Interview by Arianna Govoni
2020 never ceases to surprise us! Despite this year has been quite a pain in the neck for the whole music industry and consequently, has brought all the metal bands/musicians on their own knees, we have to underline that throughout these latest 11 months we’ve managed to relief our souls thanks to a very beautiful form of art that is Music. Five years after the release of the debut album “Memories From The Future”, Greek melodic metal act Jaded Star gets back on track with a surprisingly brand new record, ‘Realign’, a new musical effort that embodies all the features we’ve got to know previously thanks to this new music baby born from Maxi Nil. We had the exclusive pleasure of exchanging some very good word with this Greek metal queen and we’ve shared some great things about this new release!
Hi Maxi and welcome to Femme Metal! It’s such a great pleasure hosting this chat with you after so many years! Today we’re here in order to talk about Jaded Star, your brand new musical baby. We could say that after parting ways with Visions Of Atlantis, you kinda felt the need of letting off steam your desire of creating music, creating something that could only be yours. The first embodiment of Jaded Star saw back then the participation of the Italian drummer Raphael Saini, but in these latest years the lineup has changed a lot. Would you mind introducing us the band also for those people who have no familiarity with Jaded Star?
Maxi: Yes, of course! But first of all, let me tell you that on the new album, in the “Re-Align” album Raphael recorded the drums for this album, he’s playing on the album… we’re still friends, we are all still friends with all the guys from “Memories In The Future”. He really wanted to be part of this second album as well, so he flew here to Athens last summer, not this one, but the previous one and he recorded the drums, but again when we wanted to have a few photoshoots or video shoots it was impossible for him to travel at the time and it was also impossible to even keep in touch, being so far away from each other and to be honest, I’ve been working from distance with the band for 12 years now! So i was so tired myself, I really needed to have a base, close here. We’re just a phone call away, whatever we need or whenever we have to do, we just gather within 15 minutes of distance. It wasn’t easy to find the right people that are really close also to Athens, but we did it! I mean, it was a long way, I mean almost two years, to gather everybody, including my new drummer, but in the end, you know, it happened like this! The first member of the band that I found is our guitar player Dane Constantine, he’s the youngest of the team, he’s a very promising guitar player! His favorite music is like black metal, he is in black metal a lot, but he also listens to bands like Wintersun, Ensiferum and stuff like that… With him we have the same vision, he knew and he knows what a band needs, it means your full time, it means money, it means a lot of hard work, so we went to my friend Angelos, who is now the keyboard player, and he owns the studio where we recorded the album and mix it. We started working with him on the songs as the co-producer with me, but all the way, he really liked the work, the songs and everything, so he was like: “I’m in love with the new songs, can I join the band?”. It was just like that and I was like: “Why not? We’re friends for 15 years now, why not? Come along”. He also recorded the keyboards for ‘Memories From The Future’ anyways, so he’s a friend of the band… then John joined the band, he’s our bass player and last, but not least, we found Jim, our drummer, he was the best friend of the bass player and I also knew him since like 20 years! I was like: “He was right there in front of me and I never thought he would like to join a band like us!”, so it’s very important that we found each other and we have the same vision, we’re on the same page on what a real pro band is all about and it’s a very rare thing to find in these days! Everybody wants to do something else aside the music, they’re not ascent on the music, on a band, because it takes risks and a lot of courage, and it’s not an easy thing to do! But I’m very proud that I found the right people for it!
Five years after the debut’s release, you’re getting back on track and you delivered your second record, “Realign”, which has been out for a couple of days now. I must say that, as I previously thought back then when the debut album was released, I had the same opinion about this brand new album, which to me is very impressive, interesting and also very varied! After such a short time, what kind of appraisal can you make about this new album and what kind of reception did you get? I guess that the feedbacks have been very positive, especially after the recognition you gained with the first single, “Female Fronted”…
Maxi: Yeah, me too! Well, first of all, as I told you, this should be the third album of Jaded Star and not the second, but since everything changed within the band and eventually laid down for a while to see what next step should be and with which people, and then we also changed the label, we were with Sensory Records from America and now we’re with Noble Demon from Germany. These things take a lot of time and I think that this album feels like the third album of Jaded Star. Until now I haven’t heard a lot of bad comments about it, of course we cannot be loved by everybody, but you know, I haven’t heard a lot of haters. I was expecting a lot of hate, to be honest, especially on the new single, ‘Female Fronted’… because, you know, it’s a very versatile topic, let’s say, many people think the opposite and whatever, but I’m very happy because people really got first of all the funny video because I was joking in many times inside the video and to be honest, yeah, I was really looking forward to Friday when we actually released the new single, “A Pain All Mine”, because it’s kinda our favourite song of the album. For me, especially, is one of the most personal songs I’ve ever written and sung, so it was really emotional and a big time for everyone in the band! Yeah, I only feel good vibes, until today and “Re-align” is the next step for us. I’m really looking forward to the future and play it live for God’s sake!
How did the cooperation with Noble Demon come to birth and how important is, indeed, to have a solid record label behind your back nowadays?
