METAL PULP AND PAPER: Hello Charlie. So glad to be catching up with you. Thank you for taking the time to speak with Metal Pulp And Paper. We appreciate it. So, how are you, how are things going?
KYRIAKOS "CHARLIE" TSIOLIS: Geoff I’m doing well thanks for the interview. We are gearing up to release the record and dealing with all the things that go with it. The writing and recording are the easy part. The business side of it really sucks. It is so different today from the old days when we first started, it is way easier in a sense, but the attention span is so much shorter. Besides the record, I’m kinda pissed at everything else. We can get into that later.
MPAP: Before we talk about your new release, There Is Something Wrong; I want to dive into the shallow end and find out what’s been going on with your band Aftermath since it formed in Chicago, Illinois, back in 1985?
CHARLIE: The ride we have taken in this band would make a great book or movie. We formed on Halloween 1985. It was me, Steve and Ray and here we are back together again after all those years. We decided to get together and jam in Ray’s basement. We wanted to be the fastest band in the world back then. I am totally serious about that, we had a plan to write the fastest music ever recorded. I guess we succeeded when you listen to those old demos, you can’t believe how fast we played. There were no studio tricks, it was so fast that Don Kaye who wrote for Kerrang at the time called us "too damn fast". By 1987, we replaced Adam on bass with John Lovette. The crazy part of that of this story is that we thought John was a bass player and we thought his last name was Lazetty. A friend of ours had told John we needed a bass player and John auditioned for the part. We had never seen anyone play bass that fast, he made Billy Sheehan look slow. He eventually tells us that he was really a guitarist and we had been mispronouncing his name the entire time. He came clean after he tells us he was leaving the band because he didn’t want to play bass anymore. We were looking to add a second guitarist at the time and we said John you know we have been looking for a guitarist this whole time and never mentioned it before, what the hell is wrong with you. With John switching to guitar we went on to write really progressive/technical thrash metal in 1987/88. We release a demo called Words That Echo Fear in 1988. It gets us several record label offers, we sign to Big Chief Records with Warner Bros distribution. Finish writing the record and during the recording sessions the label folds. It took us years to pay the studio bill, so our debut doesn’t see the light of day until 1994. Metal was dead by then and our record that was to be released in 1989/90 when metal was king gets released at the worst possible time. How’s this story so far? We wrote some songs for a follow up and in 1996, we get a call from Dr. Dre’s lawyers looking to license our trademark for our band name for what they said was a 'small R&B' label. They never disclose their client. We breakup Aftermath in 1996. Reform in 2014/15 to play Headbangers Open Air in Hamburg, Germany. It was meant to be for only that one gig. But we were also approached by Shadow Kingdom Records to reissue our debut Eyes Of Tomorrow and Divebomb Records wanted to release our Killing The Future demo from 1987 on CD. We decided to do both releases and we remastered both. While listening to Killing TheFuture for the first time in nearly 30 years, I was personally blown away by it, the speed and attitude was amazing and fresh all these years later. We were rehearsing for the Headbanger fest and we sounded like we had not missed a beat. We decided to write a new song for it and it went so well, we kept writing. MPAP: You could say it’s been quite the journey of ups and downs for Aftermath so far, correct?
CHARLIE: I think the band’s story is unique in an industry of some unique stories. We have the Spinal Tap bass story (6 guys have played bass). Eyes Of Tomorrow has been released and reissued multiple times on CD and vinyl. The original release in 1994, reissued on Thermometer Sound Surface in 1995, Black Lotus (Greece) in 1998. Part of a box set called 25 Years f COhaos on Area Death (China) in 2010 and the Shadow Kingdom reissue in 2015. The SK version is the best one, Paul Logus did a great job remastering it and the expanded booklet is great as well. Hell’s Headbangers also released a limited-edition vinyl version. We sued Dr. Dre along the way. And have been called pioneers in crossover thrash and technical/progressive thrash. It has been an interesting ride to say the least.
