Efthemis Karadimas: “I took a look in the history of Nightfall – that’s what they call memories – and I realized that Nightfall’s story is similar to a Netflix play or movie. It has four seasons, which are divided in four labels, in four different decades with four different line-ups. It happened accidentally, we did not mean to do that.”
Acht jaar na de voorganger ‘Casseopia’ is het Griekse Nightfall terug om een volgend hoofdstuk te schrijven in hun lange carrière. De Hellenistische grondleggers van occulte extreme metal met mediterrane gloed graven diep in de innerlijke ziel om het belangrijke thema van depressie aan te snijden op ‘At Night We Prey’. Spraakwaterval Efthimis Karadimas vertelt openhartig over de lange weg naar een nieuwe start.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 06 april 2021
How did the new album ‘At Night We Prey’ come into being?
We were working on this album for about three years. Initially it was only the music, but then – when I had some personal problems myself when I lost my mother and I had to help my father who is suffering from heavy Parkinson – I got totally collapsed. So I asked for help and I learned that I also suffered from depression. I said to the guys: this is a very big lesson and we have to communicate that. We are going to put that topic on the album and so the album was named ‘At Night We Prey’. This is how it all started, so for me it is a very big step forward, because it is a very delicate issue.
Indeed, this must be your most personal album ever I guess…
I think yes it is, but it is not only personal. What we are doing with this album, it reminds me of the days of the eighties or the seventies when bands released albums to pass a message to people. Usually social messages. That habit disappeared in the nineties and totally disappeared in 2000 and onwards. Nowadays most albums come out because of music and that’s it. Concept-wise it is different concept. It depends, if it is death metal or black metal or heavy metal. So I am very proud that I have found the courage to speak about it, because it is not easy. I heard from some people in the family that they got really alienated. They don’t know what depression is, so they asked my sister: what is it about? I told to my sister: don’t tell them anything, they don’t understand. If you don’t sit down and read about this thing called depression, you cannot explain. It is a very big issue.
Indeed, I can imagine it a bit due to the loss of my parents too…
It is like you are dying inside and then you are reborn. It rises from the ashes, like a new self after all these things happen. Yes, it is a very difficult time. There is not only depression, there is also misconception in the world. When somebody suffered from depression, he has a dim face or she is looking down, he or she is not laughing, not having fun and stuff like that… this is bullshit. I laughed and had a good time with friends, I drink and I am more or less an okay guy, a typical guy, but depression is something that you have inside of you. Depression is the demons that come in late at night in your mind when you try to relax, when you are alone and try to regain energy for the next day. This is where this fucking thing strikes you merciless. It is not during the day when you have company around and have things to do. This is a lesson that I got from the doctor, he was telling me about this thing, because I was also thinking in stereotypes. I thought: Okay one day I will not feel that good. Okay one day I will have some concerns, but it is no problem, it happens to anybody. But it was not like that. This is something very important. We are coming from a long pause.
Yes, the second one, because I remember there was a break before two last albums as well…
The truth is – because I expected that question from many people – I took a look in the history of Nightfall – that’s what they call memories – and I realized that Nightfall’s story is similar to a Netflix play or movie. It has four seasons, which are divided in four labels, in four different decades with four different line-ups. It happened accidentally, we did not mean to do that. So we have the nineties with Holy Records, then we have the zeros with Black Lotus, a Greek label. Then we have the tenths with Metal Blade and now in the twenties we have Season of Mist. This makes me think that as a band we like change. We like to change members, we like to change a little bit the style, we are not the kind of people who want to stay stable to somebody, not monotonous. We like to move forward, with the bad and the good times of course. I am very happy that we now have the opportunity to start our fourth season. A new decade, a new line-up, a new record.
About that line-up: guitarist Mike Galiatsos came back. That was long ago! Last album he played on was ‘I Am Jesus’… did you always keep in contact with him?
