Band leader/singer Yiannis Papanikolaou- Diviner
Thanks to Emil Westerdahl at Ulterium Records for setting up the interview
Thanks to Ulterium Records for the promo pictures of the band.
The Greek heavy metal act Diviner released their debut album FALLEN EMPIRES last year and since I thought the album was great I hooked up with one of the band’s leaders, singer Yiannis Papanikolaou, to learn a bit more about them. The band is jammed with experienced and skilled musicians like guitarist Thimios Krikos (Innerwish) and drummer Fragiskos Samoilis (Innerwish). Innerwish is one of the biggest metal acts from Greece and Yiannis was also a member of that band before joining Diviner. Besides Diviner this busy man also leads and fronts the Dio cover act Rock N Roll Children, whom we discussed during our interview. To learn more about Greek heavy metal lean back and enjoy…
Hi Yiannis, thank for taking the time for this interview. Are you ready to get started?
Hail to Metal Rules and to all readers! I’m more than ready my friend, so ”shoot”!
Take us back to the beginning when you and guitarist Krikos first formed the band in 2011. Why did you first start the band and was it hard to find band members?
Well, being lifelong friends and musical partners with Thimios, it was the easiest thing to do to start another band together. We shared the same urge for a heavy metal sound combining the old with the new and Diviner soon became an addictive idea. Luckily, it all clicked pretty fast and the rest of the guys quickly joined us onboard.
Did all of the members (Booze, Samollis and Maroulees) join the band at the same time?
More or less yes. The entire lineup was completed in about two weeks.
The bio states that you guys had a vision of what you wanted to achieve with the band, what was that vision?
Our vision was to bring our eternal worship for the origins of heavy metal to an up-to-date sound. That was the bet Diviner had to win and we tried to do our best blending the most fundamental elements of classic metal with a fresh approach of heavy riffing, modern production, and some powerful vocals.
You and Krikos have played in a band called Innerwish, was it a a well known band in Greece? What kind of music did the band play?
That’s correct my friend. Thimios and I have both been members of Innerwish, a band which was and still is very much known in Greece but also abroad to those who are fond of this lyrical and atmospheric metal the band plays. Innerwish are, in fact, very active at the time being having just released a most welcomed new album.
Besides Innerwish have you been involved in any other bands?
Yes, over the past 20 years or so I have been involved with several bands and projects of very different directions,which really helped my mind broaden a lot when it comes to influences in music. Innerwish and Battleroar are two of my most distinctive heavy metal moments but there have been noumerous other musical journeys that helped me explore alternate choices and led me to where I stand today as a songwriter and vocalist. I must say, Diviner definitely is the best representation of my view of heavy metal today.
Did you start to write music for Diviner before the band lineup was complete?
I had the entire concept running through my head, yes, and quite a good idea of what it should sound like. Of course, it was not until Thimios and I started to concentrate on organizing things that Diviner music started taking its shape; a shape that was best completed when all the team was brought together and formed the band’s actual character.
Are you all from the same place in Greece?
Gladly,yes! We are all located in Athens and in fact three of us are even close neighbours! That really helps a lot when it comes to getting together for any band purposes, so we got very lucky.
Where does the band name come from and does the name have any special meaning to the band?
Without doubt the name of the band carries a special meaning that is actually the essence of Diviner’s music and lyrics. We symbolically consider Diviner to be the one that brings us closer to one’s own ”divinity’;’ and by divinity we mean our personal struggle to evolve, to fulfill our destiny and make our dreams come true, fight against all that’s holding us back and keeping us away from our inner light.
Has the band performed a lot in Greece?
Well, since Diviner’s debut album FALLEN EMPIRES was just released a few months ago we definitely wish to perform live as much as we can! A few shows of great energy have already kicked in to the band’s inventory and many more are shceduled for the upcomming months. Our next in line is Diviner’s appearance at Chania Rock Festival along with the gigantic Kreator, Therapy?, Cutting Crew, Exarsis and our very own metal heroes Rotting Christ.
Do the members have any common artist/band that they are inspired by?
Of course! We share many same musical inspirations yet also many different ones as well.We all find common ground when it comes to the fundamental principles of Heavy Metal such as Judas Priest, Dio, Accept, Iron Maiden, but also when it comes to more recent legends such as Megadeth, Annihilator, Iced Earth, Amon Amarth.
Does Diviner have a big fanbase in Greece?
Haha..,well that would be kind of inappropriate for me to answer myself..,wouldn’t it? I think we are doing pretty great given the fact that we are a new band with a debut album recently released. We feel really grateful for such a warm welcome and hope to reach out to as many heavy metal lovers out there as possible!
