19 – year – old cousins called Dimitris (Jim) Asteriadis and Yannis (Johnny) Kalambokides are jamming with their guitars on the first one’s house. There comes the idea to create a band. Jim is no longer a member of any band after Vengeance’s dissolve, while John is with Shellshock, but still fascinated by the idea of playing with his cousin in a band. They chose the name Deceptor (another term for “deceiver”) as a joke, never to change it in the future. They start to think of the persons possible to collaborate with them. Johnny proposes Thanos (Danny) Serkentzis, with whom they were together in Shellshock, as the drummer. At the time being, Danny is in Germany, so they contact him, proposing him to enter the ranks of the band. Danny likes the idea and with his return he officially is the third member.
The search continued on the weeks that followed and the next addition to the band’s lineup was John K. on vocals and keyboards. Jim and John K. knew each other from the festival organized by the Municipality of Thessaloniki and conducted on Theatro Kipou (Garden Theater ) on 1987; they had participated in the festival’s billing with their bands, Vengeance and Rottweiller respectively and they had shared the “best city band” after the audience’s vote. Slightly afterwards John K. left Rottweiller and at the same time he was a member of Gouls, whose material was the most suitable for John K. to develop his vocal skills. On May 20th, 1988, a gig took place in the city (Black Side Layer, Pandemonium, Gouls) and John K. participated as a Gouls member. Jim and Johnny were present and, having watched John K. on stage, they were very impressed by his performance. They met him at the same night, exchanged thoughts and musical views and that positive conversation was John K.’ s motive of further communication and a proposal for common collaboration in the band that was about to be formed. The bassist place was still empty, but they couldn’t find anyone suitable with the band’ s style.
It was circa May 1988 when Deceptor came to life.
They started practicing at Power Studio, stated in Michail Hourmouzi street. They began covering known metal songs in order to come together and get tight as a band. While rehearsing, Petros 'Borsalino' Spyridelis (Rubicon, Drums & Stories) was helping them by filling in the bass player’s position. At the same time, they daily met at Jim’s house and started composing their own material, since they could not afford paying a studio time longer than two or three times per week. The musical influences Deceptor had were originating from classic Hard ‘n’ Heavy to Thrash and they were searching the band’s sound. Thus, their first song, “Eaten Alive”, with a pure thrash sound, was written, but also “Nemesis”, on a totally different, melodic heavy metal, direction. All members had agreed not to go on stage unless they would be certain that they would properly carry out a live performance. Despite that, their name started to spread on the city’s metal hang – outs, either from other bands who used the same studio and had listened to them playing, or from their own familiars that knew their previous groups and they were interested in the new band. There was the extraordinary occasion of Deceptor practicing and about 15 to 20 people hanging around outside the studio in order to listen to their rehearsal.
Several months had passed since the band’s creation and at that time they felt ready to present themselves on stage. Every autumn, a various open festivals held and organized by the political parties youths gave the opportunity to local bands to participate and play live concerts. The PASOK youth party was holding the its own event in the city beach (to a place also known as “parko ton skylon” – dogs’ park) from the 22nd to the 25th of September. Τhat was Deceptor’s first live appearance. Being supported by very good sound gear but with a sound engineer that had no idea on the Heavy Metal sound, and despite all the difficulties, the metalheads (who attended EVERY Metal concert no matter who organized it), glorified them and when Deceptor asked the audience whether they wanted to hear a song of their own or a cover song for the encore, the latter chose the first. That night their set list included songs by Queensryche (“Queen of the Reich”), Anthrax (“Madhouse”), Metallica (“Seek And Destroy”) and their own “Eaten Alive”, “Nemesis” and “Dome of Wrath”. The crowed cheered “Yours! Yours!”, meaning by that “Dome of Wrath” because they didn’t know the song title. On that gig Petros Spyridelis filled in the bass player’s position.
