It may be true that Thrash Metal has been enjoying a revival of sorts these last few years, however, the passion and energy that characterised this great genre in the mid-80s has long been sacrificed in return for polished production and technical perfection. It is thus quite refreshing to find a young band like the Athenian quintet Endless Recovery that is willing to get ‘down and dirty’ and perform their music with what can only be described as addictive enthusiasm. On a rainy autumn evening, I met with drummer Michalis Moatsos at a central London café and talked about how this band came to life, their ideology and purpose, their latest 7’’ release aptly entitled “Resistance Bangers” and their many interesting plans for a new studio album and future live performances. Thrash Metal is still alive and breathing after all!
By Yiannis (John) Stefanis.
- Hi, Michalis. Nice of you to meet up in order to talk about Endless Recovery and the most recent release of your band, the 7’’ entitled “Resistant Bangers”. Before we do so, however, I think it would be appropriate for you to introduce the band and explain the reasons that made you decide to form it in the first place.
Michalis: Ok, sure. Well, the band was first formed round the end of 2010, beginning of 2011 and the line-up back then was completely different from the one that we have now. At the very beginning we were more like a school-type band whose orientation was more classic Metal, not Thrash that we play now. We started performing classic cover material and our main focus was to rehearse and perform the odd gig, simply enjoying our ability to perform together on a frequent basis. We then moved from that stage into the one where we started working on our own songs and that led to the recording of an E.P entitled “Liar Priest” in 2012.
- Ok, I will have to interrupt you here and ask you this: at which point in this early stage in the band’s evolution was the decision taken for you guys to start working on Thrash-orientated themes?
Michalis: That pretty much happened automatically. I mean, after a certain point we began feeling bored playing other people’s songs and felt the need to become more creative as a band. Of course there is always the case of becoming influenced by other bands from the scene, people you play live gigs with and, as it happens with them, you also begin to feel the need to evolve and present your skills through your own releases. In my opinion, I feel that we kind of rushed things a bit with our first release, being young and all, but we never regret anything that we have done as a band. The first recordings were great moments for us as they provide much needed experiences.
- What intrigues me is your choice of direction. I remember, while still living in Athens, most young bands at the time were into the whole True/Epic Metal style; I cannot remember many young bands being willing to perform the mid-80s style of Thrash that bands like yours do. In view of that fact, which would you say was the catalyst that informed and influenced your decision to play Thrash?
Michalis: The truth of the matter is that between the 90s and the 00s, there were not many young Greek bands performing Thrash Metal and those who did were really stepped into the underground but the last four to five years there has been a massive revival of the genre in Greece, as it the case in the rest of the world of course. There are currently quite a few young Greek bands looking to make an impact outside Greece by playing the so-called New Wave Of Thrash Metal. We decided to play Thrash mainly due to the fact that, as fans, we like listening to many bands of this genre. I am not suggesting here that Thrash is the only style of music that we like. Both this and the older line-up included people with a varied musical taste but, both back then and now for that matter, Thrash is the one genre that we find capable of expressing who we are and what we stand for the most. A very important factor, of course, is the current political situation in Greece. When we started the band back in 2010, our country was already in deep recession and you were bombarded with everyday tales of personal horror and tragedy involving people you knew on almost a daily basis. These situations definitely informed and inform our music.
- Metal is, of course, a style of music which covers many different themes and emotions, from the very melodic to the very extreme. Do you feel that in a place like Greece, with the economy still in the red and unemployment soaring, extreme sounding music, whether Thrash or any other, is more attractive to a young audience?
