PANTHE脧ST (GBR) – Interview – 07/03/2022 🇬🇧

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He麓s leading one of the most solid and prolific bands within funeral doom. He has collaborated with other colossuses like CLOUDS, CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX, or WIJLEN WIJ. He’s capable of finding inspiration from a variety of music, like ENNIO MORRICONE or BELLWITCH. And he planned the first doom metal tour ever in 2003. We have the great pleasure to interview Kostas Panagiotou, the frontman and founding member of PANTHE脧ST.

Subterr谩neo Webzine: Hi Kostas! First of all, I want to thank you for accepting this interview.

Kostas

Kostas: It鈥檚 an absolute pleasure, Raquel. It always flatters me when people are interested to hear my views on the things that bring passion and joy to my life!

Subterr谩neo Webzine: Let’s go straight to the point: Closer to God was released last year so, I suppose it was recorded during the pandemic. How has this process been, with lockdowns and restrictions, compared to the recording of Seeking Infinity?

Kostas: It certainly was very different. For starters, I didn鈥檛 really have a band, as I was the only band member left since the end of 2019. So instead of rehearsing new tracks, as we would normally do (and have done with Seeking Infinity), we went straight into recording mode once I found a number of musicians who were willing to undertake the journey with me. As it was a strange period of on/off restrictions, where for long periods of time we couldn鈥檛 even physically meet our neighbors, it somehow didn鈥檛 matter where the musicians were based. It was rather more important to find people who were able to record their own parts at home.  Once I found the musicians I wanted to work with, I started sending them demos and they would record and send me their ideas. Luckily, I found in our guitarist Jeremy Lewis the glue which holds it all together. He offered to do the album mixing, facilitate the recordings of the other band members, and of course, he added his own unique guitar leads to the album. His contribution to Closer to God was invaluable.   

Nereide

Subterr谩neo Webzine: Talking about the pandemic/COVID, we have perceived a reflection of these dark times in the album, especially when it comes to the lyrics. Despite this, our feeling towards it is that you captured that vibe in a peaceful way, almost with resignation and relief instead of an apocalyptic and fatalist view. How do you see the current situation in your surroundings, in the world? Do you really think that the end is near, or we are in some kind of final countdown?

Kostas: Yes, I didn鈥檛 want to exaggerate the apocalyptic, dramatic element of the pandemic, it is already hard enough as it is! But the restrictions and the way the world reacted to such a global emergency highlighted the usual human weaknesses, which are discussed in the track 芦Strange Times禄 in particular; greed and oppression by the powerful, the ongoing march of environmental destruction, and a sense of apathy most of us have for the things that go wrong in the world, as long we and our close friends and relatives are ok. The track 芦Of Stardust鈥禄 is the best expression of that resignation you are talking about: at the end of the day darkness is our destiny, so perhaps we should just embrace it with courage and get on with our lives. 芦Wilderness禄 on the other side, talks about the need to escape somewhere far away from this madness with your loved one(s).

As for how I see the world鈥 I鈥檓 not very optimistic about it, to be honest. It seems that we have been conditioned to accept a system that favors a small number of powerful people, who throw enough crumbs and bones to the masses so that they feel grateful for their charity while directing their ire for their woes at those that are even weaker and less powerful. I have some hope that the younger generations are now waking up to this rigged system, but it remains to be seen what happens when they have the chance to become the exploiters themselves in exchange for wealth and power, as that will be the true test. So, no I don鈥檛 think it鈥檚 necessarily a final countdown, more a confirmation of the same spiral of power that has led the world to what it is right now.

Matt

Subterr谩neo Webzine: As I told you, your lyrics in this case soak us in a bleak scenario but at the same time they detach some positivity like the impending final was unavoidable and pleasing. Does that vision have anything to do with a life philosophy, maybe pantheism or any other you practice in your everyday life? We also have seen on your social media that you currently work as a coach. In which way does it influence your music or vice versa?

Kostas: Yes, I can鈥檛 deny the influence of my coaching into the way I see the world now. Music is at its best when it highlights drama and especially in metal music, there is a tendency to exaggerate and glorify destruction and nihilism. However, the older you get, the more you start to adopt a balanced perspective, and then it鈥檚 a matter of how much of that will be filtered through to your music.

Pantheism has been important in my life for a while, it鈥檚 my way of making sense of a world that is mysterious, majestic, and hard to comprehend. Specifically, I was keen to use the name PANTHE脧ST for the band because it has a spiritual ring to it (just like the music I wanted to make) and allows me to change and adapt the music to new sounds and vibes, in a way that wouldn鈥檛 have been possible with a name like e.g.  ROTTING CHRIST or CATTLE DECAPITATION.

Subterr谩neo Webzine: Let’s talk about other album facets. Closer to God appears as a work of four songs but we could describe it as one long song divided into several cuts or musical landscapes, almost as a prog album inside the funeral doom genre. Was it something deliberated or did it just flow as you were composing it? Do you consider Closer to God as a concept album? Please, tell us about the creative process.

John

Kostas: As ever the writing process started spontaneously, and originally the idea was to just release one long track (the track which became 鈥Strange Times鈥). But the more we started working on new ideas, the more it became apparent that we needed to have a full-length album. The tracks had similar themes, but it wasn鈥檛 quite a concept like Amartia was.