A few days later, Deceptor found the bassist they were looking for in the face of Kostas (Costas) Ragazas (formerly a member of Black Side Layer) and the band took its last form on October 1988. The following months continued likewise. Jim and Johnny on guitars and John K. on keyboards worked together at their places by writing riffs and melodies, getting together at Jim’s house, processing their material and going to the studio afterwards and try it with the rest of the members altogether. Two (2) songs were recorded (“Eaten Alive” and “Whirlpool of Darkness”) on a studio rehearsal and they were circulated to various fanzines in order to establish the basis of communication with those unfamiliar with them. John K. took over the lyrical sector, with a little help from friends and especially from Tatiana Oikonomou, that possessed a good knowledge of the English language. Deceptor’s next five (5) live shows took place at Oneiro (Oneiro – Dream) club and Ellispontos movie theater. Oneiro Club was a very small venue with a very small crowd capacity. It was the most suitable place for the band to learn how to perform in front of an audience, to see its reactions and of course, to receive its direct, good or bad, criticism. Inadequate lighting, mediocre sound, excited crowds that had direct access on the stage, since there was no ramp or bars, were some of that club’s drawbacks. Ellispontos, on the other hand, was an old cinema house on Aggelaki street, that was economically plagued by the rise of the home video tapes and video clubs, so its owner resorted to renting the place to any host or band wanted to make gigs in exchange of money. Thus, the first Metal concerts began in that specific place. During the first days, the first rows of seats were not removed, resulting in frequent injuries; an ambulance was almost every time outside the cinema. Later on, some rows were removed, thus the place grew in a capacity of 800 to 1000 p. That resulted in the place’s usage during festivals and gigs of foreign bands, something that, until that time, was impossible to take place elsewhere.
On May 1989 Deceptor had enough songs ready to be recorded, thus they entered Rock Sound Studio to record their first demo. Among “Nemesis”, “Dome of Wrath”, “The War that Two Persons Make”, “Too Late for Heroes”, “Whirlpool of Darkness”, “Eaten Alive” and “Hard Like the Will”, they chose the first four and added “Winner in the Battle for (ή μήπως είναι of;) Nothing” which would be used as an intro at their live performances. Unexperienced with the process, they entrusted their sound on Pantelis Deligiannidis (R.I.P.) and Dimitris Starovas; Deligiannides, unfamiliar with Rock (not to mention Heavy Metal), Starovas, unfamiliar with Heavy Metal, despite the fact that he knew and played Rock music. The results of their work can be heard on the songs of each one’s production: Deligiannides on “Nemesis”, “Dome of Wrath” and Starovas on “The War that Two Persons Make”, “Too Late for Heroes”. The band was not completely satisfied with the production and on their efforts for a better result, the demo’s release was done after six months, on the end of December, far later than the original plan. It received wide critical acclaim, in some occasions enthousiastic, with more than 800 copies being available in Greece and abroad. A number that surpassed every expectation, if the absence of any manager of promoter that could help the band, the band’s work on every sector and their only promotion was done by articles in various metal ‘zines are taken into consideration.
AT THEIR OWN STUDIO
In the beginning of the next decade (1990) they found their own “home”. They rented a small space that could barely keep them and their instruments and equipment, on Romanou str. Opposite «Λωτός» (Lotos) bar. There they created their own studio where they daily spent many hours on rehearsing and composing. Continuous practice made them better musicians, got them tight, gave them a personal sound and escalated them as a band. They reached a level which, personally, as a friend and supporter, I could never believe they could on such a short period of time. Songs that contained melodic, heavy elements, combined with thrash, power and progressive influences. There they composed “Damned Angel”, “I Can Feel the Power”, “White Fatal Lady”, “Second Sun”, Strange Way”, “There’s A Way”. The lyrics for the songs mentioned were granted by a friend who was also o professional lyricist, called George Pilianides. Every time I attended their rehearsals I could witness and listen to their progress and when I was closing my eyes I thought they were a band from somewhere else, certainly not Greece. I was certain that they could take on the world.
They continued to perform live whenever and wherever they called them, while at the same time they rented Ellispontos and their sound gear, they were searching for sponsors, printing posters and tickets, literally doing everything. They tried to look for a manager, mostly from Germany, but they couldn’t. On the 6th of October 1990 they had the chance of supporting Kai Hansen (ex – Helloween) who had come in Greece with his band at the time, Gamma Ray. Johnny, even today, recalls both the band’s and its road crew’s professionalism. “They didn’t even let us put our instruments on stage. They said it was their job to do so. They made our sound and it was the first time that we felt happy and satisfied our sound on stage as Deceptor. During our soundcheck, as long as the whole gig, we could see Kai Hansen and the rest Gamma Ray members standing next to the stage, watching us. When the gig ended we approached Kai Hansen and asked for his advice and help. He congratulated us and said that, before the gig would start, he could never believe that such a good band would be found in Greece. But, he also told us the discouraging and disappointing truth when we asked him on the matter of a promoter – manager – record company contract in Germany that we could cooperate with: “Only if you were Germans or lived in Germany, you could stand a chance. German record companies promote German bands unless a band outside Germany has a German manager. They will prefer to record an album by a German band even if it’s worse than yours”. After that conversation, Deceptor sat down and talked about what they could do. They could not afford to travel and stay abroad, they didn’t have any familiar who would be able to accommodate them, their military service was unfulfilled and their average age was 19 years old. When so young, everything mentioned looks huge and unable to surpass. So, they decided to continue doing what they did until then and try to release a promo tape with four (4) songs that could be sent on record companies abroad. Maybe that way someone would be interested in signing a contract with them.
