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Dee Theodorou, Costas Koulis, George Papantonis, & Niki Danos (Illusory)

Interview with Dee Theodorou, Costas Koulis, George Papantonis, & Niki Danos from Illusory
by Jessica Harman at 19 May 2017, 1:43 PM

ILLUSORY was born in Greece in 1992 under the alias IVORY TOWER, which stuck for many years. After finding out of another band with the same name, they brainstormed and ILLUSORY stuck. In ode to their fallen alias, their debut album as ILLUSORY was dubbed “The Ivory Tower” in 2013. They released their sophomore effort “Polysyllabic” in 2016. ILLUSORY breaks through genre walls to incorporate many genres into their Metal style. Metal Temple’s Jessica Harman recently had the opportunity to interview the band about the new album.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to interview you. I’m really excited to hear your responses. This is a great time to let me and other listeners get a little behind the scenes look into the life of ILLUSORY. “Polysyllabic” was released in 2016, can you elaborate on the inspiration behind this album?

Dee: First of all, we would like to thank you for this interview and the opportunity to talk about our band and our music. “Polysyllabic” was released on November 11, 2016 by 7hard /7us Media Group. We started composing the songs while we were in the process of mixing our debut album and we started recording and laying down the tracks in our own studio the very next day of the release of “The Ivory Tower”. In the end we had a bunch of pre-production songs, almost 18 as I can remember, so we had to choose the best tracks amongst them for the album to come. It was a tough situation because there were no fillers and that’s why we ended up releasing “Polysyllabic” with 14 tracks (13 plus 1 hidden). The inspiration came from various things; we always write lyrics almost about anything and music comes to our minds through our soul and the love we cherish for Metal. I think “Polysyllabic” is musically enriched with a range of sounds, instruments, directions and motifs, but it still sounds like us. It’s a colorful tapestry of musicality and ideas that give a great perspective for the future of the band.

Can you describe the writing process for “The Story”, the final track on this latest release? This track is completely different from the rest of the album, obviously. I’m curious to understand where composition came from and how it was formed.

Dee: “The Story” is the hidden track of the album in its physical form and it’s not available via digital platforms. This song was originally composed, most of it by George (our guitarist) back in the late 90’s. It was a full band, electric version ballad but George had the idea to release it as an acoustic song. We all agreed and contributed for this new orchestration. Costas and me re-wrote the lyrics and we really enjoyed the final result. I always loved the basic melody and I really believe it has a very strong vibe.

As a whole, this album really breaks through genre walls. What is the bands stance on subgenres in metal? Is there a respect for “boundaries” within said genres? How does this reflect in your writing process?

Costas: We respect music. We consider music as a whole. One of our mottos is “Music is One”. Yet, when we compose and rehearse on our ideas, we never think about a “certain way” of making music. To be honest with you, we always try to create songs we like for ourselves and we leave the “subgenres” for another discussion, which never reaches the table! When listening to our music, one might spot Classic Metal parts, Progressive parts or even edgy and thrashy motifs. We prefer to make the song the way we feel it functions better. Thus, the “boundaries” are well noted, however, when we feel we are artistically driven to those areas, we gently proceed to visit the “other” lands, then return to our base and continue with composing. A song is like a garden. All flowers are allowed.

Which members of the band are involved in the songwriting? Do you write together as a group, or does each member bring their own material and then blend it together?

George P: Usually the main idea comes from one member. Everyone in the “family” has his part as far as songwriting is concerned. The musical parts for the album include riffs, bits and melodies by all of us. The lyrics, on the other hand, are written mainly by me, Dee and Costas. But this is not something strict, I mean that if anybody else of the other guys brings a good lyrical part, this shall be included in a song. We really like to work as a team. Most of the times one of us has an idea and then we start “jamming” on it in our studio. The idea is getting bigger and bigger and finally a song is born. Usually the lyrics follow songwriting with some few exceptions, mainly by some lyrics that I have written without having any music in my mind.

The band has had a very long musical career. Have you been able to tour like you would like to? Where are some of your favorite places to play? Where are some of the places you would like to visit?

Costas: That’s the question I always wanted to answer… The band has been around since 1992. However, due to “force majeure” issues, such as army service (mandatory in Greece), studies and work and a whole bunch of circumstances, things were often going to an “on and off” path. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to tour as much as we wanted or liked to. We have played to a considerable number of venues in our country; we have also done a mini tour in Greece in 2015, yet the feeling of “actual” touring has not been fulfilled. We constantly rehearse, we have our own studio and we meet there once or twice a week to rehearse and even more, in order to compose and record. In terms of picking and/or choosing places to visit and play? Naturally all of them! We feel welcome everywhere in the world as long as we are invited to play. Just for the fun of it, I would personally choose the NEC Arena in England, the Budokan in Tokyo, Japan and – naturally – the one and only (interesting choice of words there) The Moore in Seattle, USA.

