Guitarist Gus Drax – Black Fate
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Roberto at Rockshots Records for setting up the interview.
Thanks to Rockshots Records for the promo pictures of the band.
Black Fate is a Greek act which is set to unveil their fifth album, ITHACA, at the end of October 2020. I had the great pleasure to talk to guitarist Gus Drax about the new album, the new member in the band, co-operation with their new label Rockshots Records, as well as the current Covid-19 situation in Greece. The band’s melodic power metal music have the capacity to take them really far in the future and if you’re interested in what happens in the Sunburst camp (Gus Drax and singer Vasilis Georgiou other band) then keep on reading.
Hi Gus, it’s been four years since we last spoke. Back then we talked about the brand new Sunburst album. I hope you and the rest of the guys in Black Fate are doing alright and are healthy!
Hello! Thank you very much for the interview; happy to talk to you again after a while. We’re all doing great. Hope you are doing great as well.
What did media and critics think of the previous Black Fate album, BETWEEN VISIONS AND LIES that was released back in 2014?
We are very happy with all the feedback we got for BETWEEN VISIONS AND LIES, both from the media and the fans.
Did the band do any live shows or touring on that album?
No, we didn’t exactly tour for the album because Black Fate is not a touring band. We did a few shows and we are always interested in playing more and more shows of course but, touring with the actual meaning of the word didn’t happen.
In 2016 the band re-released your second album, DELIVERANCE OF SOUL, originally released in 2009, with a new art-work. What made you decid to re-release it?
That was a suggestion from our label at that time. DELIVERANCE OF SOUL didn’t have a label’s promotion until then, it was more like a self release. So it made perfect sense for us to give a little more attention to the album as well.
Why did it take you so long to follow up BETWEEN VISIONS AND LIES? What have the members been doing in between releases?
Well in a nutshell, life happened. We all have other things that we are involved with. Me and Vasilis also have Sunburst and we released our album. I am also a member of Suicidal Angels. I released two more album with the guys in that period and of course every one of the band has his own life, work etc. We also work on every little detail on the album so it took a bit longer.
A new member in the band
Last year keyboardist Themis Koparanidis joined forces with you. How did he end up in the band and are you old friends with him?
Yes, we’ve been friends with Themis for more than 10 years now actually!
I don’t know why, but people are not familiar with the fact that Themis played keyboards on BETWEEN VISIONS AND LIES as well. In the meantime, he became a permanent member of the band and that’s why he gets more “light”, which is a great thing.
He made a guest appearance on BETWEEN VISIONS AND LIES, how much did he contribute with on the album?
He actually recorded almost all the keyboard parts so…a lot!
Is he a solid member of Black Fate now and has he been involved in other bands/projects prior to Black Fate?
Themis is a professional musician but so far he wasn’t really involved with bands especially in metal music. He is now of course a solid member, yes.
New album ITHACA
When did you start to work on material to ITHACA? Who writes the music and the lyrics?
Usually the first ideas will come from Nick, then I will take those ideas and first of all play them as a guitar player, edit things, maybe change or add riffs or even complete sections. As soon as we have the song structure we will send it to Vasilis who will add his vocal lines and lyrics. Themis will take that and add his keyboard and orchestral ideas and Vasilis Liakos his bass lines.
What does the biography mean when it writes, “fans who have followed the band over the years will also notice many changes in the songwriting process”?
The band used to work completely different back in the day. The technology was different so the song writing was mostly done in jam sessions. Now we are using a different method, as everyone has some sort of studio in his home and can exchange ideas. Although most of the time, I personally prefer to go to Nick’s house and work together with him there.
Do you think the band have developed musically if you compare BETWEEN VISIONS AND LIES with ITHACA? If so in what way?
Absolutely, in every way. We worked more on everything: song structures, arrangements, performances, and also the mix and mastering. Everything in my opinion was done better which resulted, in my opinion, in a big development between these two albums without underestimating BETWEEN VISIONS AND LIES. It’s a very important album for us and I don’t think that we could achieve the results of ITHACA without it.
The album contains 13 tracks and is about 60 minutes longs. Was it your intention to make a long album or did it just happen?
No, no. It totally just happened.
Savior Machine (VISUALIZER)
Many songs clocks in around 4 or 5 minutes, was that a coincidence?
Well, we try to add progressive elements without going into super long song lengths. Of course, we will not delete sections of a song just to keep it in a specific duration. It’s just that usually 4-5 minutes is enough for us to say what we want to say through this song.
