Interview by Arto Lehtinen
Pics by Elanna Safarika
The Greek metal scene has always revolved around the black metal genre since the late 80's. However during this decade the red hot country in the abyss of Europe has started turning out more and more different kinds of metal bands. For example StraightHate, who stand for extreme brutal grinding death metallic sonictorture. This five piece draws influences from grind core/death metal and other genres to their music. The band's vocalist Panos Agoros tells a little bit more about StraightHate's world such as their new albums and influences.
Good winter day to Hellas, what’s up down there in the European abyss ?
Same old shit really. Hellas is a good country to live because it has one the best climates around (for the moment, because it’s all changing as we speak) and that’s about it. Our public sector, social security system and education have big problems. As a people we don’t really care in making our lifes easier, we don’t care for anything except our personal daily comfort. We’re as fucked up as everybody else.
History of Straighthate
Starting the interview by asking about the history and background of the band could be the lamest way to kick off the interview , but in this case as StraightHate is a rather unknown group for the most of the readers that is where we will begin. Could you shed some light on how everything started out in the first place ?
SXH started out in late 1999 from veterans of the Athens DIY/squat punk/hardcore circuit. In the early days they played mid-tempo metallic hardcore. Just one track from this period ever made to a release – a tape compilation. A couple of years later the band moved to a more thrashy direction, incorporating some old-school grind influences as well. The band started recording a demo in 2001 but during the recording of the vokills the vocalist of that time got kicked out and then I got in. I rewrote the lyrics, laid down the vokill tracks and during the mix we realized that the session turned out better that what the band initially expected, thus we decided to release it as a proper mini-CD instead of a demo. We sent out some promos around but we got no label interest whatsoever, that’s how I decided to release it through my own BLAST BEAT MAILMURDER/PRODUCTIONS. In the meanwhile we got the opportunity to contribute to Blackfish Records’ (UK) “International Tribute To Thrash Metal”, with a necro as fuck version of SLAYER’s “Black Magic”. This was included as a bonus track to the 5 songs of the original studio session and rounded up with videos from a full live set, that’s how the GRIM MEMORIES release saw the light of day.
The GRIM MEMORIES mini-CD has defined the first period of STRAIGHTHATE existence. This material has been compared to stuff like Slayer, Malevolent Creation, The Haunted, Entombed, At The Gates, as well as some obscure european deathcore bands like Liar and Congress. At the time of its release in 2004, the line-up has changed dramatically and so to speak, only one member from the original line-up which hit the studio to record it has remained – our bass player Mel. This new incarnation of SXH wanted to play faster and more intensely, we changed yet another drummer and that’s how the material that is present on our debut album INDIGENOUS was created.
And obviously the line-up of StraightHate has undergone some changes, do you think you have finally found a stable line ? Who is involved in the current StraightHate line-up ?
A couple of months before the release of “INDIGENOUS”, we had yet another drummer change. We are very excited about our latest hitter VXG (he also plays in a bunch of other bands like More Of Myself To Kill, Stagnate, Acrimonious, Necrovorous, Death Fiend, etc). He’s very enthusiastic and brought a lot of positive energy into the band. We feel like this is the best line-up we had so far and we hope it will not change for the next years to come.
Well, as far as the rest of the SXH unit goes, we have B.Abyss and Thanos on the guitar (B.Abyss also does some vokills), Mel –our only original member- on the bass and my humble self rocking the microphone.
What kinds of backgrounds do the members of StraightHate have?
Well, most of the members played in other bands before but none of them ever had an official release out. We’ve all been involved in the metal and hardcore scene in one way or the other.
Mel is an old-timer. His first band was a grind combo in the veins of NAPALM DEATH and ELECTRO HIPPIES. Before SXH he used to play in BLINDSHOT, which was one the first bands to ever play metallic hardcore in Greece.
B.Abyss used to play in an american-style death metal band called CULT OF PERVERSION which is currently put on hiatus. They have had a great demo out.
Thanos played in a studio hardcore/metal project called MASSDREADS.
VXG has already played with lots and lots of thrash and death metal bands but I’m pretty uncapable to report the complete list (Overcast was one of them as far as I remember).
