Thank you, Mateja, for getting back to me. So, would you mind telling me a little bit about yourself, Prisoner, and how the band itself originally came to be?
"Hello, I`m Mateja, lead guitar, composer and founding member of Prisoner. This band started in 2011. We covered Venom, early Sodom, early Metallica and early Slayer. We played covers, but had a few of our own songs as well. Our first songs were Risen From the Grave and Deceived; which I started writing on my own when I was 13. At the time we had a good set consisting of both covers, and original music. Our first gig was not held until April 20th, 2013 (on my 18th birthday), because I had a serious tendon injury and it was under speculation if I would ever be able to play the guitar again. We also had yet to complete and stabilize our band-lineup. Our first gig was held at the Gun Club in Belgrade, Serbia; which, unfortunately, isn't in use anymore. About 120 people were present at that gig, which is a fairly good number for the Serbian local metal scene. We were invited by our friends from the band Kobold (they were under the name Lethalik in that moment), and we were the first band on the bill that night. Our opener for the show was a cover of Phantom Lord by Metallica, and the audience went absolutely insane. Then, we played Deceived and they really liked it. To end the show we played Risen From the Grave (some people in the audience sang it with us and there was a great circle pit), and also a cover of Die, die, my darling by the Misfits. Today, the line up is stable and consists of Emil Ivošević (vocals), Stefan Tomić and myself (guitars), Goran Rodić (bass) and Nikola Simonović (drums)."
Wow, I'd say a 120 person audience is great for a first gig. What was it that made you decide one day, "I'm going to start a band, and we shall thrash!" Is there a story behind the band name, "Prisoner"?
"When I was about 14-15 years old, I started to discover more thrash stuff. My favorite thrash albums are Ride the Lightning (Metallica), Show No Mercy and Hell Awaits (Slayer), Pleasure to Kill (Kreator) and Arise (Sepultura). At that time, I was also influenced by some Serbian/ex-yu thrash pioneers: Heller, Rapid Force and Evil Blood. The NWOBHM(New Wave of British Heavy Metal) movement was and will always be a big influence of mine as well; bands such as: Angel Witch, Raven, Witchfinder General, Diamond Head, and Iron Maiden. With Iron Maiden being my all-time favorite band. Metallica is also one of the most important bands in my musical life. I love every album they ever recorded. I absolutely love their S&M and Seattle '89 recordings; That's where I found out that I wanted my band to look big and sound big. There is a story behind the band name, "Prisoner". It is the product of my die-hard love for Maiden. In 2013 I saw them live in Bucharest. Anthrax was the support act. Maiden played their Maiden-England based set list, and one of the special songs on that setlist was The Prisoner. When I came back to Belgrade, I suggested that be our band name. I think it sounds more than suitable for a NWOBHM influenced speed/thrash metal band. And more importantly: it's short, loud, and clear. I don't like long band names hahaha"
Iron Maiden is sick man, They are one of my favorite heavy metal bands from that era. I can sympathize with that haha, short and right to the point band names are never a bad thing. Before I approached you and the guys in Prisoner, I gave your debut, "See the Scars" a couple play-throughs(My favorite track-Risen From The Grave). I enjoyed it; A very solid, headbang-worthy release. How do you feel its production went, in regards to rehearsal/studio sessions?
"We are really satisfied with production. Luka did a hell of the job, and I will always recommend him to people, especially to the thrash metal bands, because he is specialised in thrash metal. Recording is done really quickly and without any bigger problems."
Glad to hear it went so well. From a more general standpoint, how do you feel about the speed/thrash metal genre as a whole? What does the term "thrash metal" mean to you?
"For me, it represents freedom, both musically and personally. In thrash, you can do everything. You can be serious, you can be funny. You can laugh, you can cry. You can do everything you want, and that's the point of not just thrash, but metal in general. Unfortunately, many people don't realize that, and that's why we have so much elitism; which is very destructive. People just have to relax, have a couple of beers and have a good time."
I feel, personally, that that is a highly-enlightened view, and I agree. Elitism is one of the few internal, destructive forces that we "metalheads" have to be wary of. Some would say another enemy to the world of metal, and music in general, is digital downloads via internet. What's your view on this issue? Do you feel digital downloads have a negative effect on the music industry?
"I think that the internet destroyed not just music industry/business, but art as a whole. Because of availability, today's music has a value like toilet paper, and that's sad. It's not all about money, there is something in attitude also. If you like something, support the artist and buy an album. Don't be a thief."
Back to something a bit more personal-Are there any moments from your time involved in the music scene you'd like to share? Can you name any specific instances that really inspired you to keep on doing what you do?
"We are a young band and our time will come. You feel great every time you get support from the audience, but the most important thing is your wish to do what you do. Other things are just a wind that pushes your back. We played in Novi Sad for the first time 6 days ago. We gave it our all, and the audience liked us. I still can feel that they are breathing with us. One guy from the audience gave me the Vader wristband as a gift, because he liked my playing. I felt amazing in that moment. After the gig, we went to the bar and had a drink. Another guy approached me and said that he was blown away by my soloing and stage presence. Because of that, he bought me a beer. Those little things make you feel good and they are inspiring, and push you to do the best you can. But your wish to play, create, and have a good time, that is the most important."
I have a couple more questions for you, would you mind listing 5 albums you'd recommend, personally, as "must listens" to our readers?
"Here's my list:
1. Iron Maiden - The X Factor (Criminally underrated album, Blaze Bayley kicks ass)
2. Mayhem - Esoteric Warfare
3. Pestilence - Testimony Of The Ancients
4. Sepultura - The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart
5. Bloodbath - Toxic Death (this is serbian Bloodbath, not swedish hahaha)
6. Space Eater - Passing Through The Fire To Molech
7. Guns'n' Roses - Appetite For Destruction
8. Gamma Ray - Empire Of The Undead
9. Celtic Frost - Morbid Tales
10. Watain - The Wild Hunt
I know, you said 5, but there is so many great bands that should be heard."
And finally, have any last words you'd like to say to your fans, and our readers?
"Discover stuff you hadn't heard before, buy the music, go to concerts and gigs, drink beer and make friends, and of course, SUPPORT YOUR DOMESTIC SCENE AND SUPPORT THE ARTISTS YOU LIKE! That's all for now. Joseph, thank you for this interview, and thank all of you who are reading this. Thrash on!"
Thank you, Mateja, for the interview. Myself, and all the staff members at METAL ON LOUD wish you and your band the best. We'll keep in touch!