24 May 2016

Mystic Prophecy

You know right from the start that talking with RD Liapakis will be lots of fun and…full, since this guy never hesitates to speak his mind, talk about everything asked without giving it spontaneously. Here he is talking about his brigade’s latest album, the balance inside his band, its constant presence in the music scene, the future of music and lots more stuff. Sit back and enjoy… (Note that the interview took place just before the album’s release in March). Interview: Yiannis Dolas

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Rockpages.gr: The new album will be out in a few days. How do you feel everytime you have a new album ready for release?

RD Liapakis: Well, this isn’t something new for us after 15 years and 9 albums. Personally, being a perfectionist I want to give our fans the best I can. I won’t try to experiment or anything “why don’t try to do something like Disturbed and maybe sell more copies?”. MysticProphecy07I am not doing stuff like that and I am always try to show that Mystic Prophecy always do their best. We won’t take a road we don’t know. I am aiming for the best production possible, an interesting cover version, a catchy story, to get a message through the songs, find an interesting title… to give everything to our fans that have been there for us through the years. Because if it wasn’t for the fans that band wouldn’t have existed. In these 15 years I’ve seen bands come and go, break up, reunite and Mystic Prophecy are still here, that’s the most important thing and we owe it to our fans.

Rockpages.gr: You have a new album every two years, how difficult can this be?

RD Liapakis: It’s not every 2 years! If you calculate from 2001 when “Vengeance” was out it’s every 18 months… and I will tell you why… there are so many new bands coming out and so many releases. It’s 200 to 250 in rock and heavy rock. And there are good bands coming out, not just crap people cannot afford Mystic Prophecy deliver a new album every three years. Obviously, we don’t want to put out a new album every 18 months for the sake of it and release crap. Mystic Prophecy never had a problem to write good songs and I believe that 18 months, or two years is a good pace for a band to release new music with a food production…

Rockpages.gr: Some albums have more good songs than others. It’s not that easy to maintain the same quality from one album to another. Sometimes you might be a bit better, and sometimes worse. Can you be objective with that, even on your own without saying it publicly?

RD Liapakis: Well, all our albums are our babies… I can’t say that I prefer “War Brigade” because we’re getting awesome reviews… every Mystic Prophecy album has good songs I think. “Vengeance” is old school, true metal fans love it, the same goes for “Regressus”. On “Never Ending” there are two songs that are amazing, then on “Fireangel” there are another 2 or 3, on “Ravenlord”… well, that’s subjective, isn’t it? You like one song, somebody else might like a different one. For “War Brigade” we wrote 19 songs and we kept 11. There is no chance I am putting a song to an album that I don’t like. I want to make songs that we can play live, not just in the studio. I hate this type of songs. But, to get back to your question, every album has its strong and weak points. I can’t name one Mystic Prophecy album that all 12 songs are top notch. Even on “Number Of The Beast” has a couple of songs that you might say are not that strong, or even “Screaming For Vengeance”, or even “Painkiller”…
On out previous album they told me “how can you make something better than “Ravenlord” that kicks ass?” I never had a problem to write a good song. When we released “Killhammer” it was the same. I never sit and think how am I going to top the previous album I just do my best to create a songs that we all believe that is good. From then on it’s up to the fans to decide how good a song is or not. The fans can say if an album is strong, or not. For me, there are bands that don’t release good albums after 15 years, but they copy their third or fourth. Mystic Prophecy aren’t going to re-discover the wheel, rock’n’roll, or metal… we set our own tone, our style in order for people to have fun and come to our shows. I can’t make an album like “The Number Of The Beast”, that’s impossible. There was another time… if you even ask Maiden to do it they couldn’t! MysticProphecy09

Rockpages.gr: One of the songs I liked best in the album was “War Panzer”, can you tell us a bit about that?

RD Liapakis: You can listen to the Greek melody right?

Rockpages.gr: I can listen to it in various parts of the album...

RD Liapakis: There are a lot of riffs and solos that I have to sing to the guys so that they get an idea how to play them. For instance, Markus is German so he doesn't know about bouzouki, or tsamiko dance and that's why it's very hard to play like that. There are several eastern and Greek elements in the album, harmonies, themes etc. Personally, I am influneced by Greek music... Haris Alexiou, Dalaras, Mitropanos... Greeks have amazing singers and awesome voices. If you sit and listen to the music carefully, you can hear much more stuff than what's on the surface.

