Interview with guitarist and vocalist Nick Melissourgos
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: September 5, 2023
Greek thrash metal band Suicidal Angels, formed in 2001, have come a long way since their demo days, with seven studio albums, several successful tours and some lineup changes over the years. They are still alive and kicking, having become an institution in the Greek metal scene.
Vocalist and guitarist Nick Melissourgos, who formed the band over 20 years ago, is the only original member left these days and he's still full of enthusiasm and untamed energy according to the band's latest posts on social media.
The band was also invited to perform at Hellsinki Metal Festival in Helsinki, Finland, on August 11, 2023, where they got a chance to play in front of a very supportive crowd. They had not performed in Finland since March 2018 when they were supporting Satyricon.
We caught up with Nick a couple of hours after their successful gig at the festival and he had some very interesting news to share...
Thanks to Jere Saajoranta of Ginger Vine management for setting up the interview.
Nice meeting you, Nick, and thanks for your killer set this afternoon as well! How did like performing at Hellsinki Metal Festival? Do you feel you got a good response from the crowd?
Nick: Thank you very much. The crowd was great. Finland is a country that we haven't played that much. It's far away from the usual touring routine. It's like Greece. It's a bit far away from the usual routine for a tour, and Finland is also high up, so we don't have the chance to come here often. Every time we come here, it's always like a new world opening up. It's super nice.
This is the very first time this festival has been held. Have you had any chance to walk around to see how it looks?
Nick: Yes, that's what I heard. We arrived at the airport in the morning around 6:40 after flying all the way here. The guys picked us up from the airport and we drove here. We had something to eat, and then we went straight on the stage to set up and doing the show.
As soon as we're done with this interview, we're going to pick up the merch and go to the hotel. Tomorrow morning, we have a lobby call at 7:00 in the morning, and we fly to the Czech Republic. We're going to play Brutal Assault tomorrow, so I don't think we're going to have much time to do anything.
I would love to stay here for a couple of nights and just walk around Helsinki and maybe have a beer or have something to eat, traditional stuff. I know that you have this kind of fish kitchen because you have the sea around you, so you have fish, but cooked in a different way than we do down in Greece. Unfortunately, not this time. It's a bit stressful during summer.
Yes, I can imagine. The last time you played in Finland was at the famous Tavastia Club here in Helsinki back in 2018 where you were supporting Norway's Satyricon. The show was sold out, so what memories do you have from that gig?
Nick: I remember that it was a great show even if we played in front of a different audience than we usually do. Satyricon was headlining and they attracted mostly black metal people, maybe even death metal fans. There were people there that came over to the merch table like, "Who are you guys? How long have you existed? We never heard of you. We are amazed by your show. Where can we listen to your music?" For us, this tour was nice because we managed to gain a different audience. Not the typical thrash metal audience, but also people coming from the black metal scene who came and saw us, and didn't know us before.
It was a nice experience. We try to tour not only with thrash metal bands but also with different genres of metal music so we can expose our music to different crowds. Outside of the thrash metal genre, some may like our stuff, some may not, and that's understandable. Anyway, it's always a nice chance to spread your music further when touring with metal bands who play outside of the genre that we play.
A mixed crowd is a very cool combo.
Nick: Exactly. Even if you only manage to attract 5 or 10 people from the audience, the next time you go there, they will come. That's how you slowly grow your audience.
ON THE WINGS OF HISTORY...
Exactly. My first introduction to Suicidal Angels happened back in 2006 when you released your 4-track debut EP titled Armies of Hell. I remember reviewing it for a Canadian website and saying one simply cannot avoid hearing some Slayer and Kreator influences. How much did those bands influence you back then?
Nick: I never hide myself. You can hear our influences, especially on the first albums. You can hear the influences, they are there. We were young, and we just went, "thrash, full speed ahead."
Slowly, you grow up with your music. As you grow older, you grow up with your music and gradually you throw your own perspective into it, if I can put it that way. Here you have your influences, here you have your own perspective, so you make a mix of all of it and slowly and gradually you create your own identity. Thrash metal has pretty strict borders music-wise.
Yes, you could say so indeed.
Nick: Still, you can find a way to do your own thing eventually.
Yes. You cannot completely hide your influences when you're starting out. Of course, you have all those bands over there and you're like, "Oh, this is why I'm into doing music," because you like this and that band and want to be like them.
