Interview || The One With Philip Dellas of The Wothrosch Collective

I recently had the chance to sit with Philip Dellas, vocalist and jack of all trades for The Wothrosch Collective, to discuss the creation their debut album, “Odium”, utilizing visuals to enhance your artist identity, and delve into a discourse about separating the artist from the art.

Credit: Jane Fotou
U: Welcome to Unraveled, it’s a pleasure to have you here, please introduce yourself and tell us your role in the band

Philip Dellas: Sure! My name is Philip and I handle vocals for The Wothrosch Collective –or simply Wothrosch. Apart from the vocals I also do everything that has to do with the art direction, lyrics and networking.  

U: My first question is about the spelling of the name

P.D.: The reason why there wasn’t a literal transcription of the word βόθρος (“vothros”) into the English version, which would be the usage of the letter “v” per se, is because we wanted a more symmetrical way to write it and the “w” in the beginning is essentially two “v” conjoined together. Towards the end the –sch gave it a more of a “sh” sound for people reading abroad. 

U: But you yourself don’t pronounce it like that, you pronounce it the greek way...

P.D.: Yes, but a person who doesn’t know the pronunciation, will pronounce it the way they want to pronounce it. Also we wanted to make it a little ambiguous, for example greek people, when you say “vothros” [ed: sewer] they know exactly what you mean… 

U: And it relates to the sound

P.D.: Exactly! When you actually show them the way you write it, they don’t know what it is. For many people, especially from the press, they first read the name and then they were trying to figure out what it means, and once [they did] they were like “vothros! Ok, it all makes sense”. But for people abroad, they don’t know what it is so, for greek people it’s a little cut and dry. The way that the logo is, it’s not a traditional metal logo or an extreme metal logo, but it’s a name that started out as a joke but the more we stuck with it the more we realized that we could never picture this project being named anything apart from this, and the deeper we go into our journey, the more energies we discover around this particular name. 

U: Tell us about the formation of the band

P.D.: We started in October 2018 when I was with my then-girlfriend and we were going to a show, and I met up with this friend of mine at the subway station and he was like “I’m looking to start a doom project, something very slow, very extreme, something like Sumac”. I was like “yes!”; at the time I wasn’t really involved in anything else and a close friend of his was our current guitar player, Nasos, the friend of mine was Nick, and we started Wothrosch! We started just getting together, just jamming riffs and ideas, [but] we knew from the get-go that we were going to be a studio project so the whole live thing wasn’t really a question. After about a year of jamming we had a solid set of songs that would eventually become “Odium”. 

U: I find it hard to believe that you started out as a doom project... How did you transition to extreme metal? 

P.D.: Essentially what we are all interested in is –or was- extremity. We wanted to create something that would be extreme and that became very apparent while we were writing. The material we were originally writing was very doom-sounding but then we started writing what we felt like writing. Whilst there are doom elements in our music I would definitely not call us a doom act –not a sludge black metal [band]. You know, at the end of the day people can call it whatever they want. As long as they listen to it, I don’t have a problem. To me, when people ask me what genre of music do I play, I always say “extreme metal”, that’s what it is.  

U: What’s your creative process like? 

P.D.: It changed throughout the years because last March we became a duo, as our original member, Nick, left the band. Whilst he was in the band, we would all get together at Nasos’ house, chill, [someone would] start playing riffs and we built on that. That was for “Odium” but for the second album the process is quite different. Nasos pretty much writes all the music and I wrote all the lyrics so it’s not very interpersonal the way we write. Everybody does their thing and it all comes together whilst in the beginning it was more of a teamwork. It’s more focused in a way I would say. 

U: You created “Odium” with George Emmanuel. What can you tell us about the recording process? 

P.D.: Before I talk about the recording process it’s interesting to tell you how George and I met. So I used to shop a lot at Public in Syntagma, used to buy a lot of records there, and the guy who works in the CD department is Marios, the vocalist of Lucifer’s Child. I became quite close with him and whilst we had pretty much all the demos for what was "Odium", we were looking for producers because once we started writing, we all wanted to do it by ourselves. We wanted to self-produce everything, release it ourselves, but when we realized that this has potential I started my outreach for producers. So I asked Marios [if he knew] anybody who would be interested in doing this, and he was like “George can do it”. He gave me his phone number, I called George up, sent him a few demos, he was very interested and that’s how we started. 