Michalis: Yes, of course. With all the different types of pressures experienced on a daily basis, whether from situations evolving within the nuclear family or the wider society, there are great levels of energy and anger that young people feel the need to release through the medium of music. What doesn’t always happen is for a young band like that to combine extreme sound with an appropriate lyrical context – to have the band offering, together with music, a clear message, an opinion. We, as a band, invest heavily in politically-influenced lyrics because this is a need we feel which we simply cannot ignore. We never considered changing any of our lyrics, however strong on controversial, out of fear that we might alienate sections of our fan-base. Many people may have chosen not to listen to us simply on the basis of us having a specific political view that they do not agree with but every member within the band believes strongly that Thrash Metal is a genre that out to have a strong political message associated with it. That is how Thrash was presented to us by bands that performed that style of music in the 80s, bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and the groups from Germany as Sodom, Kreator & Destruction. All these bands expressed, at some point during their career, political and social ideas and insecurities and even in the few cases where the lyrics employed were not clear as to their context, people who listened to these bands knew damn well what they stood for. That’s exactly what we, the members of Endless Recovery, wanted to do – to express our worries and insecurities through the medium of music. We never felt the desire to indulge ourselves in other themes like the ones normally associated with, for instance, Black Metal, Death Metal or even Heavy/Epic bands. That, of course, does not mean that we limit ourselves in relation to the kind of music that we like listening to and neither do we expect or insist that Black or Epic Metal bands should have lyrics of a political orientation. With regards Thrash Metal, though, we do feel that such lyrical context is a must, as we feel that this was always part of the unique identity of Thrash Metal music – an identity that we should not allow to be lost, something we see happening a lot in relation to the New Wave Of Thrash Metal. Many similar-sounding bands are not at all interested to say something of substance with their music – they are more interested in releasing albums with main goals of commercial success and fame. Every band has different goals set and perhaps I should not judge them for it but when you realise that the identity of something unique as Thrash is being lost as a result of that, one cannot fail but to feel disappointed. We are, of course, young enough not to have lived the glorious days of the 80s and the 90s in Metal, however we cannot help but feel saddened by what is happening nowadays.
- Why are you using past tense when you’re referring to the Thrash movement? Are you suggesting that Thrash as a movement has ceased to exist? Has it now become a means of entertainment rather than a living, breathing organism capable of shaping ideas and influencing minds?
Michalis: Unfortunately, the answer to that question is yes! That is the case around the globe, but as far as Greece is concerned, there are still a few remnants of a scene left but not what you would describe as a ‘common cause’ anymore. Every band tries to achieve something different and the genre that’s most popular at the moment, what we have described as New Wave Of Thrash Metal, is like a big ‘oven’ where all the bands use as a means of creating the exact same product. Apart from the lack of political/social orientated lyrics, most bands do not have their own identity anymore. I find it very hard to tell, out of all these neo-Thrash bands that are around, which is which anymore. They all seem to have the same sound and feel whereas in the past you used to listen to a new Slayer song and you could hear that it was Lombardo pounding the drums, or listen to a Metallica song and could tell that it was Lars Ulrich doing his thing. This style of music has changed a lot as of late.
- You know, it’s funny to hear you say such things. As a person who did live and experienced the 80s scene I would expect a young musician like you to be lucky to performing this kind of music today as music fans tend to be more open-mined and listen to more varied things rather than stick to a specific genre but, the way you have presented things to me, it seems that this state of affairs has proven to be more than a hindrance than a tool for you to utilise.
Michalis: Ok, let me clarify my position, using us as an example. I truly believe that a band should first and foremost consist of fans of the music performed, OK? By creating an identity for your band you are not suppressing your own personal tastes in music. It’s like having a child that you want to grow properly, a child with its own personality. I am not suggesting that by doing that, by stirring your band towards a specific direction and by creating a personality for it you are losing something. I find it great to have people offering their love and support to different styles of music and that is something I see happening a lot here in the UK. You have festivals like Brofest (www.brofest.co.uk) which specialises in New Wave Of British Heavy Metal music and Live Evil (www.liveevilfestival.org) which, this year, has bands like Manilla Road and Nifelheim sharing the same stage. It is great to see that the crowd for a festival as diverse as Live Evil consists of the same people; people do not separate themselves in “Extreme Metal group” or “Classic Metal group” – something that still exists in Greece to this day.
- I see your point, however, as far as Nifelheim and Manilla Road are concerned, there is one unifying factor and that is that they are both considered to be Underground Metal bands, thus belonging to such a scene, if you like. The common denominator in such festivals is how old-school you come across, regardless to how young you might be, and that is why you will never find bands like Behemoth, for instance, performing in either of them.
