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On Thorns I Lay

On Thorns I Lay gaat al een tijdje mee en leverde tussen 1995 en 2004 zes verrukkelijke schijven af die bij elke liefhebber van melodieuze, emotionele doom metal bekend zouden moeten zijn. De muzikanten zijn dan ook gerespecteerd in de Griekse scène en ver daarbuiten. Het wordt maar eens tijd voor een doorbraak! Als we de evolutie van de muziek doorheen de jaren volgen, kunnen we constateren dat melancholie en diepgang twee constanten zijn die gebleven zijn. Bovendien ontpopt bassist Stefanos, ook al een 'Doorn' van het eerste uur, zich tot een boeiend verhalend gezelschap waar we nog iets van opsteken. Door zijn woorden komen we niet alleen iets te weten over de muziek van On Thorns I Lay, maar ook over de mensen die deze groep belichamen en natuurlijk was het nieuwe album 'Egocentric' een rede te meer voor een gesprekje!

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder

Three years after the previous release 'Angeldust', we've got a new CD 'Egocentric'. Can you tell what happened in those three years?

We finally became a quartet! Chris and I returned permanently in Greece, since we finished our medical studies in Romania, and managed to form a stable line up for the band. First our old fellow and first drummer of On Thorns I Lay, Fotis, reunited to us and then we started seeking for a guitar player. We had a short cooperation with Andrew but his day job didn't leave him with much of free time and he had to split. Then Fotis proposed Minas as a guitar player who seemed to fit the band style and, actually, not only he was the suitable guitar player for us but he could sing, as well! I guess we got lucky cause we were searching for a singer, too… (I have to mention to this point that all these happened a while before Angeldust was released.)

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So, we started rehearsing, had some gigs in Greece and started writing Egocentric. Recordings started at November 2002 and ended at September 2003. It is remarkable that we all live in different towns in Greece and we don't have the luxury to meet often and we have to drive lots of Kms in order to rehearse. That has been a difficulty in our cooperation during rehearsals and recordings. However, our love and devotion to music kept us together even if we had to pay for gas and bills to the telephone company! 

What are the main differences with 'Angeldust'?

It's a totally different production. Starting with the music, it's still aggressive guitar oriented but there is more melancholy, variation in melodies and guitar riffs and the album has a concept unlike “Angeldust”. For the first time we worked 4 people together in the making of this album when until now Chris and I worked on music and lyrics respectively. That's the reason of the variety in the music. As far as the lyrics are concerned, Minas and I, decided to create a personality described by fear, insecurity, obsessions and anxiety and to let him talk about his feelings through our songs. So, each of the songs is a different aspect of this guy's personality and inner self and just because he always likes to talk about himself whining and trying to draw all the attention we characterized him as “Egocentic”!

…so much with art. Then we had to do with recording and mixing and mastering. The recordings took place in Greece in Studio Paraktio by George Simatos. Panagiotis Kouvelis is a producer that helped us with the recordings at this time. It's important that the studio we recorded in had no experience in metal music before!! However, we trusted George's creativity and talent and we managed to do great recordings using professional equipment. On the other hand, we decided to cooperate with Frederick Nordstrom for the mixing because he has a great experience in the kind of metal that we love to play so that's what we did. In a way, we send him Greek sources to be mixed in the Swedish way and that is a great difference with “Angeldust” that was produced totally in Romania. The mastering took place in Greece in “Athens Mastering Studios” that is one of the biggest and better mastering studios in Greece.
Lots of people worked in the creation of “Egocentric” and that is what makes it the best work of ours until now.

OTIL had many line up changes in the past. Who were the founder members and what was the passion to start the band in 1994?

Chris and I are the core members and founders of the band. Our locomotive force is the passion that makes people express themselves in any convenient way. We still have lots to say and music is our way. We prefer to play metal music because that's the kind of music that at first spoke deeply to our hearts and still does.

For the first time the line up stayed more or less the same. I guess it was easier for the writing process of 'Egocentric'?

As I mentioned before it was the first time that we all worked together in creating “Egocentric”. I don't know if it's easier to work with many musicians that working alone. Before I knew that Chris had all the music in his mind and that he would come into the studio presenting all the ideas, showing us what to play and guiding us through the composing process. It was the way we used to work and we were comfortable with it. Now everything is changed. Chris comes with his ideas and so does Minas. We play something and Fotis can say “guys… I don't like that. Let's not do that. Let's do the other one I proposed previously” and so do I. Sometimes it is not easy when it comes to disagreements but we have proved ourselves to be more than able to handle different opinions and cooperate successfully so, I'd say that now that we are four and not two things are not necessarily easier but they are better. We have the ability to make colourful compositions and to achieve variety in our music.

Chris and Stefanos, you studied a few years in Bucharest. Why did you choose Romania to study?

If you want to become a doctor and study in Greece you have to sit for the entrance examinations that are very difficult. Especially when we were candidates you had to study Physics, Chemistry, Biology and how to write compositions and you had to hit 19 out of 20 in order to pass. Anyway, studying abroad was a solution and Romania is a country were many Greek people go to study. It's relatively cheap and a beautiful country. Not to mention the cold, rain and moody days… where else could we go?

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Did you have any feedback there, was there a scene you immediately felt comfortably with to create the new line up?

While we were in Bucharest we had a wonderful and crazy time. Furthermore we had the chance to meet lots of people. Good and important people. We were lucky to meet all these people that eventually played with us in On Thorns I lay. We have also met producers, promoters etc. Unfortunately we never intended to create a permanent line up cause we had in our plans to come back home and meet our old members (Fotis) and on the other hand all the people there could not follow us back to Greece so, it was inevitable to make only temporary collaborations. Fortunately, we still are in contact with many people who are important to us and we are important to them.

