Sometimes you just needed a little help to find out about band’s you didn’t know about. And when someone told me “you shout listen to ‘Desolate plains’, I looked them up and this is the result. A nice interview with one of the project members, Lampros. Yes, project members, because they call a “studio project” (for the time being). And the just released their second, full length album, “The face of the Earth”
Read the interview and find out everything about this “studio project”, you won’t regret it.
And thank you Lampros for answering my questions!
The band is called ‘Desolate Plains’. Can you tell us something about the name? What does it mean and who came up with it?
Since I was a small child I have had a vision of my grown self-walking in a vast desert. Humans are souls traversing the universe and although they move together, they live alone in their bubbles. And each person’s inner kingdom is a desolate plain where they roam all alone eternally. There is a verse in the song “Being of despair” from the first album that states: “On desolate plains I reign, where ruins of my past still remain, on mountains of high I reside, my eyes forced to gaze deep inside”
Can you tell us something about the history of the band? When is it established, are all the bandmembers still the same as when the band started?
‘Desolate Plains’ is a studio project for the time being. I had written several songs that did not fit my other project’s style (Eso chora) since they were faster and more aggressive, and I decided to write some more and release them under a new name.
I searched for some time for a singer but it was really hard to find someone to fit the music well. Then, on May 2016, I saw Aliki Katriou on YouTube, performing vocal covers of ‘Slipknot’ and ‘Arch Enemy’, and I was instantly hooked on her unique style, flexibility and theatrical performance. I sent her a message (in English, although Aliki is half-Greek, half New Zealander, because I did not know whether she spoke Greek at all), and to my surprise, a couple of days later she wrote back asking for details. Several months later, she flew to Greece and recorded vocal tracks for the first album. Her voice is really flexible and she can sing whatever musical style she wants, but I feel that the combination of her inhuman growls and clean melodic harmonies blend perfectly with ‘Desolate Plains’ music. In other words, Aliki breaths life to my music.
I play and record all guitars, bass, and keyboards, but my drum skills leave a lot to be desired, so I searched online for a session drummer that would not only use my demo recordings as a guide, but contribute to the compositions as well, and found Hugo Ribeiro. His drumming is as precise as a death metal song needs but at the same time he adds off beat accents and hihat rhythms with jazz and rock origins. So his contribution to the final result is significant as he tends to ‘color’ everything, enriching the music, and that’s a relief, since my drumming is monotonous and straight forward. In his own words, he does not like to be bored when drumming!
Although ‘Desolate Plains’ is a studio project, no one knows what the future will bring! Aliki and Hugo have their own bands and are constantly performing live, so who knows?
Please introduce us to the members of the band. Who are they and which instruments do they play? Do they have a musical background, etc. All the things you think are important or nice to know you can tell us?
I (Lampros Potamianos) play electric, acoustic and bass guitars as well as all keyboards/synths. I have had piano lessons at the age of eight, taught myself guitar in my teens (which is never a good thing to do!), and then studied drums with George Kollias and electric guitar with George Bokos at the age of 35. Unfortunately, after 20 years of abusing the guitar, there were not many things George Bokos could fix! Also, although George Kollias is a fantastic teacher (and a beast of a drummer!), I had neither the time nor the talent to progress far, but the drum throne perspective did influence the way I compose music.
I also write music for ‘Eso chora’, an “art metal” project, with doom and prog elements: less extreme musically, but touching on the same lyrical concepts. I work as a 3d artist and am responsible for the band’s videos.
Aliki Katriou’s background as a singer goes well back to her high school years, when she was trained as a classical singer and then branched into other vocal techniques. She graduated from the London Fim Academy and currently works as a vocal coach and sings for the London based band ‘Eight Lives Down’ (great groovy modern metal). Aliki also records vocals for ‘Tattered Pages’ and has worked with ‘Cyclocosmia’.
Hugo Ribeiro is a rock/metal session drummer with over 20 years of experience and currently plays drums for ‘GODVLAD’ and ‘Kandia’. He is also working as a session drummer, having recorded hundreds of tracks for a multitude of music styles. Hugo has been a great help, since he takes my (sloppy) demo tracks and gives them a twist!
Who writes the songs? (lyrics and music).