Now the recording process with George was very interesting because the drums, the guitars, the bass, everything was recorded so essentially it was my vocals and then he did the mixing and mastering. The vocal recording process was extremely intense. We spent endless hours in the studio pretty much. There’s a lot of energies and vibes involved so all I can say about it was that it was intense. And that’s why it lasted for a whole year and a half.  

Credit: Jane Fotou

U: You also have a guest, Niklas Kvarforth (Shining). How did that come about? 

P.D.: Niklas is an artist that I’ve always looked up to and he’s a musician that all of his work with Shining I’ve been exposed to since I was 15, especially “Halmstad” I think is his magnum opus. There was a part in the song “Mass”, this recitation that when we were recording the vocals with George it seemed like a part for someone to come in and lay the vocals. There were 3-4 people that we were considering but Niklas was literally the first one and it was as simple as sending him a message [introducing the band], he replied and he was really excited… I think aesthetically and musically we are very close to what Shining is doing –maybe not musically as such but in terms of aesthetics- so he very happily jumped on board. The rest is history. 

U: The first album was also released on Hammerheart Records. That’s quite impressive because a new band, that’s strictly a studio band, doesn’t get to show off at concerts. How was that connection made? 

P.D.: Well first off, thank you. We were very fortunate to have Hammerheart pick up that record and release it. We owe a lot to these guys. Once we had the finished product I started pitching the album to a bunch of different labels, as most bands do. Essentially the best offer was made by Hammerheart, but also they seemed to be the most excited out of the bunch to release it so I sensed I good sense of support from their part that made me want to work with them. It happened just like that, but we’re very proud that this first album was released via Hammerheart and we’re grateful that they gave us the first chance to dip our foot into this giant pool that is the music industry.  

U: What are your main inspiration sources? 

P.D.: The thing with Wotrosch is, we’ll always be an entity where we will not just draw inspiration from just music. We will draw inspiration from other art mediums such as photography, cinema, but since you’re referring to music I think bands like Behemoth, Anaal Nathrakh, Burzum, a lot of different black metal bands. Septic Flesh, Ulcerate, Celtic Forst… there’s so many bands that have inspired but I really wanna stress that, as much inspiration I might have from a band like Behemoth, it’s the same kind of inspiration when I watch a film that deeply resonates with me, or I see a stunning photograph. Or even life in general. That’s why we have an inside joke with Nasos when we’re seeing an extreme situation, we’re like “that’s Wothrosch, right there”.  

U: What would you describe as an extreme situation? 

P.D.: Anything that instigates an extreme emotional reaction or attachment. For example when you’re walking down the street and you see a homeless person, this deterioration of human life, living conditions. That’s just an example of course. We find inspiration in many different places for sure 

U: What does “Odium” mean to you and how does it represent your sound? 

P.D.: At its very core, “Odium” means hate but if you wanna get very specific, it really means hate that comes about for particular actions. That came about during the 5-year period that we were recording the album. It represents our hatred towards humans and humanity, it’s a misanthropic declaration. And to a certain extent our hatred towards ourselves, some facets of our personalities; “Odium” is like lifting up a mirror and the first thing you see is your face, your skin, your eyes but then the deeper you look it’s like you’re looking past layers of flesh and eventually you meet the core. Throughout the process of us doing that, when we saw what lay hidden at our very core was something that we didn’t really like that much.  

U: Would you say that it’s also a therapeutic approach? 

P.D.: It was therapeutic in the sense that we were able to channel a lot of negative energies or negative things that were happening in our lives but also a lot of people’s lives. We didn’t start recording so that [we could] heal ourselves. There’s so many things that happened during those 5 years; we had Covid, we had family losses, breakups… There’s definitely something therapeutic about that but before it becomes therapeutic it’s more so becoming aware, that’s why I’m always saying that it’s like raising a mirror in front of you. 

U: Earlier this year you launched the photography exhibition “Odium Magno”. How did the idea come about and what were the main challenges that you faced? 

