Firewind, Evil Masquerade and Spiritual Beggars
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Trine at DARK MINSTREL MUSIC for the promo pictures of Evil Masquerade taken by: Thomas Trane
Thanks to Laura Thulke at Century Media for the promo pictures of Firewind taken by: Hatzakis Photography
Additional live pictures are from the archives of: Anders Sandvall
One of the hottest singers is the Greek/Swedish Apollo Papathanasio who sings with Firewind, Evil Masquerade, and Spiritual Beggars. Many of you may not know what Apollo was up to before he joined these bands, so I decided to get in touch with him focus more on his earlier work. Be sure to check out the new Evil Masquerade album PENTAGRAM and the new Firewind album FEW AGAINST MANY where Papathansio gets to air his lungs. I have really longed for making this interview and now it’s here…
Hi Apollo how are you? Are you ready to take on this interview with me and metal-rules.com?
Yes always nice to talk to you!
When was your interest for music born?
When I heard kiss ALIVE for the first time. I was 11 years old and one year after I started a band.
From what I have read you first started out playing guitar and not singing. Who was your role model and idol when it came to playing guitar?
Don’t remember I think I liked Paul Stanley’s approach.
What got you into singing and when did you join your first band?
I think all the bands I’ve been in through early years were missing a singer. No one wanted to sing. Everyone was focused on playing an instrument. So I thought that I could play both guitar and sing.
What was the name of the first band and what kind of music did you play?
I played in two bands called Viper and Warfear. The first one Heavy Metal and the second band was more punk-like.
What do you like the most – playing the guitar or singing?
Look, it’s nice to have free hands when you working on stage you can do so much more with the crowd compared to being chained with a guitar wrapped all around you.
When it comes to singing do you have anyone that you look up to or are inspired by?
There’s so many singers everything from blues and soul to heavier stuff. It would be a big list of names.
Have you always had the will to become a successful singer?
I never thought about it this way. I did it because of the passion of singing and working with different musicians. I have never emphasized myself to become a successful singer. I hardly do interviews because I like more to be an anonymous guy.
When did you record your first album? Was it with a band?
My first album was recorded 1994. I was in a cover band in Sweden and I convinced the guys in the band to save money from the gigs and spending it on recordings. I had a lot of songs that I wanted to document. And we just did it. The band was called Faith Taboo.
Where was it recorded and was it sold in many copies?
It was recorded in Malmoe at Roasting House Recording Studio. The team was great. A record company took the album right away but went bankrupt shortly after. So I think they managed to release 500 copies. I don’t know what happened after that.
How did it feel to record an album back then? Were you happy with the outcome and what do you think of it today?
It was great since I put a lot of energy to have things done. And it was the start for me as a singer/songwriter. The outcome was great.
I know that you’re a teacher – what do you teach and do you work as a teacher at the moment?
I teach music but also society, geography and history. Exactly those topics I always been interested in.
What’s the best thing with working as a teacher?
When I can see when students understand a feature, put facts in different contexts. That’s really fantastic when you really can see progression in knowledge through the years and use it as a tool in different situations.
You have worked together with Richard Andersson and his bands Majestic and Time Requiem. Did you work with Andersson before the Majestic times?
Never knew about this guy and the band before.
Why did he want you to sing in his bands, and was it an easy decision to join forces with him?
I like to work with all kinds of people and Richard was great. He knew exactly what he wanted and he was strict organized. He just gave me a manual what to do. I mean there was no space for improvisation, all notes was already there. He was great and I liked all the people that joined the band. The thing with bands is that the chemistry between the individuals sometimes can be extremely perfect. And so it was in Majestic compared to Time Requiem. If we were reunited today with the same lineup as we had in Trinity Overture we would create a monster.
You sang on the second album with Majestic called TRINITY OVERTURE were you involved in writing any material?
No I was not involved lyrically.
After a few years the band changed name to Time Requiem as well as label how come you changed the name and label? Was it a smart move?
We had a conflict with the record label and management deals and so. That forced us to change the band’s name.