I am writing all the music for the project. I usually start with a guitar riff idea, or a verse that comes to my mind and build from there. Composing music resembles the sculpting process, it always feels like the music was already there and I just have to tune my mind to that specific song and ‘download’ it. It requires entering a state of absent mindedness to allow the flow of music to begin, and when a song takes its form I never change anything, as it seems ‘perfect’ to me. Orchestration is usually straightforward, but George Bokos (mixing/mastering) has always some to the point suggestions. I have written all lyrics for both albums, except the song “Dead End” (lyrics:Aliki Katriou).
What can you tell us something about the first album (“Practicing the Inner Arts”)? When was it released, songs etc.
The first album, “Practicing the Inner Arts” was released on 7/7/2017 on ‘Molon Lave Records’. Some of the songs it contains date back to 2009, but I don’t think that one could tell which ones! The music is more thrash-prog oriented but Aliki’s vocals set the tone. The song “The Return to Normalcy” features a great solo by Spyros Acheimastos, there is a guest vocal on “Discoloration of the Iris” by the then-15 year old Ionas Argiros and a recitation of a poem of mine in the song “When Birds Gather Low” by the actress Sophia Giannioti.
There were 4 video clips made for this album, for the songs “Beneath my Skin”, “Items of Beauty”, “Taming an Inner Storm” and “Practicing the Inner Arts”. The last 3 feature only computer graphics.
Is there a (big) difference between your first album and the second one (“The Face of the Earth”)? And what are the differences (if there are any)?
The second album continues where the first left off musically. There is no drastic change in style, as it features fast riffing, melodic choruses, aggressive vocals and poetic lyrics. “Age of Old” and “Absent” are the only songs that kind of differ, as they are slower, more rock/metal ballad style, but they fit the album 100% as they narrate stories of same universe.
Although I was quite satisfied with the debut album’s production, George Bokos managed to pull off an even better one with this album, cleaner, better low end and tamed high frequencies. Vocal recordings were much better too, since I had the experience of the first album and they were conducted in a proper studio!
Did you do this album with a producer or all by yourself?
I recorded and edited all my parts (guitars, bass, synths) in my studio. It was a tedious process, as I wanted to nail all parts and have them sounding clear and precise, which is not an easy thing to do when all songs feature 4+ rhythm guitar parts. My Kemper proved to be an invaluable tool as I used a great guitar amp profile by Lasse Lammert.
Acoustic guitars were recorded in my studio too, using a classic 2-mic setup.
Bass recording was straightforward, again using the Kemper to get a nice tone, which George Bokos (mixing/mastering) shaped beautifully into a gorgeous sounding instrument.
I was the recording engineer for Aliki’s tracks too, although that did require a bit of trial and error procedure on my part. Aliki is very experienced in recording her voice, plus she has magnificent control and stamina and that made the recording process roll smoothly. We did multiple takes, but the comping was quite easy. She has an incredible ability to lay down harmonies instantly and that was a charm to work with, as she had really good ideas and an infallible instinct on how to harmonize her parts!
Hugo recorded the drums in his own studio and handed over the drum tracks via internet. There was minimal back and forth as his tracks were almost perfect!
Mixing and mastering were done by George Bokos in his ‘Grindhouse Studios’ Athens. We had some really long sessions mixing the album, but he is really patient and open minded, so it was a breeze! He also provided several orchestration ideas that were adopted into the project.
Is there a message in the songs?
In a way, both ‘Desolate Plains’ albums share a concept lyric wise. The first album, entitled “Practicing the Inner Arts” deals mainly with the human spirit and its unstoppable evolution through the oceans of time, as well as the mystic esoteric traditions that conserve the knowledge acquired through all these generations of life on this planet.
This album, “The Face of the Earth”, is also dealing with the human condition, but focuses more on the inner struggles that souls have to overcome in order to progress on their journey. Songs deal with the tyranny of the mind (“Empire”, “The Movement of Fear”, “Dead End”, “The Face of the Earth”) and the terrible certainty of the death of the flesh (“Age of Old”, “The Descendant”, “Absent”, “Across the River”, “A Subtle Approach to Infinity”).
Aliki wrote the lyrics of “Dead End”, and I was really impressed with the way she handled it, as I just gave her the music and a title and she came up with lyrics that fitted seamlessly the concept I had in my mind.
How would you call your music?
That’s a difficult question to answer. I have been contemplating on that subject, since the need to label music seems to be a requirement in order to get an album out! People do need to categorize something in order to digest it and modern society needs labelling to promote music.
