A new audio star is gleaming in the electro metal universe: recently DOL AMMAD have released their new full-length album “Cosmic Gods: Episode I – Hyperspeed”. Like hardly any other artist mastermind Thanasis Lightbridge is going consequently his own path: creating a new music style, being songwriter, producer, manager and record company all at the same time, he has been releasing numerous brilliant albums for more than a decade.
Still his art is a secret treasure, hardly known to the mainstream. And while making no compromises and creating a world of its own, the songs have a huge hit potential and may become the chartbreakers of the 22nd century. Reasons enough to meet Thanasis and investigate in his latest developments.
Dear Thanasis, 6 years have passed since the release of the last DOL AMMAD full-length album “Ocean Dynamics”. Please can you sum up for our readers what has happened in these years?
Indeed it sounds like a long gap. But in reality I was very active musically with my second project Dol Theeta releasing our mini-CD “Goddess” and our full debut album “The Universe Expands” in 2008. After that we released the Dol Ammad EP “Winds Of The Sun” in 2010 which led up to the current release of our new third full Dol Ammad album “Cosmic Gods: Episode I – Hyperspeed”. I try to release something every 1 or 2 years and I am always working on new material although life seems to be throwing more and more obstacles as I grow older.
“Cosmic Gods: Episode I – Hyperspeed” again has become an absolute killer album. Please tell us more about the concept behind. How many more Episodes can we expect?
Thank you, I love it too and I think it is a pure space-metal-fun album, what I always intended Dol Ammad to be! With the creation of Dol Theeta I managed to have a second vessel to channel my more esoteric and cerebral sounds and melodies thus allowing Dol Ammad to sound closer to what I initially had in mind. The concept behind Cosmic Gods is about 2 secret forces that exist in the universe and the fight between races and worlds to acquire them in order to rule the Cosmos. The first force is the “Hyperspeed” which is hidden in some stones in the planet Mercury. Once acquired these stones can change the laws of intergalactic travel thus empowering their possessors with phenomenal power. The fight to find and excavate these stones rages on throughout the first episode of Cosmic Gods. The second episode is about another major force that could prove even greater than Hyperspeed. I am not sure if there will be more than 2 episodes but who knows what other powers the universe holds!
If you could compare the Hyperspeed force with the second force. How would you describe the difference of their nature? How will this differ in music?
The second force is more tactical and referring to the greater knowledge of the universe whereas “Hyperspeed” was is in a sense a massive weaponry upgrade. Regarding the music, the second episode will not be a lot different than the first in the overall style, maybe a bit more sophisticated in some parts but again it will be a full-on epic space metal album.
The production is great as at all your albums. This time I especially enjoy the crunchy, fat sound of the bass guitar, which is not so common in metal productions. And of course the crystal clear sound of the choir. Have you changed a lot of gear or just use other methods? What are your most favorite new tools in your studio
I also love the choir sound in this album, I think it is the best Dol Ammad choir so far. What we changed in the production this time is that we used 2 VERY expensive new mics for stereo recording the voices. The Bass sound is also an important highlight and was achieved surprisingly without any processing other than the dry signal we got from the instrument. It is a perfect sounding Bass guitar. My favorite new tool in the studio is the new synthesizer Blade from Rob Papen. I was a huge fan of Rob Papen’s instruments and was delighted to meet him in Germany. He honored me with his instruments and I can’t stop messing around with new sounds from Blade, which uses a special form of additive synthesis through the Harmulator! It’s really sci-fi stuff.
You also released a video with a special Rob Papen eXplorer II remix of Hyperspeed. All vocal, drums or guitar lines are played with the Rob Papen sounds, which is a fascinating listening experience. Was this more an experiment or something that you’d like to cultivate more in the future?
It was more of a tribute to Rob Papen’s amazing line of instruments which I use a lot in my work. It was also an experiment since it was the first purely electronic full track I produced and it was greatly received by my friends. Maybe I will do an electro project in the future but I have other priorities right now with the third “Dol” project getting closer to become a reality.
The artwork is darker compared to the former albums. This time it was done Guangjian Huang, a Chinese designer. How did you get into contact with him?
I accidentally stumbled upon Guangjian’s work as I was jaw-droppingly viewing some of Blizzard’s art for the Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo games. I believe he is an amazing artist and what you see is all painted by hand through tablets digitizing the strokes in the computer…If you look closely and especially in the vinyl release of the album you can see a ridiculous amount of details in his work.
Definitely! So would you say that computer games are a kind of inspiration for you? If yes, what games impressed you most?
