Abaddon magazine

Music magazine

Monday, November 28, 2022

Interview: Srdjan Brankovic (Alogia, The Big Deal, Psychoparadox…)

Back in 2004, 18 years ago, a 15-year-old metalhead (and a big fan of the band Alogia) had a prom night. He didn’t want to wear an expensive suit or shirt to prom – that was too fancy for him. With the money his parents gave him to buy clothes, he decided to buy a T-shirt from the band Alogia. And so he went to graduation. Today, that guy (better to say old man) is 33 years old and is currently doing an interview with one of his childhood idols, Srdjan Brankovic – guitarist of the bands Alogia, Psychoparadox, The Big Deal…

Greetings Srdjan – welcome to Abaddon magazine. It’s a great honor for me to finally do this interview with you – I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for almost 20 years! To begin with, how are you, how are you spending these summer days?
Sorry for the late reply. This is because the summer was quite busy and I actually traveled a lot. I spent a lot of time in the north of Europe, and immediately after my return we had festivals with the band “The Big Deal”, in the first half of September. And here we are now, at the beginning of October.

I have to start this interview from the very beginning – how did you and your brother Miroslav “fall into” metal music? What were the first bands that got you hooked on this music?
I am the younger brother, 4 years younger than my brother Miroslav. Miroslav started listening to metal somewhere in the 5th or 6th grade of elementary school. I think that inspired me. I was at the very beginning of elementary school. Already in the second grade, my favorite album was “Painkiller”. And so it is today. We had different phases. We started with Alice Cooper – “Poison”, Guns’n’Roses – ”Appetite for Destruction”, Maiden – ”No prayer for the Dying”…

Your first band that became highly successful was Psychoparadox. Was that your first band? How did the band Psychoparadox come about? And how did you come up with that great name?
That’s right, that was my first band. It was created by 3 high school friends. Miroslav, Cvele and the drummer was Marko Jugovic. They were all in the same class. The vocalist was Marko Vukasinovic, who was also their peer. Tragically, Marko soon fell ill with leukemia and spent most of his time in the hospital. I replaced him then, even though I was very young – I was only 11 years old. I was actually known as a metal kid in my town. The name of the band – probably Miroslav and Ivan came up with that name.

The first Psychoparadox album – “…and Your Life Is Just Another Dream” was released at the worst time for our country – in 1995. The country had just come out of the war, there were sanctions, inflation… and you were also very young then. If I’m not mistaken, you were about 13-14 years old. Can you describe that period to us – how did you manage to promote the band, did you have gigs, etc.?
We worked on the first album between 1993 and 1995. For a month we would raise money to rent 2 amps for rehearsal. In the end, on the day of the rental, the dinar loses its value and we only rent one amplifier. Music had enormous power, far greater than today. Everything was music to us. So little was enough for happiness. A couple of new tapes and we were all floating in heaven. Our favorite pastime was listening to music. How will the new album of our favorite band sound – we felt as if our lives depended on it.

I was 13 when we recorded the album. We rehearsed those 9-10 songs for almost a year and recorded them in one day at the studio “Cesnjak” in Kragujevac in September 1995. The local metal scene was almost completely extinguished. We printed the cassettes ourselves and the word about us actually spread very quickly. People who had fanzines started calling us, soon we got the first reviews and interviews. Soon we sold around 200 / 300 cassettes, which was really a great success. I was a big fan of “Explosive Records” and it meant a lot to me that the cassette was also in their catalog. We had some local gigs. Smederevo and surroundings.

After 2 years you released “Through the Labyrinths of Sleeping Galaxy” – simply amazing album! Here I would like to highlight the song “Like a Forever Reanimated Flame” – because of the use of medieval melodies in the song. I repeat, we are talking about 1997, when such experiments were rare. Can you tell us something more about the period related to this album and things that were following this album?
It’s the first album where I had my first songs. Although I was still only the scream vocalist in the band, I actually played guitar and did a good portion of the riffs. We recorded the album exactly one year later, in September 1996. This time we shot for 3 days. I think it was perhaps the first Balkan album with noticeable Black metal influences. The influence of the bands Immortal, Satyricon, Dissection… was noticeable.