What did the fans think about the 2002 album TIME REQUIEM?
To be honest, I only heard great stuff and that the band was one of that years most interesting bands people and media were talking about.
How was it to work with Andersson?
He was really a great person with high ambitions. As I said before, he was well organized even on note details. I had no chance in changing things, he stood.
The band released the live album UNLEASHED IN JAPAN in 2004. Do you think it was a smart move to release a live album after only three studio albums?
I am sure there are bands that released a live album before they even release a studio album. Kiss released Alive after only three albums for example.
In 2004, the release THE INNER CIRCLE OF REALITY was released with almost and entirely new line-up – how did that feel for you?
It was drastically done, so we didn’t have any personal relationships either socially or musically, unfortunately.
What was the reason why the band did so few live shows?
There were people within the band that didn’t want to make any bigger tours.
How come you left the band after THE INNER CIRCLE OF REALITY?
I didn’t. Things just turned out that way. We all had a lot of things to do in our private lives. Perhaps Richard just wanted to work with more famous musicians. I never thought about that and we never talked about it. To be honest, I think my performance on that album was the worst I’ve ever done. I really felt sick during the recordings but Andersson still wanted to have my vocals done within a certain time.
Could you tell us a fun memory from the Majestic/TR era?
Oh there were a lot of things. Our guitarist always had his odd things. Once he disappeared from the hotel. We looked for him but couldn’t find him. He appeared the next day. He said that he was at a party and don’t remember what happened. It’s strange how he managed to find his way back to the hotel since we were in Tokyo. Also Martin and Peter Wildoer were great and funny guys, they always made up a lot of crazy tricks. We really enjoyed each other’s company.
Are you friends with Andersson and the rest of the members of Majestic and Time Requiem today?
Yes of course. I´m still a good friend with Richard even if we only call each other once every three years. I have good contact with Peter Wildoer. He’s the most manic positive guy I’ve ever met.
What do you think of the TR albums Andersson released after your departure?
It sounded quite the same as the previous albums and there was no progression in my opinion.
What were you up to after you left TR?
I met Gus G at the studio Fredman in Gothenburg mixing first TR album. Because of that meeting I came to be a member of Firewind almost two years after.
Tell us a little about the band Meduza that you were involved in while you sang in TR?
Meduza was a more or pure neoclassic metal like the Yngwie Malmsteen era in the eighties. Those guys loved the music and they performed it well on the two albums we made and the few gigs we had. Also Stefan Berg is a fantastic guitarist. It was a smaller project back then.
When you look back at the time you spent in Majestic and TR are you happy with what you and the band achieved? I mean the genre for neo-classical metal is narrow.
Yeah its narrow, but if you like that kind of style then of course you like to compose and play it yourself.
Were there many bands that showed interest in you as a singer when you were available after the departure from TR?
Actually I don’t think there were any bands that were interested. I met some new good friends during the years in Gothenburg and it naturally happened when somebody had a project or so.
I have always loved listening to your singing and think that you have an amazing voice, but on the last album you made with TR I thought you sang not as good as you did on the previous albums and it felt that you lacked inspiration, is that correct?
Thank you for your kind words. It’s correct I didn’t feel well when we recorded that album and I was not satisfied at all with myself. Also, I was not convinced what Richard Andersson had composed. I usually don’t record anything that I don’t like. I should have said “no thanks” on that one.
How did you end up singing on the Sandalinas album LIVING ON THE EDGE?
Andy La Roque from King Diamond called me and ask me if I could help him to record a band in his studio. That band was Sandalinas and they didn’t have a singer. I said yes and Andy recorded my vocals for that album.
Were you session-singer on the album or were you a fulltime member?
I saw myself as a session member.
You were also involved in the band Gardenian what can you tell us about that band?
Me and Niclas Engelin became good friends when I was living in Gothenburg. He is a great guy and we made over 50 demo songs which are great songs. We started also to work on a new Gardenian album. We made all the songs but we didn’t continue with that band for one or another reason.
