Interview by Arto Lehtinen
Astarte, fronted by the former Voprhalack bassist, recently unleashed their fifth opus DEMONIZED featuring 13 hymns. The CD covers everything from extreme aggressive death/black to the melodic stuff. The guests on the album are pretty interesting and impressive people such as Attila from Mayhem and others. Astarte’s frontlady Tristessa found some time for the interview and was extremely pölite to answer the questions of Metal-Rules.Com. She tells a little bit more about how these guests were asked to appear on the CD and how the album was recorded and produced at the famous Tico-Tico studio in Finland.
Hi Tristessa, what’s up in Greece and how is it going in the Astarte camp ?
Hello from Astarte Warfield. I am fine and I am running the issues for our new album. Greece is always a place of creation and inspiration. You do not have to travel far, you have everything that you need. A strong conspiracy of energy!!
Astarte’s most recent album titled DEMONIZED is a real lethal and vicious output from the beginning to the end, delivering pure aggressions and also solid peaceful acoustic parts. How did you start writing the new material for DEMONIZED? Did you compose the material on your own and how did these more aggressive songs like “Lycon” and “Mutter” come about?
First of all I need to have some conditions that will help me to start composing music. My mind needs to be in total self control and sadness is very helping factor to transform my thoughts into the music. I record my ideas to a small console that I have in my bedroom. Once I gather a lot of ideas (hours of riffing ideas) I choose and unify them, to find the metronomes and to make a skeleton of a song. Then is the right time to meet the band and to enrich my riffs in order to work on final formation/skeleton of every song.
For the aggressive songs we gave emphasis to the guitars to be more aggressive, riffings are not so melodic and drums are faster and raw and straight in your face.
How long did it take from you to write and get the material completed before entering the studio ?
To compose my ideas it took from me 5 months, to make the pre-recordings (finalize our ideas, metronome settings, approach the sound of every instrument) 4 months, and the recordings, mix and mastering 4 months.
In my opinion DEMONIZED differs quite radically from the previous album SIRENS as I find there are more straight forward bombastic death metal elements with catchy hooks and above all sounds on DEMONIZED are extremely crushing. Did you in the writing stage of the material for DEMONIZED have thoughts about taking the music and the sounds to a new level of aggression and brutality and bringing new elements to the sounds of Astarte ?
Definitely we guide all steps for this album to make it more into Brutal Death Black. DEMONIZED in the most powerful and composite album of Astarte. We work in detail in the pre-recordings and we knew from that stage what we want for this album. Of course until the end we didn’t stop to experiment with new ideas and we took all the advantages we found in the studio’s equipment. Sometimes unexpected things of the last moment are the best and we had lot of them in our songs. This album has new elements, new sound, multiple emotions, it is a brutal album with heavy sound and big expectations.
How do you usually start composing and writing the brand new stuff? Do you gather together with the other members to check out what each one has come up with in order to lay the ideas down to songs ?
I set all main music ideas, I set the metronomes and program the drum ideas in order to set each song music direction. We all have to step on this and then we gather to complete each song. My guitarist Lycon undertakes the rhythmic and lead guitars to finalize the style and to fit with the drums/ Our drummer and guitarist work together a lot and Nicolas Sic Maiis who makes the sound engineering makes also the final song structure. We all have to agree in order to close every song.
Which is more important for you; catchy melodic hooks or aggression and brutality in your songs ?
I have to use everything, I can not exclude something or to put limits. Sometimes I feel that my riffs are not into Black or Death and I feel that I play another kind of music, but even at that time I have the flexibility to transform every idea into black/death. Melodies can be translated to all kinds of music and I get inspired from all kinds of music. I am very good at making a simple melody into a real composition and to preview the role of every instrument. The most important for me is how clever you can translate an idea into a good riff.
Both SIRENS and DEMONIZED have been mixed at the famous Finnish studio Tico-Tico. Why on earth have you chosen Tico Tico in order to carry out the final mixing of the album, aren’t there producers aware of how this kind of metal should be carried out ?
