Going on tour without a well-known headliner act is often a risk – especially when you are playing a not very popular genre like progressive metal. Nevertheless, POEM from Greece wanted to venture this step. Together with Damnations Day and White Walls they went on a tour through Europe to present their new, excellent album „Unique“. We had a little talk with the four musicians at their concert in Munich.
How has the tour been so far?
Stavros: It’s very nice. The good thing is that the other bands are amazing guys. Damnations Day and White Walls are very nice. We feel like a family inside the tour bus and everything has been going very well till now. We had a few things that had to be sorted out very quickly, but everything goes very well. The vibe is very good.
George: It is our first European tour as headliners with Damnations Day, but until now I think everything is going well.
Takis: And people seem to like it very much…
Stavros: …if they come. (all laugh)
You just mentioned it’s your first headliner tour…
George: We had two European tours before. The first one was with Amorphis, Textures and Omnium Gatherum and the second one was last year with Persefone. Two amazing tours for us. They gave us the chance to gain experience and we want to have our name bigger in Europe, because in Greece it is little bit difficult to get a band out of the borders. Amorphis and Persefone gave us this opportunity. We had a great time.
How does it feel compared to your tours as support of a big main act, where you mainly are confronted with concert goers who came for the headliner?
George: It’s totally different.
Laurence: Right now the people are coming for us, the three bands. Of course it’s not the same number of people that showed up on the Amorphis-Tour. But it’s very nice because you know that those people are here for you. You’re not a Warm-Up anymore. It’s like an experiment, we wanted to do this. We think it’s important to tour every year at least once. So this time we tried to do this on our own and head out there with Damnations Day and White Walls and see what’s gonna happen.
You have a new album out called “Unique”. Does the new album follow the lyrical and musical concept of your previous two releases?
George: We have one guy, Stavros here, who writes the lyrics.
Stavros: For every album, except the first one, we tried to have a general concept, not a specific one. We did this with “Skein Syndrome” and we tried to do this with “Unique”. It describes reality metaphorically through a madman. All the songs talk about this madman and his feelings, what he sees. We tried to go inside his mind and see things from his point of view. So metaphorically it’s something everyone passes in their lifetime. That’s why we called it “Unique”. Because everybody tries to be unique. But nobody’s unique. We all wear the same clothes, we all have similar jobs, we all like the same type of entertainment. But nobody’s unique. Unique is something that’s inside, not outside. And that’s what we tried to talk about on this album.
George: I think this album combines many styles of uniqueness. Imagine the racism. We see a black guy and we say that’s a black guy. No! He’s unique. Except for all of us, we’re white guys and he’s a black guy, but he’s unique. Or we can see bullying in schools. Maybe this bullied kid is unique. The unique is not only the madman. It’s a metaphor for everything.
Stavros: Our madman can be everyone. Someone who’s crazy, someone who’s alone, someone who’s sad, someone who is black, like George said.
George: Yeah. He’s unique. They’re great and we are great. We can all be unique in a point.
Between your debut and you second album seven years have passed. Between “Skein Syndrome” and “Unique” only two years passed. What was the reason for those very different time spans?
George: Yeah, the difficult part (laughs). In 2009 we made the first album “The Great Secret Show”, but we had many changes with the members. They had their own reasons. They left for economical reasons or they had their families. But we wanted to continue the band. So we made “Skein Syndrom” after seven years. There were not really other bad situations, the only bad situation was the changing of the members. That was the worst part and that’s why we took so long to make the second album. So now I think this is the…
Takis: …the best line-up.
Stavros: It’s the first thing he says in this interview. (imitates Takis‘ voice) „The best line-up“. (all laugh)
George: He recently joined the band. So now this is the best line-up, yes.
The album cover shows a person sitting in a desperate position on a chair in a room with one wall open and the ocean coming in. Why did you choose this motive and what does this picture mean to you personally?
Laurence: It’s about the album. This guy is the metaphor we were speaking of. He represents this idea of “Unique”. He feels unique. He’s inside a room, but it’s open in front of him and you can see that the sea is the chaos. It’s everything that gets upon you. The waves are crushing upon you. You can’t react. You don’t know what to do you just have to sit there. And then you have those walls. There’s a lot going on in this album cover.
