Terry Nikas: “’We are writing and we talk about the things that we experienced in Greece during the last ten years of the financial crisis, when it was very hard for all of us here in Greece. What I write is not from a political point of view, it is completely from a social point of view. Some people might think that I support a specific party, but it has nothing to do with politics. If you ask me, all these right and left and centre parties do not exist anymore. It is not about ideals anymore.”
We vonden Scar Of The Sun altijd al een erg goede band in doom/gothic metal stijl, een beetje te vergelijken met onze favoriete albums van Paradise Lost. Echter, op hun derde album ‘Inertia’ hebben de Grieken echt een eigen stijl ontwikkeld waarbij ook modernere en progressieve elementen hun opwachting maken, terwijl het geheel veel heftiger is. Zanger/toetsenist Terry Nikas is de belangrijkste songschrijver, bovendien stond hij in voor de opnamen en mix van ‘Inertia’, vooraleer de mastering in Zweden gebeurde door Jens Bogren. Het is met hem dat we een zeer hartelijk gesprek hebben om alles te weten te komen over deze nieuwe ontwikkelingen binnen deze hardwerkende band.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 8 juli 2021
First of all, I eagerly follow Scar Of The Sun since the beginning and was wondering: when did the three-piece that started the band, return to Greece?
I formed the band in London in 2004 or 2005 if I remember well and then I returned to Greece in 2006. Since then I live in Greece. It is a great honour to hear that, because not all the people know us from those early days. There are so many albums coming out and we were not on a big label until now, so not many people knew about us, but we have played in Holland a couple of times already on tours in the past. First time in Holland was with Rage in 2012. For sure we played with Moonspell and Pain at the end of 2012 as well. It was the last show of the tour in Holland.
In the past I already liked the doom-like metal you created, but now it seems there is a slightly difference in style. One might say a kind of progressiveness. Do you think that as well?
Yes, indeed. Absolutely. There is quite a big change I would say. We still have the Scar Of The Sun character for sure, but on the other hand – both music and the vocals – are more aggressive and we went closer to Swedish death metal – or metalcore if you want – and we also have some djent elements of bands like Architects and TesseracT. Overall the sound is quite different. We left that gothic/doom sound behind us and have a new sound that is closer to what they call ‘melodic death metal’.
Indeed, you toured with Dark Tranquillity and Insomnium before…
Yes. Dark Tranquillity is probably the biggest influence on our sound so far.
On the previous album ‘In Flood’ you only did clean vocals, if I remember well, isn’t it?
Yes, in 2016 I did more clean vocals and I did some harsh vocals on ‘In Flood’ too, but it was not brutal. It was more ‘clean with some aggressiveness’. This is for the first time that I do brutal vocals and I worked very hard in order to reach that, because it was not easy for me. I started with classical singing and when you start learning how to sing from a classical point of view, all the technique that you developed is quite opposite to what you do in brutal vocals. It took me some time until I reached the level I wanted and many sessions in the studio. It helped that I was doing the brutal vocals live on the last tours. This is very helpful to find your own voice.
You are the main song-writer. Can we go back to the time when you wrote ‘Inertia’? What did you feel and what did you want to free with this album, musically and lyric-wise?
First of all, I used to be the main song-writer. On this album, most songs were composed by guitarist Greg Eleftheriou. The other guitarist Alexi also wrote a song, but I always compose all the vocal lines and the lyrics. From album to album it changes. On the next album for example – we are already working on that – I will probably have one third of the songs. For this album we all realized that we wanted to change a little bit and wrote more direct songs, less complex, a bit more modern, a bit more aggressive. So we realized that all the guys were on the same page as well and the songs became more brutal. At the same time I wanted to do brutal vocals, my intention of doing more brutal vocals was matching with the more aggressive music as well. The whole band agreed on this element that we did not have before, the death metal vocals, and overall I would say that the emotions that come out of the album are more anger and darker. It is a quite dark album, but it is not dark in the sense of demons or Satan or that stuff. We are writing and we talk about the things that we experienced in Greece during the last ten years of the financial crisis, when it was very hard for all of us here in Greece. Maybe most of the people don’t realize, because they don’t have a picture of what happened here in Greece during those years, how brutal and inhuman these things were that were happening. The everyday people in a way got punished by a financial crisis that was caused by our politicians. Instead of chasing the politicians, the everyday people had to pay for what they did, which is completely unfair. It bothers us a lot, because we could see eighty years old people searching in garbage for something to eat. Other people were jumping off of buildings, committing suicide because of depression and financial instability. It was a very bad climate and it affected the lives of all of us. I had to take it from my chest in order to feel better, not to change the world. My lyrics will not change the world, but I want to feel better and talk about these things, because otherwise you would go crazy.
