Scar of the Sun – Onward and UpwardTuesday, 25th May 2021
Seemingly the epitome of an act having to work their way through the ranks to achieve a larger success, Greek act Scar of the Sun have slowly risen through the ranks, with their third release (over the course of 10 years) coming out on Napalm Records. The band’s aggressive, yet thoroughly catchy, sound is sure to appeal to melodic metal and melodeath fans, with thrilling riffs and strong choruses combining in a way that’s sure to stick with you after you hear it. We spoke with vocalist Terry Nikas to discuss the effort, along with where he got his start in music, hurdles the band has had to overcome, and more.
Dead Rhetoric: Where did you start, or your interest, in music?
Terry Nikas: That goes way back in time. I have a sister that is seven years older than me, and when we were young my parents bought her a Walkman. She had some cassettes of the hits of that era, which was the beginning of the ‘80s. I was very young, but at some point she gave me the headphones to have a listen. I heard a few songs and I felt the magic in me. it created some intensive feelings, and from that moment forward my relationship with music was very tight. I was always doing something related to music – if it was singing in the school choir, singing solo later, collecting cds and vinyl, being a radio dj, being a dj in a bar playing rock and metal…I was always playing music this whole time but it was never so obvious that it was on the level that I am now. I was also playing basketball on a high level. Basketball in Greece is very popular.
In the beginning, it seemed like basketball was the dominant thing in my life. Eventually, things changed and I formed my first band. It was more punk/metal, closer to bands like The Offspring. We never actually released an album, but we did compose almost an album of material. I eventually changed the style I was composing in, and I decided that I had to make a proper band. Then it was obvious that music would be the main thing in my life.
Dead Rhetoric: Did anything from basketball carry over into music, such as work ethic, routine, or things like that?
Nikas: For sure. When you are doing any sport on a high level, or anything on a high level, you live with discipline. It’s very important. It’s important in music too, both with your personal stages – when you are on tour you have to have a routine. But there’s the management aspect too, which I do for the band as well, and you have to be very disciplined and follow some specific rules. If you don’t follow them strictly, you will never get any serious results. So sports have a huge role in the way I think and the way I behave.
Dead Rhetoric: So moving to Inertia, what can you say about it as Scar of the Sun’s third release?
Nikas: Inertia is definitely the most aggressive album we have done before. The last two albums were more atmospheric and progressive. This one is more direct and focused. The main change is not just the music, but the vocals are also more aggressive. I used growls for the first time. So I would say Inertia is has a simpler structure and people can probably relate more to the music we do. But the main thing for Scar of the Sun’s music is that it has to be melodic at the same time. It needs to be easy to remember the songs and have them stick in your mind so you can sing them again and again. This isn’t something that I do on purpose, but it’s the music we like as well – more catchy stuff.
Dead Rhetoric: It seems like there has been a 5 year span between each album. Was this something you plan or did it just happen?
Nikas: Not at all, and I can assure you that it won’t happen again. The reason was that we were always searching to find a better record deal, and that takes time. Especially if you prefer to take your chances all the way. It can be tricky, but we decided to do that because we believe that our music deserves a better distribution and better promotion. You only get that with a serious record label. The other factor was that we have to pay for everything – music, the videos, the promotion, or the tours. We didn’t get any touring support from our previous label. If you put all that into Greece and our financial crisis that we had for about 10 years, you can imagine it would take a while to get all the money to do it the right way. We didn’t just want to release an album and then just do another one. We wanted to tour and have nice videos, so that eventually a bigger label would give us a chance and that is now exactly what happened. We had to wait, and then COVID delayed things again. But the wait shouldn’t be happening in the future.
Dead Rhetoric: So you are pretty satisfied with Napalm then I would imagine.
Nikas: We are big time satisfied. It’s a big label, and there are a lot of people helping us out with everything. They give us advice and are working very hard on press, for example. We never had so much press before. The distribution and network is also very good. They are nice people and they believe in us and they show it in every way possible. We also had a budget for the first time, which helped a lot. Whenever touring resumes, we will have tour support too, so it’s a whole new world for us. It’s a step up and we are looking forward to do it all the way, whenever possible.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you go into the “Quantum Leap Zero” trilogy of songs and some details behind them?
Nikas: Every time that we finish an album I start taking notes about things I want to talk about on the next one. I write the lyrics, so I wanted to do something about the serious events that happened in Greece in 2015. For those who don’t know, there were elections and for the first time, we had a government that did what all of the previous ones should have done. They stepped up and said that these methods to resolve the financial crisis weren’t working, people were in deep poverty, and that we had to work together to find something that was more sensible and provide better results. The outcome on top of this was to be punished.
Whoever is doing the revolution, it’s not nice for the people who are running the world. The trilogy talks about that – the three stages of that era. The time before the elections, the period where people were boiling in anger and hatred about what we have been through. The income of the average Greek person went down 40-50%. At the same time, taxes went 2-4 times higher. It was totally impossible to survive. You could walk down a street and find people searching in the garbage for something to eat. Then the government, which I don’t support – I have to say that I’m not voting for them – but they said that this cannot be happening anymore. What they did to us was that they shut down our banks. We could only draw out 60 euros a day. It was ridiculous really. I remember going from bank to bank to find an atm in order to get money. We couldn’t find any! It was like a war. It was very dramatic and affected our lives very much.
