From Greece, Verbal Delirium have recently released their latest album, on Bad Elephant Music. The Imprisoned Words Of Fear is actually a re-recording of their first demo, long unavailable so this is a great opportunity to hear the band in territory very different from their last two releases. With this new recording we can now fully enjoy the album as it was originally intended whilst filtered through the learnings of subsequent releases, TPA’s Jez Rowden took the opportunity to speak to singer and composer Jargon about the forming of the band, live work and why they decided to re-record the first demo.
Hi Jargon, thanks for taking the time to talk to TPA.
The pleasure is all mine!
What first drew you to music and who are your influences?
My parents really loved music so there had always been music everywhere at home since my childhood. My father is a big fan of the pop/rock stage of the ’50s and ’60s so these were my first musical stimuli. As a teenager, I adored the ’70s (the whole musical spectrum of this decade). Then, because of my piano studies I gave my attention to classical music. Then, I passed to alternative rock and a little later to metal (mainly black metal). The last two years I’ve been busy with contemporary pop and electronic music. The genre of course that captivated me, have loved since a very young age and still remains my greatest influence until today is progressive rock. I may, however, say that nowadays I listen to almost everything; I’m not very concerned with the different genres.
I do not know what is more and what is less obvious concerning my influences but some of the artists I love are Genesis, Peter Hammill, Radiohead, Nevermore, Deep Purple, Sergei Prokofiev, Lena Platonos and many (really many) others…
How did Verbal Delirium come together and where did the name come from?
My dream since I was a kid was to build a band and become like all those bands that I had been listening to! So this has always been on my mind. This happened finally in 1999. I had quite a few compositions written on the piano and played them to a friend, Nick Michailidis, and we decided together to find other members and create a band. It simply took us many years to be able to find stable members. We were originally named Afterglow (from the title of the Genesis song of course) and we rehearsed and did some live performances as well. In 2006, for the first time we had a stable backbone as far as members of the band and we recorded a demo entitled The Imprisoned Words Of Fear. In this album there was a song entitled The Decayed Reflection (A Verbal Delirium). I wanted to change the band’s name because while searching on the internet I found at least four other bands with the same name. So, I wanted something more original and unique and Verbal Delirium suited perfectly! Following that, some members left the band. New ones joined in, left again and this went on for several years. The member changes were always a permanent backdrop for this band, only in recent years the line-up has been a stable one. You see, when the music and lyrics are written by one person it is very difficult to find people to believe in you and share your vision. It is not easy for them to feel the music as part of their own and be tied to something that is not theirs. I understand that. The people who are currently in the band feel it as their own! I feel very lucky now.
Verbal Delirium live shows, like the one I saw at Summer’s End in 2014, are very intense and emotional affairs. Do
you enjoy the live performance? It seems to take a lot out of you.
Every musician loves to play his songs in front of a live audience. It is a very powerful and transnational experience. The same happens with us. Of course, sometimes, I have to admit that it is a little painful. The songs are a palette of emotions. Some hide in them memories, emotions, moments, images and faces. Anyway, you know that we all write music in a pretty much autobiographical way. This can cause you pleasant feelings, reminisce about beautiful moments of your life, feel happy and other times can cause you emotional distress and grief. It is not always easy and it is legitimate to “go” back to some places and moments. But, after all this is what you are asked to do in live performances! It is a unique and very powerful experience!!
I understand that much of your latest release, The Imprisoned Words of Fear, was written at the start of the band’s history and originally appeared as your first demo in 2007. Why did you decide to return to these pieces?
I am very attached to this album for many different reasons. I was never satisfied by the recording of the demo. We were very young and less experienced musicians back then (I do not say this maliciously. It’s just the truth). I always thought that I was a modest/average singer in this demo. It was my first attempt to sing and record so it was not my ideal performance. Listening to the demo again over the years, I have always thought that this album did not get what it deserved and that some time it should be recorded again and be officially released. It just was a little difficult and stressful to go back there and so it didn’t happen in the previous years. Now I felt ready to go back there where I started and do what I have to and share it with the world! And so it happened!
I haven’t heard the original demo, have the pieces changed much over the intervening years?
The tracks’ structures remain approximately the same. Only a few things changed. What changed are the orchestrations and mainly the playing. Everybody played in an exemplary way and gave what they should.
It certainly surprised me to hear that this material pre-dated your other albums; it feels like something of a leap forward from the last one. Would this be the result of the current stability in the band’s line-up and rearrangements to the pieces from what you have learnt through your previous recordings?
Yes of course. The fact that we have a stable line up over the past years for the first time plays a catalytic role. Also, we all learned from the recordings and improved over the years. If we had recorded this album in 2010 instead of so close and yet so far away, it would not be so good in terms of playing and production. We gained experience in the studio as a band as well as our producer (Leonidas Petropoulos) who we got to know better and better as persons and as musicians. He knows what I want and what I like most. He is in my mind. The fact that we make our productions together is also very important. All this contributed to the current results. I feel completely vindicated for the time that I decided to record the album again!
There seem to be a lot more elements of what could be described as a “classic” prog sound whilst retaining the modern touches that made the last album so enjoyable. What direction do you see the band heading in on future releases?
We are a band that likes to experiment and not become stagnant. This means that I probably do not know to answer about what is going to follow. Surely, progressive rock is the basic element of Verbal Delirium’s music and probably this will never change. The most recent material I’ve written may be different but again I think it can be classified under the same category. Also sometimes we think we might write an album participating altogether in the composition. We’ll see. Certainly I have written enough music that is not under the sign of prog. The only certainty is that we will be keeping you busy for much longer!!
