INTERVIEW: GLOBAL THRASH ASSAULT Contributor CONNOR GREENWAY Talks All Things EXARSIS With Ax-Man PANAYIOTIS!!

 Exarsis are perhaps one of the best bands in a thrash metal scene that is filled with nothing but great bands. These Greek thrashers stormed onto the scene in 2010 and have made quite a name for themselves, playing shows throughout their home country of Greece, releasing two fantastic albums and most recently touring Europe alongside Suicidal Angels, Fueled by Fire and Lost Society. All this hard work has payed off for Exarsis in a big way as the band has gone on to become one of the most popular bands in the underground thrash metal scene today, not just in Greece, but around the world. Global Thrash Assault contributor Connor Greenway recently conducted an interview with the band’s guitarst Panayiotis where the two discuss the early beginnings of Exarsis, line-up changes, the band’s most recent album, The Brutal State, and the future of thrash metal. The below interview is nothing but great, hope you enjoy!

CONNOR: Hi, Panayiotis, thanks for agreeing to answer some questions for Global Thrash Assault and the readers. You have quite a few fans around the world, and certainly a few within Global Thrash Assault. Hope Everyone in the band is doing well!
Tell me a little about the formation of the band, what were the driving forces behind Exarsis, how long did it take for Exarsis to be born?

Panayiotis: The band was formed in Kiato, Corinth back in the summer of 2009 from Chris Poulos (bass) and George Oikonomou, the former drummer. They were classmates and close friends sharing the same taste in music and they’ve been together in another band before.
After a while, my brother Chris Tsitsis (Suicidal Angels) came in the picture as a guitar player and the three of them were the core of Exarsis. I joined the band a bit later and by the summer of 2010 we found Alex Papatheofanous on vocals and the line-up was complete. We took the baptism of fire on 22/07/10, our first live-show ever!

Personally, what was music like for you growing up, what sort of bands were you into? Was your love for metal supported by those around you, or did you find that you had to suffer a little for your taste in heavier music?

I consider myself a “metalhead” since 2001, my hobby was spending hours with a portable radio device in my hands recording songs from various rock/metal broadcasts, that’s how I learned the basic heavy metal bands and some info about them when internet wasn’t the first choice. My mother never really had a problem with this, maybe she was afraid of the Iron Maden artworks. This band is my first love! I had also some friends who were interested in heavy music but they didn’t make it, they weren’t really into this.

When did you first get into playing guitar, and making music? How did that start and how did it evolve to where you are now?

I believe I got my first guitar back in highschool, I was asking for this for years and in the end they bought me this classical guitar which made me happy in the early days. Later I switched to an electric guitar which was again a present from my mother.
I realised that music was the most important thing in my life after a small gig I did with my brother and a good friend, Michael. Michael had a Fender Stratocaster, the first electric guitar I’ve ever saw and played. He taught me my first chords and the “holy fifth” even if he wasn’t a metalhead at all! After that, I used to practice in my room with my little amp trying to immitate my idols, the evolution came a year later.

What would you say are the main influences behind the sound and message of Exarsis?

Vio-Lence, Nuclear Assault and Violator are responsible for the sound of Exarsis, you can really tell this if you listen to our stuff. We are an american thrash oriented band, we like the mosh parts, the shouting backing vocals, the crossover party feeling, the high pitched screams!
As for the message of the band we live in an era full of social disturbances which are produced from a pre-programmed “masterplan” directed straight from some of the most vicious secret societies and we have to act as individuals against the massive depression which is an outcome of the govermental opression we suffering especially in Greece.

Is there a song-writing process for Exarsis? Talk us through it.

Usually Chris will come up with a complete track on Guitar Pro or some ideas and we add riffs or change it , otherwise we propose our own songs and in the end we have something we can work on it during the rehearsal until we feel it’s complete. Nick, our vocalist, is writing all the lyrics.

I’ve personally always really liked the guitar tone in Exarsis, it reminds me of Violator’s sound, what sort of gear do you use?

Now we play with ENGL preamps, ENGL amp heads, Savage or Powerball models and the same cabinets on our live shows. We try to keep the sound the thickest possible in order to avoid too much distortion. As for our latest album, we used a Triaxis preamp and a Peavey 6505 head.

You had quite a large line-up change just before you headed off to tour Europe, what effect has that had on the sound and ideas of Exarsis? Was it hard saying good-bye to the old members and finding suitable replacements?

It was quite hard to lose Alex (vocals) and George, they were there since day one, we did 2 albums together and when it finally came to tour we had to find other guys in order to go on. I was sad, Chris was also sad, we couldn’t handle the tension at this critical point.
We spent the second half of the summer looking for new members while we had to decide about our participation on tour, a stressfull procedure I wish we never feel again.
In the end, Nick Kostis (guitar) and Achilles (drums) showed up and the band was somehow refreshed, they saved the day. You’ll be able to hear what they brought to the band in the next album!

The Conquering Europe tour had a great line up, Exarsis, Lost Society, Fueled by Fire, and Suicidal Angels, you guys put on a really good show when I saw you, the energy coming off stage was unreal. What was it like touring Europe with all those guys?