Maxi: Well, we have a manager, his name is Nicolae Avagé, he’s from France and he is a really true believer in the band! You know, it’s very rare to find people really believing and being really all the time there for you, helping you out, even in your darkest times, because there have been a lot of ups and downs within these five years! Nicolas was always looking for the best solution for me, for the band and everything… at some point, we were getting a lot of contracts, even from bigger labels, but the contracts were really bad! They would give us nothing, they would take everything, so at this point, as a musician and first of all as a person, you have to kinda balance your vanity, because we artists are vain many times, so in the end we prefer to have a smaller label with a better deal then to be the last ones on a really big label, because it’s not gonna be good for the band! When Noble Demon shown interest in us and we talked to Patrick, Patrick Walsh is a great guy, he’s been working for so many years for Nuclear Blast and he’s available 24/7 for us on Messenger, via phone, all the time! And he’s really supportive till now, he’s helping us with the promotion, he has helped us with everything, to be honest, and I couldn’t be more grateful that he came our path, in a way.
Talking about “Female Fronted”, you’ve stated that you actually don’t understand the term “Female fronted”, pointing out that music should not have any sex, but it should unite, not divide. Even if I’m one of the editors in chief from Femme Metal, I have to say that I perfectly share your point of view and even if the website is called “femme metal”, I have to point out that we don’t focus only on those bands whose singers are female, but our primary goal is to reach out and to give more space to those bands we consider ‘worthy of attention’. Still I see tons of people who follow certain bands only because they have a female singer in it and this is so bad… People should pay more attention to the music, not the band’s members. What’s your thought about it?
Maxi: To follow what you said, the problem, I think, is coming from both ways: it’s the fans, that kind of fans, that are not music fans, they actually prefer looking instead of listening, but on the other hand, there are also many bands out there that actually put everything on the looks, instead of the music! The problem comes from both sides, but in the end, you know, because I had a lot of conversations over the years about this topic, in the end what I really have to say is that this really old situation is so out of myself, is so out of Jaded Star, is so out of my point of view on things… What can we do? I mean, they exist, as long as they don’t bother us, as long as we don’t bother them, people can do what they want, they’re free to do whatever they want, but for me music has to be the first thing and then everything else… You should first write good songs, you should first care about a good production and then, of course, if you like you can take care of yourself and look good, so people can have the whole package! First of all, it’s a band, it’s music, so it is supposed to be about sound and songs, in the end.
I have to tell that ever since I have always loved your vocal versatility that we could easily describe as “flexible and definitely gutsy! These ten tracks are indeed very energetic, impressive and very straight forward, especially if I think of songs like ‘Adrian’ or ‘Breathing Fire’. How did you approach yourself, vocally speaking, to these new songs? Did you want to use your vocal versatility or, somehow, did you want to experiment and these are the outcomes of this kind of experimentation?
Maxi: Well, on this album, to be honest, I told myself that I shall myself free and that I shall think out of the box. I didn’t have any plans or actually experiment on everything. I just wanted to feel free to express all my feelings and all the voices that I had inside me, especially on ‘Adrian’, the second verse where I actually go kinda bluesy or kinda gospel, you know… It just came out and at the beginning I was like: “Oh, shall I put it in a metal record?” and then I just thought about it one more time and I said: “Yes, I’ll go for it!”. The guys were like: “Yeah, let’s do it”. I had a positive feedback from the band as well, so I was free to express myself to the 150% and this is the outcome! I’m really glad you did enjoy it, it means a lot because it took us so long and it was so hard, so having people actually connected with it and actually really understanding what we were doing here, this was my goal, we made it! This is a success for me.
There’s a song that really hit me, ‘Rise Up’. There’s a specific statement that says: “Rise Up Fall Apart all the way from the start”. So please correct me if I’m wrong, but given that I don’t have any lyric at hand I have to trust my own hearing! Is it indeed a song that somehow wants to give a sort of message of hope, encouragement to somebody? I am interpreting my own way because I don’t have so many elements right now… What’s the meaning of this song?
Maxi: It says “Rise Up Fall Apart all the way from the start” . i enjoyed it a lot of times in my songs that I tend to write about the dark times and that we could still find hope, even in our darkest place. Like “Keep On Fighting” from ‘Memories From The Future’, I made a song on that album. On ‘Rise Up’ and also in other songs in the album I’m talking about hope, I’m trying to motivate people, actually putting myself as an example, because I’ve been through very dark times and I will be in the future as well, because life is like that! We can’t always be happy in the light, in the bright side! On ‘Rise Up’, I’m actually asking you to dare to actually fight for your hopes, to fight for your dreams and try to do the best you can in your life. The chorus is “Rise Up, fall apart, all the way from the start, throw yourself in deeper waters”, I mean, really I dare you to do it. It’s like keep on fighting for what really matters, and in the end the song closes like ‘don’t back down, we gotta go up”. So this is the message I’m giving people and to myself as well, because it’s kinda a therapy for me and I think for every songwriter actually that heal through the songs and the music.
A song that is very dear to you is “A Pain All Mine”. Would you mind telling me something about it?
