by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Senior Columnist —
They’re sensational, they’re talented, they’re fresh blood. And yes – they’re “hotter than a bullet”… The Melodic Hard Rock act Reload released their debut album, aptly entitled Hotter Than A Bullet, just a few months ago but managed to cause quite a stir in Melodic Rock circles worldwide. The band members Kostas Tokas and Teo Ross were the ones to discuss the album and all things Reload with Hardrock Haven.
Hardrock Haven: Could you please introduce yourselves shortly and give us a band’s history in the nutshell?
KT: Well, Reload were formed in 2012, when Teo, Marianiki and Tassos told me they had an idea to form a band and play our tunes and the music we all like. Elias, who now left the band for personal reasons, joined the band soon after finishing the recordings of our album Hotter Than A Bullet with Bob Katsionis. The band’s style is Melodic Heavy/Hard rock. Our first live as a band was supporting Warlord in Larisa, in the summer of 2014 and then we joined Outloud’s tour in Greece and Bulgaria. At the moment we are working on new material for our next album, as well as getting ready to hit the road again with Outloud for some shows.
Hardrock Haven: Last year, you’ve released your first album Hotter Than A Bullet. Do you feel you achieved what you wanted to on that first album? Or perhaps there is still a room for improvement?
KT: There is always room for improvement! We are definitely satisfied with the result and we love our songs. Much effort was put in the mixing and mastering process, as well as the production, with Bob’s contribution of course! To my mind, the thing we have to work out is the band’s characteristic sound! But I think we will get it!
Hardrock Haven: Can you tell me a little about each song on Hotter Than A Bullet?
KT: “Give Into The Night’” is actually the album’s intro, musically and lyrically! “Superhero” is about a nerdy boy who’s daydreaming about being a superhero and saving his crush from her evil boyfriend, to live happily ever after. “Come Back” is the song someone would sing to someone who left him. “Longing For Your Love” is simply a song I wrote for someone I loved but who isn’t around anymore. Surely anyone could dedicate such song to their boyfriends or girlfriends. “Candle In The Night” is a song about memories. The times you’re all alone thinking about the past, the things you should have said, the things you should have done. “Alone” is about spreading the word that we should be all for one and one for all, “Higher” is a song about love taking you higher, and the ballad “Prince Of Steel” is the one I wrote many years ago about some things and some people in my life that made me feel down … “Survive” and “Fight” are two songs about us, young people, that must fight for our future and for our lives.
Hardrock Haven: What were your inspirations during songwriting and recording process?
KT: Everything. Love, life, disappointment … You know, everything someone would think or feel in their everyday life!
Hardrock Haven: Musically, Hotter Than A Bullet sounds pretty similar to the mentioned Outloud. Is it a result of similar inspirations, or perhaps the influence Bob Katsionis exerted over the album?
KT: It is a fact that Bob’s influence, mostly on orchestrations and production, is a big deal. However both bands, play almost the same style. So we could say that our sound is similar because we have the same taste in music (laughs).
Hardrock Haven: Speaking of whom – how did you hook up with Bob and are you satisfied with collaboration with him?
TR: I met Bob Katsionis for first time in 2010, when I was working on my solo album Road To Neverland. I was totally satisfied with the way he arranged and produced all my stuff, so when the time had come to start working on Hotter Than A Bullet with Reload, I recommended his name to the rest of the band without second thought. He liked our stuff from the very beginning of each music idea, guided us in many aspects, and helped us to give our “best shot” on each track, so that our sound becomes unique.
Hardrock Haven: Guessing by the number of features in Greek magazines and on webzines, you’re gaining more and more recognition in your own country. What kind of a music market is it here in Greece and is it easy for a Melodic Rock band to function on it?
KT: I don’t think it has to do with the music market, because something like this doesn’t exist in Greece, but there are lots and lots of listeners that like our music and we are happy to see gaining fans who wear our t-shirts at our shows and buy our CDs! Someone may think that a Melodic Rock band doesn’t stand a chance, but believe me we can make it if we work hard!
