I am pretty sure most of our readers do not know your background, so could you start by telling us a bit about you and your musical background, of all the places in the World, you hail from Cyprus…?
Winter’s Verge – Hello there! Miguel from Winter’s Verge here. The band was formed in 2004 by George (vocals) and Stefan (keyboards). There weren’t any other bands in Cyprus playing melodic power metal stuff and indeed, not many people seemed to even care about that sort of music, so they started working on songs together while trying to find other members to make up the band. They managed to find Harry (bass), Periklis (guitar) and Andreas (drums) and recorded a 4 track demo, which surprisingly sold out very quickly. Turned out that some people were interested in that sort of thing after all… Harry then had to leave the band to join the army for the mandatory 2-year time and I jumped at the chance to join when I heard they were looking for a bassist, as I’d been following their progress with a lot of interest. We then recorded our full-length demo album, ‘Another Life, Another End’ and that sold very well too. A certain R.D. Liapakis (vocalist of Mystic Prophecy and our eventual producer) heard of our band, liked the demo album and helped us land a deal with Limb Music Products. Periklis then had to also leave the band due to army service, and we quickly found Harry (guitar) who’d impressed us with his live performance of Steve Vai works. We then headed to Germany to record our album, and when we came back to Cyprus and after the next show, Andreas decided to leave the band and we needed a new drummer (more on that later).
As for musical background, well George has a diploma in piano, and used to teach music at a local institution. Stefan used to take some lessons until he decided he just wanted to do things his own way, typical of him. Harry also took a bunch of theory and guitar lessons and has a performance certificate in that too. I have a degree in music from the University of Surrey in the UK focusing mostly on classical stuff like orchestration and musicology, and I also play double bass in an orchestra. Our new drummer Chris is entirely self-taught. So I guess most of us have some amount of formal ‘training’ in what we do, but we all strive to have our own style. We all have a lot of experience playing many different types of music live, so that definitely gives another edge to the band.
The album has been out a few months now, how has the response been?
Winter’s Verge – Well the reviews overall have been pretty good. I mean we get some extremes of people loving the album and others hating it which is entirely natural! But if you add up all the review scores we’ve found and find the average, it’s around 8/10 which I guess isn’t bad for a first album.
What can a listener that has never heard your music before expect?
Winter’s Verge – Expect melody, atmosphere and energy. Also, expect a generally overall darker feeling than you get with most power metal – no enchanted forests or swords or unicorns or any of that. In fact, almost all of the songs on the album deal with pretty depressing subject matter overall.
Where does your inspiration come from, how do you approach the writing of songs?
Winter’s Verge – Personally, I believe all art is communication. It is the interpretation of the world that we live in, of our surroundings and our everyday lives and an attempt to express to others what one sees and feels and we do this through the language of music. I mean, even within fantasy themed and surrealist works can one find parallels to the world. So, our inspiration comes from humanity as a whole, and the world we live in. We look at historical events, and current situations as well as personal feelings and emotions one will pass through on the journey of life. We sometimes touch upon some myths and legends, such as vampirism in ‘Eternal Damnation’ but we tend to explore the emotional side of it through subjects like alienation and betrayal, which are very real matters we all deal with on a daily basis. When writing a song, we try to make something powerful which will stay in your mind after you hear it – the greatest songs ever are the ones you never forget once you hear them, and every time you listen to them you might discover something else. Also, we have many different influences in the band ranging from traditional metal to classical to black metal, and we try to put some of that variety in our music.
You have just had a change in the line-up, how come and how hard was it to find a replacement for the departed drummer?
Winter’s Verge – Our former drummer Andreas left the band because he felt he needed to focus more on his career in information technology – he’s got a good job at the biggest ISP in Cyprus and felt he couldn’t commit to the band enough. He’s still our site webmaster and looks after all the internet stuff, so he’s still very close to us. Finding Chris (drums) wasn’t difficult – we all knew him as one of the members of Armageddon Rev.16:16, one of the longest-lived metal bands in Cyprus. He’s also widely respected as a live and studio session musician in both Cyprus and Greece, and is endorsed by Pearl drums. So when faced with the issue of finding a drummer, he was the first person we contacted and he was excited by the chance and joined the band.