I will trust my album to an experienced studio and person. I searched a lot to find Tico Tico and Ahti who is behind very serious works. I need to feel secure when I give my album for the mix and mastering and according to my needs I chose Tico Tico. From now on, I know that this will be also my future partner to all upcoming Astarte albums. Ahti is a dedicated person and knows his job. If you ask me if I ever wanted to change anything from Sirens or DEMONIZED , I would say that I am totally satisfied with the mix and mastering.
However the recording of the album was processed and carried out in Greece from the beginning to the end, right ?!
Yes, the recordings took place in the Greek studio Fragile.
But have you ever seriously pondered an option of recording upcoming albums elsewhere, is it logistically impossible to carry out as the line up is consisted of a few session members ?
Me and the band, we can surely go abroad to record an upcoming album, but it depends on the budget.
Before DEMONIZED saw the light of day you kept quite a silent period since SIRENS for about three years, which is a huge long time for any underground bands. Did you find having such a break was needed to find new motivations and ideas to continue Astarte?
All this period I had first to find new members for Astarte and that took me some time. The new album had to be supported from good musicians, whom I will trust and they will inspire me cos my expectations get higher for Astarte. I could not anymore play the guitars for Astarte as I did in Sirens, I wanted to concentrate to one my role and to give emphasis to song-writing and vocals. One person for one role: Derketa on Synths, Ice on Drums, Lycon guitar/ bass and me on vocals.
As for the lyrics, it is quite obvious you tend to ladle inspirations for the lyrics from paganism and other mythological issues. Could you shed a little bit more light on your lyrics?
I and Hybris write the lyrics which subjects are naked to the eye and meaning of the reader. We speak the realistic part of life. We enter deeper in things that irritated our lives we like to speak the truth, to make references on wars, catastrophes. Some movies are attracting our attention, ancient Greek history and Myths. My favourite song in DEMONIZED album is the “Everlast” which is dedicated to the memory of my mother and speaks about her soul.
Religion and the church both have a strong bond and impact on the Greek culture and even everyday life in one way or another. Do you somehow rebel against the authority of the fundamental religious issues in your lyrics as well? At least you had been invited to some TV talk show to talk about the music and Astarte where a priest was at present as well…
The music of Astarte makes no references to religious issues. I never take position on the good or evil side. Greece has very strong bones on Christianity. I abstain not only in my music but also in my personal life. It is true that I was invited in a Greek channel. The subject of the TV broadcast was “Satanic hidden Messages into Heavy Metal Music”. I was sitting in between a priest and a psychologist and I supported that Metal Music speaks straight in your face. This kind of music does not need to put hidden messages. Of course the priest had his religious ideas into this subject so I explained that we see things from a different point of view. Metal is a free way of expression and Satanism is not the main subject.
There are quite a few interesting names doing guest vocals on the album, Attila on “Lycon”, Sattler from God Dethroned doing “Queen Of The Damned”, Nicholas Maiis from your old band Lloth on “God Among Men” and finally Angela Gossow on “Black At Heart”. What kind of task was it to lure and ask all those persons to visit the album, how did you end up having them to do the background vocals for the album? Were they on a priority list of yours?
I use to put guests in Astarte albums like previously we had Shagrath from Dimmu Borgir sing and Sakis from Rotting Christ. With all those musicians I have first build over the years good communication and much appreciation. I met Attila here is Greece some years ago in a touring, with Angela we know each other from a past interview that I made on her upcoming book about “Women in Metal” and Henri is a very good friend and we communicate on daily bases. Nicolas is a great singer and I have re-form LLOTH band were he sings. That album was for me a challenge and I had prepared some songs for this possible guests. The songs were made close to the style of every musician and when I asked them to sing with me they agree without a thought. They are all professionals, they are dedicated to music and I deeply thank all of them for their participation.
Were they asked to fly down to Greece to record vocals or was the whole recording process carried out in some another way ?