P.D.: The main idea came about from the fact that we’re a studio project. Riding off from what seemed to be a very positive response from “Odium” we knew we were not gonna perform live, [so] we felt that we wanted to create an opportunity for us to further expand on what “Odium” touched upon thematically, artistically, musically, but through a different art medium and something that would give us the opportunity to meet people who enjoy our art. An art medium that we felt close from the very first day was photography and I thought about the whole concept of, what if every song could be represented via a specific photograph, and we could also compose a soundtrack essentially, but what is was is an alter ego to “Odium” because "Odium Magno" is a 40-minute piece, and is what “Odium” would have sounded in an ambient parallel universe. We worked very closely with Jane Fotou, because we knew her, we knew her aesthetic and her quality as a photographer and she’s very close to what we feel should be represented aesthetically, so I called her up. She was very excited. 

The main difficulties that we had was finding the gallery –that was a fucking mission. I think the smoothest part of everything was actually capturing the photos. The main challenge was pitching my idea to a mainstream gallery. Our main aim was to attract people who love photography –extreme photography and extreme art. We never wanted to attract people who liked black metal.  

Credit: Fanis Logothetis
U: Can visuals fully represent the idea behind an audio creation or is it simply a complementary relation? 

P.D.: There’s this term called “synaesthesia”. Especially for a project like us there can never be one without the other. That’s why we’ll always be a project that will take as much time as we do to record and to create music, and to figuring out how we’re gonna “dress” the music, aesthetically, visually etc. One feeds from the other. You get it when you go and shop records; you pick up records based on artwork, [so the visual aspect is] extremely important. And for the “Odium Magno” exhibition especially it was nice to see that these photographs could [be] stand-alone art pieces. I think it’s extremely important and some of the artists that I love and have influenced me, they all have these different facets; they pay attention to the music, they pay attention to the art –Marilyn Manson being one of them. What is Marilyn Manson? Is he a musician? Is he a visual performer? He’s just an artist. At the end of the day, we feel that the message behind Wothrosch is not just musical, but artistic. 

U: How was this message received? 

P.D.: It was so weird because we were so nervous. There’s never been another band in Greece that has done anything remotely similar and we take pride in that, we like to be innovators. I think it was a success and having people, not only art aficionados or people who enjoy photography, even metalheads, come up to me and say “this was something that we definitely needed to experience and [they] hope there’s more bands who follow in your footsteps”, that is something great and gave fuel to that fire, to do similar things in the future and [to] experiment. 

U: It is my understanding that local media didn’t really pay attention to the release. Is this something that bothered you or was your message targeted towards a “wider audience” abroad?  

P.D.: We definitely care about the local media, but nowadays what we mostly care about is the scene in general –and the scene is global. I think people who only care about what happens locally, stay local and our aim is to spread that message as far away as possible. I would have liked if more local media paid attention to this release but it’s something that I’m not gonna lose my sleep over. Even if they don’t, I’ll still be doing what I’m doing. We also have to understand that this is a gradual process; I can’t have my first release and all the local media go crazy about it. Hopefully with the next release more media are gonna be involved, even more with the third... You have to build it gradually but at the end of the day it is what it is.  

U: Why did you decide to be just a studio project instead of playing shows? 

P.D.: I think the reason why we didn’t want to play live, in the beginning, was ideological. We didn’t want to be a live act. That became more apparent while we were in the production process. The album sounds very cinematic, that’s why we have some 8-minute-long tracks, there’s a cinematic feel to them which almost beg for the same type of experience to be translated live. I’m not shutting any doors or saying that we’ll always be a studio project but unless I can find the appropriate way to communicate our music in a live environment, I won’t do it. It's funny because we’ve received offers from festivals or support slots to perform, which [...] means there’s a lot of interest in the band, and to see that music live. We’ve built a sonic identity, an identity in general, and it can really collapse if people [witness] something that is not an experience. I know there would be some things that I’d like to try but I haven’t found the right vision for it yet. Because as much as I would like to try something very overproduced and theatrical, I am also attracted to artists that are very minimal on stage. It's a complicated thing; I love performing live, I consider myself a live performing musician but Wothrosch is not the project for it and you have to understand that [it’s] a project is built in a specific way, built to do specific things. So far, we just haven’t found the right formula in order to translate our music into a live experience and that has nothing to do with whether we are able to play the songs live or not. [...] We’re not opposed to playing live but I think that for the foreseeable future the project will remain in the studio. 