Things became much more serious, this time we had a real label “Energy Records” and a luxuriously printed color cassette. At that time, it was a privilege. Soon we were invited by the legendary Polzovic brothers, who at that time were doing the legendary show on NS Plus TV, “Hard Metal”. They offered us a free video recording. I remember that there were 2 other bands on the recording, but only one band could get the edited video. I almost fainted when I saw the video for the song “Like a forever reanimated flame” in “Hard Metal”.
The word about the band spread really quickly and we started to get the status of a cult band. Even today, I often meet people for whom that album is the best.

We became friends with the band May Result, who then recorded the first 4 songs, the death metal maxi single “Ignoramus Et Ignorabimus”. We started playing together. I still remember some great underground gigs and a nice time spent with them. Actually we were all very happy and inspired kids. I often remember Rasto Maric and his humor when I think about those times. R.I.P.

In 1998, the masterpiece “Aperon” was released, I can freely say that this album belongs to the Top 10 metal albums released in Serbia. Again, if you can describe to us the events related to this album?
After the release of the second album, Dejan Ilic-Ilke contacted us. The then metal manager, a Serb from Germany. With him, we started making plans related to the third album. We changed the drummer, the new member then became the legend Damir Adzic.

I have already completely taken over the role of the rhythm guitarist, in addition to the scream vocals. Miroslav somehow left it to me to do the music as well. Damir and I spent months and months playing, thinking about every detail. To this day I think all the songs are great. This time we all improved a lot as players and we finally managed to approach our most favorite bands stylistically – on the one hand Death and on the other At The Gates, old In Flames .. But also with the influences of Malmsteen .. And with Miroslav’s solo parts, which I can say are still melodically great in 2022. After that album, the band even performed 2 times in a row at Novi Sad’s legendary “Concert of the Year”, in the peak period of the festival. It was really unimaginable for any domestic metal band back then. Thanks again to the Polzovic brothers. Our live version of the song “Pull the Plug” was often broadcast on NS Plus television.

What I have always considered a flaw in the great success of the band Alogia – is that Psychoparadox “took a back seat”. I’m aware that your work in the bands Alogia and The Big Deal brings you financial income, but is there a possibility that you’ll at least play a Psychoparadox gig sometime or release some new material?
Actually, it has nothing to do with finances. Simply, when AlogiA appeared, everyone started calling that band. We, of course, invested a lot of energy in AlogiA, so that it would turn out as it should. In the years after that, various demos for “Psychoparadox” were created. But the members of the band themselves became more and more distant, and the expectations from Alogia grew. And the offers with Psychoparadox performances were less and less. We never broke up the band. It went off spontaneously. However, last year “Apeiron” was released on vinyl. Look for the record, it is a German publisher – Silent Watcher Records. https://www.discogs.com/release/18435025-Psychoparadox-Reapeiron

Let’s move on to the next band Alogia (progressive/power metal) – a band that achieved huge success on the Serbian metal scene. How did the idea to start the band Alogia come about?
The heavy metal tradition has always been smoldering in us. During all stages of metal “maturing” (trash, death, black) – Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween, Malmsteen were always there. There was always a desire for a real singer. After the third Psychoparadox album, we definitely decided that the fourth one would be traditional heavy/power metal. Already in 1998, we were completely mesmerized by the bands Dream Theater, Symphony X, Hammerfall, Angra, Stratovarius, Rhapsody… We were looking for a singer for a long time and we were delighted when we found Ivica Laus, who was a real star in that period, as the winner of the first competitive singing show on national television. Ivica really liked the demos, he had the same taste as us and we started recording. The first songs that were created were “Samson”, “Lament”… In the meantime, we decided that it really should be called something else, and that Psychoparadox should remain what it is. Since Ivica Laus was busy with plans for a solo album, we realized that we had to find someone who could devote himself to us as much as possible. We saw Nikola Mijic in the same TV Show and were speechless. We decided that it would be an album with more singers, “3KDur stars”, and that Nikola would remain a permanent member after that.