Angela was on European touring and it is unbelievable that she really find the time to record and to send me her vocals. Henri was recording their last album and that was a good chance to make vocals for Astarte too. With Attila w had to communicate in distance because we both had no time to arrange to join Greece so he got the song and he made the recordings almost at the same day . Only Shagrath made the vocals in Greece. We had planed on his touring that when he will come to Greece I will take him to sing together for the Sirens album and he was really available and we made a killer duet in the song “Ring Of Sorrow”.
What is the point of including guests on the Astarte albums, since the guys from Dimmu Borgir and Rotting Christ were already on SIRENS ?
And if you go back in our third album I had Seth from Septic Flesh as guest. It is very valuable for me to get such chances to put guests in the albums. I have met lot of musicians during all those years. I think after all it is a way of communicating and uniting our music. We enjoy it and fans seem to like it a lot. As Astarte we do not make lives, so from my own point of view is a way of valuable communication.
Well you didn’t ask Udo Dirkschneider to collaborate on “Princess Of The Dawn”? But what made you pick up that tune after all?
Accept is a band that I consider as my roots into metal music. I always wanted to include into my music something that does not follow the Black metal aggression. So, the accept cover was a challenge for me, I respected the spirit of their music I just add the touch of Astarte. I personally didn’t asked Udo, but our Label took the licence to make that cover. This song holds the spirit of real Metal and has the standards of future Metal music.
DEMONIZED has been released on Italian Avantgarde Music. Has signing with the label brought more attention and interest toward Astarte (at least the British Metal Hammer had a short interview of Astarte) ?
The album is out just one month ago and I see that we have attract the attention of many magazines worldwide including British Hammer, French Metallian, Inferno from Finland, Aardschok… Some movements are very important for us and I see more recognition and respect that we didn’t had in the past. Avantgarde has good access, yearly experience, contribution to metal and distribution to other countries. Of course I take all advantages from Avantgarde bt I mostly count on my feet and I try to keep alert the name of Astarte so people/fans do not loose contact.
The older releases came out via Black Lotus run by the Necromantia guy, but were you more willing to expand and get more attention as well as reorganization toward Astarte when signing a deal with the Italian label ?
Some things have to move on. After 3 albums the contract expired with Black Lotus. According to my band standards I tried to find a Label to support and to make Astarte name known abroad. Avantgarde is a Label that follows the rules of the contract. On the contrary Black Lotus and its owners were not only thieves, they own me money and they own money to many of their partners, bands, distributors…Now they declare a bankruptcy and they have disappeared.
After the deal expired with Black Lotus, obviously at least a few labels must have been keen on picking up Astarte. What made the offer by Avantgarde Music so tempting that Astarte landed at Avantgarde Music ?
In every Label that I address my self and my band I try to learn some things about its past. I have never heard something seriously negative about Avantgarde. They offer standard things and they follow their words and contracts. I know that they have a good distribution and organized way of advertising. We don not make lives and my interest is more inner works of a Label. For the moment we have not asked from another Label to undertake us but for sure it would be a challenge for us.
Were you also spell bounded about the legacy of what Avantgarde has done for the whole extreme metal scene by putting out albums from several cult bands ?
Avangarde for sure had great bands like Carpathian Forest, Behemoth, Katatonia, Death SS, Mortuary Drape… everybody has to start from somewhere and every band chooses its own way to make a better future. So always depends from the band standards and from the Label’s benefits.
THE MEANING OF VISUAL SIDE OF ASTARTE
In the early stage of the career of Astarte you used to have corpsepaint, which used to be and still is quite a common phenomenal amongst black metal bands. I can’t help asking what made you give up the use of these corprsepaints ?
We just wanted to change our image and we keep changing our image in every album. For that time 1995-1997 corpse paint was representing our music and our style. Now we are moving on and refresh our selves and our music according to how we feel at a present time. Every album has its own identity and we treat accordingly. I would like to go back to the raw years of Black Metal and use corpse paint again. You never know!!!
