16 Aug 2017

Interview: Michael Stavrakakis (Doomocracy)

Earlier this year Doomocracy released their album "Visions & Creatures of Imagination" through Steel Gallery Records. I've now had the honor of speaking to vocalist Michael Stavrakakis about the album, the Greek scene and record collecting.

Interview conducted on 2017-08-15:

Hey Michael! First of congratulations on your latest album "Visions & Creatures of Imagination", you must be very satisfied with the response you have received at this point? I myself suspect it will place quite high on my best of 2017-list. 

Hey David, thank you for your kind words. Our new album "Visions & Creatures of Imagination" has indeed received wonderful reviews from all over the world. We've worked hard to compose and record this album and we are very satisfied with the reception of Magazines e-zines and fans. I think it is a step forward for Doomocracy to more heavy and eastern paths while maintaining the doom metal elements present at all times. We have been picked as album of the month in several important magazines so I do hope we will be in the top lists for 2017.

To my knowledge you are responsible for a large part of the songwriting for Doomocracy. Did you face any challenges with writing a follow-up album this time? It usually involves some more time constraints than writing for a debut that you basically could have been working on for several years even before forming the band. 

I write both music and lyrics just like every band member of Doomocracy. The music you hear in both of our albums is based on teamwork and everyone in the band helps with ideas, riffs, melodies and lyrics. The challenge we faced writing music for our second album was big, as I think our debut album "The End is Written" had set a high quality standard for Doomocracy. We did not rush (as you saw we released our second album two and a half years after our debut) as we wanted to promote our debut album in the best possible way, including more than ten concerts around Europe. When we started composing music for our second album, we were a bit stressed but in a good way, as to which direction to follow in order to compose a worthy successor to "The End is Written". So basically the challenge we faced was to take our music a step further in all aspects (compositions, production, promotion, artwork), a challenge which I think we faced in the best possible way. We spend many hours in the studio to work all songs to the final detail and I am confident to say that we have produced an album worthy and even better than our debut.

Your lyrics seem to always have a story to tell, among others I sense some Egyptian themes this time. Do you do a lot of research for historical- or mythological lyrics in order to be accurate? Or is it more often stories "out of your own mind" so to say?

For us writing lyrics is an important process. We don't just write lyrics to get the songs going. We have many lyrical concepts in the new album, but not a certain specific concept. In other words "Visions & Creatures of Imagination" is not a concept album, but contains different stories, some fiction and some experiential. We used themes from Egyptian mythology for the song "Lucid Plains of Ra", which is a very important song in our album, as it was the main influence for the album cover as well. The lyrics of the song were written by our guitarist Angelos Tzanis and I know that he did some research before writing the lyrics as he also loves Egyptian mythology. For the rest of the songs we have lyrics influenced by Greek mythology, religion and life itself with all its agonies and anguish.

You mastered the album at Morrisound Studios. A place I mainly associate with Savatage- and related projects and above all: death metal albums of the 90'ties, but not so much doom metal. What made you want to work with Jim Morris?

We mixed and mastered the album at Morrisound Studios with Jim Morris, a man who is responsible for milestone productions in heavy metal for major bands like Crimson Glory, Savatage, Iced Earth and of course Death. We love his mix in all those bands and especially in Death. Working with him was a learning process for us and we are satisfied 100% from the mixing and mastering process. As for the reason why we decided to work with Jim Morris other than his great productions overall... we actually wanted a different approach for our mix. Not that we weren't satisfied with the mix of our debut album, but we wanted to try a production that is less compressed and has a more live feeling to it. Nowadays most European productions seem to be over compressed and that is something we did not want for our second album, as like I said we wanted to give a more live feeling to the mix. With the great help and guidance of Jim Morris we were able to achieve this.

I'm glad to see that the album is released on several formats this time around, both digitally, on CD and vinyl. Particularly vinyl is close to my heart, is this something that you guys in the band pushed for? And are you personally a collector of physical releases as well?

