By Martina Fasano
Founded by Marios Illipoulos and Gus G, Nightrage is certainly band with plenty of shred-worthy guitar work. As the founder of the band, Illipolous has enlisted the help of some fantastic musicians in past lineups of the band. In July of 2016, Magnus Söderman (guitars) and Lawrence Dinamarca (drums) were added to the lineup and that created a creative synergy that Marios could have only dreamed of. The result? The absolutely awesome new album, The Venomous. Marios and Magnus had a lot to say about how their creative efforts resulted in what they claim to be an album worthy of a world tour, and after listening to what they had to say, we have to say, we’re pretty excited.
Martina: Thank you for taking the time out to talk with us. You’ve just released a new album! It sounds absolutely thunderous, which is what fans no doubt wanted to hear. Can you tell me a little bit about how the songs came together for the record and how the addition of Magnus on guitar impacted the band’s direction.
Marios: I started composing songs a year ago, before we actually started recording in the studio and at that time I met Magnus, and actually me and Magnus wrote all of the music together so it was a collaboration. He’s a good guitar player in the band, but he’s got a lot of ideas and we’re on the same page musically, so it was really a cool and we never struggled to compose together. It was a very fruitful collaboration. So I’m very happy to meet someone like Magnus that is on the same page and we understand each other and the music and we exchange ideas with no problems.
Magnus: Yea, I would say it was very fun writing with Marios and having written with other people before, which was sometimes harder, with Marios it totally wasn’t that way because he’s the best of the best. I was surprised. I never thought it would be that smooth to write songs together with someone else. So it was nice.
Marios (to Magnus): That’s good to hear man! (Marios and Magnus laugh)
Martina: Greece has given the world quite a few heavy metal and rock bands over the years. How would you describe the local rock and metal scene in Greece and Sweden (where Magnus is from) compared to let’s say the United States or other parts of Europe?
Marios: Here in Greece from my side I can tell you that it’s growing. The internet has helped a lot and a lot of people can find stuff about how to write a song, how to be more professional, and of course having a guy like Gus (G) and bands like Eroding Christ helped a lot of younger bands become more aware of what kinds of professional skills you need to make it in the music business. So Greece is kind of a growing scene, unlike Sweden, which maybe Magnus can speak more about, because in Sweden they already have a great scene because they have a lot of help from the state because people begin to play instruments at an early age there.
Magnus: Yea, there are so many people playing rock and metal here (Sweden). The quality and the standard is so high – I don’t know if it’s because of the winter. (Laughs) Maybe because it’s too cold to get out so they play guitar for 5 or 6 hours every day whereas in Hawaii maybe they have other things to do in the sun. (Laughs)
Martina: I’m from Toronto, Canada, so I totally get what you mean by that. We get a lot of time indoors for sure, especially in the winter.
Magnus: I don’t know if kids nowadays do that anymore, maybe it’s the same everywhere. I don’t know if the young people now have the patience to sit there for 5 or 6 hours and rewind the song over and over again, like the old guys did. (Laughs)
Martina: More of the instant gratification generation generation so to speak.
Magnus: Yes for sure.Martina: We know you guys love Seymour Duncan pickups. What pickup models do you use and how do they help you achieve the menacing roar we hear on Nightrage records?
Marios: I’m using the Blackouts. I used to be an EMG endorser, but they became a little too one-dimensional for me, and I wanted the high output of the active pickup, but the Blackouts have more of a warm tone to them, almost like a passive pickup, to be honest, and it works great for solos and for riffs. It’s more of a unique tone I think. I’ve also used the Gus G Blackout system and it’s a combination of active and passive tones, and that’s amazing for when you need to do things like play riffs and then switch to solos and stuff like that.
Magnus: I play the JB pickup and I also use the new Blackouts that you’ve got, the Jeff Loomis set and they’re great.
In terms of gear and your live/studio rigs, what do your setups include in terms of amps, guitars, pedals, strings, picks?
Marios: We use Orange amplifiers, and I use ESP guitars, my Eclipse loaded with Blackouts of course, and for picks I use the Dunlop Jazz XL, which I find helps me play a little bit faster.
Magnus: Orange amps and ESP Guitars for me as well, and I use Dunlop Tortex picks in 1.14mm, the purple ones. And that’s pretty much it. I use a delay for solos sometimes, but other than that I plug straight into the amp.
