SHORT AS HELL I: Gothic Knights

In addition to the more in depth ones, I will also post some shorter interviews which were printed on the news pages of Scream. Here is a little chat I had with John Tsantiz, original member and guitarist of GOTHIC KNIGHTS. Six short questions only, quite embarrassing compared to the twelve pages or so that often grace the likes of Snakepit, but I promise, longer interviews are just around the corner, so stay tuned.

Nine years have passed since you released “Up From The Ashes”. Has the band been active for all these years, or did you take a break?

– The best way I can describe the past nine years is it was a major transitionary period for the band.  After the release of Up from the Ashes, a couple of us were dealing with some personal situations that we were also dedicating time to.  Rick the singer started going to college and needed to dedicate time to his studies.  And I was recovering from a serious yet very successful back surgery and making a career change.  So for a couple of years, we were focusing our time and energies on these things.   But even so, the band never went on hiatus.  We were still getting together writing music and exploring ideas at our rehearsal space.  But the most important change we made within the band is that we began investing in recording gear and built a Pro Tools studio.   That said, there was a big learning curve as to how to record and demo on our own.  I personally spent a lot of time learning how to utilize the software, explore the software, and then recording and mixing the band’s demos.

Your last album, “Up From The Ashes” was released on a German label, Limb. What do you think of this album today, and are you satisfied with the work of the label?

– Limb put a great package together for us.  We were very impressed with the digipak, which included a poster, sticker, bonus tracks….they really knew how to put together an impressive product.  I don’t want to say anything bad about Limb because at that time all the labels and the bands were starting to deal with negative effects of the changes going on in the music industry.  Illegal music downloading was decimating CD sales, which affected all the labels big and small and of course the bands.  The best thing I can say is that we found and took an opportunity to part with Limb.  From a business perspective, I felt that was the best road to take in order to see where the music industry lands.  As far as the Up from the Ashes CD itself, I felt that it was a big step forward from our previous efforts, both on a writing and production level.  However, I feel that Reflections from the Other Side is also a big step forward since Up From the Ashes.

For how long have you worked on what has become “Reflections From The Other Side”? Are the songs dating back to the years after the release of “Up From The Ashes”, or are they written more recently? 

-Some of the songs that we began writing in say 2004-2005 ended up on Reflections from the Other Side.  One song that immediately comes to mind 1689, Trial of the Witch.  That song however has changed and developed over the years…and again thanks to Pro Tools.  My memory has faded but I am going to say that from 2005 to 2007 a lot of time was spent learning how to use Pro Tools.  From 2007 through 2009, we concentrated on writing and demoing.  It then took a couple of years to record and mixing the actual CD.   The one thing I can say that it will never take us this long again to record a CD.  We have learned a lot from our growing pains!

The songs Death From Above, Ave Satani, and the Omen, were written in 2010.  We also have recorded and demoed several other songs over the years that don’t appear on Reflections from the Other Side.   We plan on releasing them on our next CD.  And in fact, we already recorded the official drums for 5 of those songs at Trax East studios in New Jersey.  

How would you compare “Reflections From The Other Side” to your three earlier albums? Do you feel that you have a fresh approach this time, or is it one of your prior albums you feel it has something in common with?

-The one thing, I wanted to change was how we select songs to release on a CD.  GOTHIC KNIGHTS tends to write songs that are in the melodic epic power metal vein and songs that are darker and in the more aggressive thrash style.  Reflections from the Other Side is a CD that has a more dark and aggressive feel from beginning to end.  The songs we have already recorded and demoed for the follow-up CD are more in the melodic power metal style.

Back in 2009 you integrated Jared Sloan into your lineup. Why did you want, for the first time I believe, a keyboardist in the band?    

-We always had ideas for keyboards in our songs since the band’s inception and I was always involved, editing, or actually laying background keys on some of the songs on each of the CDs.  The first time I worked with an actual keyboardist (Vlado Kormos) was for the Up from the Ashes CD.  Vlado and I worked closely together on arranging keys for several songs.  He recorded keyboards for the songs that required more of an expert player.  In fact, Vlado played a couple of shows with us live as well.  However, Vlado’s role was always more of a session player and he was also working with other bands.  I actually met Jared through a family friend of my wife’s.  He and I shared a common passion for power metal music and because of that we started working together on the songs.  Jared is great to work with because not only is he a very talented keyboardist but when I showed him the advantages of Pro Tools and the synth programs, he very much embraced the technology.  These days, I find myself doing a lot synth programming and sound designing in the songs.  In fact, I studied musical composition in college way back when so I know how to read and write music and analyze musical scores.   It feels good utilizing these skills years and years later.  I should practice and get better at playing the actual keyboard though! 

 Your bass player, Mario Cosentino, is like yourself an original member of the band. How important is it for you, as the leader of a band, to have such a long time member beside you, both on stage and when it comes to recording albums?   

– Mario to me is like family.   In fact, he and his wife recently became godparents to my youngest daughter, so he really is like family.  I have known Mario for over 20 years and he has always been a pillar in the band, through the good and the bad.  His love and appreciation for music both on a recording level and live performance goes unmatched.  To be honest, I feel lucky and honored that he is still with the band because of the ups and downs we have both faced.  But I think he would agree that a lot the negatives wash away every time we put out a CD.  Because once it’s your hands, you feel that it was all worth it!

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