We are trying to release our albums in all possible formats. There are people who download albums through iTunes, amazon and so on, so although it is not our preferred music format we wanted to include that option as well. Of course we released the album on CD, but our main passion and effort was, and will be to release our music on vinyl. We are all vinyl collectors and we love its sound and everything else that comes to owning an album in vinyl. I was personally touched as I just yesterday received the vinyl records for "Visions & Creatures of Imagination". From my point of view the new vinyl is amazing both in sound and artwork and is a must for every vinyl collector. We will always do everything possible to release our music on vinyl.

Speaking of the productions, and the vinyl format: have you done a dedicated vinyl mastering for the album, or is the mastering for the CD- and digital platforms fit to be used on the LP as well?

We discussed this with Jim Morris and he told us that the mastering he did is ideal both for CD and vinyl. We did a test pressing just to make sure that the sound would be good, which it really was. So we used the same mastering after all.

Is there any releases in particular that you collect? Bands, genres, albums from certain regions, or do you just in general prefer to have your music collection on physical formats?

I collect all kinds of good music, especially heavy metal of course. But I don't just collect doom metal albums for example. I don't buy music in digital format and I usually buy the vinyl version of an album, unless there is no vinyl version so then I buy the CD to support the band.

Are you happy with the way your label, Steel Gallery Records, have handled your releases so far? Can we expect to see you continuing to work with them? Must be nice being signed to a label in your home country. 

We are very happy with Steel Gallery Records, which is why we chose to renew our contract with them. Working with a Greek label has many benefits as by doing this we are also supporting the Greek heavy metal scene, but we also have great communication with Kostas Athanasoglou, Steel Gallery's owner which is a crucial factor for us in choosing a record label and Kostas is doing everything he can to promote our music. If we receive a better proposal from a bigger record label we will discuss it within the band, but for the time being we are very satisfied with our current record label.

People seem to have a tendency to throw around Candlemass-comparisons when speaking about Doomocracy, but I think there is more beyond that. Do you think that you guys have any influences that usually go over the head of the press and first-time listeners? Be it influences from other bands or anything else. 

It's natural for people who have not listened much to doom metal music to just say "these guys sound like Candlemass". By all means it is not a bad comment to say that we sound like Candlemass, as they are one of the best doom metal bands of all time. Just as Candlemass's main influence was Black Sabbath or Trouble for example. People tend to do this: Instead of describing the music, they just say “they sound like this or that”. It's the easy way. People who have listened to a lot of doom metal music understand that, of course we are influenced by Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus (and many other bands) but we have developed our own personal style in sound and compositions taking our music a step further. The more albums we produce the more this will be more evident. It happens with all bands you know… with their first albums people compare them to other bands. But as the bands produce more albums they develop a more personal style, so fans-critics stop doing this.

According to the information I've found online Doomocracy is your first venture in the realms of metal, have you been involved in any other musical projects that have released albums before?

I was involved in some Greek cover bands in rock, metal, funk and blues music. After a while I recorded an album with a Greek alternative metal band called Master Reset, which started with a different more progressive metal concept but developed into a more modern style. So right after the album release I quit the band to find another music direction. Thank God, I met my good friends Minas Vasilakis and Angelos Tzanis (Doomocracy's drummer and guitarist) and we formed a new doom metal band called Doomocracy!

I can't say that I'm very well versed in the Greek- or Crete scene. Do you have any bands, present or past, from your area that have inspired you? If not musically, in any other way. 

We have some great metal bands in Greece and the Greek Metal scene is going through a long spring period the last years. Just to name a few bands you might already know: Sacral Rage, Dexter Ward, Wardrum, SiXforNine, Pulse R, Diviner, Inner Wish, Suicidal Angels, Immensity, Exarsis and many more. You should really invest in the Greek Metal scene as you will find many gems in all genres. In Crete we had some very good bands but right now they are all in quiet mode. Still be aware for new releases by Winter Crescent and Chaos Eternal in the coming future.

Thanks you very much for your answers Michael, I hope to hear more from you and Doomocracy soon! Is there anything you would like to add?

Thank you very much for this interesting interview and your support David! Be sure to check out the vinyl release of our second album "Visions & Creatures of Imagination". We will tour Germany in December 2017 so we hope to see our fans there. We are already composing music for our third album and it sounds really good. So be assured Doomocracy is here to stay! Thank you for your support! See you on the road!

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