In a special contribution from Pandaemonic Enlightenment‘s Nuko Kapao, PreEmptive Strike 0.1 speaks about the evolution of the band’s sound to culminate in the latest release, Epos V.
An InterView with Jim “The Blaster” and George “Cryon” Klontzas of PreEmptive Strike 0.1
By Nuko Kapao (Nuko Kapao) of Pandaemonic Enlightenment
If you’re a fan of harsh, dark, coming-right-the-fuck-at-you-with-no-breaks industrial/EBM music, chances are you’ve heard the name PreEmptive Strike 0.1. The Greek group was formed in 2002 by Jim “The Blaster” and George “Cryon” Klontzas on the Cretan island of Agios Nicolaos, a seemingly unlikely place for such a band to spring up. The band’s style mixes sci-fi/horror movie samples, traditional Greek instruments, harsh vocals, and an aggressiveness that often teeters over the line into metal territory.
After a self-released demo in 2004, the band released its first proper full-length Lethal Defense Systems. After three more full-length albums, a remix album, and an EP – the latter two being collaborations with big names in the black metal circuit, namely Kaiser of Ad Hominem and Niklas Kvarforth of Shining – PreEmptive Strike 0.1 released its fifth album this year, the follow-up to 2012’s T.A.L.O.S.: Epos V.
After ordering a T-shirt and a 7-inch from Jim (which he kindly signed for me), I convinced the band members to answer a few questions regarding their roots, influences, and the band’s unique, unmistakable sound.
First off, please tell me how the two of you first met. What kinds of things did you have in common? I read that you two worked together in other groups before PES 0.1 and it would be interesting for readers to know the roots of your current project, perhaps some noteworthy or interesting facts that you haven’t shared before in other interviews.
Cryon: I think the first thing that drew us together was our love of horror films. I seem to remember DJing a metal night and had some gory favorites playing in the background and we got talking about them. We knew each other before then, but that’s when we ‘clicked’ I guess.
The Blaster: I agree with George. We had horror films in common and at that time I listened to only a little bit of metal. We met sometimes at the metal parties that George was playing music at.
I know it’s a bit cliché to ask this, but what are some of the bands that really made an impact on you early in your lives? Are there any particular albums or groups you remember first hearing and thinking, ‘Damn, this is absolutely fantastic’?
Cryon: I’ve had such a bizarre musical journey through life. At an early age, I was into techno but also hard rock and metal. The first albums I really just played over and over again were Slayer’s South of Heaven and Annihilator’s Never, Neverland. Later, I really got into melodic death metal, especially the NWoSDM (New Wave of Swedish Death Metal) stuff. In Flames’ Whoracle is probably my favorite album of all time. Then as someone who had been into death and thrash metal, it was definitely FLA’s Millennium album for me. The first pure dark electro album that blew me away was Decoded Feedback’s Bio-Vital. Their use of pads and strings was a heavy influence on us.
Your music has a lot in common with heavy metal, if this is a fair statement (death metal and black metal in particular); your style is almost a synthesis of electronic and metal. Very few bands have been able to pull this off successfully. What do you think is the key for finding the right balance between the two styles and why do you think PES 0.1 has succeeded in this regard where so many other bands have failed?
Cryon: I will admit I was really apprehensive when we started putting the Pierce Their Husk EP together. I mean, we have snuck some guitars into our albums before, but I was afraid that it would be too electronic for metal fans, but also that the metal influences would put off electronic music fans – kind of a niche no one was really interested in, especially after the remix album we did for Ad Hominem went slightly unnoticed. Jim had more faith than me and I’m glad I was wrong in the end. At the end of the day, the way I see it is you have to make the music you yourself want to listen to and hope people respond to it in the same way.
The Blaster: I agree with George. I was sure about the success of Pierce Their Husk and our exposure to a different audience. But notice that we are mainly a dark electro band. Those two MCDs were an intermission and now we are continuing electronically, but in each of our future records, we will have at least two songs that will have to do with metal (collaborations or simply hard guitars from us).
Expanding on the previous question, you’ve remixed material and worked and with several black metal musicians, most notably with Kaiser (Ad Hominem) and Niklas Kvarforth (Shining). How did you get in touch with these artists and what was the process like working with them?
Ad Hominem is seen by many as subversive and controversial for their views and lyrics. By no means am I trying to sensationalize on this, but have you received any criticism, directly or otherwise, for making the Slaves of God to the Gallows remix album? Have you received criticism for your choices of film samples or the sometimes militant sounding music of your other albums as being ‘crypto-fascist,’ even if this is your intention or not (to put it into perspective, Laibach, for example, has come under fire for the same types of things)?