Debut album “Priče o vremenu” – it’s one of those albums where I know by heart every tone, every verse, every detail… When this album appeared (even before it appeared) the band simply exploded! I don’t really have a specific question here – unless you can describe to us today, 20 years later, the events related to this album. Did you expect such great success?
We didn’t really have any plans. We were very young. I was 18 years old when we recorded those songs. We finished everything in 2000, but it was out in February 2002. We ourselves were surprised by the “explosion”. Already in March, at the first performance, “Hard’n’heavy” fest, around 800-900 people sang songs with us in unison. We were fascinated. Big festivals followed immediately during the summer, and the crown of the year was the first solo concert in the big hall of the SKC, which was packed, you couldn’t breathe. Everyone sang our every song from beginning to end. The CD and cassette sold fascinatingly well. I remember those times with great nostalgia. There was still no ADSL internet or mobile phones in Serbia, people were really 100 percent into the music at the concerts. We have gained a lot of real fans in just a few months.. And while we made the album just for ourselves and according to our taste, we actually made exactly what the audience wanted, which was of the same character as us. Letters from fans were constantly arriving at the address, no one expected it…

Two years later, in 2004, the masterpiece “Priče o životu” was released – I remember that I haunted the record store for days in order to be one of the first to buy the special edition of this album, in a box with bonus contents. I would like to ask you again to describe the period that followed the release of this album.
In December 2002, we went to the army – my brother, bassist Ivan, and I. In the summer of 2003, we already started work on a new album, which saw the light of day in 2004. We wanted to sound more serious, more progressive. We showed that with the first single and music video “Novi Dan”, which was often broadcasted on television and attracted a lot of attention. We played a lot after that album. There was a large audience, it was a logical continuation after the debut album. Big festivals followed – Exit, Gitarijada, Beer Fest… Whitesnake, Apocalyptica… in May 2005 we decided to take a very serious and expensive step at that time – recording a DVD and a live album during another, sold out , solo concert in SKC.

In 2005, “Secret Spheres of Art” was released – actually Alogia’s debut album sung in English and released for Locomotive records. How much did this album help you in building your international career and what was the reaction like?
That album happened completely unplanned. After the success of the first album, Dejan Ilic suggested us to record songs in English as well. Carried away by the success of songs in Serbian, we were not very ambitious in that regard. Nevertheless, Dejan Ilic managed to achieve what he did not with Psychoparadox. It reached a very solid German publisher. But at that time we were focused on the Balkan market. That album could have been significant, if we had continued to work in English. Although the album was released in 2005, it was actually recorded in 2002. In 2005, we were fully dedicated to the promotion of the second album in Serbian and we were preparing for a solo concert in SKC and recording a DVD.

During this period 2005-2008, the band Alogia played quite often, and I followed every performance of yours in Belgrade. I would like to mention one event from 2005. You certainly don’t remember it, but it remained engraved in my memory all these years as a very dear moment. You were the opening act for the band Osmi Putnik in Belgrade. Honestly, neither then nor now do I listen to that band. I came to see Alogia and of course I came to that gig in your shirt (the one from graduation mentioned at the beginning). After the (excellent) performance, I went to the bathroom to freshen up. I met you in the passage and you jokingly said to me “throw away that shirt, that band sucks”. At that moment, it was a very significant moment for me. So that’s just one more thing I wanted to share with you.
I remember that performance! We listened to Osmi Putnik as a kids. “Glasno Glasnije” was practically the first metal album we adored. We were just kids. We didn’t even know it was heavy metal. When we saw on their website in 2005 that they had re-formed, we gave the idea to One Records to release their album in Serbia. It turns out that Dean Clea, the new singer, listens a lot to Alogia. That’s why One records suggested, because of “mutual love”, that we also play at the promotion of the album. Two years later Osmi Putnik organized a gig for us in Split and it was great.

I have always identified with the people from the audience. Because I am just like you. Metal fan in the first place!

After several years of hiatus, in 2012 Alogia returned to the scene with the album “Priče o snovima”. The album was released for a major label in Serbia, there were changes in luneup and the band had a more commercial approach. How much did cooperation with a major label help you in the popularity of the band? And again, if you can share some of your impressions with us related to this album?
I think that 2007 was a turning point for us. First of all, ADSL completely destroyed the sale of CDs. Radio lost its power, magazines lost their power, and CD sales dropped drastically. One Records told us that it would be wise to try Power Music or RTS. The whole process took a long time. A lot of things are overdue. In the meantime, we were forced to start working with a new drummer and bassist. It slowed us all down a lot. That was the period when I started not liking the events and trends on the Serbian scene. We played a lot in Bosnia. In the end, after many complications, the album was released only in 2012. I think the songs on the album are good, but it would be too soft and different for the people who listened to us. Again, too artistic for a television viewing audience. That’s when I realized that the most important thing is who you talk to. A major label is worth nothing if the people who follow the label’s media are from a completely different story. Actually, the major label didn’t help us at all.