Tell us a bit about the artwork…
Winter’s Verge – The artwork is based on the title track of the album, ‘Eternal Damnation’. While recording the album in Germany, RD Liapakis and the band were thinking about the concept for a cover, and we told him about the song being about a vampire. He got in touch with Gustavo Savez, who designed the album artwork. Gustavo then sent us back a few rough ideas and we really liked what we saw, and replied with some suggestions. Overall, the artwork is pretty good I think, and carries well the overall atmosphere and feeling of the record.
Let’s speculate – you have been granted a free slot on a tour of your own choice – who would be your ideal touring partners? And will you be heading out on the road any time soon…?
Winter’s Verge – Touring band like Sonata Arctica, which have been a big influence on our music would be great. Being able to play live to people who are interested in that band would be fantastic for us. Stratovarius too, but that’s assuming they still even exist anymore, things are pretty confusing! Generally, any power or progressive metal band really. We like the fact that categorising our music can be a bit tricky, it means people will have a more difficult time putting a label on us and that makes us more interesting, I think. As for touring, well there are a couple of possibilities coming up but we will definitely be playing some shows in Greece in the foreseeable future, and possibly even in the UK.
Winter’s Verge – any special story behind your name?
Winter’s Verge – Winter is a special time of year, the world seems to be asleep and repressed but it really isn’t, just our perception of it changes. Before the winter, when days get darker and nights grow longer, and the chill begins to bite, a unique feeling comes over – one of darkness and contemplation. We like to think that our music attempts to capture this feeling.
What’s the ambition for the band on a longer term?
Winter’s Verge – Well obviously, sell many albums and do many tours! We want to reach as many people as we can, since that’s what it’s all about. If music is a language and you have something to say, you want to talk to as many people as you can.
And how do you feel about the metal scene in general at the moment, and is there a scene in Cyprus?
Winter’s Verge – The metal scene is getting more fragmented as time goes by – you see rivalries between different genres and that wasn’t really as present 10, 15, 20 years ago. Also, the internet has radically changed the face not just of the metal scene, but of the international music business as well. George said recently that we won’t be seeing any mega-bands any more – bands like Metallica or Iron Maiden. People will not go to a record store and just buy whatever albums are in the metal section, they’ll go online, hear what sort of music they like and what bands they like, and download their music (legally or illegally) and that changes the way everything works. So that means for bands to make an impact, they need to play live and that’s what is keeping metal alive – nothing will ever compare to a live performance of a good metal band. There is a small but active metal scene in Cyprus, with many bands made up of people of all ages. There’s a lot of variety, we get many black and death metal bands but also several progressive and power metal influenced groups and overall it’s an encouraging way things are going. There’s a lot of talent on this island waiting to be discovered.
Name an album, person or event that has had a huge influence on your life … and why?
Winter’s Verge – For me personally, the album that really changed my life was Iron Maiden – Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. I first heard it when I was 13 years old, and as soon as I did I knew that I wanted to play bass and play metal. I didn’t do the usual guitar-then-bass thing many people do – I wanted to play bass straight away and this album really did it for me.
You are told that you are going to take part in an experiment where you have to live secluded for a month, and are allowed to take either 5 books or 5 albums with you. What do you choose and what would you have taken along with you and why?
Winter’s Verge – either 5 books or 5 albums? Tough one, as I love to read as much as I love to listen to music. I think I’d have to go with the albums though, as I can close my eyes and imagine things along with the albums, whereas reading a book in silence is something I rarely do, I usually have music playing along while I read. So, albums I’d take Shadow Gallery – Carved in Stone, a CD of Franz Liszt’s piano works (preferably performed by Grigory Sokolov), Emperor – In the Nightside Eclipse, Stratovarius – Elements Part 1 and Iron Maiden – Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. I’d have a nice variety from aggressive stuff to technical and progressive material, and overall atmospheric material which is the most important thing for me.
Thank you very much for answering my questions. Do you have any last rants for our readers?
Winter’s Verge – We just want to thank everyone who’s taken an interest in the band and for everyone who cares enough about us to go out and buys our album. In today’s world where it’s easy to get something for nothing, that’s what makes a real difference. It’s not about money – we see hardly anything from album sales and very few artists ever do. It’s about the support and the confirmation that what we’re doing really matters and really makes a difference to people.
Take care, and hopefully see you all on tour soon!
Interviewed by Kenn Jensen.