Hardrock Haven: Gus G joining Ozzy Osbourne’s band, Outloud’s three impressive albums, now Reload … Is there any other Greek Hard Rock act we should have kept on our radar as listeners?
TR: (Laughs) There many acts and bands of different styles and backgrounds … You should check out Enemy Of Reality (Symphonic female-fronted), Black Fate (Heavy/Power bands with progressive elements), MYST, Wardrum etc.
Hardrock Haven: Back to the topic of the album – you must be pleased with enthusiastic reviews Hotter Than A Bullet gains worldwide. It’s quite many of them, most of the reviewers being independent webzine writers and bloggers. Does it help much with the promotion of the album?
TR: Of course it does. We’re leaving on the internet era, and most people visit different sites in order to search for a new band or album, or look into playlists suggested by the writers and bloggers. So it helps us pretty much, being in as many blogs/reviews as possible, especially if those reviews are so enthusiastic for our album! For instance, when we played with Outloud in Sofia (Bulgaria) a few months ago, there were some people from Russia who had visited Sofia and all of a sudden they saw a poster from our show outside a Metal club in the city. They remembered Reload’s name from a recent review, they had also checked out the tracks that the reviewer had suggested, so they gave it a shot, they saw us live, bought our album and our t-shirt form our merch, met with us after the show and had a great time! So generally speaking, reviews help pretty much.
Hardrock Haven: For a Melodic Hard Rock act that’s just debuted – what about the record sales? Does the number of reviews at least partly reflects the number of listeners interesting in buying your album?
TR: Undoubtedly we’re living in the Internet/YouTube/torrent era! Every band and artist knows very well that their record sales are affected by downloads and piracy … There are still people who buy CDs and support bands and artists, but of course there’s fewer of them than it was fifteen or twenty years ago … Believe it or not, personally I don’t pay much attention to the record sales, ‘cause that doesn’t reflect the number of people who listened to our music or those who may come to our live shows. The internet gives you the chance to listen to a part or a whole record before you decide to buy it. It gives you the chance to download it illegally and not buy it afterwards too … So I think that the most important benchmark anyway is the number of people who will finally come to your live show!
Hardrock Haven: Hotter Than A Bullet was released by the Greek label ROAR! Rock Of Angels Records. What kind of label is it – a small and independent one or a bigger one? What kind of possibilities does it offer in terms of worldwide distribution etc.?
TR: It’s a new label with big plans. Placed in Thessaloniki in Greece, it’s based on love, passion and dedication its people show to the roster bands… the number of which which is getting bigger day by day. Through the label’s webstore (http://roar.gr/rock-of-angels-records/shop/) everyone can have access to our music worldwide. Rock Of Angels released our album in Europe last February and at the same time we have already had our albums selling in Japan and America, so the best is yet to come. We’ve built a strong and confident relationship with Rock Of Angels team, and speaking of Reload’s family, and my personal experience of co-operating with ROAR also as a solo artist, this is our musical home!
Hardrock Haven: Now a bit of insight into the band itself. Take us through the songwriting process – is it shared between the band members?
KT: Well, everyone has their own ideas and we send each other literally everything that comes to our minds! This is a healthy way for us to function as a band. However, I do write a lot of music (laughs) and this is a fact that you can confirm if you look at the credits of each song in Hotter Than A Bullet. But the guys always add their own ideas to what I write and I do exactly the same!
Hardrock Haven: Teo, when playing the guitar – are you focused more on technique or emotion? Who’s influenced you in terms of guitar playing and style?
TR: I believe these are two different things. Technique is part of a playing style and is objective. On the other hand each people passes through different emotions when he’s listening music, so it’s subjective. I’ve spent many hours practicing on different techniques, and building my personal style. I love speed and technical licks, but when I play a solo I want to give it some ‘breaks’ too, so I’m trying to keep a balance and make it as interesting as I only can to my listeners. My main influences are John Norum, Yngwie Malmsteen, Gus G., Paul Gilbert, Kiko Loureiro, Zakk Wylde, Slash, Kee Marcello and recently Andy James, Marco Sfogli and Satchel.
