-- Skeptical Minds get shredded --

Stijn Daneels
After listening to and reviewing the Skeptical Minds’ recently released third full-length disc called Omega Thanatos, I was more than interested in seeing them live and getting them for a chat. Fortunately for me, that day came sooner than I expected, as Hard Life Promotion sent me an invitation for an interview with the band a mere week after I published my review.

And so, on January 16, 2016 I met Karolina Pacan and Michel Stiakakis in Roeselare. A perfect place to discuss badass stuff like Omega Thanatos, Motörhead, Sparta and… acupuncture?! This is going to be interesting!

BMS: Hi Karolina and Michel, I want to start off by thanking you for sharing my review of Omega Thanatos on your Facebook page. I guess it must not have been a complete disaster.
Karolina: Ha, it certainly wasn’t a crappy review. Far from it. You took your time to write your thoughts about the album and we had good fun reading it. It was worth the share.
Michel: What I personally like most about your review is that you split the text in various small chapters, with each one discussing a specific part of the album. It’s very different compared to the other reviews we’ve read for Omega Thanatos. We also found your review to be more objective.

BMS: I’m glad you liked it. Your album is quite unique compared to what I reviewed in the past few months, which was more typical metal genres like thrash and glam metal. I had a great time working on my review. Now, where did you get the inspiration for Omega Thanatos?
Michel: In 2008 we were writing our second album, Skepticalized, and in the meantime we were brainstorming about our band’s future and we came up with the idea for a concept album, which eventually became Omega Thanatos. We began writing the story and overall theme for this project but at the time we had no clue when we would be able to start producing it. Omega Thanatos began to take its true form in 2011.

Michel: Alain Poncelet, an old friend of mine and fellow Motörheadbanger (we saw Motörhead countless times together) proposed to draw a comic book for us and sell it as band merchandise. Both we and the fans who bought the comic were very pleased with his work and so we decided he should be drawing the artwork for Omega Thanatos. And with that settled, the concept album entered full production!

The Skeptical Minds' current line-up.
BMS: Now that Omega Thanatos has been released, what are your future plans?
Michel: From now till June we will be touring and promoting the album. For the second half of 2016, we will help Karolina build and promote her side project.
Karolina: My side project will have similar themes to what I have written for the Skeptical Minds but the songs will be in Polish and will focus on Polish mythology. I currently can’t tell you much more details about this project but it will have some folk influences. Michel and the other guys from the Skeptical Minds will help me write the songs and Alain will draw the artwork.

BMS: I look forward to hearing more about this side project. Now, like me you are huge Motörheadbangers. What was your reaction to Lemmy’s death?
Michel: Of course we were sad when we heard the news, but we were aware that he won’t be able to go on forever. It’s no secret that Lemmy’s health had been deteriorating in the final years of his life. The last time we saw Motörhead was in Lokeren in August 2014. But yeah, when he eventually died, it still came as a shock despite all the reports of his health issues. When Lemmy’s memorial took place last Saturday, we and some friends came together and watched it live on a big screen. Next year, on January 14th, we’ll be organizing an annual celebration in his honor called Lemmorial Night Belgium.
BMS: January 14th. Ok, got to put that on my calendar. Well, when I heard the news of Lemmy’s death I was as shocked as anyone else. Sure, I was also aware of his health problems but I thought, yeah, everyone can have some health issues, he’ll be well soon. But when I heard the news of his death, I thought it was some kind of stupid joke. I mean, Lemmy is one of those larger-than-life characters who are seemingly capable of going on forever. In any case, me and my cousin celebrated Lemmy’s life and career the week after his death.
BMS: I really hope that you’ll be covering Ace of Spades tonight!
Michel: You know, much to our surprise we received a ton of great feedback from fans and even from Lemmy himself regarding our cover of Ace of Spades. Many fans begged us to continue playing Ace of Spades after Lemmy’s death and tonight, we’ll help in keeping Lemmy and Motörhead’s spirit alive by wrapping up the show with Ace of Spades.
BMS: You know what? Cover Overkill as well, it’s my favorite Motörhead song!
Michel: We won’t be playing Overkill tonight but that song always served as the perfect ending to a Motörhead gig. You may already know this, but Motörhead had such a huge influence to the metal genre especially with the double-bass drum style introduced in the song Overkill. People never heard such fast drums before and then bands like Slayer and Metallica wanted to play even faster. And so, the foundations for thrash metal were laid.
BMS: That’s right indeed! Now, a question for the both of you individually. What are your other activities aside from the Skeptical Minds? And ladies first, so Karolina…
Karolina: Aside from the playing with the band I spend a lot of my time giving vocal lessons to whoever’s interested.
Michel: For the moment I’m practicing the art of Chinese medicine, acupuncture in particular. I’m very fond of everything health related. I also work as an installer for gas pipelines.