Michalis: Of course, but, apart from Manilla Road and Nifelheim, people who attend a festival like Live Evil, a place that offers hospitality to many young bands, also attend New Wave Of Brutish Heavy Metal festivals where old and well-established bands like Blitzkrieg and Jaguar, for instance, will normally perform. This, sadly, does not happen in Greece. Metal fans have split firmly between those who support extreme Metal and those who support classic Heavy Metal and unity is the one thing we most certainly lack down there. What you said, however, is very true: music is not only separated amongst different genres but as well as per how old-school or not you are. Personally I have no issue with regards whether someone is old-school or new-school in his or her approach, the only thing I want is for them to be ‘real’. I will listen to a band that plays New Wave Of Thrash Metal so long as they play it with their hearts! This thing that I described before as the ‘oven situation’ where all bands strive and end up sounding the same is an issue that is discussed a lot in the scene these days. I had people telling me: “We released a demo and we did not have a drummer in the band at the time so we used a drum machine instead so that we would not lose precious time”. Why not lose precious time? You are willing to put the effort to release something that supposedly expresses you as a person and you prefer to get it out as something generic rather than wait a bit and find that drummer that will help add character and personality to it? Drummers will always be available to bands! I know of bands that have been searching for the right members for the best part of three years and only now are in position to play and record the music they want. I mean, who knows; maybe that very drummer you had to wait ages for will add that extra element in your music that will make it sound really special! I really cannot understand what this rush to get stuff out is all about! Things need to happen in a calm and calculating manner and whenever the end product is ready then it’s ready. These kind of rushed releases are called “plastic Metal” in Greece these days.
- Ok, back to the Endless Recovery saga. Sometime last year you released your first full-length release entitled “Thrash Rider” through Eat Metal Records – a well-known label in the Greek underground scene. This year, however, you chose the German Witches Brew through which to release the “Resistance Bangers” 7’’ – an impressive two-track release which finds the band toying with and successfully blending elements of European and US underground Thrash Metal, with bands like Darkness and Exumer coming across as having been strongly influential. How did you end up to the point of ‘moving home’, if such state of affairs has indeed materialised.
Michalis: Well, after we released the “Liar Priest” E.P we began the recording process for our full length “Thrash Rider” by which stage the band’s current line-up was pretty much complete. We began looking for the right label to release our work through and we got in touch with Grigoris (note: label owner) with whom we already had a good relationship and who told us that he wanted to help us release our music. It was his label in collaboration with Chaos Portal Collective, another Greek label that helped us release “Thrash Rider”. We released the album on CD in 1,000 copies, following which we managed to also release it on vinyl in 150 copies but as a self-funded release. Actually, we never did sign any contracts with Eat Metal Records – it was purely a case of shaking hands and doing it, so to speak. It was later that we decided the two songs that made it to the 7’’ “Resistant Bangers” – an idea that first came to mind long before our full length was released. So, the moment we decided that we were going to release this 7’’, we had to look out for another label. We sent e-mails asking for support to many labels and one of them that did respond to us was Witches Brew. They asked to listen to the material on offer, which we sent, they liked it and that is how the deal for releasing “Resistant Bangers” was reached. Our next full length release, which is scheduled for next year, will come out in a similar manner to the 7’’ and will again be through the support of Witches Brew.
- Well, as you very well know, I am the proud owner of copy number 38 of “Resistant Bangers”, which means that there are another 499 people out there who are going to hold a similar copy in their hands. Happy and honoured as I am to be part of the chosen few, I cannot fail to think that, as far as promotion is concerned, this 7’’ will, by definition, reach a very small group of people. What you have done, however, and very cleverly indeed, is to upload the two-track on offer on YouTube, thus making them potentially available to more people. I do appreciate that you are an old-school kind of guy who appreciates releases such as this – on a more practical level, however, a 7’’ is hardly the most appropriate form of promotion these days, right? What is the actual aim of this specific release?
