Thursday, October 28, 2010

Someday We Will All Be Free: Phil Hiotis/Sacred Love

Sacred Love is a very new band, having formed less than a year ago. You've managed to get a band started, write music and record two records in less than a year. How did Sacred Love get together and what was it like transitioning from guitar to vocals?

Sacred Love was started with my desire to start a hardcore band. I wasn't too thrilled with the trends of hardcore, but instead of becoming jaded on the scene, I decided to start a band. I feel that is the best course of action if you don't see what all the hubub is about x band that is getting a bunch of hype. I only knew two things going in; 1. I wanted to sing, and 2. I want everyone in the band to love hardcore as much as I do. I recruited Pat and Daniel from my previous band to join forces and had this idea of making a band that sounded like Warzone. It's funny, because before we even had a set lineup, I booked our first show on January 10th 2010. Whether we were ready or not, we were going to play this show. Around October or November, I had a 45-50 minute phone conversation with my good friend Mitch Olshansky. He was the guitarist of Brick, who had recently gone on hiatus. We had a long talk about the current state of hardcore, straight edge, and just plain deep life lessons. I told him about Sacred Love - what sound we were going for - and admitted to him if I had it my way, I would go for a band that sounds like the Bad Brains. He agreed that he would also like to do a groovy Bad Brains inspired band. It was then I asked him to join Sacred Love and do exactly that. I wanted the band to be a straight edge band; but, I like Mitch way more than I would like being in a straight edge band! He said he'd let me know. I got a text from him 10 minutes afterwards saying he was down

to do it. We got Ev a little later. I was talking to him on Gmail chat, and he was asking me about Sacred Love, since Mindset was playing our first show. He proceeded to ask me if we had a bassist, which we didn't, and went into a little speech saying how he just started playing and would really love to play bass in a band. He went on tell me how he w

ould totally understand if he was not skilled enough to join, and we could tell him if he sucked; however, I retorted with only, "Dude, do you have equipment? Then you're in." I can honestly say I couldn't pick a better set of individuals to be in a band with. We all are committed. We all love hardcore. It's fucking great. Transitioning from guitar to vocals was pretty cool. Singing is definitely way harder than playing guitar, but it's also way more awesome. I have a lot to say and a lot to get off my chest, so it really helps me out. I wasn't getting my creative outlet out on guitar like I get it out when I write lyrics.

The new EP, Dividing Lines, begins with a haunting sound clip before kicking into "What's Left of This World", setting the tone for the record. What exactly is the message behind the sound clip and how does it relate to the lyrical content of the record?

It's a newsclip from an incident that happened in Athens, Greece, when protesters burned a bank down, killing four people. It's just an example of the fact that rioting without a sense of intelligence makes you no better than the corrupt politicians you are rising against. How are you going to protest high taxes and go on to destroy private property, which you will later be taxed for in order to repair? It just doesn't make sense. I was pretty adamant about having it in because it sets the first two songs off very well. The idea of destroying just to destroy, with no real thought out purpose, really bothers me, and having it come from my people - from my culture that did so much for the better of man and government - just really brought to my attention of how much in trouble we are as a people. It's just one example in a list of many botches that the Greek riots have caused. Last year, when a cop killed a 15 year old boy, the citizens went to riot and protest because of it. Normally, I would agree with this action; however, the went on to destory much of the city, including the felled boy's family's restaurant. What the fuck is that? It's rioting for the sake of rioting - suburban families having the golden spoon ripped from their mouth and destroys the entire dinner table because of it. Having that happen, and living in a country and culture where it's the complete opposite, yet leaves the familiar feeling of shame - where the majority of people accept what the government tells them witho

ut challenging it in fear of the knowledge that the person you think you voted in really doesn't give a shit about you - really inspired me to make my own voice heard on the subject.

Your parents are Greek immigrants and you yourself have lived in Greece and speak the language. As someone who can potentially define themselves as both and observer and a participant in Greek history, how has the recent turmoil in Greece affected you? How do you define your role in Greek history and culture?