What are the longest songs “Ithaca” (5.29) and “Circle of Despair” (5.32) about?
“Ithaca” is of course inspired by the Greek Mythology and the story of Odysseus. Odysseus tried for 10 years to return to Ithaca after the Trojan war and he faced so many obstacles and struggles until he succeeded. Ithaca, apart from being a beautiful place, represents all that Odysseus loves and cares about. The lyrics and the meaning of the song can be translated in various ways from each listener and everyone can relate to them, which is something that we always want to do with our lyrics. “Circle of Despair” is the last song of the album and we wanted it to have that feeling. To fullfill the circle of the album and you can realize it’s the last part. The lyrics of the song were written by Vasilis once again and he was inspired by the war in Syria.
Has Koparanidis contributed with anything to the lyrics or music on ITHACA now that he is a solid member?
He contributed a lot in the arrangements and the overall orchestration.
Why did you choose to call the album ITHACA? Does the title have any special meaning for you or the band?
Yes. Exactly as I explained about the song “Ithaca”, the album also has the same meaning. I think that this song and this title represents the whole album and the band at this point actually, perfectly.
Who did the cover art-work this time around?
Once again all the artwork was done by our singer, Vasilis Georgiou.
The bio states that ITHACA is “melodic, technical and groovy but also dark. It has beautiful and strange melodies with powerful emotions.” Can you tell us a little bit about the essence of ITHACA?
Our passion and love for what we do is the essence of ITHACA. We once again put ourselves in this album, each in his own way and experiences. We expressed all those things that we experienced in our lives this past few years, both separately and together. ITHACA is the musical and lyrical result of those experiences.
Do you think older fans of Black Fate are going to like the sound on the new album?
Even though its a lot different that the first works and years of the band, I think that our older fans will recognize some of the “first” elements of the band. If they will like it…I cannot know. I think so and hope so!
What response have you received on the first single, “Savior Machine” which was released in August?
We have released two singles and the reactions were exciting and promising! Of course that makes us glad and impatient for the album to be released so that everyone can hear the whole album.
Nemesis (OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO)
I’ve read that Black Fate is inspired by the music of Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Kamelot, Nightwish, Iron Maiden and Dio. That’s quite a varied range of bands. How have those bands inspired you?
We get musical influences from these bands and many more but we have our own identity. Personally, I am not a fan of labels. Mentioning “influence bands” is just a way to attract more people who might be interested in your music.
Which bands do you think Black Fate lies close to musically?
I think that the bands that are stated in our bio are bands that we have common elements and someone can find similarities with.
Are there any plans on making a video to any of the songs?
Yes. We have ready the video for “Maze” that will be released soon.
It’s maybe early now but have you read any reviews of the album yet?
Yes and we are very happy with the feedback so far.
I think that ITHACA is a brilliant album and I’m really impressed by the work of lead singer Georgiou and you to the guitar work kills, are you happy with the outcome?
Absolutely. I am very happy and proud with the result. Both me and Vasilis (and everyone in the band) try to improve with each record we do. I’m happy that it’s something you can understand.
I’d say that you are one of the modern day guitar-wizards. Who inspired you to pick up the guitar in the first place?
Thank you very much. I have so many guitarists that I admire. Let me list some of my favorites: John Petrucci, Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman, Criss Oliva, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Jeff Loomis, Michael Romeo, Richie Kotzen and so many others.
Studio and production
Which studio was used to record ITHACA?
Drums were recorded in Fabric Studio Larissa. Guitars, keyboards and bass were recorded in G Studio, while vocals were recorded at Halo Studio.
Do you record the music together in the studio as a band or do you record your parts separately? What’s the recording process like?
Seperately. We started with the drums, then I tracked guitars. Then we did the bass, keyboards and finally Vasilis finished up with his vocals.
Did you produce the album on your own this time? Who in the band is the driving force when it comes to production?
Yes. We all contributed as we have control over every procedure of the album. We have a complete band vision of how we wanted the album to sound.
Is it hard to stay objective when you produce your own band/album?
Sometimes, but you have to in order to ensure a good job. You have to kind of let your ego out and think about the forest and not the tree. I must say that it was a very smooth and pleasant procedure and I am really happy with the final result.
In which studio did Steve Lado mix and master the album?
In his own SL studio.
Were any of the band members part of that process?
No, Steve worked on his own but he was sending us everything he was doing for evaluation.
How long did it take to record ITHACA altogether?
Close to one year!
Label and production
Why did you end your co-operation with your former label, Ulterium Records?
