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Phase Reverse's John Chief Stergiou: "We declare our opposition to fascism experienced by millions of people around the world and openly call for self-criticism and general reaction. We are blessed to be able to do it through our music."

Interview with John Chief Stergiou from Phase Reverse
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 06 December 2020, 9:33 PM

Even all was said and done, why the hell not do it again and again?  To show that nothing is forgotten, nothing is forgiven, history will be the judge and the hell with all the oppressors. Life has been a mess for a lot of people in the past year, some would say a cursed year due the pandemic, therefore, there is no proper time than the present to unleash what the heart bleeds, what it aches for. The Greek Modern Metallers, Phase Reverse, have been on the rise when it comes to the terrible offerings of everyday life, knowing where to point the fingers and come against what shakes the social order. Their new album, "Phase IV: Genocide", takes a tighter form of music that has various faces, and with a toughened approach in regards to the stories it shares. Steinmetal had the pleasure to talk to John Chief Stergiou of the band about the new record, his perception of the situation at hand in the country, life and more…

Hello John, it is great to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir? I guess that these are quite the troubled times in Greece at the moment right?

Hello Lior, thank you for the honor. I’m fine and so are my bandmates. Things are difficult not only in Greece but everywhere in the world. The problems caused by Covid-19 during this year, will surely affect us for the years to come, in many ways.

How have you been dealing with the damages of the Covid-19 pandemic that their effects are bound to remain even after the pandemic will be out of our lives?

It’s not easy at all. Artists especially suffered the most, professionally and financially. I’ve witnessed many musicians selling their instruments or their gear in order to survive… This fight against the pandemic is not only causing some people to suffer or even die, but also pushing millions of others into poverty. During this pandemic, human rights seem to be violated all over the world, because of the containment measures that most of the governments decided to impose. A new world order is upon us and our reaction is imperative. Surely, the day after this whole thing ends, the world will not be the same. We should never lose our faith to humanity though. Hope dies last.

What do you think of all these news flashes regarding supposed vaccinations for the pandemic? Do you believe that it is too early to conclude anything and the media merely boasts about it?

The media has always been guided by the respective governments. Especially in Greece or wherever there is no democracy. If you watch Deutsche Welle, Reuters, CNN and BBC you will be informed that Greece is now in the 1st place in terms of death rate due to Covid-19. If you watch the Greek TV channels you will be informed that the Greek government has no responsibility for the virus spread, on the contrary, they managed to successfully manage the crisis.

We try to be informed by as many sources as possible in order to have a global view of things. If you think about it, we are all told about a virus that somehow “escaped” from a laboratory and has become a pandemic although death rates are lower than those of a common flu.  However, many countries have imposed curfews and restrictions to prevent the virus transmission. We read that a lot of pharmaceutical companies created a vaccine. We read that the vaccines will not be mandatory. However, you will probably not be able to travel, send children to school, watch a concert etc. These are the facts we read. The vaccines may be a solution for the virus treatment (we will find out sooner or later). However, the management of this whole crisis has created poverty and misery to the majority of people worldwide. We even heard of suicides due to the pandemic. It’s obvious that the virus is the excuse for the real purpose of governments. To shrink the democratic space by the implementation of repressive measures against all human rights defenders. This virus will probably disappear when people’s voices stop demanding justice.

And here Phase Reverse crosses the threshold and reaches the ultimate “Phase IV: Genocide”, with no holds barred this time around, do you believe that you guys reached the boiling point philosophically?

We always try to express our truth. Truth of course is relevant and subjective. In this album we tried to be raw and realistic. This is the way for us. No, we don’t think that we actually reached the boiling point philosophically. We believe though that to reach a high level spiritually you must return to your roots. Nevertheless, we are lucky to be born in a country where Philosophy was born and taught in our native language. We are unlucky though to live in the same country where the “leaders” expelled all the philosophers… and watch history repeat itself…

With what has been happening worldwide, along with the social order’s status that wasn’t that positive prior to the pandemic, you guys add more fuel to the fire with direct, and hard, offensive on those who make our lives tough, and even a living hell at times. What do you believe that is stated through the lines of “Phase IV: Genocide” that hasn’t been said already?

There were times that we were skeptical about the offensiveness of the lyrics. The reality though was so hard that we didn’t regret it at all. We declare our opposition to fascism experienced by millions of people around the world and openly call for self-criticism and general reaction. We are blessed to be able to do it through our music. Art is always stronger than violence. They can fight violence with more violence. They cannot fight art. As long as we can, we will stay loud. Of course we are not the only band in the world that states the obvious. Of course many of the things we say today were said before. We just choose to belong to the ones that react through art, urging listeners to think and not the ones that use art to satisfy their selfishness, writing songs about stupid things. Our songs are the way we fight and the fight is not over until justice prevails.

Talking about what has been said by others for years, merely the criticism and protest, do you believe that anyone listens? If not, what is the motivation to continue with the same ideas and notions time and time again, perhaps the assumption is that one day someone would act upon and start thinking about reformations?

If there is 1% who control the world and 4% who serve the 1% as their puppets (Politicians, media, Police, Army, etc.) then there is 95% who can react.  4% aim to keep 95% asleep, through fake news, TV junk or in extreme situations even terrorism, etc. We belong to the 95% of people who want to stay awake and as long as there are homeless, war refugees, innocents murdered or imprisoned, as long as they (1%) destroy the planet and create genocides, we can’t stay silent. It is a humanitarian act and it motivates us to make music and become better people. Trying to change ourselves we hope we can help others do the same. The more we are, the more we bother. We place our hopes in the new generation that can make a change. This is our inspiration.  We are not inspired by fairy tales and dragons…

Personally, in light of the uneasiness of the times, what do you believe in? What makes you pissed off that makes you outraged and restless?