For here, from a distance, it seemed like Europe did not pay attention nor did help Greece, even though they are in the EU…
What they actually wanted to do was to save some big European banks. They did not care about the people, which is crazy. I really don’t care what the financial laws are, the society laws and moral laws are the ones that come first. All these are things they can change, the only things that they cannot change are the law of the nature. If you lose an apple, it will fall down to earth, you know. It won’t go up into the sky. This you cannot change, but all these financial things you can change. I don’t care, just change it. Don’t kill people, just because you want to save a bank. That is my point.
In 2008 we also had a crisis, but Greece was the worst pupil of the class…
People in Europe did not know what was happening, but the politicians knew exactly what was happening. It is not that they did not pay attention, it is just that they did not care.
Is it getting better in Greece now? Are you going some steps forwards?
It started to get better from 2017, but now we have the pandemic… They use it again to say that we are in another crisis. All these incidents are big chances for the financial instances to make even more money. Things like the Twin Towers, the tsunami in Indonesia. All these things are big chances for the financial interests to make even more money. That is the system; that is how it works. The press is related to politics. I want to say something here. What I write is not from a political point of view, it is completely from a social point of view. Some people might think that I support a specific party, but it has nothing to do with politics. If you ask me, all these right and left and centre parties do not exist anymore. It is not about ideals anymore.
‘Inertia’ is the title and it means a kind of slowness. What did you have in mind with that title?
Inertia is a term of physics first of all and the physics term means that when a body reaches a certain speed, then it keep on going with the same speed without changing anything, but in Greek inertia also means that you are not reacting to anything. This is a term that we use in our everyday life and it means basically that we are just indifferent. We are drugged and numb and we don’t react. So the title of the album and the relative song talk about how politicians and financial interests want the common people not to react on whatever they do. So they feed us with drugs, with football, with stupid programs like ‘Big Brother’ etc. They try to keep our minds busy and actually take the focus out of the serious things that we have to follow and it is then that our minds are filled with minor things that do not really matter. You see people having fights about football or they are so into drugs that they don’t care about reality, or they just care about TV and nothing else. While people are like that, politicians can do every crazy stuff you might think about and they don’t have anybody reacting on it and that is what inertia talks about.
We have a song, made up of three parts: ‘Quantum Leap Zero’. Can you tell something more about this song?
Of course. The trilogy talks about the things, happening in Greece, back in 2015 when we still got the government that brought Greece to bankruptcy. You could see that they were not working in favour of the people and all the losses they were passing to the European Union and IMF. They were totally against the people. People were losing 40 to 60% of their income and the taxes were going two to three times up, so it was impossible to live like that. You could see people boiling and getting ready for a reaction, for an uprising. This is the first part of the trilogy. We had the elections in 2015 and for the first time we had a government that actually did something for us. They went to the European Union and they said: this program that you are trying to impose was not working and actually there was a very famous fight with a Dutch guy, mister Dijsselbloem if you know him, where our financial minister said to him: what you are trying to do is not working. So Greece resisted for six months to all this madness and this is the second part of the trilogy, when there was finally a reaction from the people and we were cheering because someone was finally doing something for Greece. And then the last part of the trilogy, is when Greece called for a referendum and the European Union tried to make our prime minister change his mind and in consequence they shut down our banks. We could not take out money of the banks at all and all these were efforts to make Greek people vote in favour of what the European Union wanted to do. But people reacted to that and as a result – because always the financial interests win in the end – we got severely punished and even worse than before. This is the third part of the trilogy, which basically is another defeat and a heavier one this time. These are the three parts of the trilogy and they all have different emotions. The first part is the anger that is rising, the second one is the victory and the feeling that we managed to do something and then the third part, the final result is also another defeat and pure sadness about the final result that was again against the people. This is the trilogy.