I have never played in a band before SXH…
Albums and Music
Straighthate’s material rages from the extreme grind style to the utter brutal death approach. How much do you attempt to mix various extreme metal styles to your music by picking elements from metalcore, grindcore, death metal?!
How much? A lot! We equally enjoy a lot of different styles of music. We wanted to play the music we like and that’s how we got to combine all those different influences: grindcore, crust, death metal, (post-) hardcore, thrash, black metal, etc.
Do you find that putting the different kinds of styles in the songs is challenging for you or just on the contrary is it easier to create the sonic maelstrom ?!
It’s easy because it comes out naturally - as I said our style represents the music that we love and listen to. It is challenging because we don’t want our music to sound like the mere juxtaposition of bits and pieces from different bands/scenes. We want it be intense, catchy and we spent a lot of time trying to make our riffs and rythms fit well together in order to create a steady, enjoyable and brutal flow.
We don’t to be yet another band trying to please people with diverse backgrounds who hail from different music scenes, by just putting everything together in the mix.
This is very rewarding because we feel we’ve created a style of our own and that we stand up from the rest. On the other hand this is a risk because we do not belong to a specific music scene. We are not a band that is easily marketable. This is our strongest point but also a disadvantage. We don’t really complain though, we are very happy with our songs and that’s the most important.
When listening to StraightHate I can’t help pointing out some influences having had an inpact on the StraightHate's music. Could you name some important influential bands and in which way those bands have influenced you?!
If I had to pinpoint a specific country, then I would definitely say that our sound and style are very swedish. I will try to decompose the influences of the different elements of our music style per scene:
GRIND: Napalm Death is obviously a very big influence, Brutal Truth too. We’ve also been compared to Carcass, eventhough I don’t find the comparison obvious. New school grind bands like Discordance Axis, Rotten Sound, Pig Destroyer, Regurgitate, Gadget and Nasum are major reference points as well.
DEATH METAL: Entombed of course, in their early as well as their modern works. There’s a bunch of other swedish DM bands that have had an impact on us as well like Grave, etc. We’re all fans of american death metal of corpse! Some USDM influences that can be easily recognized are: Malevolent Creation, Dying Fetus, Suffocation, Incantation, Immolation…
HARDCORE: All those bands that defined contemporary metallic hardcore as we know it: Converge, All Out War, Integrity, Kickback, Catharsis. New bands such as Uphill Battle (R.I.P.), Cursed, Anodyne, a couple of crust outfits like Skitsystem.
POST-HARDCORE/NOISE ROCK: We all collectively praise NEUROSIS. We appreciate a lot ISIS, BREACH, CULT OF LUNA, PELICAN, BURST, KEELHAUL, UNSANE, KNUT, JESUS LIZARD, THE SWANS…
BLACK METAL : Our bass player Mel will never acknowledge this happily (he doesn’t like BM at all) but we do have a few black metal parts! The rest of us love DARK THRONE, EMPEROR, MAYHEM and modern outfits such as THRALLDOM (R.I.P.).
THRASH: We used to sound very thrashy back at the time, less today. We still love our Slayer though!
The stuff of StraighHate is pretty furious as the running time of each song is a little bit over one minute, do you usually try to limit the running time of songs to a little bit over one minute to express the most violent outburst in such a short time?
Actually half of the tracks included at our INDIGENOUS CD clock around two minutes. It’s not something premeditated. We just like to play fast! We don’t shorten songs for the sake of a specific timing limit. We craft our songs in order to be catchy and intense. We will remove a part if it doesn’t fit the overall flow of the song and we will play another a few more times if we find that it screws the nail deeper. It’s all about about tuning and optimizing our sonic assault…
How are your songs born, I mean by that, do you jam together in the rehearsal place, or do you compose the material individually on your own and then gather to your rehearsal room to check out what each member has come up with?
Until recently the standard methodology was the classic one: our guitar players show the riffs to our drummer at the rehearsal and built the basic structure of the song. Then the bass gets involved eventually bits. When the song is basically ready, I try out different vocal lines and lyrics.
