zondag 31 juli 2022

The Same River – Ancient wisdom, universal truths, and heavy rock…



The Same River – Ancient wisdom, universal truths, and heavy rock…

“We just put the words in the right order, so it forms a proper sentence, so the listener can understand, and for the rest, we just want to feel the flow and have the energy carry us wherever it may go…”

They will never make another album like the Weight Of The World. Simply because you can never make the same album twice. The sounds will not be the same. For the band will not be the same. It is what The Same River is all about. A name taken from vocalist Diamond PR’s favorite pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus explains it all: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”

Another reason is the fact that the album was recorded during the lockdown of the Covid Pandemic. Which meant they all recorded their parts in separate studios or, well, mostly in their homes converted to studios. Driving themselves and the people they live with slowly… But surely… Insane…

“It was a struggle. I felt isolation, it felt like a weird nightmare. It often felt like a prison for me. I converted the room next door into a vocal booth. I went in there, night after night, while every other person was asleep or almost going to sleep during the lockdown and my girlfriend was watching television in the living room. She would have headphones on, so she would not disturb my recordings. But also, because she was slowly going insane and getting headaches from hearing the same lines being repeated over and over and over again. Haha. And I felt that pain. I can laugh about it now, but at the time, it was hard. It was also the pain of having to make decisions myself. We are a band. We started being a band right before the pandemic. And then we had these songs. We wanted to record. But I could not ask for their advice constantly. So, I had to record vocal lines a certain way, make a rough mix, send them over to the others and wait for them to respond. But the way they responded, and how we all helped each other with phone calls, emails, text messages, it really was heartwarming. It made us better friends, a stronger band and I can honestly say that I love those guys even more now.”

Stoner HiVe is talking with vocalist and guitarist Diamond Pr, responsible, together with bass player Dimitris Georgopoulos for starting The Same River. “We had both played in Cyanna Mercury together. And our musical vision for a new band really coalesced, you know how it works. Sitting in bar, drinking, philosophizing over music and starting a new band. But this time, we both felt the urge to get it done. I said to Dimitris that I knew a very good drummer and that’s how Fivos Katsifloros from One Man Drop got involved. As we started jamming as a trio, Fivos then suggested getting another guitar player involved, one he knew well and of which he knew was searching for something new. We said, well, invite him, let’s jam. We’ll see how it turns out. Theodore Ntilgeris from The Great Black Shark came in, we jammed one time; loved how we all clicked, got together a second time, and immediately started writing new songs together. So, we all fit together perfectly!”

And all that happened back in 2019. You know. The time before the world stopped turning. Those first four songs were written so quickly, and the flow was so natural, that when the pandemic hit and ensuing lockdown started, they were all feeling the pain of not being able to play their first live gigs. Instead, they went in and recorded their Live At The Blackbox EP at Blackbox Studios, mixing and mastering live on the spot. “Of course, we would have loved to play live shows first. But recording it all live and direct like we did, it was a great experience and made us more comfortable as a band and with the songs we had. We felt, for instance, instinctively that The Same River and Voyage\\The Great Sea were meant for bigger things. Why we did not feel the same way for After Life and Phoenix is a mystery to me. We did not really discuss that; it just was the natural way of things.”

“I don’t think my music will change anything about that. On the other hand, it is what I am destined to do and what I feel I must do.”

Natural way of things. Flowing like a river. Its how everything that Diamond PR does nowadays seems to work. Earlier bands like Cyanna Mercury, the Shewreck duo with the Cyanna Mercury vocalist Spyreas Sid for a short movie called Amaltheia or his black metal band Heretic Cult Redeemer were all much more thought out and discussed. Growing older, made him wiser and more in touch with what he wants to do. “No, I don’t think that’s completely true. For I’ve always been an old wise soul in a young man’s body, as my mother always claimed. Hahaha. It’s just, I don’t want to waste any more time with things that do not matter. The world, human condition, society, and civilization is not doing well. I don’t think my music will change anything about that. On the other hand, it is what I am destined to do and what I feel I must do.” All the songs on Weight Of The World have a deeper meaning and most of the lyrical content: ‘carries the band's philosophical concerns about the decadence of human society filtered through the fears of an unknown world after this pandemic ends. Heraclitus, Albert Camus, Sigmund Freud and many mythological aspects of our heritage (with a deeper meaning), such as Sisyphus and Prometheus, blend in a way and fulfills in rhymes what our vision for this world is about; solidarity, peace and understanding.’ 

But the smiling guy on the other side of the video chat looks good natured, happy, and hopeful. “I don’t see it really changing, but I have to be, my daughter is six months old, I worry for her future. But when I look at her, I see the beauty of the world, I do not feel the weight of the world. I struggle to still feel all that hope inside that at one point humanity must eventually find the way forward. The way we distribute wealth cannot continue. The way we deplete our mother earth cannot continue. It might not be politically correct so say these things, but Western Civilization really messed things up in the past. You know, with how we invaded the entire world, colonization and all the wars we started. And now that a lot of world is laboring under the same kind of economic and political system. Well, most at least. Well, now the world is starting to fight again, over who will be the boss, in the end. And if nothing dramatic changes, it’s hard to see a good future. With climate change, economy collapse, wars, sure, we had it before. But this feels different. And that is a feeling everyone I talk too shares. Or most everyone. Which is strange. Cause when you talk to the people who lived through the second world war or other conflicts around the globe, they all had a feeling, this will end, we will see better days. Now, everyone feels and says, this will only get worse, and worse every day, and we can only hope that eventually it will get better. That difference is huge and almost tangible. And by going back to the universal truths the old philosophers taught us, we try to speak to everyone, and touch upon something everyone can take with them…”

