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Wonders’s Bob Katsionis: “...simple melodies are the best, yet harder to write sometimes”

Interview with Bob Katsionis from Wonders
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 04 December 2021, 10:09 PM

There is nothing better than keeping oneself busy. A busy bee has a lot going on, always on a lookout for additional projects, envisioning beyond limits and constantly wondering. The musician extraordinaire, Bob Kastionis, nearly saw everything in his life music wise, whether as a musician or a producer. Nonetheless, he never saw Wonders treading on his doorstep. Like a flash, he found a new venture, with people that he already knew, working on new ideas for a Power Metal adventure. The fruit of the group’s labor resulted in “Fragments Of Wonder”, an experience of the European Metal melody that is bound by glory and feels like victory. Steinmetal had to find out more about what Wonders are all about, Katsionis’ perspective of the new album and more… 

Hello Bob, it is an honour of mine to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir?

Hello my friend, all is good here, working on new a bunch of new projects as always like the new Warrior Path and Validor albums and the Vass/Katsionis album for those hungry Fates Warning/Queensryche fans out there, while the debut album of Stray Gods is about to heal the wounds caused by the sword of…Senjutsu!

With being part of various ventures surrounding Metal music as a musician, other than your dealings as a producer, you began a collaboration to form Wonders. What can you tell that are the ideas that stand behind the Wonders moniker?

Well, I can hardly say “no” when it comes to making new music that I like and want to be part of. I knew the Lunesu Bros from the time we worked on their album with Evenflow, their prog-metal project so I kind of knew that I’m dealing with guys with a high level of songwriting and a great sense of melody. So, one day, while working on their second album, they called me up and were like “hey Bob, we don’t want you to record the keyboards for the new album, forget this one, we have an album’s worth of great melodic power metal music and we want you to be a part of it!” You can imagine how much it took me to say “yes”, right?

Since it is a new collaborative story, which gave birth to quite a musical prospect, I have to know, did it just land on you out of the Blue or was it a kind of project waiting to happen?

New music is always waiting to happen in my life, that’s for sure. As I said before, the Lunesu Bros just dropped the bomb on me and “boom” we started working on this project immediately. Initially, It wasn’t part of the deal to be a part of the “band” but since I did a lot of work on the album and that we figured out that it looks better by featuring my name on the title as well, so that’s how “Wonders” was made.

Even as involved as you have been, I bet that the pandemic damaged some of your plans, whether on the studio or live fronts. Would you say that forming Wonders with Even Flow’s Lunesu brothers filled up a certain void in your plans?

Yes and no. It was actually the most busy 2 years’ period of my life, production-wise! Of course, their offer came right in the middle of a lockdown, so this only helped the project to move faster. In fact, I think that it took less than one year from the day they sent me the first demo, to the release day, so…I can’t blame the pandemic for anything.

Prior to consolidating with the Lunesu brothers about the musical vision of Wonders, what went through your mind when you thought about Wonders? What did you miss most in music that you make, and made in the past, that you wished to fulfil in Wonders?

Hmmm interesting question, especially since I have played pretty much everything from Greek pop to extreme black, hahaha! I think that in Wonders I managed to make a perfect 50-50 blend of two of my most important music projects of my career: the power metal of Firewind and the edgy and melodic Hard Rock of Outloud. And I figured this out right after I got the final masters and listening to them in my car!

For the debut album, you guys chose the beautiful, and yet articulate, title, “The Fragments Of Wonder”. Trying to find that crossed path between you guys within this title, it occurred to me in a way that you three might be the fragments, building up together this new foundation. Am I in the right direction here or this is even more on a cosmic level?

Wow, we should hire you for the next album’s title, that’s for sure! I think it’s a bit more cosmic, but we have to ask Marco Pastorino (vocals) for this one!

From what I could tell, going through the tracklist, while also listening to the music, the path taken of the lyrical sense isn’t that hopeful but rather disappointed and dissatisfied with things going on. If that is the case, can you point out a few aspects that inspired you guys to come up with such narratives?

I guess Marco should answer this one, all I know is that I always ready the lyrics and try to get an overall idea before I make an arrangement, so they definitely helped to set the mood for this album.

Alongside the Lunesu brothers, you created a musical entity that is much looser than the latter’s band Even Flow, letting the songwriting reach deep within the listener, without complicating things up. No doubt that the European Power Metal element is there as a main stage, yet also aspects of modern Hard Rock and bits of ample progression. When it comes to your contribution to the effort, how did it come to pass within the songwriting?

It was just a natural instinct since I’ve been playing with bands of these genres for the last 15 years. It’s also the music I enjoy listening to the most. I’m always seeking out good melodies and try to “dress” them up with a power metal arrangement. Sometimes it comes out heavier, sometimes, lighter. Regarding my contribution, that’s an interesting thing: the guys gave me “carte blanche” to do whatever the flark I wanted with their ideas, riffs and melodies, so it was literally like a playground full of nice, shinny toys for me!