Nick: Exactly. They started the whole thing, and since some bands started the whole thing, it's simply unavoidable to not get influenced by some of their stuff.
FIRST DEAL – OLD SCHOOL METAL RECORDS
Because of this EP, you managed to get a deal with Old School Metal Records from California. What was it like to get signed to an international metal label back then?
Nick: I remember the owner, Patrick Ramseyer. Back then, especially when you're talking about the period 2003-2006, thrash metal was dead. Even big bands were struggling to gather audiences. I remember going to the post office carrying a huge pile of demos that I had no idea where the fuck I was sending them. I tried to find addresses or P.O. boxes in magazines, and just sent stuff out hoping something would happen. Remember, we didn't have the Internet back then like we do today. You only had a dial-up phone connection.
Anyway, we just received a letter in the mail saying, "Hello, I'm Patrick Ramseyer, and I'm from Old School Metal Records. I would like to sign your band." I was like, "Fuck, yes!"
DREAM COME TRUE – SIGNING TO NUCLEAR BLAST
It didn't take too long before Nuclear Blast Records snapped up your band and your second album, Sanctify the Darkness, was released through them. How did your deal with them come about?
Nick: 2006-2007 was the period that we started touring, slowly at first, not like 30 days or two months in a row. At first, we just started doing small, maybe 10 days or 2-week tours in Europe. As far as I know, somebody from the Nuclear Blast team saw us at some concert and apparently was impressed by our performance. Also, we managed to win the Rock the Nation Award back in 2009 or was it in 2008? It's been a long time ago. Fuck. I'm getting old...!
But yeah, we won the Rock the Nation Award, and we had a chance to sign a deal with them, which was the first big booking agency that we ever got. Then, along with that came Nuclear Blast offering us a contract for an album. So, it basically happened like...Boom! For us, it was a big surprise. We were like, "What's happening to us...?"
When you are 23-24 years old and realize a big label like Nuclear Blast is interested in you, you think, "Somebody's fucking kidding me." You can't believe this is happening to your band. It was just incredible. It all felt unreal. After a while you start thinking, "Hey, maybe, just maybe I may have a chance to go somewhere or do something with my band."
How was it to work with Nuclear Blast back in the day?
Nick: We didn't know much back then. We didn't know much about the business. We didn't have much of a clue about the whole thing, but then again, they didn't force us to do anything. They only guided us through things we didn't have much knowledge about. It's like, "Guys, we have this plan for releasing an album on Nuclear Blast, then we have this touring plan, and we have this and that coming up." So, we got guidance from them to get this band on a more professional level. They never told us, "You must do this and do that." No, it wasn't like them controlling us, more like friendly guidance. It was quite an experience, though. It's more like, "Now we are working on completely another level that we're not familiar with at all." Here we are after all those years later, still alive and kicking, which feels good, of course.
Did you feel it was a good learning experience for you to see how this business works in reality?
Nick: Yes, it was exactly like that.
Do you feel like you got the support from them that you needed back in those days, especially in marketing and promotion?
Nick: Yes, exactly. Because we were just newcomers, I understand they probably didn't put the same attention on us as they did to bands like, let's say, Slayer or Blind Guardian or Nightwish, but they were there for us, which was important. I remember when we asked for something from them via emails, we never had to wait too long to get a response. We never felt like we were a smaller band on their huge roster and they didn't pay as much attention to us as to some of the bigger bands on their label. Bands like Nightwish or Slayer or Blind Guardian or whatever, they need more time, focus and work to be marketed on a larger scale to keep the business running, and I completely understood that. I had no complaints about them, whatsoever.
Did you only have a one-album deal with them, or was there an option for another album?
Nick: No, it was just for one album. We were fortunate to get the Nuclear Blast-Rock the Nations combo at same time back then. After the one album on Nuclear Blast, they advised us to go to this Austrian label NoiseArt Records, which was an upcoming label at that time. They told us that we would be a bigger priority on that label.
Since moving away from Nuclear Blast, you've done five albums for NoiseArt Records. Do you feel like it's easier to work with a smaller label because they can pay more attention to your band and have more time to invest in you due to a smaller roster of bands?
Nick: Well, I wouldn't say so. As I said before, man, we never felt that we were this small fish in the tank when we were on Nuclear Blast. We never felt that. They always helped us out when we needed some help and support and, I must say we are in a happy position to be on Nuclear Blast's roster again. We signed a new deal with them.
NEW ALBUM IN THE PIPELINE
Oh, my sincere congrats for that then.