Debut album FALLEN EMPIRES
How long did it take to write FALLEN EMPIRES?
When recording FALLEN EMPIRES the idea of a deadline did not actually exist in our heads and that of course was a big relief! We took all the time we needed to prepare this album in the best way we could and also manage to come up with the outcome we were hoping for when it comes to production and sound which was a self-appointed task and made us really proud. Thimios deserves some serious credit for doing so well producing FALLEN EMPIRES. Overall, I guess it took us something like 2 years to complete FALLEN EMPIRES.
Were all of the songs written for the album or did you use any older material?
All materal used for FALLEN EMPIRES was inspired by the concept of Diviner and for Diviner use only.
Fallen Empires [OFFICIAL ALBUM TEASER]
Were there any songs that didn’t made it on to the final edition of the album?
There are always riffs ideas and melodies that don’t make it to an album; the same thing happened with FALLEN EMPIRES. I must say, things were not left out because they were not good enough but mostly because the album was already full and we felt its purpose was met.There was no need to add more to it just because there’s more in our drawers.
Who writes the music and lyrics and what are the lyrics about on this album?
As far as FALLEN EMPIRES is concerned, Thimios and myself are responsible for music and lyrics especially because by the time the rest of the guys joined we had already most of the concept ready. Diviner’s lyrical referrences are mostly symbolic, taking inspiration from fictional journeys of the mind and the eternal battle between Good and Evil.
Kingdom Come [OFFICIAL AUDIO]
What did the fans think of the album teaser the band released on YouTube?
It’s hard to speak for anyone else rather than ourselves…I wish to believe that most Diviner friends liked it though because we received great feedback and felt like FALLEN EMPIRES was anticipated with a positive attitude and open ears that were ready to receive some heavy metal travel-along melodies. We couldn’t have asked for more!
How come you named the album FALLEN EMPIRES?
The title FALLEN EMPIRES, apart from being itself a song included on the album, very well served Diviner’s concept purposes so we figured it would be a good choice for our debut. It gives a hint as to what will follow, a referrence to the overall sense of reclaiming all good in us that was lost that is evident throughout the entire album. FALLEN EMPIRES is a reminder of what we should struggle for in a way.
Alan Fall at Digital Grief did the cover art work of the album, what do you think of it? Do you think it reflects the album well?
Well, we wouldn’t chooce to use artwork that does not compliment the album, would we? Allan Fall did an amazing work in our opinion, depicting the entire majestic atmosphere and dark feel we had in mind for FALLEN EMPIRES. We think it’s a cover most representative of our concept and lyrics placing the boatman (Diviner) sailing his way to reaching his temple his goal his dream.
An official lyric video was released to the song “Come Into My Glory”, many have seen the video, what response did the band get?
It was a great choice to come up with a lyric video for ”Come Into My Glory” after all! I think our expectations from it have already been surpassed and we have to thank all Diviner’s friends! Since it is rather difficult to produce many videoclips for one album, it’s a good thing to prepare any other “special treats” for our friends so we definitely will get some more lyric videos ready in the future.
Come Into My Glory [OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO]
Are there any plans on shooting a proper video to any of the songs?
Yes, my friend! I’m more than happy because by the time this discussion we are having, we will have uploaded Diviner’s very first official video clip for the song ”Evilizer”! So, as we speak, “Evilizer” is already available for everyone to watch and hopefully enjoy…it was made with great enthusiasm and energy by us, thinking its concept is very representative of Diviner. We’d be grateful if all our friends out there gave it a view!
What have the media said about the album? Does the band care what critics and the press think of your work?
Of course we care! It would be fake to say we don’t. We could not disregard the fact that being newcomers, Diviner need all the positive attention we can get. It’s always rewarding to see that people respond to what moves you and makes you write songs, be it media critics or, first and foremost, kind words coming from an unbiased heavy metal listener from the other side of the world.
Are there any differences in how the band is treated by the native and foreign media?
None that I can think of…we have no complaints, not from any native or foreign media. And the truth is we wouldn’t have any complaints whatsoever because we don’t feel the media owe Diviner any compliments. So, being freed from the haunting feeling of HAVING to be successful, we enjoy what comes.
What did the fans think of the album teaser the band released on YouTube and your website?
I think we mentioned this exact album teaser a few questions above…didn’t we? Once again we received a very positive feedback which strenghthens us to the point of working even harder.
I think that the music of Diviner has a lot in common with the music of Iced Earth, what do you think and how would you describe what kind of music Diviner plays?
