Guitarist / band leader Ioannis Kikis – Sense Of Fear
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Roberto at Rockshots Promotion for setting up the interview
Thanks to Rockshots Promotion for the promo pictures of the band.
Sense Of Fear is a Greek thrash/heavy metal act that recently released their debut album, AS THE AGES PASSING BY… It’s taken the band over 20 years to put out an album, which is why I got interested in the band and decided to set up an interview. Me and one of the Kikis brothers, guitarist/bandleader Ioannis, sat down in order for me to learn more about the band’s past and why it has taken them so long to release their debut album. I also asked what it was like to work with producer Stratos “Strutter’” Karagiannidis (Gus G., Wardrum) and mixer R.D. Liapakis (Mystic Prophecy, Devil’s Train etc.). If you’re into bands like Iced Earth and Nevermore, Sense Of Fear is something to check out.
Hi Ioannis, how are you today? Ready to kick off the interview?
Hi there Metal Rules from fabulous Sweden, thank you for having me here. Hell yeah, I am ready.
Let’s go back to when it all started out, when was the band formed and by whom?
As teenagers, my brother (Markos) and I had dreams about having a band and performing to big audiences. So I started learning guitar and he started learning drums. Also, my best friend (Themis) had the same dream and joined us as a guitarist too. The three of us were the first line up of the band as Holy Prophecy.
Is it correct the band’s first name was Holy Prophecy? Why did the band name change?
Yes correct. It was just our first name but when I wrote the ‘Sense of Fear’ song back in 1999, it was so strong and complete that we took the decision to change our name.
Does the name Sense of Fear have any special meaning to the members?
For me, for sure. I feel that this is the main instinct that guides us and made us strong to survive and not go extinct. I mean, fear is a weakness but is also a weapon because when you learn what to fear and how to overcome this feeling, you become strong.
Until 1999 the band didn’t go through any member changes, is that right?
As I said, at the very beginning we were 3. In 1999 our first singer Lazos K. came along and that was our line up to 2001. Since then there’s been many changes until today.
Did you do any live shows or tours in between 1998-99?
Yes we did actually. We performed in many schools and many bars back then. Keep in mind that we were 13 year old boys at the time! Still, the first experience of a live show is unforgettable.
How come the band didn’t release any albums during that period?
I think because we were too young to think about all this. We had a lot of demos and studio recordings but nothing serious. We had a big dark period, searching for a singer and that was also something that kept us back.
Do you all live Greece today?
Yes all members come from and live in Greece.
At the beginning of 2000 the band went through some changes to the line-up, what happened and who left? Were the departures expected?
Well, it was very difficult for us to lose our singer because it wasn’t easy in a small town like ours (Kozani,Greece) to find a replacement. For a long time I was forced to fill this gap. Also, for a very small period we had a bassist and a third guitar player. When Lazos left, they left too and the three of us remained, like the beginning. That was very rough.
During that time did you ever feet like you were going to put the band to rest?
No, never. I never felt this way. For me, playing music is a ritual and gives a good meaning to my life.
According to Encyclopaedia Metallum the band wasn’t alive during 2007-12? Why?
Many things happened then. In 2007, our 3rd singer left (!), because he was a university student and he came to our town only for the period of his studies. In 2008, I went to the Hellenic army until 2009. In 2010, Dimitris (our current bass player) also had to fulfill his army’s obligations, until 2011. So there were some things that we had to do, that kept us away from the band. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t do rehearsals when we had the time, but nothing else could happen in that period.
Do the members have any artists/bands in common they look up to or are inspired by?
We have many common bands from the big names that we all love like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween, Iced Earth and many others but each member has his own inspirations and I think that gives Sense of Fear our own character.
What the biggest differences in the Greek metal scene if you compare today with back in the ’90’s?
It’s far better and more recognizable now. We had many metal fans back in the ’80’s but the Greek scene was late becoming as big as today. It was difficult for every band that plays metal here in Greece from the ’80’s until 2000, I think.
Why do you think the band’s run through so many singers over the years?
It was very difficult to find one that worked hard like we did and also had the same vision as us. As I said, the Greek scene was hard for small bands from small cities.
You sang in the band back in 1999, why didn’t you continue doing that?
I was forced to sing because I didn’t want to stop the band’s activities, but I am not a singer. I like a lot to do backing vocals but I am 100% a guitar player and this is what I always wanted to do in my band.
What made you re-unite the band 2012 again?
We were never apart but in 2012 was the time where no obligations were in our way.
How did current singer Kytidis join forces with the band?
It was back in 2013 and we were at a concert. I knew him as a singer from another band and I heard some of their songs. We had a good discussion and from the first rehearsal we strong chemistry.
