As I know almost nothing about PERSONA NON GRATA there was no other way to find out more than to interview them. So here you have it. All you want to know, well almost all, about Persona Non Grata. Anders Ekdahl ©2012
I have to admit that I know not much about Persona Non Grata beside the new album “Quantum Leap”. Where did you come from?
-Hi . Thanks for having us in Battlehelm. Let us introduce ourselves. We are a progressive metal band from Athens, Greece since 2003. In 2009 we released our 1st album “Shade in the Light” via Sensory Records USA. The band created by Chris Gatsos (guitars) and me as we dissolved our previous band named Fatal Error. After some changes in the lineup we can surely say that this one is the final. So the band is:Chris Gatsos – Guitars, Aris Pirris – Vocals, Akis Gavalas – Drums, Apostolis Kaltsas – Bass, John Ioannidis – Keyboards
As a live band we worked hard both on composition and performance. Between live gigs and studio rehearsals we wrote our 2nd album which is out now with the title “Quantum Leap” via Massacre records.
Listening to you album I get the impression that you’ve taken inspiration from a whole lot of sources. What inspiration would you say has been the most defining in finding your sound?
-I would say that our music is a mix of our personal influences. Mine are from rock and hard rock. In addition, having Classical music education, I have mixed motifs from great classical composers with modern progressive sound including a hard rock feel. On the other hand Chris is a metal guy as he grew up with this style of music. The heavy riffs are most often written by Chris, but he doesn’t stop surprising me with some sensual air solos he writes as well.
Aris (vocals) is a rock singer with lyrical metal elements. This is obvious by the way he approaches the high pitch notes like a metal singer and the lowers like a rock one.
Akis (drums) is the most progressive guy from all of us. His style I would say is the major progressive factor we have in the band. Apostolis (bass) adds to our sound a Greek – oriental timbre as he has those hearings. All that influences and inspirations which come and go at a blink of an eye consist our music. So it’s very difficult to give you a specific inspiration which defines our sound. Each one of your readers will determinate what fits better in his ears.
Persona Non Grata is a perfect name. It could be used to explain how me as metalheads sometime are treated by society. How hard was it to come up with the band name?
-I would say that you point straight to the target! This is the real meaning of the name “Persona non Grata” Especially in Greece metal is black listed from radios and tvs due to its “hard sound”. In contrast when a big metal band comes to Greece for a live gig the tickets are sold out. That’s a paradox don’t you think?
As I haven’t written any songs I have no idea what it is like. Is there a point when you know that you’ve written a great song? How much do you have to discard to get to that one great song?
-To tell you the truth composition is a magical procedure that’s why it is very difficult to describe. The whole thing starts with an idea which is transformed to something else specially when performed by different instruments or after the addition of a rhythm pattern. A vocal melody line will change fundamentally the above idea resulting to song that has no resemblance to the original! The phrase “If I knew what song is good or not I would be a millionaire” is very common but it answers to your question! It’s very difficult to determinate whether a song is good or not. When you must stop to work on a track is very critical. There are many examples from my experience where the final song after hours of editing ends up to be worse than the pre edited. This is very frustrating because you have to start over again and see what went wrong.
Do the lyrics have to fit the music or is the music fitted around the lyrics? How does it work fitting music and lyrics together to make a great song?
-Both. Many times music is so characteristic that you can imagine the subject of the lyrics. For example music from “Evil Feelings” in our last album is so dark, strange, and almost scary which drives us to write similar lyrics. On the other hand “9 am news” in the same album derives from our need to describe our repulsion to tv news. The music follows the lyrics and unfolds as a broadcast trailer.
Once you have the music recorded and done how much time do you spend on the artwork/lay-out or do you let somebody else worry about that?
-The artwork was undertaken by my wife Marina which is a professional graphic designer with a great success. It’s exactly how we wanted, entangled, dark, giving the sense that is used. The final decision is given by the band of course. On that point I would like to thank our label Massacre which left us free to improvise on that part and make something really unusual.
When you play as intricate metal as you do, do you try out new songs on a live audience or are you more of a rehearsal room band?
-Not very happy to admit but this style of music needs many, many rehearsals to deepen into. This music is not recommended for jamming. Sure some solos can be changed from live to live but the rehearsals are made for the studio and the performances for the stages. Something else I have to point out is that the progressive metal audience is very “difficult” Apart for trying to have fun on a live gig, they want to hear a good sound, clean orchestrations, virtuosity and surely not a band jamming.
How important is playing live in a climate that heads towards less CD sales and more downloading (legal or illegal)?
-I am not sure whether the free fall of the cd sales and the downloading relate to the live gigs. What I can say for sure is that nowadays gigging is the only way for a band to recompense.
Live performance is something that now one can copy or download. We all have been on a live gig and afterwards watched the same performance in a dvd. The sense is completely different and live simply can’t be replaced!
What kind of future do you wish for Persona Non Grata?
-I would like on a short term our new cd to go well and I am not speaking for the sales. We are conscious that nowadays people rarely buy cds. So I hope the audience will like our cd and buy it, why not? On a long term I would like us to be famous because of our good music, of our live performance and of our music consistency. Thanks again for your time; I hope we will speak soon on a live gig!