He was in the first season of the band. Let me tell you the story of Mike with Nightfall. It is interesting because you may see it as a parable, as something… It is not a good example, everybody who’s going to read this has to keep that in mind. Mike did a mistake, but he did a mistake by himself. It was back in early 2000 when the line-up was changing again and we had George Kollias as drummer of the band. George was a big fan of Nightfall, he was a cool guy and we became friends and everything. But George at that time also played with a project of Mike. They played some sort of heavy metal stuff. Someday somehow – I really don’t know the reason why – they got a fight. They got some bad blood together. I said to myself: ‘okay that is no problem, they are big guys, they are going to find a way to fix that’. But they did not… and Mike did a really stupid thing. He called me and he told me: ‘It is finished. I cannot play with George anymore, because we got a fight and I don’t like him. He does not like me and it is either him or me.’ This is what I told him: ‘What are you talking about? In this band you are more than welcome. Both of you. We are doing a good job, it is silly to do that, to put me in that situation, having to decide for the band to go out one way or the other and especially for a problem that did not raised from this band. It has nothing to do with this band. So please respect the business of our band and stay, with George, and let us do the next album.’ But his ego back then was bigger than his rational thinking, so he placed himself out of the band. So we had some contact during the years, but that remained a thorn in our relationship. I chose peace with everybody, as long as it makes sense, and in serve of the purpose of the band. Our friendship did not die and back in 2017, when we were about to release a new album with The Slayerking and tour with Avatarium; I got a call from Mike, asking me: ‘Hey, would you like to do something with Nightfall again?’ And I told him: ‘Times have changed. Romans have died. The scene is not like it used to be. Now it is more like an industry, where numbers count and you have to play by the book.’ I told him that I wanted to go on with The Slayerking, simple band, only playing music and that’s it… unless we come up with a very good story with Nightfall. Then we should think about it. So he insisted and we started jamming together, but not for Nightfall. Just to start playing together, because we had some chemistry. Like I told you in the beginning, it was only when I was thinking about my depression, that I told Mike and the other guys: ‘Now we have a very serious concept to share with the people, with the world. I am okay, we will make a real record and tell about it.’ So it all started by that time. It is a long story, I haven’t told anybody. It is very sensitive information. I share it with you because I feel that you understand what I am talking about. We are talking about human feelings, most of them don’t understand. But I feel like you understand what I mean, so I felt I want to share it with you.
Am I allowed to publish that?
Yes, it is no problem. I am okay with Mike. George Kollias is a good friend. He is playing with Nile. There is no problem. My policy in life in to create bridges, not to destroy or tear down bridges. This is an open eye philosophy, I want to make it right with Mike and George. I think they have more in common than apart. It was a battle that happened twenty years ago and life went on. We became older and wiser. We are middle aged guys, not kids. So I think we should not combat. It is not a big deal. There is nothing so personal in my life than my struggle with depression. Since I want to share this personal information with the world, I don’t think it is an issue. Mike did not do anything bad. He did a mistake, when he said he wanted to leave the band because he could not play with the other guy, so he puts himself out of a band that he loves and likes, because of what? It is a big lesson and I am sure he is going to present it that way. It is a lesson we can share, especially with younger people. It is good to be true about feelings and good to be true about the mistakes you have done, because this is the only way to remain true to ourselves and true to the music we are playing. Because metal has something special. It is not like pop music, which is about music and having fun. We are supposed to serve problems here, this is what we do.
Fotis Benardo is a very famous name as drummer and producer. How did he join the current line-up of Nightfall?
Fotis is also a fan of Nightfall. Not as big as Kollias, because Kollias claims to be the biggest Nightfall fan (laughs). We were very close to play with Fotis, back in the days with ‘Diva Futura’, but in the end we went on with Marc Cross, a German guy who was fit for the business, because ‘Diva Futura’ is a mid-tempo album with a rock approach, so we gave the job to a guy who was fit for that. Fotis did not play with another band as a drummer after he left Septicflesh. He did some singing in his own band, but he didn’t play any drums. We got in contact about two years ago and we talked about the possibilities to play, to jam actually. One thing led to another and the four of us became a reunited band with Greeks. We also made the decision that this band will hit the stages again, others than many years. So we agreed to go back to performances and live gigs, something we missed for almost twenty years. After ‘Diva Futura’ I made the decision to play only in the studio, rather than being a live band. Since then depression came up. Now we took that decision especially after the tour with The Slayerking where I had a great time. I said to myself: okay, let’s fucking do it again. Let’s do it with Nightfall. It is going to be awesome, because we have so many tracks. It is going to be really great to present them on stage.