MPAP: A track off the new release is called "Smash Reset Control." For the new music listener, what should they expect when they hear the new song for the very first time? CHARLIE: That track was written with the goal of capturing our early crossover thrash style. We went back to the beginning on the song. As I said earlier, we started out wanting to be the fastest and we let that all go two years later. When I listened to our old demo again and fell in love with it like a fan, I wanted to return to that style on this record and blend it with our later way of writing. "Smash Reset Control" is a pure crossover thrash track you can hear all the hardcore punk influence in the song. It is the only track that is 100% that style. It makes the Killing The Future fans happy and pisses off some the Eyes Of Tomorrow fans.
MPAP: Continuing with that, what about your die-hard fans? What should they expect?
CHARLIE: The band has three types of die-hard fans. The crossover fans that only liked that style and the Eyes fans that didn’t like the early Aftermath should be able to both like most of the new record. Those extreme camps are outnumbered by fans that like both styles, so for them they get both Aftermath's on one record. The record is an 11-song concept album. It is meant to be listened to as a whole. It isn’t meant to be listened to out of order. I know people will obviously listened to it the way they want. But, if there were directions on the record, they would say 'listen to it in sequence on headphones.'
MPAP: The song is also a brutally charged music video as well that you put out October 2nd via Zoid Entertainment. Tell us about the video?
CHARLIE: We decided to release a lyric video first and picked Smash to introduce the band and, in many cases, reintroduce us with a song that makes a statement. We wanted a video to do the same thing. Lyric videos can be really basic or try and tell a story. We wanted to tell a story with the images. We made it red throughout to tie all the images together. It has violent scenes that will become more frequent in real life if things continue to separate us. We want the viewer to get that it isn’t about one party is better than the other political party. They both suck. They both lie. They are all just puppets. That was the intent of the video and its images.
MPAP: Now let’s talk about your upcoming release, There Is Something Wrong. This is Aftermath’s 2nd full-length release since 1994s Eyes Of Tomorrow, or 1998s Mother God Moviestar, back when the group temporarily changed their name. It’s been a very long time coming for new music, so, tell us about it?
CHARLIE: As I said earlier, we ended Aftermath in 1996. We formed Mother God Moviestar in 1998 with the core of the band and added a female vocalist on the record and a DJ. It wasn’t Aftermath stylistically, so to call it Aftermath would have been wrong. Going from Killing The Future to Eyes Of Tomorrow was a huge style change, but it was still thrash – heavy. Mother God Moviestar wasn’t thrash. When we reformed in 2015, the writing of the record was meant to blend the two Aftermath styles. Which we did on the record. It comes across naturally as another evolution in our writing. We added George Lagis on bass and introduced backup vocals for the first time. George and Steve doing backups takes the music to another level, it adds an additional layer that only makes the songs more powerful. We even added them to the old songs live. Like I started to say already, the record is a concept album. The songs blend into one another with interludes that continue the story that the lyrics are telling. I believe the time off works well for the record. What I mean is that we are basically writing our second record, so the vibe is still fresh, we aren’t burned out musically like some bands on their 20th record. We started in 1985 and are finally releasing a follow-up to our debut the time off allowed us to grow as people and also musically and at the same time be hungry like bands are on their second record.
MPAP: Also, is there a release date for it yet by any chance you can mention here?
CHARLIE: We are trying to figure that out right now. The record isn’t coming out in 2018 since we are already in December basically. So, we are thinking January. What is cool today and different from back when release dates were limited to Tuesday, we can release it any day of the week. We can release it for digital streaming and downloads first and the cd vinyl release can follow. But the record is coming out early 2019. We plan on releasing another lyric video before the release of the record. We are in the process of doing that now for the lead track off the record. The song is called "False Flag Flying" or FFF if you like. The title speaks for itself.
MPAP: The title: There Is Something Wrong, what do you feel honestly is wrong? Anything, in particular, you want to vent about?