On the following releases “Elegia Balcanica” and “Semendria”, the basic sound of the band remained the same (progressive/power metal), but you experimented a lot with Balkan ethno melodies and motifs. The result is excellent! In fact, I would say that you are perhaps the only band in Serbia that managed to insert ethnic elements into rock-metal music without it all sounding “peasant”. Can you tell us something about these albums?
Thanks for the compliment. It was literally a new beginning. We were at zero. We recorded the album “Elegia Balcanica” very quickly, which was a return to the roots. I think it’s a great album. I think each of those songs would have been very popular if they had appeared on the first album. The song “Elegia Balcanica” somehow expanded. We were contacted by some people from Italy, among others Paola Ceci, a former journalist of the Italian Metal Hammer and co-founder of the publishing house “Elevate”, which initially worked with the bands Rhapsody, Labyrinth, DGM… That’s when we started to be further and further away from the Serbian scene.. We started playing a lot in Italy, Austria, Bulgaria and actually started earning a lot more. Everything that anyone would say should happen when you get released by a major label. But not the Serbian major label. The band flourished. We had some of the most inspiring performances of our careers. At the same time. In Rome on Piazza del Popolo, as Michael Matijevic’s band, with Ian Paice in Austria. Finally, there was a collaboration with Fabio Lione (Rhapsody), Mark Boals, Ripper Owens… We received a nice offer from the Japanese label “Spiritual Beast” and soon finished the whole album, which was released in Europe by “Elevate”, determined to try to revive again.

What are Alogia’s future plans? Are you preparing something new?
There are some plans, but it is too early to talk about it.

After Alogia, I would move on to another band that is having great success and is yet to have great success – The Big Deal. How did you come up with the idea of creating this band?
My wife is a great musician. We met in 2018 and she started to inspire me a lot. She also played a lot on the AlogiA album “Semendria”. Unfortunately, because of the corona, everything stopped then, including everything that was supposed to be the concert promotion of the album “Semendria”. But that’s why I composed a lot with Nevena. I got an offer from the genius Alessandro Del Vecchio to help him with the music. Frontiers heard the demos we made during the corona period and were blown away. We signed a contract and that was the beginning of what I, in fact, always fantasized about and what I’ve been striving for since the first Psychoparadox rehearsals in 1993.

While I’m preparing questions for our interview, I’m listening to the debut album “First Bite”. I’m really impressed and I honestly believe that the best is yet to come for this band. Can you briefly introduce this release to us? What are the impressions of the media, the audience, and even your label Frontiers records?
I’m a huge Frontiers fan. I think that they “brought back to the right path” many musicians of whom I am a fan. It’s a major label that can REALLY do the right thing for you if you record a good metal/rock album. “First Bite” put us on the world metal map, exactly where I wanted to be all these decades. I was never a big fan of Balkan music and during all these decades I passionately followed the happenings on the world metal/rock scene. I think “First Bite” is the most mature album I’ve recorded. I think the production is also great and far ahead of all the albums so far.

The Big Deal is expecting very important performances soon, so if you can tell our readers where you will be playing in the coming period?
The reactions to the album are really fantastic. We were in the top 20 best selling metal albums in Britain on Amazon in the first weeks after release. Right next to Maiden, Metallica, Kiss, Black Sabbath… Although, they’ve been there for decades. 😊 Everyone is overjoyed with the reactions and we are showered with messages from people from all over the world who have bought the CD and love the band. Finally, offers for some hugely important festivals arrived, but we will talk about that later. Among others, we were invited to “The Kiss Kruise”, where we will perform with the bands Kiss, Dokken, Lita Ford, Warrant on a ship traveling from Los Angeles to Mexico and back.

In addition to The Big Deal, this year I also recorded another very important album in my career under “Frontiers”. It is the first solo album by Ronnie Romero, who is known as the lead singer of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and MSG.

