Bandleader/singer R.D Liapakis – Mystic Prophecy
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Daniela, webbattender for Mystic Prophecy for making the interview possible
Thanks to Massacre Records for the promo pictures of the band
RAVENLORD is the name of the seventh Mystic Prophecy album. I got in touch with bandleader R.D Liapakis (he’s also the only remaining original member in the band) to talk about the new excellent album, the line up changes and the past present and future of Mystic Prophecy. Read more about this great Greek/German heavy metal act down below.
Hi Lia are you ready to kick off the interview?
Mystic Prophecy’s current album is called RAVENLORD and it was released late last year. How long did you work on the album?
We never sit down and write songs on command. We are always writing songs and some songs also develop during our tours. Therefore, it is difficult to say how long it took. The fact is that almost 2.5 years lie between the releases of Fireangel and Ravenlord. We just wanted to break the current cycle and also care for our families, rather than hanging out in the rehearsal room all the time.
Who has written the material and what are the lyrics about this time?
The material for Ravenlord has been exclusively composed by Markus Pohl and me, as it has always been since the Savage Souls album. From that time on Markus and I work hand in hand. Regarding the upcoming album I think that also Laki will contribute, because he’s got some very good ideas.
What is the main difference between RAVENLORD and the previous album from 2009 FIREANGEL?
You have to ask the fans. I think that a band either a) changes completely or b) stays true to their principles. We always have remained true to ourselves. Like Fireangel, Ravenlord is a balanced album which holds a good mixture between speed grenades and mid-tempo pieces.
What have the band members been up in between releases?
Working, taking care of their families, rehearsing and playing shows
Does the title RAVENLORD have any special meaning to the members?
No, not for the band members. For me, as I write all the lyrics, the title has a special meaning. But you just have to read the lyrics, to know who Ravenlord is.
Who has done the cover art-work and what do you think of it?
Originally the same artist who had done the Satanic Curses cover artwork should have been in charge for Ravenlord. We don’t know what happened but in the end he couldn’t make it, the day we should deliver the cover artwork to the label it wasn’t ready. So our management asked Marc of Artwars Design for a simple and plain album design… in 24 hours. The artwork was ready the next day and so we overran the deadline just one day… hahaha… Looking back I especially like the artwork because of its simplicity.
How would you like to describe what kind of music Mystic Prophecy plays?
It is Heavy Metal!
The biography states that Mystic Prophecy combines extreme metal sounds with classical rock elements. What do you think of that?
That’s right and you can call it Heavy Metal.
You chose to feature a cover song on the album, which song is it and why did chose to cover that one?
Please have a look at the CD and you’ll find the cover version. When you found it, you’ll see who we covered and afterwards you’ll know that it’s homage to this artist.
Do you enjoy making covers?
If we like the song and we feel like it we’re happy to make a cover version. But we don’t see it as our duty and we cover the songs just for fun.
Have you had a release party for the album? If so when and where took it place and how was it? Did you perform live?
Yes, we played a show in a small club in Bochum/Germany to celebrate the album. Tickets were 7 Euros, because it was our 7th album. The concert was well attended and it was something special as the club didn’t have a stage, so we stood face to face with the crowd. I think the fans won’t forget this evening quickly because that doesn’t happen very often.
I know you played ProgPower USA this year, what was that like?
Great! Finally we made it! We should have played there years ago, but it didn’t work out because of visa problems.
It was a dream come true and a brilliant trip. I think we made many new fans and I can only thank the organizers for making it possible to go to Atlanta.
I have to congratulate you to the great reviews you have received in the press. Do you care about what the media and critics have to say about the band and your albums?
Our album Fireangel was in the German Top 100 Charts and the media voices were very good. Of course we are happy if the critics like the album. But you also have to see that Ravenlord just got good reviews, it wasn’t in the Charts, but it has been sold more often than Fireangel. I don’t think that the critics themselves decide what is good or what is bad. Before a fan buys your music, he listens to some songs on Spotify and YouTube first, then he goes to the store and buys or orders from Amazon …
Many artists usually think that their latest album is their best one ever, what do you think of RAVENLORD so far? Are you happy with the outcome?
I’m happy with Ravenlord, but I can’t say it’s our best album. I like all our albums and at the same time hate them. If you’re happy with an album to 100%, then you have to quit. You won’t make 100% a second time. So I can say that I think that I could have done a little better on each of our albums. But then again they would lose their character, which would be a shame. I like Ravenlord, but I can’t say that it’s better than one of our other albums. This way I’d also devalue the other albums which have advanced to cult albums among some fans.
Where was the album recorded?
Like all our albums, I recorded it in my studio and left it to Fredrik Nordström to mix and master it. Fredrik knows exactly what I want and I don’t have to discuss a lot. This saves me a lot of work and nerves.
Is it the ultimate to record in our own studio?
I don’t know it otherwise and I don’t want to judge. I love to record in my studio. In the evening I go home to my family and I feel comfortable. As it is my studio, I can decide when I record something. This definitely has advantages but may also have disadvantages when you work too much on the songs. But in the meantime I’m experienced enough that it doesn’t happen anymore.
