The many memories of Winter's Verge

When they talk about exotic bands, most central Europeans in the know primarily mean combos from South America or Asia. It is often hard to see that anything exotic can actually be just next door. Cyprus was
never marked on the world map of Heavy Metal.So let's see what Miguel has to say about this exotic band.

Hey Winter's Verge. First off congratulations on the new album, Tales of Tragedy. Do you think it went over well the fans in the band's eyes as much as the press may say?
Hello there! Thanks for the kind words. So far, the reception has been pretty good, and when we play stuff from it live it seems to go down quite well with the crowds, which is what matters. Also, my mum liked it so that’s always good to hear.

So who do I have the honor of discussing things with today?
My name is Miguel Trapezaris, and I am a bass player (acceptance is the first step to recovery, they say).

Being out of Cyprus with such a 'small metal community,' according to your band website, how does it feel to come from a musical arena with few artists and explode onto bigger labels like Massacre Records?
Being from such a small country, it’s still kind of surreal being on a label like Massacre records, which is widely respected and has international distribution. Like, I was in a branch of HMV in London the other day, browsing the metal section when I came across our album. That was... weird. In a cool way. Sort of like finding money in a jacket you haven’t worn for ages, but with slightly greater implications.

Are you one of the few power metal bands in Cyprus or is it a big metal genre out there?
Most metal genres are well represented proportionally in the Cyprus metal scene, and there are a fair few epic/power metal bands in Cyprus, most notably Prodigal Earth and Arrayan Path. One strange thing is that there aren’t so many younger kids playing that sort of thing, it’s mostly us slightly older guys. Maybe we’re just stuck in the past.

What got a lot of the members into metal in the first place?
Me personally, it was listening to Fear of the Dark by Iron Maiden when I was about 11. It was like crack. I was addicted to that shit, and in a way, I still am really. Harry (guitars) has been listening to metal for years as well, I think via Metallica. Stefanos (keyboards) never had anything better to do so he joined a metal band... I love the guy like a brother but there’s a lot of stuff I don’t know about him. I think he got into metal by being a fan of Greek rock. George has also been a metaller for quite a long time, but I never asked him about that... I think it was Iron Maiden that made him want to play metal. As for Chris (drums), I sort of grew up watching him play with his old band Armageddon Rev. 16:16. They were like the legends of Cyprus metal back then (there were only about 3 bands actually recording or doing anything worthwhile in the late ’90-early ‘00s) so for me Chris has been a hard rocker in the same way as you look at a stuffed moose in a museum when you’re a kid, it’s always been there and you don’t ever think about how it got there or why. You’re just thinking ‘Fuck me! A moose! That’s huge!’ Also vaguely surreal in how I am now in a band with him. I never thought I’d be playing with a moose from my youth.

First metal show that made you say, 'That's the kind of band I want to be!'?
Stratovarius, in 2003 on the Elements pt.1 world tour. The beautiful irony of it is that we toured with them recently, another intensely surreal (and awesome) feeling. It’s not just metal that influenced me. Another hugely inspiring performance was one given by a brilliant London blues guitarist by the name of Steven Whittaker, who I believe died of gout.

Any bands, recent or old, that you feel have strongly influenced your music?
Obviously Stratovarius, but also bands like Sonata Arctica, Iced Earth, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Deep Purple, Limbonic Art, and me and Stefanos are big classical music fans so a lot of that gets in there too. All of us also really like classic rock and old hard rock songs, so a few elements of that come into the music, as well influences of a few death metal bands like Children of Bodom or At The Gates. Moonsorrow are amazingly epic too, so we got a few layering ideas from them.

So when it came to picking out what kind of metal Winter's Verge wanted to perform, the website mentions that one of your members was versatile in multiple genres, from black to power to thrash. What made power metal the defining choice for the group?
See, that’s the thing. We never really ‘picked out’ what we were going to play. George and Stefanos started the band with the idea to play power metal. Their old bassist left and I joined because I love power metal and thought ‘Finally! A power metal band for Miguel!’ Of course, I am a huge black and death metal fan as well but I joined knowing it was a power metal band. When our old guitarist Pericles left, Harry was invited to join the band and he also knew it was a power metal band, despite him also being a massive thrash/progressive/hardcore fan. Same deal with Chris, really. The cool thing is that all these different influences come together and manifest themselves through how we write music and play our instruments. I mean, we all write stuff that we know is destined to become something vaguely power/epic-ish, but we also have our own spin on it.

You guys have been around since 2004, with three full length albums under your belt, so obviously some touring has been going on. Any upcoming ones?
After the Stratovarius tour, we’ve been careful to choose and arrange another tour that will be equally good. We’re trying to sort some stuff out but nothing’s been confirmed yet so stay tuned!