I would like to dedicate the next few questions to some of the side projects that you and your brother have participated in. To begin with, the band Hexagram. Album “Moć istočnog vetra” was released on CD – and this CD means a lot to me because it is a birthday present given to me by my sisters. Can you tell us more about this band and the period when you worked on the album? Because it seems to me that it has somehow been neglected, and it is a very good album.
We recorded the album from the summer to the winter of 2002, if I’m not mistaken. An excellent album. Great songs. The idea to record it came about when the poet Vladimir Pesic agreed with Miroslav that he would write music for the lyrics. And let us record it. I played the drums there. Of course, from today’s perspective, it can sound a lot better in terms of production. But the album also raised a lot of positive dust and left a nice mark in time.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but were the songs “Ikona i sekira” and “Podigni svoj excalibur” of a band Hexagram used on the Alogia album “Semendria” (“Beyond belief” i “Raise your fist”). Am I right? And can you tell me if you will do the same for the phenomenal “Prst sudbine”?
Just so. Miroslav wanted us to re-record those songs and write his own lyrics. In fact, those songs always fit AlogiA’s style. I agree with you about the song “Prst sudbine”. But it is up to Miroslav to decide, because he is the author of the music. Maybe that will happen sometime in the future!

The next band is Expedition Delta. Can you tell us something about that band and the 2 albums you’ve released so far? What are the plans for Expedition Delta?
I’m still very proud of all those songs. I think both albums are great. The first album got really fantastic reviews and got me some great internet friendships. For example, Gary Wehrkamp, ​​who later invited me to play on the “Shadow Gallery” album. But soon after the release, we had to shift our energy to AlogiA. The second album was initiated by Paola Ceci from Rome. There are currently no plans. At the moment The Big Deal has attracted a lot of attention, we have a lot of offers related to that band and plans.

Another band I would like to mention – the phenomenal Despot. Maybe this is more of a question for Aleksandar Petrović (Orthodox Celts), the creator of this band, but since you and your brother left a significant mark on this band and release, I would ask you this question. If you can give us a short story about Despot? Is there a possibility that some new stuff will be published under this name?
I think that Aca worked with a band called “Despot” in the late eighties. In 2002, when we met, he brought the lyrics and suggested that we create music and a new line-up for Despot. Since then, until 2012, we recorded music casually, for fun. Miroslav and I did the music. The lyrics in Serbian were written by Miroslav. We also had some great performances. But, Orthodox Celts are a famous band, and we also had to be energetically dedicated to Alogia and now The Big Deal, so… who knows what will happen! We actually started some new demos 5-6 years ago. Aca came out with some great lyrics, in Serbian – because it turned out that the song “Tamo” was a hit. Actually, the Serbian version of that song should have been a bonus. But in the end, that song opened the album, there was a music video for that song, and we never did the English version. Aca is great, he’s a phenomenal frontman. It was great to share the stage with him.

One collector’s question. Do you own every release you played on? I don’t mean only bands in which you actively play, but also bands in which you were a guest (eg Hetera album “S one strane”, Retribution, etc.).
I think I have!

I have to ask you this as a true metal fan. How do you see today’s global metal scene, new sub-genres emerging, etc. ? Is there any band formed in the last 10 years that caught your attention?
There is so much music. In all this, you can miss all the good things, and a bunch of things that are not spectacular appear to me in the form of “sponsored” posts. There were far fewer choices when I was a teenager. I am quite traditional. If I have to single out a relatively new band that I liked – it would be H.E.A.T. The album “H.E.A.T. II” is fantastic!

Srdjan, in the end I would like to say just one big THANK YOU. Thanks for taking the time to answer all these questions. Thanks for “Samson”, “Four time sectors”, “Metarmofoza”, thank you for an amazing concert at SKC 2005…Thanks for all the beautiful moments I had while listening to the music of the bands you and your brother were in. I leave you the opportunity to give a message to the readers of Abaddon magazine.
No! Thank you! I am overjoyed when I meet someone who is the same as us. Part of the heavy metal religion, like-minded. Thank you for listening to all the music we recorded. You are the one who gives the point to everything. I am very grateful for all the nice words!!!