Nick: Thank you. We signed with them again. Our new album is going to be released on Nuclear Blast. The new album is ready; recorded, mixed, mastered. We have already finished a couple of videos and are in the process of talking with Nuclear Blast again and making a plan for when it would be the best possible period for releasing our new album.
OK, is there something more accurate you can share about a possible release date for this new album?
Nick: No, we haven't set the release date for it yet. We're still talking to them about when would be the best possible time to get it out. The fact is that we also changed our booking agency right before this summer as well. Somehow the whole situation is still new to us, so it needs a bit of arrangement, which will take a bit more time than it would usually plus, the war in Ukraine cost a lot as far as the business side is concerned. I mean, if you wanted to release a vinyl at the beginning of the year, you had to wait around 8 to 12 months.
Now the wait is shorter, but it's still a long time compared to before COVID. In the past, if you delivered the master tape to the vinyl pressing plant three months before the release date, that worked. Nowadays you need at least eight months to get your vinyl out. You'll be on the waiting list as the queue is so long.
It's a really long time to wait.
Nick: It is what it is. Fuck it, but let's hope the world will be getting better somehow, like we used to have before COVID and this ugly war in Ukraine happened.
Exactly. How would say the new stuff compares to the songs on your previous album, Years of Aggression?
Nick: The only thing that I can share with you right now is that it's going to be, well, it has nine songs and there are nine different personalities in every song. The fans will just have to wait until it's out and then let me know when they get a chance to hear it.
I believe the fans of the band will still recognize right off the bat it the sound of Suicidal Angels when they get to hear it eventually, with some new musical nuances, right?
Nick: Yes, some of the same shit and some new.
I bet you didn't want to redo one of your most popular albums all over again because it would make things a bit boring for you and everyone else, I guess...
Nick: No, that would be too easy and boring. That would be as easy as, you know, stealing candy from your little brother so to speak.
Yes, it would make no sense...
Nick: Even if we occasionally get criticized for what we do, I don't mind exposing another side of me when composing music. Of course, you're not going to say it's a different band; it's still Suicidal Angels, you're going to hear it, you're going to hear everything that you know already is us, but our new stuff is going to sound like us but with a new twist.
Just like we did with our previous album, Years of Aggression, we added some different stuff to it, some other influences out of our comfort zone so to speak. We mixed the whole thing in a different way also, so it got a fresher musical approach at that time.
Yes, I do agree with you. You want to evolve as a musician as well as a band, too. There's no point getting stuck on some very strict musical formula for a long time.
Nick: Absolutely. That was well said, man.
You have played a few live shows this year, even visiting Graspop Metal Meeting this June. How does the second half of the year look, gigging-wise?
Nick: Actually, we'll be playing some shows here and there. At the moment, we're just waiting for the release of our new album and then we'll be off playing live again.
How much do you have planned for next year? I assume you want to get your new album released and then there's surely going to be a tour for it. That's how it basically goes, I suppose...
Nick: Yes, you summed it up right there. That's how it goes.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF THE NET
In today's world of the Internet, it's crucial for bands to do as many gigs as possible because many make a lot of their income from merchandise. How is this situation with Suicidal Angels these days?
Nick: It is very crucial. Physical sales are going down anyways. We all know that, it's not a secret anymore. I believe that if there are people out there that don't know yet who were are, then they go and check us out from the Internet first and those who like our music may buy our stuff later. I'm quite sure that people still try to support all the bands that they like. Maybe a lot of them don't buy physical stuff right away but later. I still believe that people buy physical copies of music because they know how important it is for the bands to make some money from both music and merch sales. That's how they can support bands and keep us doing what we do. Due to the Internet, people obviously don't buy as much physical music as they did in the past but many still do, which helps bands keep going.
Yes, and the other thing is there are so many bands out there with a countless number of releases, fans have become quite selective these days...
Nick: Very true. There's a shitload of bands and stuff available nowadays.
THE GREEK METAL SCENE – PAST AND PRESENT
The Greek metal scene has always been one of the better ones in the whole world, with lots of variety genre-wise, at least in my opinion. What's your personal take on this, and can you see any reasons for why there are so many quality metal bands coming from your home country?
Nick: Yes, there's a huge variety of different metal bands in Greece these days. Thrash metal bands, black metal bands, death metal bands, all kinds of bands from different metal subgenres.