Maxi: Without going in too much detail, this is a song about my father. We’re not in the best terms and I think this is enough, I always had this bitterness that I always wanted to express. I think those rights actually let it out and tell him those words even if he won’t understand, or even if he will never listen or maybe he listens to the song but he doesn’t know it’s about him! I just take it out of my system, I had to take it out of my sistem and let it out there! I can relate, it’s the people I think are also related to the song: for example, having a problem with a family member or whatever, we all have a pain all ours, I think!
Like every other band, also Jaded Star is very disadvantaged because of the inability of playing live or touring in front of a crowd who’s ready to support the band, both physically and financially. As you know, this period is not one of the easiest! How could we provide our own help or our own support to bands? Shall we buy more records? Shall we launch crowdfunding campaigns or so on? What shall we do in order to support these artists?
Maxi: I’m gonna talk about Jaded, because each band has a different need, up to right now we’re all on the same page, but still bigger bands are more likely to survive through this. Not for too long, though, because bigger bands that are actually only feeding their families from gigs, this is gonna be a problem in the future! Talking about Jaded, what people can do for us is to actually buy the album and buy some merch from the store of the band, from our official store because this is where we got the money from. I don’t know about a future campaign, but what we plan for the future is to actually play a live show, when we will be out of the lockdown, because we were supposed to do it next week, but it’s impossible! (the interview has been conducted on November 9th, ed). So, hopefully December or January, I don’t know, we’re going to have a live, we’re gonna play live for an hour or something, we’re gonna play the whole album and a few songs from “Memories From The Future”. What it would be a great thing to do for us – and we are still thinking about it – is to have like people make good donations on that! I don’t want to have a fixed price on this, because people can only give one euro, or they can give 50 euros. We want everybody to be able to see, so we will put a donation or something, we don’t want to have a fixed price so nobody cannot afford, we want to leave it open to the people for everyone to see.
Ok now let’s talk about something nice: I know that you had the chance to join The Voice Of Greece as a vocal coach. I’d love to ask you a couple of things: first of all, how did this beautiful adventure come to life and, especially, what did you personally learn from this experience?
Maxi: Well, first of all, television: this is a big school, because it’s also a main television, it’s far from what we are as people, but what I have understood is just that you have to be yourself, even with people of the media with pop culture and everything. You cannot fail! You have just to be yourself, do your job, but you have to love what you do! Television means a lot of hours, like a lot of hours, you don’t have like a schedule, you have to be available all the time, everyday. Being a vocal coach at The Voice I had 40 students alone, by myself! I gave myself, I gave 100% of myself on this game, because I really cared about those people and I had a lot of fun. I was dead tired, I couldn’t feel my feet everyday, but you know, I didn’t care, because at the end of the day, I won a few great friends, I met really good people in this business, because not everybody is bad or rotten to the core. There are really a lot of good people working there. For me as a coach, I learned to be very fast, I had to do with a lot of people at the same time, so I had to invent new exercises, we were like gathering all together, 40 people in a room to warm up and to motivate them a bit, because being a player on TV is like very exausting! They were there like from 8 o’clock in the morning and they would sing at 1 in the morning. It’s not easy! You have to love what you do, you have to love this job, in order to be good and in order to have a good result.
Unfortunately you weren’t one of the judges of this talent show, even if I saw you perfectly in this role…
Maxi: Yeah, I’m not a mainstream singer and in Greece rock music is not very popular. It’s not like in Finland, for example, or in another case that we saw, many of metal singers being on the role of the judge. In Greece things are very, very different!
A role that, as you might know, once was Cristina Scabbia’s, at least in the Italian edition of this show. I don’t know what’s going on in Greece, but I do recall all the negative comments that Cristina received back then when her participation was confirmed. Tons of Italian metalheads spoke some shit about her but you know, both Cristina and Lacuna Coil are constantly beleaguered (bilighered) for so many reasons that, still, I don’t get. Some Italian people didn’t have a clue about what metal is, some other became metalheads or started following Cristina and supporting actively Lacuna Coil after this experience. How is metal seen actually in Greece?
Maxi: First of all let me tell you something! I don’t know if you know the expression “no prophet in his own land”, it means exactly what you just described! Both Cristina and Lacuna Coil are great outside their own country, people get to actually love them and they have a lot of fans, but their own people, Italians or for us greeks, they will never be as supportive as they would be with a foreign band. That’s the problem! You expect your country to actually support you the most but “no prophet in his own land”! That’s it! This is what happens, this is the same old story… It doesn’t happen often in Germany, for example, or in Finland, or in countries like that, because they actually support their own product. Here it’s very close to Italy, we don’t have a lot of haters, at least we don’t know them! We don’t get a lot of hate comments, maybe we’re not big enough yet, because for me when you get a lot of hate, it means that you’re doing something right!
Ok Maxi, this was my last question. As our tradition wants, I invite the interviewee to share the final words, so I call you to speak!
Maxi: I really wanna thank you for the opportunity to talk myself out there. I wanna tell people to actually keep on supporting music as much as they can, because times are tough and the times are hard for everyone, as we know, but please remember that music is all we have and music is the only thing that nobody can take away from us.