Congratulations with your third full-length journey in digital space! This time it's not under the moniker Dol Ammad, but as the electronic psychedelic-trance-metal outfit Dol Theeta. Regarding the line up - which includes you, soprano vocalist Kortessa and guitarist Dim; all three are Dol Ammad members - it looks and sounds as a stripped version of Dol Ammad. You got fed up hiring guest musicians and arranging people for choirs, or… were they fed up by you? What drove you to create Dol Theeta?
Thank you Dr.Smith! I don't think they are fed up with me yet, and I am surely not fed up with them :P We really can't wait to start working on a new Dol Ammad album and to once again unleash the hell that is a typical Dol Ammad production! Dol Theeta were not created as a break or a lighter version of Dol Ammad but as a parallel spaceship that will carry different results of my electro-metal experiments. I figured that if I had to pressure all my ideas to fit a certain “sound-field” of expectations that a project like Dol Ammad creates, it would be against my principals in music, the principals of unorthodox-formula-free compositions that I often boast about myself. That is why I decided that the only true thing that I could do was to create 3 vessels that would carry my children and the only categorisation would be 3 generic factors: “epic”, “atmospheric” and “brutal”. The third “Dol” beast would appear in the future following the third Dol Ammad album.
Besides the line-up's decreasing, what are the musical, lyrical and emotional differences between the two Dol's?
The main differences in Dol Theeta is that the music is deeper, more emotional and the lyrical content more esoteric. Dol Theeta feature long songs with psychedelic passages and atmospheric vibes, the concept is self-centered and inner-looking hypnosis in order to meditate for our place in the cosmos. I believe that if you let yourself drift with the music the emotions created are very deep and precious. Dol Ammad on the other hand focus more on bombastic epic feelings, illusions of grandiose and space fantasy tales with a more playful character if you'd like.
If Dol Ammad would be the soundtrack for Star Wars Episode VI, would Dol Theeta be the soundtrack for Joe Dante's movie Innerspace? Or is Dol Theeta the 80th Anniversary anthem of Edwin Hubble's exploration of the universe? As you already mentioned in the booklet, it was in 1929 that he discovered that the degree of redshift observed in light coming from a galaxy increased in proportion to the distance of that galaxy from the Milky Way. This became known as Hubble's law, and would help establish that “the universe is expanding” (source: Wikipedia). What can you tell me about these Hubble thoughts regarding to the album?
'Innerspace'!?! Haha, no way! If I had to think of a movie to match my feelings of Dol Theeta's 'The Universe Expands' that would be the '2001: A Space Odyssey' or 'Solaris'. Regarding my thoughts on Hubble's discovery it is pretty simple actually, I feel inspired by the way the microcosmic and macrocosmic universe works and interconnects. The expansion of the universe is in total sync with the inner expansion, growth and progress that each human and creature must pursue in this world. Our deeds and thoughts should always be guided by evolution and progress.
Dol Theeta sounds in Dutch phonetically almost identical as “Dolle tieten”, which means something like “Crazy Tits”. Crazy tits: a superb name for straight-forwarded cock'n'roll music for Nashville Pussy kinda bands, but not really for an introspective, electronic space-metal constellation on 'The Universe Expands'. It's a made-up name isn't it, to satisfy your need for weird fantasy band names?
Hahaha!! Oh my! Well, thankfully it's tits and not something else… :P
Yes, it's a made up name using the 8th letter of the Greek alphabet, 'Theta', which is the first letter of my name and my hometown Thessaloniki. I just like the way it sounds, you know I love strange names like Amon Düül, Bal Sagoth, Dol Ammad etc. I always thought that naming my music with something conventional would be a bit boring... Like your example, I also got an email the other day telling me that “Dol” is a kind of dog?! Let's hope I don't get an email someday telling me that it means “Cheerful Diarrhea” in Romanian or something… :P
The album starts and ends with a spoken word sample about hypnosis. “Hypnosis is a state of heightened awareness and self-control. Everyone is hypnotizable and most people go into a trance multiple times a day.” The hallucinogenic pillars of synths and sonorous sopranos just couldn't get a more suitable prologue. Do you believe in hypnosis yourself (as a subconscious and/or healing form of awareness), or is it just ridiculous Rasta Rostelli rattling? Were did you found this spoken sample by the way, or did you create it yourself?