This last year our guitar player Thanos started using his computer in order to lay down demo tracks complete with programmed drums. This makes it easier for the rest of us since we have a good first sketch before we rehearse a new song and elaborate it together. But we still work with the older way as well. As far as the vocals go, I come up with most lines during rehearsals but sometimes when I feel inspired I do demos at home.
GRIM MEMORIES was the first official release. Did you finance the recording, distribution and advertising from your own pockets as it was released by your label Blast Beat MailMurder?
We didn’t pay for the recording, since it was produced at WAVE STUDIO, where our guitar player of the time Kostas Kostopoulos was working as a sound engineer. I, via BBM, financed the pressing and the promotion of the CD. 500 copies were manufactured, ~50 of them were sent out as promos and most of the rest are sold out by now. There’s a few of them left, folks into old-school grinding deathrash stuff make your move while you still have the time – we will not repress it!
Where did you record the mini cd and are you pleased with the result on the release?
It’s our first release, so obviously it has some imperfections but we are happy with it for what it is. It was recorded in a rush since Kostas was planning to relocate to Spain back at the time, and of course there was the vocalist change in between. The main problem is that it got out late, not representing the band’s current direction at the moment when it was out. But it has some massive guitars and the songs are really good. Kostas and Anastasis (now in DEAD CONGREGATION) did the production and I think that we took advantage of every means available. This also applies to the final product. The artwork is super and the booklet unfolded into a mini-poster, we completed the original session with “Black Magic”, as well as a CD-ROM track with a videos from a full live set (notice that some of the tracks of this live set like havent made it to “Indigenous”, but represent a stage of our evolution after the mini-CD). It was a good first release. I still like it when I listen to it.
How did you end up covering Slayer’s Black Magic?
Ian Glasper is a friend of the band. He is an editor of TERRORIZER MAG, he used to play bass for STAMPIN’GROUND and he ran BLACKFISH RECORDS, via which he has released many great records mostly from UK hardcore bands like KNUCKLEDUST, UNITE, etc. We were in touch back at 2002, I also distributed his releases through BLAST BEAT MAILMURDER. He talked to me about this compilation he prepared, “AN INTERNATIONAL TRIBUTE TO THRASH METAL”. It would have hardcore bands from all over the world covering thrash metal classics and the profits would go for a good cause (human, non-animal, cancer research). When he asked me if I knew any good greek bands that could contribute I proposed STRAIGHTHATE which I just joined. I sent him over an unmixed instrumental version of the “GRIM MEMORIES” session, he liked it and we got in! It was an awesome release, complete with artwork from Ed Repka, and an excellent opportunity for getting our name heard outside our country. We will never thank Ian enough for this. If you come across any copies of the tribute around, do yourself a favor and pick one up! There was supposed to be a volume#2, but then Ian put BFR on hold in order to concentrate on his author carreer- he has a couple of awesome books that I definitely recommend: “The History of UK Punk 1980-1984” and ”The Day The Country Died”.
Back to ”Black Magic” it was a cover that the band used to play, an instant live favorite and all members were Slayer fans. It was an obvious choice for the tribute LP. We recorded differently than how we played it live: we used to play it more or less like Slayer did, but when we got into the studio we gave it our own twist with a necro sound, blastbeats and beatdowns.
For the debut album called INDIGENOUS, what kind of recording process did you have in the studio, was it an easy going , or full of setbacks and re-recording the material all over again?
It was easy. First of all, we did the best possible choice by recording it to Salonika, away from our home city of Athens. This has helped us focus on the recording and added some extra vibes. We went there because George Briggos, the best extreme metal producer and engineer in Greece, works there at the ROCK SOUND studios. We met him at a concert with STAMPIN’GROUND at the countryside and we totally loved him as a person and a professional. He is the kind of producer/engineer that acts like a coach and becomes an extra member of the band for the recording session. He became a fan of our music from the moment when we sent him an instrumental preproduction demo. This has made the difference. Working with somebody who is so enthusiastic and involved with your music is an outstanding experience, and what really put us in a position to deliver the best of us. Most of the tracks were laid down in one or two takes…
The only out-of-schedule setback were the vocals. I wanted to recorded all of them in one weekend. I laid down half of the songs on day one, we went out and partied all night with the band and then the day after I got no more voice! B.Abyss did his part on a few tracks, then we returned home. In the first place I was disappointed but it was better this way, because I had the time to relax, listen to the stuff at home and think about some parts that I wasn’t sure yet. When I returned, I was fresh and did the extra mile.
