Interview by Demitri Levantis
Interview with: Haris – synths, main composer, live bass player
With the release of their fourth studio album, “Eden in Reverse”, we caught up with Greek psychedelic/prog metal veterans, Hail Spirit Noir to discuss what the band has been up to and has planned for the future.
Hey, thanks for your time! So, let’s begin with the new album, Eden in Reverse, due for release on June 19th. What inspired you to take a retro-futuristic approach; did you take in any media that gave you a set of ideas or has it always been what you wanted to write about?
Thank you for having us. I don’t think it was a conscious decision. Having grown up in the 80s the sci-fi thing was really huge and it has always stuck with me. Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey fascinated me the first time I watched it and its imagery stayed with me ever since. I guess we tried to capture a moment in time that combines both, past and future. A sense of timelessness. Man’s final journey to the stars has been a great topic of interest for me and the 80s and the art created in that era was in a lot of cases influenced by that.
It also says in your release that you were no longer in the 60s-70s zone but more in the 70s-80s. Why did you decide to go towards that direction and are there any artists from that era you would cite as big influences?
Αrtists like Jan Michel Jarre and Kraftwerk but there are lots of them. Soundwise, I think it’s the natural evolution for the band. The first demos I made were already influenced a bit by the 80s but by the time we started working on them as a band that influence became that much more pronounced. I’ve always been a huge fan of Jarre and Kraftwerk and they were bound to creep into our sound eventually. We still retain some parts of the 70s aspect but with the aid of these weird synth sounds, we arrived at this retro-futuristic approach. Plus there’s also this Kubrick-ian aspect in the overall presentation of the record that really suits it. It wasn’t really conscious. Theoharis had some initial riffs and ideas that were slightly punk-ish but what we ended up with we couldn’t have foreseen. That makes it interesting for us, I guess. Being an avid audiophile I always thought the 80s made huge leaps in terms of sound progress. I’ve always found that inspiring. I tracked down hardware synths like Prophet, the cs-80 plus the Moog we already had and we actually worked them to bits trying to capture sounds that were unique. That’s what I borrowed from the 80s. It’s not like we left the 70s behind or ignored them. I think what makes us this album unique is the way we actually combine all of those influences.
You have a guest appearance by Lars Nedland of Borknagar on “Crossroads”; can you tell us how you guys met and why you got him on board?
To be honest, we haven’t met yet, haha. That’s the wonders of the internet. We somehow found out he was a fan of the band. I can’t really recall how. Crossroads was a track that really had us baffled as we felt there was something missing. We figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask so we did and he kindly accepted. It’s a huge honour for us as his voice is one of my favourites. Plus, his own band, Solefald, is a perfect example or reinvention. The result has been awesome for us, both as musicians and as listeners.
What was it like to work with Dimitris Douvras (Rotting Christ), who mastered the album?
We go with Dimitris way back as he’s been mixing our projects since the final Transcending Bizarre? album. That’s a good 12 years now. It’s always a pleasure because he’s one of the most gifted producers when it comes to getting the result the artist wants, always adding a little bit of his own flavour. He respects what we aim to do and always tries to get the best out of us. For “Eden….” We had him pulling out his fingernails with the number of different channels he had to mix. Plus we constantly changed stuff. It’s really admirable he didn’t have us a shot. Worth it though, heh.
Do you have a personal favourite track from the new album and why?
If I absolutely had to pick one it would probably be the last one, Automata 1980. It’s the most Hail Spirit Noir track as it encapsulates all the insanity, weirdness and beauty I aim to achieve with this band. It might seem harsh to the ears at first, particularly the spaced-out intro but that’s all on purpose as it adds to the overall atmosphere.
Your cover artwork was done by StuZor; have you worked with them before and would you work with them again following this album?
No, we hadn’t worked with him before. He did an amazing job on the cover of Eden. As soon as we saw it, we knew it was going to be our cover. It really exudes the unavoidability of the unknown. It lends an aura of retro-futurism that is essential to the album. We would love to work with him again.
‘Hail Spirit Noir changes its sound with every new release, can you tell us what makes you want to go in different directions and what do you have in store in the future?
I think it’s all our different influences. I can’t really see the band making the same album twice. All of them are so idiosyncratic and reflect us at that particular moment in time, that it’s pointless. It would be like to capture lightning in a bottle. We also have to keep things interesting for ourselves. And honest. That’s quite important. I can’t predict the future. I just know it’s not going to be the same. Besides. Even if I did know, why would you want me to spoil it?
How has the band changed in your eyes since becoming a sextet in 2018 with the inclusion of its live members?
Well, more schedules to juggle! Seriously, though, it was something that had to be done in order to finally get the band on the road. After they slogged it out with us, there was no point in denying our chemistry. There’s also a larger pool of influences to draw from and that surely will make for interesting results. I mean you can’t have musicians like Cons, Sakis and Foivos and not use them. The material for “Eden…” was almost done when they joined the band full-time but they did manage to make a difference. Sakis had a lot to do with helping me choose sounds and effects. Cons really added to what we had recorded as rough guides for the vocals and well Foivos changed/suggested different drum patterns and sometimes arrangements that helped the songs. We’ll see what the future holds. Plus the band’s more ready than ever to accept any invitation for a show. As soon as they start happening again that is.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you personally as well as musically and has it meant you’ve had to cancel many shows or festivals?