Hardrock Haven: Reload was formed in 2012 and the same year, you’ve released a full length solo album Road To Neverland. What kind of an album was it music-wise and do you plan to continue on releasing solo albums?
TR: With Road To Neverland the issue was that I released it independently back in 2012 and then Rock Of Angels re-released it a few days before Reload’s Hotter Than A Bullet release date. It’s a full-length instrumental album, included ten Heavy/Power tracks with Rock and Progressive elements, ‘straight-to-your-face’ riffs, memorable melodies and solos influenced by different techniques, licks and scales. It’s been produced, mixed and mastered by Bob Katsionis, who also played all the keyboards and the guitar on “Chasing The Shadow”. The album also includes some guest appearances from my beloved guitar master Theodore Ziras on the track “Helldorado” and my good friend Gus Drax (Sunburst, Black Fate, Biomechanical) on the track “Desert Speedways.” About the another solo album – yes, I’m planning to make one. I’m already working on some ideas, but at the same time we’re working on Reload’s next album too, so I’ll stay focused on that at the moment.
Hardrock Haven: As a solo artist, you performed before Michael Angelo Batio twice in Athens and Thessaloniki. Any impressions?
TR: Michael Angelo Batio was one of my childhood guitar heroes. I remember watching his videos and instructional material with my guitar fellows at school, all impressed by his style and technique. Of course it was a huge honor to share the stage with him in Athens and Thessaloniki, alongside with other special guitarists as Theodore Ziras, Steelianos (Enemy Of Reality) and Anthimos Manti. It was a great experience!
Hardrock Haven: Did the other band members also have a prior recording experience to the formation of Reload?
TR: Apart from Reload Marianiki is also the lead singer and drummer of the all female band Normah who had released an EP back in 2012, Kostas is also the lead singer of the Heavy/Power Metal band Powercrue and participated in their fifth studio album, plus their latest live recording, and our bass player Elias has released 2 albums with his own project called Isospin. It was the first recorded experience only for Tasos, but he played as if he had released five other albums before (laughs).
Hardrock Haven: How does Marianiki finds herself in the band formed mostly by guys? Is there any kind of gender clash within the band, or perhaps it’s not a problem at all?
KT: There’s actually no problem either for her or for us the guys! She’s my sister and they are a couple with Teo, Tassos is the best man … (laughs) Actually all of us are very close to each other and I believe this has helped the band get strong very quickly … Something one can see at our live shows!
Hardrock Haven: Back to Outloud which we’ve mentioned before, you often share the stage together. Is it because of the similar style and sound both your bands utilize, or perhaps other reasons?
TR: We went on tour together last year to play our albums Hotter Than A Bullet and Let’s Get Serious live. Bob Katsionis, the main man of Outloud produced Hotter Than A Bullet and as I’ve already mentioned before, he liked our stuff very much. We’re all friends with the Outloud guys, so we decided that two bands at the same night were better than one for the audience, and I think it worked. Each time during Outloud’s gig Chandler called me on stage to jam to the song “Tonight” with them, and before the end of the show he called Marianiki and Kostas to sing their self-titled track “Outloud.” People liked our shows and so we did, so we’re looking forward to more dates in the future.
Hardrock Haven: What are the band’s current plans?
KT: We are currently finishing the new songs for our second album. Soon we’ll shoot our first official video and we are negotiating with promoters to arrange some shows for the summer, in Greece and hopefully abroad!
Hardrock Haven: Anything you’d like to add in the end?
TR: Thank you very much for the great interview and all of you who are reading these lines now. Stay tuned to https://www.facebook.com/ReloadGr on Facebook for news, upcoming dates etc. Hope to see you soon on the road!