Yes, I must admit that when it comes to dropping names, several critics mentioned Iced Earth as one of those names as well as quite a few others. I could go on and on forever about our favorite bands and all, but let me just say that at the end of the day Diviner wish to sound like Diviner and by that I mean establishing our very own music print in the metal scene. We do have some classic metal origins and we do have a more straightforward approach of things, but one thing’s for sure: Diviner wish to play Heavy Metal.
I think that you, Krikos, and Maroulees do some amazing work on the album, are you happy with the band’s efforts?
Haha, what about Frankie and Herc (drums and bass)? I’m joking my friend, thank you for your kind remarks. I am fully satisfied with the way the entire team performed for FALLEN EMPIRES. We feel that by now we are even more bonded as musicians and band mates and ready for greater things on a future album.
The bio states that the band delivers music “without losing the elements that reflect the essence of the pure and timeless magic of metal music”; how would you like to comment on that statement?
I don’t think this statement needs any commenting it speaks for itself. It’s all about the very concept of Diviner, bringing the foundations of classic heavy metal, all its magic included, to the present time under present production and atmosphere requirements. Let’s hope we can deliver!
The album came out at the end of November, what did the fans think of the release?
Like you said our debut album was released this past November so it’s too early to make any big statements…we still have a long way to go to spread our music, but so far we can be nothing but grateful for the feedback we have been getting. We try to keep an every day communication with friends from all over the world who go to the trouble to send a message and let us know what they think of Diviner. This is very important to us and we hope to be able to continue doing it, whatever our everyday schedules might be.
The bio says that if you’re into Accept, Dio and Judas Priest you’re going to like Diviner. What do you say about being compared to such metal icons?
Oh no, there really could be no comparison with the absolute legends of heavy metal, I believe there is no doubt about that. The bio just suggests a few influences of Diviner, implying that if those are your ”cup of tea” there is greater chance you may find something appealing in our music since those are our metal heroes as well.
There are 10 tracks on the album and it clocks in at about 50 minutes, which is pretty long. Was it your intention to make a long album?
No, the duration of the album was not in our minds when making it, we just cared about serving every song’s purposes and having it come out exactly the way we meant to.
You haven’t featured a ballad or a slower song at all, it’s full speed ahead from the start; was that your plan?
There is nothing wrong with ballads or slower songs and there is a good chance you might hear something like that on a future Diviner album. It just didn’t happen on this one as our track list was completed and we wouldn’t force any additional songs to the album just to include a ballad. Generally, we compose from the heart without following any recipe. So we’re not wondering where this might take us.
Did you record any extra songs for the Asian market to feature as bonus track?
No, can’t say that we did. So far there is no licence for another, e.g. Japanese, release or Asian distribution, so such thing would be unnecessary.
Studio and production
The album was recorded in Devasoundz Studio in Athens Greece, why did you choose to record it there?
We wanted to use best resources possible and Devasoundz is definitely on of the best, most reliable places where you can get a super sound. Working with Thimios and Fotis Benardo was an addiotional reason that helped us get the outcome we wanted in the best familiar enviromnent under the best circumstances.
When did the recording begin?
The first recordings, which were the drums, started sometime in summer of 2012 and continued on after a very brief break.
It’s produced by Krikos and you; do you find it hard to produce your own album? Isn’t it hard to stay objective?
Yes, it is definitely hard to self produce the album but we might have gotten into trouble had it not been for our absolute trust in Thimios’amazing skills. If we were not 100% satisfied with the result we were getting up to some certain point, we would without any doubt have appointed the job to someone else.
What did the rest of the band think of having you two as producers?
I am confident that the entire band was happy by the way production was treated, after all, self producing the album was a band decision and not a decision Krikos or I made.
Why didn’t you take on a producer?
Because pretty soon samples of Thimios’work on FALLEN EMPIRES convinced us that he was the guy who knew exactly how the album should sound like and how to make this possible.
The drumwork was produced by Fotis Benardo, why didn’t you produce the drums as well?
Well, we would be silly not to trust this task to someone with Benardo’s experience and level of expertise on the field. He was the best for the job and we were very lucky to have such a mastermind engineer and producer for the drums.
Peter In de Betou did the mastering, were any of the members part of that process along with him?
Of course not. Peter in de Betou is such a well known ”artist” in mastering, our getting in the way of his work wouldn’t have been helpful at all. We did discuss a few things with him and told him our point of view and this was more than enough for us to receive what we consider a great result.
Do you think that you and Krikos are going to continue producing the band’s future albums?
Frankly I have no idea. Thimios is already working as a full-time producer and apart from that he’s an active member in both Innerwish and Diviner so his time is really restricted.We”ll cross this bridge when we come to it.
