Interview with vocalist Kyriakos "Charlie" Tsiolis
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: December 9, 2018
Chicago thrashers Aftermath were one of the most important underground Metal bands that were spewed forth from that area in the eighties along with Zoetrope, Thrust, Trouble, Terminal Death, Macabre, Devastation, Death Strike, etc.
The band's second demo, Killing the Future, released in 1987, really took the cake when I got to hear it for the very first time thanks to the tape-trading scene, which brought a lot of promising underground Metal bands to light. The crossover-oozing Thrash Metal of these Chicago fellow simply said, kicked ass.
After adding a second guitar player, John Lovette, and Danny Vega replacing Adam on bass, the group's music turned more complex and progressive, which led a brilliant outcome; the four-song Words That Echo Fear demo, released in 1989 that got rave reviews from everywhere on the planet.
It took five more years until the band's long-awaited debut album, Eyes of Tomorrow, was released. The album was written in 1988 but due to the bankruptcy of the original label (Big Chief Records), it slowed things down so they decided to release the album on their own label Zoid Recordings, in 1994.
The band kept going until 1996 when they sadly broke up. June 5, 2014, saw Aftermath rise from the dead and now they have a new album recorded and done. But instead of babbling forever, I will let the band's vocalist talk about this new album, the main concept behind it, how we are controlled in our societies by a small group of people that have got too much power and so forth.
Luxi: How's life in Chicago? What has changed since Mr. Trump (-et of Doom) was elected President of the United States of America?
Charlie: Life hasn't changed much for me. But, then again, I don't buy into the bullshit. Both parties are the same. They are merely playing their roles as actors do in any movie or play. The real power is hidden behind them. All you need to do is know where to look. For those that still believe in this right vs. left, Democrat vs. Republican thing, it matters. The thing he has done is divide the country more than any president in modern history. He is the great divider. He has mastered his role. On a personal level, he can make me laugh because he is such a moron, and that's what is brilliant about it, people find him entertaining and he uses that perfectly. It's funny seeing friends argue about him and how great he is. It makes me laugh.
Luxi: You are known as a person who has some strong opinions, especially about politics and all (ugly) things related to it. Without going too far with this topic, I just would like to know if you see the third Antichrist in your current president, Mr. Trump? He doesn't seem to be a peaceful man, does he?
Charlie: Like I was saying above, Trump is playing a role. So, the short answer is no, he isn't the Antichrist. The people with the real plan and power serve that role. Dick Cheney the former VP under Bush is probably the real Antichrist.
Luxi: It's been four years since Aftermath reformed (in 2014). You have done occasional gigs here and there and currently, you have been working with your follow-up album, There's Something Wrong. It's said to be a concept album about the prevailing madness that we have in the world nowadays. Can you kindly enlighten the readers of The Metal Crypt about it?
Charlie: The record is an 11-song concept record in the sense that there is a theme linking all the songs and the interludes between them. The intro and outro to the record are also part of the message. Music today has gone back to the singles format, where people buy singles like in the 1950s. We figured we never follow what is happening now, so we wrote a record that is a throwback to when every song mattered. The concept/theme or message is that the system we are born into and raised in and taught to believe is the only way to live is bullshit. Not just government, but all of it. Science, history, politics, on and on needs to be reset. The agenda of those in control of the banks by extension controls everything. We want the listeners to listen to the lyrics and then question everything they have been taught. From the CIA to the Federal Reserve to Bohemian Grove we have been controlled, programmed and lied to. Until we wake up, this won't change. The problem is I believe their plan isn't a good one for the masses.
Luxi: You also released a teaser video for the song "Smash Reset Control", which musically is in the vein of your 1987 Killing the Future demo, with a more crossover/punk sound. I assume that you wanted to expose your early roots to the new generation of metalheads who might only know the band's more progressive sounding debut album, Eyes of Tomorrow.
Charlie: It was by design to blend the two sounds of Aftermath on this record. We were a crossover band when we formed. We have been called pioneering by many for that genre. Our first demo and then Killing the Future were super-fast and influenced by Metal and Hardcore. Killing had a huge following in the Metal underground when it was released in 1987. Metal Forces included two songs from it on their compilation Screams Your Brains Out. They only picked five bands from the entire planet to be on it. Fans and zine writers of the band back then loved that demo. Then we decided we were done being fast. We added John Lovette on as a second guitarist and we became this progressive/technical band that left everything from Killing behind. A lot of our early fans stopped following the band. It was too big a departure for those fans. We were one of the first progressive Thrash bands. And we got a fan base on the new style that didn't know Killing. I didn't listen to Killing again until 2014, and when I did, I fell in love with it. I wanted to get that energy and attitude back and mix it with the Eyes style as well. I think we did it on this record. "Smash Reset Control" could have been on the Killing demo and it would have fit perfectly. So yes, we wanted to expose the Eyes fans to that style as well.
Luxi: What kind of message do you want to send out to people with this song? The people that have true power don't really care for their citizens because they are blinded by the power they have?
Charlie: You kind of nailed the message of this song. It is time to "Smash" the current power structure, "Reset" the system and take back "Control" is the message. Not just in the US but in every country.
Luxi: Do you believe that the collapses of different societies can bring something good for people if they can be done in a controlled way? I mean, no person should ever have so much power that he/she can control thousands or millions of people by the power he and/or she has...
