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Marios Iliopoulos (Nightrage)

Interview with Marios Iliopoulos from Nightrage
by David "Hanshi" Campbell at 26 April 2015, 10:10 PM

NIGHTRAGE is a Melodic Death Metal band, formed in the year 2000. Originally from Greece, they relocated to Sweden. They have long been a staple in this genre. The band has released six full-length studio albums to date, with the newest entitled “The Puritan” in 2015. Dave was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with guitarist Marios Iliopoulos to talk with him about the band and the new album.

Hi, Marios and thank you for your time! You formed the band Nightrage with former Firewind and current Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Gus G in 2000. How did the two of you meet and come together? What had you been involved in musically prior to this meeting?

Thanks for the chance to talk about our new album “The Puritan”. I was playing with my old melodic death metal band Exhumation from Greece before I met Gus, and all of a sudden I heard about this new kid on town that could play circles around any other guitar player. In the end, I found out that he was a big fan of my band Exhumation and he also thought that we are a foreign band because we had released our albums on foreign labels like Die Hard and Holy Records. So that’s how we met and we got to be blood brothers in the end. After Exhumation split up, we started Nightrage together in Thessaloniki. Like I said previously, before we met with Gus, I had this Greek band Exhumation that we have released 3 full length albums and we have recorded all the albums in Sweden at Unisound Studios with Dan Swano and Fredman studios with Fredrik Nordstrom. So I guess that band was the link that brought me to move to Sweden and also meet Gus and started Nightrage together.

What bands did you listen to growing up and what bands do you feel most influenced your sound in Nightrage?

I was listening to all the great metal bands of the ‘80s like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Mercyful Fate and Venom. And also it happens that those same bands are my main influences anyway. Bands like Testament and Pantera who never compromised for popularity and they stay true to their sound. I feel that as a band we have a wide range of influences of metal music. We are trying to always have an original sound and bring up our musical ideas without repeating other successful bands.

What sound were you most trying to accomplish when you formed the band? How do you all approach the lyric composition and songwriting?

I was really angry at that time, my old band members they have let me down so badly, and I was determined to show them that they were wrong about me. So the songs and the lyrics were driven by this passion, almost hatred and vengeance of mine. And for me the only thing that matters was recording that first album “Sweet Vengeance.” That was a promise that I made to myself and I was determined to make it happen no matter what. So the songwriting on that first album, as I can see it now was very personal, because I didn’t really pay attention to mimic any other successful band’s sound. But I wanted to please myself, and fulfill that only promise. I think that I have created very honest songs with venomous lyrical themes, talking about the rotten human society and what kind of fucked up world we are living in. All those feelings of pain and desperation forced me to make the beginning of Nightrage, and sometimes that is what still drives me today to carry on.

You have gone through a lot of line-up changes over the years. Tell me how you were able to hold it all together and how your vision kept the band alive. When and why did the band eventually relocate to Sweden?

Yeah you are right, we have been something like a hotel right? First of all, if it was up to me I would love to have the same line up forever, but it’s not working like that anymore. Nobody wants to follow your dream anymore and people are looking for chances to make it in the business. I´m unlucky that I put a lot of parasites and snakes in this band in the past, and unfortunately their only concern was to get famous, get laid and make a lot of money. So for those kinds of people, it’s easy to let you down because they are unethical and they are looking for fame, rather musical creativity and connection. I also have to blame myself a bit because I have trusted those people and gave them the opportunity to be in the band, but anyways I feel now we are in a much better position with our line up now and I´m very happy with our new singer Ronnie Nyman, and our long time bassist Anders Hammer. I still hold the Nightrage idea because I really love this band and I didn’t want it to see it gone for the wrong reasons, my passion and my focus working hard was the main reason to keep the band alive. The reason to get back to Sweden in 2012 was due to some personal issues that I had, and the fact that I have found a new home in Sweden, and I wanted to give Nightrage another chance to continue its musical journey. I feel that we have a lot to give in the melodic death metal sound, and also the support from the fans and the people that love Nightrage is something that always gives us courage and strength to carry on no matter what.

I have found that the Melodic Death Metal genre is very wide, in that some bands are closer to the Melodic side, while other bands are mostly on the Death side. I have always found your sound to be both unique and consistent, which is why I have been a fan for a long time. Where do you feel Nightrage fits within this genre? How do you feel your sound has both changed and stayed the same since you first released an album?

Yeah that’s a good point right there, I feel as a band we are somewhere in the middle since we are lovers of the brutality, and also the ethereal melodies and the great hooks, without sounding too modern I guess. We are lovers of the vintage melodic death metal, and we feel as a band that we are following this demanding, and exciting at the same time, musical path. I get a bit mad when bands are trying to change just for the sake of it, because they are bored or they feel that they will never make it if they continue to play music that they really feel. For us, we don’t give a shit about stuff like that, we are following the same musical path, and we are always trying to deliver the best music we can. I think from the first album to “The Puritan,” now you can sense a great evolution on our sound, not maybe too obvious, but we are trying now to write way more simplistic songs that the fans can understand better, and we love feeling more than complex arrangements. I think that we are still carrying this flag that says melodic death metal, and we don’t want to let down ourselves and our fans. We are not of these kinds of bands, that they are ashamed to call themselves a metal band, in fact we are very proud of that. So in that sense we are still doing what we have started, only now we are way more experienced, and we have found our personal sound that we always trying to improve it and get better. Plus this new line up it feels that it’s so awesome, we have a great chemistry, and for the first time ever, I have some great support and cooperation within this band, and also outside with our new label Despotz Records.