Basically are you pleased with all the result on the album, are you able to point out some parts which should or could have been done a little bit better or different?
We are very pleased with the outcome, it sounds great! I am very happy that we belong to the minority of bands that can say so about their debut album... There’s a couple of things that we could have done better, but George is such a perfectionnist and a fan of the “Indigenous” material and he spent so much time mixing (and mastering) and succeeded to make it sound as good as it was humanly possible. Eternal hails to him! We learned our lessons for the next time and it will be even better.
What kind of respond have you got from the press and people about the album?
We started with the promotion in Greece and promopackages are on their way abroad as we speak. The local press and audience appreciates it as much as we hoped they would. We receive a lot of praise as one of the most essential heavy bands out of Greece. We only hope that press and audience outside of the country will like it as much but we are quite confident.
How long did you work on the songs of INDIGENOUS all in all before entering the studio ?
Half of the songs were two or three years old, the rest of them were written with our drummer of the time Nikos (from brutal deathmetal band VULNUS) and were quite new – less than a year. In the 2 or 3 months before we hit the studio, we put them all together, rehearsed them a lot, did the final touches and recorded a preproduction demo.
What kind role do lyrics have in StraightHate, where do you usually get the topics for songs?
Music is what’s more important, we are consious that most people will never read the lyrics. SXH were born as a hardcore band, and eventhough hardcore is only a part of our overall style nowadays, we still remain a hardcore band attitude-wise. Therefore we could not have fantasy or bullshit lyrics.
I write all the lyrics and I want them to make sense for me and for those that will do the effort to read them and try to comprehend. It’s a personal thing and it’s a hardcore thing. What hardcore meant for me back at the time and still today (and it is not exclusive to hardcore of course) was the struggle of the individual against all odds, eventhough if the fight is desperate and lost from the beginning. A lot of our lyrics in the mini-CD and “Indigenous” represent this epic battle of a person his back against the wall, while he tries to secure some vital space in this society of vultures, while he gasps for air kneeled down in the dark working out his revenge. Our modern way of life doesn’t make sense and we are mutilated from our instincts, isolated from nature and the universe.
So a lot of our lyrics are personal. Half of them are straight forward and easy to understand, the other half are written in a way that they can be interpreted according to the personal filters and experiences of whoever reads them. Another thematic pole is christianity (and to an extent the other monotheistic religions – Islam and Judaism). I consider it to be the worst tragedy that has ever experienced mankind, and the mother of all evils so to speak. It has helped isolate man from nature making him think is his possession, granted to him by a racist macho god. I try to document all this and not write flat antichristian lyrics like most blackmetal bands do, who say nothing more than “Fuck Christ” in every possible way and language. I try to give a bit of a social, political and moral background. The site www.jesusneverexisted.com is a big inspiration and I invite your readers to check it out.
Extreme Wild Band on Stage
How many gigs have you played so far and what type of places do you usually play?
Beats me man, I don’t know exactly how many gigs we did so far – especially in the period before I joined the band. I guess something like 30 or 40 gigs. We usually play in clubs with audiences from 50 to 300 people. We’ve yet to play in a big venue or festival.
With whom have you shared the stage with ?! Ever had any problems with other bands or big headliners?
As far as foreign bands go we’ve already played with BURST, BORN FROM PAIN, HATEBREED, STAMPIN' GROUND, DARKEST HOUR, CURSED. We’ve also played with a lot of fine local units like KONKAVE, SUN OF NOTHING, INVERACITY, etc.
Could you describe what can be expected from the StraightHate show, probably not any root growing and lousy standing in one spot on the stage ?