CHARLIE: In short, I think everything is wrong. I believe we have been lied to since birth by the entire system. The government is the front for those that make the real decision. The elected officials are the puppets carrying out the plans and agendas of those with the real power. The elite that we don’t know or see are the ones really in control and the masses are arguing about nonsense. Both parties answer to the same masters. We the people need to wake up and realize that we are being played by the distractions. The top 1 percent of the top 1 percent come up with these scenarios and scripts that keep the rest of us separated. We need to wake up. I started really questioning things about 5 years ago on a more serious level. Why are things the way they are? Why has there never been a period of peace? Why all the wars if we die eventually? Why the hatred? Why does the government borrow money from the Fed? Why the fuck does the Fed exist? All these questions lead to answers that result in pissing people off that ask the questions. I am one of those people. If you dig deep and start piecing the truth together you draw one conclusion – it really is about the battle of good v evil. And at the moment evil is winning. MPAP: Totally agree, there is so much hatred going on right now. And there is always a finger pointing at someone. To continue with this subject, you were quoted as saying, it’s 'time to reset the power structure. The point of the record is to expose the real enemy.' That’s a pretty strong message. Is there anything else you are trying to get across?
CHARLIE: The entire point of the record is to get the listener to question everything the system has taught you or force fed you since you started school. Things don’t make sense and just accepting the answer, 'it’s the law' or 'it needs to work that way' doesn’t make it legitimate just because they claim it does. On one song I list off 33 conspiracies that were called crazy and anyone that believed them was considered nuts. Those nuts were right. So, what makes you think they still don’t do those kinds of things. I want people to do their own research and come up with their own conclusions. Don’t believe me or anyone find out for yourself. Man, we have been at war for almost 20 years. We lost thousands of American soldiers and killed thousands of innocent people and spent billions or trillions of dollars on a lie. There were no WMD in Iraq and the government lied. If they are willing to do that what makes you think they won’t do worse.
MPAP: Look forward to hearing that song definitely. So, HaulixDaily.Com reported, 'New data reveals nearly 25% of people skip songs in five seconds or less.' Whether that statement is completely true or even accurate is up for debate, but let’s say it is true. What about each song on There Is Something Wrong will make people not want to skip a single second of it? CHARLIE: Can you repeat that; sorry I wasn’t paying attention? Seriously, I have heard stats like that in the past. Years ago, my brother who is our manager managed another band on a major label. The radio department wanted the vocals to kick in at 7 sec or something like that because research indicated that the listener gives up after that if the singer isn’t singing yet. That was for radio purposes. I usually hate the singles off a record, so I say who cares. But the point is to get people to listen right. While we aren’t looking to be a singles band and the singing doesn’t need to kick in at 7 sec., we want people to listen to the record. But I think our target audience is different. I think metal fans are more music lovers than fans of other genres. It’s a lifestyle. I think they love records that grow on them. So, we don’t necessarily need to worry that it better grabs them in 5 sec. or less. I think the music will grab you on this record from the first cord and is good enough to make you want to hear the entire record. MPAP: Now this new record, how would you compare it to Eyes Of Tomorrow? Much time has passed between those two releases?
CHARLIE: I think the records are different. The production on this record is great. Musically it is a lot more accessible I think to a larger audience. Eyes was pretty dark, technical and progressive. This record is more upbeat in a sense despite the lyrics. The backups make it different. There is only one guitarist on this record so less harmonies. The drum production is amazing on this record. Ted Jensen who mastered it crushed it. Eyes was really a technical progressive thrash record, the new record is a blend of styles, which makes it different.
