, superficial and forced and I hate that in music. I generally like being surrounded by objectively beautiful and exceptionally layered things and art is no exception to the rule.
AM: Having said that, can you still recall any radio personalities, of your homeland or otherwise, who influenced you and shaped your approach as a radio show host?
MS: I remember one or two, but I can’t say that they have influenced me at all. I’ve never been big on listening to radio as such. Perhaps it was for the better, since I did my own thing without being influenced by anyone whatsoever! When I said to myself that I wanted to do radio, the main reason was that I would have the opportunity to showcase a different aspect of music to local FM radio. It certainly wasn’t going to happen in order to satisfy my vanity. Even my full name was not important, since I used to go by just my name… “Michael”. My name isn’t really important still. The artists and their music is and I’m just the mediator. I just happen to be blessed enough to be the one shaping playlists of good music, to feature some very interesting personalities as special guests and to have the best listeners/friends in the world who have to bear with my strange voice and old fashioned sense of humour for two hours every week.
AM: Not that they have any reason to complain… But you’re absolutely right about being only the mediator – we’re here to give the artists an outlet to express themselves. And speaking of “we the journos”, you’re also no stranger to press journalism. Surely many people remember you were a writer at the music webzine Rock Overdose. How did it all start and what do you think were the highlights of your tenure there?
MS: I think it all started with the first appearance of TEN in Greece back in ‘12. I’m working for TEN as the band’s press contact and webmaster, so I’m in touch with a considerable number of magazines, webzines, and radio stations. When the gig in Athens was finalized, the guys from Rock Overdose got in touch with me, as the band’s press contact, in order to arrange an exclusive interview with Gary Hughes. Apparently my radio work came to their attention as well, so I ended up not only scheduling the interview, but coming up with the interview questions as well. Funnily enough, it was my first interview for Rock Overdose and it was for the band I’m blessed to be working for– and my favourite singer as well. Overall, I remember I did about 50-60 or so interviews for them, but I have always consciously stayed away from reviewing music. As far as highlights are concerned, seeing as I booked quite a few myself, I’d have to go with some that I didn’t, so I’d definitely have to mention the ones I did with Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, Eric Bloom of Blue Öyster Cult and Joe Lynn Turner!
AM: Was Rock Overdose the only webzine you’ve ever contributed to?
MS: I remember I did some online magazine work during the time my show was being featured on Firebrand Rock Radio. The station was running different editions of their Firebrand Magazine and I remember I compiled one or two lists of albums I found interesting, in a top 5 format. I still remember that this was back in ‘12 and one of these albums was Artlantica’s debut album Across The Seven Seas. Such a magnificent piece of work indeed! It is a very highly recommended album, also featuring my very good friend maestro Mistheria of The Vivaldi Metal Project!
AM: Why did you decide to quit press journalism and decided to focus on your radio show only? How did the idea of a radio show start?
MS: It was lack of time mainly and a feeling that the circle has closed. I’m blessed to be running an engineering firm as well as teaching as a full time job, on top of helping out my dear friends TEN and Gary Hughes – endeavours that are asking for my full attention 24/7.At the same time though, seeing as the show was picking up pace, I felt that I needed to shift my attention to something of my own entirely and that was it. I am fiercely independent like that. I would like to thank Zisis of Rock Overdose for the good times we’ve had during my time on the webzine though. Everything we do in life is an opportunity to grow and become better in all aspects of our lives.
AM: Absolutely! What do you think is the future of music journalism? Do we still need reviewers in the age of instant access to music and interviewers in the age of live Q&A sessions?
MS: It’s certainly not going well and the younger people especially do tend to shift their focus in an instant, so unless we’re talking about people very particular to what they like, or people mature beyond their years, one can’t really rely on their own marketing power. I’ve noticed as well, that the lengths of the pop tracks is getting shorter, so as to abide to “YouTube” standards. On the other hand, rock and metal labels know very well that it still is extremely important to be able to do proper showcases of their releases, because the genres they’re dealing with presupposes that the followers of these genres are very particular to what they like and who they’re following. Most Rock/Metal music followers are deeper people like that. Some of them are traditional as well and are indeed still following webzines and are listening to radio whenever they have the time. That’s one thing that may not change yet. Yet! It depends on the genre though, the band and its followers. Still, musical journalists are persevering, solely relying on their personality traits and how distinctly they are pushing themselves to the general public, compared to the rest that are on abundant offer. It could be a radio show, but it could also be a YouTube channel, so you never know what grabs the attention of the music fans. One thing’s for sure though, the people have the power to choose what they will read/listen/watch, so I’d say that a distinctly knowledgeable personality always has better chances than the rest. With that in mind, I’d say that it’s always nice to let it shine sometimes – but not to the extreme. Under the light of the recent developments though, one can’t be sure on where we’ll be standing next year, let alone in 5-10 years time.
