- Hello, Kyriakos! Tell us, how did you get into metal music? What were the first bands that hooked you up?
- I got into music at an early age. It was Kiss that really made me get into music and be in a band. I think most kids growing up back then (in the States especially) got into Kiss. From Kiss my taste in music as I got older obviously changed. Van Halen was my favorite band after Kiss. But, by the early 1980s I kept getting into heavier music. Sabbath, Maiden, Priest, the usual suspects were part of the early bands that got me into metal.
- Back in the early 80s, what was your usual way of discovering the new bands? Were you involved into tape-trading? Do you remember some of your first tapes?
- Man it was so much harder to discover bands back then. But, if you really wanted to find new music you did. It all depended on how serious you were about discovering new music. I remember the first time Venom hit the scene and how fast word of mouth worked. There was a great metal scene back then with all the killer zines, tape trading and word of mouth. Local radio especially college radio was a great place to hear new bands. I used it all, I was dying to hear the latest shit. The feeling was amazing when you discovered something new that was great. It was even cooler to turn your friends onto something you discovered. There were a few of us in the scene in Chicago that were early in discovering new music in the advertising world they call them “tastemakers”. Like I said Venom was one of the first tapes along with: Death demos, DeathStrike – Master, Metallica’s No Life till Leather. All the Chicago bands and a ton more.
- Do you remember this transition from heavy metal to its more extreme version, Thrash Metal? When did you hear about it for the first time?
- I remember listening to Number of the Beast in 1983 over and over again. I think that was the last traditional metal record I loved that much. Right after that I got into the heavier more extreme music. I have said this in other interviews recently. Motorhead, Venom, and Fast as a Shark were the foundations of the heavier genres that started to emerge in the early 1980s. By 1984, all I listened to was the more extreme bands. I remember hearing the Metallica demo and first thinking James had a weird voice, but feeling it was cool. Hearing Slayer in the beginning and what they were doing had a major impact.
- Aftermath was formed in 1985. How did you meet each other? At those days, was it difficult to find proper musicians with the skill and the right vision for the music you wanted to play?
- Steve, Ray and I went to the same high school. Ray and my brother went to grammar school together. He was jamming with some other kids and they wanted me to sing. We did that in 1984 it was metal. In 1985, Steve and I were in our first year of college. Back in high school, he had reputation as being a great guitarist. He actually taught lessons. I was one of his students, the one that refused to listen. So when I ran into him in college, I asked him to get together and work on some new music together. He was a real player that could read music and play all different genres. But, I exposed him to the heavy stuff. I knew that Ray would be the drummer. He was amazing and he had a basement where we could rehearse. So the three of us got together in 1985 and formed the band. We found Adam from a friend. He was and still is into hardcore to this day. He was not the player that Ray or Steve were. With Adam it was the vibe not the skill that got him in the band. So we started out as a four piece in 1985.
- The first demo was released in 1986. Tell us a bit about the recordings. Where did you record it and based on what did you choose the studio?
- We record that demo in one day just to hear us on tape. I had never heard my voice on tape like that before. The band was so loud at rehearsal that you could not hear the vocals back then. So I was singing the songs and the guys never really heard the vocals until we recorded that demo. We pick Seagrape Studios based on the price and some other bands in the scene had recorded there. It was really an easy choice since we weren’t looking to make it an official release.
- How many copies did you have? How did you distribute it? What was the main feedback on the material?
- Like I said we never intended for that demo to be released. We had a limited number of copies and no cover art. So there was no distribution. If I remember correctly, the demo was duplicated at the studio, we never had a real pressing.
- In 1987 you released the legendary "Killing the Future" demo. Tell us about the time you spent in the studio. How different was it from your previous experience?
- Two completely different experiences. Everything was different by then. We wrote the KTF songs and wanted the world to hear them. We went to Solid Sound Studios and recorded them on 24 tracks, which was a big deal back then. The first demo was recorded basically live on 8 tracks. KTF had overdubs and was recorded like a record. We were lucky to work with Phil Bonnet, he was a great engineer. He was totally into not using too many studio tricks, he thought music should be raw and not overproduced. That is why I thinking Killing sounds so fresh today. Phil always had porn on the tv monitors a 7-11 Big Gulp and cigarettes. Recording Killing was a great experience.
- In 1994, you released your full-length, "Eyes of Tomorrow". So why there was such a big gap? What was your situation with labels? And what can you say about Zoid Recordings, looks like Aftermath was its the only release.
- I can write a book on that record. We wrote most of the material for the record in 1987- 1989. Unfortunately, we didn’t start recording the record until 1990 and it wasn’t released like you said until 1994. After the Killing demo, we received a number of record deals and turned them down. Instead, we focused on writing new material. We added John Lovette on bass to replace Adam, because we felt Adam would limit the band. We had no clue John was really a guitarist. He played bass faster than anyone we had ever seen play before. He played it like a guitar, it all made sense when he told us he wasn’t a bass player, but auditioned as one because he wanted to be in the band. When he switched to guitar, we drastically changed musically. It started with the Words that Echo Fear demo. Two guitars brought in the guitar harmonies. John was a shredder on leads and you hear that on the Words demo and the record. He also wrote most of the music after Killing, so it was more complex, darker and technical. I was feeling that way also at that time – the need for speed was gone when we wrote and recorded Words and Eyes.
