Speaking with HORIZON'S END mastermind - Sakis Bandis (keyboards) is a beautiful adventure, like each and every listen to each and every of their songs. There were really a lot of things to be discussed, as this is the very first interview that took place after the band's reunion. There is new music, there is this sudden (or not so sudden?) comeback, there is an album that was recorded but never released and a whole band that was put on ice many moons ago. Sakis spread some light to all those topics that waited for years to be clarified and to many new ones, as a new journey to the end of an infinite horizon has already started!
Hello Sakis. Thanks very much for taking sometime to answer my boring questions. So I will start with the first: Someone who would make a focus in your overall musical activities -from Hail Spirit Noir to Star.Gate and all the other stuff- would for sure imagine that you are a person spending quite a lot of time in front of your keyboards, and would probably wait some more creative output from you. But to tell you the truth a Horizon’s End re activation was a big surprise for everyone. It is not that we did not want something like this to happen or that we did not wait -in our wild dreams- for a reboot. But it seemed very difficult if not impossible. So can you spread some light and explain to us how it happened?
I was happy just writing my music and sharing it with some close friends. To me, the actual creative process of putting music together is much more rewarding than anything else. Yet, years passed, I grew older, some things happened, specifically the loss of people dear to me and this mentality about our mortality led me to a line of thinking: “Who are we?”, “Why are we here?” and “What do we leave behind us when we are no longer here?”. I realized that music is what I’d like to leave behind me and that all this music I’d written was not really finished unless I put it out there and share it with others. So, that’s what prompted me to make this music available. Releasing it under the Horizon’s End moniker was something that came later when the material took shape. Since the musicians involved are all Horizon’s End mates and the music doesn’t stray from the Horizon’s End sound, it seemed only logical to release it as a Horizon’s End album.
All of the album’s songs come from particular Horizon’s End eras. I want a small description about the process of “re-discovering” this material. How the songs that you have composed 13 or 22 years ago reflected to you on this particular process? What was the criteria of selecting those particular tunes -and not some other stored ones- for the third album?
There is ton of newer material and the goal is to release it eventually. But these 7 songs that comprise “Skeleton Keys” were a “burden” for me for many years and I felt that unless I recorded them and released them I couldn’t really move forward. Besides I like the material to be presented in the order that was written, it seems more appropriate this way. It makes a more cohesive whole.
In my opinion, as a listener I have divided the Horizon’s saga in three -so far- periods. 1. The first 90s lyrical Prog era, 2. The second romantic “Concrete Surreal” period and 3. The third post-mid 00s dark, sympho-fututuristic Prog wave -that someone will mainly discover through specific tunes on this new album-. How do you see the Horizon sound evaluate through the years?
To me it seems like a continuous evolution rather than different phases but your division is very interesting in terms of how our music is perceived. As for the future, I see Horizon’s End music expanding in both the heavier and the mellower, proggier spectrum.
What was the feedback of the rest of the members when you asked them to contribute on a new Horizon’s End album?
In the beginning all were thrilled and excited, then realizing the volume and the complexity of the material involved, well, let’s just say that they harbored some not very positive thoughts for me 😉 Yet cooler minds prevailed and the truth is that there was no pressure whatsoever. We started this endeavor back in 2013 and everyone could contribute in his own pace. Stergios Kourou had probably the hardest job, since he had to practice to perfection his drum parts in order to record and he really did an amazing job, then Kosta Vreto brought his unique playing and blistering solos and I can’t really stress enough the importance of Kostas Scandalis who not only was the first to record his tracks but also spent endless hours mixing this whole monstrosity. It’s not really an exaggeration that without them there would be no “Skeleton Keys”.
Why there are two singers on the album? Was it an expression matter for you to approach specific songs through specific voices, or what?
I think it’s time to clarify that in the beginning this was just me trying to create an album full of my material with the help of my friends. Among those was Vassilios Topalides, who is one of my dearest friends, and Yannis Papadopoulos who was still singer of Wardrum at the time. Both were gracious to be involved and each recorded 2 songs: Yannis “Forming Fantasies” and “Be’ in 2014 and Vassilios “The land of decay” and “Ocean’s grey” in 2015. That left 2 more songs in need of vocals and I was considering various options but, then as I said earlier, it was decided to release it as Horizon’s End which could only mean one thing, back to the studio with Vassilios for two more amazing performances in “Dreamer’s hands” and “Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf”.
On “Dreamer’s Hand” Topalides sings very much in the vibe of the first Horizon’s End singer, George Strapatsas, was it done in purpose like let’s say an unofficial tribute?
Actually, as you know, this song was written in 1997 so the vocal approach has this old school vibe, to me this song could only be sung this way. A way that owes a lot to Warrel Dane from his Sanctuary days. After all, Warrel Dane was George Strapatsas favorite singer.
Can you make a quick reference to the other two guitar guests on the album? I guess it is mainly a “Horizon’s family” case right? And OK with Gogos you were connected from the Star.Gate days, correct?
Well, Manolis Pilidis is Horizon’s family. Guitarist on “Concrete Surreal”, his versatile playing and delicate touch was really what was needed for the Floydian parts in “Be”. I only hope that in the future more Horizon’s End music will be graced by his playing. As for Sotiris Gogos, his status in Thessaloniki is almost mythical. I remember hearing about him in 1992 and when I finally met him and played with him on Star.gate it was mind-blowing. His skill is amazing and I’m so grateful for his contribution.
