Not long ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Panos Agoros, the fierce voice of the stellar astro-grind entity Dephosphorus and curator of Blastbeat Mailmurder/Productions, as well as Thanos Mantas, who rends dimensions with his riffs passionately alongside Panos.
Because I’m a particularly big fan of their work, it was a genuinely good time getting to know more about the process behind the construction and refinement of their latest album Ravenous Solemnity, as well as exploring the origins of their sound and passion overall.
I reviewed Ravenous Solemnity at February’s end for CVLT Nation. As with every record they’ve released since 2011, it remains crisp with all who hear it upon first contact, only this time more accurate in its grip. I haven’t let a day go by without giving it some time.
In its esurient quest for the truths of all known existence in the multiverse, this new log of Dephosphorus’ encounters is something to behold. Go stream it and have a read on what the members of Dephosphorus have to offer in terms of insights to their world and what the future holds.
First, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions about your work, it means a lot to me, especially as a fan.
THANOS: I think we should thank you instead for taking the time and energy to write a “Thesis on Ravenous Solemnity”, as I would originally describe your review on our last record. If our music can influence people like you to write such a deep text, or grab the guitar and play some riffs, then we can only feel complete and relieved. We are thirsty for feedback and discussion, and it really means a lot to us.
How do you guys feel about Ravenous Solemnity now that it has seen daylight and been digested by the underground? How about the reaction to it?
PANOS: It’s really rewarding to see people understanding what we’re trying to do and supporting us. I don’t think “Ravenous Solemnity” has been fully digested yet, because it’s a very dense album which must be given some time before it fully rewards you and unveils all of its subtleties and dynamics/moods.
I would like to grab the opportunity and thank everybody that has supported us so far by submitting feedback, ordering our records/merch, writing reviews, spreading the word, etc. It really means the world to us and gives us the energy to carry on.
This is the longest recording by Dephosphorus and the material is sharper than ever. Any reason you decided to go for the extended play time on Ravenous Solemnity or did it just work out this way by the time you had everything finalized?
PANOS: The truth is that when initially recorded, “Night Sky Transform” clocked at around the same time. We later decided to separate four tracks and make of them our sides of the split-7”EP’s with Wake and Great Falls. “Ravenous Solemnity” has taken form more spontaneously and instinctively, so it made sense to release it as a solid block and let the audience dive deep into our realm.
What was the impetus behind partnering with Handshake Inc. here in Canada? Your label Blastbeat Mailmurder/Productions has handled much of your distribution in the past alongside 7 Degrees Records. Was the choice to involve a North American label in order to help out fans on this side of the world or was it just a natural outcome of communication and like-mindedness with David Hall?
PANOS: The former. Our North American audience has been very receptive and supportive since day one, and with the exception of a handful of distros carrying out our records, people weren’t able to acquire them without paying exorbitant postage fees. We weren’t in contact with David until 7 Degrees Records put us in touch and proposed this collaboration.
So far it’s working really well. We have a solid presence in the continent and we’re developing a very good and friendly relationship with Handshake Inc. Hopefully it will be for the long term, just as it is with 7 Degrees Records. David has also offered to produce the first official Dephosphorus video-clip, so keep your eyes peeled!
With the departure of Nikos Megariotis on drumming duties for this record, what, if anything, brought John Votsis into the fray? Was it difficult at all to convince him to join you, or was there a legitimate search for a replacement drummer? Votsis seems to fit right in with your sound.
THANOS: I would say that before the departure of Nikos, if there had to be one drummer playing with Dephosphorus, it would be John. Nikos was a charismatic drummer and an awesome person, and his drumming and ideas changed the whole perspective of our style. We could unfortunately foresee with Panos that Nikos was playing exhaustively and it was more than obvious that one day he couldn’t make it. It’s one of those moments where you don’t really want to confirm yourself, you know. Inevitably Nikos’ hand was damaged and we had to carry on, nevertheless.
The first person to contact us was John, and he immediately said yes when we explained to him our goal. He actually perceived this quest as a challenge, since he has never played like that before. He is an amazing drummer and has been playing all his life with numerous projects and bands, helping out people in order to release their stuff. Once he realizes that there are people just playing in their bedroom who don’t want to release their stuff, he urges them to do the opposite. John is very persistent and very open to new ideas.
This is one of the reasons why “Ravenous Solemnity” is so dense, I have to admit. It’s funny on one hand and admirable on the other hand to notice that, when he was playing the rhythms of a song with his own perception, he could easily switch to my advice and guidelines without a sweat. Most importantly though, I should highlight his openness to rhythms he hadn’t played before and that he successfully delivered in the end.
I would say on the whole that John brought stability in the band, structurally speaking, as all of the material for the album was composed with John ridiculously easily. It’s a matter of chemistry after all.
On Ravenous Solemnity the vocals seem to be at their most distraught and rapturous. Was this a conscious direction or was it just a manifestation of the lyrics, the track material, etc.? There has certainly been a transformation most noticeable and impressive on this front.
PANOS: I’m glad to hear you saying that! The new vocal direction wasn’t planned, except for the fact that Thanos motivated me to quit the death growls and focus on howling, which I’m glad he did because this is what I’m best at! This was liberating in a sense and allowed me to explore the possibilities and different tones of my voice, in order to achieve my main ambition which is to sound as expressive as possible.
The other factor is that as you know the vocals are recorded last. Hearing what Thanos and John have recorded before me was a huge motivation in order to be up to the challenge and put my own personal touch to material that was already shaping up as very intense and ground-breaking.
Thanos currently resides in Sweden so this makes things a little more complicated when writing and creating I’d imagine. Did this affect the process significantly or was ot something that occurred after and had less baring on the new material’s structure? Assuming he’s there for a while, do you expect to make use of this hurdle in pushing Dephosphorus further or taking the process of writing slower?
THANOS: That’s a good question. I would say it’s a moment in our lives where we need to build the infrastructure for what will come next. That being said, for the moment I’ll stay in Sweden and try to make my life here, no matter what. I don’t think that composing music is affected at all by my residing in Sweden, as I have always composed music in my life. I would say I perceive this as a challenge, and the challenge is accepted!
Sweden has helped me in many different ways and I have to admit that “Ravenous Solemnity” was written under circumstances which in my entire life I could never expect. I was doing my one year thesis for my master’s in Biotechnology at the time, living in an apartment with 2 other guys and the environment was really grim. Taking into account the hard winter times in Sweden, and the harsh conditions in which I had to deliver as far as my work deadlines, the result was I was writing material almost every day for Dephosphorus.
The songs for the album were written in almost 3 to 4 months, if I am not mistaken. While we always have material which is recorded, even years ago, this time I decided to include only new songs in the record. Besides, every time I am in Greece there is always a project going on for Dephosphorus and that mostly involves recordings; I could actually never imagine us writing and recording material more frequently than we are now. Since we can’t play live for the time being, recordings are the only alternative way of evolution and progression.