We have the reputation of being one of the most aggressive live units in the country. Our live shows are pretty much about relentless beating. Yeah you’re right, I’m not the kind of singer who stands still on the stage. I move around and try to catch the audience’s attention and reaction, often by getting down on the pit and kicking their asses. Most of the times we get people moving and moshing, and that’s what’s it’s all about!
How do the audience in, for example Athens and Thessalonika, differ from each other? Are they more violent at gigs, arranging chaotic moshpits right from the start and keep raging the throughout a show?
Well it depends of the show and of the band, and of the specific style and scene involved each time. There’s gigs where there’s good pits and other times when it’s dead. I remember the first HEAVEN SHALL BURN gig where there was an awesome pit, with fists and kicks in every direction - one of the best ever. It also depends on the location: I’ve seen gigs in cities outside Athens where people were really hungry for aggressive music and moshed like there was any tomorrow. Lives at squats have the reputation of being the most violent, with moshing going on always. Thrashers are also traditionally considered to be pit animals.
Have you tried to play outside of Greece like in France?
Not really, its pretty much useless unless your albums are distributed there. And it’s not like we live in central europe and just take a ride by car or by train to a neighboring country. We have to take the plane to play in central europe - even to get in Italy by boat it’s expensive. The rest of the balkans are a more realistic destination but we do not have any contacts there yet and nobody inivited us to play.
Distribution of StraighHate's Stuff
How is the distribution of the album handled? Do you have a separate license deal with different labels?
For the moment BBM handles all the distribution, with the help of our partners VENERATE INDUSTRIES (www.venerateindustries.com). It can be found in some stores here in Greece, and copies are available abroad through specific mailorders like Selfmade God, Revenge Productions, Dear John Conspiracy/Mumakil… We are looking out for a UK distributor and then possibly in some other countries.
I will be soon sending promopackages to labels once again, with the finished “Indigenous” album this time, in order to find the appropriate label that will support us for our next album(s). Hopefully we will find one and possibly license “Indigenous” for a re-release.
As far as I know Blast Beat MailMurder is owned by you, therefore you are obviously taking care of the whole business issues what comes to doing licence deals, selling your via mail order, right?
Yes exactly, we’re pretty much grass roots and DIY. I take care of business, but there’s some people helping me out.
How times have you run across all kinds of backstabbers and bullshittalkers promising to take care of the distribution, but never paid royalties etc?
No, not any bad experiences so far. AIDS Productions in Sweden ripped me off when I ordered some ANTAEUS tshirts a few years ago but never sent them back. FUCK THEM.
Running own distribution label is based on a DIY task and working, especially in the hard core, metal and underground movement. Do you wanna have the close connection to the underground feel by keeping all the control in your own hands ?
I started BBM as a mailorder because no shop or mailorder in Greece was carrying out the kind of underground stuff that I loved, so I had to do it myself. Then I started releasing records, when I came across SUN OF NOTHING which is an excellent fucking band. After “GRIM MEMORIES” I took a break from releases for a couple of years, and to be honnest I didn’t even know if I would release any more records but then some fine recordings came to my attention and I had to put them in the appropriate format. I enjoy a lot being connected so closely to the underground and giving some bands the chance of having their music put out in a special format…
I considered that instead of trying eternally to find a small independent label that would distribute “Indigenous” mostly through trades and that would give us a few copies in exchange of the rights, I could do it myself and be responsible for everything. We’ve been able this way to have in digipack format, which would not be obvious otherwise, since digipacks are more expensive to manufacture.
The Greek Metal Scene
The Greek metal scene is known for the unholy triangle of black metal bands, Rotting Christ, Necromantia, Varathron. But it seems like the greek metal scene has to offer a wide range of different kinds of bands from the black metal to the melodic metal ? Do you think that Greek metal has taken a huge step to have and gained more attention during the last few years ?
As you know I am a fan of the early works of those bands you mentionned, as well as by plenty of other greek black/death bands. The local scene has been a great inspiration for me and the reason why I got involved into the underground in the first place. The way I see things, from the age of glory of the greek underground, ie. the early/mid 90’s, until the early 00’s there has been a period with very few good new bands.