What I can say about the whole Greek scene is that I'm really, really happy to see bands that they can make their way into touring because they have the chance to present their music to a wider international crowd. I don't say that this is a good thing or a bad thing. I don't judge but I'm happy to see that happening because in the past, when we and some other bands started – bands like Rotting Christ and Necromantia, for example, it was much harder to become a successful act.
Yes, it was indeed because there was no internet in the late eighties, which would have allowed bands to promote themselves more easily...
Nick: That's true. Also, for us it was really hard to get recognition at first but nowadays, we have managed to get more exposure for ourselves over the years, and that gives us a better chance to cooperate with gig bookers, agencies, and other bands, too. Maybe we cannot get a full tour booked yet, like for a month or something, but for 10 days as an opener for some bigger band, which our current booking agency has resources for, I think.
I'm really happy to see people in different countries and also meet Greek metal bands at festivals and on tours. I think things have started moving a bit faster than Greek metal bands than in the past and I honestly believe we're going to see more and more bands coming from my country, who may have a real chance to success and all that shit. Just to manage to tour, you know? Jump on a tour and go, play your music for the crowds, expose yourself to people. If people like what you are doing, you will find a way to make some success for your band.
THE GREATEST HIGHLIGHT OF ALL
As you guys have been around for almost 22 years, what have been some of your biggest highlights that you have experienced with the band?
Nick: Hmm... That's a tough one. I mean, there are some highlights of playing live. For example, when the "Big Four," Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth, played in Athens, Greece, in 2010 we had a chance to open for that package. Then we had a cool chance to play with Kreator, Exodus and Death Angel at Thrashfest in 2010, and we also had a chance to play on the last Slayer show at AthensRocks Festival in Athens, in 2019, just before COVID hit the world full force.
But honestly said, I wouldn't stick to this live experience stuff too much. I mean, for me the most important and the biggest highlight is that we are here after 20 years.
Yes, that's a cool answer. You are still around, making music and thrashing people's socks off.
Nick: Haha... Yes, we are still around, which surely is a big achievement for me personally. That's indeed the biggest highlight for me, that we managed to go through all the shit and to survive this fucking COVID period. We're still here and even if we may still struggle from time to time, what matters to me most is that we're still going to places and playing live. That's what we're going to do as long as I live. I mean, for me, the highlight of my life would be to die on a stage. That would be the highlight of my life.
Dying in your sneakers on stage. Now that would be a very cool way to end your life, ha!
Nick: Haha... Absolutely! That would be my personal highlight with the existence of this band.
ROLLING THE DICE
If you think back, you surely have experienced so much with Suicidal Angels already. When you started out, I bet you never imagined you would still be going strong after 20+ years and thrashing your heart out.
Nick: Yes, you cannot predict the future. You just can't. I mean, if you don't pick up the dice, you will never know what it's going to be like, do you get sixes or something else. You never know...
Life is about taking risks.
Nick: Yes, exactly. Pick up the dice and just throw it. You never know what you are going to get. I mean, that's how I lived my life anyways. I mean, both in a good way and in a bad way.
Life's full of choices. If you're able to take a risk, if you have the guts to take some (risky) choices, just follow your instincts. Don't hesitate, just follow them, you know. That's my perspective about living this life, generally speaking. If you don't try out things, you won't ever know if you are going to be rewarded or not. Let's say, for example, if your band takes off, I mean, truly takes off and you start having success, and then you start touring like doing 150-200 gigs within a year, undoubtedly you may easily start thinking, "Fuck... am I truly capable of doing this all?! Perhaps this is not for me...?"
Yes, I know what you mean by all that.
Nick: If you don't follow your gut instincts, then you'll never know. You never know what's there in the distant future if you are not into taking some risks in your life. You cannot know that, right?
But as you were talking about some highlights, that's my highlight, to be able to keep this band going for 20+ years. I have managed to roll the dice in my life with Suicidal Angels and I am fortunate enough to keep this band running for so long. I am very proud of it. But, like I already told you, if you don't follow your gut instincts, you will never know.
Well, Nick, I have taken a lot of your time already, so I will let you go now to do some packing for the next festival that's right around the corner. Thank you, Nick, for sitting down with me and having this cool conversation. And have a safe trip to Brutal Assault, of course!
Nick: Thank you, man. It was a pleasure.
|Other information about Suicidal Angels on this site
|Review: Eternal Domination
|Review: Sanctify the Darkness
|Review: Sanctify the Darkness
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