The samples were all created by me, using a speech synthesizer. I surely believe in Hypnosis as a state, but as a healing form I am not sure. It has been proven that it refreshes your memory though. Regarding music if you lie down, eyes closed and let yourself drift away with the sounds I believe it is a magical feeling and surely a type of Hypnosis. Now as far as the Rostelli shows of people humping chairs etc., I think it is ridiculous. I don't think someone can hypnotise you and force you to do stuff against your character. The Woody Allen film 'Curse of the Jade Scorpion' was loads of fun though… :P
Of all the girls that sang in the Dol Ammad choir, you happen to pick out Kortessa for doing the vocals on this album. She's got a brilliant, flawless soprano, so is that the reason you choose her? She was simply the best? Or was she also the easiest going/pleasant/gorgeous girl to work with? There could be also another reason to choose her, and that's the same, but looking-for-trouble-reason with bands like Epica, After Forever, Leaves' Eyes and White Stripes. If you know what I mean…. nodge nodge, wink wink.
Hehe, Kortessa is indeed all the things you mentioned, she has a unique and amazing voice, she is very friendly, pleasant and definitely gorgeous :P We share a very long friendship that spans more than 10 years now, she has been around from my first steps into “professional” music and it was a no-brainer that she would be the “one” if I were to make a solo-female-vocal project. Just like Dol Ammad the music in Dol Theeta was initially conceived and destined to be instrumental, but we decided to give it a try some years ago and I was very pleased by the result, her flawless adaptation and vocal-morphing into each song. I am very satisfied with the result; it couldn't have been done better.
What's Kortessa doing besides the Dol bands? I suppose she's having various activities in the Greek classical community, but has she also other activities in (hard) rock formations? And is she also the girl on the front cover?
Kortessa is finishing her studies for the diploma of solo opera singing at the moment. She is a member of the “Macedonian Choir”, a professional choir in Greece giving concerts and shows both locally and abroad. Apart from singing she has a degree and diploma in classical guitar, she is a fantastic guitarist and she is working in 3 music schools. She has tons of students! She recently participated in a newly formed local group named “The Per4formers Quartet” which consists of 4 female singers and one keyboardist and they perform specially orchestrated cover versions of classic tunes from musicals, latin and pop genres. I recorded their demo CD here in my studio and attended their first concert some weeks ago; it was a lot of fun!
The guitarist on the album is Dim. He plays also in Transcending Bizarre?, Out Of The Lair and Synesthesia. You also played on the sole album of the latter one, so you and Dim work together quite frequently. What makes him such a good guitarist for you, or… is he simply the only guitarist in town you know (and dare to play in your psychedelic galaxy-metal)?
I really admire the way Dim works, apart from his amazing talent of course. He is very calm and co-operative something rare from my personal experience. He is one of the few guitarists who doesn't only focus on raw and sterile technicalities and can actually write down his own and very interesting music. It was a pleasure to return the favour by laying down the drum tracks in his Synesthesia project, I hear that him and Stelios are preparing a second album these days.
Besides Kortessa, we hear in the song 'Something Called Tomorrow' another voice. It's yours! I'll be damned…Knowing you as a game fanatic, a synth wizard and ex-military servant, I always thought that it was the smartest thing you've done to shut your mouth on your own albums, but I must confess that I'm pleasantly surprised! Although your voice is heavily plunged in synths and effects, you're voice sounds a bit like the clean vocals of Fear Factory singer Burton C. Bell and Ozzy Osbourne if he wasn't stoned, drunk or mentally retarded (so that's pure hypothetically speaking…). D.C. Cooper was too expensive to ask again, or were you finally brave and convinced enough to think you can do the job yourself?
Hahaha!! I was trying to keep my mouth shut but I got pressure to open it in the end! Well those vocals were meant to be guides for Kortessa but when she heard them she insisted that I should keep them and make the song something of a “duet”. I am still not sure about it but most people seem to enjoy it... I don't have secret dreams to become a singer however! I have enough on my mind already.
You also played the drums on this album, and not bad at all! Are you a self-taught man when it comes to playing the drums, or did you get an intensive course from Alex Holzwarth (he played on the Dol Ammad albums, EDS)? And what kind of drums do we hear anyway? A few times it still sounds a bit too “digital” and too “clinical”, which makes me doubt if I hear “real sweat”, but as long as I doubt and it's not that obvious, I don't think it's really a problem. You mentioned e-drums to me, but what's that anyway? Me dummy me…
Well I am a better drummer than keyboard-player. I am a self-taught keyboardist but I did follow drum courses some years ago. Hehe, I did ask for some advice for Alex but there was not enough time to develop it during the recordings... The way that I work is that I have an electronic drum set in the studio that I hook up to a high quality library of drum sounds as opposed to the cheap sounding on-board drum sounds of the e-drum brain. E-drumming has really evolved the last years, the pads have real mesh heads like acoustic drums and you can also use bronze electronic cymbals. These devices have sensors that detect your hits (and other info like velocity, location of the hit) and transform it into signals that are being sent through the e-drum brain either to the inner samples of the brain or to any other MIDI instrument that you may connect. The playing has no notable difference compared to acoustic drums but with e-drumming the possibilities are endless.
