(In this post, we bring you an interview by Dane Prokofiev [formerly known as Rev. Will around these parts], and the subject is Andy Eftichiou, bassist and last remaining original member of Australia’s now-defunct Mortal Sin (pictured dead-center in the above photo). Dane would like to thank Liam Guy — editor of The Fallout magazine and drummer for Brisbane-based Malakyte — for his help with this interview.)
Australia’s now-defunct (again) Mortal Sin had always been plagued with line-up woes. Taking into account the more recent internal strife that ended the band’s career once more, it was the fourth and seemingly the final time the band would split up for good; and it was just after the latest line-up had found a new guitarist in the form of the young Ryan Huthnance (second from the left above) and the new vocalist Dave Tinelt, too (far left above).
The Australian thrash metal veterans were well known for being labeled as the “Next Big Thing” in the early years of their career, thanks to their well-received debut full-length album, Mayhemic Destruction (released in 1986). It seemed set to be a most promising career, with highlights of their active days being their 1986 signing of an international album deal with Vertigo Records, the UK sub-label of the titanic Phonogram Records (to which Black Sabbath and Metallica were signed to during its early days)—which re-released Mayhemic Destruction worldwide in 1987; being tour support for Metallica on their “Damaged Justice” tour in Australia during 1989; and working with famed producer Randy Burns on their first EP, Face Of Despair (released in 1988).
By a stroke of luck, NO CLEAN SINGING managed to catch up with one of Mortal Sin’s founding members and long-time bassist, Andy Eftichiou, nearly three weeks before the band’s fourth and supposed final demise, which was announced toward the end of April 2012. We asked Andy about his flashy new hobby-cum-career, reminisced about the glorious days of early Mortal Sin, stared in awe at a recent photograph of Gary Holt wearing a Mortal Sin shirt, and more.
Hey Andy, you have recently decided to go professional with your other passion—photography. How did you first get into professional photography? Where do you hope to go with this other passion of yours?
Andy Eftichiou: I have always loved this art form. I remember when I was young, my uncle always had the latest camera and video equipment. I would always volunteer to shoot the family gatherings, and then watch it back on TV when we got home.
Coming from a prominent thrash metal band, you must have taken cruiseship-loads and cruiseship-loads of photos with fans over the years. Do you remember the weirdest or wackiest photos you ever took with your fans?
Andy Eftichiou: I remember one time back in the early days, one guy wanted to take a shot with us. He took his shirt off, which I thought was very strange, but when he turned around, we saw that he had the Mayhemic Destruction album cover tattooed on his entire back! It looked crazy but we loved it.
How many guitar picks do you reckon you have thrown to the crowds at Mortal Sin shows over the years?
Andy Eftichiou: Wow, I would say thousands. I could probably cover one entire wall of a house with them. [Laughs]
Mayhemic Destruction was recorded in 1986 and was originally intended to be a demo. What eventually prompted you guys to fuck it and just go ahead with releasing it as a full-length album anyway?
Andy Eftichiou: Well, at that time, we didn’t have much money; so we thought: “Let’s just release it and see what happens.” We sent out heaps of copies overseas and were lucky that one landed on the desk of a PolyGram record executive.
The guy who recorded the album for y’all was a fellow named John Darwish, who also later did the legendary Armoured Angel’s one and only full-length album, Angel Of The Sixth Order! Did he influence you guys in any way to have made Mayhemic Destruction sound the way it does now?
Andy Eftichiou: To be honest, we already had the sound from the practice room. We were his first real thrash band he recorded, so he was learning from us as much as we were learning from him about recording. It was a great experience.
What ever happened to him anyway?
Andy Eftichiou: To be honest, I do not know. I have not heard from him in ages.
In 1986, metal music in Australia was still in its formative years, and finding a producer for the right “sound” would’ve been very tough back then; whereas today, Mortal Sin’s latest album, Psychology of Death, has an absolutely flawless production. How different is it recording and producing an Australian metal record in 1986 as compared to doing so today?
Andy Eftichiou: Well, as you know, back then we used tape. It was a long process, but to be honest, I enjoyed it as it was an organic process in which you can smell the acid tone of the tape, the machine heating up and starting up etc. I loved it, but now, it is all Pro Tools and computer editing. Back then, cut and paste was really physically cutting and pasting. [Laughs]
Mortal Sin’s first lineup lasted from 1985 – 1990. Back then, there were very few thrash metal acts in Australia, with notable acts (other than you guys) being Hobbs’ Angel of Death, Addictive, Exciter, Armoured Angel and Slaughter Lord. Most of the non-thrash metal bands that were active at that time either played glam metal (Axatak), AC/DC style hard rock (Heaven, Boss), or mid-paced Priest-worship metal (Black Alice). Was playing in a thrash metal band in such a small metal scene back then like being a “fish out of water”?