Exciting and smelly! You know, when you are on the road for the first time in your life you don’t want anything but to feel the whole thing on the edge! You are trying to memorize every place, every show, every good and bad incident, every person you meet so you can have good stories back home! We’ve been 32 days on the road, Lost Society were the crazy alcoholic dudes, the party animals, they don’t know any limits at all! Fueled by Fire were the quiet ones, I really liked Carlos, such a gentle guy. What can I say about Suicidal Angels? My brother is in the band, haha! The most funny incidents happened with Suicidal Angels, they always have something ridiculously funny to say about everything.

Getting back to Greece, I’ve said for a while that the Greek thrash scene is probably the hottest in the world, what do you think it is that has the country putting out so much great thrash in recent years?

Maybe that so called “thrash revival” thing got us from the balls, that simple! Let’s face the facts, thrash to me is synonymous to youth and when inspired and psychologically pressured young metal musicians meet an era of economic crisis and social distortions. Here in Greece thrash is the physical outcome, the final product. Someone will say “hey, maybe it is a trend like the nu-metal in the early 00’s” but I will say it’s a situation more like “back to the roots” than a new wave.

A lot of the Greek bands seem pretty close, what fellow Greek bands are you particularly fond of?
Let’s start with Chronosphere, check out their latest effort “Embracing Oblivion”! Then check Bio-Cancer with “Ear Piercing Thrash”, Faithreat,Never-Trust with “Bras De Fer”, Fadom with “Pantophobia”, Nuclear Terror, Domination, Menace, Vios Olethriosand the list goes on. I think Greece has the most vicious and intense thrash scene all over Europe right now, believe it or not we can compete anyone in terms of music and inspiration, bring it on if you dare!

Outside of Greece, what newer thrash bands would you say are doing a particularly good job?
Lost Society doing pretty well I guess! I love Mortilleryfrom Canada also, we met them on “Conquering Europe 2014”, they were on the road with Sepultura/Flotsam & Jetsam/Legion Of The Damned. Last but not least I would say Tantara from Norway.

Out of all the band T-shirts I own, the Brutal state one is honestly one of my favourites, I love the album art, designed by Andrei Bouzikov (Who also did a great job with Municipal Waste, Vektor and Violator) it’s very reminiscent of Ed Repka’s work, how much input did you guys have into the design?

The artwork of “The Brutal State” was my idea. We were trying to come up with something interesting according to our lyrics when we finished the recordings and I remember myself sending a draft sketch of how I imagine the position of the guy, the room, the screens etc. to Chris. Of course Andrei Bouzikov brought my poor and childish sketch to life as a masterpiece we really love, we are very proud of it.

Vasilis Gouvatsos and George Bokos did a great job at the production desk for The Brutal State album, what was it like recording the album and how long did it take?

It took the whole summer of 2012 you know, it was a quite long and fast procedure at the same time, I can’t explain this, maybe because of the deadlines. George Bokos made his best as a producer and Vasilis understood quite well the sonic direction of the band so in the end everyone was happy! My brother might had a very difficult time because he was responsible for the guitar/bass recordings and editing back home and was sleepless for days. Poor boy!

Out of all the songs Exarsis has written and produced so far, do you have a favourite?

Maybe “Under Destruction”. It is “groovy” in a thrash way. If I could choose a second one it would be “Suicide Disorder” because of the extreme and difficult right-hand guitar parts, you should try this one if you consider yourself a thrash guitarist.

What are your highlights with Exarsis so far?

Opening for Anthrax in Athens last year and the “Conquering Europe 2014 Tour”, some of the most exciting moments of my life so far.

Not too long ago, Exarsis was featured on the Global Thrash Assault compilation Wreck Your Neck: Vol 2, with the track Toxic Terror. What did you think of the mixtape?

We need such collections to advertise our work and learn from each other in the global thrash village we live, keep it up GTA, spread the music! I really liked REZET from Germany, sonic blasphemy.

What do you think of the current state of Thrash Metal, and the future of the genre?

We the bands are the present and the future of thrash metal, we live and play right here right now, we don’t have to apologise because we didn’t live back in the golden 80’s. As long as we produce albums worth listening thrash is here to stay.

You guys are working on a new album, do you have any teasers for what to expect? Do you have a name or a rough release date for us?

Yes, currently we are on writing for mode for our next record, this is like our next really serious goal. The basic spine of the record is done and all we can say so far is that it takes the Exarsis sound to a completely new and interesting level.

What do you think the future holds for Exarsis? Are there any particular goals you guys feel you are yet to reach?

Look, the sky’s the limit for us. We are young, but no fools to realize how hard is to make a name in the heavy metal arena nowadays. But just because we are young and hungry, we have sworn to ourselves that we will give our best in order to leave our mark. We want the future generations of metal fans to remember and listen to our music and inspire people to embrace quality metal music and think further through our lyrics.

Finally, do you have any message for your fans around the globe, and readers of the blog?

Thanks for the interview, GTA. It was a pleasure, hope we will talk again, possibly for the next album! To all our fans and fellow thrashers, thanks for the support you showed to us on “Conquering Europe 2014 Tour”, I miss you already, the food, the cities, the stages, everything, you did our first tour a lifetime experience, we wish to hit the road again soon. Until then THRAAAAAAAAAASH m/


Okay that’s it! Thanks very much again for taking the time out to answer our questions Panayiotis, and our most thrash wishes to the rest of the Exarsis lads, Until next time!

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