During all of this were you still working as a teacher?
I studied at the University of Gothenburg back then.
You have got an amazing voice have you taken vocal classes?
No, I practice myself. I studied different styles, singers from all kinds of genres.
Do you come from a family that loves music?
Yeah my parents always had music everywhere mostly Greek music, but also Beatles, Rod Stewart, Tom Jones, Tina Turner etc. My father sang a lot at party’s.
How have you managed to keep your voice intact through the years?
The best thing is to be active in bands where you can sing different styles and also practice when you don’t record or being out on tour.
Do you think that your vocal abilities have changed through the years? If so in what way?
Yes I can control my voice better than before. I also learned to use different techniques depending on the type of song being played. On the other hand when I just sang with no technique in mind you never knew what came out from my mouth and that’s more sport.
Do you have any advice to aspiring singers out there how to take care of your voice?
I think you really have to find your personal register and find your own sound and stick to that. Also the best practice is many years experience of studio work, recordings and touring a lot.
Do you have sponsors?
I don’t. I want to buy the things I want. It is also impossible to have sponsors when you are a singer of what I heard from other singers.
How did you end up in Firewind?
In Gothenburg I met Gus G when me and Richard Andersson were mixing the first TR album at Fredman Studio. Gus had some demos for the album Forged by fire. I had no time to do it so Firewind found another singer. Two years later Gus G called me up for a discussion of a new album (Allegiance).
How was it to work with Gus G as bandleader?
His is very professional and it works well though we have very similar ideas of how we want things to be done.
Are you involved in the writing process in Firewind?
Gus G formed Firewind but it doesn’t mean that he is writing or making the whole process himself. He wants all members to feel comfortable and he wants each and one member to contribute with their best skills. For example I write almost 80% percent of every record and I always have one song on every album that I write lyrically and musically. He is the only guy that is curious of my or someone else’s songs within the band before we vote if it’s a keeper or a throwaway. I am very happy being a part of this band.
When I listen to the album ALLEGIANCE I think it’s obvious that you have found joy in singing again and your voice sounds really great. Was Firewind a spark plug for you?
The thing is that we decided to record that album in a studio where all the members are there at the same time. That is the magic of making a great album. Yeah I sang songs that were exactly what I wanted to sing. We also wrote 2 songs in the studio that we recorded right away.
ALLEGIANCE did really well; did you ever believe that the album was going to be so successful?
Yes I was sure about that and I´m happy that we all were right about that.
Firewind is a mini European Union with members from Greece, Germany and Sweden and I said to Gus G when I interviewed him and he didn’t agree at all, what do you think?
No I think Gus is right since we all have a Hellenic background, except for the drummer Jo Nunez who actually is from Belgium and Spain. So we are rather a small Greek community who are fighting in a big world.
Besides Firewind, you’re also involved in the Swedish/Danish act Evil Masquerade led by guitar wizard Henrik Flyman where do you find the time to do everything?
It’s all about planning. Flyman always prepares in advance so that I can plan my time for EM.
How did you end up in Evil Masquerade?
Henrik called me when he found out that I wasn’t involved in TR anymore. I think it was late 2005, same year when I became a member of Firewind.
What do you think of your debut album with Evil Masquerade THIRD ACT today?
Somehow it’s a great progress from that album till Pentagram. It is an exciting series that continues to evolve in a completely natural way. I love all the work Flyman done so far.
What’s it like to work with Henrik Flyman?
He is very caring and wants it to be convenient when we work. He is open to new perspectives on how to shape the melodies into the songs to suit my tone. One should know that he has his own style and plays fantastic.
Do you have any saying when it comes to the material and music?
The material is brilliant and the music is fantastic since it has the elements of Black Sabbath and Rainbow. Flyman manage to continue of how their music could sound, instead of rip offs.
Do you see any problems in being a part of two bands at once?
So far it has worked well. But we can get into a situation where there might be problems in the future since both bands are growing relatively rapidly, and where I have to postpone gigs with one of the bands if there’s a gig at the same time.