So I wanted to write about all of that, and all of the anger involved in all of that. All of the previous Greek governments that were completely corrupted and the ones that imposed these stupid measures to the average person. It was like someone else was spending your money and then the bill came to you, it wasn’t fair at all.
Dead Rhetoric: Are things on the improvement at least?
Nikas: In 2017-2019 things were improving a lot. But eventually, because people generally tend to have Stockholm syndrome, the people of Greece reelected the government that brought the bankruptcy to the country, believe it or not. Then there was the pandemic of course. I don’t know where this is going to lead. I don’t know if things will get any better at all with these people we have in power. Weird times.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you pull your inspiration for lyrics in general?
Nikas: Everyday life, really. We always talk about things that affect our everyday life. They are usually negative. Not that I enjoy talking about negative stuff but I have to find a way to get it off my chest and maintain a balance. For every person, if you follow what is going on, you get so angry so you have to maintain a balance and feel better somehow. I am using the lyrics, and when we play live it is nice to scream and shout about these issues and then feel better. It’s like a catharsis.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you talk about the artwork as well? There’s a lot going on with Inertia’s cover and I like all those little details to it.
Nikas: The guy that is doing all our visuals – both the videos and the photos, is our original drummer of the band. Achilleas Gatsopoulos was a founding member. He is in a way the sixth member of the band, and my best friend. Every time we finish an album, I explain to him in detail everything I am writing and talking about. So he takes notes and anything that creates strong images in his mind make the cover. On the cover of Inertia, you see a woman that is tied up on a medical table/lab table. She is connected to devices and machines and having experiments performed on her. It’s the same thing you see on the videos. That woman represents Greece, since we were a financial experiment for 10 years. The parallel is that – the woman is Greece, and the experiments performed on her are the financial experiments performed in Greece during the 10 years of the crisis.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned that the music was getting more aggressive. Is there any other way that you feel that Scar of the Sun has evolved over time?
Nikas: Yeah, for us the challenge is to compose simpler songs. We have a tendency to write more complex stuff. You can see that on Inertia. The songs are more simple and direct. I don’t know if that’s an improvement or evolution, but it’s definitely a change. Some people may like it and some may not. I want to believe all of these experiences that we have had at touring and becoming a better musician with time – I think that it’s more obvious on this album. It’s more mature, and more focused as it gets more to the point. Usually I like other people to have their own opinion about it, and I accept everyone’s opinion on changes and differences in our music, or the direction that we take. I prefer others to talk about it.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned basketball earlier. Is there anything else that you enjoy outside of music?
Nikas: A lot of things. When sports are okay again, in regards to COVID, I will go back to watching basketball. I support one of the biggest teams in Greece. I also enjoy movies and going to the cinema, or going through TV. I’m a huge fan of documentaries and like many kinds of them. Especially music documentaries – I really like to watch them about bands from the ‘70s as I am a huge fan of progressive rock from that era. But I really like documentaries and I watch them a lot when on tour. But movies as well, especially comedy. I’m a huge fan of many American actors, such as Will Farrell. I also like to hang out at the bar and have a glass of wine and have fun with friends. These are the things that I can do today, because as a father and professional, I don’t have too much free time anymore. But this is what I do when I get time. There are other things I really like, such as wooden constructions but I don’t have the time to do that so I watch documentaries about it.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel are some of the bigger hurdles or challenges that Scar of the Sun had to overcome to get to this point?
Nikas: It may sound funny to you, but for bands that are not from Central/Northern Europe or the US, it’s very hard to find a good record deal with one of the bigger labels. For many years we couldn’t discuss anything with a proper label and we had been ignored and rejected. But this is something that happens a lot in music and you have to be able to sustain a lot of rejections and be able to go forward – you need to keep on trying and improving. So that’s the first thing that comes to my mind.
I know it well because for some years I worked for Century Media in London. I remember several people that worked there, when they received a demo from a country like Italy, Spain, or Greece they would not even pay attention to it. It went directly to the garbage bin. I also had several discussions with label people who were like, “Why would we sign a band from Greece?” To me, that’s not very wise because good music can come from anywhere. You just need to check it out and see how serious someone is about it. It doesn’t have to come from say, Sweden or Germany. That doesn’t change anything. So that was a big hurdle for us for many years, but we did our best and worked hard for about 12 years in order to find this deal. Now I’m very happy about it.
Dead Rhetoric: The album is releasing in May, what other plans do you have for the year?
Nikas: As you know, it’s very tough to make plans because of the COVID pandemic. We are in discussions with our booking agent and label to see if we can get a package to go on tour, starting with Europe since it’s the easiest for us. We’d love to play in the US, that would be a dream for us and we will do our best to manage to do it. But that’s one of the plans – to see what happens with touring. The other one is that we are in discussions to see if we can do an online show at some point. Hopefully towards the end of summer, because we have some things that don’t allow us to play. One of our guitarists is going to have his first kid, so the band will go according to that. But at one point, we are planning to do an online show. Other than that, we are doing as much press as we can and we are going to try to push the release through social media. Also, we have started composing songs for the next album and plan to finish before the end of 2021 and then in 2022 we can enter the studio to record the next album.