Hi Billy and welcome to Grande Rock webzine. Your new album, “Cynical Silence”, is finally out. How do you feel about it?
B: I would like to start off by thanking you for taking the time for this interview. I feel very positive about this album. It makes me feel accomplished as an artist and songwriter to put out such high-quality progressive metal that comes straight from the heart. I’m very proud of this record, not only because I poured my soul into it, but because I can hear it over and over without tiring. I’m always finding new “things” as I listen to it.
The new album arrived only one year after the debut. How did you manage to create a new release so quickly?
B: Bob and I were so happy with the result of our first album, “Ethical Dilemma”, that we jumped right into the studio, and wrote the second, “Cynical Silence” shortly thereafter! Our individual songwriting approach, syncs well when we collaborate. It’s evident in both albums. I personally had a lot of material that I needed to express and get it into the studio for recording. I basically pressed and pushed Bob to jump right into the second effort, because I had so many ideas to get produced. As far as putting out 2 albums, with only a year apart, well I think that proves how well we work together, and how much creativity we have as a songwriting pair.
Which are the similarities and the differences between the new album and the debut?
B: With “Ethical Dilemma”, our goal was definitely geared towards getting that 90’s FW, quality progressive metal songwriting factor, out to the public. That, yes, there are still musicians that can write and produce that kind of music. With “Cynical Silence”, that factor is still very evident, but the songs were not “trapped” in that box. We wanted to prove that although we are heavily influenced by what resulted in “Ethical Dilemma”, that we are not one dimensional. We didn’t want to produce “Ethical Dilemma” part 2. “Cynical Silence” is a lot more in-depth, personal, haunting and dreary sounding album.
What has changed in your songwriting formula or the way you approached the songs this time?
B: We wanted to take a heavier, darker, and more progressive path with this album. That was a big change in the songwriting process for the actual “sound” and outcome of the songs, themselves. Our formula didn’t really change. Our approach did. “Ethical Dilemma” was more along the lines of Queensryche and of course Fates Warning. We believe “Cynical Silence” has some “brush strokes” from bands like, Pain of Salvation, Conception, and Leprous.
Can you tell us about any challenges you faced while recording this album? Did you try any new techniques or approaches?
B: Challenges? Hhmmm… Honestly, the only true challenge was getting Bob to find the time to actually record the material in the studio! No joke! That was our biggest problem. The lack of Time. I don’t feel that as a songwriting duo, we have come to the problematic stage, of having to face serious challenges or struggles with our project. Maybe by the 5th or 6th album, we might, but not at this point. We are still “blossoming”.
What are the lyrics about? What things motivate you to write lyrics?
B: My lyrics are very spherical. They can be extremely personal, or very general in a sense. Everything in everyday life and living inspires me to write lyrics. Personal defeat, coming of age, silence, angry thoughts, maturing, etc., etc. These are only a few of my contents when I concentrate on creating a story or wanting to express something for the listener. Overall, my concepts for the lyrical part of a song can stem from the music, or I can fit my stories to specific musical patterns.
Please explain how you used AI to produce the album’s cover artwork. How did the idea come to be?
B: The album cover artwork was created by placing all the lyrics of the album, into ChatGPT and then using these prompts in Midjourney to make the cover art. The result is great, and does reflect the nature of the album, we believe. I was hesitant at first to use AI, but I came around when I saw the final result.
What does the album title “Cynical Silence” declare?
B: The album title declares exactly what I believe. In our desperate and cruel days, I feel that all around us, there is a “numbness”. Society is going through a “Cynical Silence”. It was chosen for the album title because we liked the way it “sounded”. I had written the lyrics, for the title track, and when Bob read it, he declared in a very confident voice: “That’s it! That’s the name of the album! It’s fuckin awesome”! I couldn’t argue with that! I actually had something very different for the album title, but Bob won that argument… obviously.
As far as I know the album was recorded and mixed by Bob Katsionis at Sound Symmetry Studio and it was mastered by Nasos Nomikos (Outloud, Redeemer, Warrior Path, Validor, etc.) at VU Productions, Piraeus, Greece. What has changed in the way you recorded and what do you think of the final outcome on the whole? Did you face any issues due to the covid restrictions?
B: If we weren’t satisfied with how well “Ethical Dilemma” was received by the public, we wouldn’t have released “Cynical Silence” a year after. We took our firstt albums’ success as a sign that our effort was not in vain. Of course we would love for our albums to be renowned worldwide, but that’s not to say that we are not satisfied with the attention that our work is getting. We didn’t have any COVID based restrictions. The album was recorded and produced after the pandemic.
The album was again released via Symmetric Records? Do you feel better having control over your music’s promotion and distribution?
B: Yes. Symmetric records is our home. We are very pleased with the way they promote our material. It most definitely is better to have control over as many aspects of your material as possible.
So far you have release one official video for “Vengeance is Mine”. Do you intend to release another video soon, and if so, which track?
B: Yes. We will be releasing an official video for the title track. We believe it’s our most “commercial” song.
Are there any plans to give any live shows in the near future? I see that fans are asking for it.
B: Vass/Katsionis is in fact, at this point, a project. With that said, we never say never. If we get the right kind of opportunity/agreement for us to play our material live, we will most definitely consider it.
What are your expectations from “Cynical Silence” and what do you wish to achieve with Vass/Katsionis project over the next years?
B: Our expectations for this album are very realistic. We are very happy and satisfied with its success to this point. We plan to put out as many albums as we can, as long as the inspiration flows.
How would you describe the music style of your band to someone who has never heard of you?
B: 90’s style progressive metal in the realm of Fates Warning, Queensryche and Dream Theater.
Do you think that the streaming services have helped the bands/artists and music business or not?
B: Double-edged dagger. Like all new technologies, too much, is never a good thing. Times have changed, and so we must also. We adapt. We progress. All must be taken in a realistic stride.