Subcutaneous Interview With Septicflesh
For over 20 years Septicflesh are one of Greece’s most important dark/gothic metal bands. The band just returned from an extensive festival tour through Europe, promoting their latest release The Great Mass, which was very well received by both media and fans.
Drummer Fotis Benardo, who joined the band in 2003, took some time to answer our questions.
Fotis, it must have been a busy year since the release of The Great Mass. You have just returned from several festival shows. How did you perceive this time?
We had a lot of shows here and there promoting our new album, starting with a headline tour in France and Greece. Then along with Children of Bodom and Devin Townsend Project, we toured the US and Canada, and finally went on tour through Europe with Amon Amarth and As I Lay Dying for seven weeks. We also played at several festivals this year. Sometimes, when your schedule is full and everything has to do with music and creativity, you don’t realize how fast time passes.
Festivals are always a good opportunity to reach a new audience that is not familiar with your music. Do you think you succeeded in winning new fans on these tours?
Besides the fact that performing at festivals around the world gives you the opportunity to gain new fans, it also gives you the chance to get closer to people that already know your music but haven’t yet seen you on stage. I consider our live performances as something dark, occult and dynamic, something that really dresses our music like the way it should be. The atmosphere that surrounds our music has to be visualized somehow on stage as well, and I strongly believe that we achieved this.
As you joined the band in 2003 you missed the “early years” of Septicflesh. Were you familiar with the band before and what did you think of their material back then? The combination of orchestral arrangements and gothic melodies in an originally death metal oriented band wasn’t very common in the mid and late ’90s.
Septicflesh was from the beginning a qualitative band, and I knew them from the start and each step had a different approach and a different story to tell.
I always liked the fact that Septicflesh had an artistic touch, different and unique melodies and never had the fear to experiment. Maybe production-wise the older albums were not crystal clear, but the most important in music is the feel.
Septicflesh is widely regarded as a very unique band but what does this band mean to you personally?
Septicflesh are a part of my life and my way of musical expression. I’m more than happy to be a part of it. Our chemistry is something that is hard to find in bands. We are like a mechanism. We work as a team and the final result is something extraordinary.
When did you start making music, and what is it that made you choose the metal genre?
I was ten years old when I listened to Alice Cooper (Trash), Guns ’n’ Roses (Appetite for Destruction) and Iron Maiden (Seventh Son). I realized that this kind of music was the style I would like to play. I asked my parents to buy me an electric guitar and aged 12 I started my first metal band.
Do you remember your first encounter with Cubase?
I remember back in 1996–1997, a friend of mine was programming drums using Cubase for MIDI drums as a preproduction for his demo.
What was it that convinced you stay with Steinberg software?
I started using Steinberg products many years ago, writing down all my ideas and songs. I also studied sound engineering and music technology at the I.E.K AKMI institute and had the chance to work with several programs. I ended up with the one that suits me the most. To be honest, Nuendo 3 was the program that I enjoyed and stuck with for many years.
Is there anything you especially like about Cubase and our other products?
I really like the edit process in Cubase 6 and 6.5. Editing takes most of the time in the studio and it’s something you can’t avoid. Most of the instruments in metal music have to sound tight and massive, without of course making it sound lifeless. Another thing that I’m using lately is pitch correction. I used to tune vocals with another program, but I find it easier with Cubase 6.5. I never keep files that are off tune, so I don’t need to make big tuning changes.When it’s about harmonies I use pitch and warp in order to make it sound even better.
Together with Christos Antoniou, one of the founding members of Septicflesh, you also run a studio (www.devasoundzstudios.com) in Athens. In today’s music business, opening a professional recording studio doesn’t sound exactly like choosing the easy way…
Nowadays it’s a risk to do something like that, especially in my country. But I believe that working hard and making good albums gives you recognition and bands want to cooperate with you. It’s not only the recordings, we have years of experience and we try to take the best of each band when recording at Devasoundz Studios. We also try to help young musicians by arranging their songs in a better way and do some studio tricks that usually bands don’t even know. The good thing is that most of the bands are pleased to work with us and they trust us.
Can you tell us a bit about the studio setup with regard to software and computer hardware involved?
We use Avalon (AD 2022), TLAudio (5051 Ivory II) and Focusrite (OctoPre Le) preamps, Mackie (d8b), Soundcraft (Spirit LX-7 24 II) and Mackie (Onyx 1640 FireWire) mixers, MOTU 2408 mkIII soundcard, Cubase 6.5 and UAD-2 Quad Neve plug-ins software.
The Great Mass features a lot of extensive and stunning orchestral arrangements you recorded with the Filmharmonic Orchestra Prague. How was that recording conducted?
Was Cubase part of this recording process as well? We compose our music and make the orchestral arrangements ourselves. Christos Antoniou (guitars) is in charge of the orchestration. He studied composition and orchestration in London and knows exactly how to use each “family” section in the right place. It is really difficult to combine extreme metal and using orchestra at the same time. You have the aggressiveness of heavy sound on one hand and the intense and various dynamics on the other.
We used Cubase 5 to mix the orchestra, since we got all the files from Filmharmonic Orchestra of Prague via Smecky Studios. We mixed each section of the orchestra separately (brass section, wood section, percussion, etc.), and each choir section too. It wasn’t an easy task to make, but we worked really hard, spending hours finding the right balance and working with Peter Tägtgren as a soundman.
Can you tell us a bit about your current projects and the future plans for Septicflesh?
As for the studio projects, Rotting Christ are recording their new album, and Chaostar as well. Currently I’m working with two producers, while I’m also mixing two albums. I’m working with Daniel Castleman who is well known for his work with As I Lay Dying, Suicide Silence, Sworn Enemy and more. He is a master of modern sound, and I really enjoy working with him. Another project called 6for9 is a band where I do the lead vocals. We are mixing/mastering the album with Forrester Savell, an amazing Australian soundman who is known from his work with Karnivool, Dead Letter Circus and The Butterfly Effect. 6for9 fits his style exactly, and that’s why I wanted to work with him.
As for the Septicflesh, we are touring in the US, Canada and Mexico as headliners, along with Ex Deo, Krisiun, Melechesh and Inquisition. We’re really happy that we will be able to play for our friends in Mexico and Costa Rica for the first time. A European tour will follow next year, and we’ll also be playing at many festivals.