George: We tried to translate the schizophrenia. There are three symptoms. One is the voices you hear all the time. The second is what you see and the third is your thoughts. There are lyrics on the walls, they are the thoughts of him and the hallucination he has are in front of him. Because he’s in his room, but he can see an ocean coming to him.
Are the words on the walls actually the lyrics of the songs?
Stavros: No, just some parts of them.
George: It’s his thoughts. Confused words. Maybe it says something like “kill him” or “unique”.
The production has a lot more punch, but is overall more dry and less warm than “Skein Syndrome”, especially the drums. Why did you decide to turn down the reverb and go for a more direct sound?
Stavros: I think it led us there. In my opinion the songs are more powerful. “Skein Syndrome” was a bit darker. But this one needed more punch.
Takis: There are more groovy riffs.
Is there anything on that album you are not 100 % satisfied with or on what you now think “damn, I would have done it differently in retrospect!”?
Takis: Actually we didn’t have much time to get the 100% that we wanted. So in the time that we had I think we did the best we could do. But of course, if we had more time we would have changed some things. But not much. Just some little details.
Laurence: Not so much change, but add things. I think that happens everytime. It was the same with “Skein Syndrome”.
Stavros: After every album an artist creates, he listens to it and he says “Aaah, I could have done this better.”. But it’s experience and it’s something that happens all the time.
It is your second release via ViciSolum Productions. Are you still satisfied with the label’s work and would you consider releasing your next album there, too?
George: Of course, ViciSolum did a great job for us. The thing is that as a band you are always looking for the best. Right now ViciSolum is the best for us. But we never know. In the next two or three years, maybe…
Stavros: …maybe we evolve. It has to do with our progression.
George: Yeah. We cannot answer that this is the best we can ever have. But until now it works for us.
Stavros: They work very hard for us. Very nice guys.
George: They did a very good job for us. This is the reason why we are here now. ViciSolum were the first label that took us out of Greece. We totally appreciate what they’ve done for us.
What are your future plans? Do you already have a concept or ideas for the next album?
Laurence: When we get back from the tour we will start working on new things already, so we don’t fall into the same trap as we did with “Unique” where everything had to be done really fast. So we’re going to do that. But right now we have all agreed to promote and play this album as much as we can, because it’s new. It’s our new child. We have to do that for at least two years. It’s what we’re focussing on right now. And we have a lot of stuff in mind to do when prepare the live shows. We’re still experimenting. The shows on this tour are the first where we’re playing this album. It’s gonna be nice, visually and musically.
I’d like to end the interview with our metal1.info brainstorming. I’ll say some keywords and you just tell me the first thing that comes to your mind.
Athens: Stavros: Home. For me it’s always going to be home.
George: Yes, definitely.
Takis: Chaos. (laughs)
Laurence: Lively. Full of life. Multicultural as well.
George: Okay: Sex! Pussies! Nightlife! Smells like teen spirit! No money! Please borrow us money! (all laugh)
Euthanasia: Stavros: Salvation.
George: For me it’s salvation, too.
Takis: Fifth song. (all laugh)
George: If you say euthanasia, my mind goes to animals and it’s very sad. But it’s salvation for them, too. If they are sick.
Refugee crisis: George: Very sensitive topic.
Stavros: It’s difficult for both sides. For us and for the refugees. It’s a government problem. Government assholes.
Laurence: In one word: money. That’s what it’s all about. And weapons.
Stavros: Political games that want to make us fight each other.
George: They try to make life useless. They don’t care. Fuck them! But not the refugees! I mean the government! (all laugh)
Favorite album: Takis: In every period of my life, like every five years that changes. I would say “Far Beyond Driven” by Pantera was the most influential thing I’ve heard when I was young. And Death – Symbolic. These two albums.
Stavros: Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon, Metallica – …And Justice For Alland Led Zeppelin – III
George: „Ænima“ by Tool and maybe Pearl Jam – Ten when I was young. And Jeff Buckley – Grace.
Laurence: I would also say „The Dark Side Of The Moon“, but I’ll say „Animals“, so we have two different albums by Pink Floyd.
Psychology: Stavros: “Unique”, the album.
Takis: Up and down.
George: Broken stuff.
Laurence: Anxiousness. Modern day sickness.