Bandleader/singer Yiannis Papanikolaou – Diviner
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Emil Westerdahl at Ulterium Records for setting up the interview
Thanks to Ulterium Records for the promo pictures of the band
Diviner, the Greek heavy metal act, has a new album REALMS OF TIME that was recently released. It had taken the band four years to follow up the debut album. The reasons why it has taken the band so long was one of the things I wanted to ask the bandleader/singer Yiannis Papanikolaou when we sat down to have a chat a while ago. Since I had a limited amount of time to conduct the interview it became a shorter one but nevertheless a very informative interview. After the interview was done three of the members left the band and Papanikolau only handles the issue briefly. If you’re into heavy metal and what to read more about what happens in the Greek metal scene check out the interview.
Hi Yiannis nice to talk to you again, are you ready to kick off the interview?
– Hi Anders, it’s always an honour to be your guest. Of course I’m ready .
Let’s pick up where we left off with the release of the debut album FALLEN EMPIRES back in 2015, were you happy with the outcome of the album?
– Yes we were happy and still we are. It was a very strong debut with so many good songs that stood at the test of time.
The band did two live shows at home in Greece 2016, how was that?
– Actually we did 3 shows in Greece that year. We played in Athens, Agrinio and Chania Rock Festival 2016 in Crete. So there were some great memories and moments. We played really well and gained a good following.
Co founder Thimios Krikos left the band 2017, was his departure expected and how did the members react when he told them he was out and why did he leave?
– Thimios is one of my best friends ever and a true brother for more than 3 decades. He left the band due to a very heavy personal schedule and I can totally understand his decision. He told us about his departure a long time before he leave so we had much time to replace him. But of course it was pretty hard for us to deal with it because as a person, musician and character he is so unique and unreplacable!
Kostas Fitos replaced Krikos, how did he end up in the band and has he been involved in any other bands prior to Diviner?
– Kostas Fitos was suggested from our second guitarist George Maroulees. He has been involved in some well known bands of the local scene like Dream Weaver and he was also a session musicians in some famous greek singers.
Back in 2017 the band performed at a festival in Switzerland as well as two shows in Greece, how was it for Fitos to be standing on a stage with Diviner?
– Well in the year 2017 except Switzerland we did several greek shows playing Larissa, Up The Hammers Festival Athens , Under The Quarry Festival Athens, Let’s Rock Festival at Inofita and also opening for the legendary Sanctuary on their last show in Greece. I think Kostas made a good impression and enjoyed the stage with the band. It is really hard to fill Thimios’ boots but he did well.
Why has the band done so few live shows so far?
– As long as I can remember we did about 15 shows for the first record which is quite a good number for the beginning. But now with the second album I think it’s time to go to the next level.
New album REALMS OF TIME
When did you begin to work on material to the new album?
– It was somewhere in the beginning of 2017.
Why has it taken the band so long to follow up the debut?
– There wasn’t any pressure for the next step so we took all the time we needed to write the new material. And I’d like to think we did right because the new album sounds really good.
You and Krikos was in charge of the material on the debut, have you now written all the material on your own?
– Most of the new material musically was written by me but also Kostas came up with some really good riffs and ideas. And also George and Frankie helped a lot. But the main difference compared to the first album is that this one was a team work on the arrangements. Regarding the lyrics Frankie contributed to 4 of the 10 songs and I think he did an amazing work.
The bio states that Diviner expands their music horizons, exploring more territories, adding new elements in terms of lyrics, melodies, riffs and atmosphere. Do you agree with that and what do you think the means with that?
– I couldn’t agree more as this record has a total different atmosphere, better songs, it’s more diverse and catchy in a good way.
Heaven Falls [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO]
Where do you find inspiration to lyrics and music and what are the lyrics about this time?
– Music always comes randomly, you can’t control this flow of ideas. But the source maybe goes back in the music you love and connected over the years. Inspiration is a combination of natural charisma and influences. It seems that Realms Of Time has a wide range of influences compared to our first album and this is wonderful.