He’s also involved in the band Exile of Heaven, do you see any problems with that?
No, up to now nothing was a problem with his own band. He knows to handle his time well with both bands.
The band’s self-titled EP came in 2013, what did fans and media think of it?
It was our first big step. We are very pleased that the fans loved our EP. It was a very successful release.
Did you release the EP on your own without a label?
Yes. It was a self-release. It is a work from us all, except for the mixing and mastering.
How come you chose to do a cover of the Iced Earth song “When the Night Falls” on the EP?
We wanted our first release to include a cover. Iced Earth is one of our biggest influences but we didn’t want to cover an ordinary song so we did one of their biggest hits and one of our favorites.
Did people in Greece take bigger notice of the band when the EP arrived?
Of course. We had something to show to our fans and this is very big.
Did the EP bring any attention for the band outside Greece?
We had many good comments on our Facebook page, and many fans from different countries bought our EP. As I said, it was a very successful release.
Have you managed to increase your fan base now during the past years at home?
We did many shows all over Greece to promote our EP and that gave us many fans who didn’t know us before. So yes, the fan base certainly got bigger.
Has the band toured a lot in Greece during the past years?
We had many shows in many cities all over Greece and also we played in Sofia (Bulgaria).
Debut album AS THE AGES PASSING BY…
How long did you work on the album?
The recordings started in 2015 and the album was completed in 2017. So, 2 years. It was a very long time because we didn’t have a lot of time because of our day jobs.
The bio states you have worked on the material for 20 years, is that correct?
This is because the album contains songs from 1998 up to 2015. We had a lots of songs and ideas and we kept the best for our debut album from these years. As you can understand there are tons of songs left for other releases, ha ha.
‘Angel of Steel’, ‘Sense of Fear’ and ‘Torture of Mind’ were featured on the EP as well as on the album, have you added anything extra on to the album versions of the songs?
They have been remixed and remastered, nothing else. We wanted to keep them as they were in our EP.
Which of the songs are newly written and which ones are of older character?
“Lord of the World” is our first song as a band, back in 1998. We wanted it to be part of our debut album for the history of the band. Also, ‘Sense of Fear’ and ‘Slaughter of Innocence’ were composed in 1999. The newest songs are “Angel of Steel” (2013), “Unbreached Walls” (2015) and “Black Hole” (2015).
Were there any of the songs that didn’t make it on to the final version of the album?
Tons of them, hahaha. We have plenty of material that awaits on the side.
What does the bio mean with the lines “With a unique story to tell alongside a deep feeling within”?
We like to say that our style is a kind of Dark/Aggressive Metal. We want you to read the lyrics, imagine them and also feel them with our music. It’s a combination. We chose each song very carefully, so from the first until the last it will be a journey through feelings and emotions.
What are the lyrics about?
Mostly personal experiences, thoughts and feelings, our own perspective to the world. Also some good stories and metaphors.
How would you like to describe what kind of music Sense of Fear plays? I think it sounds something like American heavy metal with some progressive influences.
As I said in a previous question, our best description for our music is Dark/Aggressive Metal. This is our description, but if you want to put it into a ready-made genre, well then you have to say it’s close to heavy/thrash/power. Is that enough? hahaha
Why did you name the album AS THE AGES PASSING BY…?
There is the last song which has the big title “As The Ages Passing By, Time Still Runs Against Us” and it is also our longest song (9 minutes). These 9 minutes are my own perspective of what is happening to our world. It’s a strong song and we decided it should be the title of our album but with its half title so that every fan can fill it the way he wants.
Was Colin Marks (Nevermore, Exodus etc) given free hands to do the cover art work?
Yes, and he is truly great. The only thing I told him was the name of our band, the name of the album and a few words about how I imagine our cover. I think that he couldn’t make it any better and closer to what I wanted. He is brilliant.
Does the band’s Youtube studio report, made between 2014-15 , get many hits?
Not many as we expected, haha.
In the report it was said that the debut was going to be released in 2015 why was it delayed?
We had many issues with our timing because all of our jobs are very demanding, with many hours of work. That was the main reason why our album was delayed for so long.
Was it your intention to make the album quite long? It clocks in on about one hour and includes 10 songs.
We have no limits when we create music. I never think if the song is long, short or something else. I create it the way I feel it. You can see that we have a song which is 2 and half minutes and also one that is 9 minutes. As I said, no limits.
What are the longest songs “As the Ages Passing By….Time Still Runs Again” (9.03) and “Slaughter of Innocence” (7.41) about?
“As the Ages Passing By….Time Still Runs Against Us” starts from the first man and his evolution through the ages. Every phase of our existence shows that we did more harm to the world and to ourselves and the time is running out quickly for mankind.