Yes, I love video games and I am very influenced by the music in the games I played as a kid back in the 80’s with the Spectrum ZX, Amstrad 6128 and Commodore 64. Nowadays I don’t have the time to dive into the epic games that are produced like Eve or Skyrim but I really want to. In my PS3 you will find the God of War trilogy, Bioshock 1 and 2 and the latest Uncharted game but I rarely play lately. I mostly try to “steal” some time off everyday playing more casual games on the iPhone and iPad. My favorite games there are Osmos, World of Goo, I dig it, Where’s my water and a fantastic new game called “Pop Corny” which was made be a close friend and features my music and sound effects.
On your website you have a new category called “Games” – coming soon. Can you already reveal something about that?
It was a dream coming true to compose music and effects for my first video game with “Pop Corny” and I wish to do it more in the future. We added the Games category in the site to include “Pop Corny” and hopefully more games in the future.
How did it come to that cooperation? What’s the game about?
The developer of the game Charilaos Kalogirou is a long time friend and also the webmaster of my website www.electronicartmetal.com. He is an amazing code-freak and I am glad to be included in his first ever game release. The game is about a pop-corn loving character mr Pop Corny who just needs to devour endless amounts of pop corn. It is a very easy to grasp but very addictive game that is characterized as an “endless-eater”. It is a free download, both iOS and Android and you can check it out here: http://www.facebook.com/MrPopCorny
On the last DOL AMMAD albums Alex Holzwarth from RHAPSODY played drums. On “Hyperspeed” you decided to play the drums yourself. What is the background of this decision? As you’re playing drums very well one may assume that you’ve already played drums in live bands in former years.
Yes I have been playing drums for lots of years, I am nowhere near as good as Alex of course but I’ve been getting better by the years. I did play with a live-cover band for one year but this is in the past now. My decision to not invite Alex in this album was made partly because of the fact that I didn’t have the necessary budget to fund the recordings but also that I felt more confident to do the drums myself as I had done in Dol Theeta in the past.
What’s the role of stringmaster Dim? Is he involved in the arrangement process or does he get finalized scores for the recordings?
Dim is a great friend and amazing musician who has been a great help through the years. I usually give him the finalized scores for the recordings with some midi-guitars that I lay down for ideas. He then either follows these ideas or comes down with his own riffs and I decide what gets in or out. He is always asking me why I don’t let him put more guitar solos in my albums but I feel guitar solos are a bid dated and “old-school”. He did manage to bend me however and you can hear the only guitar solo in the album in the middle of the song “Hyperspeed”.
Yes, I think the solo adds a precious variety to the album. As you use it so rarely, it immediately draws attention to the listener. And maybe guitar solos are returning again to be hip. So would you locate some of your roots in the old school metal?
I discovered metal in the early 90’s music through the euro-power days of Helloween, Rage, Angra etc. I was never a big fan of the more established names like Metallica etc and up to today I don’t feel a big fan of classic old-school metal. Maybe that is why I don’t approve much of guitar solos as a prerequisite in the structure of a song. I “go-off” everytime I hear technical-show-off-solos in music. I prefer melodic, meaningful solos only when they are truly needed.
Again you’ve spend huge efforts to deliver best quality to your fans, not only regarding the music and sound production, but also regarding the whole merchandize like the special vinyl edition or t-shirts. Was it difficult to realize this under the current economic crisis in Greece?
Yes I view my releases as a fan myself and want the best possible quality regardless of cost. I really wanted to release my first vinyl production as I’ve recently re-discovered my passion for them. It’s a matter of priorities, I buy new clothes every 5 years and I don’t go on vacations or whatever but when it comes to music I do the maximum. This has a price however, when I manufactured the CDs and LPs of “Cosmic Gods: Episode I – Hyperspeed” my bank account reached total zero! I literally made my first money from the first pre-order! Things don’t look so peachy here in Greece, it’s a pandemonium of fear, insecurity and uncertainty for the future. Thankfully the album is doing very well so far and this gives me hope that I will be able to release episode 2 under the same quality.
Isn’t it difficult to build up and maintain two different brands – DOL AMMAD and DOL THEETA? Wouldn’t it be easier to realize the huge bandwidth of your art all under one banner, especially as you do everything yourself, from songwriting and production to marketing?
Even back in the “Star Tales” days of 2004 it was clear to me that I had a ton of ideas that couldn’t fit into one project without making it a tasteless salad! As the years passed I evolved and discovered that there are 3 big sides of my music vision that could each form an independent entity. The first 2 sides are Ammad and Theeta. The first being the epic-grandiose side and the second being a more inner-looking-sensitive side.
In our last interview you revealed plans for the creation of a third “DOL”, a dark, extreme audio violence experience that will amaze and shock us. Are you still working on it or have you integrated this side into the blast songs of “Hyperspeed”, e.g. the title song?