Lyrics this time are about our inner struggle against our dark side, our search for the truth of life, the origins of the Universe, cosmology, space-time and eternity.
How come you named the album REALMS OF TIME?
– The name “Realms Of Time” was in fact our will to describe in a few words the common direction of the albums’ lyrics.
The well known Jan Yrlund did the artwork of the album, are you happy with what he created?
I read heavy metal and power metal as a description of your music, how would you like to describe what kind of music Diviner plays?
– Yes in our minds it is just heavy/power metal with classic roots and modern sound approach. But whatever you call it I don’t have problem.
At the beginning of April the single and video “Heaven Falls” was unveiled, until today it has got over 200 000 hits, was it expected that the song would be so successful?
– We knew it was a very strong and catchy song but of course we didn’t expect such a quick and amazing response. It’s great that people like it so much. I can tell you that it has already surpassed 400.000 views!!! We feel very lucky and proud for choosing it as a video single.It worked out really well.
In my opinion I can hear similarities with Iced Earth in your music on this album, and I think the music leans towards a more US based heavy metal rather than European heavy metal, what do you think?
– I think you are totally right but I have to tell you that it happened accidently. On the other hand there is also a small taste of European kind of songwriting, especially on the vocal melodies which gives another dimension to our music and we love it.
If the debut album was full speed ahead REALMS OF TIME includes a ballad in “Stargate” what inspired you to write a slower song?
– Melody was always a big part of my music character and l just felt it was the right time to be expressed.On this record I was driven by an emotion to write something different for album closer that reflects the whole atmosphere. “Stargate” was the perfect way to be done.
And just like the debut this album also includes 10 tracks, was it intentional to add 10 songs this time as well?
– Not excactly, but we felt that these 10 songs were the best of all the material we worked on. So we went on with them.
What are the longest songs “Beyond the Borders” (5.40) and “The Earth, The Moon, The Sun” (5.32) about?
– Space-time, cosmology, eternity, philosophy, inner search,truth, reality, all in one!
The Earth, The Moon, The Sun [OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO]
Do you think old fans of Diviner and Innerwish will like REALMS OF TIME?
– Why not? I think that REALMS OF TIME is an album that combines perfectly all these elements that define my music and singing identity with the better way.
Could you elaborate the following statement taken from the bio – Improvements on every level since the bands debut album and REALMS OF TIME won’t leave fans of heavy metal disappointed. The album is heavy, melodic and epic and it’s full of energy and emotion?
– First of all when we say “improvements on every level” we mean production, songwriting, lyrics and music influences. We believe that this time we tried to expand our horizons putting more elements to our music, making more catchy and interesting songs, sounding more up to date. Additionally I would say that the performances of each one of us are remarkable , especially on the guitar work.
I think the album is really strong and well played with some excellent vocals as well as genius guitar play by Maroluees and Fitos, I think REALMS OF TIME is a contestant to become the album of the year for me, are you happy with it?
– Thanks for your kind words. Of course I’m very happy with the final result and I hope that REALMS OF TIME to be a good company to our old and new fans.
Studio and production
The band returned to Devasoundz Studio in Athens Greece to record the new album, what made you go back?
– We were very pleased and satisfied with the recording process on the first album so Devasoudz Studio was the best choice. We feel like home there which is very important when you make an album.
Krikos and you produced the debut album, this time Fotis Benardo did that, was the band involved in any parts of the production?
– Fotis Benardo is a very talented artist, musician, sound engineer and a good friend as well. He had the leading role on the albums production but of course we were there for any kind of help. We worked hard together, with trust, respect and devotion to the band’s vision.
He also engineered and mixed the album, how was it to work with Benardo? What’s his strongest feature as producer?
– It’s always exciting working with Fotis because he knows how to get the best from you. He has a great ability to make you feel comfortable and at the same time to push you overcome your limits. And we do have so much fun and laugh together….I love him.
Do you miss sitting with Krikos in the production seat?
– Thimios is one of the most valuable people in my life. We have been so close since our childhood that I can’t say I miss him in any way. He always involves in everything I do musically because he is always there, a helping hand and a person that I ask for his opinion. I would love to work with him again. You never know.