The final track on the album, the title track, has even a (Gaelic) folk-flavour in it, just like the non-album track 'Deathstars' on the 'Goddess' EP that preceded the album. It must be caused by that instrument that sounds like… well, what is it anyway? I'll bet it comes from one of your countless synthesizers, but it sounds like a combination of a flute, fiddle and bagpipe.
Yes, it is sound of an over processed bagpipe which is one of my favourite sounds :P I experimented a lot with ethnic sounds in Dol Theeta, like the strange violin in the ambient part of “Nighttime”, flutes in “Silver Air” and the percussion also in “Deathstars”.
The chosen words in the lyrics have a very meditative, philosophical and introspective feel, besides the astronomical connection. The words float even into new age-kinda atmospheres. The past few years you had quite a hectic life with all kinds of difficulties on various levels (from former record label troubles, computer crashes to serious family affairs), so has all this its effect on the lyrics? Some kind of therapeutic outlet for all the miseries you've dealt with the past few years?
Yes, the lyrics reflect my inner-state the last years and most of them were written while I was doing my army time. Most of them are in a sense my questions, my thoughts and my fears for the present and the future. I indeed faced some very strange situations that sometimes brought me really down and depressed but deep inside I'll always be an optimist and the hidden hope is something that I believe can be derived from the lyrics of "The Universe Expands" in the end.
Have your parents heard your album and are they proud of their son?
They have heard it and enjoy some of the songs, I am sure they are proud of me but maybe justifiably face my growing up with music and technology sceptically. I mean they don't have any music background and they can't understand how (and why) I make music using those strange machines and boxes. It would be easier for them if was a classical violinist for example. I don't really blame them, we have been involved in some big fights about music but lately we have found our peace and some kind of balance...
During the recordings of this album Thessaloniki was shaking on their foundations by student riots and an earthquake. Unlike student riots, earthquakes in Greece are not rare; there were already at least four earthquakes in Greece in 2008 alone (and there was also a serious heavy earthquake of 6,5 in 1978; seven weeks before you were born…), but I understood you got pretty scared by the last one, isn't it? Have these belches of Mother Earth any influence on your compositions? Perhaps your fascination for nature, astronomy, etc.?
Yes, I was born shaken into a ghost town that was Thessaloniki in 1978. Earthquakes are indeed my biggest fear and being claustrophobic I often have nightmares of earthquake or elevator disasters... We should respect nature and often we forget about it living in big cities... I am sure there will be some post-apocalyptic destruction tracks on the third “Dol” project in the future :P
The album is recorded in your own studio, the 'Cosmos Studios'. You also produced recently for Loonattack (a post-rock band from Thessaloniki) and did the drum parts for the aforementioned Synesthesia. Is this something you like to do more in the future, and is it a silent wish to earn a living in the music industry?
It is interesting to work with other musicians and personalities and I am thinking of converting my studio in a fully commercial one in the future but there are huge budgets needed for something like that. I am still not sure if I should take the step...
The artwork is yet another explosion of colours. A whirlwind of chromatic spectrums and supernova's that make Doctor Spock dizzy and Stephen Hawking waters his mouth. At least it makes the artwork of the new spiritual synth-pop hype Empire Of The Sun with 'Walking On A Dream' looks even more childish and amateurish than it already is. This colour attack was done by one Werner Hornung; who is this guy and how did you get in contact with him?
Mister Hornung is an amazing German artist living in Paris and doing some exhibitions together with Pal Sarkozy (the father of the French President) at the moment. He is a phenomenal talent and personality and it was an honour to have his works for my music. When I first stumbled on his work I was amazed by his beautiful chaotic compositions. I felt that this must be what my mind might look like if I could paint it... I sent him the music and request and thankfully we now have a positive friendship. Regarding those Australians, hehe cheesy as hell, isn't it? I prefer Scissors Sisters if I had to listen to some gay pop.
The CD is very nicely packaged in a digipack and it looks like it must have cost quite a few euros. Still, you released it yourself, on your own label Electronic Art Metal Records. For a jobless (?) guy playing non-commercial music that sounds like a risky investment… Or rich relatives?