We received some more offers after Words came out, but we still felt none of them were what we wanted. By 1990, we got an offer from RoadRunner to record a demo. That demo featured four tracks that eventually ended up on the Eyes record. While the RoadRunner deal never came through that demo got in the hands of the owner of Big Chief Records a new indie label out of New York. The owner’s dad was some really rich real estate developer in NY. He gave his son the money to start the label. With Big Chief came major label distribution through Warner Brothers. We felt this was a perfect situation a new label with not a lot of bands and great distribution, we were going to be the artist they focused on. Unfortunately, during the recording of the record the father pulled the financing for the label and it filed for bankruptcy. We were left with a studio bill and no label. It took us 4 years to pay off the studio bill. The studio refused to release the masters until the bill was paid.
We decided to control our own record by forming Zoid Recordings with my brother, our own label to release our own music. Today, Zoid Recordings is Zoid Entertainment. It has become a management company. Besides Aftermath – Zoid’s roster included Mother God Moviestar, Soil and Stripping the Pistol. Zoid got Soil signed to a multi-million dollar deal on J Records back in 2001. Today, it is focused on the Aftermath reunion and the reissues. We are writing new material and Zoid will be releasing that digitally.
- Let's talk about the preparations for this release. When did you actually start composing the material for the "Eyes of Tomorrow"? Did you have any particular difficulties? Did your new bass player, Chris Waldron, contribute to the material as well?
- Like I said, the Eyes record was mainly written between 1987-1989. The material drastically changed as I said after Killing, but it felt totally natural. We at that time felt like we had done the crossover thing (Crossover wasn’t a term that was even around back then, people used Thrash Core), we wanted to experiment with the addition of John - we changed easily. We were able to do things that we couldn’t as a four piece. Adam just couldn’t play bass that way, so when we let him go and replaced him with players that could really play, it was only natural that it became way more progressive. The songwriting seemed easy. Chris Waldron is a great player, but he didn’t write any of the songs only his bass parts
- The album was recorded at Solid Sounds Studios, how did you like working there? What can you say about the recording sessions? How long did it take you to track all the music and vocals?
- Solid Sound felt like home for us. We recorded Killing and Words there also. Phil made it easy for us. I’m a night person, so being in the studio late at night made it easy for me. The experience recording the record was great, the problem was getting the masters from the studio that was hard. Phil as I said was into less production is better. But, with Words and Eyes we wanted more production than Killing. The new songs called for more studio work. He understood that and sometimes we compromised.
- You wrote all the lyrics to this album, what were the main topics of your songs about?
- It's funny, I was asked back in the day what does this or that lyric mean and sometimes I really had no clue what the lyrics were about. I felt they were coming to me by some higher force and only now do I totally comprehend what the mean is for both Killing and Eyes. The lyrics are exactly what is happening today. The overall theme of the record is positive messages and asking people to treat people the way you want to be treated. It’s a warning also about all the negative and evil going on in the world. I never wrote traditional metal or thrash lyrics.
- Did you have a tour after the release? In general, how often did you play live with Aftermath? Do you remember any cool shows you had? Did you support any national acts?
- Between 1985 and 1996 we played a total of 33 shows. Aftermath never toured, we played a few gigs out of town during that time but we never toured. There were a lot of great shows. The first gig we played in June of 1986 at a place called Snobs was amazing, the pit was violent. That show was with Terminal Death and Devastation – we were all getting big followings and that gig was special. The shows in Chicago and Detroit with the Crumbsuckers were great, especially the one in Chicago. That crowd was crazy and violent. We played our last show in 1995 at the Freefest in Chicago. It was at the lakefront in Chicago with a huge crowed, it felt different being outdoors and the sun was going down as we played – the experience of headlining a fest with such a big crowd was amazing. Before the breakup we mainly played with national acts in Chicago. From Sacrifice to Mercyful Fate, Carcass, etc. Now what I am about to say may sound strange, but it is the truth – the two reunion shows we did this year were two of the best shows we have ever played. Playing Ragnarokkr in Chicago after a 20 year break and being able to feel that comfortable on stage was unbelievable. But, playing Headbangers Open Air in Germany in July was the best. We had a great set and it was always a dream to play Europe.
- So, why did the band split-up? And when did it happen?