At the same time (and here comes the prog influence you are talking about) I set myself a challenge to keep the album under 48 minutes so that it fits on two sides of a vinyl. Just like the good old times when bands were making albums that were adapting to the constraints of the format they were meant for. It sounds strange, but this sort of limitation helps to think more creatively, in particular about how an album should flow from beginning to the end. It also helps to cut all unnecessary fluff and only keep the good stuff, and I believe this is what happened with Closer to God

Subterr谩neo Webzine: About the influences, we have perceived in the composition and melodies, we almost felt PINK FLOYD on the guitars and a SKEPTICISM vibe on keyboards. Which bands or concepts have inspired you to make this release?

Kostas: Wow, imagine that, SKEPTICISM with PINK FLOYD influences. Sounds like a dream, so what a great compliment! Well other than these two bands, which are indeed an inspiration, I should quote the strong influence of legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone in the arrangements and perhaps bands like BELLWITCH and LUCIEN THE WOLFBEARER in the subtle way the serene organ parts have been incorporated in the first track. There are perhaps many other subtle echoes in some parts of the likes of SHAPE OF DESPAIR, KATATONIA, and CANDLEMASS but I think that overall, the album is 100% a PANTHE脧ST record.

Jeremy

Subterr谩neo Webzine: Talking about SKEPTICISM, we read in your social media that you have seen them on stage at least 17 times. Is that correct? Do you have a friendship with them and have considered a collaboration in the future?

Kostas: Yes, that鈥檚 correct. We organized the Funeral Procession Tour in 2003 with SKEPTICISM, PANTHE脧ST, and UNTIL DEATH OVERTAKES ME, which is not only the first funeral doom tour ever but also the first time SKEPTICISM played outside of Finland! This was the start of a great friendship with the band, which led to another joint tour with OPHIS in 2008. In 2012 we brought them to London to headline a memorable gig at St Gilles in the Fields church. We have stayed in touch over the years, and I would say that together with ESOTERIC, they are the two bands with which we have been most in touch over time. In terms of artistic collaborations with these bands, I doubt something like that will happen (although we used to share band members with ESOTERIC). We are all a bit too headstrong with our individual ideas, which doesn鈥檛 leave much space for artistic collaborations.

Subterr谩neo Webzine: Making some off-topic, we have asked you before about life philosophies. Now going more personal, we want to ask you about your political view (as you told us how agreed you were with our antifascist support and attitude regarding Subterr谩neo, and we thank you for this). What’s your ideology? Now you’re living in UK (if I’m not wrong), how do you feel there, how do they treat you with the current situation of the country after Brexit?

Kostas:  In our Twitter account, I write the following about the band: 鈥淎political but pro-equality, pro-diversity, pro-decency鈥. I think this sums up my beliefs. I don鈥檛 think it鈥檚 political to be a nice person to others, to encourage everyone to live their lives as they please, as long as they don鈥檛 hurt anyone, and to be against any form of ideological extremism.

As for the UK, the country has seriously lost the plot since Brexit. Where most other countries are moving towards more unity and cooperation, Britain is moving backwards to some imagined great empire which it no longer is. While the world is laughing at us, we think this is because we are superior to everyone. People are encouraged to 鈥榖e proud of being British, as if having been born at a certain place, rather than another place out of pure luck, is some sort of achievement. So, as you can imagine, I am not too keen on the political situation here at the moment. I am a British citizen since 2012, but other than the convenience that comes with it, I find it increasingly hard to feel in tune with the current British identity.

Subterr谩neo Webzine: Now that live music seems to be back in the game as lockdowns and restrictions are something quite remote, can you tell us about PANTHE脧ST agenda for the upcoming months? Is there any planned tour or live gigs/festivals? Will we see you collaborating with any other band soon?

Kostas: I mentioned earlier that I recruited an international line-up to record the last album. Since two of my collaborators (Jeremy and John) are US-based, and Fred is based in southern France, it鈥檚 difficult to plan gigs with them. I am currently working on building a new live line-up. Our bassist Matt and I had a few rehearsals, but it鈥檚 still early days. My goal is to have a line-up ready to play gigs at some point in the second part of 2022 and to play at least one gig before the end of the year.

Subterr谩neo Webzine: Just to close the interview, could you recommend us some albums you’re listening to lately?

Kostas: Absolutely, here鈥檚 some stuff I鈥檓 into lately:

  • BLOOD INCANTATIONTimewave Zero (kosmische synth music by a death metal band)
  • AR脨Take Up My Bones (monastic doom with a fascinating backstory about St Cuthbert)
  • FUNERAL MISTDeiform (atmospheric black metal)
  • AKVANCity of Blood (hypnotic black metal from Persia, using ethnic instruments such as tar)

Subterr谩neo Webzine: That’s all Kostas. Thanks again for your time, hope we can see you on stage soon! Here you have some space to salute your Subterr谩neo readers!

Kostas: Thank you for the interesting questions! These are strange times as we have not been able to enjoy many music events recently. But music is about connections between people, so I hope to see many of the Subterr谩neo readers at metal gigs in the years to come!

 

 

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