Michalis: The reason why we chose to release “Resistance Bangers” as a 7’’ vinyl is because we are fans of the said format – it has nothing to do with promotion or anything else. We love vinyl, as well as the CD format in the band and so we simply felt the need to issue such a release. The 7’’ was issued on 500 copies following an agreement with the label as we feel that it is a very decent number of copies – any more would be very difficult to sell as there are not many people willing to buy and or are able to listen to music through the 7’’ format these days. Now, it is true that a limited 7’’ release will not necessarily reach many people but it will reach those that we want it to (laughs).
- Now, that’s what exactly what I was trying to get out of you; the fact that, as a band, you are targeting a very specific type of audience – at least at this stage in your career.
Michalis: Indeed. The same thing applies with regards the full-length. Similarly, we were not trying to make it attractive to a large amount of people or to make money out of it. We are not anywhere near making back the money we spent in order to release our first album – we have not regained even a 10% of that money, even though we managed to sell quite a few copies thus far. We have already sold ¾ of the “Thrash Rider” CD and the vinyl version is already sold out! The 7’’ is for collectors who like our style of music and nobody else. As a band we do not make the kind of moves or take the kind of decisions that will ensure a large flow of people – we play in the places we like and to those people we feel close to. We can play a gig in front of 20, 100 or 200 people and the levels of energy and passion we will employ will always be the same. We are obviously not particularly happy about the prospect of playing in front of only 20 people but if that’s what it takes in order to be able to do things your own way then so be it! We are given the opportunity to express ourselves by playing the type of music we love and hopefully we will be given the opportunity to do so in front of people who understand quality music when they listen to it. These are the kinds of people whose opinion we truly cherish. When we get a very positive comment by somebody who we know what he has lived and what he has listened to in his life within this scene then that makes us extra proud and in cases when the comment we receive is a negative one, it gives us the motivation to try harder and offer something much better next time round. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I will start listening religiously to everything that people tell me and start doing things simply to keep them happy and satisfied but it will be something I will consider during my though process. I always respect people whose knowledge of music is greater than mine. Now, we decided to also upload these two songs on YouTube for those people who wish to get direct access to the material.
- Michalis, for a band like Endless Recovery to manage to get a support slot and open for groups of a bigger commercial appeal, as happened in your case with the Enforcer show in Athens, what are the requirements these days? I assume there are certain things you need to be able to show the local promoters in order for them to trust you with such an important task, right?
Michalis: In Greece you will find many promoters and so one will arrange to bring an underground Thrash Metal band, for which we could potentially open, and another would bring somebody like Anthrax or Slayer. Personally as Endless Recovery, we will not bring something out just to satisfy the local promoter and thus get an opening slot for a big band – we will play the stuff that we like to play and if the promoter feels that we deserve the slot and like our music then the gig is ours. We obviously keep in contact with local promoters and we do make several requests to open for bands that we like but, from that point onwards, I am not willing to make this a ‘be all end all’, you know. Grigoris, the owner of Eat Metal records, gave us the opening slot for the Enforcer show because he likes the way we sound live, so we got the gig simply because he likes our music non on the strength of how many of our people we can bring to the show and how many extra tickets we can help sell. Don’t get me wrong; we are not aiming at becoming unappealing to people as some people suggest – people who say that “For the sake of being original we are telling our own fans off”. That is not what we want to do; we simply wish for the people who listen to us, however many these may be, to listen to us for who we are! We will never change an original idea we come up with to a massive extent solely for the purpose of making it commercially appealing. This tends to happen on TV these days where you get a new series coming out which goes through so many different committees and groups of approval that the end product has little or nothing to do with the original idea and scenario. That is not what we are willing to allow to happen to this band, for our music to go through so many different ‘filters’ that our songs will end up being unrecognisable in the end. We obviously try to stay in touch with labels and promoters, we stay musically active by playing as many live shows as possible here in Greece. Last year I came home for Easter holidays and two days later we played at Trikala (note: central Greece). Then I went back home in June for summer holidays and a few days later we did a show in Larissa and in the period of a week after that we did two shows, one in Thessaloniki and one in Athens. We would like to know that a support slot is given to us on our merit alone, not because we know the person that promotes the show or because we are friends with the owner of the venue, you know? This is how I see things anyway.
