While everyone seems to be waiting in anticipation for the new album by Sacral Rage, the debut album from War Dance, in a completely different style of course, is also slowly drawing some attention. “Wrath For The Ages” has been out on the reliable Eat Metal records for a few weeks now, and we got in touch with guitarist and main songwriter Tassos Pananoudakis to get some more information on this act.
War Dance was formed back in March 2010. Most bands say that they just got together to play the form of music the loved. Is there something unique about the formation of War Dance, or is your story the same?
– Indeed, The band was formed back in March 2010. I wouldn’t go that far to say that there was some “unique, unexpected or mysterious” story about the formation of the band, but surely there was an uncompromising and insuperable need and will from our side to do so, and it is the very same driving force that keeps us going on.
I believe you were offered to do one or more concerts even before your first release, the promo-CD was released in 2011. This seems like a thing most bands can only dream about, at least here in Northern Europe. Were you lucky, or was it about having the right contacts in the scene?
– All I can say is that, sometimes, luck favours those who are capable and competent.
Was it a hard task performing your material in front of an audience who mostly didn’t know your material?
– No, we always enjoy performing our material, even at rehearsals we draw a lot of energy from the material itself. I would say, that, in a way, it is really challenging performing in front of an audience that has never heard of our material, or even in front of people who don’t even listen to the same kind of music that we are playing, but it is a challenge that we really enjoy.
As I already mentioned, your first release was ”Promo 2011”. I remember seeing a few reviews, for instance in “Steel For An Age”. Did you get any feedback, positive or negative, that you used actively when you worked on the rest of the material for the new album?
– The feedback we received was very positive, both from the magazines and from the people who listened to the promo CD. This is the reason we had the opportunity to play as a support act for bands like Warlord and Manilla Road. As far as the rest of the material, we surely kept in mind some comments regarding the production procedure, mostly coming from musicians that we appreciate for their own work.The truth is that we already had a certain vision about the production since the days that we decided to do the promo-CD, which of course, we kept for the recordings and the production of the rest of the material for the album, both for our songs and for the covers as well.
How would you describe this vision regarding the production?
– As it comes out straight from the CD. All i could add to this is that we focused mostly on playing good and lots of hard work in order to overcome any shortcomings we had regarding equipment etc. Whatever you hear on the CD is recorded by the band as it is, meaning that there was no editing on the tracks whatsoever. We tried to be as precise and tight as we could while recording the tracks.
How many copies of this promo were made? Is it still available? Was the idea mainly to have a product available at concerts for people to buy, or to get a record deal?
– We have distributed more than 200 copies up to now, and we still have some more available for those who are interested. The songs from the promo though, are included in the album with a better sound. The main idea behind the promo was to state that “we are here” to people, the press, record labels and concert organizers.
You have managed to keep a stable line up since you formed the band back in 2010, but in 2013 you got a new guitar player in form of George Mpountalis. Why did he replace your old guitarist Vasilis, and what did you look for when you searched for a new guitar player for War Dance?
– Indeed, although I would like to add that George Mpountalis was replaced by Teo Chatzigrigoriou by the end of 2014 as well. Our old members decided to quit the band for their own personal reasons, thus we had to find new ones so that we can continue to play gigs.The truth is that both George Mpountalis and Vasilis Koumroglou were not active either in the song composition nor in the recordings as it is. They were just helping us to perform live some harmonies and to add more volume to the whole sound, since the material demands two guitars to come out right.Being able to trust to be consistent in the band is what we were really looking for when we searched for a new member. We are very happy to have our new guitar player, Teo Chatzigrigoriou, in the band, who already got the “baptism of fire” in the live show for the presentation of “Wrath For The Ages” and we hope that he will have a more active role in the band than his predecessors.
Is it hard finding musicians for War Dance, that fits both musically, shares the same visions and musical ideas for the band?
– All I can say, for the time being, is that since the core of the band is steady in almost five years, we haven’t been in the process of finding any other members besides the second guitar player. I hope we don’t have to ask and answer the very same question ourselves in the near future.
You seem to be the leader of the band, as you are the main songwriter, and are also overseeing the recording, production, mix and mastering. Do you see War Dance as an outlet for your own musical ideas and inspiration? Is War Dance still a democratic band?
– Even though I have written the material and I am responsible for the production, the recording, the mixing and the mastering, we all make every decision in the band, no matter how big or trivial, together. We respect each other and after working together for four years we know each others strong and weak points and strive to do what is best for the whole.
Why have you chosen to do “everything” yourself instead of working with an outside producer?
– Because, in one hand we have the ability and the vision to carry out the production all by ourselves, and on the other hand we lack the necessary budget to work with a renowned producer.
If you had the budget, would you still do it on your own to have control over the process?
– It depends on the amount of the budget and the options that we would have regarding who we could work with.
