Obviously, it was Sentinel Steel's Denis Gulbey who first made me aware of this excellent newcomer band from Brooklyn, New York, GOTHIC KNIGHTS. After all, Denis was about to release their debut CD ... After having heard the CD, it turned out that all his raving was more than justifiable. GOTHIC KNIGHTS are an excellent melodic power metal outfit, and their debut is among my personal faves for 1996. GOTHIC KNIGHTS' current line-up is : Bryan Waldman (vocals), Mario Consentino (bass), Brian Dispost (drums) and John Tzantis (guitars), and it was the latter who answered most of my questions, albeit rather short on some occasions ...
John, GOTHIC KNIGHTS comes out of the blue; when and how did it all start?
It all started back in the summer of 1989. I graduated from high school and played in a high school metal band. I decided to get something serious started. I was into all the great true heavy metal bands, IRON MAIDEN, OZZY OSBOURNE, JUDAS PRIEST, old METALLICA, and I wanted to go into this melodic power metal direction.
What exactly is the relation between GOTHIC KNIGHTS and this band called ZANDELLE?
Actually, George Tsalikis is a former GOTHIC KNIGHTS member, who left the band in September of 1993, forming ZANDELLE soon after. George was the first singer of GOTHIC KNIGHTS and was asked to leave after three and a half years, because the band wanted to commit more time to practice and get serious. George had too many other things going on in his life, he just couldn't commit any more time to it.
What have you guys been doing prior to GOTHIC KNIGHTS?
Mario and myself are the original members. Brian played in several local bands that didn't amount to much. Rick Sanchez, the singer who replaced George Tsalikis, and who is to be heard on the CD, started from scratch with GOTHIC KNIGHTS. And Bryan Waldman, the third singer, replacing Rick Sanchez, has been looking for a band that he felt comfortable playing with ...
How did you come up with your moniker? And why exactly this one?
When I started the band, I wanted something memorable, with meaning to the vision of what the music is all about. The word Knights came to mind almost immediately. My fascination with medieval history, dungeons and dragons, and the whole fantasy thing pretty much inspired it. The first word Gothic actually came about with the help from my best friend Greg Athanasakis, the singer from my high school band COMMON COLD. I told him that I wanted a synonym for the word Medieval; he said the word Gothic, and when I said Gothic Knights, it just clicked. That whole dark, mystical, fantasy feel that you get from that word was just what I wanted, and Knights = True Soldiers Of Metal. You can't go wrong!
Have there been any demos prior to the CD? If so, are all of those songs also on the CD?
Yes, we recorded a very low-budget demo with George Tsalikis, and two demos with Rick Sanchez, but only one song (Creature Of The Dark) made it onto the CD.
How would you describe your own style?
A melodic power metal style, within a fantasy setting. The songs are more song-orientated than progressive in nature. We have a motto : we write first for the song, and not for the instruments.
Which bands would you say have influenced you guys over the years?
John : OZZY OSBOURNE, JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN, old METALLICA, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN. Brian : SLAYER, TESTAMENT, OVERKILL, ANTHRAX, KISS, LED ZEPPELIN. Mario : BLACK SABBATH, JUDAS PRIEST, POISON. Bryan : SAVATAGE, MANOWAR, JUDAS PRIEST, MERCYFUL FATE, KING DIAMOND.
With all of these influences, and playing the style you do, don't you feel GOTHIC KNIGHTS should've been around, say, ten years ago?
No, because we would have been just like any other band at that time.
How did the deal with Sentinel Steel Music come about?
After we put out our first demo with Rick Sanchez, we sent it out for reviews. Denis Gulbey saw one of the reviews in a local music magazine, and ordered the To Hell And Back demo. We eventually worked out a deal with him, and we are proud to say that we are the first band on his newly founded record label.
Would you say that being on Sentinel Steel Music is an advantage for a band like GOTHIC KNIGHTS, or rather a disadvantage?
It is always an advantage when you are a starting band in this business and someone has the confidence and dedication to help finance a deal. Our music is underground, and for Sentinel Steel to have such confidence, and to give so much support, is an absolute advantage.
Don't you think that distribution may turn out to be a problem, in order to reach as many people as possible?
