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Kyriakos Vasdokas (Crosswind)

Interview with Kyriakos Vasdokas from Crosswind
by Grigoris Chronis at 30 May 2009, 7:26 PM

CROSSWIND have already released a couple of self-financed EPs and fans of traditional Heavy/Power Metal music can surely keep an eye on them, since - apart from being rather well worked - their music making is rather remarkable; Kyriakos Vasdokas explains to us what the band's motives are while he speaks the clear truth regarding the record label 'haunting' tight spots plus the benefits of the proper use of keyboards in a Metal song…

Interview with: Kyriakos Vasdokas from CROSSWIND

Kyriakos, hello from!

Hello from the rainy countryside of North Wales!

Let's start by saying that both CROSSWIND's so far releases - Beyond (2008) and Opposing Forces (2009)- sound like nothing less than brilliant. Wondering how the hell this kind of Metal music's shaped by a 'rookie' band, I had the chance to read at your MySpace page that the CROSSWIND roots go back to the mid-90s, right? What was like in the first years, and who- from today's lineup- was behind CROSSWIND's formation?

Yup, this whole thing started sometime in ' 95-' 96 . I looked for other kids to play with (haha) through the usual Metal Hammer ads and thankfully got in touch with a bunch of guys that were into the same sort of thing. After the initial period of changing members and trying to forge a relatively solid line up we set off to create music. It was definitely cool during the first years mainly due to the fact that this whole playing electric and being LOUD thing was really exhilarating for 15-16 year-olds. We definitely had some good times back then and hopefully made some decent music for our age and circumstances along the way…

The only member of the- then - lineup that is in today's CROSSWIND- apart from myself - is our drummer Vasilis Mitsaris.

Did your big break have to do with the 'traditional' army obligations Greek Metal bands have to suffer? Or other factors, too, judged on CROSSWIND going on hiatus for a while?

No, not really…most of the- then - lineup had lost interest as soon as we finished recording the Dark Omens demo in ' 98-' 99. So it was kinda difficult grinding on with people that stopped being as passionate. And if you couple that with the fact that I was planning on leaving to Scotland for University later that year, I guess Game Over was written in pretty big letters on the wall for CROSSWIND back then.

What was the main motive for the band to rise from its ashes? Some better timing, maybe? Some clearer vision?

The only motive was to play Heavy metal as best as we possibly could. I never really stopped writing music and wanting to record and play. Through sheer luck we met again with our drummer Vasilis in 2005 - something like 5-6 years after disbanding the first incarnation of CROSSWIND - and over beer and Metal decided to give this another go at 110% of our ability, just for the love- and the hell - of it…Having said that, I don't really consider CROSSWIND of now as a reborn version of the CROSSWIND of Dark Omens. Back then we were just a group of guys learning stuff, trying their best, walking in the dark. CROSSWIND from 2005 onwards are a much different band, with clear intentions and direction and sky-high standards compared to the first period.

CROSSWIND features Greek members but is United Kingdom/Greece based, right? Who's where and how easy/difficult is it to shape the band's music by distance? Should we ask 'bout gig possibilities, too?

Yes, that's correct. Leon T. and myself live in the U.K, whereas Vasilis Kyrkos (bass) and Vasilis Mitsaris (drums) live in Greece.

As far as writing is concerned, distance is really of no consequence since I write 90% of the material and the rest is through collaborating with Leon. We meet up often to exchange ideas so it works fine.

What distance makes extremely difficult- for the time being, at least - is rehearsing live versions of the songs and of course gigging. The 4 of us have a chemistry of years in the way we work so we can manage the peculiarities of our situation. However in order to present our material live properly and not in a half arced way, we'd have to find a third guitarist and a keys-backing vocals guy that would be able to keep up with the material at hand and be willing to work independently to a professional standard…We are working on a solution to that though, so stay tuned…

Currently in search of a label to ink deal with, what kind of a label would you prefer working with? Some huge label not spending too much time on your promotion/support (but you'd have the label logo shining on everything you do) or a minor one focusing on you as a prime act (but not having the appropriate experience/links/budget to fully support you)?

That's the perennial dilemma of every band, isn't it? I don't really know, to be honest. We are indeed approaching major labels out there to gauge their interest, and a few smaller indie labels have already approached us. However we are definitely not willing to sign a contract just to be a signed band whatever that means. We are looking for a label that would be willing and able to invest in this band more than we on our own do, on all levels. If we don't find a label that is willing to take a risk on us then we have no problem whatsoever keeping this underground and doing our own releases on our own terms for the people that enjoy and support our work.

So I guess the short answer to the question is that we would prefer working with a label that believes in our work and can do more to improve this band that what we already do, may it be a smaller label or a major one.

If a heavy/power/epic Metal warrior listens to both of your demo EPs he'll probably conclude these are 100% professional efforts from a 'rising star'. Yes, I'm talking 'bout the wonderful production and- the main dish- the striking music itself. How conscious are you regarding your own band's music quality?

That's absolutely our intention, many thanks for acknowledging that! The quality component of our releases is an absolute priority. I hear many underground bands that in spite of having excellent music, shoot themselves in the foot by settling for bad production, arrangements that work live but sound poor in the studio etc…We really do strive to have the best possible production and overall package that our means can provide.