AM: You’ve mentioned your work behind the scenes for the British Melodic Rock veterans TEN a couple of times already. How did it all start and what kind of experience is it?
MS: Apart from my professional career, this is my life’s work hands down. I got involved back in mid 2010 when the band was about to re-emerge after their 4 year hiatus. I started working with Jason Thanos, and got around to putting together the band’s official MySpace page, which was still a thing back then. Not long after, I got involved into the band’s official Facebook page. Stormwarning was released in February of 2011 and by October of the same year I started designing the first edition of TEN’s official webpage. There have been 6 editions of the page since and I’m always looking to improve it every day, as well as to keep in touch with fan and press requests every single day of the week. While running the page I started building the contact list for the band, which now is consisted of a significantly large number of radio stations and webzines all around the world. I’m blessed to be part of this and this really is a family to me. We’ve gone through quite a lot together all those years and I’m happy to see the band prospering every year! As long as I will draw breath, I will be at Gary’s side no matter what – in everything he’s involved in. He’s like a brother to me.
AM: I think everyone who came across Gary at some point holds him in high regard – him and his talent of course! Speaking of that, you’ve mentioned being Gary’s fan for a long time and essentially, every music journalist starts as a music fan. When and how did you discover Rock/Metal and what were your first discoveries? How did your taste in music evolve throughout the years?
MS: That’s a funny story indeed Alexandra! I got into Rock/Metal VERY late, since up until the second year of high school I was 100% into Classical/opera music. My parents signed me up to a local wind orchestra when I was 8 years old. We used to play everything from classical music through and through, to movie soundtracks, to opera covers, to real opera performances. Corfu has a long history of wind bands after all and it was only natural that both me and my sister would join such a band. I have played in a number of wind orchestras in my time – up until recently really, and not only my main orchestra instrument (clarinet), but also some percussion. My parents had a number of vinyls though and songs like “Eye Of The Tiger”, “No Easy Way Out”, “Don’t Fear The Reaper”, or music by ABBA is still in my ears. The first metal band I listened to was Theatre Of Tragedy when I was about 16 and it has changed my perspective in music forever. Liv Kristine’s voice was (and still is) out of this world. Ethereal. From Theatre Of Tragedy I jumped into bands like Nightwish and then bands like HIM, Sentenced, The 69 Eyes, Charon, Type O Negative, Sisters Of Mercy, Marilyn Manson, Tristania, Sirenia, Kamelot etc. During my university years I got deeply into guitar playing so I got heavily into ‘70s Hard Rock and Prog Rock and then to ‘80s Hard Rock, which in turn got me into Melodic Hard Rock and especially TEN, which is a band that has changed my life. I haven’t returned to ‘70s Hard Rock in full force since, but I’m alternating between Gothic Metal, Symphonic Metal, Progressive Metal, Power Metal, Prog Rock and Melodic Hard Rock by the day. It’s like a split personality disorder or something going on. Or then again… Not! (laughs)
AM: Having already spoken about your experience as a musician, how do you think it influences your reception of music and approach towards other musicians?
MS: My personal experience with music didn’t just change my perception of music but life in general. This is something that we have pointed out with many symphonic metal singers and especially with Dianne Van Giersbergen and Liv Kristine. Growing up getting taught music theory and Classical music in general, somehow complements any so called character deficiencies someone may have and hold. You get taught “perfection”. You can’t present to the public anything of lesser quality in any way shape or form… If I was a bit OCD before that, my involvement with Classical music actually sealed the deal and this is something that I implement in everything I do (laughs). If I can be frank with you, I am consciously like that now in every aspect of my life and I have worked a lot in order to come to this point. I can’t say that I didn’t struggle with it during my early years and my late teens, especially during the time before I came into realization of where the roots of the problem were lying and before I found out how exactly I could turn all this into something creative and into results of acceptable enough quality.
AM: As we’ve entered the second half of the year, what do you think are the best albums of 2020 released so far? Is there any you really look forward to?