I remember that time in the news here, when Greek people were queuing before their banks and could not have their money…
It was like war, I remember there were so many people outside of a bank, trying to get money from the machines and at one point there was not money anymore. So we had to try to find a bank with not so much people, to see if we could get some money and we were allowed to get 60 euros a day. All these things were efforts and ways to force us changing our minds and this was not at all moral or ethical. This was blackmailing people.
‘Inertia’ is your first album on a bigger label, Napalm Records. What are your feelings about that and how did it came into being?
First of all we are very, very happy to be on the Napalm roaster, you know. It is an honour to see your name next to those huge bands we were fans of since our youth. It is also a big relief, because we were trying to sign a contract for years with a bigger label. We are ready. We felt that it was our time to sign to a label like Napalm. They were interested in signing Scar Of The Sun for our previous album ‘In Flood’ and we were very close to sign, but when the person of the A&R forwarded us to the head of the department, the head said no. At that time we were very sad that he did not sign us, but after some time we started working again in order to make everything in the best possible way, because we were convinced that we were ready to sign and ready for that level. Years passed and we sent them the album again and – lucky for us – this time they were interested. They offered us a deal and we signed. This was a big victory and a big step ahead for us. Obviously we don’t expect everything to be done by our label. We want to work very hard on promoting the band and trying to make it bigger, but unfortunately this time we can only promote our music through press and social media and probably later some streaming concerts, because you surely know that we cannot tour now. When everything is possible again, we will definitely go out and tour as much as possible.
I think you are perfectionists, because only every five years an album is coming out, or is there another reason for that?
Actually, we are perfectionists, you are right, but this is not the reason why the albums come out every five years. We have several reasons for that. One of the reasons is that we always try to find a better record deal. When an album is ready – because you have to present an album to a record label – it takes time. We were always hoping for a contract with one of the bigger labels. When you get in touch with such labels, you have to wait. It is not easy for a small band to go to them and say: give us your answer fast, because we don’t have time. So we were waiting and in some cases it took months in order to get a reply, even if it was a negative one. So that is why ‘In Flood’ was delayed and that was also one of the reasons for delay of this album that was ready since 2019. The other important reason is, although we were on a smaller label, we always wanted to do the release of the album the way it should be, which means nice videos and everything done in a very professional way. From our previous label, we did not have any budget at all. So we had to pay everything ourselves. You can imagine that these tours cost a lot of money and the videos too. We had to gather all that money ourselves and when you think that it was in a Greece in crisis, it takes years to get all that money. That’s why it was taking time. These were two very important reasons. Also a third reason for the delay of this album ‘Inertia’ is that – now with the pandemic – all the bands are pushing the release of their albums later in order to be close to touring. They want to release the album and go on a tour. When we signed with Napalm, we asked to release the album the latest possible. We signed in October and the latest we could get was now. We said okay, because otherwise it should be more than five years and we did not want to do that, because people forget you, you know. But I can reassure you that the next album is not going to be released after five years (chuckles).
I can imagine it is a lot of work, because you also recorded and mixed the album, but the mastering was done by Jens Bogren in Sweden…
Yes. I had the pleasure to work with Jens Bogren in some other projects. I am also the sound engineer of Septicflesh. I tour with Septicflesh and I am the studio sound engineer for Septicflesh as well, so when we finished the previous Septicflesh recordings in my studio, we travelled with Seth from Septicflesh to Sweden for the mixing process. Then I had the chance to meet Jens Bogren, because I stayed for a week in his studio. I was meeting him in person, apart from the fact that I had sent him some other projects. There I got to meet him and talk to him and see his ideas and opinions. I was always a fan of his productions. Jens has this warm sound. His sound is iconic modern vintage, because I am a fan of more modern productions I wanted him to give this other touch, a more vintage touch, so there would be a balance between modern and vintage. That is why I wanted to work with Jens and we are very, very satisfied with his work. He did an amazing job and all the master tapes he was sending us were perfect. We did not have to change anything. That is amazing. You listen to the album and you are so amazed, because he did such a good work, you know.