Booking and management
Was it hard to land a record deal?
God bless Ulterium Records, no! haha…we got really lucky with that and we are truly grateful.
Did you record a demo that you send out to labels to make them aware that Diviner existed?
Well, that would have been the case but like I just said, we got very lucky and received such an honorable deal from such a respectable label. There was no need for us to look any further having found what we were hoping for.
You inked a deal with Swedish Ulterium Records, how come you chose to work with them?
Ulterium was no new label to us. We had been familiar with it for years due to the label’s long term and perfect cooperation with Innerwish. After Diviner’s album was completed we let Ulterium tell us what they felt of FALLEN EMPIRES…and everything led to a reletionship of trust that we treasure and hope to keep enjoying.
Is it a good or a bad thing that Ulterium Records is a minor and more independent label?
I believe that it’s neither good nor bad. It is what we make of it. It is people and their attitude towards things that make something work; and let me say it means a lot to work with people who have faith in you, who respect you, and make you feel you are all working as a team. For Diviner working with such a label has been nothing but fullfilling and encouraging.
Are you happy with the work the label have put into Diviner and the album?
I think it is more than obvious that we are happy and thankful…Diviner found a strong ally in the face of Ulterium and we plan to make the best out of this trust.
The label is releasing the album in Europe and North America but who releases it in the rest of the world?
Well, when we got informed about further distribution we’ll be happy to announce.
FALLEN EMPIRES is also available as vinyl, but only 300 copies were printed, why so few?
Well, the number you mention is not restricting at all, it was just a very first ”experimental” treat for the more traditional listeners…actually the whole vinyl idea worked pretty great so we soon found ourselves craving for more copies. Vinyl has a truly different feel to it so we were thrilled when we first heard we’d see FALLEN EMPIRES released in vinyl as well.
Is the album available at Spotify or similar music services?
As far as I know, yes.
Does the band co-operate with any management or booking agency at the moment?
Of course Ulterium has it’s own contacts regarding booking agancies and we work closely on that.
Personal with Yiannis Papanikolaou
When did you first began to sing? Are you classically trained and have taken vocals lessons?
I have always loved singing ever since I could remember. In my teenage years, my falling in love with Heavy Metal kicked in and so things began to take a certain direction for me although I have exercised singing in many alternate musical journeys besides metal. I have attented vocal lessons of course and continue to receive up to date, specific vocal coaching whenever I feel it is necessary for me to maintain a healthy level for my voice.
Are you inspired by any particular vocalists? Do you play any instruments?
I do play the guitar which is essential when it comes down to turning whatever I have in my mind down to a song. As for my inspiration-singers…I will be far from original but I can’t help mentioning the Gods: Ronnie James Dio, Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford.
How old were you when you joined your first band?
I joined my first band when i was something like 17. And it was not until I reached 20 that Thimios and I founded our first band together named ‘Growing Order’.
All my life I guess…haha. This guy has put up with me for a total of 32 years. Remind me to give him a medal after I’m done with this interview.
You been a part of the Rock N Roll Children which is a Dio cover act, how did you end up with them? Are you still involved with them?
Gosh, this is a very emotional story for me full of heavy metal energy, love, brotherhood and unforgettable moments but I will try to be brief. After the devastating death of our beloved Dio, I found myself but also some of my closest friends being left with feelings of emptiness and nostalgia but also endless admiration and respect towards this huge man’s life work, not only regarding his music legacy abut also his humanitarian contribution.It was a crazy decision to form this cover band, my friends and I and performed a gig in the name of Dio choosing to use all profit for charity. This entire concept soon grew very big so let me say I am thrilled to be hosting Rock in Dio Volume 6, six years later on May 14th. I don’t know for how many years to come we will all have the strength and time keep Rock ‘n’ Roll Children active but we’ll do all in our power to never stop.
What kind of metal did Innerwish play and for how long were they active?
Innerwish have been and still are one of the most fundamental bands ever existed in the Greek scene, expanding their music beyond the boarders and establishing their very own sound; what they like to call ”melodic heavy power”. Like I mentioned above, Innerwish at this time are more active than ever, having just released their fifth album (…and to my personal opinion a true masterpiece)
For not having English as first language you are really good at singing in the language, have you trained a lot of English?
I have trained in English of course like almost everyone has but being a fan of heavy metal music has been my most important lesson of the language. For so many years endless songs and lyrics have haunted every heavy metal fan’s brain it feel impossible not to get familiar with English.
Partially I think your voice has a lot in common with the vocals of the legendary Ronnie James Dio; is that something you have heard before? Do you strive to sound like him or is that something that comes naturally to you?