Thankfully, personally, there hasn’t been anything bad. The same goes for the rest of the band. It was a horrible situation in general. I couldn’t even imagine we would have to live through something like this. The whole confusion surrounding this and the vast amount of misinformation really sent me for a spin. The things that people are willing to believe to avoid blame, you know? Theoharis said it best the other day: Isn’t it everything easier when it’s never our fault? Musically, it has only affected the album’s release as we can’t really tour for it. We could say that the album’s title has been proven kind prophetic. When Theoharis and I came up with the album title we couldn’t foresee how apt it would turn out to be. We were in the talking stages with various promoters and Agonia was setting up a tour for us but every single plan has now fallen through. We’ll see how it goes.
How does it feel being the first Greek band to perform at Roadburn Festival, and how did you find it?
It was amazing to be honest. The whole thing was absolutely brilliant. It was awesome see it and have the playing experience. It was the first show of our European tour and we were all a bit nervous. Everything worked out in the end nad we only have the fondest of memories. It’s an honour to be the first Greek band to ever play such a legendary festival, that’s for sure.
You also played Dark Bombastic Evening in Romania, how was that experience?
It was a great! It was awesome for me because we got to see Oranzi Pazuzu live and they were an amazing experience. Plus the whole site the festival took place is quite ideal for such music.
What do you make of Greece’s metal scene today and how has the Greek scene changed for you in the time you’ve been involved?
With the exception of the technical know-how that’s been greatly updated, the main difference to me is that there a lot more bands that take themselves and their art seriously. That’s really important. There bands like Thy Darkened Shade, Sacral Rage, Rapture that are really pushing things, each in their own styles. But like I said, the main difference is in mentality and that will help keep things moving forward.
How has mixing black metal with other genres been received by the black metal community? What sort of feedback have your fans given?
Black metal has always been the most open-minded about such things. Well, generally speaking. It’s not always well received and sometimes it comes down to how genuine what you do feels. I think we’ve always walked a fine balance, although not intentionally. Even “Pneuma” had people divided. That’s always good, no? With “Eden…” I think the 80s elements and the prog aspects are more prominent and the black metal part is here in essence. It’s not completely gone but not just as dominating as before. Fans will always have their own opinions. Who knows what they’ll think of this new one?
Where do you draw your inspiration from when writing lyrics/music?
When it comes to music. I really can’t tell you. It’s a melody I might come up with on guitar or improvisation with my synths that sort of demands further development. I sometimes go for a particular feel and work around that, other’s I really can’t tell you.
As for lyrics Theoharis does the majority of the writing and usually what he writes revolves around staff he’s been reading at the time or various themes we discuss and research them. Just like we did for this album with two of our mutual favourites, Richard Dawkins and Charles Darwin.
Usually, we decide on a theme as soon as the first tracks take shape and work around it.
What made you want to use mannequins in the promo photoshoot with Crux (Vaggelis Neofotistos) and why is one of you getting strangled in the back [laughs]?
That was my idea and Crux agreed. My idea was to add an almost inhuman element to the photo. A faceless, mechanic and cold tone. Just like the album’s cover and the album in general. The one getting strangled is Theoharis. He’s actually gasping for air as in space apparently you can’t really breathe. Or maybe he’s just trying to save himself from himself. Quite demented, if you ask me.
What are the pro’s/cons from being in a band and what do you enjoy most about being a musician?
Creativity. This is always going to be it. The band environment is amazing. Despite the stress, it might seem to generate it’s actually one of the most rewarding things you can involve yourself with. The end result will always justify all the sweat and it’s a way to face fears and reality. Not ignore them. Creativity doesn’t have to be about burying your head in the sand. It should be about facing whatever haunts you. It needs to be exhilarating. I can’t really think of a downside of being in the band right now. Maybe scheduling and financing but what can you do? We work around them.
Do you have any interesting or funny anecdotes from your previous gigs/tours that you love to share with us?
Nothing exciting springs to mind right now. And those that do have all to do with Greek wordplay. I’ll let you know if anything springs to mind. Sorry about that!
What does the future hold for ‘Hail Spirit Noir’?
Live dates, hopefully! I really hope we’ll get to playing again as we’re itching to go on stage. Otherwise, who can tell? Maybe, we’ll find new ways of promoting “Eden In Reverse”
Finally, do you have anything you’d like to say to our readers?
Thank you for your support and for your time. Keep safe through the madness. Lose yourself in our Eden and hopefully, we’ll see the retro-future together on a stage soon.
Thank you so much for your time, we wish you all the best for the coming future.
Eden In Reverse – Out now on Agonia Records.
1. Darwinian Beasts
2. Incense Swirls
3. Alien Lip Reading
5. The Devil’s Blind Spot
6. The First Ape on New Earth
7. Automata 1980