MPAP: For a moment, let’s talk more about what you mentioned earlier in the interview, that one time back in the 90s, when Aftermath got into a trademark dispute with the rap mogul Dr. Dre., and you ended up trying to sue him. Tell us about that whole story? CHARLIE: We were crazy enough to get a state and federal trademark back then. Bands never got trademarks back then, but my brother (who went on to be a lawyer) and our lawyer at that time said we should get one. We did and spent the money and got the trademark office to approve it. You would think that would be enough to protect you right? Well it isn’t. In 1996, I got a call from the law firm that represented Dr. Dre and a ton of other giants in the industry. The call came from Pete Paterno, who represented Dre, Metallica and Guns N Roses to name only a few. He claimed he had a small client that wanted to start a small R&B label and wanted to license the name for $5,000. He thought I was some dumb metalhead and that the story he was feeding me would be enough and $5,000 would be a lot of money to me. He was wrong. I knew who Paterno was and he didn’t represent small clients. He was the President of Hollywood Records at one point, a Disney Company. Small clients couldn’t afford him. We ended up finding out it was Dre and his new label was called Aftermath Entertainment. We were then offered more money for the right to use the name. We rejected that offer and sued him for a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction. It ended up in Federal Court in front of a Reagan appointed conservative judge. Your figured we should prevail, well the judge completely got it wrong. He wrote a crazy opinion that claimed there would be no confusion between the Dre fans and metal fans. He argued that rap records aren’t sold to the same audience. This was the time before the internet we have today. No Facebook, or social media. I wish he could see all the confusion we now have daily.
MPAP: It’s even said that the case is still studied in law schools even to this day? Looking back on it, was it worth it at the time?
CHARLIE: Yeah, the case is taught in trademark classes in law school. The professors all claim the judge got it wrong. It came down to money for the judge. Too big to stop v. too small to care about is what he thought. And yes, it was absolutely worth it at the time.
MPAP: It was even reported at one-point Dr. Dre offered you $50,000 so he could use the rights to the Aftermath name? CHARLIE: That is true we rejected that offer.
MPAP: Unfortunately, you would lose the court case. Is there anything, that if you could go back to that day, that you’d want to change?
CHARLIE: I probably shouldn’t have smoked the weed I did before I testified. I would have wanted better lawyers. They never understood how to make the argument about the confusion. I wish my brother was our lawyer on that case. He was still in law school at the time. I believe he would have won the case.
MPAP: Have you ever met or spoken to Dr. Dre since all that shit went down?
CHARLIE: We never spoke. He did send a message to us something like 'tell those rock dudes they can use any of my titles.' We didn’t want any of his fucking titles.
MPAP: So many years have passed since then, but wouldn’t it be great to just goof on that whole situation now and put out a crazy thrash metal song called "Keep Their Heads Ringin’", or "Let Me Ride,"? On the other hand, even better, how about put out a song titled "The Next Episode"? It rather sums everything up, 2018/2019; this is next episode of Aftermath.
CHARLIE: You know it is funny you bring this up, we were joking the other day, maybe we should release an album called the Chronic. We can use all of his titles on the record also. That would be pretty funny actually. This time he would sue, and we could use his previous argument against him. Maybe on April Fool’s day we drop a press release claiming the Chronic II by Aftermath is ready for pre-order and we send them out There is Something Wrong instead. Now that would be funny.
MPAP: Since you haven't met him yet, if by chance you did bump into him, would you want to say anything to him about the whole ordeal? CHARLIE: I never thought about it before. Not really sure what I would say to him. I did see Straight Outta Compton and at the end he says my new label Aftermath. That was strange, funny, and aggravating at the same time.
MPAP: Wow, like you mentioned, this all would make a great book or movie. On behalf of myself, and Metal Pulp And Paper, I’d like to thank you, Charlie, for taking the time to do this interview. We look forward to what Aftermath does to finish out 2018 and beyond. Are there any last words you’d like to say to all your new and old fans out there reading this?
CHARLIE: Geoff it was a pleasure. Some great questions. I want our fans to visit our Facebook page and our new website www.aftermathchicago.com. Check out the video for "Smash Reset Control". To those that haven’t heard us before, go on the site and stream our old songs for free. Hit us up if you like what you hear. Support great music. Metal for life. Know your enemy.
Kyriakos "Charlie" Tsiolis/ November 29th, 2018/ Interview #130