U: You define yourselves as a collective, a word with a strong political undertone. Is this something that you abide to just in terms of creativity or is it something that’s part of your belief system/everyday life too? 

P.D.: Not necessarily. In my sort of dictionary, the collective means when a group of people come under the umbrella of a common purpose. Of course that can be political but it can also be religious, artistic etc. For us, it [means that] everybody comes together under the banner of extremity. Anybody who we work with, we consider them as part of our collective because they have contributed to the formation of our identity as well. Most of the time, and this is a distinction that will definitely materialize in the future, Wothrosch is the musical project, The Wothrosch Collective is all our other activities that we do outside of our traditional extreme metal role, i.e. the photo exhibition. We want to create that distinction between the two entities, in the same vein that there is Amenra and then there’s the collective of The Church Of Ra, which is four different bands, a few different photographers, all working together under a common purpose.  

U: In the recent years we’ve seen attempts to reclaim music spaces, especially in the DIY realm. How do you see these initiatives, and is it something you could see the band becoming a part of? 

P.D.: I think there are a lot of good qualities in the whole concept of DIY but I think some of them are more easily achievable via a DIY route and others not so easily. Nowadays you see a lot of musicians do an incredible DIY job with regards to production, you see a lot of home-produced stuff that sounds phenomenal. And that is fantastic, it’s a way for artists to save on money. However they miss on the opportunity of having a producer and what that could offer them. 

U: It applies more in regards to doing things outside of a “commercial” path, like not having label supporting you. You can use a producer, but you don’t have someone “backing” you to do things. 

P.D.: There are so many different DIY versions. You can be a DIY artist in terms of handling your own bookings or your own PR, your label outreach, printing your own merch. I think it is important, at least for us, before you attempt to do that on your own, to learn how to do that more efficiently. The best case scenario for everyone is, for the DIY and the more “traditional” industry to learn how to coexist because I think there’s a lot of things that a young band can learn, not just from a label but from management, a producer or a booking agent. Then comes a point where it’s actually more profitable for the artist to do all these things by themselves and if you’re at that point more power to you, you should definitely do that. We’re not opposed to it, there are some facets of DIY that you can do very efficiently from day one, but some other facets it takes a lot of time, effort, perseverance, endurance and ultimately money as well. It has its pros, it has its cons, it’s ultimately up to the artist to decide which parts they want to incorporate into their own project. 

U: It’s true but my question was more about initiatives in the metal scene that seek to create safe spaces... 

P.D.: I absolutely loathe and despise anybody who brings politics into art.  

U: Politics is inherently intertwined with art

P.D.: It can be if that’s what you make your art to be. It's not the be-all and end-all. For example, what we do has nothing political. I understand that there are some bands that have extremely politicized lyrics and outlooks, we’re not one of them. We will always advocate for art that is far away from politics, I think at its core politics has a very toxic side.. 

U: Yes, but nothing is just black and white... 

P.D.: The foundation of politics is a very noble one, but the way it’s materialized I’ve never seen an entity that has politics at its very core not have toxic sides or elements to it. And that’s just my opinion so the message that we have, there might be some psychological and anthropological aspects to it, because we look intensely at the human soul, but we’re not interested in politics at all. At the end of the day politics is not interested in what we do. I’ve never seen an organized society or politician take interest in extreme art.  

U: No they don’t, because it strays from the norm It’s a subculture, and if they do it’s only to serve an agenda

P.D.: You talked about making certain things safe, that’s not my outlook at all. 

U: This comes from an ideological aspect more than a strictly political one. It's about how your message and your values align with what you do and how you conduct yourself in a space 

P.D.: First of all, we have to define what “safe” means, because this is a very important subject. I would like everyone who experiences our art to be safe, I don’t want anybody to be attacked whilst listening to our music or coming to our exhibition. We welcome everyone, we don’t have a political ideology on whether you’re straight, whether you’re gay, trans, we don’t care. Your race, your sexual orientation are things that don’t even cross our minds.  