Until now we have a video for ‘I Am The Circle’. What are the plans for video clips and how is your attitude for visual aspects?
First of all it is very important to be strong on the visual side as well, especially now, because of the pandemic you cannot tour, so you have to have some visual presence everywhere and also because these days videos seem to be more important. Bands release a lot of videos. We released so far three videos. The first one was for ‘I Am The Circle’, the second one was for ‘Inertia’ – it was a magnificent video – and the third one so far was from the last show we actually did before the pandemic, when we were direct support for Rotting Christ, here in Athens, for the song ‘Transition To Turbulence’ which is the second song of the trilogy. We filmed the first video ‘I Am The Circle’ here in Athens during covid-19 times and it was a bit hard. There was a lockdown and we had to get all these special permissions from the government, we had to send papers to Napalm and then sign them and they had to send them back, etc… we had to take all the precautions and tests and everything and we only had one day for the shooting, so it was a very heavy day. We spent the whole day shooting the video, but we are very happy with the result. Then ‘Inertia’ was shot in Berlin. There are only a few shots of me singing the same day as ‘I Am The Circle’. The guy who is responsible for all our visuals, which is the cover of the albums, the videos, the photographs and the clothes we are wearing on stage, this guy is Achilleas Gatsopoulos and he is very talented. He is a professional film director and a graphic designer. He worked on Hollywood movies and productions as well and he is my best friend. He is also the original drummer of Scar Of The Sun and a founding member of the band. His brother is also our bassist today. So in a way he is the sixth member of Scar Of The Sun. Even the logo he did, from day one he is doing all our videos. Every time we finish an album, we have a long discussion and I explain to him all the lyrics. He takes notes and the strongest image in his mind will be the cover of the album and then he will use a few elements on the videos. He did a great job on the song ‘Inertia’, I think this is a fantastic video and we are very proud because Napalm was very happy with the video. Now there is a plan for a fourth video and that will be a lyric video for the song ‘Anastasis’, the last song on the album, which is a song that does not talk about the financial crisis. It talks about a loss I had, a person that died and created a big sadness to my family. It was actually the mother of my wife. She died eleven days after our marriage. This was very tragic. Also my wife had a very close relationship with her mother and we did not expect her to die. It was out of the blue. It is something that makes us very sad till this day, especially for my wife. I wanted to pay tribute to her and I wrote this song. So this will be the fourth video, a lyric video. It will be a tribute to my mother in law and what happened to her.
It is different from the other songs. There is diversity on the album…
Yes, we always had that, but I think this album has the less diversity than all the other albums that we released. I think this is the most focused album, compared to the two previous albums. If you compare it to Accept not of course (laughs). I love Accept, don’t get me wrong, it is one of my favourite bands of all times, but they only play one thing. We play more multidimensional music. I grew up with Accept, it is one of the bands that got me into heavy metal. I remember I met Wolf Hoffmann at HellFest one day and I was so star-struck, you know. The only thing I could tell him was: ‘I thank you so much, because I grew up with your music.’ Nothing else. He was very kind, like a common person, but to me he was a god. I love Accept!
There is also a song which deals with the subject of the toughest aspects of being a musician…
Yes, that is ‘I Am The Circle’. It talks about all the things that happened to us through the years, all the rejections that we got. We got so many rejections. It is not always happy time for the musicians. Most of the musicians have to be able to sustain and take a lot of rejections, a lot of ‘no’s’, negative answers. The only possibility to have a chance to make it, is if you insist and persist and try to be better all the time. If you quit, you will never have the chance to see if one day you will make it. Every time we got a big ‘no’, for me it was like somebody died, but then, a few days later, I was gathering all my strengths and I was saying: okay, I will become better and I will work very hard on all the things that I am not good enough at. I will be hard for myself and see what’s negative in me and in the band and I will try to be good in this and I will try to eliminate all the reasons to reject the band. One after the other. So yeah, I wrote this song and then we signed to Napalm. It is an anger that gets inside of you. You work very hard, for many years, and the only thing that you get is rejections. We have worked twelve years on this level and finally we managed to get a positive answer.