“Slaughter of Innocence” is how the thoughts and feelings are running through a man’s mind as he transforms from a good person to a cold-blood killer. It is also my perspective of the known story of Jekyll & Hyde.
What did fans think of the lyric video to “Molten Core” that was released in February?
Man, they loved it. It is a fast song with good riffs and melodies, it is a killer start for our album. Themis also created the lyric video which was a perfect combination with the music. The fans just loved it.
Molten Core (OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO)
Are you happy with everyone’s efforts on the album? I especially think Kytidis and guitarist Iakovidis and you make some stand out efforts.
Well, the main music writers are me and Iakovidis. I also wrote the lyrics for some songs and most of the lyrics were written by Kytidis. That doesn’t mean that the other two members have no participation in the songs. My brother Markos plays with the best way the drum section and gave the right feeling to the songs with his rhythm. I give a lot of notice on how the drums will be in every song. Dimitris also has his own bass lines in every song as he felt it. He has a unique way and he creates different melodies through his bass lines.
You’re listed on vocals, do you sing backup vocals or lead vocals?
Most parts of the backing vocals on the album are from Ilias. In some songs I did the backing vocals and in “Lord of the World” we share the lead lyrics with Ilias as I was the lead singer of the band when I wrote it. Also we have shouts with all the members because this song was our first and I wanted everyone to be a part of it.
Was it a planned move to place the slow semi-acoustic ballad “The Song of a Nightingale” in the middle of the album?
You could say it that way, haha. It is really a semi-acoustic ballad but is also a very strong and emotional song both with the instrumental and the lyrical part.
I’d say that fans of Nevermore or Iced Earth really would appreciate the album; who do you think the album would appeal to?
It is an honor for us to hear this from you and thanks a lot for that. Both of the bands are very big influence for us but I leave it to the fans to decide. I think every metal fan will find something in our album.
Studio and production
Tell us about Valve Studio where the album was recorded; where is it located and have any other well known bands recorded stuff there?
Valve studio is located in Thessaloniki about 140 km away from our town. There are many known bands that recorded stuff there but the ones who are mostly known are Firewind and Gus g with his solo work.
Who produced the album?
The producer is the owner of Valve studio, Stratos “Strutter” Karagiannidis (W.A.N.T.E.D., Wardrum, Jaded Star).
When did the recordings begin and how long took it to get the album ready?
The recordings began in the middle of 2014 and everything was finished in the beginning of 2015.
Did you record everything at the same time or did you do it in time lapses?
Except the 3 songs they are in the EP which were recorded in 2013, the other songs were at the same time.
Were any of the members involved in the mixing/mastering process made by R.D. Liapakis and C. Schmid?
Except some details I mentioned to Mr R.D. Liapakis (Mystic Prophecy, Devil’s Train), everything else was done by him and C. Schmid.
Do you think the band is going to work with Karagiannidis , Liapakis and Schmid in the future?
We are very happy having worked with these guys. As you can see we have recorded our EP in Valve studios and we got back again to complete our album. Also the work that R.D. Liapakis did to mix and master was insane as you can hear with your own ears.
Were you happy with your time in Valve Studio?
It was great all the time. Stratos is a great and fun guy and we had many laughs over our time there. Many good memories.
Label and management
Was it hard to land a record deal?
It took us a long time. And we took us a lot of time to take our decision.
Did you send out demos to labels or did labels contact you?
I don’t think that any label contacts you today, only if you make a big big surprise out in the world. We sent lots of demos to many labels.
Were there many labels that showed interest in the band?
Yes and it was great. We saw that many labels liked our stuff and we were very happy for this.
You chose Rockshots Records to sign a deal with, why did you pick them?
Well it was a hard decision. We were looking at many deals and the ideal for us was very close to what Rockshots Records offered us.
Are you happy with the work the label have put into the album and the band so far?
Yes, so far we are very pleased with their work and they seem very good guys as well. We have a good communication with each other.
The label is based in Italy and the band in Greece, do you see any problems with that?
No man, now with the internet everything is close enough. Also it is very easy for us to travel to Italy.
Rockshots also runs publishing, management and promotion, do you also work with them when it comes to those matters?
Except the label they also have the promotion of our album worldwide and we will discuss also about their booking work.
For how many albums are you signed for at Rockshots Records?
Most labels today sign for 1 album if they’re working with you for the first time. It is a known deal.
Is the album released worldwide today? If not which territories do you lack distribution in?
Yes, it is a worldwide distribution.
Is the album going to be released on vinyl?
For the time being, the album will be released on the most popular formats (CD and digital). We haven’t talk about this yet but it is something I would like to do.
Is it possible to listen to the band on Spotify, iTunes etc.?