When taking a glance at the older promo pics of Astarte, you used to have huge swords (Excalibur?) and so on. Was it also important to look battle oriented grim for you ?
Do not forget that music enters our minds in another dimension. We create the world that we will act and we support it with our image and music. With swords we show the war attitude of a woman. Astarte also is a goddess of war. My homeland is from a part of Greece that never was conquered from Turkeys. A woman statue holding a scythe/sword represents the independence of this part of Greece. When their men left the land to fight to the mountains, Turkish tried to invade my homeland but women slaughter them all and they never conquer this part.
How important do you find the image and visual side for Astarte? I mean by that if you carefully think before getting promo pics and how the band should look in promo pics or even on videos?
The band it is a preview and one step before to predispose you of what follows in the album. Music and image is a very strong bone if they will successfully fit one another.
The character on the front cover of DEMONIZED definitely reminds me slightly of your figure in a way or another ..hmm.. Do you personally identify yourself as some kind of DEMONIZED person ?
Yes you are right. It is me in the cover offering a fireball which implies to demonize your souls… haha!!! I am DEMONIZED and I try to demonize our fans too!!!
In general you appear on the frontcovers of other albums on your own or as a trio. Do you wanna symbolized yourself in a way to be connected to the titles of each album ?
First of all I wanted to connect the idea that behind the music there are females who make lot of “noise”. At the beginning we could not think a theme to represent our albums, so we decided to put ourselves, by the years we like the idea and we use this concept as a standard theme for our covers and now we enrich this ideas, we put more imagination and we connect it with our music.
Each of you has an artist name in the band. What is the purpose of having these artist names ?
In our music we want to act differently from our everyday life. Our names have some meanings that represent our characters into music. I think that music is very similar to a movie, to take a role, a name and to act according to the scenario.
ASTARTE – WHO ARE THEY ?
This question should be asked in the first paragraph, but obviously it is never too late to take a glance at who is involved in Astarte. As for the line-up on DEMONIZED, which is a little bit renewed. Both the guitarist Lycon and drummer Ice had been recruited for the recording sessions of the new album. How did you end up selecting these guys to the Astarte rank? Are they now official members or just temporary ones ?
In previous albums I used to play guitars, bass, vocals and all this was not helping me to focus in a specific part and to apply my ideas as I wanted. So, the new members Lycon on guitars and Ice on drums are now official members and gave to my music ideas all the power and variety that I needed. They were chosen according to my music expectations. They are great musicians, dedicated and have open mind which helps me to complete the songs.
As for Derketa behind the synths. Obviously Kathasis was dismissed from the band and was replaced by Derketa ?
Katharsis lives in Italy and we could not collaborate any more so she was replaced.
Hybris used to handle the guitar duties on the previous Astarte albums and now seems to have focused on the lyrics writing. Didn’t she have an interest or time to continue the guitar playing? Whi is she just concentrating on the lyrics? And how do you personally view how much and in which way Lycon’s playing styles differ from Hybris’?
Lycon brought his unique attitude to the band and he was enough to undertake the guitars. Hybris has great ideas in song writing and we work together for it. Her time and duties were too many and I didn’t want to press her so she was available for lyric writing.
Despite Hybris pens the lyrics, but presumably you may have the thoughts and definitely express ideas of your own as to the lyrical content of songs ? How do you share your different ideas about the lyrics anyway ?
The good thing with Hybris and me is that we like the same books the same movies and we have common idea on life matters so we can mix our thought but each one of us applies in different writing and that makes the lyrics even more interesting.
As far as I know you had been engaged in a legal battle with the previous member Kintha over the ownership of the name of Astarte. I can’t help asking how things finally ended up in such a condition ?
Kinthia Nemesis with the help of Black Lotus tried to put me out from my band by stealing, behind my back, the Astarte band name. I was two years in a court battle, losing my money and my time, trying to get back my rights. I finally won the case, I took back my band name and all my rights and from their side nobody came to the court support themselves, not even their lawyer.