Since the material for at least half the record was written back in 2011, it seems to have taken a long time to get the album out. Did you spend these years working on the rest of the songs, or were there other factors that delayed the release?
– We are not professional musicians, and we are not making a living out of it, thus, music is not the first priority for most of our members.
Were you ever tempted to release an album consisting only of newly recorded material, leaving out the material from “Promo 2011”?
– No, the decision was made beforehand that the songs on the promo would be included in the album as well. Besides, it was already stated, and those who have the promo can read the relevant decision in the booklet.
When you’re a Greek band playing this type of music, and doing it quite well, I guess the chances are quite big that you will end up at Eat Metal. Did you prefer to work with a Greek label?
– We do not have any particular preference. We sent out the material to many record labels around the world. Eat Metal made the best proposal and we agreed to that one.
I noticed that the information that came with the digital promo, didn’t try to categorize your sound as classic heavy metal, epic metal or something like that. Is this something that you did on purpose? Do you try to avoid being put into a category? How do you prefer to describe the sound of War Dance to those who haven’t heard the band?
– We intentionally didn’t use any of those terms you mentioned. We would describe our music as “straight heavy metal with a battle feeling or mood”.
What is the intention behind not using these terms?
– It is 2015… a lot of things have changed since the eighties. In any case, our musical influences are not based solely on metal, so we didn’t want to use “cliché” terms either on the musical or the commercial level.
You have chosen to do a cover version of “Marathon” by Sarissa. What is it about this band that has influenced you? You have placed the song as the second track on the album, something which is quite unusual when we’re talking about a cover version, which often are placed towards the end of the album…
– The music of Sarissa really changed the way I’ve been listening to music when I was younger.Mostly because with the 1994-album they were able to create unique and impressive timbres by using elements of traditional music, in combination with the not-so-common rhythmic patterns, like odd time signatures etc, “Marathon” was placed second on the track list because it felt right for the flow of the album.
What is about this particular song that made you choose it and not one of the others from the self titled album?
– A decision made purely by instinct. We could have chosen any other song, like “King Of All Kings” or “Survival”, or whatever, but for some reason and without second thought we decided on “Marathon”.
Talking about the running order of the album, you’ll get some new songs first, then the songs from “Promo 2011” are placed after each other towards the end, but you have chosen to end the album with the title track, which is a new one. Why is that?
– We decided on the running order based on the tempo and pitch of the tracks, so that the album would be easy on the ear and have some alternations as well. We really didn’t care about the “old-new” running order of the songs, because, trust me, there are a lot of people who simply don’t know that the promo-CD is out there too.
As far as I understand, the old songs come with new mix and mastering. If I remember right, the promo was recorded in a garage. Have you used a more professional studio for the new songs?
– The recordings were done in the same place. It was ideal for us because we had the freedom to work on the material without having to look constantly at the clock and say: “We have to finish this session in three hours” etc. We really wanted to go to the limit so we worked long hours to be able to achieve the result you can hear on the album.
You had a guy called Mistiis doing the artwork for “Promo 2011”, which turned out great, why did you choose to work with the more renowned Ioannis for the album? Since he is very involved also with other bands, I guess it could be said that Mistiis would have delivered something even more unique.
– Because it was the safest and the most “guaranteed” choice. Surely you can expect the best possible outcome from a professional artist and we don’t have any regrets for making that decision. Of course we are still very happy for Mistiis’ artwork and very proud both for the “Promo 2011” and the album’s artwork.
You have made a video for the song “Freedom”. What can you tell me about the historical pictures that are used along with pictures of the band performing outdoors? What type of “Freedom” are you referring to in this song?
– This was an idea of Thanos Kermitsis, the director of the video. All the pictures and scenes used, have to do with struggles,battles and sacrifices that took place throughout history in the name of freedom.I don’t really know how many forms of freedom there are, but i know that freedom is something worth fighting for.
Is there room for other themes than historical and mythological ones in your lyrics? Do you have the freedom (no pun intended) to write the lyrics you want, or do you feel that this type of music needs a special type of lyrics?
– History and mythology is an inspiration but they are not the only topics in our song lyrics. There is definitely plenty of room to express other themes and ideas, for instance in songs like “Recall”, “The Thunder Inside Me”, “Wrath For The Ages” and “Freedom”.
You have written the lyrics for a few of the songs on the album. Which one are you most satisfied with? Why?
– I am satisfied with everything i have written, each for different reasons that have to do with the period of time being written.
Do you see Greece as the main market for War Dance? Are you satisfied with establishing yourselves in the metal scene in your home country, or are you looking for something more?
– The metal scene here in Greece is good but not that big or that easy on starting local bands. We are definitely looking for something more and we know that if we are to move on, we have to start looking abroad.Its a fact that Hellenic bands who achieved something bigger, did it first by touring and performing abroad and only after the success came that way, was there any recognition within the border. Thank you very much Leif for having us here on Metal Squadron!