Are there any funny stories that you would like to share that we may not know about, or anything memorable that has happened during a show or tour?

George P: Wow! That's a great one! There are many funny stories that we can remember all those years that we perform together… let me see… what we really CAN say in an interview… well… during the first days of the reunion as THE IVORY TOWER (our previous name), we were rehearsing in a studio in Piraeus, Greece. It was a cold winter night and there was a lot of snow, which is quite rare for the Athenian area. We were walking from our cars to go to the studio, when suddenly I fell down on my ass due to the slippery asphalt… there was a great amount of ice that we hadn't seen and I was the one to fall into the “trap”… The funny fact was that I fell that way… luckily I wasn't injured and MORE luckily the guitar I had on my back wasn't broken! This specific guitar is the one you can see in the "Dreamshade" video clip, which we recently released!

How has the band grown since your days as IVORY TOWER? Is there anything you would like to achieve as a band that is unique to you?

Costas: Our band has matured musically and such a thing is totally shown in our songs. We have studied a lot, rehearsed more, and gave numerous hours and sweat and money, with a single purpose. To become better and better, to evolve and create music the way we always wanted to. ILLUSORY has grown so much since the IVORY days that fans from that time, who come to our concerts and listen to the new songs, are like “How do you manage to play all that stuff”? We feel deeply honored and we just want to give back the best feedback to our fans and supporters. They mean the world to us. You can’t possibly imagine how we felt when we received a message from fans in Germany, telling us they would come to Athens, to see us performing Live. We were ecstatic! And – consequently – did the best show we could for these people and all those who believe in us. And we will keep on doing that for as long as we can. There are many things we want to achieve as a band, i.e. see our albums released on vinyl, play in venues around the world and sharing the stage with big bands in various festivals abroad and locally, but I truly believe the best goal has been achieved. We have become great friends, all six of us and we take good care of each other. We are a family now and this is the most unique thing that could happen to us, as a band and as a fellowship.

Are there any current or past bands that inspire each of you personally? Are there any that inspire the band as a whole?

Niki: Our age – and this goes separately for each of us – gives away the kind of music that inspires us. All of 80’s and 90’s music has greatly affected the way, which we function through. Personally speaking, I shall never cease loving IRON MAIDEN, while it seems absurd to ignore bands such as MUSE. ILLUSORY-wise, we have our ears wide open about anything and everything that is related to music. Concurrently, we go hard on maintaining and supporting the band’s character.

What kinds of hobbies and interests do you have outside of music?  What do you all do when you are not writing or touring? Do any of you have ‘day’ jobs?

Niki: Alongside the band, we all have our families and children that we love and look after. All six of us have a day job, since making ends meet solely through the band’s activities is not yet possible. Personally, I take pleasure in playing other kinds of music too, such as Blues and Jazz while I also happen to be a devoted Liverpool fan!

What is next for ILLUSORY? Are you working on new music?

Dee: Actually yes! We have already composed 15 songs and we are in the pre-production stage for the next album. We have plenty of ideas about the sounds and everything. We are planning to release our 3rd album the next year. We are also planning some live gigs in order to further promote “Polysyllabic”. There is already a gig booked on June 3, at The Crow Club in Athens with HEKATOMB, our guest band from Sweden.

I asked above about your thoughts on subgenres in metal. Now, what are your thoughts on metal? How do you feel it has progressed through the years and what are your feelings towards the future of metal?

George P: Our thoughts on Metal…. yeah… Metal had its downs during late 90’s, that's a truth, but another big truth is that ROCK and BLUES, thus all their subgenres (that include Metal) will never die because it was never really a “trend”. The genre has progressed in many ways. Songwriting is better, productions are better, videos are better, and the bands and the musicians are looking for ways to “say” what they feel, even though that almost everything has already been done in music, generally. In my opinion the future of Metal is bright. There are a lot of new bands that – remember what I say – will be considered as megatheria of their era. There are many bands/artists that have a lot to give to Metal music. We all know that the “Golden Years” of metal were the 80’s… then, maybe, the 90’s were the “Downfall Years”… From the 00’s and onwards Metal became larger and will grow forevermore! Thank you so much for the interview and for giving us the spotlight. Hope you enjoy our brand new video “Dreamshade” and the “Polysyllabic” album. Shine On! 


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