You will enjoy it more than when you are a busy touring band…
Mike has not been out for touring in twenty years and Fotis was touring with Septicflesh many years ago too. So we are pretty thirsty and our appetite is great to hit the road. If it wasn’t for covid-19, we would have hit the road this coming month with Draconian. That would be a really great opportunity for us, because they are cool guys too. But now, unfortunately, we had to postpone it for one year and we don’t have much to do. We have to find alternative ways to promote the band and the new album on line. Maybe with streaming, maybe do more videos, I don’t know. I have to think about it.
Are there plans for proper music videos in the near future?
We are working on an Adidas video clip with a French team. They are really cool guys. It is a production team that did a very nice documentary for Chris Holms, the ex-WASP guy and they did an Annihilator video clip two years ago. The guys are based in France and we wanted to meet, but flights are not allowed, so covid-19 put its toll on that as well. We should have the video ready in January, but with all these delays, we set it to March. And then we are going to have some lyric videos from the tracks. We are thinking about a live streaming in the studio. It is going to be permitted, maybe we are going to do that. We have to be sure that the quality is going to be top. In general we spend too much time behind our screens, so in order to spend one and a half hour to watch a streaming concert, it needs to be special.
How long did it take before you were over it?
I am still not over it. I am struggling with it, but at least from the moment I learned about it, I try to channel all my energy and all my over-thinking and all my considerations and fears into the creative channel of Nightfall. So I enjoy every single moment of it, including the conversations with different people, like you. Like what we are doing right now, for me it is a holy moment, because I can share my thoughts with people around the world who know the band and me and they have something interesting to say to me as well. So it is for me a wonderful time and it helps to overcome it.
I was only worried about the fact that if you have to talk about it so much, you are always confronted with your depression in every interview…
You have to accept the risk. I know what you mean. I was ignoring it in the beginning, but then I said to myself: it’s finished. You only live once and it is good to live, you know… in the open space, rather than in jail. We must be open about it, nobody’s going to blame you because you are telling the truth. That is very important. We are living in a connected world, we are in 2021 and we have to fight for some things, not in the battlefields as our grandfathers did, but in the society and in a mental way so to speak. Previous generations had very strict stereotypes for example on mental issues. They did not believe in mental health. They said, or you are a normal one or you are a lunatic, a mad one, possessed, something like that. But these stereotypes have to go back where they belong. To the past.
Sometimes I wonder why people complain during this pandemic because they cannot go on holidays. I think this generation is spoiled by too much materialistic luxury…
Yes, we are spoiled. Before the pandemic, this western world went crazy, at crazy speed. Too many things happening at the same time. Too many deadlines. You could not stay relaxed. You could not hide for a moment. You had to run, towards many targets. Many years ago that was happening in office jobs or in normal jobs. It was not the case in metal, but recently it also happened in metal music. Too many things and too many targets and running after numbers and likes and views and numbers again and nobody paid any attention to the real thing. So this pandemic is like a big stone that somebody threw in our car’s windshield when we were driving 2000 kilometres. So now we have to stop, step aside, watch for road assistance and while we wait for the road assistance, what do we see? We see the nature around us. We are seeing things we did not see because we were driving so fast. So it is a moment of consideration. It is a moment of relax and it is also a very difficult moment for those who never got learned to be nice with themselves, alone with yourself. You have to exercise the skills you have to have a nice time alone. If you haven’t had dived into the deepest places inside you, and you don’t know yourself, it is a serious thing to stay alone somewhere. You are going to feel bad, I know people like that. This pandemic cannot be compared with what former generations went through. Not at all. It is a lesson. This is a lesson for everybody and at the end of the day it is good that no matter what we have a personal space, we have friends to talk to, we have our favourite music, we have our pets, we have our books and we have peace. So the basics are there. The only thing missing is the crazy speeds of pre-pandemic area. Let us be optimistic. It is not going to last forever. Things will get back to a new normality – I don’t know what sort of normality, probably different from what it was previously – but it is not the end of the world. I mean, we are going to get through this. Let us stay united, let us prioritize our concerns – because doing the priority list in life is very important – let us do what we used to do since the previous decades, with the underground and the networking, an exchange of ideas and thoughts and music.
What do you think about rereleasing your back catalogue again by Season of Mist?