Well, Ulterium Records had to take a break from releasing new albums for a while, so we had to move on and find a new label for our new album.
Do you have any idea why it seems like Ulterium Records is about to drop many of their bands?
No, unfortunately I don’t have any information about this.
For how long were you without a record deal?
Not for long, we found a deal pretty soon.
Why did the band ink a deal with Rockshots Records? Were there many labels that were interested in signing you?
We always see the offer, the actual terms of the contract, and what the label can do for the band/record. Rockshots presented a very nice “package and we had a “deal”.
For how many albums are you signed for at RR?
It’s a one album contract.
What’s the main difference between working with RR and Ulterium Records?
Both are great labels, with their own experience in the industry and it’s a pleasure for us working with such labels.
Are there any plans on releasing ITHACA on vinyl?
It’s something that we are thinking about since there’s interest, but we’ll see .
Are you happy with the work RR have put into the band and the album so far?
The last time we spoke you said that you were looking for an Japanese label to release BETWEEN VISIONS AND LIES in Asia, how did that go?
Ulterium records and their associates released the album in Japan and we were pleased with everything they did for the band.
From what I can see, none of your albums have been released on vinyl, why is that? Is the band a fan of the vinyl format?
Yes, but it takes more than that to go for a vinyl version of the album. I think it will happen sooner or later though.
What do you prefer listen to music on, Spotify, vinyl or CD?
Does Black Fate currently co-operate with any management?
Not at the moment. We manage ourselves.
Past present and future
What’s the status regarding Covid-19 in Greece at the moment? Are all the venues closed?
Yes, unfortunately there is no live show activity. The worst is the sense of the unknown; we don’t know when we can expect to be back to normal. Things are not going well regarding the every day cases that are getting announced. We are now seeing the biggest numbers we had so far. We are somewhere around 400-500 cases daily. I know that for some other countries that might not sound a lot but its the biggest numbers we’ve had and it’s worrying.
How has the virus affected the band and the members in the band?
Everyone was affected both professionally but also personally. Vasilis, just a few months before Covid-19 struck, opened his store which is a difficult and ambitious move on it’s own.
Nick and Themis work as professional musicians and lost a lot of work. Same with Liakos, who has his own company as a sound engineer. No shows = no work for a sound engineer. I had to do a lot of touring with my other band Suicidal Angels, which was all cancelled. I also teach fulltime which was fortunately not affected as I continued teaching all my students through Skype.
What is your opinion about the restrictions and the need to wear a mask when outside?
In my opinion, we need to listen to what the doctors say and wear the mask. Opinions can come after all this ends. We need to stick together, leave egos out, stay disciplined, and listen to what the experts say.
Are you satisfied with how the Greek government has handled the pandemic?
I think they started well back in the Spring. I would say that some wrong decisions were made after the Summer but like I said before, its time to behave responsibly and the evaluation of everything should be done after all this ends.
Does the band have any thoughts of celebrating a 30-year anniversary? I mean, you go way back as the band formed in 1990. That surely is worthy of recognition! 🙂
We would like to celebrate that with proper shows. It will probably happen when shows are allowed again.
Maze (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)
When the pandemic is under control and it’s OK to perform live, do you have any plans on heading out on tour or do some shows promoting the album?
I don’t know about touring, but shows will happen for sure.
Do you have any plans on throwing a release party? Or maybe streaming a release party?
Well, we plan to release our new video on the release date. About a release party, things are not exactly good for that right now. We will probably wait for the right time for these things.
With thought of the amount of time it took between releasing the previous album and ITHACA, do you think the fans will to have to wait as long to find the next album out in stores?
You never know what happens but I don’t think so. Remember that Vasilis and I have Sunburst so we release music with both bands.
You and singer Georgiou run Sunburst together, what’s the status in the Sunburst camp?
We are actually recording the new album. Kostas just finished tracking drums!
What would you like to say to those who haven’t heard the music of Black Fate before?
Welcome! Hope you enjoy what you are about to experience.
Could you give them three reasons why they should buy ITHACA?
1. It has some great music, riffs, melodies, and complex parts. Anything you are searching for is there.
2. Has some great vocals from a top singer.
3. It has a great production.
Well, that was all for me and Metal-Rules.com today. Thanks a lot for taking the time, it’s always a pleasure talking to you. I wish you and the rest of the band all the best and hope that I can see you in Sweden some time soon. Do you have any words of wisdom to share with readers and fans?
Thank you very much for this interview. Take care, stay safe and Hope to see you all soon on the road when all the Covid madness ends.