I think that there is a lot of thrash metal present in the core of my music, but death metal elements take the lead sometimes. On the other hand, the clean vocal harmonies and the varying tempo would suggest prog, or even doom and I love to think that the spirit of black metal is present lyrics wise.
All these genres are integrated smoothly in ‘Desolate Plains’ music and it is really hard to give a definite answer as I do love all (well most!) styles of metal, but at gun point I would call it progressive death metal!
Here is a quick run-down of the album tracks:
- “The Movement of Fear”, based on a speech of Krisnamurti, is a fast paced technical death metal song that ends with a dreamy (or rather nightmarish) monologue.
- Our first video, “A Final Thought”, is a song with many tempo and feeling changes, featuring thrashy verses, clean vocal mid tempo choruses, a blast beat interludium, and slow paced second verses with Aliki’s inhuman voice.
- “Empire” is a classic mid tempo metal song that begins with a smooth rock/metal intro, but features Aliki’s black metal vocals and Hugo’s groovy patterns. It is also the only song that features a ‘normal’ guitar solo as I am not fond of notes that do not have a purpose, and therefore I usually write short solos and only if the songs demand it.
- “A Subtle Approach to Infinity” was originally a tech-thrash instrumental, but I decided to introduce some vocals in some groovy parts and Aliki really did blend them nicely.
- “Dead End” has a lengthy depressing intro, with operatic vocal lines, but then evolves into a quite classic metal song, with an inherent groove, an almost pop chorus and a speed metal odd meter interludium.
- “Across the River” is a really challenging song as there are a lot of rhythm changes. Aliki had to follow my guitar riffs on that one, and they do cover a great range of notes! She executed it beautifully and added some harmonies on top too! The fast verses with the brutal vocals are one of my favorite parts of the album as they have so much energy!
- When I wrote the music of “Age of Old” I was a bit reluctant on whether to use it for Desolate Plains as it was more like a depressive rock/metal ballad, but I decided to put this old school sounding black metal interludium and a guitar solo to spice it up, and since then it has become my favourite song. Tobias Preuten did some guest backing vocals on this (as well as in other songs) and my awful voice is buried somewhere in there too!
- “The Face of the Earth” features lots of rhythm changes too with clean vocal blast beat parts crashing into mid tempo choruses. I like pauses in music, and there are quite a few here!
- “The Descendant” was quite a difficult song to record guitars wise, as it is really fast and needed precise riffing. The energetic and aggressive verses lead to depressive melodic clean vocal choruses and that dynamic is retained in the outro, where a blues guitar is taking parts in phrasing the sadness of leaving this world alone, along with a saxophone recorded by Jazz arist Konstantinos Kalaitzakis.
- Finally, “Absent” the closing track, is a weird rock/metal ‘ballad’ that is using a lot of pauses and unusual timbres to emphasize the alienation of humans and their perpetual quest to seek what will never come because it was always there.
Are you influenced by other bands? And yes, which one(s)?
I was lucky enough to grow up in the 80s when most metal genres were formed, and I loved equally listening to ‘Metallica’, ‘Manowar’, ‘Candlemass’, ‘Mekong Delta’, ‘King Diamond’ and ‘Deicide’. So I feel that all this music has been running in my veins and allows me to make an amalgam of all these genres in a way that they can co-exist even on the same song. The bands that really influenced me were the bands that I still listen to after 35 years, like ‘Dark Angel’ (“Time Does Not Heal” is an underrated masterpiece), ‘Death’ (every single note), ‘Flames’ (the first 2 albums of the Greek band), ‘Sepultura’ (“Beneath the Remains”), ‘Slayer’ (almost every single note!), ‘Coroner’, ‘Exodus’, ‘Celtic Frost’. All these bands and many more have made a strong impression on my young soul and will forever be a part of me.
Nowadays I listen to a lot of extreme metal as it seems to satisfy more my soul. I love bands like ‘Oathbreaker’, ‘Necrophagist’, ‘MGLA’, ‘Arcturus’, ‘Abigail Williams’, ‘Gojira’, but also stuff like ‘Primordial’, ‘New Light Choir’, ‘Blood Ceremony’, ‘The Oath’. I like music that is technical enough, but always spirited, the songs have to be good, not just the playing!
Are there things I have to write down but forgot to ask?
Thank you very much for the presentation. I have already begun work on a third album, I have a song ready and many ideas, so it is just a matter of time!