Greek rockers New Zero God have returned with their latest full length album. This time they have taken things to an even darker place then before with a stronger gothic feel! Tomatrax caught up with Mike Pougounas, the band’s lead singer, to ask a few questions.
Where did the name New Zero God come from?
Our old drummer saw these three words blipping in different scenes on a music video and came up with this idea. We needed a name, and the way world is today, where people with zero personalities became role models, I liked it so we kept it…
Where did the title Short Tales & Tall Shadows come from?
We were discussing the story of the Slender Man stabbing in Wisconsin. The Slender Man image morphed into a vision of Tall Shadows and the concept of “Short Tales & Tall Shadows” came to be…
The music covers some dark themes, where do you get the inspiration for your lyrics?
I like dark themes. When I was a kid my grandmother used to tell me scary stories and I was having fun. Later, I started reading E.A. Poe and Greek poet Kostas Karyotakis and became a fan of Hammer Films productions, as well as thriller movies, in general. I even directed a short black and white vampire movie called “Vlad the Demon” when I finished film school. So, writing the lyrics for an album like “Short Tales & Tall Shadows” was like dragging stories from my past. The opening track, for example, has to do with my favorite Poe short story.
Given you’re from Greece, why do you sing in English?
I grew up listening to English, American, and Australian bands. Like many other groups which are not English, in order to transfer our music over the water and to get gigs outside of our native country, singing in English was a choice that we had to make. I am doing this for many years, with the bands I had before, The Flowers of Romance, Nexus and now with New Zero God. I don’t think I would have had the chance of Wayne Hussey producing any of my albums if I had been singing in Greek. I wouldn’t have had the chance to open for the Sisters of Mercy, The Mission, New Model Army, The Legendary Pink Dots, or Christian Death, either. Since I am in business for 30+ years now, English is second nature to me… And I feel very comfortable with the language…
You said that your intention with this album was to do something completely different to what you’ve ever done before, what was the driver behind this intention?
New Zero God started as a post punk band. Our first album “Fun Is A Four Letter Word” dealt mostly with everyday issues. Our second one, “MMXIII” was a bit of this and a bit of that. It’s a bit atmospheric but also down to Earth. I wanted Short Tales & Tall Shadows to have the atmosphere of a book. I wanted to try to make the listener feel what song was about. Akis’ guitars swim in reverb effects. We wanted Harri’s bass to sound like a punch in the stomach and we experimented a lot with Babis’ drums. I am proud of what we came up with. My intention is always to change but always to keep my identity, for people to instantly recognize the band.
In releasing the album you’ve said there are 4 CD tracks not available on the vinyl and 3 vinyl tracks not available on the CD, what made you decide to have different tracks on the different formats?
First of all the atmosphere is a bit different on the two editions. The vinyl is a bit rockier than the CD edition and, as a friend of mine put it, “it is brighter than the CD”. We wanted it to be like releasing two different albums so we also changed the track listing. There are 6 tracks which are the same on both editions but the songs that merge with each other are different.
How did you decide which songs to put on the CD, the vinyl, and both?
Since the album opened with a Poe story, I wanted to be consistent with the macabre atmosphere of the CD. The album closes with the sound of a church bell, rain and raven, with the last thing being a hint. What was Poe’s most famous work? “The Raven”. The title of the track is “Ouroboros”, which is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent eating its own tail. A full circle. And within the album, all these stories. In any case it is not a concept album but “She’s Electrified” is about the same little lady that we first find in “Garden of Mazes”. So, having all these in mind, I had to come up with some decisions: “Pen Like A Knife” didn’t make it to the CD cause a version of it was released last December on a digital free download compilation by the English management Deadfall. Vinyl lovers usually don’t download tracks from the internet so it would be better to release it on vinyl. I found “Tarot Card Reader” to be too rock-ish for the CD edition. Finally, I wrote this freaky nursery tune, “Lullaby” especially for the vinyl edition.
What was the inspiration behind the front cover?
I have this friend, Costas Papapanos, whose hobby is photography. One day I was looking at his work and it hit me. He took these photos in an abandoned factory with the light coming inside and the wind spinning the dust around. We used 3 of his photos for the album and they are all great. You should check out his work.
What’s the music scene in Athens like?
There are a lot of rock bands in Athens and in Greece in general. Good musicians from every rock genre.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
We spend a lot of hours in the studio working on ideas that will become the songs of the album. Then we spend hours in the studio recording and mixing these songs. Short Tales & Tall Shadows has 600 recording and mixing studio hours. Then we spend a few more hours rehearsing the same songs, slightly changing some of them and getting them ready for gigs. To be honest, I don’t need to get in my car or go home and listen to my music once more hahaha… I believe it is the same with every musician. You need to create some distance between you and the album that you just released… Maybe a few months… Maybe a few years… Of course, there are some old tracks of mine, from the 90s that I give them a listen but this is rare… It is more like opening an album with old photos. It is not something you do very often… Life moves on…
What music do you listen to?
Every week I host The Blackout Radio Show with Mike Pougounas, going on air through Wicked Spins Radio [UK], KOWS 107.3 FM [USA], and Radio Fréquence Bordeaux [France]. This gives me the opportunity to listen to a lot of new underground stuff.
In my spare time I like listening to 70’s punk rock cause this is what I grew up with, but also 60’s garage punk, 80’s post-punk bands or even jazz. I like listening to most kinds of music. If it makes me feel good and it’s coming from the heart, why not? You know…
Now that the album is out what do you plan on doing next?
We are planning on releasing a split 7” single with the Scottish band Savage Cut later this year. Also, there will be a few select gigs in Greece and some European ones for the coming winter. A special DJ Cruel Britannia remix of “Shut Up” will be released this month on CD with a book about the Greek dark scene going by the title “Return of the Bats”.
Check out New Zero God’s Bandcamp page to find out more!