Rockpages.gr: Except from the Greek music you are influenced by the Greek history in the album with several references to the “300” movie and Sparta, so my question is how come you do this now? Also, the movie is not very recent? Why did do chose to do that now?

RD Liapakis: There was a song about Spartans on our previous album as well. As Greeks we have a very rich history. As far as Spartans are concerned I can see the interest about them in Europe and Germany. Because, they were like a team... they were the first to put on a uniform, they were all dressed in red. One for all, all for  one was their motto and that's what their enemies were afraid of. They saw a red thing coming at them. They were a team, and not mercenaries from various states and countries. It took me days to come up with the lyrics for “Good Day To Die”. It was hard to find the right words for the song's melody. If you check out carefully the chorus there's the feeling like Spartan warriors are on the mountain ready to fight. I am always trying to have the appropriate theme on every verse. Spartans were trained since they were little kids to fall in battle. The best day for a Spartan when if he was killed in battle. As for “i tan, I epi tas” (=referring to the Spartan soldiers shields and meaning “either bring it back as a winner in the war, or bring you back from the war on it dead”) it took me 10 days to match the lyrics and find the right words for the chorus. As for “Fight For One Nation”, Spartans weren't going there to win their 500,000 Persan enemies, but to show all Greeks that they had to be as one in order to defeat the army o Xerxis, as it happened later in Platees. Their thinking was very smart...

Rockpages.gr: There's also a political reference on “Follow The Blind” that kicks off the album...

RD Liapakis: This is about Greece as well...

Rockpages.gr: Maybe you could say the same about the Americans with Trump and all that...

RD Liapakis: “Follow The Blind” is deeply political. I wrote it for what's happening with us where we vote and vote again and then we say “fuck, here we go the same shit again”. The press is controlled by the government, they feed you with everything they want and they hide the rest. Greece is commanded by two families. The first one fucked you and so did the second one. The fucked you again and again... so, what the fuck? That's why I say “Follow The Blind”... you are following the blind, but you are even more blind than them. This might sound cruel, but I was living in Greece and after I served in the army I couldn't get a job, so I moved to Germany in 1988... and because I am not a loser and I didn't want to come back to my parents and say that I didn't make it, I stayed here busted my ass and made it. You know how hard is it to come to Germany, because Germans have a whole different way of thinking. If a German is unemployed he doesn't go out because he is ashamed, although Germany has a great plan for unemployed people. They lot two wars and despite that they are the first industrial force in the world since the '70s.

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Rockpages.gr: There is also some German lyrics on “10,000 Miles Away”...

RD Liapakis: Yeah, that's a song I wrote about my son. Ten years ago on “Never Ending” there was another ballad and there was none since then. My son is now 11 years old and whenever I am on tour, a festival or whatever I miss him since day one and I think about him all the time. The more he grows old the more we stick together. This song is for the last ten years we spent together, every year in his life is a verse in the song. I wrote some of it in German, because he can's understand English yet, and I wanted to show my love for him, so I used German that he can understand. Being a musician isn't easy. You neglect your friends, your family and a lot more that you want to do, but I've got an enormous love for music since I was a little kid. My dream always was to make music and people to like it, get away from their burdens, their problems etc. That's why I wrote “10,000 Miles Away” because he is in my mind no matter where I go.

Rockpages.gr: Don't you think that "Sex Bomb" is a bit irrelevant in the album? How did you come up with this choice?

RD Liapakis: I don't think it's irrelevant at all! And I'll tell you why I picked "Sex Bomb". If you check YouTube there is nobody that has covered it. So, I thought what's the point in covering Sabbath, Maiden, or Slayer? There are thousands of covers that are actually pretty good. What should i do? Bon Jovi? Oh, no! Let's find a '90s hit... and I came up with this. Tom Jones is in my opinion great as far as vocals and performance are concerned. This song is very difficult to sing because the man sings anyway he likes and he even raps. We didn't find another cover anywhere, so we recorded it. And to tell you the truth you've got 11 Mystic Prophecy songs there. "Sex Bomb" comes as a bonus track and I wanted to show another face of the band. A bonus track must feature something different from the band. In Germany radio stations liked it all and gave it a lot of airplay. I think you must have the courage to do something different, and actually this song is something everyone is asking during our interviews.... and what would I do? When Dio died everyone was doing Dio, so should I have done Motorhead? I didn't want to do that. Recording the hundredth fiftieth first cover would have no point at all... maybe someone will say that ("Sex Bomb") is bullshit, but personally I think is very good.

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Rockpages.gr: Tell me about Laki Ragkazas and how he came together to the band and to your style in general, because I think he is not the typical metal guitarist.