Big words for an ‘old soul’ in a ‘young man’s body.’ But listening to the Weight Of The World album you can hear, nay feel, that they mean what they say and that the album, not just lyrically, is made to touch everyone that hears it. Using all that prog and psych offer for the heavy rock scene, they distinctly move into All Them Witches territory and one can also hear all sorts of different influences that must have come from musical loves from the past. Madrugada for instance. “It’s strange that you mention Madrugada, I loved that band quite a lot and I will see them again soon when they play the old Panathenaic Stadium in Athens. But I cannot claim that I hear what you mean that you hear those influences in The Same River.” When I start talking about the end of the song The Same River, the way that guitar slows down and the way the vocals repeat in a certain rising fashion; he immediately lightens up. “Oh, yeah, now I know what you mean. I hear it in my head now. That’s indeed, something Madrugada does as well. But I think it’s also something Theodore (Ntilgeris, Guitar) does often as well, he can change up the time signature, slow down, carry a note, and tell you more with that one note than certain players do with an entire song, just like the great Robert Buras (Madrugada) did. And to hear those guitar parts come in for the first time, man, that was so great.” Cause as we mentioned earlier, they all recorded their parts separately and in their (home) studios. “The biggest surprise was when the drum parts came in. Recorded down in a converted basement, I feared they might sound to hollow. But when I heard them for the first time, I was blown away. I mean, I already knew how good Fivos (Katsifloros, drummer) was, but I did not know for sure how good he would be in recording his own drums in that basement. It sounded so awesome, even before the album got mixed and mastered. That was perhaps the most euphoric moment surround this entire album. Although, of course, when everything was mixed, by Nikos Trialonis, who plays in Chaos Eternal and now also in Heretic Cult Redeemer, and we heard the complete album, well, that was pretty emotional as well… I mean, sometimes it feels like everything worked towards this moment. I went to the mathematical side of education in Greece and then to sound engineer school, so I knew how to do all that. And now I suddenly had six months to produce our own record. Cause there was nothing else to do.”

“And suddenly I realized that while the music was playing in the background, I could really keep my focus and learn. So, it became a ritual.”

And now, what are the plans for The Same River? “Well, we hope to start playing live of course. We will play Ziria Festival in Greece on August 26th. And we are already talking about a new album. Cause even though we all loved the outcome of our pandemic album, I think we will do things differently next time around. It did show us that all of us are able to mic things up and record stuff, pretty well. So, we’ve been thinking about going out into the Greek countryside somewhere and rent an old house and convert that to a working studio for a month. It will show us if we really do have the skill to record properly and if we can also do that for a certain period as a proper band. It’s all about the process, of becoming better players, of learning and of teaching. For as I told you earlier, music for me, is not just about enjoyment. It’s about expression, it’s about love, it’s about learning. It has been totally ingrained in my life and as my life learning. Cause when I was a little boy I did not have the concentration to read or study, but then one day while I was studying at my grandmother’s house, she had music on. And suddenly I realized that while the music was playing in the background, I could really keep my focus and learn. So, it became a ritual. I always had music on when I wanted to read or learn. And since I love readying and learning, I love music. It became a need. Cause I do see it as a gift, for people to express themselves. It’s what everyone should do, I think Steve Vai said that as well. If everyone tries to express themselves through the universal language of music, instead of words, everyone will understand. And I keep falling in love with new aspects of music daily. I started playing music myself when I was twelve years old. Drums. Only drums. And I switched to guitars only seven years ago. Which was like falling in love all over again. And now it’s singing. Discovering my voice. Cause I’ve only been singing for three years now, since we started with The Same River. In the beginning, we thought both Dimitris and me would sing, but after a little while, he said, he’d rather not sing. So, it was up to me to do it. And yes, like most vocalists, I did not really like my own voice. But as I said, I love learning. So, I sat down, and started rehearsing and studying my voice. And now, that I know to control my voice a little, I don’t think about that anymore and just do it. And well, I’ve always written lyrics. As a teenager. Which means, I guess, as well, that I was always planning to sing at one point. Haha.”  

Going back again to the apparent paradox of the man sitting across from me on the screen, smiling, gushing over his love for music, for The Same River and for the music they make. And then the dark subject of the album. “It is our lockdown album. It was written, recorded, and produced during the lockdown. We already talked about the heavy state of the world earlier on. But of course, the heavy state of ourselves during that lockdown also plays a factor. We all had to deal with the fact that we suddenly weren’t free anymore and that suddenly nobody knew what the world would look like when the pandemic ended. People already forget now, how those first weeks felt. But it was strange. Scary even. And we realize or have to realize we are not the center of the universe; we are not even the reason why the world turns. We need to respect the world, the plants, the animals. And as I said, I play music to learn and to express myself. But also to teach, so when you hear me singing about old philosophies, it’s us trying to say: ‘hey, think about this for a minute, it might help you see things a different way.’ And hopefully we do this in a way the listener can dig, you know. And don’t get me wrong, we are not here to become the schoolteachers. We just put the words in the right order, so it forms a proper sentence, so the listener can understand, and for the rest, we just want to feel the flow and have the energy carry us wherever it may go… Cause that is the only way to get our music out there as well as the message…”

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