Are there any great tour memories you'd like to share?
2000 people singing along to our songs in Sofia, drinking beer with some of our heroes, Chris throwing a drumstick into the crowd in Zlin during a song and watching people fight each other for it, getting banned from a pub in Budapest because I can’t sing karaoke and miraculously managing to navigate back to the bus in a drunken stupor, having complete strangers ask for photos and autographs, having beer with cool people you meet on the road, sightseeing in Vienna... so many memories. The Stratovarius guys were really cool and friendly and made us feel very welcome.

Let's talk about Tales of Tragedy. It's a little different from your past two concept albums as it feels a lot more 'grounded,'  compared to the more abstract ideals of Death from Eternal Damnation, especially. What inspired it?
I guess it’s just the culmination of more experience in the band, and as far as lyrical content is concerned, more carefully thought-out and pointed. George writes the lyrics, so he’d be able to give a more full answer but hell, I’m high on Red Bull now so I’ll give it a shot. It’s part of our ‘thing’, now... most power metal bands sing about fantastical scenarios or positive, uplifting and idealistic themes. Both are forms of escapism, right? So one of the aspects of this band is we tend to have songs about more...depressing topics. Sure, plenty of the songs are indeed about fantasy or otherworldly ideas, but what George tries to do is keep the themes somewhat vague. Example, the songs ‘Eternal Damnation’ and ‘I Swear Revenge’ are about a vampire’s story, but the words ‘vampire’ or ‘nosferatu’ or ‘stake through the heart’ never appear. ‘Captain’s Log’ is about a ship being attacked by pirates, but ‘pirates’ themselves are never mentioned, just stuff like black sails and cannonballs smashing into the ship. I guess one can take the scenarios being described and explored, and perhaps find how they can relate to them in everyday life, since everyday life is essentially the inspiration for the themes, sort of going against this escapism trend in power metal. Creatio ex nihilo is the reserve of God, as the saying goes. Nothing comes out of nowhere, so we create music based on the lives we lead, the world around us and the music we listen to and enjoy. The songs persist to be mostly about death and other dark matters, because I suppose Death is the great unknown, the ultimate reality, and talking about it helps us come to terms with our own mortality, or something. Metal has always had a hefty dose of the old death in there anyway, seeing as it’s descended from blues in the first place. Being less abstract probably came from us being more confident in our music and ourselves.

Compared to your first album, Another Life... Another End, do you see a huge musical maturation for the band and their music or were you guys pretty comfortable from the beginning with your sound?
Absolutely, a massive difference. We’ve had two lineup changes since then, Harry on guitars and Chris on the drums, as well as the cumulative effect of more experience within the band. Another huge factor was that ‘Another Life...’ was recorded in Cyprus. There are some good facilities there, don’t get me wrong, but as of yet there aren’t the people who are as adept and dealing with the pretty unique sonic challenges that recording and producing a metal album poses. ‘Eternal’ and ‘Tales’ were both recorded in Germany, at the Music Factory studio with mastermind RD Liapakis of Mystic Prophecy and sound engineer extrordinaire Christian Schmid looking after us. Between them, those guys have decades of experience in recording and producing metal in Germany, one of the powerhouses of the industry. So, under the watchful eyes of those guys, along with the increasing confidence and knowledge of our own, our sound has developed and is continuing to do so.

Obviously the entire album is a very cohesive story and all the tracks relate to one another, but are there any that you feel deserves a special mention and why, either for lyrical content or musical structure?
‘Reflections of the Past’ is a really good showcase for the band in general, I think. Technically, it gives us all a chance to show what we can do, as well as having a great epic feel to it. I also really like ‘Captain’s Log’, it’s a fantastic story told from a pretty unique viewpoint (a captain writing a log entry as he goes down with his ship) and the keyboard riff is awesome. The outro is fucking epic, too... real raise-thy-sword-to-the-sky kinda stuff, both lyrically and musically. And ‘Dark Entries’ is a fast, double-kick power metal song with some serious headbanging and moshing material in there, so we’re not just all about being epic, we can kick ass in the old fashioned way too.

Do you like to make your concept albums straight forward or make them obscure so listeners can take multiple meanings, stories, or takes on the music?
Rhapsody of Fire write a lot of details for the stories they tell in their music in the booklet, and Savatage did the same on their last three albums which is pretty cool for the listener... I always liked listening to those records while reading the story and paying close attention to the lyrics to pick out snippets of the plot. But as I said earlier, we wanted to avoid the escapism thing, so we decided to take a different approach. For this album, as the songs were coming through, I’d read George’s lyrics and pick out little quotes from books and plays I’ve read, Shakespeare, Leroux, Kafka, that sorta stuff. I’d choose quotes that I thought matched the stories being told in the songs, to perhaps give people a more ‘classic’ hint as to what we were talking about and maybe a different viewpoint. And hey, if someone gets inspired to pick up Oscar Wilde or Satre after reading that, that’s a good thing right?