You have produced the album together with someone else, who?
No. Every time it’s the same team, Christian Schmid and me.
Isn’t it hard to produce your own band? I mean isn’t it hard to stay objective?
No, I don’t think so at all.
What do you think is your strongest feature as producer?
For this you’d have to ask the other bands who record their albums in my studio. I think that it’s indeed an advantage that I’m a musician myself which involves the basic understanding…
What did the rest of the band think of having you as producer?
So far they’ve never complained that I record and produce the albums. Basically they’re quite happy that I take care of it.
You have also produced a lot of other acts what’s the main difference between producing another act compared to your own?
The other acts don’t sound like Mystic Prophecy.
Who did the mixing work?
Concerning other bands we mostly do the recording and the mix. Otherwise it is also the bands free will to entrust someone else with the mix. That happens extremely rarely.
You have worked with Nordström before how is it to work with him?
As I said earlier: Fredrik has now mixed and mastered 4 of our albums. He knows exactly what I want. I no longer need to discuss something, it’s an intuitive understanding. Meanwhile, I also don’t travel to Sweden anymore, because I trust him and his work. When I go to Sweden then only to visit him at home and to hang out, because he’s a cool guy. I already have been asked if we don’t want to work with someone else and many people offer their work to us, but why? I’m completely satisfied with Fredrik’s work.
Were any of the other members a part of the mixing process?
No. In the end I decide how it sounds and so far nobody has complained. The other guys also trust Frederik. In case we wouldn’t be satisfied we’ll correct it, but… so far everything has been as we wanted it to be.
How come you didn’t mix the album in your own studio?
You’re just too busy with the product and your ears are not longer free for your own stuff. I just record it and I grant myself the luxury of having someone driving the mix that has fresh ears and doesn’t yet know our material. Concerning Neverending and Regressus I have always mixed for weeks and I wasn’t satisfied in the end. For Savage Souls the recording and everything was very stressful, so our manager advised me to find someone else to make the mix. Without further ado, I flew to Sweden for 5 days and was thrilled what Fredrik made of the material. Today, I just enjoy that I don’t have to mix myself.
Did you go to Gothenburg to Nordström’s studio?
Not anymore. I have been there the first two times, but it’s not possible anymore. I can listen to three mix variants via download then I decide what I like. Therefore I don’t have to board a plane and pollute the atmosphere. It works way simpler, saves money, nerves and the environment.
You are today the only original member of the band how does that feel?
I can’t judge. Sure it’s a pity that Martin Albrecht and Gus G. no longer are with us. But to me it feels as if Markus has been there right from the beginning.
Gus G. and I still have a very good relationship, but I think it’s difficult to stay together as a band forever, when the big success doesn’t come. See our drummer Matze who played on Savage Souls and Satanic Curses. He is a great guy, great drummer… but he’s also a lawyer and has a lot of work. When he joined the band, he was still a student. But after Satanic Curses he finished his studies and had to realize that it’s extremely difficult with two bands and a job. Especially as Sacred Steel is his baby and he has bin in this band almost from the start. So the ways always part again and again. To most ex-members I still have a good relationship.
Is Mystic Prophecy your band?
I don’t see it as my band or band of x or y. Mystic Prophecy is a band, and it is difficult to keep people together permanently. Everyone has their obligations in life and sometimes it then means that you have to go separate ways because of these commitments. Sad but true. It pisses me off that we have had to replace musicians quite often. But what should I do? When a musician plays with us and another band beckons with dollars, then he’s gone. Just as he’s gone, when job, personal life and band don’t get under one roof. We’re not kids anymore, who live from day to day. We all have obligations and must precisely meet those. You think and act more rational. At 18, I didn’t care. If necessary, I could have lived with Mom again. Today, I and my fellow musicians can no longer think like this, sorry.
Was it hard when Martin Albrecht left back in 2008? After all it was you two that founded the band.
No. In the end it was completely understandable that Martin left. He became a father and we had been making music together since Valleys Eve. Martin wanted to have more time for his child and so he decided against staying in the band. But it also wouldn’t make a lot of sense to try to convince someone to stay when his heart is elsewhere. I also know that, I’m on tour for three weeks and can’t see my son. I’m often homesick. And when you just became a father it’s must be even harder… or not. For me it didn’t change, as I love my wife and my son dearly and I love spending time with them. So every day without my family is a sad day. But also our fans recompense me with their enthusiasm.
You have had a lot of member changes through the years how has that affected the music?
The only difference that ever occurred was at the point when Gus G. left and Markus Pohl joined the band. I call Gus G. a virtuoso who grew up with Schenker and the like, while Markus is the Zakk Wylde type who wants to shred the axe on stage. All the others connected to the picture that Markus and I gave them. And I’m glad about it, because so we could always make 100% Mystic Prophecy albums, although there were a lot of member changes.
Has it been hard to go through all the changes in the line-up?
Of course it was hard. You have to find new members. They have to be willing to give their best to learn all the material. Recently Tyronne left because he has too much work with his drum schools, which work out very well. We had to be quick to find a replacement for him, who is Tristan. All those changes really take it out of you because you have to adapt to the new people. I hope that we’ll stay together for two or three albums in order to be able to work together reasonably. Yesterday I became the first song from Laki and I’m excited. He really brings himself in as a guitar player and doesn’t only play what’s provided.
