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Tales Of The Old's Mike Tzanakis: "It certainly crossed my mind to start with another name, but if I did something like that I would not be fair and honest with myself and the people who followed us on social media…"

Interview with Mike Tzanakis from Tales Of The Old
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 15 September 2021, 1:50 PM

The endless battle between good and evil, to be put into a theatrical form of Metal music, to covey a version of story in such a way to make it special, emotive, challenging the listener in a way that perhaps other releases couldn't. Whether instrumentation, voices or a simple atmospheric touch, everything was implemented in order to forge a different kind of experience, to escape the normality. Mike Tzanakis, creator and founder of Tales Of The Old, returned to the scene after a decade with a promising release, “The Book Of Chaos”, a threshold into a new universe. Steinmetal had to find out more.

Hello Mike, it is good to have you for this conversation for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing?

Hello! I am fine. Thanks for asking.

It has been almost two years since this pandemic struck the world, the ability to sustain an ongoing cultural life denied. I know that in Greece it had, and still having in a way, quite an impact. How do you summarize this timeframe in human history? From where you are sitting, is there an end in sight?

Certainly the pandemic hit the cultural life not only in Greece, but also the whole world … How could it be done differently? The moments we lived in, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, were unprecedented, taken from a science fiction movie. The health, the economy, the cohesion of the society, the patience, the endurance and the faith of each of us individually, were tested in the most brutal way … This period will surely remain deeply engraved in the memory of all of us for many years. But I want to believe that in the end we will overcome it and we will come out stronger and united from all this chaos soon.

It was quite a surprise for me to find out that Tales Of The Old has been running for the past eleven years. Certainly not a newcomer, yet it had its stops here and there. Let’s go back a bit to the initiation of this band, or perhaps a musical project, you have been taken by a darkened form of fantasy, along with history, and portrayed your material based upon it. I wonder, what is that magic that you find within this form of darkness?

On this occasion, let me make a parenthesis and say that we are essentially and feel like a new band. With a demo that was never really promoted, an EP in a limited self-funded 100-track copy and the cessation of the band's activities just after, with an officially release of the first album under completely different compositions after almost 10 years, I don't think that make us an experienced band… It certainly crossed my mind to start with another name, but if I did something like that I would not be fair and honest with myself and the people who followed us on social media and did not stop supporting us until our comeback.

To come now to your question, about the music and in general the overall image of the album that has a strong dark and aggressive color I will add … I will tell you that in general I am a person who likes the dark harmonies in music and aesthetics in general of fantasy movies I like to watch. So, being a fan of literary books of a similar style, you understand that I could not but be influenced. The magic is not so much in the style and atmosphere of the album as in trying to create a sound as different as possible … Something that I know is a double-edged sword, as our music and sound in general is not what fans of power metal used to listen, whether we like it or not …

In your perspective, how does this endless struggle between what is good and what is evil is mixed with historical events of the Dark Ages? Being good or evil isn’t a matter of opinion, depending on who you are asking?

Good and evil are subjective. The point of view everyone sees and christens their actions, it's not … For example, something that is topical … There were some complaints that many tried or bought a bed in the intensive care unit … If you ask the person who did it he will tell you it is not bad because in fact he was not given something free, he paid the price. If you ask someone else who is waiting for days to be treated, he will tell you that this is bad and that we should all have equal rights to health, something that I completely agree with. Objectively it is a bad, unjust act, but these two people perceive it completely differently. Everyone from his own point of view.

When it comes to the nature of man, in relation to Good Vs Evil, it has been said that we, mankind, are evil by nature. Do you agree with that saying? If so, where is the good coming from exactly?

No, I completely disagree with that. Not every human being is born bad. Surely each of us has his good and bad side … But how he acts is purely a matter of choices, which can be influenced by the environment in which he grows up, lives and breathes. One may not even have the tendency to do harm but if circumstances force one to do so. For example, in case of defense.

Heading back to Tales Of The Old, you found yourself, at the peak of creation, back in 2012, working with Bob Katsionis, who is also a very nice person other than pure professional, and then a kind of downfall. What caused Tales Of The Old to vanish from the face of music back then?

As far as I am concerned, some serious personal and family health issues which allow me not to mention for favorable reasons … As for the other members, each one for his own different reasons. But we do not put it down, we look ahead and do the best we can for ourselves, our families and our fellow human beings.

What motivated you to revive your past efforts and start over the band? What were your main inspirations to get back into re-creating your vision?

After this really long and difficult period for me, I needed to get out of all this situation I was in, and music was the most appropriate and healthiest way to do it. I felt that from the moment the record was already composed I had to finish it, just as I imagined it … The first thing I did for myself after a very long time. This album for me is more than a release … I can say that music and writing were what kept me alive.

It is evident that your debut album, “The Book Of Chaos”, set to be released by your new label, Pride & Joy Music, has been a process of years, since when it has been in the works? Weren’t there complications with the pandemic, or was it you solely working?

The album was fortunately completed long before the pandemic broke out. So we had no issue with it. I was really lucky about it, because otherwise I do not know how the album could have been completed.

What can you tell about the narrative that makes “The Book Of Chaos”? Is it a conceptual album?

Yes, the album is conceptual, based on a fantasy book I am writing at the same time. All the tracks are part of a fantastic story… Something that I believe is perceived at one point by the content of the lyrics and the series of the songs. Even the atmosphere, the vocal arrangements, everything are moving around the story and its main heroes.

When it comes to the messages that you are trying to convey through the album, what can you share about them, if there are messages of such nature of course? If there aren’t, is “The Book Of Chaos” a purpose to pinpoint issues of the present that are at hand?