When it comes to singers, who are some of your personal favorites, both in the clean style and the death style? How about bands in general…what do you find yourself listening to these days besides of course Nightrage?

I love of course all the great singers like Ronnie James Dio, Ozzy, David Coverdale, Lemmy, James Hetfield, and also Chuck Shouldiner, Phil Anselmo, Rob Halford, too many to mention here haha. About bands all the great ‘80s metal bands will make it for me. Of course I´m listening to newer bands as well. Well I´m not too picky I can hooked up with any kind of band as long as they are honest, believe and they stand 100% for their music. I`m listening to anything new nowadays like Omnium Gatherum, Always War, Gus G, Firewind, there’s so much awesome stuff out there, you just need to have your ears open and search and listen to some great music.

Your new album “The Puritan” comes out April 24. How satisfied are you with the new album? What tracks are your favorites and why? How is the album both similar and different from past releases?

Yeah, we are really excited with the new album and we can’t wait to get it out for the fans to listen to it and embrace it. We love the sound and also the new songs and we hope that the people will get our new musical message. I love all the songs on the “The Puritan” but if you want some specific, I think the title track “The Puritan” is a great example of our new musical evolution. Also “Son Of Sorrow” is really heavy and groovy at the same time, and the instrumental song “Lone Lake” is one of the best calmer moments of our history as a band. I think this time we are very focused. Compared to the past albums, we have shifted the focus on the music, rather in big names, that personally don’t say anything to me anyway. We are surer about ourselves, we have left behind all the dark times and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We can see and feel the great times and the great passion that we have in front of us, and we are ready to share it with the entire world. We are here to stay and Nightrage will carry on, because this band above all, is an idea of staying true to yourself and to your beloved followers, and those people we respect most of all.

What are your plans for when the album is released? Have any tour or festival dates been line up? Where can fans buy the new album?

Yeah we have a lot touring plans right now, nothing confirmed though. We are working for an Asian/Australian tour, European tour, North/South America tour and also some mini Swedish and Greek tours as well. We hope and we want to play as much as possible and get out there and share the new songs with all our great fans that they are waiting to see us play.

What do you find is the hardest part of the music industry? Conversely, what do you most enjoy about being a musician and signed to a record label?

I hate fake people, fake promises, bad shows, let downers, phony band members and the list is endless I could write a book of the bad shit that I have been through. Maybe one day haha, that could sell actually. Yeah it’s kind of annoying sometimes to have to deal with stuff like that in the music business, but that’s part of the game and you need to live with that. The only thing that nobody can take away from you is the music itself and that’s the main reason for me still doing what I’m doing this. It’s the love for the music and my passion to keep getting better and sharing our music out there, also the connection that we had with our fans is an amazing feeling. It’s difficult to describe but it’s always there and it drives you and make you want to be better and the best reward is that, the love that we get from them makes us who we are. Because without our fans we wouldn’t keep it up. I love the fact to be creative and have a great connection with our fans and a great collaboration with our label and those two things we have now.

Where do you see Heavy Metal in general headed into the future? What trends and directions do you hear these days? Have you noticed any difference in your fan base since the early days of the band?

I think metal is a worldwide phenomenon and it will hardly die, there´s always going to be this new band, these new people that will get excited to carry on the metal flag and get creative with it. Music in general is so amazingly powerful and the feelings and emotions you get by listening to great music are mind-blowing. I think I can see that the melodic death metal style is getting back slowly with the return of At The Gates and Carcass that they have released new albums, and we want also to be a part of that and give our best. I think we are getting new fans with “The Puritan” due to the great promotion that our label Despotz records is doing now, and also we need to get out there and start to play a lot of shows to keep this new momentum. So the best is yet to come.

What would be your dream tour Marios, in terms of other bands that you could share the bill with?

That’s a good one…let me think maybe daydream a bit haha. I would love to open for Ozzy, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Testament, a bill like that would be awesome, of course. I can still daydream, but I love those bands and it would be an honor for us to get to open for them.

What interests and skills do you have outside of music? Did you ever consider doing anything other than music in your life?

Well music is my thing. I have of course worked so many different jobs so far. I mean I´m not lazy, I like to keep myself busy with other things as well, but this particular time in my life I have dedicated to Nightrage only. I have never actually thought quitting music and I´m not sure what I would have done if that was the case. Maybe working in a job that I would hate or something with some weird people around me hahaha.

What’s the biggest thing you had to give up for your career, and would you make the same choice over again if you had the chance?

That was my country Greece and my town Thessaloniki, my family, my good friends around, my old good job as a clerk in a music store. Too much stuff here, but yeah, I would definitely make the same choice once again, because you live only once and if you don’t risk for your dreams, then you just make yourself a miserable person. I feel that you have to be bold and brave and risk everything for the things that you love and make you happy. Life is hard, but Nightrage is harder. Thanks for this great interview and hope your readers will love our new album “The Puritan” and give us a chance. Can’t wait to see you all out there at our shows. Be well and metal on. And go and buy our new album.


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