Yes it will be available on iTunes, Spotify, etc. from 20 April onwards.
Past present and future
Greece has produced quite a few metal bands during the past years, are you friends with any known bands?
We have met Rotting Christ, Gus G. (as we recorded in the same studio), Suicidal Angels, Innerwish, Power Crue and many other good Greek bands and with some of them we have also shared the stage.
Some of the band from Greece like Innerwish, Black Fate, Firewind, Gus G and Rotting Christ are well known in the business, is the metal scene strong in Greece at the moment?
The Greek metal scene is stronger than ever today. There are many good bands at the moment and they are all very promising.
Which one, in your opinion, is the biggest and best metal act from Greece?
Rotting Christ no doubt. They are also a big influence for us. I think they are showing perfect to the world how big the Greek scene is.
Which metal genre is the most popular in Greece? Are there any differences in how the metal scene was doing like back in the ’90’s compared to today?
I think that heavy and power metal are most popular in Greece but also thrash and black are at a very good point. There are many differences today. You can see more and more young people listening to metal.
Are there many rock/metal clubs to perform at in Greece?
All over Greece there are many rock/metal clubs and stages. Today there is a lot of support to the metal bands.
In the recent past years we saw that Greece had financial problems and riots. The country also saw a wave of refugees from the Middle East coming to the shores. Have those circumstances have any effect on the lands metal scene or climate? Has the band been effected in any way of the riots and the unstable finance situation?
Man, all the Greek people are suffering through these years. It was a big shock to our lives, this financial disorder. Until now we can hardly manage. Of course all this has affected us in our lives as a whole. Many things became harder to achieve and music is one of them for sure.
The band recently recorded an official lyric video to the Dream Evil cover “Kingdom of the Damned”. Why did you pick that song, do you have any idea what Dream Evil thought of the cover?
Dream Evil is one of our favorite bands. Also Gus G. was a member for 2 albums, I think. When we finished the lyric video, I sent it to Fredrik and he liked it. It was very important for us to see Fredrik’s positive reaction for this cover.
Kingdom Of The Damned (DREAM EVIL Cover)
Are the band fans of Dream Evil?
Yes we are. Great band, man, with great albums. We’ve enjoined doing that cover so much.
Any plans on shooting a real video to any of the songs?
Yes, we will start soon the shooting for our first video but I will not tell you for which song. It will be a surprise, haha.
How come the band doesn’t have a proper website; only one for promotion?
Well we first wanted to have our record deal and then we would make one. So now is the proper time.
The band’s Facebook site doesn’t include much info either…is the band active on other social forums?
We have all the info we need in our Facebook page I think, but we are active also in Reverbnation and soundcloud.
Now that the new album is out is the band focusing on getting some live shows done?
We have already two shows ahead. One in Ioannina City and in Thessaloniki and we are planning for one in Athens and other cities as well.
Is Greece the band’s main priority or are you taking on the rest of the Europe as well at the moment?
Greece is the priority but we want to do shows all over Europe of course.
Does the band have any festival shows booked for the summer so far?
No. Not so far.
How does it feel to finally get the album out to the public?
Man, for us is like having a baby born ahhahha. I am very glad having our debut album and we are very satisfied with our work. I hope all our fans will enjoy it to the maximum.
Unbreached Walls (OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO)
Have you begun to work on the next album already?
We already have 7 complete songs ready for the next one and instrumentally we have songs also for the third album, haha. Every day an idea comes up.
Are the fans going to have to wait long for the second album to be released?
I believe no, but we want to exhaust all the promotional ways (radio, webzines, live shows, etc.) for our first album and then we will release our second. Also the first one will show us how the world will respond to our music.
What would you like to say to the ones that haven’t heard Sense Of Fear before?
I strongly believe it is worth listening to our music because there are many ways to identify with the Sense Of Fear world lyrically and instrumentally.
Could you give them three reasons why they should buy AS THE AGE PASSING BY…?
1. Heavy, Dark and Aggressive Metal with the full meaning of the words.
2. Lyrics that can affect your thoughts and the way to face your life difficulties.
3. Getting in touch with Sense of Fear’s world which has a lot to offer.
Well that was all for me and Metal Rules.com, thanks for taking the time off to take the interview. Congrats on a great album and I really wish to see the band on a live stage near me soon.
Thank you for having us Metal Rules, it was a really enjoyable discussion. I hope to rock Sweden very soon as we believe it is one of the ‘metal capitals’.
Do you have any words of wisdom to share with fans and readers?
Despite all our difficulties here in Greece we find the courage to go on and make our dreams come true. Hard work always pays off and do not let yourself be overcome by your weakness. Find the way to fight back. I believe music is a very helpful tool for this cause.
Thanks a lot again Metal-Rules!