To my ears “Alpha” sounds more like a combination of soundtrack oriented and classical music, that later got boosted with a more “Metal” approaching and instruments. Right or wrong? Well I bet you have lots of such stuff stored, have you ever thought of releasing a solo album focused exclusive on orchestral material, under a soundtrack or classical approaching? OK I know that it is a bad timing for such a question cause we need some more Horizon’s albums in the future… But OK I am asking.
“Alpha” is exactly as you describe it. Originally an orchestral composition, later orchestrated as a metal piece. I have a lot of orchestral material, some of it uploaded on my soundcloud page and, who knows, maybe it’ll be released someday but don’t worry, it won’t be at the expense of Horizon’s End!
Can you refer to some composers, musicians or bands that played a key role to your creative output as influences and inspiration?
Where to start? Let’s try chronologically: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, Dvorzak, Stravinski, Shostakovitch, Erik Satie, John Coltrane, Beatles, Genesis, Rush, Yes, King Crimson, Jean Michelle Jarre, John Williams, Iron Maiden, Fates Warning, Queensryche, King Diamond, Crimson Glory, Danny Elfman, Dream Theater, Shadow Gallery, Symphony X, Angra, Anglagard, Blind Guardian, Opeth, Rhapsody, Luca Turilli, Muse, Steven Wilson, Haken, Leprous, Thomas Bergersen some of the names that come to mind!
I discovered many Manos Hadjidakis inspired parts on your music. I guess you really like his music. Which period of his career? Can you analyze a little bit more the combination of such influences in the Horizon’s End universe?
I love his music. His influence is really on anybody who was born in Greece after 1960 and has even a small relation to music. It may be subtle but it is there, it’s like it’s in our DNA. “Gioconda’s Smile” and “O Megalos Erotikos” are masterpieces and his melodies are divine. But for much more influenced by him music, feel free to check Hail Spirit Noir. My bandmate there, Haris, considers “Reflections” to be one of the most important albums ever.
Horizon’s End are back. Have you already thought to bring the band back on stage as well? How easy or difficult is for this material to be transferred on stage and played live?
You’ll probably not going to like the answer to this question, but the possibility of Horizon’s End performing live is extremely low. The songs are demanding and the time needed for the band to achieve a satisfactory performance level is simply time we don’t have. Wardrum, on the other hand, are amazing live and I’m sure we can expect many great gigs from them.
In 2019 are you composing “brand new” Horizon’s End songs? Can you describe the process??
I am always writing something. A lot of material has also been accumulated this last 18 years that right now there are 3 albums fully written which I hope to record in the near future.
Which is your favorite song of the album and why?
It changes, I couldn’t really tell. After so many years of their gestation, their recordings and finally their mixing process it’s odd that I still enjoy listening to them. I would imagine that I would resent them by now.
I have read some lyrics of the new stuff and I am shocked. You got an absolute talent to generate images through words. Can you make a small comment about the lyrics of the new album in general or about any song you like in particular?
Horizon’s End have a tradition of poetic and a bit vague lyrics, mostly functioning as enhancing the song’s mood and imagery rather than some grand declaration of beliefs and statements. That said, we all live and are affected by things happening around us and this seeps into the lyrics. “Be”, for example, is inspired by the global unrest after 9/11 and looks at the capacity of humans both to create and to destroy.
What about the current album title? what does it mean? How you thought about it?
As I mentioned earlier, this album was originally a solo project and, in metal, it’s not usual to have a virtually unknown musician name his band after him, so I was looking for a band name and I came up with “Skeleton Keys”. Afterwards, when we decided to release it as Horizon’s End, “Skeleton Keys” became the album’s title.
Speaking about lyrics, titles etc I wanted to ask that question for years now. Why the “In Tunes Of Loneliness” track from 94 was eventually changed to “The New Jerusalem” on the debut. Ok there was some evolution to the music but why have you changed the title / lyrics?
This song was written by Chris Kostas, the original guitar player of Horizon’s End and one of the greatest musicians I had the privilege to work with. His was the decision to change the lyrics and that was something to be respected and supported by the rest of us.
Back on those demo days, you were a guest to the band -according to the booklet- can you remember the “passing” from the guest spot to the full member spot?
There wasn’t really such a passing, it was at my insistence that I was referred to as a guest because I had another band at the time.
Remaining a little bit more to the past. I would ask straightly: Why the third “Intensification” album recorded back in 2005 was never released? Why the band was put on ice back then?
Well, life happened, we drifted apart because of family and / or professional reasons and the band simply was not there to support an album release. For myself, this coincided with me starting my dental office, getting married, having kids and the band was nobody’s top priority. Later Stergios Kourou formed Wardrum a band that became one of the best metal acts ever. Wardrum’s success came through dedication and hard work and it was gratifying for me to watch their growth and progress even if that meant that “Intensification” was moving further behind on our thoughts.
Which was the best and which was the worst moment in the Horizon’s End saga so far?
The moment we held our first album on our hands, opening for Dio in Sofia in front of 10,000 people, creating songs in the rehearsal room or in the studio all these are moments we cherish. Worst is always when members leave, also the years from 2007 to 2010 which was when we drifted apart.
What the future will bring for Horizon’s End?
Hopefully a lot of new music.
That was it Sakis! Thanks very much for your time! And thanks for the music!
Thank you for your interest.