Greece is a country isolated from central europe and many things arrive here with a delay. This also applies to music. Local audience has been unaware of the developments in terms of modern metal, and this has had an impact of the music output of the country. For example, bands like Pantera or Machine Head, have been popular here maybe 5 years after their peak which is retarded. As a result, we didn’t have any bands playing decent modern metal. Sound engineers and producers have also been a major issue until recently, and it was almost impossible for a greek band to sound good without recording outseide of the country.
Hopefully these last years the situation has improved. There’s good bands in every style as you stated – eventhough I cannot speak in detail except for the most aggressive genres. There’s also been a few musicians moving out of Greece and relocating abroad, especially in Sweden. Sick of local backstabbers and jerks, as well as the conservatism of greek society they took things in their own hands and have built a carreer. Nightrage is such an example. Greece has even exported the new NILE drummer! Local extreme bands such as INVERACITY have gained some momentum and toured in Europe. So definitely the greek metal starts to be back into the worldwide metal map, but things move slowly especially for bands like us who moveoutside the spectrum of traditional metal forms.
What about the extreme metal style what StraightHate represents, are there other bands playing the same kind of style what StraightHate does ?
Most definitely! Check out KONKAVE (with our ex-drummer), MORE OF MYSELF TO KILL, KVAZAR, INNERMOST…
There’s a lot of worthy new extreme bands that deserve your attention and support. Most of them are about to unleash great new (or debut) albums or have just done so: DEAD CONGREGATION, SUN OF NOTHING, ERECTUS, INVERACITY, INJEKTING KHAOS, VOIDHEAD, SONICHAOS AEON, HOMO IRATUS, GREET THE DEAD, etc, etc.
I assume as the new album is out you will focus on doing gigs all around in Greece?
Yeah we’ve already played two times in Athens and one in Greece for the promotion of the new album and we’re carrying on. On the 18th of May we will play with thrash legends MASTER and i am pretty much sure you would love to be there! Then late June we’re supposed to play a couple of gigs in squats supporting US grind/powerviolence outfit deluxe MAGRUDERGRIND.
All right I for one thank you for the interview and the last words are your …
For more information about SXH and audio samples please visit www.straighthate.gr and www.myspace.com/sxh. You can order our “INDIGENOUS” CD from www.blastbeatmailmurder.com (or www.venerateindustries.com), as well as from a few other select mailorders. We have a mailorder catalog with lots of cool death, grind, hardcore, black metal cd’s, tapes, and vinyls.
I would also like to take advantage of this space to pimp out the rest of the BBM releases:
· MUMAKIL "THE STOP WHINING EP" 7"EP (Monumental grind assault from switzerland - 12 trax, timing:14'30"!!!).
· INTO THE GORE "BUREAU OF DISGUST" CD (Grindcore madness in a superb digipack a la Nasum, Regurgitate, Rotten Sound – split release with Venerate Industries)
· NUCLEAR WINTER "ABOMINATION VIRGINBORN" 7"EP (Old-school deathmetal devastation a la Slayer, Immolation, Grave, Necrophobic, with our ex-guitar player Anastasis - 3 songs, 12:40 minutes)
· STRAIGHTHATE "GRIM MEMORIES" ENHANCED MINI-CD
· SUN OF NOTHING "...AND VOICES WORDS FACES COMPLETE THE DREAM" CD (an insane crossover between sludge, the melvins, blackmetal, grind & noisecore)
We got coming up next:
· FORGARDUR HELVITIS "Gerningavedur" CD (Passionate heathen grindcore & blackmetal from the isolated & unique scene of Iceland!)
· KOMMPOUND/PASCAL CRETAIN limited split 2x3"CDR (Electroaccoustic ambient field recordings versus the sound of hacker/security code! Split release with HEAD TO AVOID RECORDING.)
Our postal mail adress is BBM/SXH, BOX#60581, 15305 KONTOPEFKO, HELLAS-GREECE
ALL HAILS for this interview to you Arto and Metal Rules! We are an underground band on an independent label and need as much help as we can get… RESIST THE RISE OF THEOCRACY!!!
The official sites of StraightHate :