Andy Eftichiou: Yes, you are right. Most crowds were like, “What the fuck are these bands playing?” But we were very lucky in that we had a huge circle of friends which included fellow Sydney thrash metal bands such as Addictive* and Slaughter Lord*. We were all mates to start with, and we had all started our own band in the form of Mortal Sin, so we had an instant crowd.
So how did you guys come to decide recruiting your latest guitarist, Ryan Huthnance?
Andy Eftichiou: Ryan came from a young thrash band from where I live. I saw them live and thought: “Hell yeah!” So I found his number and called him up. The funny thing is that he had no idea who Mortal Sin were because of his young age. He learnt around 3 songs, came to practice, and smashed it.
What were the most memorable moments of Mortal Sin’s recent “Thrashfest Classics” European tour, which took place from November – December 2011?
Andy Eftichiou: I loved it all and did not want to come home. The craziest crowd would have to be the one we saw in Poland – crazy bunch of thrash heads. Check out some YouTube stuff to see what I mean.
How stoked were the crowds like to hear you guys play old and classic stuff from Mayhemic Destruction and Face Of Despair?
Andy Eftichiou: It was a great vibe as we had never been to some of the places we played in, and the crowds were very supportive and went crazy [hearing the old stuff].
Were co-headliners Sepultura, Exodus, Destruction and Heathen excited to be touring with you guys? Did you find out if they viewed Australian metal respectably?
Andy Eftichiou: We were on the same bus as Destruction; what a great bunch of guys. We had many a late night drinking and partying while travelling overnight to our next show. They kinda knew about us already and have heard of our band’s name over the years.
How did y’all persuade Gary Holt to put on that Mortal Sin shirt and snap a picture of him wearing it?
Andy Eftichiou: To be honest, he asked for the shirt. We had nothing to do with it, only because he had no clean clothes left on tour, so he asked for a free shirt to wear on-stage. Hell yeah, we weren’t going to say no. I thought it was very surreal and I loved it.
Looking back, Mortal Sin has toured with many other notable thrash metal bands in the past. You all have had the honour of supporting Overkill during their September 2010 tour of Australia, and Destruction during their November 2011 tour of Australia. Did you guys teach them any Aussie slangs or customs?
Andy Eftichiou: [Laughs] Yes, when bands come here they get such a shock when they don’t see kangaroos in the streets… They always love our accent and want to learn the slang terms like “Gidday mate!” etc… so funny.
Mortal Sin was so prominent in the ‘80s that you guys were signed on to Vertigo Records (the same label as Metallica), got to support Metallica in your own country during May 1989, and are now revered as arguably Australia’s first thrash metal band. Despite the band’s early success however, was it still difficult to get onto an overseas tour back then?
Andy Eftichiou: Yes, it is always hard [to get onto an overseas tour]. I think the main reason is the distance, as it costs quite a bit of money for flights out of Australia since Australia is so far away from anywhere [metal].
Were the crowds surprised to see an Australian thrash metal band like Mortal Sin tour the UK and US in 1990?
Andy Eftichiou: Yes, I think they were. We loved it back then as it was a time when Australia was getting interesting to the rest of the world, thanks to movies like ““Crocodile” Dundee”.
How was it like recording both the Face Of Despair EP and subsequent full-length version from 1988 – 1989 with the reputable producer and sound engineer, Randy Burns?
Andy Eftichiou: Wow, Randy Burns. What a great producer for that period in time. That was the first time we had to work so hard; everything had to be perfect and it was. We recorded drums for 2 weeks then; he was not happy with it, so we started again. It was hard but we learned a lot from that experience. Face Of Despair took us 3 months to record while Mayhemic Destruction was done in a week. [Laughs] How young and dumb we were.
Andy Eftichiou: We all agreed we wanted to write a pure thrash album that would turn out faster, harder, and filled with simple riffs and great drums. I love the new record; it is exactly how we pictured it to be.
You know, Mortal Sin also have a following in Southeast Asia. Definitely not as big as the other eponymous thrash acts out there such as Metallica and Megadeth, but there’s still a pretty decent number of thrash fans here that have heard of the band’s legacy. If you guys are ever brought down to this region for some gigs, what landmarks or famous tourist spots will you all check out?
Andy Eftichiou: I would love to visit the Borobodur Temple, Candi Mendut, Phra Nang Beach etc. I will be bringing my camera for sure.
* Both Addictive and Slaughter Lord had contained members from the earliest line-up of Mortal Sin
MORTAL SIN: “BLOOD OF MY ENEMIES” (Official Video)
MORTAL SIN: “MAYHEMIC DESTRUCTION”
MORTAL SIN: “I AM IMMORTAL”
MORTAL SIN: “PSYCHOLOGY OF DEATH”