It is a risky investment and things are not luxurious in my life. I am still striving to cover the expenses of my releases, let alone have any profit from them. For example for "Ocean Dynamics" released in August 2006 I finally covered its expenses a couple of months ago. However I don't want to compromise and I always do my best for my productions and their packaging since that is what matters the most to me in this life. Hmmm, new clothes or food in the future versus glossy digipack releases....I'd go with the digipack any time :P Thankfully things seem to be progressing positively if we think that in “Star Tales” my economics were a lot times worse. I try to do any extra job like studio work for other musicians or even using my degree as a survey engineer sometimes. I have entered a master course the last year for advanced computers in audio and visuals and I have very little time for extra work however. That's why I am really scared to risk bigger investments for the studio, I don't want to be in debt my whole life... I just want to be able to make music (and release it in deluxe packages :P).
The aforementioned EP 'Goddess' also included a video clip for 'Goddess', created by Harry Kalogirou. Any ambition for doing more clips for Dol Theeta?
Yes there are ambitions for more clips and since I usually reveal future surprises and exclusive news to your interviews (:P) I would like to share my plans to create some kind of vlogs; some personal videos from my life and my music making world. These shows will be something like episodes and I figure since I don't yet do any live concerts it would be a great way to stay in touch with my friends.
I've understood that the birth of Dol Theeta doesn't mean the death of Dol Ammad, because you are already planning a third, more brutal and darker “Dol”-concept after another Dol Ammad album. That means at least two albums in the future… Can you unravel some of your brain waves about this already?
Well the plan for the moment is that we'll first release the long awaited Dol Ammad EP with the second track we worked together with DC Cooper in addition to some other goodies and then it is full-on work for the third Dol Ammad album. At some time after that there should be the appearance of the third “Dol” project, which will be tons darker and more brutal than any of my music so far. I am sure it will shock and surprise some of my friends but I need to express this side also. There is always a dark side in everything and everyone. In nature the positive and negative are interconnected and equally powered. As human beings we are the perfect example of the equally powered positive and negative side.
In every interview you've held for Dol Ammad the interviewer asked about it and you always denied it: it's just impossible to play live with Dol Ammad. But with Dol Theeta there are no more excuses, mister! You're only with the three of you now, so this is absolutely possible to play in a live setting! This is my command: hire a drummer, you may stand behind mountains of synths yourself acting like the 21st Century Schizoid Keith Emerson and come to Holland, immediately! Promise? Or do you have stage fright, my honourable Thanasis?
Hahaha! It's true I always try to hide from these questions and it is my worst part in every interview, mainly because I don't know how to handle it inside my brain, let alone explain it to someone else. It's true a live show with Dol Theeta does look a lot easier compared to the 19 member band that is Dol Ammad but apart from this there are still 2 main problems the first being the budget needed for touring, equipment, session musicians and assistants. The second and most important in my view is the way that one should present this kind of music to a live audience. One shouldn't approach such music as a typical rock band, I have witnessed live shows of more “descriptive” and “experimental” bands that just got up on a stage and played and they were awful... The atmosphere was gone, the sound details were destroyed and the total result was demystifying and disappointing. If we did produce a kind of straightforward beer-metal or cock-n-roll as you previously mentioned then of course a live show could become a reality and be fun at the same time. But I can't see how we can portray our deep avant-gardisms and cosmic sounds in a live show with our already limited budget...
By the way; stop wasting your time playing those silly computer games! Create music! That's another order…
HAHA! Please Dr.Smith!! Just one more game!? Haha, I wish I could indulge myself into computer games... Music is still my priority, don't worry :P Oh by the way, just yesterday a good friend gave me an old Amstrad CPC 6128!!! This machine represents my childhood, I have spent countless hours in front of it and I believe that my basic music influences are from the games of that mid-80's era. I am putting it in a glass case with a silk base in the studio! My precioussssss :P
To conclude with music: do you have any special secret music tip from Greece that we should check out? If not, then I've got one for you. Do you know Universe217 from Athens? They completely blew me away with their mystical, female-fronted dark metal that sounds like a mix between Diamanda Galas, Fear Of God and Madder Mortem.
No I haven't heard of them, but I will check them out. If you enjoy funeral doom metal: are you aware of Pantheist? They are residing in English and are fronted by the Greek Kostas Panagiotou, who is a great friend of mine. They just released their new album 'Journey Through Lands Unknow', you should check it out!