And…do you work in the medicine area now in Greece?

We are practicing right now medicine in the province. That is the formal procedure for all the young doctors in Greece before they choose their speciality as medical doctors.

'Angeldust' set a new trend, more alternative, still dark with influences of Katatonia. What are other bands or writers that inspire you nowadays?

We are still inspired by bands like Katatonia, The Gathering, Opeth and we are always interested in every thing that concerns music creation so, I'd say that we “keep our ears open” to all releases. We like Porcupine Tree very much and other bands like Staind, Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains. However, we don't read much. Well… Minas always talks about George Orwell. We admire him because he seems so predictive and diachronic.

'Angeldust' was produced by friend Marcus Macedon. Why didn't you take him for 'Egocentric'?

“Angeldust” was created a couple of months before we returned to Greece. It was the most convenient for us to work with all the people we used to work with up to that time. However, since we wanted 'Egocentric' to be a totally new creation we had to change everything starting from the musical compositions and including the studios to work in and the co-operators. 'Egocentric' had to be a new beginning for On Thorns I Lay and we achieved that making brand new openings and meeting new people.

The production of 'Egocentric' is done by Fredrik Nordström, a famous man. How did you get in contact with him and how was he like to work with?

Black Lotus Records settled the agreement and did it on the phone to be exact. One problem was that Nordström had lots of work and we had to wait for a long time to do the mixing. The other problem was that due to our day works it was impossible to go there and work with him! It was a difficult decision to take but eventually we trusted his experience and sent the audio tracks together with a doc file with some guidelines. We had to send each other some e-mails too and within a week we had 'Egocentric' back. It wasn't what we expected it to be but we immediately agreed that it was a marvellous work. It's a 100% professional work that can easily be compared to other famous productions. Unfortunately, we didn't meet Nordström in person but I think we will have the opportunity later on.

Are there plans to tour now and do you have countries you prefer, or bands you would like to tour with?

There are no plans yet and it's difficult to arrange something like that cause we have our professions leaving us a few time for the band. However, we are always looking for opportunities for gigs and festivals. We surely love to play with The Gathering and Katatonia and we are looking forward to arrange a gig with Opeth. Maybe next month…

Stefanos, can you tell a bit about the lyrics? Do you write them before or after the music? What's the biggest point of inspiration?

Until now, most of the lyrics were written before the music. Usually I choose moments when I feel upset, emotionally charged. I use my experiences, the images in my mind, the people I have met all of these give me subjects to write about. I write freely about whatever comes to my mind until I feel relaxed. I'd say that the biggest point of inspiration is melancholy and human weakness.
I have to mention, though, that things happened a little bit differently in 'Egocentic'. First of all Minas and I created the lyrics and we did the writing after the music was created. We created the melodies singing like 'bla – bla…' and then we wrote the words to fit them. It was a totally different way but as I wrote before 'Egocentric' is a whole new creation of ours!

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The music is mainly made by the two guitar players now: more direct but still melancholic. Do you use other instruments sometimes while writing?

Usually, we have our ideas that are some guitar riffs and maybe some melodies. The creation of a song however takes place in the studio when we play all together. In that way we all contribute to the writing process. On the other hand we never use piano or violin in the making of a song. These instruments are added when we do the recordings.

On 'Egocentric' the female vocals and keyboards are done by guests. Are there plans to become a six piece band again, like in the past, or is this quartet just fine?

We are looking for a keyboard player actually. We are working at the time being with a female singer Maxi who is helping us on stage as a session member. We want to be very careful with our choices because from now on we want to make a permanent line up. We want to find people to be a part of our group and to be willing to give their best for it and show care and devotion. We believe that this is the only way to become better. So, we have some people to co-operate with but we are waiting patiently for the time to show us who is the best to join our band.

You all thank God in the notes. What's the importance of religion in your life?

Minas doesn't. Like everyone we need to believe in something that can provide us with mental support in times of trouble. Some believe in Buddha, others in Satan and others to them selves. We believe in God.
We are not superstitious or God – fearing but we realise that there is a point were no explanations can be given and that is where God comes in.

The cover is made by SetDesign. Is there a link with Septic Flesh? How did that work?

We know Spyros since we were teenagers. We have collaborated many times and we have played together in concerts. You see, Greece is a small place and everyone knows each other. Imagine that Efthimis from 'Nightfall' inspired the name 'On Thorns I Lay'! Actually, there are links with many Greek bands and we have good relations with, almost, everybody. Furthermore we have co operated with Chris from Septic Flesh in the recordings of Egocentric. He composed the violins in the tracks 'Unsung Songs' and 'Dawn Of Loss'. Chris and Spyros are the founders of Septic Flesh and they are brothers. We are good friends with them.

'Angeldust' was still recorded in Bucharest. Can you tell a bit about the studios and work as musicians over there?

We were lucky because in each album we created the recording process had been like a school for us. That happened also in Romania when we recorded in Migas Real Studios that are well equipped. Also, the people are very co – operative and friendly. This is something that you don't always find. Imagine that we had problems here in Greece with some studio owners that we never encountered while we were in Bucharest. Unfortunately some people are very narrow minded and keep a big idea for themselves. We never met such a person in Romania. To be frank we appreciate the way the Romanians think! They are always welcome to show you stuff that makes you a better performer and help you acquire recording experience.

And to conclude, what are the plans for the near future?

We are trying to perform as much as we can in Greece and abroad. We have also started writing our new songs and we are trying to make a video. We are really occupied with the promotion of 'Egocentric' giving interviews etc.

On Thorns I Lay is a band worth following closely on all these images of life.

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