As always masterful on the Keyboards, you made “The Fragments Of Wonder” to sound different than Stratovarius, even though there are a few similarities, and assembled a mixture of both 80s and 90s driven atmospheric and energetic riffs. What can you tell about the Keyboards’ implementation process within the tracks? How did you know to set the direction to every song?

Nice question as well! To put it simply, I tried to be as Bob Katsionis as I could, haha! It’s easy to copy the attitude of bands like Stratovarius etc, even easier for me because I am a huge fan of Jens Johannsson’s playing. But that was never the case for me. I used some more 80’s and electronic elements here and there, some Kevin Moore-ish style of “Octave Strings” here and there, lots’ of Hammonds and in the end…there you go, you got your own, often recognisable style.

Even though you have plenty of experience, and for me at least, you have nothing more to prove as a musician and songwriter, would you say that “The Fragments Of Wonder” changed your perception towards songwriting, or rather teach you anything new that contributed to your experience?

Yes, it taught me that simple melodies are the best, yet harder to write sometimes.

Working with such a heavenly voice as Marco Pastorino, which up until listening to Wonders, I knew him as a guitarist for Secret Sphere and Temperance, I am sure that it was a great treat. How did you find the experience of sharing the efforts of the album with such a promising vocalist?

We worked together in the past when tracking vocals for the Evenflow album in my previous studio in Athens. This guy is hilarious and extremely talented! I simply love him and would record every day with him. He is so good and he puts his heart out in everything he is doing.

Other than the vocals and keyboards, how did you find the guitar work on the record? For one thing, the rhythm guitar riffs are pretty intense, even though not really sophisticated, but worked like a charm

That was the purpose actually. Sometimes we had a strong melody to work with so the guitars should just give edge and heaviness to the sound, other times there was a riff, but not that many. I used a kind of heavier sound than I “should” so the listener gets a more intense feeling, even while listening to a major-sounding melody.

After the recording, there is the engineering phase of the album, how would you summarize the mixing and mastering of the album? What kind of special methods did you use in order to make it a strong sounding record? And it actually turned out like that no doubt

I have to give a huge credit to my mastering engineer Nasos Nomikos of VU Productions. He is responsible for the punchiness and overall sound of my songs and it’s the only guy I can work with. He understands what I want to do and doesn’t interfere with the artistic or performance side of my music like others do.

We used some really big drum samples to replace the natural sounds, and played all the guitars with my Peavy 6505. But I was always going back to fine-tuning the vocals to make sure they stand out of the mix. Plus, the whole mixing procedure started right after we finished working on the 2nd album of Warrior Path “The Mad King” which features my best production so far, so we had a good starting point!

When I first listened to “Beyond Redemption”, I thought that it was going to be one of those classic driven late 90s Power Metal heavy notes, with a few speedier sections. Nonetheless, it turned out more unique than I expected, in particular after its midsection. What can you tell about this song? How do you find its influence on the entire record?

Well…you are right, because in the intro I used the same rhythm pattern as Father Time from Stratovarius, hahaha! And then in the middle we go through a fierce hard rock keyboard solo and then an airy-sounding almost Ambient part and back to the double kick chorus. Flark, you are right, that’s not your average power metal album, and this is what makes it stand out and have something to say in 2021,right?

“Pretender” has that nice mix between melodies that sounded to me like 80s driven along with contemporary directions of melodic Metal. This is where Pastorino shined with its mighty voice, showing a soaring form. What is your appreciation of this track?

Once again you are right, he clearly shines in this song and that’s why we decided to make that second video of it with footage from the album recordings to show the fun we had while making it. You know, it’s kinda funny cause we used so many cliches in both songwriting and arranging that in the end we made an album with our own sound I believe!

Going a little modernized Hard Rock, there is the final track, “Fragments Of Wonder”. It could have easily been a Eurovision kind of track, catchy as it can be. In your view, what makes it a special kind of tune?

Hehe, you were definitely tricked by the keyboards in this one! That was actually the first song we demo’ed to find our direction and it was a perfect example of where we should go. In fact, I’m about to make an in-depth video for my Sound Symmetry Studio Youtube channel to highlight and explain the use of keyboards on this one and explain how you can benefit from their use on a metal album.

When you listened to the entire record, and I am sure that you did, probably more than enough, what did it make you feel exactly? Where did you travel to while it was ringing in your ears?

Hm…that’s hard to tell ‘cause when you create an album from scratch it’s hard to get images ‘cause you are the very same person who creates them! But I could definitely “see” it as a soundtrack to a heavy metal video game set in space like f.e Guardians Of The Galaxy!

Will Wonder also be a live band to take on stages in the coming future? If so, what are your plans ahead?

The guys surprised me a few days ago when they told me they had an offer to play supporting a HUGE act in…Greece (!!!) this very summer, so we better get our engines ready!

Bob, it was great to have this talk with you. You are an inspiration and once again you helped deliver a token of great melodic Metal. All the best sir. Cheers

Thanks a lot my friend, stay tuned for a lot of new music from the iBob HQ!



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