My friend it is a huge compliment which you are saying to me you understand that. I have spent all my years loving Dio and studying his songs and it only makes sense that I am more than influenced but let me say that this happens without me realizing it. I hate imitating another singer’s voice and would like to be liked or disliked for my own character in vocals not for reminding anyone else even if this is the mighty Ronnie.
Do you remember what you were doing and where you were when you got the news about Ronnie James Dios passing?
I perfectly remember.I was having a beer in an old rock club in Athens.
Which Dio-era do you like the best?
You understand that you are really making me suffer here mate…If I really had to choose, I’d go for the Rainbow and the Sabbath eras.
What’s the metal scene like in Greece today? Are there a lot of active bands where you come from?
Yes, actually there are and they are doing pretty damn awesome too! It is impossible to drop names because they are so many but once you start paying attention to the scene you will discover little or bigger wonders going on, huge amounts of talent, amazing production, and a lot of guts to conquer the universe!
Are there many metal clubs or places where harder acts can perform live?
This is a bit tricky to answer given that Greece has been going through difficult times for many years now. Yes, I guess you could say there are a lot of clubs and venues where a harder sound can be supported but not all of them. In fact, only a few of them manage to operate with full success and concentrate most of the crowd. In crisis, only the most respectful ones survive.
Is it possible for you guys to live off the music or do you have regular jobs on the side?
We all have day jobs going on…and it is better off this way. If your income is not fully based on what you love you can feel free to play what you want and do whatever you want with music without knowning it might affect your quality of life.
Has the refugee situation had any effect on you as musicians? I mean it’s harder times nowadays, walls have been built around Europe, countries have gone through financial crises and maybe that affects your lyrics etc. in a way?
We are definitely not blind to the dramatic develoments in Europe and let me say to the entire world, Diviner lyrics do not carry any strict political meaning but they do carry underlying meanings about struggling against those who enforce power in the world.’ ‘The shadow and the dark” could be a nice example of such referrence.
The band has a really nice website with a lot of info about the band etc.; who runs it?
Thank you for checking out our website mate! For the time being we try to maintain control and be involved with it ourselves to the point where our schedules allow it.
Do you think it’s important to stay active at all the social forums like Facebook, twitter etc? Do you get a lot of mail from fans, what’s the most common question you get from fans?
Of course we think it is important! It’s a free ride to all our friends’ minds and a damn exciting one! We all try to leave no message unanswered since hearing from Diviner friends is one of the greatest social media gifts to us. Most frequent questions we’ve been getting have to do with show dates, touring announcements and so on.
According to your website the band is going to perform in Athens at the end of February is that correct? Where are you going to play?
Yes, that was correct since the specific show has already occured as we speak. It was Diviner’s very first appearance in our hometown Athens and I can say now that it was a very honoring and special evening for us, setting our energy levels to red and keeping us warm for a hot heavy metal summer!
Are there any plans on heading out in Europe on tour or do some single shows soon?
We are organizing our Diviner programmes at this very time, trying to come up with as many touring and performing opportunities as we can since there is nothing we enjoy more. I don’t have any European dates which can be announced at the moment but promise to be back with full details soon!
Is the band booked to perform at festival this summer?
We are so looking forward to it! I have mentioned it in this discussion again but what the hell it feels nice to repeat it. Diviner is joining the Chania Rock Festival (15-17 July) among Kreator, Rotting Christ, Therapy?, Cuttin’Crew, Exarsis and so many others. Can’t think of a better way to shake the amazing island of Crete!
What is your opinion regarding bigger labels that don’t sign unknown bands as much today as for, lets say, 20 years ago because of the sinking market for CD’s and albums in general. Today most people download their favorite artist or band’s new album instead of physically buying it.
That’s a huge discussion and it includes so many fields of economy and also politics. I think this all is a very logically anticipated result of crisis and what you described does not shock or surprise me. I expect it is natural that more labels will call it quits and few will manage to work their way around crucial obstacles.
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t discovered the music of Diviner yet?
I’d ask them to lend us their ears for a few minutes…then maybe their hearts forever.
Could you give them three reasons why they should buy FALLEN EMPIRES?
That was all for me and Metal-Rules.com this time, do you have any final words of wisdom to share with fans and readers?
I think I have tired everyone out enough with my long confessions…thank you for reading guys and if we get any lucky thank you for checking out Diviner and perhaps joining us on this new adventure !
Thanks again for making the interview, I wish you and the band all the best, I really hope to see you live on stage soon.
Diviner thank you from the bottom of our hearts for putting this discussion together also for all tour patience and interest in us.