Charlie: I think we need to see the system that currently controls everything we do and how we live be changed. I believe that the only way to prevent a disaster in the future is to take away the control of the system from those in the dark that control it currently. I believe no one person or small group of people should control the masses. That doesn't mean anarchy, it means that society as a whole needs to deal with itself not govern itself.
Luxi: Do you believe, apart from this crossover track "Smash Reset Control", this new album will be closer to Eyes of Tomorrow musically than the band's early Crossover/Thrash times or will be a mixed package of the band's entire musical history?
Charlie: "Smash Reset Control" is the purest crossover track on the record. The other songs are a mixture of both styles. "Gaslight" is probably the closet track to a pure Eyes track. The fans of Eyes will find enough on it to love, I think. There is a song called "Diethanasia" that we just filmed the video for, a performance clip, and that song is a pure adrenaline Metal song. The record will be a mix. Pretty atmospheric and challenging overall.
Luxi: I also liked the rough mix version of one of your new songs called "Scientist & Priest" that I found on YouTube. It sounds like a mix of the band's early Crossover/Thrash days with a more progressive Thrash vibe that made Eyes of Tomorrow such a great album. What can you tell us about the song? Was it one of the first songs that you did for the new album and what it is about lyrically?
Charlie: That track was the first song we played live from the new record. The crowd instantly got into it. We knew then that this song will be one that gets people going especially after they know it. I say that because usually new material played at a gig before anyone has ever heard it doesn't get that type of response. "Scientist and Priest" does mix the styles. I love the title because people view it as religion v. science and I'm saying they both are full of shit.
Luxi: What can you tell us about the songwriting process for this new album? Would you say that each of your contributions was equally important or were some of you a tad more involved than others?
Charlie: We went back to writing the way we did in the beginning when Steve and I would sit down and work on songs together. I have always written all the lyrics, but on Eyes John wrote a lot of the music. This record is more collaborative. Ray writes his drum parts in a way that takes the songs to a different level; he is vital to the tracks. We added George Lagis on bass and he does some killer backup vocals along with Steve. We never did backup vocals before and it has added a different element that takes the songs to a really cool place.
Luxi: What are some of the things on the new album that make you the most proud?
Charlie: I love this record as a fan. I can listen to it and enjoy it. Usually it's hard to do that with your own record. We wrote a record that is fresh and different. The message is a hard one to get across, but I think we succeeded in doing it. The production rules on this record. It sounds massive!! Chuck Macak did a great job engineering it. Ted Jensen, the legend, mastered it. He is amazing...!!
Luxi: You have revealed some snippets related to the album cover of There Is Something Wrong. Does the artwork symbolize all that havoc and devastation that is ahead of us if nothing changes in this world?
Charlie: The cover was based on my concept. There is a symbol as part of the record that I created, and Dimitri Patelis tweaked. The symbol and the overall cover are full of messages. Dimitri did the cover for Eyes of Tomorrow, he is amazing, and we were able to get him to do this cover as well. He created our mascot Zoidy, and Zoidy is back as well.
Luxi: You have already mentioned that Aftermath are going to focus on festivals both in the US and Europe in 2019, after your new album is out. Is there anything more you can reveal as far as these festivals are concerned?
Charlie: We hope to do them this coming summer. We have been busy finishing the record and getting it mastered, doing the cover and filming the "Diethanasia" video. We are almost ready to get the record out. Once it is released, we can concentrate on the fests.
Luxi: Is it easy to get gigs for a Metal band like Aftermath in Chicago or do the club owners mostly book Hip-hop, Dance, Rap and whatever, ignoring Metal bands completely?
Charlie: Chicago is a metal city, always has been. There are plenty of venues and promoters booking Metal acts.
Luxi: Chicago has never gained the status of, let's say, the Bay Area for its strong and influential Thrash Metal scene, but how is it nowadays? Has this changed slightly over the years and how's the Chicago Thrash Metal scene nowadays?
Charlie: The Bay Area broke the biggest Metal bands in Metallica, Testament and others. So that scene in the Thrash world will always be the biggest and most known. Chicago had an amazing Thrash scene back in the 1980s. The bands were great and really well-known and influential in the underground, but none broke it big on a scale like the Bay Area bands. If the Bay Area scene never broke at that level, then I would say Chicago would be just as important in an underground sense, if that makes sense. There are a lot of young Chicago bands playing extreme music today.
Luxi: Ok, one last question for you and then we are done, for now at least. What do you hope this new album will bring for Aftermath, besides the money and fame thing, of course, haha!
Charlie: We wrote the record naturally, we never intended to write and release a record. We got together to play Headbanger's Open Air in Hamburg, Germany and reissue Killing on Divebomb and Eyes on Shadow Kingdom and that was it. We decided to write a new song for fun and we loved it and kept writing. There was no plan to do this and make it big and make money. We simply wrote these great songs that make an amazing record and we wanted to release it.
Luxi: I, for one, want to sincerely thank you Charlie for your taking your time with my questions and hopefully, I didn't bore you to death by them. If you have anything special in your mind before we wrap up...
Charlie: Luxi, thanks again—great questions as always!! Congrats on the 20th Anniversary of The Metal Crypt. Let's do another interview for the 30th!!
To those that don't know the band, check it out. Hit up our Facebook and Instagram pages. Checkout the video for "Smash Reset Control" on YouTube or on its own site: www.smashresetcontrol.com
|Other information about Aftermath (USA) on this site|
|Review: There Is Something Wrong|
|Interview with vocalist Kyriakos "Charlie" Tsiolis on November 11, 2015 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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