RD Liapakis: Lakis... that's the magic at the moment and the greatest thing in Mystic Prophecy at the moment. I've always aimed to have the best musicians that could interpret the music I had in my head, my vision. Markus is one of the best riff guitarists in the world, I'd put him in the top-5. If a guitarist has no balls he cannot play the songs like this. If you have noticed Mystic Prophecy always have a totally metal sound and Markus is an "excavator", he kicks ass. The guitarist on my side is the most important thing in the band. Lakis is the icing on the cake. Lakis provides those little beautiful harmonies on top that softens the band a bit, because if we had another guitarist like Markus the band would have gone berzerk. If you listen to "Burning Out", there's a metal holocaust in there. Still, I wrote it with Laki, who is more blues-y and rock'n'roll, as you already know from Devil's Train. He totally fits in and works great with Marcus in making an awesome team. The one is amazing on riffing and the other great in overdubs, melodies, great solos and that's what gives Mystic Prophecy a different note as we say... an extra taste! And I believe that he is a guy that fits well with the band with whom I wrote five songs in the album: “Follow The Blind”, “Crucifix”, “Metal Brigade”, “Burning Out”, “Pray For Hell”. The other six I wrote them with Marcus. If you write all the songs with the same player there is the peril of repeating yourself without even knowing. While if you have two, the one can give a different flair to the songs and another attitude and if you can combine them both you get what you hear. On the other, hand we give a big deal of focus on our sound. You never listen to something that's poor. Of course, when I listen to the album again and again I always find things I'd like to have corrected. There is no perfect album for a musician. I always could have done something more. That's better because there is always room for improvement.

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Rockpages.gr: Tell me about "Crucifix" which I think is the best song in the album...

RD Liapakis: This is our second music video which is amazing! "Metal Brigade" was more low budget. We shot in three hours in Manheim in a castle where you are not allowed to film, but since every two years I do a charity concert in support of a couple of institutions for kids with cancer, the major helped me out with a few phone calls. So, we got the castle to do the videos. "Crucifix" was filmed in the castle as well, but in a different place. The song is about sexual harassment that kids suffer from members of the church. This kid that was molested by a monk grew up and all the problems he had when he was little MysticProphecy08come out now when he is older. He is at his 40s he became a monk himself and sees himself in front of him. Actually, the song was titled initially "666 Crucifix", but when the castle found out we were forced to change it because they wouldn't allowed satanic messages etc. so we changed the title. Church is not as holy as it seems. In Germany, as well as in Greece, it's covered by the Press. There are a lot of rapes of under aged children. It's chaos, but the press cover it up so that the people won't protest about it. That's what the song is about, adding some salt to the church's wounds, not just in Germany, but in general. I think it might lead to a bit of a scandal, but I don't care because I speak the truth and I bring the issue forward mixing up faith, the cross and evil. They hold the cross while doing their evil deeds.

Rockpages.gr: You've once included orthodox prayer on "Warrior Of Lies" on "Never Ending"...

RD Liapakis: That as well is not from it's good side, because if you listen carefully there is one word missing. Listen to it carefully and you will get it.

Rockpages.gr: How do you think that someone who comes from Germany, England, wherever, will feel listening to an "exotic" language, like Greek, that he doesn't understand?

RD Liapakis: Well, it totally fits with the part of the song we put it. The song's hero is a good guy but he discovers that he is also doing bad things. He is the warrior of lies, he lives among us. In the end he says the prayer and looks that he repents, but leaving a word which is so important out is like he allowing himself to do evil things again. I don't know, maybe some may say that I am crazy but it's really hard to come up with new ideas and themes to write songs about. Imagine that all these years I've written 130 songs in 9 albums. And you know what's the hardest part? Coming up with a title for a song. That can be a total mind-fuck!

Rockpages.gr: What are you planning to do with the band's next album, which is going to be your 10th? Something special in mind?

RD Liapakis: You know what I thought about doing? Something crazy that I have in mind and I think I will do. I would either make a regular album and another special one with covers of every 5-10 years with the best songs from each decade in metal. For example, albums that shaped the heavy metal scene, from Maiden I might pick "Number Of The Beast", from "Priest" definitely not "Painkiller", because it's played more than a thousand times before, and honestly it wasn't "Painkiller" that made Judas Priest so popular, there were other albums that were actually better! That's my idea. But, I might go to the '70s... Zeppelin, Rainbow, Purple and play something in Mystic Prophecy fashion, why not? It's going to be a heavy metal tribute with ten songs featuring ten albums coming from ten years. And I'd like to post this on Facebook and give the fans the chance to suggest those songs. Because, the fans are those that keep us alive and it's them I want to give something and get their feedback. I'd like them to tell us "play The Last In Line, Holy Diver, Mob Rules... we will play whatever the fans pick.