Is it correct you began to record the album during summer of 2018?
– Actually the recording process started at the end of April 2018.
Booking and management
How did your Swedish label Ulterium Records handle the news that Krikos left the band?
– Our record label knows exactly my good relationship with him so there wasn’t any problem dealing with his departure. They also know Thimios years ago since their collaboration with InnerWish.
Are you happy with the work UR have put into the band and the albums so far?
– I’m so happy and excited been part of the Ulterium family that I wouldn’t change anything at all. They are such a supportive and professional record label and at the same time they do respect you as an artist and human being. I feel really lucky. It’s a perfect collaboration.
UR handles Europe and the US market, have you found a distributor for the Asian and South American market yet?
– There are lots of things coming on the way but I can’t tell you more at this point. I think that very soon some good news will be announced officially.
The album is released in two different vinyl versions, one regular black one and one gold/black version, but I know you had some troubles with the pressing of the vinyls, what happened?
– Yes the starting plan was to release a regular black and a gold/ black marbled edition. But something went wrong with the pressing of the marbled one, the result wasn’t that good , so both Ulterium and plant decided to try a gold/black splatter edition. The change was for good as the splatter looks fantastic.
The vinyl version of the debut album was available in 300 copies, is REALMS OF TIME pressed in more copies?
– REALMS OF TIME is pressed in 500 copies totally. But I think there will be more in the near future.
What is the bands opinion regarding the meet and greet phenomenon that’s popular today where fans are charged huge amounts of money to meet their idols? Is that anything Diviner is heading into in the future?
– I don’t really care about this phenomenon as a fan or musician. I’m a kind of a romantic person so it’s enough for me selling my records ,my merch or my concert tickets. Meet and greet has nothing to do with music, it’s a business celebrity thing, so it will never be in our band’s interests.
Past and present
Why is the bands website not updated?
– We are about to make some construction changes in our website very soon including all the needed updates. But I don’t really think that this platform is useful nowadays. It’s just like MySpace…totally out of date.
The band is active on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud and youtube, is the social media a good way of keeping in touch with the fans and the rest of the industry?
– For small bands like us social media are a very useful tool publicing your music actions. It also keeps you in contact with the fans which is the real deal and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Last time we spoke you said that you were working on booking shows and tours, would you have liked to perform more live in the future?
– Of course we intend to do more shows. But as you know things are not easy out there. We like playing live but times are difficult financially for small bands to survive. We’re doing our best.
Do you have any plans on heading out on tour or do some shows now that the album is out?
– Yes we are making some serious plans for the near future. It seems that the album gained a bigger audience for us so we are very optimistic.
Have America showed any interest in Diviner?
– As far as I know things in America are moving better with REALMS OF TIME. We’ll see, time will tell.
Right before this interview I read that Fitos no longer is a part of the band, is that true? What happened?
– Recently we announced some important line-up changes, always for good. No only replacing Fitos but also Herc and Frankie. Nothing personal. We both felt that the band needs to move forward with members that have a stronger belief and devotion in the band’s vision. Things now work easier and better in any way, so hopefully the best is yet to come for Diviner.
Beyond The Border [OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO]
Are you happy with having 9000 people liking the band on Facebook or do you strive to gain more fans?
– Well, with the new album campaign our fb page has more than 17.000 people following, which is remarkable.
Could you give the fans and readers three reasons why they should buy REALMS OF TIME
– It’s a great heavy metal album full of good songs, atmosphere and magic. Just push the “play” button and you won’t regret it.
Finally do you have any words of wisdom to share with the readers and fans…
– I’m not that kind of wise person but at least I’m trying hard to get better day by day. The best way we have to contact with people is only through our music and lyrics. So we thank you deeply for the opportunity to share it with all your readers and fans. You have our total respect.
Well that was all I and metal-rules.com had for now, I wish you all the best and I’m hoping to see you on a live stage near me in Scandinavia soon.
– Thanks for your support and the nice discussion. We also hope to visit you soon.