It fucking kills me. It seriously hurts me to see this part of me, because it is part of me no matter how much I try to distance myself from it, that was responsible for so much good has now spiraled into this: a joke. Greece, right now, is a joke. When I look at 5th Century BC Greece, and see all the good literature, great political ideas, and great minds that came out, I am only left with a great sense of shame and a nagging bat of irony hitting me over the head. In fact, the only people the irony seems to be lost on are the Greek people themselves. Just on a personal level, it really hurts me. I'm not going to be a factor in Greek history or culture. I am an American. I live here. I don't plan on moving to Greece. I can't even see myself visiting there because I'm so disgusted with it. I only hope that the pendulum swings the other way and the Greek people and government better themselves sometime in my life time.

Explain the ideas presented in the song Dividing Lines. What inspired you to name the record after this track?

I wrote Dividing Lines on a small local issue, and wrote in broader terms so that more people could possibly relate. I wrote it on how lame I think it is that the Baltimore and DC scene don't help each other out, and just talk shit about each other. There was definitely a time where I considered myself on a side in this particular argument; however, I grew out of that, looked around, and saw that everyone else is still drinking from a sippy cup. Bottom line, if you judge someone solely on where they're from, without even getting to know them, you are a fucking idiot. It's a real shame that in the hardcore scene there has to be elitism and ignorance that divides us up. It's a real shame someone "can't learn to see me a brotha instead of two distant strangers," to quote 2pac. No one is better than anyone else. Doesn't matter if you're the hardest motherfucker from Baltimore or you're from DC and you love to remind people that it's where it all began, you are still a sweaty asshole in a basement at the end of the day. I took this local issue, and just put it on more relative terms. I feel this is a world issue. The idea that no one is born as a better person than another is an idea I feel strongly about. I hate seeing classism and elitism in any form, whether it is in the hardcore scene or the real world.I wanted to go with Dividing Lines for the name of the record after Ev described the album art he was trying to do for it. It just seemed very fitting.

On the Sacred Love demo your lyrics had a much less urgent tone. One could argue that they were less aware, both socially and personally, than the lyrics of the EP which deal with broader and deeper issues. Where the demo largly explored personal relationships, the EP seems to deal with your relationship with the greater good and questions about your role in society and society in general. What would you consider the general theme of each record, and what prompted this shift? How would you describe your growth as a lyricist?

The demo lyrics were just a starting point. I never sang in a band before, so that was my first try at writing lyrics. Luckily I have two members who were/are frontmen, so they offered me good advice. Really, I always wanted to write about broader issues; however, the time I wrote the demo lyrics, I was in my own little world. I was struggling with school, relationships, love, all that personal stuff, so that's what I wrote about. I'm going to write about what I'm feeling regardless of expectation. That might mean I write someone personal, it might mean I write something cultured and worldly, but I'm going to be true to myself first and foremost. How can I yell these words on stage if I don't really believe every word? I shifted focus on the EP because I was extremely pissed off about what was happening in Greece, as well as the other topics I covered, but I also was a bit more confident in my writing abilities. I felt more confident in myself to write about a broader topic or something that wasn't personal. I'm use to writing. I write a lot for school, so with the Dividing Lines EP, I stopped pulling punches and just did what I wanted to do. When I write lyrics, I write them very quickly and try not to work on the too long, because my own pessimism about my writing would take over, and we would never finish another song. I write the lyrics usually when the band is writing the song, fit it in, make a few changes, and just trust in the emotion and mind frame that I was in at the time.

How has your college education, a topic that frequently appears in your lyrics, influenced or inspired your writing style? As an English major, has any literature or poetry specifically inspired your lyrics?

If there's anything I feel hopeless about, it's college. I feel very pessimistic about my chances of living a comfortable life without having to continually go back to Graduate's college, etc. That isn't something I would like to do; so usually when I wrote about college life, it has the tone of hopelessness. Literature is the driving force for my inspiration. I stole a line from Du Fu, a Chinese poet, in Mirage. I read as a job and I read for leisure as well, so it influences me in more ways that I could probably know.

