An interview with Singer/Songwriter Ari Mihalopoulos
by Aaron Manogue
It seems like Iowa is good at producing two things: Tons and tons of corn, and kick-ass metal bands. Maximum Ink has come across yet another of the latter in the band Destrophy. The Iowan quartet based out of Des Moines started all the way back in 2002 by highly-respected and enormously talented producer and singer/songwriter Ari Mihalopoulos. At the time Ari scouted the entire state in search of his perfect combination of musicians. After all was said and done, Ari had found Joe Fox (Drums), Eric Tisinger (Guitar), and Phil T (Bass) to complete his musical war party. Nine years, three albums and one EP later, Destrophy prepares for their second release under Victory Records titled Cry Havoc. Maximum Ink took some time to sit down with Ari and talk about their upcoming album.
Maximum Ink: Tell me about the album and the direction you took. Can fans expect the same Destrophy sound on the new album?
Ari Mihalopoulos: I knew that I wanted this album to be positive or inspiring. I wanted people to feel good while listening to it, and I felt an obligation to try and energize our fans as opposed to bringing them down. Most of my previous lyrical material had a darkness and a pessimism about it, Given the current state of affairs, the economy, and the overall vibe of the times, I didn’t feel right adding to or wallowing in personal misery. (Even the song titled, “Misery” is actually about reaching out to a person going through a tough time.) I thought about traditional forms of entertainment and the idea of framing the entire work as a play or opera entitled, Cry Havoc. The theme is meant to inspire people to hold to their dreams and passions and embrace death at the end of a fulfilled life. The phrase “Cry Havoc” comes from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and at least for our album basically means “go kick some ass.” The title track and much of the album was directly influenced by the Spartan stand at Thermopylae, which to me is the perfect example of holding true to one’s way of life at any cost.
MI: What are you most proud of on the new album? (New sound, different directions lyrically, etc.)
AM: In general the album has a very rock sound and very melodic sound, which we’ve done before but not this extreme. This time I was interested in having an album of more cohesive material; songs that fit together thematically and sonically. Basically we rocked the whole time for some good driving and workout music. I placed highest priority on serving the song and more emphasis on vocals and melody. Those are our strengths, and after sharing the stage with the likes of Bury Your Dead, Through the Eyes of the Dead, and Otep, I felt that being brutal and screaming was best left to them. Our whole album can be performed acoustically and sounds great. Maybe we’ll have to do that sometime. This also marks the first time I’ve worked with another producer on a track. I went to Atlanta to work with Corey Lowery (Eye Empire, Stereomud, Dark New Day) and we developed the song, “Still Bleeding.” We had his brother Clint (Sevendust) play a couple solos too. It was a wonderful experience, and I learned a lot from him.
MI: How has working with Victory Records been? Has it made it easier, harder, how so?
AM: They have treated us wonderfully. They allow us to chase our artistic vision and offer very good critiques of what we have. We know that if they like it, it’s ready to rock.
MI: Is there a tour in the works to promote the album?
AM: We are indeed booking dates as we speak.
MI: When it’s all said and done, what do you enjoy most about the process of making a new album? Writing, recording, producing, touring?
AM: Releasing or turning in the album. That feels great.
MI: Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans who have stuck by your side?
AM: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. Stay strong.
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