Marios: Also can’t forget we both use Elixir strings, and they’re great. Because of the coating, they last a lot longer and that helps us out a lot.
Martina: Do either or you have any “dream guitars” that you’d still want to add to your collections? Or are you more about function vs just collecting instruments?
Marios: For me personally I’m not a collector. I don’t believe in that. I just want to play. I’m very confident having my ESP’s loaded with Seymour Duncan’s. It’s all about creativity for me. My guitar is a tool to be able to write songs. I don’t know what Magnus thinks but that’s what it is for me.
Magnus: Yea, I have some different guitars because I like to have them for different sounds and purposes. I’m totally uninterested in guitars and amps and how they work and all of that. I just want something that sounds good when I plug it in and play. I’m not that interested in technical things or stuff like that.
Martina: You just want to be able to plug in and play…hopefully loudly!
Magnus: Exactly! Sometimes I don’t even know the name of the guitar model I’m using, and I don’t care because it’s sounding great.
Marios: We’re not guitar geeks, we’re more jam players – we just like to jam and have fun with it. That’s it.
Martina: Which is super important because that’s often where the creativity comes in like you said. When you’re creating songs, how do you divide the guitar duties in the band right now? Do you go about it differently when you’re playing live versus in the studio? You said the songwriting was organic and it worked well, the vibes were great, but how do you decide who is going to play what?
Marios: It’s 50/50. Magnus has all of his leads and whatnot and whatever he wants to play it’s up to him. It’s not like I’m going to say “no I want you to play what I used to play for the older songs”, we always share and divide the parts equally. We’re like brothers – part of a team. We work with each other not against each other.
Magnus: It’s almost 50 percent but if you think of the songs, I mostly will play the rhythm and Marios will play the leads. Marios has a very unique vibrato and for me it sounds like Nightrage, and I don’t want to mess with that. I think it’s cool that MArios has that uniqueness.
Marios: See, I told you it’s always good to have a brother in the band. (Marios and Magnus both laugh)
Martina: We often hear about what people are listening to right now or what they’re doing right now, but we all started someplace. Some fans asked us if you’re self-taught or classically trained, and how did you first get inspired to play guitar?
Marios: For me I remember as a kid, when I was 13 or 14 years old, I remember watching a German TV show that featured a festival that had big bands like Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Quiet Riot, and I was really inspired, especially with Iron Maiden. I think it was the Piece of Mind tour that made me want to start playing guitar and writing my own songs. Back in the day. (Laughs)
Magnus: Yea for me it all started with KISS, and then Accept, then Metallica, Slayer, all those bands. I’m self-taught but I also studied music for three years in school here in Sweden.
Marios: I’m self-taught as well but I did go to school too, but I thought all of the teachers sucked there because they didn’t have anything interesting to show me that I liked and they thought I was weird playing these riffs. So it was mainly me listening, and not even realizing that I’d been training my ears all these years. Back in those days there were no TABS or videos, you just had to listen, and I recommend that, you know, to young players, to sometimes instead of using TABS or whatever to just try and figure things out because you can really train your ear like that.
Magnus: Now it’s totally fantastic with YouTube because if you need to get inspired you can just search for it on YouTube. With us you used to have to go down to the library if you couldn’t find a song or something like that, but now it’s totally different. The opportunity is amazing.
Marios: I think the best thing is to jam with other players or go to shows to see how other players play. This is a very good lesson for anyone, while still learning how to come up with your own style. Just make sure you jam with other players better than you of course, so that you can learn from them.
Martina: Where can fans see Nightrage next? Is there a tour planned in support of the new album?
Marios: Yea, we actually have a new booking agent who is excited to book us and is looking for shows and we really want to get out and play the songs from the album live. We think Venomous deserves the best attention. So we’re looking for tours in North America, Europe, South America, Japan, Australia. We have a very good fan base in Canada, and we have a lot of interest in the band there. Everytime we play there the shows we play are good, so we’re looking forward to getting back there if possible. We just want to play everywhere that is possible so we can share these songs with all of the people that are interested in them. We love Seymour Duncan and thank you for all the support you’ve given us and continue to give us.
Magnus: Yes, we’re truly blessed to be able to work with the best, so thank you!