WH2 deals with the idea of the equality of love. How do you think our generation will be remembered in regards to homophobia and gay rights? I think our generation will be the one that makes gay rights a reality. If you look at any poll or any study, the overwhelming majority of people in our age group are for gay marriage. It's pretty much a waiting game at this point. The string pullers now have their heels dug in on this issue, and there is really nothing to be done but wait for them to step aside. It's a generational thing. I can't imagine what it's going to be like for that older generation in the future. How will they deal with my children asking them, "What were you thinking? How did it feel to prevent basic human rights." It's the same questions I would ask adults who were against civil rights for blacks. I'm really interested in how they will fit in the world when their service is done and they are no longer any use to anyone. I think homophobia is something that will never truly leave. It's going to be like racism; there will always be a small undertone. At the same time, I think we should focus now more on gay rights then the ignorant language we say sometimes. I study language on the regular, and at the end of the day, words are words - people put the meaning behind them. When people's mentality change, so will the language. If we take away the homophobia that comes with saying someone is gay or a faggot, you'll see those words used less and less; until we find a new minority to focus our nation's hate on.

The closing track on Dividing Lines, Mirage, seems to be an introspective and retrospective description of fading youth. Do you feel as though your youth has somehow been cut short? How are you dealing with the inevitable and sometimes difficult transition between college student and college


I actually don't feel like my youth is cut short. I'm very lucky in that I'm able to enjoy an extended youth, almost. I have friends my age who have serious real world concerns, and I'm not quite at that point yet. I'm dealing with the transition into the real world as best I can. I plan on just taking the best possible steps I can to live a comfortable life. I have options. I have a good life. I come from a good home who are willing to help me out as much as they can. They don't exactly support Sacred Love, but they support me through school and give me the best possible options in order to succeed, and I'm extremely thankful for that. But the real world is waiting for me. That fact that I'm probably not going to have a job that challenges me or stimulates me is a reality. The line "I'll live in die in four years time, reincarnate to wait in unemployment lines" pretty much sums up how I see my college experience going. I'm not a strong student, so I need to bust my ass studying in order to test well; however, will that secure me a job when I get out? It's pretty laughable when I think about it - laughable and pretty depressing. I eventually plan on going back to school, and becoming a teacher or a councilor, so I can feel that I've actually helped someone. I want that more than anything else in life.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing the youth of the world?

A lack of a source for information. If you ask me, we are in a dark age of thought. We live in a place that is so corrupt, they don't even TRY to hide it. But people look past it, because the burden of knowledge is too much. I believe that society and government are two different entities, and they are meant to balance each other out. Government exists in order to keep society in check, but society is also suppose to keep the government in check. Does that happen today in America? With Fox News and all the other propaganda news networks disguising itself as fact, what chance do we have? It's obvious that the top 1% run this country. Your safety, your well being, does not matter when it comes to having money put in their pocket. We're being sold off piece by piece for the highest bidder. Whether it's your health insurance, right to not be illegally tapped, right to not have your citizenship questioned, they'll take it all away if the price is right. When someone tries to regulate it, we have to hear shit like your grandparents are going to be euthanized, and the WORST part about it is people fucking buy it. People BELIEVE this. Why? I'll never understand it. It might be some inherent fear of change. I don't know. If we had an unbiased non-privatized American news network, this wouldn't be an issue. Instead, we have Bill O'Reily and Keith Olbermann performing mental masterbation as they pick on each other like five year olds. We have networks that don't provide any useful information. They keep you in a state of stupor until you just give into the agenda of the deep pocketed rich guy who's paying them.

Is this world worth saving?

Yes, absolutely. I'm not a misanthropist. I have the utmost faith in humanity. I have the utmost faith that we can take charge of our oppressors and return things to equality. Some people argue that our Presidents have been chosen far ahead of time, and there's absolutely no hope of finding hope or change in American politics; but I don't buy completely into it. I think people's hands are tied so tight that they're frightened to make a change. But if you look at human history, there has always been a fight back against the oppressors. Will I see it in my life time? Not sure. Like I said, I think we're in the middle of a Dark Age. Will I see the Age of Enlightenment? I'd like that; but I wouldn't feel

unfulfilled if I didn't. I have faith that one day, even if I'm not around, the scales will be even and we will take back control.

Photos by Andy Norton