Diogenes the Cynic, the Ancient Greek philosopher once was talking to a statue asking for alms. When he was asked why he talked to a statue he responded “I practice not being frustrated by people's anesthesia”. How can people sleep peacefully when they know that someone next to them is dying or does not have access to basic goods such as food, water, shelter, health and education? In my opinion this is the greatest problem of mankind.

In your opinion, lyrically, what is the peak moment of “Phase IV: Genocide”? Where do you truly find yourself on the record?

I would just mention this verse:

The sun that rises above us
was meant to shine for all
You wanted me to be free
but took away my hope

Do you think that there is a way out of this? Will people start to actually think of what is slowing them down the path to fulfillment?

As I mentioned before we base our hopes on the new generations to succeed where we failed. We had to change ourselves because we grew up in a different world. The new generations are smart enough to change the world.

It was my first time listening to Phase Reverse, I have to say that for modern driven Metal band that has been surrounding the 90s, “Phase IV: Genocide” turned out to be quite varied and articulate. It is groovy and heavy, yet it has depth and plenty of emotional distress that is undeniable. In your viewpoint, how do you find the band’s progress musically with this record?

A professional musician always evolves technically or mentally. However, we never hid our love for blues music. Based on the pentatonic scale it is difficult to make music that stands out, even though pentatonic music is the music of the soul and this is why we love it. In this album we managed to enrich our harmonies with the two guitars, hence the emotional elements. Not to mention the usage of two great voices. We feel lucky about this and we think that it added more personality to the final outcome.

Would you say that these last four years, the gap between records, gave you enough time to put to work lessons of the past and perhaps learn from experience how to become better?

The last four years actually we had many difficult personal reasons that kept us silent as a band.  Despite that, music kept us busy either performing, producing or teaching. We never set a goal to become better. This is an athlete’s goal. A musician has to get inspired and work on his ideas. We could play any kind of music but we choose to work and evolve on the music we love. Our actual goal though is to make music that talks to the heart. If we are able to make this, then we have a reason to continue making it.

What are the main influences that surrounded the songwriting on “Phase IV: Genocide”? What musical directions through the album’s journey made you tick that kickstarted your energies to write?

The procedure of the songwriting has no timetable. Some of the ideas inside this album may have been written ten years ago. We just gather the ideas and start producing. Our influences may be every great rock and metal band from the 70s, 80s and 90s or even other kinds of music.

The integration between music and lyrics are quite the task, when it comes to “Phase IV: Genocide”, the lyrical concept is strong minded, sometimes extreme. However, the music has its heavier moments, yet also softer touches. In your opinion, was there supposed to be a harsher form of music to fit or rather you wanted to create this contradiction on purpose?

There is a Verse in “Know thy Shit”:
“The only truth is that no one cares
and your point of view nobody shares”

It sounds offensive. The harmonic sequence behind it reveals the sadness that this sentence actually brings out. There are thousands of so-called “influencers” that think they are important. We think we are all important.  Until we realize the opposite. Now if we followed an aggressive sound to go with these lyrics, then we would sound like we want to offend the influencers.

What we actually say is that “freedom of speech” made people search for acceptance trying, through marketing, to promote a person that they are not. This phenomenon leads to psychological disorders or even suicidal tendencies. Hence the emotional harmonic sequence.

On the other hand, there is another verse on “Copy 10-4”:
 “There will be one day you will realize
Laid down and wondering about your demise”

You could assume that this verse is offensive to cops. You would be right.  Hence the aggressive heavy riffing.

You describe the return of your early bass player / vocalist, Tas Ioannidis, as quite an event for the band. However, how Ioannidis’s return affected the end result of “Phase IV: Genocide”? What did you miss most about his presence in the band that you now regained?

Tas is one of the creative members of the band and is a cornerstone in the creation of the character of the band. His return, first of all, makes us happy. What we mostly missed inside the band through the years of his absence, is a good fellow. Without him we kind of change our character a bit. Now we added his dynamic presence as a bass player and a vocalist and we feel full all together again.

The final song of the album, which is also one of the album’s singles, “Martyr Of The Phrase”, a kind of a blend of Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and Crash Test Dummies, has a measure of sorrow. What can you tell about this song's presence on the album and its symbolism? Is there hope coming out of it at the end?

 “Martyr of the Phase” in the end, is a song about life and it’s passing from one stage to another. Where time is relevant or nonexistent, life never ends, and death is just a phase. Heraclitus the Greek philosopher had a quote that described it better than anyone: “Panta Rhei” which means “everything flows”

Taking a tougher turn is “Delete”, certainly a change of scenery in comparison to the previous. Other than the fair speedier approach, the bass line is exquisite and the straightforwardness is decisive. What is your take on this track personally?

This song was created out of a chicken-picking riff I used to play for many years while improvising on stage or even at rehearsals. One day I tried to develop it for fun, or just to see where it could lead. I sent the idea to the guys and they loved it. And there it was! We added the lyrics and the guys at our label loved it so much that they decided to make it a single release and music video. We are looking forward to playing it on stage!

The phenomenon of live streaming became an aspect of the music business nowadays; will you take part in it perhaps in order to promote the album further?

It sounds weird to perform in front of a camera assuming that there are people watching you. It’s probably weird for the audience too I guess. We are not sure yet if we want to do this but we certainly won’t exclude the possibility in the future.

John, it was a fine pleasure to have you, I thank you very much for your input and of course thank you for such an amazing, eye opening album. Cheers.

The pleasure is mine. Thank you for the great conversation not only about the band but also about important life matters.


 



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