MysticProphecy04Rockpages.gr: I haven't bought the first and the last album from Mystic Prophecy? Why should I?

RD Liapakis: Our first album is true metal and features Gus G at a young age playing. This was the first ever album Gus G ever played. I don't even know how many demos I've sent him. He sent me one and I thought: "Goddamn, there is something about this guy! This man is special, I want him!" Like I got Laki now, because he has something no one else has. I am always looking, I don't get anybody just because. And with Gus it turned out that I was right, he joined Ozzy, he has a great name, he is a hell of a player, he's got talent, he is the greatest guy. And why should you buy the last one? Because, I think it's the most experienced album we've ever released. After eight albums and accumulating experience in song writing I think that the band finds itself in a very advanced level of composing and sound. We haven't peaked yet and it's a great opportunity to those who haven't heard of us to check us out.

Rockpages.gr: After all those years with Mystic Prophecy what are your dreams for the band's future?

RD Liapakis: There are not a lot of bands that were created in 2000 and are still around with so many albums. Just think that in Germany we have a record of releasing 9 albums in 15 years. I don't know another band having done so. I want and I am sure that we will do more albums with Mystic Prophecy. The future of the band is up to the listener and he who will trust us and buy our CD. Without fans a band is nothing! It doesn't exist. No fan, no band! Even if you make the best music in the world you don't exist if you don't have fans.

Rockpages.gr: From the experience you gathered with your own bands, as well as a producer and living abroad close to the German scene, what do you think about the Greek scene? Are there bands that can pursue an international career? Are there more personalities like Gus that could be established internationally? Are there more bands like Rotting Christ and Firewind on their way to do achieve something big?

RD Liapakis: There are good bands in Greece. I wouldn't want to point my finger, of course we are talking about Firewind, InnerWish, who are always great and they just released a very good album, Crystal Tears, Rotting Christ, Septic Flesh, Nightrage... but, I think that in Greece there are more units than there are bands. There is also Suicidal Angels, notice that they have a new release every 15-16 months and are constantly touring. You either get up and dance, or you don't and stay on the outside... "I've got my job, my family, this and that". Rock'n'Roll and metal is a way of life and as every revolution needs its sacrifices. Leaving your family for weeks, months, playing in festivals, neglect friends... you can't have it all you know. Gus G got there because when he was 18 he played with me, we got on tour, he got back, got in the studio with Dream Evil. Then, he released an album with them, got on tour, came back, released the second Mystic Prophecy album. Then, he got in the studio and recorded with Nightrage... toured with Nightrage, wrote for Firewind... the guy was in and out of the studio for four years straight and went from one tour to the next, without going back home. He made a lot of sacrifices to get there.

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Rockpages.gr: Also, a good sign is that the production has improved a lot lately. There are a lot of albums with great production, not like 10 or 20 years ago that we lacked in that factor.

RD Liapakis: It's of paramount importance to give a good sound to good music. What's the point in having great songs that sound like they came out from the gutter? Because bands overseas production is flawless and you are competing against them. So, why should a good label pick you, that you offer them a production from the basement and a pathetic album cover? When a record company comes across a band with great production and a good cover thinks that these guys don't need too much extra work. For an amateur band there is need of time and money to push it and if it doesn't succeed then both money and time were wasted. A company wants to invest money and make money, there are no favours. Nobody fucks with money.

Rockpages.gr: Your little nephew comes around your house and asks you to play him some Mystic Prophecy to check out your work. Which songs would you play him?

RD Liapakis: Well, first of "Lords Of Pain" from "Regressus"... then "Ravenlord" to freak him out, then "Killhammer" and finally "Metal Brigade" to make him a metalhead. Because, this song, in case you haven't noticed, is dedicated to all us fans and the metal scene. You've heard the second verse right? The number of the beast, seek and destroy…ozzy the paranoid heeding the call, Rob Halford the metal god!”... I see our fans and metalheads as fighters that they have our music to give them power. Because, metal is not pushed by the record industry as it's supposed to and like the '80s. There was a time when Bon Jovi would sell 20 million copies of "Slippery When Wet". Now, if they manage to reach 1 million worldwide they are gods!

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