Yes I am still working on it and it will be our next big release which will unveil the darker side of my music ideas and I am sure it will leave some of our friends shocked! It has nothing to do with the heavier songs in “Hyperspeed” we are talking inhuman brutal stuff here! I will start working on it full time this summer and I hope we can release it as soon as possible.
You mean brutal in the vein of distorted noise synths or more in the vein of electronically deranged sounds of organic instruments like guitars, growls or capricorns ramming metal tons and window glasses?
Are you spying on me!? Where are you? Somewhere inside the studio?! Get him Batman!! Yes, it will be exactly both of these! Brutal synth sounds driven to the extreme together with animalistic growls and industrial noises. However I am not looking to create just random noise but it will be a groovy mayhem that you can dance to if let your perverted dark side free!
If we take the current folk & pagan metal hype this seems to be the absolute antipodes to the music realms of Thanasis Lightbridge. What are your thoughts about that trend? Is folk metal something you are listening to
Not really, the only folk-ish metal that I enjoyed recently was the latest Turisas album. Are they considered folk-metal? I think this sub-genre is more popular in Northern Europe like Scandinavia, right? I do also enjoy the pirate theme of the music and vids of Alestorm but again I am not sure if they are your typical folk/pagan metal band.
What’s it like when DOL AMMAD is played in metal bars of Thessaloniki? Are people just listening or also dancing and floating through the floors? Actually most of your songs are very danceable and even could work in discos. I even could imagine ballet choreographies.
Really?! Wow! could you please note down these choreographies? Maybe we should arrange something. Indeed there is a certain groove in even my hardest tracks but I have never experienced what is going on when (and if) my music is played in metal clubs. I would hope that people could zone out into my space realms but in reality I guess they would just give strange looks to the DJ and throw him empty beer bottles shouting to change into Maiden or something
So far I’ve read many good reviews of your work in the metal press. Did you also get some feedback from the electro scene yet?
I don’t have any feedback from the electro scene other than friends that enjoy both worlds of music. I didn’t have the time to search and approach media from the electro scene yet.
Have you ever thought about leaving all the business and manufacturing part to a record company in order to focus fully on your music?
It can be very hard some days when you do tons of little stuff here and there and all you really wanted was to lose yourself with that new synth and headphones. But in the end I feel that it is truly worth it. I have total control over everything, which is my drug, and moreover I have direct communication with every one of our friends which I love.
“Hyperspeed” is dedicated to Eva. Is she metaphorical or real?
She is a real person that truly believed in me and helped by my side but for reasons having to do with evolution and life we are now apart and I hate it. The least I could do was dedicate the album to her.
That’s sad to hear, but also a venerable sign of true love and respect that you dedicate it to her even after being separated. When looking at your lyrics you hardly use any individual perspectives. Hardly an “I” is singing or telling. Nor do the lyrics deal about “he”s or “she”s. Collectives and large spaces are in the focus. The narrations are told by a neutral, distant observer, who sits at the glassy edge of universe in his tower and watches all without being involved…
That’s an excellent observation! Indeed in Dol Ammad I feel that the songs are narrated stories told by a cosmic observer. In Dol Theeta on the other hand, the songs reflect inner thoughts and inner conversations with ourselves so you can find a lot of “I”s, “She”s and “He”s there.
And how will the 3rd DOL gonna be? Many “it”s?
Hehe, no! The third Dol project will hardly have any comprehensible words! I am experimenting with raw animal-like vocals, grunts, screams, pig squeals, seal-mating-sounds. Mind you, there will be a second member in the project, his name is George Harisopoulos and he will provide my samplers with the source material for these guttural, inhuman vocals.
Where do you see the future of avant-garde metal floating? Do you think there’s still space for groundbreaking innovations? Or will it go the path of progressive metal, more or less starting to repeat itself over the years?
Oh sure, I feel there is huge space for more innovative audio material. With the advances in technology and techniques, there are tons of new fields to experiment. Of course it is sad to see than in these days of such creative and technical freedom there are so many bands and musicians that prefer to emulate others and stay on the “safe” side. Even the term “progressive metal” has lost its meaning. If you use it on your music, people will think you are a Dream Theater clone or something. That doesn’t bother me a lot though, in the end it is now fairly easy to find awesome sounding new music explorers and your website is at the forefront of this! What bothers me is the global devaluation of music and other art forms that we witness the last years. This matter of shifting “values” is the hardest to understand, predict and affect.
Okay, Thanasis, my friend, a big thanks for all your time. And as history repeats I’d like again to leave the last words to you…
Thank you so much Chrystof and AGM for this beautiful opportunity and honor in my work. My last words will be a huge thank you to all our followers and supporters through the years. Stay in touch for an upcoming Dol Theeta EP and the unveiling of the massive dark side of electronic-art-metal with the third Dol project. Space on!
Interview by Chrystof