Is the current line-up a solid one?
Ask me again in 10 years… hahaha
The current members come from Greece and Germany who comes from which country?
Laki and I are Greeks, the other guys are German.
Do you have any contact with the former members?
Yes, I’m still in good contact with Gus G., Mathias Straub and Martin Grimm
You have been co-operating with Massacre Records since 2006 are you happy with the work MR have put into the band and the albums so far?
We’re quite satisfied with Massacre, because they have fulfilled everything they promised so far
Before you joined forces with MR you were signed to Nuclear Blast what’s the main difference between those two labels?
Of course Nuclear Blast have a very good label structure and maybe more power than Massacre. But that’s not the point. Not only you have to have a good label but also you as a musician have to make an effort. When you sign somewhere and you think that you’ll become a Rock Star automatically you’re stupid. Massacre signed us when we lost the deal with Nuclear Blast. They have always supported Mystic Prophecy. And exactly this feeling was missing before. It makes a difference because it motivates you as a musician.
For how many albums are you signed for at MR?
In the meantime we have renewed our contract and I think there’s one album left to record. But I also think that we’ll be working together in the future. Anyway we’ll pay Massacre a visit soon to discuss if they still fancy working with idiots like us… hahaha…
Do you have any idea how many copies your previous albums have sold in?
If we talk about this, it’ll sound like "we’re the greatest". A lot of musicians lie about this point. I get the invoices and I see how many people show interest in us at the shows. To talk about numbers is not my kind of style. It’s more important that our label and we know how much we sell. In the end it’s also important that we still win new fans.
Have you felt any pressure from the label or from other people to always make better and better albums?
I’ve never had that feeling. Should I get it I’ll immediately stop making music, because it wouldn’t be fun anymore but a burden.
Is it possible to find your older albums available out in stores today with the thought of that albums are phased out from record stores today?
You can find our older albums on Ebay, Amazon or other platforms. We also offered them in our shop until they were sold out. I think that we’re going to have all albums in our web shop in the future. In the meantime there are already seven…
If you can’t find your albums in stores is it possible to download them legally?
Sure… go to iTunes, or Amazon.
Are you currently co-operating with any management or booking agency?
Concerning the management we work together with Martin from Deathsquad since 2006. As for the booking, either we do it ourselves or Jörg from Twisted Talent takes care of it.
The band has got a really great website and is also active on the various social forums; do you think it’s important to be active on the Internet?
Of course! You have to be there for your fans and you have to be up-to-date. The people want to be informed, as they’re interested in you and your band. Therefore we always aim to stay in contact with the fans, also through our personal accounts. Here you can also hear what they think about you.
Who runs your website?
Our website is run by Daniela. She has been a fan for many years, and eventually we became friends. Our management and Daniela also know each other very well, so it was clear that someone you trust takes over this field. I myself couldn’t do it, as I have a job, a family, the studio and two other bands. But Daniela keeps Martin and me always up-to-date. From time to time I also take a look to see what happens.
Do you get a lot of mail from fans? What’s the most common question they ask you?
We get a lot of response or "likes" on Facebook, especially after we played a show. But the fans rarely ask specific questions. I’m often asked where you can buy our merchandise.
Are you happy with what Mystic Prophecy has achieved so far?
Of course I’m proud of it! I think nobody anticipated that we’ll play a lot of countries with this band, and that we’re going to have so much success. As I never gave up and as the band is also my "baby", I’m very happy.
The band has been pretty consistent with releasing one album a year since 2002 but this time it took a while before you followed up FIREANGEL with RAVENLORD, why?
As said above: We willingly took this extra time, because we also have families and jobs. In this situation you can’t throw out a new album every twelve months, that’s contra productive.
Do the fans have to wait long for a follow up to RAVENLORD?
We’re going to release a new album in 2013, but don’t ask me for the exact date. So far we only have written four new songs and are in the middle of the process. The new album will be there when we’re ready. In case we only write songs that don’t satisfy us, we’ll postpone the new record.
Do you think that the music industry has changed much between today and when you first started out?
The music industry has changed a lot, but I don’t want to tell much about it, because it’s a sensitive topic. We got our own attitude concerning this. But it’s a fact that it became way harder to be successful than it has been 15 years ago. Before your new record is released lots of people already listened to it on the Internet. Everyone considers buying or downloading it illegally, as they save the money for another band or for going to your show. Thereby everything became more difficult and changed a lot, for better, for worse.
What are the plans for you and the band during 2013?
Firstly we want to record the new album and a tour is going to follow at the end of 2013. Maybe it’s possible to finally tour the US. I hope that we could convince one or another promoter in Atlanta.
What do you have to say to the unlucky ones who haven’t discovered Mystic Prophecy yet?
Sooner or later we’ll get you all…!!!
Could you give them three reasons why they should buy RAVENLORD?
HEAVY FUCKING METAL… if you don’t like Metal… don’t check Mystic FUCKING Prophecy!!!