Astarte is a kind of eccentric band that never plays live. I could easily image the material from DEMONIZED would absolutely sound really energic, intensive and bombastic brutal on the stage. I can’t help asking what’s the point of rejecting the live playing even though you have a stable line-up at the moment as far as I have understood ?
Besides the time that we spend on making an album we have no time to make lives. Our jobs and our way of life is the main obstacle. Greece is a very small country and we can not even tour inside our country. To go abroad there is no personal time to make it.
If someone offered a chance to play a gig in an indoor environment or then outdoor festival, will you however stay as tight as before and turn them down ?
We have been asked in Wacken and USA touring and many other places but again our country is away to catch up even a small tour abroad in France, UK or northern places.
As for you, Tristessa, you have been involved in other Greek black metal bands like Vorphalack and Lloth, apparently the black metal is quite close to your heart ?¨
Music is a priority in my everyday life. I have played in bands since I was 14 years old starting from punk and moving to Death Black. In 1994 I recorded my first official split vinyl with Vorphalack but before I was playing on many demos and in several bands. Right now besides Astarte, I have two other bands Lloth (experimental brutal death) and Insected (Brutal thrash death). With both bands we try to make a good album and soon to start playing lives.
I read a piece of news about Angela Gossow’s bookproject about females in the metal genre, and obviously you will be included in the book. But are you allowed to unveil more about her book project ?
I will speak for my music activities and works, my personal music matters will not be included. There are too many to be mentioned and it is not the right time to speak about them. I have lot of things to experience. Music for me has not stopped here. I wait for more surprises good and bad ones.
Apparently you are also involved in the Dark Angel Promotion doing the promotion for several Greek bands, am I right ?
Yes she is a friend who uses “myspace” engine and supports the Greek scene. She has expanded in many countries from people who represent her work and Greek bands and news are spread.
As far as I know you are still involved in Lloth and working on the debut album?
Yes I have reform LLOTH with male members and right now we have signed with a Greek Label and we try to make our album. We have delayed our recordings because I was focused for lot of time to Astarte.
As for Vorphalack, I think they are still around even though members have gone and come more than enough ?
Vorphalack are not active as band for a long time but the founder of the band is still supporting the old material and has some contacts around.
Well I can’t help inquiring if there are some certain particular albums and bands having had a huge impact on your musical and above all metal passion and career and what made you dig metal from its wide range?
My major passion is for the old classical Metal bands like Iron Maiden, Eloy, Camel, Uriah heep .. are the A and Z in my music perception. I love Metal from its roots till the most modern kind. I follow all music Metal waves, I open my ears to everything and I make choices. I am not predisposed towards music and that helps me to have objective role and action.
I for one thank you for your time and interest in doing this interview for Metal-Rules.Com and of course your last words are welcomed to conclude the interview…
The pleasure is mine and I really enjoy this long detailed conversation. I want to thank Metal-Rules, our readers and all those who support us so far.
A last thing to add is about the worldwide documentary that we participated on “History of Black Metal” presented by UK tv channel and soon comes out in dvd edition. The documentary features many musicians like Mantas, Satyr, Andy Sneap, Walkyier and many other respectful names. Two representatives from Shash Media travel in Greece and make the shootings. We are asked to speak about our yearly experience as a band, as Metal fans and more personally. It is a real confession of how we have survived and how we have experienced Black Metal. I think it is a big step for Black Metal Music.
ASTARTE LINE UP(left to right):
ICE : drums
Official Discography (incl. Demos):
1stDemo –LLOTH “Dancing in the Dark Lakes of Evil”
Debut album ASTARTE- “Doomed dark Years”
2nd album ASTARTE-“Rise From Within”
3rd album ASTARTE-“Quod Superius Sicut Inferius”
4th album ASTARTE- “Sirens”
5th album ASTARTE-“DEMONIZED”