From what you've seen in the metal world from when you started till now, do you think metal music has gotten more dynamic as a whole or is starting to get generic? There's a lot of complaints that so many bands sound the same, just with different names, so how do you strive to avoid that?
As I said earlier, everything comes from somewhere. Having creativity out of thin air just isn’t possible. Ultimately, we’re a metal band, with guitars and keyboards and stuff which is hardly unique in this day and age, and one of the first ways you think of music you hear for the first time is to compare it to stuff you already know. That’s the natural and human thing to do, you want to affix the unknown to solid points of reference you’re familiar with. Ultimately, as time goes by, new ideas are harder to come across, and with the advent of the internet, people can type into Google exactly what kind of music they want to hear, and will get about 50,000 hits within seconds. Bands and artists from America, England, Brazil, Italy, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Australia, goddamned Uzbekistan...that’s fucking mindblowing, isn’t it? I mean, who would’ve thought that kinda shit was ever going to even be possible 15 years ago? It isn’t even just the internet, technology has progressed to the point that a couple of kids sitting in a bedroom with a decent computer and an audio interface can put out entire albums worth of material on Myspace, if they really wanted to. So people can be more selective with their tastes right off the bat, and as a result they might just end up listening to lots of the same type of stuff. Metal is more dynamic and varied now than it ever has been, but consumers and listeners might not see it like that because it’s easier than ever now to just wrap yourself up in the same sort of stuff if you want to. On the flipside, it’s now easier to listen to as much new stuff as you want to. Creativity is always present, some people are just better at it than others. We try to keep our own sound and be true to ourselves. We don’t try to make our songs sound like anyone else, because if you start off with that aim, it’s going to be a copy no matter how you try to dress it up afterwards.

There must be quite a few devoted fans out there. What's the strangest or most thoughtful gift that one has ever given you?
Me personally? Someone bought me a beer in Vienna. That was pretty cool. I think Stefanos got a flower or something. But really, anyone who bought the album or a tshirt... that means a lot to us. Anyone who comes out to our shows and has a good time... that’s a thrill all on its own, you know? I mean, this one guy got on the bus and came to Sofia in Bulgaria from fucking Thessaloniki in Greece to see us live... he obviously came mostly for Stratovarius, but also had a copy of ‘Another Life...’ that he wanted signed. That was crazy! It really meant a lot to us.

Any advice to those that want to make it big in the metal world?
Don’t think you’re ever going to make much money playing metal. Keep your day job. If you want to make money through music, metal is the wrong type. You do it because you love it, not because it’s going to make you rich and famous. People will look at their heroes like Iron Maiden or Metallica or Judas Priest or something, but for each of those bands that makes it, I mean really makes it, there are literally thousands that don’t. People are usually pretty surprised when they find out metal bands whose albums they own and shows they’ve gone to usually have normal, everyday jobs on the side or are really hard-working musicians involved in several projects and sessions that might have nothing to do with metal, as well as having a family and making time for them as well. We haven’t made it yet by any stretch of the imagination, we know how hard it is and how much work lies ahead. Each of us has our own thing going on as well, Harry and I are currently at Kingston University in London studying Civil Engineering and Law respectively, George runs a shop and Chris is a highly sought-after session musician, playing studios and all types of shows to make a living Also, never underestimate the sacrifices you’ll have to make. You’ll need dedication to your art, and true art requires true sacrifice. Even when you have reviewers slagging you off, people throwing shit at you during shows, your guitar melted, your label dropped you, your rhythm guitarist quitting because he’s a born-again nature worshipper or any crazy shit like that, you’ll have to just knuckle down and get on with it, if it’s what you really want to do. Make no mistake, it’s a battle. It will never be easy. But if you really love it and really have the passion, you’ll always find a way to move forward and if you truly believe in the music you’re making, you’ll always want to share it with the world.

Again, thanks for taking the time to answer some more annoying questions from a webzine who enjoyed your music.  Last random question of the day: Ultimate dream tour the band could have around the world?
Hammerfall, Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian or Rage. Any one of those 4 would be an absolute treat.
Thanks for YOUR time, take care, stay metal, and HAILS!
Miguel \m/
Interviewer: devilmetal747
May 17, 2010

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