It could be, but we do have Sentinel Steel doing its very best in promoting the CD. We are not expecting miracles, just a positive, stable growth in our music careers. We would love to see it get picked up by as many distributors as possible. As of yet, the GOTHIC KNIGHTS CD is available in Germany through Hellion Records, Concrete Records and Afterimage Records. In Switzerland through Dream Symphonia and Matthias Aeby. In Belgium through Castle Blak Records and in Italy through Mellotron Records and Underground Symphony. Or you can write to Sentinel Steel for CD and t-shirt information.
Are you on the lookout for a proper European distribution as well? Anything happening?
Yes, we are developing our strategy as I write.
What will be the market that GOTHIC KNIGHTS will be focusing on primarily? Why?
Europe, Europe, Europe! It's the only market place where our music is thriving. We are from the U.S.A., so there is always a chance that an accident could happen here.
So, I presume there's hardly any market for you guys in your home country?
Little to none. MTV ('Empty V') runs the music industry here. In the U.S.A., the majority of the population is programmed to like what they watch, eat, read, listen to, and practically do with their daily lives. Television, in my opinion, is a human hazard; it takes away our ability to think and make decisions based on our personal belief, rather than the public's beliefs.
How would you say the nowadays heavy metal scene compares to the one from a decade ago? Do you see any changes? For better, for worse?
John : It sucks now! Brian : It doesn't compare, because it's not the same type of music anymore. John : I hope it's changing for the better. Brian : For the worse! Three examples : WHITE ZOMBIE, PANTERA and METALLICA's last album, Load. If that doesn't say it all, I don't know what does!
Looking back now, are you satisfied with the final outcome of the CD?
In general, yes, but we always strive for the next level. The recording of our first CD was an excellent learning experience from beginning to end. The next CD will be even better, as our standards are very high, so you will always see an improvement. And, don't get me wrong, the first CD is awesome, but the next one will be unbelievable!
The lyrics are not reprinted in the booklet; how come?
We didn't feel like putting them in at the time. Send one IRC to Sentinel Steel for a copy of the lyric sheet.
Speaking of lyrics, who's responsible for those? And for the music?
Rick and myself wrote all the lyrics. As far as the music, the whole band deserves credit. We work very well together, and it is always a team effort.
Would you care to elaborate on the lyrics, song by song?
No, my hand is tired from writing so much.
Weak excuse. What inspires you to write such lyrics?
That is the secret to our madness.
How did you get hold of Todd Jaeger, who's responsible for the Gothic Knights CD cover? Has he done any other cover art? Are you satisfied with his work?
Todd Jaeger is a friend of Denis Gulbey, from DC Comics. As a friendly favour, and a small fee, he let us use one of his paintings. We don't know if he has done cover art for other bands. Yes, we are very happy about it.
You mentioned the next GOTHIC KNIGHTS CD earlier on. When can we expect that one, and what direction will the new material be heading towards?
Late 1997. No change in style, but the music is evolving tremendously. The music is actually going to be more at the cutting edge of melody, heaviness and songwriting. We have a strong vision, and we will always come up with new and fresh ways to further that vision.
Have there been any live shows in support of the CD?
Not yet, but we are gearing up for it. The GOTHIC KNIGHTS will play consistently in September and October of 1996, with more shows booked for the upcoming months.
Do you ever play covers live?
Yes, but not always. We've done JUDAS PRIEST's Grinder a few times.
By the way, I noticed Dr. Kirk Kevorkian being mentioned on your thanklist. Why exactly?
Dr. Kirk Kevorkian is a joke. Kirk Passamonti is a high school buddy, and one of my best friends. He is also the lead guitarist in George Tsalikis' new band, ZANDELLE.
What would the GOTHIC KNIGHTS like to achieve in the near future?
Sell as many CD's as possible. Play as many shows as possible. Get signed to a mid-sized independent label and tour Europe.
Anything you'd like to add?
Yes. We have a new singer, Bryan. Rick Sanchez left due to personal reasons. We found Bryan through a friend, and it worked out perfectly. We auditioned plenty of singers, and it seems that the most talented, friendly and enthusiastic singers come through friends. Bryan is a dynamic singer in the pure high pitched style of singing, and has a very wide range and a lot of power. He will be on the next CD in late 1997. Thanks for the support. We will always be TRUE!