U: That’s nice to hear but you have to remember that this only speaks about you, and doesn’t necessarily reflect how society treats people. People have to use labels

P.D.: I don’t believe that. This is where things get tricky. I want everybody to be physically safe while experiencing our art, but art is not safe. When I saw The Ring when I was 13, I did not feel safe, I was threatened...  

U: But that’s meant to startle you

P.D.: Exactly. That’s why we need to define what safe means. I see a lot of different movements, like “let’s make black metal safe” -no. Black metal is not a type of art that should make you feel safe. However it’s the art that should not make you feel safe, not other people. Now, as with everything, you can’t avoid people from all different ideological backgrounds experiencing a particular form of art, much like you can’t control who’s gonna come to a football stadium. You’re gonna have people from all sexual orientations, all races, all political backgrounds, but my romantic side says this; what if, all these different people, whom I don’t necessarily agree with, they come together to experience something that’s not political whatsoever? So for a second they can put apart their differences and experience something common, be it [a sports game], a concert, a movie, and then once they exit the door, those differences remain. Should we work in order to have a fairer or more equal society? Absolutely but should we go to extremes and use fascist methods to eradicate certain behaviors? No. I don’t believe that whatsoever. 

U: Again, we are talking about ideologies, and ideologies can be dangerous  

P.D.: Ideologies and politics are intertwined. The same thing applies with ideology –religion is an ideology, it’s your faith in something different. And while race and sexual orientation is not an ideology of course, there are certain things that are similar. I think I was very clear on what we represent, I don’t like initiatives that don’t give me the opportunity to experience art, I should be the one to decide whether that art should be supported or not. And my problem at the end of the day with initiatives that ban certain concerts, is no different to, for example, what happened in Germany when the album covers of Cannibal Corpse were banned. I have a big problem with people who make decisions for me so if a band is fascist, what I would do is I would go to the concert and decide for myself whether that type of art should be prohibited or not, and if I feel that it should be prohibited, then I would not support the artist –and that applies to being fascist, being misogynist, being disrespectful towards sexual orientations or whatever. But because we live in a free society, I should have the freedom to make my own choice and to make that choice. At the end of the day art is freedom and that should always be the case. When you trample on that fundamental ideology, that’s a problem for me. 

U: Someone actually embracing fascist ideals and someone having provocative imagery are two different things...

P.D.: I agree 100%. So, for example, when a band talks about WW2 and they play black metal, you’re most likely to think that they’re Nazi sympathizers –at least that’s what so far history’s shown us. Shouldn’t that apply to a film director who talks about WW2? Why isn’t the same happening in the film industry? They see a band and they incorporate war-like imagery in their lyrics, their image, their art, and we immediately draw a conclusion that they must be fascists or Nazi sympathizers, but shouldn’t the same principal apply in the film industry? 

U: It’s always matter of context and message. If we want to go there, there are different ways to talk about war in particular. You see a band like Sabaton who approach war from a historic standpoint. When you see an artist use WW2 or German-related imagery, you look past the shock value which is their main selling point, but you will examine their affiliations, the contents of their music and overall behavior

P.D.: Sure. Marilyn Manson used [shocking imagery] –if you look at The Golden Age Of Grotesque or the way that he presented Antichrist Superstar live, he had some straight-up Nazi uniform lookalikes. I think at the end of the day, unless an artist comes out and says what he believes in and it’s on the record, I can’t draw any assumptions. I’m gonna decide for myself. I’m gonna go to the concert, or I’m gonna listen to the music, read the lyrics and make my own mind. To me that’s fine; you get to experience the art and you get to decide for yourself. But when there are initiatives banning events, it’s not good, that’s a pretty fascist thing to do to begin with, when you and ten other people collectively decide [you’re] gonna ban this concert. And that’s why there’s a thin red line between both extreme ideologies. 

U: Let’s agree to disagree. To wrap things up, if you were members of the Spice Girls, what would be your Spice names? 

P.D.: I would be Monkey Spice. [pause] Nasos would be Stressy Spice. 

U: We’re done, thank you for your time! 

P.D.: Thank you! 

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