Every word that exists in the album exists for a reason… Every track and its atmosphere serve the narration of a larger story with deeper allegorical meanings … There are more meanings that can someone imagine. It's not just some lyrics based on a fantasy story … The eternal battle between good and evil is of course something that is clearly highlighted through the album, but it does not stay there, it deals with many other different messages, putting the listener through these fantasy stories to be troubled, to search, to understand and why not to identify and find his own special place through them.

Tales Of The Old has been surrounding the Symphonic Metal label, nonetheless, it wouldn’t be accurate to refer to this band as such. “The Book Of Chaos” delivers full blown diversity, sinking its teeth in both Gothic and Doom features, yet also slices of extremity for good measure. What do you make of this bowling of soup? How do you find your development as a musician while working on this album?

The truth is that I treated each track as a separate chapter, creating the atmosphere and the feeling I wanted to come out in each of them separately … The basis is always the Symphonic Power with dark and aggressive harmonies, but it does not mean that I will exclude and other elements as you very aptly mention (gothic and doom) when the song and the lyrics demand it. Of course, always trying to keep a coherence and consistency in all the album. I am sure that in the next albums I will be able to unfold to a greater extent the vision for the music that I dream of serving.

After all these years of writing music, do you believe that the songwriting of “The Book Of Chaos” drained you to the point where you said to yourself that you needed a short break to recuperate?

Not at all, the fact that I abstained from music all these years does not mean that I stopped writing and composing … There is more than enough material ready, waiting locked in a drawer of my office … Besides as I mentioned and above it is and it is still my healthy way out. I do not write to become a superstar, to make money or anything else, I write and compose purely for the art … The easiest thing for me would be to step on the classic and saturated 90's power metal recipe, but it would be something I could never do, as it would not be something that would represent or express me, and the reasons I write music …

Something that I think is something more than obvious, from the way I manage the whole situation. Definitely it is my first album and I do not have crazy expectations… I know very well that the sound of the album and the whole structure is not the most commercial out there. Now if I manage to reach at least 10-20 people, who, why not they will identify with the feeling and atmosphere of our music, then I personally will be really happy.

Talking about songwriting, how did this album challenge you as a songwriter? What kind of new methods did you try out in order to come up with songs that are unique?

I always start from the story, through which the lyrics of the songs come from … Then, depending on the content of the lyrics, I compose the music of each song, trying to capture as much as possible the feeling and the atmosphere that I feel best expresses the song. I certainly do not stand and I am not afraid to step on different and much less known harmonies. The structure of the tracks is not the classic and standard one, but different and unpredictable … Through this process I am looking to find my own personal sound and aesthetics. Now if the result is unique I cannot say for sure, but for what I am sure is that it is at least different and I will dare to say a little fresher.

One of the album’s strongest qualities is the theatrics, naturally portrayed by the vocals, bringing to life the stories of each of the songs right into the listener’s ears. It appears that each vocalist has its role. First, are there such roles, are there characters that these singers made as their own identity on the record?

Just like you said it, every singer has his own special role and purpose, which is nothing more than to serve each song accordingly. That was the reason why I stood so much in the interpretation and the arrangement of the voices.

Second, what can you tell in regards to the arrangements and the production of the vocal parts? How did you know which vocalist, Sakis Tolis, Fabio Lione and of course the other vocal participants, to fit into which song?

Certainly when I was writing and composing the album I had in mind some voices which I thought would be the most suitable for the album … But when the music was now recorded everything was easier for me. I was sure of how I would like the last but also important part of the album to evolve and complete … The recording of the vocals … Let's not forget that no matter how hard you try to create the right atmosphere for a song, the voice is the one that will convey the message to the listener … Without wanting to reduce the effort and performance of any organ player of course.

When you sit down and listen to the album in its entirety, how does it make you feel? Is there a measure of mystery, perhaps even fear? What other experiences can you share in regards to a listening session?

Let me separate them into the side of the creator and the side of listener. As a creator I am definitely satisfied and relieved that I finally managed to complete this album … I know that for some it is just a matter of routine or something that is a necessary evil … For me it was a dream come true… From the listener's point of view, I am overwhelmed by the feeling of terror, fear, anger, rage and betrayal. I will add the mystery, but also the despair, to complete the answer to your question with the feeling of haunting and chilling, with a fairytale dose. I believe that the image and in general all the editing of the artwork leads the listener to these paths before he even listens to the album.

Production wise, how would you describe the work with Bob Katsionis on producing such an album? What is your appreciation of the band’s sound?

Our cooperation was absolutely great. After all, my statement in the biography of the band leaves no room for doubt. As for the sound of the band, I will only tell you how I intend to continue on the path set by our first album, with all that entails … A path unknown, dark, certainly not the most commercial, but at same time interesting and fascinating … I really want as a musician and creator to explore and discover new ways of creation and expression, as much as possible.

We have been tangling between calling this venture a band or a project, therefore I ask you, is Tales Of The Old an actual band, also live, that is bound to take on stages or is it to remain a studio thing?

The plan is Tales of the Old one day to present their music live. If not in the near future, some time in the future for sure. Now if this will be done with a permanent line up or with just a live line up I do not know it. What is certain is that live performances is in our plans.

Looking forward into the remainder of the year, or even 2022, do you see yourself working on the sophomore record? If the work has already started, can you share a little info?

If all goes well, we will start recording for the next album in 2022. All I can say for now is that it will be dark, aggressive, heavier and with many guest musicians.

Mike, many thanks for the experience of getting to know Tales Of The Old, I am glad that you came back with new music and finally released your debut. I wish you all the best. Cheers

Thank you very much for all, Lior! My best wishes and greetings to you!


 



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