Well that’s good news!
You write all of the words and music for Verbal Delirium, what comes first and which do you find easier?
I almost always write the music first. To write music is something that happens to me effortlessly, almost every time when I sit at the piano. I have lots of music written awaiting its verses to be complete. It’s not the same with the lyrics. I need to be in a very special mood and really feel the need to write lyrics. Ι just do not like to do so in a sophisticated way and therefore it can take a long time to write lyrics for some tracks, maybe years. For example, Sudden Winter waited approximately 10 years for its lyrics…
The artwork of Dimitris Tzortzis is particularly striking making for an impressive package for The Imprisoned Words of Fear. How did he come to be involved?
Dimitris is my friend and I’ve known him for many years!! Before he even began working on it. Whenever I saw his work it was for sure that I would ask him to work together and naturally he accepted with pleasure. He may not be a big fan of the kind of music we play but what he came up with was done with joy and desire just as it was something of his own. He has done a fantastic job. By far the best artwork we’ve had so far in an album of ours!!
There seems to be more prog metal and jazz influences on the new one. Was it a concious decision to play these down a little on the previous So Close and Yet So Far Away and From the Small Hours of Weakness albums and go for a more experimental style, more alternative art rock?
It was absolutely a conscious choice! Do not forget that at the moment that I composed this album I was listening to progressive rock more than ever. On the other hand, I would not say that there was a jazz influence. Maybe a little bit on Misleading Path. I was never fascinated by jazz to be honest. Also Ι may love progressive rock but one other thing that bothers me sometimes is at the same time one of its key features. I like to have technical passages on a track but only when this is judged necessary by the composition. I am really annoyed by bands engaged in merciless competition in playing skills. Nevertheless, when everything is done in moderation then the result is perfect. So this is what happened in Imprisoned…. It needed more proggy passages, more busy playing and so we acted this way. So Close… required more straight playing, a more alternative rock style. From The Small… required more atmospheric and simple playing and a little bit of ’70s style. I always believe that playing should serve the purpose of the composition!
Do you have other older material in the background that you are hoping to develop for future releases?
If you mean material even older than Imprisoned…, no, there isn’t any. But there is subsequent material. I have already written the material for the next VD album.
What is the music scene in Greece currently like for a band playing your style of music? Do you get the opportunity to play live often?
Unfortunately not. We have quite a remarkable scene over the past years but with limited audience. The problem of course is not the limited audience but the fact that it doesn’t support the concerts of the bands. We play quite often but the audience is more or less small… we have incredibly enjoyed the times we played abroad and I really wish we could have played abroad more often. There, we always find greater response. Summer’s End you mentioned before for example is something we will never forget. Great venue. Wonderful people. Everyone embraced us. We will never forget it.
Was it always your intention to present Verbal Delirium through the English language rather than in Greek?
Yes always. Since a small child I had been listening to foreign language music. I’d been never fond of Greek music except for a few things. Perhaps wrongly, but this is the way it is. For me, to sing and write lyrics in English (and I do not know the language very well) will seem to you an oxymoron but it comes out effortlessly and much more easily than the Greek language. I never wrote Greek lyrics and once I tried I could not write even half a sentence. Once also I sang Greek songs at a concert. I remember everyone telling me that I had been singing very nicely and that they suited me but I really felt like a fish out of water.
With two keyboard players, yourself and Nikos Terzis, in the band you get more opportunity to be the frontman. Which role do you prefer and why
I like them both. Once I used to play the piano and synthesizers too whilst singing at the same time. This way though, I could not focus on any of the three and it was not so good visually, so I decided to get a pianist. I love to sing but when I do not play at all the truth is that I miss the keys! Currently we’re thinking that Nikos Terzis might take up the keys, Nikolopoulos only the wind instruments and me only singing. We’ll see if it’s going to work. We’re experimenting on it as well!
It was a spellbinding performance that I saw, do you consciously drive your stage persona or does it naturally come from within?
It comes out completely normally!! If you get to know me in my everyday life I might seem certainly very different. Perhaps more familiar and definitely funnier! When I go up on stage and play my music however, different emotions and behaviours come out. I think it’s normal. I try to channel all my concerns and thoughts in my music. This works in a redemptive way in order not to affect my everyday life. I try to think and act as positively as I can although I am pessimistic by nature. If I did not channel all this into the music I write I do not know how I could make it through. I think I would be quite different and certainly unhappy … We all need to find a way of escape. To me this way is music, for others it may be reading, sports, travelling. However, everyone has to find something in order to keep the balance of his psyche.
How often have you had the opportunity to play outside Greece?
We have played three times; at Progpower Europe, at Summer’s End and in a contest in Berlin’s Eurock Marathon. As I said before we definitely want to play as much as possible abroad!
I understand that you are coming back to the U.K. next March for the HRH Prog V festival in Pwllheli. Are you looking forward to that?
Of course, we can’t wait!! It is fantastic to share the stage with so many bands you love and have been listening to since you were a little kid! Six years ago we could not have imagined that and at this point we should mention and thank Christine Maragou our manager. She has done fantastic work since we started our cooperation!! She is the eighth member of the band!!! (And just before you ask me, the seventh one is our producer Leonidas Petropoulos !!)
Thanks very much Jargon and all the best for The Imprisoned Words of Fear.
I thank you for the lovely interview and the interest!
[You can read TPA’s review of The Imprisoned Words of Fear HERE.]