Your blend carries influence from both the European/Mediterranean Metal standards but also the American Metal patterns. Thus, it bears the in-your-face attitude mixed with some more 'epic' attributes that- to sum it up- build some rather solid CROSSWIND sounds. The vocals, the guitar themes, the rhythm section…everything's surrounded by some fine self-discipline, without yet ending up sounding flat and 'digitalized', something that- why not?- is rarely seen in bands of today's Metal music. Who's in charge of the songwriting (riffs, leads, harmonies, melodies)?

Thanks for your kind comments; I'm glad you feel that way! I am the one to blame for most of CROSSWIND's songs and arrangements, with the help of Leon in some songs like Virtue & Malice - from Beyond - and a couple more unreleased for the time being songs.

You seem to equally focus on the lyrics themes, too, in your songs (currently bringing 300 and Nephilim Rising to mind). Who's in charge of the lyrics? What kind of themes do you prefer dealing with? Are there times that lyrics come first and music is then laid allover?

I'm also responsible for all the lyrics and I do try to keep them interesting and hopefully meaningful. I usually prefer dealing with real issues veiled in allegorical imagery and themes. Victory through adversity, conspiracy, world issues are all themes that interest me and are reflected in CROSSWIND's lyrics.

Music ALWAYS comes first, I usually have the bare bones of a song on guitar, verses, choruses, breaks etc…and when I get to the point of writing the vocal lines and lyrics, I usually hum over the backings until melodic themes emerge and words start falling into place.

The use of keyboards is no longer controversial in Metal music. Do you think that the atmosphere created by the keys use would not be easy to be developed by guitars/guitar synths? Thankfully- even if there are enough common things with Italian bands- CROSSWIND seems capable of using keyboards as a means and to some extend.

I think that the overall ambience and atmosphere created by a multi-timbral choir through keys can in no way be duplicated by any of the traditional Rock instruments. It adds a whole new element to our sound, which although not so prominent is for sure an integral part of our overall sound's identity. I think it adds to the heaviness rather than detract from it.

Not blowing smoke by saying that, a new album should be in the making as we speak, right? Based on the feedback you already have, are you energetic enough to go for the big deal now? Are you working on some new music?

Absolutely! We are 100% ready for anything right now. We have a ton of new ideas and a few more new songs complete ready for recording.

Are you tired- at times- working and working for the band and not being paid back with some wider recognition or label interest? What kind of impact does the opinion of a single Metal fan have in CROSSWIND's further motives?

Extremely tired at times yes, because it's extremely hard work writing for, recording and producing your band. But not because there is little pay back. We do this thing because we love it, and will be doing it no matter what. The fact that people have really embraced and supported Beyond and Opposing Forces was - to be honest - a major surprise.

As far as the opinion of a single Metal fan is concerned, I can definitely say that it has no impact whatsoever to our motives, those are pretty much set in stone and would not be affected by anything good or bad. What it does however has a tremendous impact on, is how we feel about what we do and how higher our own standards go for our future work. A short email of support after somebody listens to our stuff makes all the hard work seem worth it just because the end product touched somebody in a positive way. A word of encouragement really does make us want to excel, top our previous efforts completely.

 'Updating' the band's music to some more mainstream/modern paths would be an option for the future, in order to attract a wider spectrum of listeners? On the other hand, how 'true' is to see bands playing the same old, same old in order to ensure their fan base will not go? Are- eventually- fans that set the rules in most bands' whereabouts?

Updating? Mainstream? Does not compute…!!! No really, no fucking way. We play what we want to play and if our listeners are much less than what they could have been if we played something that we did not actually care for then so fucking be it. Metal is not a career, it is supposed to be a labour of love and we really are hell bent on keeping it that way.

As far as the second part of your question is concerned, it is my opinion that the bands you describe are by definition not true. If they play the music they play with the ulterior motive of creating or maintaining a fanbase, without having a love for what they play, then fuck it, just go home. If on the other hand they play the same old with a real love for it, then I cannot do anything else but respect it, even if I don't like it.

I don't think I agree that fans should be held responsible for a band's trajectory.  They might be for bands that chase commercial success instead of concentrating on the music. You see bands all the time augmenting their style to take on elements from bands that are trendy at that point in time, that's just false in my opinion and detrimental for the band in the long run.

What are the possibilities to see CROSSWIND onstage, in Greece/UK or anywhere else?

Right now and until I get settled in the UK for good, chances are pretty slim. We are working hard at going live at some point cause there's both a keen interest from people and promoters in Greece and the UK, as well as a huge desire from us.

Are you in fond of- or opposed to- the 70s/80s legendary Rock/Metal bands still playing around with- many times- offering nothing more that some memorabilia moment for the fans? Do you think that newer bands do not have the space to develop and promote their own music?

I'm pretty damn fond of it, I must say! All the great big bands of the 70s/80s come from an era that Rock and Metal were king and still hold a huge fanbase throughout the demographic. It's not like they are stealing a younger band's thunder or anything. For example, do you think that if AC/DC stopped playing their huge ass shows, there would magically be a younger band ready to fill in their shoes? No Way…younger bands will never have the opportunity to become as big as the old-school bands for a multitude of reasons, so we might as well enjoy a glimpse of an era when the music we love was IT!

Kyriakos, thanks a lot for this brief talk. Really hope we'll be listening more and more 'bout CROSSWIND in the near future, since you surely deserve so.

Thank you Greg for having us on Metal Temple, and many thanks for your wishes. All the best!


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