BMS: Since you’ve made a comic book for Omega Thanatos, I’d suggest you’re a comic book fan, right?
Michel: I used to be a huge comic book fan up till the end of my teenage years. I stopped buying comics because the hobby became too expensive for me and around that time I began spending more cash on music. Metal became more important to me than comics. I still like a good comic from time to time, however.
Karolina: I love to collect tarot cards because of their detailed and colorful artwork. It’s a lot of fun to compare different tarot artists with each other and see how they interpret the themes of the cards. I see tarot cards as a sort of comics because of how lively the images are drawn. But I also like Belgian comic series like the Smurfs and Thorgal.

Me with my copy of Omega Thanatos. Bought and autographed during the Skeptical Minds gig in Roeselare. The drawning on the left was one Alain made right after I bought the comic book.
BMS: I also like reading comics, both Belgian and American comics (the latter of which I buy in English). Ok, image you’ve had unlimited financial and logistical resources for your gig. In other words, an ultimate dream concert wherein you can do whatever you want. How would such a gig look like?
Michel: I really want to push the visual aspect of our shows. I remember seeing a KISS concert and being blown away by how visually impressive it was. It had fire blowing through the stage, confetti falling from the ceiling. It was amazing. Other bands like Rammstein and Nine Inch Nails also implement a lot of props and fireworks during their shows, so I want to create something similar. I hope to combine the world of comics with our music and also add fireworks and other stuff into the mix. All to create a compelling atmosphere and to tell a story through sound and visuals.
BMS: I can already image you, Karolina, coming on stage with facepaint huge, black wings. Something similar to what Till Lindemann wears during the Rammstein song Engel.
Karolina: Well, yeah, that would be nice. Like Michel, I also wish to further expand the visual aspect of our concerts. My personal dream character would be to act as a female Spartan general, commanding my army to victory over the invading Persians.
BMS: Oh yeah, you could pick a random guy from the crowd and ask him to come up on stage. Then you can kick him or her off the stage while yelling THIS IS SPARTA! That would be awesome! Damn, got to pop in my 300 DVD tomorrow.
BMS: Are there any rituals or preparations you do before you come on stage?
Michel: Nothing special, actually. We change our clothes and eat something. We’re not thrashing the place up or throwing liquor glasses on the wall like Rammstein do. We keep things clean and simple.
Karolina: Yeah, all ordinary stuff. Just warming up our fingers and our voices. Drinking something non-alcoholic and then getting into the fray.

BMS: I noticed that all four of you have different ethnical origins. How does that influence your music?
Michel: Well, you may have noticed that some songs on Omega Thanatos are more folk-inspired. Karolina provided the lyrics for the album and therefore added some Polish folk into the mix. Also some of the rhythms on Omega Thanatos come from my Greek heritage. And when you let the other guys from the band listen to what you've written, then they will add some of their personal contributions to it as well. Overall, we don’t like to describe our sound as just metal or just folk or just electronic. Although we feel metal, we add a lot more elements as to create a unique sound. We play what we like to play and we mix what we like to mix.
BMS: And it certainly is a tasty combination where I can get my teeth into. Is it easy for you guys to get together to rehearse or to exchange ideas?
Michel: Karolina and I live in Brussels. Pat and Benjamin live in the Charleroi area, but we all practice near the city of Namur. BMS: Hmm, that sounds like a lot of kilometers.
Michel: Yes, it is. We used to have a rehearsal room in Brussels but it closed. Since such rooms are very expensive in the Brussels area, we decided to relocate. We eventually found a practice room near Namur that we share with another band. In fact, it’s a cultural centre, so it provides us with an authentic stage, lightning included, so it’s a serious upgrade! And the fact that the rent is cheap more than makes up for the fuel we pay for the long drive )to the practice room and back.

BMS: OK, that’s all I wanted to ask. Is there anything else you want to add before we wrap this up?
Karolina: I’d say: watch your back! You may never know what’s behind you.
BMS: (I take a look behind me) Hmm, just some luggage and band equipment. Guess there are no ninjas around here!
Karolina: It was fun talking to you, Stijn. We hope you’ll enjoy our show tonight.
Michel: Thank you for talking to us and also our sincere gratitude to the people supporting us. You all help keeping the band alive!

BMS: All right, time to get my ass to the front of the stage.
Karolina: Then we’ll see you there. And I’ll keep my eye on you.
BMS: So will I, Karolina. See you in a minute.

Skeptical Minds - Emptiness