MS: This is a very difficult question indeed Alexandra! I was really happy to see Roy Khan come back to the scene a year or so ago and Conception’s comeback album this year, State Of Deception was a brilliant release indeed. I also really liked Ad Infinitum’s new album Chapter 1: Monarchy, Marko Hietala’s solo album Pyre Of The Black Heart, The Night Flight Orchestra’s Aeromantic, Paradise Lost’s Obsidian, Unleash The Archers’ Abyss, Lord Of The Lost’s Swan Songs III, Serenity’s The Last Knight, Temperance’s Viridian, Damnation Angel’s Fiber Of Our Being, Captain Blackbeard’s Sonic Forces, Magnum’s The Serpent Rings, Mad Max’s Stormchild Rising, Brothers Of Metal’s Emblas Saga, Dynazty’s The Dark Delight, Vanishing Point’s Dead Elysium, Ravenword’s Transcendence, Feuerschanz’s Das ElfteGebot and Nightwish’s Human.:II: Nature albums. I also have to mention Liv Kristine’s comeback single release “Skylight”, who is the first female singer I ever heard and I’m happy to call a friend after all these years and so many interviews together! In regards to albums I’m looking forward to, I’m really looking forward to the new Helion Prime album featuring Mary Zimmer (she’s a brilliant singer indeed) and also of course the new Draconian album, the new Amaranthe album and what my friend Gary Hughes may come up with this year or the next. I must confess that I’d also love to hear a new Sirenia album, since it’s already been quite some time since the last one! There’s also something very interesting coming from my friend Mr. Darrel Treece-Birch by the way, so I’m absolutely looking forward to that as well!
AM: All this sounds like interviews with Darrel and hopefully Gary coming, sooner or later (laughs). But on the other hand, beyond all the great albums you’ve mentioned, 2020 will be long remembered for other reasons… How is the current situation in Greece?
MS: That’s a sad tale indeed Alexandra. I believe the government here handled the situation extremely well during the lockdown, but everything went south as soon as the tourist season was about to kickstart. As with every situation that involves a crisis, everything in Greece was handled abysmally and the cases are skyrocketing by the day. I understand why they felt that they should bring the people before their responsibilities (the intention was to save the economy), but you can’t put all this onto the people – and especially to people who feel they are entitled to everything. The government felt that they should either force a lockdown without a care for the economic consequences, or allow everyone to be exposed to the problem. There was no middle ground for them. Very sad indeed. I have family in my care and I’m also running a private business and there are some days where I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders.
AM: I certainly know what you mean. During the lockdown, we’ve all interviewed (and sympathized with) many artists whose plans for 2020 have been drastically altered. What do you think are the long-term effects this situation will have on the music industry, in your homeland and beyond?
MS: Everything has changed for everyone who is actively involved with music Alexandra. As you know, most bands relied on their live dates and their merchandise sales and not on their contracts with the record labels they belong to, or to digital album sales (sic.) in order to stay alive and active. Everyone has been hit hard, from the festival organizers to the bands themselves, especially since the festival season was brought to the ground and surely, no one can tell which venues will still be around come autumn/winter. Amidst the destruction and despair though, it was nice to see bands and artists coming up with new ways to make it viable for them to carry on. I remember I caught up with Liv Kristine for example during the lockdown and she announced that she started offering vocal lessons. Other bands, moved towards the live stream gig format, which, I find, is a nice enough alternative. I’m sure that people actively following a band, would definitely not mind paying a ticket to have the opportunity to watch their favourite band play from the comfort of their homes. My homeland is another story entirely Alexandra. There’s no mainstream Rock/Metal singer/songwriter scene. Just producers writing songs for singers who are profiteering by singing in clubs on a permanent basis for thousands of euros every night, singing nonsensical superficial music to stupefied people underneath. I still don’t understand who comes up with this kind of money nowadays. I mean I actually do, but it’s not something I’d actually get in depth about in friendly company.
AM: So to change a topic and to end our interview on a positive note, would you like to wrap it up with some kind of message to our readers?
MS: Of course! First of all, I would like to wholeheartedly thank you for giving me the opportunity to catch up with you Alexandra. I was honoured to be here and I wish you all the very best for your new endeavor! I would also like to say to everyone reading this that life always finds a way to give us the opportunity to show what we are made of. At the end of the day, in every crisis every person has to find the strength to adapt to the new situation successfully, always across the borders of his/her own distinct personality and his/her own personal limits. Our responsibility towards that and to ourselves is to be strong and to face all that comes with dignity and clear conscience. It’s not easy – it’s never easy actually – but the work you’ve done on yourself all your life (providing that you have), always pays off during the times when there is no light to guide the way. Trust in yourselves, keep strong, find your call and actively try to become the best you can possibly be, every day, in everything you do. This is the only thing that actually makes life worth living.