That was also accidentally because I had people asking about the early days of Nightfall and then they could not find the albums. They wondered why nobody was putting them out again and I kept telling them that I don’t own the rights. The rights belong to that label, you know. They don’t want to do any reissues, so we have to wait until they change their mind. Finally, last year, I got in contact with the label, Holy Records, and they released the rights to me. So as soon as I got the rights, I said: okay, since Season of Mist is going to be the label for the new album, let us give them the opportunity to do these rereleases and it all came together very nicely. I haven’t seen the box with the LP’s yet, because lousy post is taking more than one and a half month via France and Switzerland. So I don’t know how they look physically, but I know that Season of Mist is doing a great job. I like Season of Mist, despite the fact that we were at Metal Blade, which was a historic label. The truth is that, when it comes to play ball with somebody, especially in subgenres, not in mainstream, what counts before anything else is the chemistry, the understanding, the common culture values. And the truth is that between Greeks and Frenchmen, there are a lot of common things since the beginning and I am sure we will have a great thinking with Season of Mist.
Let’s hope the best for the upcoming years…
I hope as soon as the lockdowns are going to be lifted, things will run much smoother. When you have the chance to go out with people, go to restaurants and bars, then life is going to become interesting, but right now that we are actually limited in our places, things seem to run a little bit slower. That means hours become heavier, let us say. It is like we are listening to the doom part of a big track that is becoming really fast after that part is over. But anyways, did you like the album? Did you find any interesting in that album? Because you have great experience in music, meaning from people like you count a lot, totally appreciate it. The whole music market is like you just described it. It does not need to be an analysis of details. This is rock music and if you are open to it, if you channel your energy with it and follow your thoughts, it is the best. When I read such a smart revue, it misses the essence. Six Feet Under, the guy released an album, I like the album, but the vocalist has a very special approach to the vocals. Very dirty, very nasty, I could see that some reviewers made some bad comments. It is like a squealing pig and things like that, but hey, hold your horses… just think that every single release right now has a super production, but this is not the reason for something to judge. You have to listen to what the guys are telling and that album is really great. If you don’t like it, pass it over to somebody else. I say it again, we are not pop music, trying to reach the masses and make big numbers. So if you come to me, you come to me because you want to pay for that CD to support the artist. In metal most albums are made of pure love and passion for this music, so it is a matter of inspiration. How can you review someone’s expression? It is crazy! It has to be a presentation. This is the album and it sounds like that. That’s it.
What are the things you want to do in the near future to support the album?
We will release another lyric video in ten days ‘Giants Of Anger’. All the lyrics on the album are about depression and relative mental health. Stressful things, but I use other subjects in a kind of parable, metaphor. So in ‘Giants Of Anger’ the inspiration came from the story of Wilhelm II, the last Emperor Kaiser of Germany who was very unlucky, because when his mother was about to give birth to him, the child was upside down. So the doctors at that time had either to describe a very strong medicine to the mother that was very dangerous, because the mother could die and his mother was the daughter of Queen Victoria of England. So the doctors did not want a mess with those people. The second opinion there was to put the arm in the womb and drop the tie down. So they did that, but they damaged and paralysed the left arm, it remained shorter than his right arm, so he was handicapped. The stereotype was that the emperor must be a super trooper guy, total healthy, like a superman. But he was handicapped. And there was a big problem, because the mother refused to see the reality. They found letters from the mother to Queen Victoria where she said the worst about her son. They tried to push him to be like a normal guy, but it was not a normal guy because of his handicap and all these things affected his sort of thinking, his mind, his personality. By using this story, this fascinating story, I wanted to tell that mental problems are not only for small, simple people. They can be found to anybody. As society we have to be careful with health issues. Queen Victoria was very compassionate for him and she controlled him in a sort of way. When she died, Wilhelm was so desperate and World War I was declared two or three years after her death. It was partly because that guy believed in absolute solution. He let his aggression prevail, together with other political issues of course, but the World War initiated. This is subject to historic studies that are beyond our capacity as musicians, let us say, but the main point is that mental issues do not make discrimination. They can appear to anybody anytime. So we have to respect people who are passing a difficult phase in their life and we have to think before reject somebody, because there is a trend in the US in recent years that says that you should keep toxic people out of your life. This is a very bad advice, because somebody may act weird ways because he is struggling with an inner thing, an inner beast, so if you judge him or her as a toxic person, you don’t give help and things will become worse with that person.