How come Evil Masquerade has done so few live shows over the years?
We don’t play for free. We are waiting for promoters that respect what we are doing and then we will go for it.
And talking about live shows, why doesn’t Firewind play anything live in Scandinavia but only in the rest of Europe?
The promoters are not that interested. I know some of them wanted us to play for a six-pack of beer some years ago. There are many tour operators in Sweden, for example, which sees us as amateurs, and that we would not attract people. Organizers in Scandinavia always play with safe bets and dare not try something new. I hope that will change some day.
You also sang on the album RETURN TO ZERO with Spiritual Beggars in 2010 how was that?
That was fun. It was pure entertainment and it was long ago it seemed so magical and fun. We are all at the same level of humor and we were working on the album in peace until it was fine. Such a thing I would do again. There was also an advantage that many of us live in the same town so it was easy to organize everything.
Is it fun to work with Spiritual Beggars?
It is more than fun.
I saw Spiritual Beggars live at Graspop Metal Meeting Festival last summer and the show was really great. What did you think about the show?
All shows we’ve done were exciting and great.
How many live shows have you done with SB so far?
I think it’s six or seven.
Due to the members involvements in other acts haven’t SB been active on the road, do you wish for the band to be out touring more?
Yes that would be great.
Are there any plans from your side to be a part of any other bands at the moment?
We are working with new songs for SB. There is also a project that some friends of mine working on in Gothenburg. We hope that it will be out next year and the material is different and huge. We’ll see what happens.
I think that you manage to sing all of the various metal styles equally great but do you have any favorite metal style to sing in?
I like to sing metal where I can use different elements at the same time like blues and soul.
Do you think it’s important to be active on all the various forms of social networks that are around today?
Yes that’s important to meet different people to learn from, exchange thoughts and ideas physical meetings are important as well as to interact with digital resources.
I saw that your own website hasn’t been updated for a while why?
I don’t have the time as you noticed when I’m involved in so many projects. It is something I have to improve.
Do you get a lot of mail from fans and what is the most common question they ask you?
I have no idea. I do care for my fans or friends and I try to meet most of them when we are on tour even after a gig. The common question out there is “hey dude is it possible to meet Gus G” hahaha.
What do you like the most of recording albums or performing live?
When I reached the end of a recording I want out and play, when I reached the end of a tour I want home. After two or three weeks, I entered the studio again. The same procedure but so damn good.
Do you still play guitar?
I always write songs using a guitar. So yes I still play guitar.
Are you happy with what you have achieved in the music industry so far?
I have had the opportunity to play the music I like along with interesting and nice people.
Are there anything you’d like to do music wise that you haven’t done yet?
I will in the near future record a solo album. I mean after having been involved in almost twenty studio albums, it feels right to make your own solo album.
You are today one of the best voices of the world and one of the most current names how does that feel?
Of course I want to be a part of the metal music industry and contribute. I’m grateful that people like what I’m doing.
It’s been ~2 years now since the tragic passing of Ronnie James Dio. Do you remember what you were doing when you got the news of his departure?
I got a lot of e-mails and texts and I couldn’t believe that it was true. I called my friends and we talked about what happened. I think I got the first text when I woke up early in the morning the day after Ronnie died.
Has Dio inspired you as a singer?
What are your favorite records(s) by Ronnie James Dio?
Holy Diver and The last in line.
In wikipedia it can be read that you still today are working as a music teacher in Halmstad, Sweden, is that correct?
Yes it’s correct and I really love my job.
Do you have any plans on recording your own solo album anytime soon?
I’m planning so, yes.
What are the plans for you during the rest of 2012?
I will tour with Firewind. We did some festivals this summer, also tour in China, Europe, US, and hopefully we will do a small tour in Scandinavia. So it will be a busy period.
Do you have any words of wisdom to share with the readers and fans?
I thank all people who support me; of what I am doing, you are great. Keep listening to good classic metal.
Well, that was all I had for now. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer all of my questions. I wish you all the best in the future.
Thank you. See you soon.
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