- All the turmoil around the label breakup was taking a toll on the band by 1995. Then we had the whole battle with Dr. Dre over the trademark for Aftermath. We had a federal trademark for Aftermath for several years. Dre was leaving his label Death Row to start his own label and he wanted to call it Aftermath Entertainment. His lawyers didn’t do their homework at first and when they finally checked they saw that we had a trademark. They tried to license the name for his label, but lied about the label and we found out that it was Dr. Dre that was going to own the company not a small R&B label like they said. We sued them in federal court and the idiot judge completely misunderstood the law. He ruled we do not compete in the same style of music, so Dre can use the name even though we have a trademark. So that mess took a ton of energy and by that time my musical interest had changed. I didn’t want to write a follow up to Eyes – you need to remember that record came out only two years before the lawsuit, but most of the material was written 8 years before that and we had changed as writers. The music we were writing at that time was no longer anything that would be part of an Aftermath catalog. So with the lawsuit, and the music we were writing it was time to put an end to Aftermath and we formed Mother God Moviestar and signed a deal with Interscope Records.
- 2011 was a big year for you, as you released 2 compilations and the whole Box set. Can you tell us a bit about those editions? How did it happen and who came up with that idea?
- We had been approached over the years to play shows or re-release our music. We did re-release Eyes of Tomorrow on Black Lotus in 1998. Between 1998 and 2010, I never really thought or took anything Aftermath seriously. But, in 2010, we were approached by Area Death Productions and F.O.A.D Records to do the box set and the vinyl releases. When we decided to put those releases out I had not talk to anyone in the band in years, except for John Lovette who also played with me in Stripping the Pistol. It was an honor to have two different labels want to put out our material. We decided to make the box set a retrospective of the band’s entire catalog, live performance and video. It took months to get all that together, especially the video. At the end of the video, we do an interview at Ray’s house 25 years after. We talked about getting back together, but we had not been in contact with Steve since 1998. The box set title 25 Years of Chaos summarized the band’s experience. The ride was chaotic. The music was remastered and sounds great. I hear the vinyls sound amazing also, but I don’t own a turntable.
- And already this year, "Killing the Future" was re-released by Divebomb Records. What can you say about this edition? How do you like the new sound? Is the record considered now as a full-length?
- It was during the box set and vinyl releases that I listened to Killing again after 1987. Think about that. Killing is considered a trailblazing and legendary demo by many and I refused to listen to it for almost 25 years. I remember thinking it was too basic. When I listened again in 2011, I fell in love with it. I couldn’t believe how much I loved the songs, production, aggression – loved all of it. I felt like a fan hearing a great record for the first time and being blown away. The only difference this time was that it was my band. I would not be part of a reunion if I wasn’t amazed by that demo the way I was, it made me want to play with the band again. So when we decided to reissue it this year on CD with Divebomb (Matt is a great guy) I couldn’t wait to get it out there. The original demo had a clear cassette back then and that made it look like a major label release, the production was killer and never sounded like a demo. So the original had set a high standard and we needed to make it as good or better obviously. We expended the booklet and include the first demo as bonus tracks. The cover art is basically the same except for the face of the reaper. If you look at it now you will see the face is the same from the EYES cover – its ZOIDY our mascot. The music was all remastered by Paul Logus (Pantera, Anthrax) he killed it. It sounds amazing. It is an Ep with some bonus material. I love this release.
We also reissued Eyes of Tomorrow on Shadow Kingdom in September with an expanded booklet and revisions to the cover art. Paul Logus remastered that as well. It sounds killer. Hells Headbangers released a 2 vinyl set version of the record in November. Now that is special.
- Do you still have any of those releases left? Can people contact you and get their copies?
- We have some of the releases available a limited number of the Killing and Eyes reissues from this year and the Eyes vinyl release as well. The Killing and Eyes reissues are available on iTunes and Amazon. There is a link to the iTunes page directly from our Facebook page
- By the way, can you tell us a bit about Mother God Moviestar and Stripping the Pistol bands? Do you work on any new material? What is the status of these bands?
- Mother God Moviestar like I started to say earlier featured all the Aftermath guys plus Delta 9 and female backing vocals. Some of the MGMS material was written as Aftermath tracks, but were changed on the MGMS record. It is a very experimental record – really out there. It was a pretty complex record that combined metal, electronic elements and progressive sounds.It doesn’t have a genre or category. Dave from Morbid Angel did something in that vein last year. I think we influenced him in a way. MGMS toured with his band Genitorturers back in 1998.
- Alright, thank you a lot for this interivew. Would you like to say anything to our readers?
- I would like to thank you for the great questions and your readers for taking the time to read my answers. If you get a chance check out our Facebook page where you will soon be able to check out our new song There is Something Wrong. It is a 10-minute thrash epic. The song deconstructs thrash. This is the third phase of the band. During Killing we brought hardcore into thrash, the second phase was about merging the technical/progressive elements into thrash and phase three will blend the first two phases and add to it. We are back…. until death we thrash.
As I do this interview word just got out that Lemmy died tonight. What a huge loss - a true legend. RIP Lemmy.