They went to Athens’ Sierra Studios that were considered to be among the best in Greece. Unfortunately the studio’s hours available to them were from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. They had arrived earlier and saw George Ntalaras (a famous Greek singer) rehearse. When they had finally entered the studio, they recorded three (3) songs (“Damned Angel”, “I Can Feel the Power”, “White Fatal Lady”), and they were given the tape by the producer to listen to the soungs, without any further process. They arranged another future meeting in Athens in order to continue with the work on those three songs plus “Second Sun” which they didn’t manage to record due to time limitations. That meeting never happened and the songs remained as they were.
At the time being, a new record company, missing from Greece until then, initiated its activity in the hard rock grounds by printing records and organizing concerts. Molon Lave records invited Deceptor in the two – day festival that took place in Rodon Club on the 9th and the 10th of November 1990. Deceptor appeared on the first day, that being their first show in front of the Athenian audience. The comments received were quite encouraging. They still remember what another group’s member (an Athenian one) backstage: “ Oh my, is there something with the water that you drink up there? You brought the whole place down!” During their show, Deceptor could see a red light from a recording camera. Unfortunately, they never asked for that tape by George Osmak, owner of Molon Lave, but also not from anyone else to record the sound from the PA, in order to have captured on tape something from that live appearance. After that, Molon Lave organized another concert in Thessaloniki on the 12th of January 1991 with groups from both Athens and Thessaloniki. Deceptor took also part on that one and they recorded the whole set with a video camera. Unfortunately, they didn’t remember to ask for the recorded (this time) audio tape from the sound engineer. On the 11th of May 1991 they appeared at Rodon Club for the second time, organized by Metal Hammer magazine on a cooperation with Molon Lave. As for the results? A cheerful crowd reception and be lauding press references.
JIM AND JOHNNY’S DEPARTURE
While there were many signs of a finally normal course of things for the band, a sudden dispute was created among the band members. The young of their age and their inexperience in such matters played a pivotal role in their inability to handle the occurring situation. As a result, the guitar duo and founding band members, Jim and Johnny, left the band. The rest of it split three years later, on June 1991.
Attempts of finding another pair of guitarists were made by the rest of the band. George Baharides entered the line up, and after a couple of weeks Kostas Ragazas’ brother, Lakis, also joined forces. On that formation they appeared on a live show held in Yiannitsa, on August 31st, 1991. That was the last time I followed and attended the band.
They appeared live on Rodon Club again, on October 18, 1991 on the 10 day Molon Lave festival. They later composed three more songs, called “Chasing the Dream”, “It’s Not For Sale” and “Forever Young”. But, somewhere between the end of 1991 and the beginning of 1992 new departures occurred. John K. tried for a while to find new musicians, but he soon realized that Deceptor were no more and abandoned every effort.
I don’t believe that my love for the band was because of my friendship with some of its members before the band’s creation. I was a friend of many musicians who played in other groups. But, the things I experienced those years between May 1988 until the end of 1991 was beyond everything I could ever imagine. I found myself standing next to a group, whose only disadvantage was its Greek origins. If the initial line up could endure for another 2 or 3 years, when records companies were springing everywhere and the recording and release of an album was a much easier case because of its digital form (yes, the cd format), maybe we could not be talking now for another band that just stayed on the underground level. Nonetheless, even if this bittersweet taste is still left, I feel grateful for what I lived.
DECEPTOR RULES FOREVER!
Promo Tape 1989: 1. Eaten Alive, 2. Whirlpool of Darkness (Rehearsal tape)
Demo Tape 1989: 1. Too Late for Heroes, 2. Winner in the Battle for Nothing, 3. The War that Τwo Persons make, 4. Nemesis, 5. Dome of Wrath
Promo Tape 1990: 1. Damned Angel, 2. I can feel the Power, 3. White Fatal Lady
Promo Tape 1991: 1. Chasing The Dream, 2. It's Not For Sale, 3. Forever Young
John K - Vocals
Yiannis Kalabokidis - Guitar
Dimitris Asteriadis - Guitar
Kostas Ragazas - Bass
Thanos Sarketzis - Drums