Imhotep's Dethster4life hooked up with keyboardist John Ioannidis of Greece's Persona Non Grata to find out more about what's hiding behind their "Quantum Leap". The band has released two albums and if there's one thing they're aiming at, it is to play as much live as possible.
Did you intent for “Inertia” to have a very similar chorus to "Evil Feelings" so as to create a reprise sort of like another brick on the wall thing, or did this similarity simply slip thru cracks?
"Hi… thanks for the hospitality in Imhotep. I hope you and your readers doing well.
I am very pleased because it seems you listened the album very carefully. To tell you the truth I haven’t noticed a relation between the 2 songs especially in the chorus part. We don’t have any problem to use many times musical themes with different approaches. In our new album “Quantum Leap” there are certain parts where a musical theme from our previous album “Shade In The Light” slips in. General speaking our songs are relative or “similar” as you mentioned in order to build the wall brick by brick."
I was blown away by vocals. How did you get to that point of prowess that easily rivals Dickinson?
"Aris has a great rock voice with heavy metal lyrical elements; he likes Dickinson a lot so I think he will be now very happy with this comparison. Anyway I think that everyone is unique especially if we are speaking for vocalist. It’s widely known that all musicians have their personal influences that affects their personal style."
Your debut album, "Shade in the Light" was interesting but a little all over the place. "Quantum Leap" sounds like a completely different band. I mean it doesn't sound like a natural progression at all. How did that happen and what was your main focus when you began to write for the new album?
"The truth is that the 2 albums were recorded in completely different conditions. On the debut album Chris and I, having no band actually, we asked for session musicians to help us record the album. On the 2nd album we were acting like a band with 5 full members rehearsing, writing music and lyrics all together. Apart of that we now have the experience from doing the production of the previous album and avoided to make the same mistakes."
How did you get this record to sound this organic and yet mechanical at the same time?
"We tried to record as dry and natural as we could. Drums are completely natural, guitars and basses are recorded with amps and mics. What you hear on the CD is close to the sound that we have on our rehearsals. I am sure you noticed the lack of multi vocals, something I believe is making the production more direct. I am often using pianos, organs, strings and other analogue sounded keys in order not to lose the “live feel” that we wanted for our production. On the other hand, we gave our best to have a solid, strictly correct, rhythm section. I assume that is the mechanical feel you refer to."
In my review I noticed how the "Diversity" melody is like the one in Machine Head "Darkness Within" (“Unto the Locust”, 2011). How do you think is this possible for two different bands in remote corners of the world from each other to come up with the same notes at the same time? It is a phenomenon as I completely rule out any inspiration since you both worked on it at same time.
"Yes that could have happened. The globalization of music eliminates the distances. Apart of our very personal influences, I do believe that we all have very similar ones. In any case I am flattered with this comparison. Machine Head are one of the groups I respect a lot."
Besides the ones you have already worked with, if money or transportation was not the issue, who would you like to produce your next album and what do you think others can contribute to your band?
"I won’t name producers or studios because they are temporary and expendable. I can only tell you my dream for the perfect recording session. If I am not wrong some years ago Sting gathered his buddies (all of them exceptional musicians) somewhere in Tuscany - Italy where they rent a villa for a couple of months. They played all day music so finally they came up with some of the greatest songs ever. That’s perfect."
The cover of "Quantum Leap"- what is, if any, the story behind it?
"The cover tries to describe the decisions we all have to make in a difficult situation. As you can see a young man, with short pants, is knocking on a very scary door. That’s hard because we can all imagine what is hidden behind this door. But if you see the back of the CD leaflet the door is opened and a beautiful forest is revealed."
Is there an entire concept behind the lyrics and/or music on "Quantum Leap" or is it just a collection of thematically unrelated compositions? In other words, what do your lyrics deal with?
"Our lyrics are outgoing and about matters that concerns us all and sometimes bother us. Let me give you an example, the “9 am news” talks about the reality we live through the news every day. The ratings are their only care, they don’t give a shit about human personality. We also deal with religions in general, mostly for the way that enchain people with the after death life and the things they have to do in order to climb “heaven’s stairway”."
How did you guys find Aris Pirris? What is his story prior to joining Persona Non Grata?
"We met Aris in a club performing with a cover band after we parted from our previous singer. Akis, our drummer told us to take a listen to a “very good rock voice”. So we went all together to the club and after 2-3 minutes we all concluded that we wanted him to handle the vocals of the group. We gave him our debut CD for sound check and hoped that he liked it. After 15 days we performed together live. That’s all."
What is the situation in Greece now as far as EU budget and bailouts and what is/ will be the role of Greece in it? Do you as artists notice the big difference compared to like 3-4 years ago?
"Here the situation is very bad, we all feel depressed and anxious for the future to come. Now the problem is focused in Greece, but I do believe that after some time other countries will take our place. It is the global economic system that is falling down. A weaker country goes down faster, that’s logical I think. The difference is huge compared to 3-4 years ago not only for the artist of course but for all. The unemployment is near to 20% according to statistics."
Some artists say that the best thing is to perform the songs on stage. How do you view playing live compared to the more long process of recording an album, not to forget that you have to write your songs as well?
"Yes I agree. A band is made for playing live or is obliged to play live, in my opinion. I don’t like bands that produce great CDs and they never play live. What’s the meaning? If you ask me what I prefer playing live or being in studio I totally state that I prefer the live thing. It’s a bit difficult to explain that the best way to rest from the fatigue of the studio is to perform live. This two things are opposite to each other I think."
Do you think new world order or one world government, in a positive or negative way, is possible?
"I think it is a bad idea because each country is individual. That diversity makes our world amazing. The global or world government will force people to resample in a “prototype” dummy. I could agree in some world regulations that ensure human rights, or eliminate the starvation of the third world. For those problems to be solved we need a world effort. We all are one human race."
What is your general view of the human condition? I tend to think we are all somehow damaged/skewed toward self-destruction, so, in a sense, I agree with the first part of Christian thought but I deny any power of redemption, saviors, messiahs, etc. Do you agree?
"I believe that the end of the world will take place the December of 2012. No, I'm joking.
Self destruction? Maybe yes, who knows? For sure not the messiahs or saviors. I agree with you on that. It is the ignorance of what we are, were we came from, that force people to follow religions. I agree with most of them as they all state not to harm each other, to help and support. What I can’t accept is the “good” and “evil” thing, the “paradise” and “hell”. We have a song with similar subject named “Redemption of Sins”."
What advice would you give to a young up and coming metal band in today’s scene?
"Things are very difficult as there are thousands of bands fighting for the same audience. That’s cruel. I could say some banal things about hard work or exceptional skills etc. but don’t believe that. All bands are working hard and most of them have great musicians. No one knows what the audience wants. That’s the point. The audience will lift a band from the mass to the sky. The only advice I could give is to be real. If the audience like their reality then they will succeed."
What’s next for Persona non Grata?
"Our 1st priority right now is to tour as much as we can. We have Redlion, our booking agent, to work on this part. We are expecting some good offers in order to organize a European tour."
What kind of response you have received thus far?
"The response we receive from the audience is very positive event though we haven’t established our name in the music industry yet. We all work too hard in order to have good sound for our lives as much as close to our CD. Progressive metal audience is difficult and critical some times. They want to hear the CD live. That’s very, very difficult to do right.
Some last words from me: Thanks for the hospitality. I really enjoyed this interview as your questions are unconventional. I am looking forward to visit Norway and the rest of the world soon for a live performance, hoping you and your readers will join us. Thanks again!"
Composed by Dethster4life