The Blaster: I knew it from the beginning, but this had happened at the beginning of the band and not with the Dictator CD tracks that we remixed. Let’s say ‘Slaves of God.’ This is an antireligious song. But in any case I would like to assure you that I and PreEmptive Strike 0.1 have nothing to do with this ideology, so we don’t share their point of view. But musically speaking, Ad Hominem was, is and will be a great band!
Cryon: The only trouble we’ve had was some reviewers refusing to review the Ad Hominem EP because of their controversial lyrics/image, but for us it was purely a chance to experiment. We have no political messages in our lyrics. I guess we have lyrics based on Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, which was accused of militarism, fascism, utopianism, and racism in its time, but he also wrote Stranger in a Strange Land, which explored themes of liberalism, individuality, and free expression of love, and is considered of the most important libertarian literary works. He also caught controversy for that. Go figure. For us, it’s just sci-fi.
As with many electronic/industrial bands there is (understandably) a very apparent science fiction aspect to much of your music. What non-musical influences (where you live, philosophies, movies, literature, life experiences, other forms of art, etc.) do you feel shape the music you create?
The Blaster: Basically, the pure sci-fi films of the ’50s and ’60s – really original sci-fi! Then the Greek mythology of the last two CDs. Finally, some literature from the horror or the fantastic thing. That’s it. No life experiences or the place I live (by the way, our small town is only for summer vacations, so how the hell to live experiences here?).
What’s it like being an electronic group in the post 2000/2010 era? Do you feel that the shift from analog to digital equipment is negative or do you think it’s necessary to blend and utilize both to adapt with technology? What are some of the drawbacks/ benefits of analog vs. digital?
Cryon: Digital equipment is most definitely both easier and cheaper to use. These days, people have many more tools at their disposal to make electronic music with. This is a double-edged blade because it’s also easier to be lazy about it. So, even though this environment should be more conducive to experimentation, it can actually lead to more generic music, or it did for a while anyway. Who can forget the era of ‘Vanguard bands’? We have used the Vanguard VST quite often, but just using a preset gated sound? No thanks. I think more bands are striving for individuality these days though.
How do you program your music and what specific equipment/programs do you use?
The Blaster: I used my old analog Yamaha RS7000 to make drum sounds, especially snares and hi-hats… and always my portable sampler, Yamaha SU100 to take movie samples. Then all of them transported to my PC. I use Cubase as well as George and I respect his will not to reveal which of the VST programs we use!
Cryon: We use Cubase for all the composition with a variety of VSTs and effects; not going to give away all our secrets though.
What do you personally feel sets you apart from other modern electronic/industrial acts?
Cryon: Without doubt, the use of traditional Greek instruments and mix of musical influences. When you hear our new album, I’m sure you’ll agree there’s nothing else out there like it. I hope that’s a good thing.
The Blaster: I agree with George completely. I would like to add the epic feel that I believe that is obvious than ever in our new CD. That is why we named it Epos V!
What are your thoughts on the relatively recent boom of popularity of EDM? Do you have a lot of EDM festivals in Greece and is this something you generally steer clear of, being more of a dark EBM/industrial group?
The Blaster: I am really sorry, but I don’t like EDM music at all and if contains female vocals, moreover I would better say that I hate this music. I enjoy uplifting trance music as well, but I think that this style of music remains underground.
Cryon: EDM isn’t really that big in Greece; at least, not like in other places anyway. I personally don’t avoid or find anything ‘wrong’ with it being popular. Genres come and go, rising and falling in popularity every few years. Eurodance was insanely popular some time ago. Now it’s EDM. I do enjoy some commercial electronic music, some melodic, uplifting or goa trance from time to time.
Going a little off topic, are you guys into video games at all? If so, what are your favorite gaming systems/games?
The Blaster: I play only Pro Evolution Soccer and NBA Basketball; nothing more. I still own a PlayStation 2 and as you know since 15 years ago, nothing has been released anymore for this game console. So I am not so fond of electronic games as my partner!
Cryon: I’ve been gaming for close to 25 years now. I started out playing on the NES and SNES. Hell, my dad even had a Pong unit that we set up every once in a while. Later on, it was games like Doom on a 486 and other FPSs like Quake, Duke Nukem 3D, a lot of real-time strategy games like Dune, Warcraft, Starcraft, Command and Conquer, some RPGs; pretty much everything on PS1, PS2, PS3, and now I’m on PS4 – just too many games to name. In recent years, I even played Killzone 3 and Killzone: Shadow Fall competitively for a while, but having a family and business doesn’t leave much time anymore. My PSN ID is actually cryon-pes01, but nobody has ever caught that or if they have, they didn’t mention anything.
The Blaster/Cryon: Beginning in the summer of 2013, Yiannis Dseq joined our band as a third member and brought with him his hardware equipment, his production skills, and his ideas off course. He had a strong participation in our last CD, Epos V.
Photos courtesy of PreEmptive Strike 0.1