Septicflesh: Cubase since forever
By Eckhard Doll, September 13, 2017
Septicflesh were formed in 1990 and since then have become one of Greece’s most important extreme dark/gothic metal bands of today. The band has just released a new album called Codex Omega and is busy planning the upcoming tour schedule. Nevertheless, guitarist Christos Antoniou found the time to answer some questions on
his band and provide insights on recording the latest release.
Christos, please tell us a little on how you recorded your latest album?
We were really focused in the composition process. Each of us worked from his own home studio and after the choice of the songs we recorded the metal parts in Gravity Studio, Athens, while I was also working on the orchestrations. In December, I went to Prague to record with the FILMharmonic Orchestra. All the material from that session was sent to Jens Bogren for mixing and mastering. Everything was perfect, we enjoyed the whole process, we did our best and we are really pleased with the result.
This was the fourth collaboration with the FILMharmonic Orchestra since the band reformed in 2008 after a break. Was adding this symphonic element a natural progression for you and the band that everyone could agree on?
The orchestra is our 5th member. The impact was huge when introduced on the album Communion (2008). Also, all of us are fans of soundtracks and classical, modern music and all these influences allow us to deliver our symphonic elements.
When did you start making music, and what is it that made you choose the metal genre?
I started when I was around 15 years old. We formed the band and started to create some songs. Metal touched me immediately as it was the “outcast” and “revolutionary” music during that period in Greece. At the same time, I also started listening to classical music and when I heard the masterpiece “Rite of Spring” of Igor Stravinsky, I said I want to be a composer.
Do you remember when you used Cubase for the first time?
I think it was around the mid-nineties. We were very enthusiastic when we discovered it. It gave us so many possibilities in terms of recording and the composition. We haven’t changed since.
What is it that made you stay with Cubase over all these years? Are there any specific features you like most?
For me the best features are the MIDI template and the use of VST instruments. I am quite picky with the MIDI environment and Cubase’s MIDI template gives me exactly what I need and want. VST instruments are a must for my composition. I have my own orchestral and synth setup I can load any time and this is a real time saver! In combination with the MIDI features, I try to make it as realistic as possible even if it is just for a draft.
These days, there are tons of very good orchestra sample libraries and VST instruments available, but still you choose to go with the “real thing” which must be a huge effort both financially and logistically. Why do you do it anyway?
Sample libraries have come a long way and I am sure their evolution will never end, but the real thing is unbeatable. The warmness, the colors, the unlimited options that a real orchestra can offer you is unique and one of a kind. We are lucky that we have the luxury to record with a real orchestra. Labels give us the budget and we use it to achieve this unique result.
How does a Septicflesh song come to live? Do you rehearse and compose as a team using the good old guitar or are the symphonic elements part of the process from the very beginning?
We are three main composers and we make use of mainly two options. My band mates give me their songs and I orchestrate them or add my ideas or I give them my orchestral skeleton and they add the metal part. Most of the time we don’t rehearse during the creation of the songs. Rehearsals come later.
Do you use any sample libraries and VST instruments in the composing stage to see how these elements may fit into the songs?
Yes, I have a template that covers basically everything. But I have always in mind that a real orchestra will perform our music. It’s a different world and you have to know exactly how the music will sound from an orchestra.
Could you elaborate a bit on how Cubase is used in the current album recording process?
We used Cubase throughout the entire composition and pre-production process. From MIDI orchestration and programming to recording guitars/bass and arranging the structure of the songs.
Your drummer Krimh is from Austria and I guess that he cannot be with you at all times. Have you ever used VST Connect and VST Transit to exchange recordings between Austria and Greece?
Until now we have been using the traditional methods like uploading our ideas on a file transfer service and from there we work in our own home studios.
How do you cope with all the additional instruments and voices on stage? Do you work with many playbacks or do you try to reproduce as much of the orchestral elements as possible live?
We use one or two stereo orchestral channels from the final mix of the album in order to reproduce the orchestra as playback. There is no other way, unfortunately. But we use stereo waves, not mono, for the best result.
Is Cubase part of this live setup?
Of course! We are controlling the changes in guitar tones (rhythm, lead, effects, etc.) as well as our entire light show, through MIDI automation in Cubase.
I hope that we will be able to see you live again this year. What are your plans for this year?
Definitely, we are going to play everywhere to promote Codex Omega and give our listeners our best. Till now, we have confirmed a Latin America tour in October/November. We are also in talks for two more tours in Europe and North America.
Christos, thank you very much for taking the time! We wish you a lot of success for your new album.
Thanks for the interview!