- We already discussed that sometime next year there will be a second full length release coming out, this time under Witches Brew. Any ideas how these songs are going to sound like or is it still early days?
Michalis: Well, we are still at the very early stages as we only now started composing the songs that will be featured there. In terms of style, the ideas we have so far collected are closer to “Resistance Bangers” and not our full length which means that they are faster and more complicated in comparison but equally authentic in feel. We are not talking about a massive departure in relation to our previous work but there is a clear evolution involved. We are hopeful that the album will have been released by the middle of 2015.
- One thing that surprised and impressed me in equal measure is the production quality achieved, both in the case of “Thrash Rider” and “Resistance Bangers”. I really enjoyed the clarity of the sound on offer and the fact that all instruments are given enough space to breathe and express themselves in the compositions on offer. How did you manage to achieve such a full and organic sound at such an early stage in your career?
Michalis: The new album is going to be recorded with us following a similar approach to recording for sure. We intend on following the same philosophy as it has served us well so far. Our first album was recorded at Entasis studios with Nikos Papakostas as producer while “Resistance Banger” was recorded at Eleventh Tower studios with Harris V as producer. We undertook both these recordings in full knowledge of what we’re capable of achieving, what our limits are and what we would like the end result to sound like. All these three elements needed to correspond, which is what happened. We did not use any triggers for our drum sound, no drum machine and we abstained from doing too much editing and cut/pasting of ideas after the recordings were over. We aimed towards recording the main body of each of the songs on offer in one take, wherever that was possible and then tried to correct a few mistakes that were too blatant to leave in the recording. We wanted the end result to sound ‘real’ and both producers in both recordings managed to achieve that to an extent that we were happy with the end result as these works are neither recorded in a primitive way, nor are they over-produced. In the drums, which is the instrument that I play in the band, there was minimal editing involved. It goes, of course, without saying that this decision of ours has ensured that in our recordings one can detect both our strengths and our weaknesses which, again, is exactly what we wanted to achieve. We want people to see that we are humans and that we are also capable of making small mistakes as this has, again, a lot to do with our personality as a band. I mean, I cannot understand why everything has to sound absolutely perfect in an album these days. It is when following such an approach that you get in return bands that sound great in the studio but absolutely terrible live – bands that cannot recreate on stage not even 50% of what they recorded in the studio. I mean, what is the point in that? This is what we believe and we stand by it 100%.
- So, is the new album also going to be issued in a relatively low number of copies like “Trash Rider” was?
Michalis: I’m afraid that such details are not yet available to share with you; it’ not that I’m unwilling to share them with you, only that they have not yet been discussed and agreed upon with the label. We are still at a pretty early stage.
- What are the plans that you currently have in your mind in order to promote it then?
Michalis: Once the new album is out, the first thing that we will aim towards is to play as many shows as we possibly can, both in Athens and the countryside where we played our first shows last summer and which we enjoyed a lot as we had a great time and we met with many good people. We will also try to see if it will be possible for us to play any shows abroad or in festivals through specific promoters that we already have come in contact with. There are already some offers on the table that we are currently considering. Then, we will focus on the promotion and distribution of the album and we will depend a lot on Witches Brew in that respect as they have already been doing a very good job in that department. They did a great job promoting our 7’’ and we really feel the need to thank them publically for the support and trust they have so far shown towards our band.
- It is both reassuring and pleasing to see that, after all these years, young Greek bands are finally given the trust and respect that all their European counterparts have learned to take for granted over the years. We finally have enough local bands that have the skill, the knowledge and the sound to move out of our country and make an impact on the international metal scene.
Michalis: Indeed, that’s how things are these days.
- Michalis, I want to wish you and Endless Recovery every luck with regards all upcoming musical endeavours and to promise that once the new album is out we will be available to help present and promote it.
Michalis: I also want to thank you for showing an interest in the band and what we do.
In his show broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on 10 May David Randall played a further selection of artists and albums included in the new Features series, “2020 Vision”.
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