From Gigs to Gains. Ari Talks Getting Signed, National Tours, and Shares His Blueprint for Success, Fitness, and The Road Ahead

Gigs to Gains. Record Labels to Tours. Ari Shares His Blueprint for Success, Fitness, and The Road Ahead.

7 mins read

Today, we are chatting with Ari (Aristotle Mihalopoulos), a multifaceted and highly accomplished musician and businessman who has cemented an indelible mark on the world of music and fitness. With a decades-long career and still going strong, Ari’s journey is a testament to his unwavering dedication and relentless passion.

In 1999, Ari founded Inner Light Studio, a fully digital recording facility that has become a creative haven for artists from multiple genres. Over the years, he has recorded and produced countless artists, including his own bands, going to sign record deals and embark on world tours.  Ari’s work has not only resulted in multiple songs gracing the Billboard charts but has also extended to television, with credits on prominent networks like CBS Sports, Comedy Central, and more.

As the founder, singer, and guitarist of DESTROPHY, an alternative metal band hailing from Iowa, Ari has experienced the exhilarating highs and lows of the music industry. 

The band’s cinematic and lush productions, melodic choruses, and thought-provoking lyrics have garnered significant critical acclaim and a dedicated fan base that ultimately led to the signing of a multi-album recording contract with Victory Records. DESTROPHY has toured and shared stages with iconic acts such as Type O Negative, Korn, Disturbed, and many others.

Beyond his musical endeavors, Ari is an award-winning bodybuilder with his own personal training facility. His commitment to physical fitness and mental discipline is evident not only in his achievements but also in the holistic approach he takes with his training clients.

With a unique blend of creativity, dedication, and a relentless work ethic, Ari continues to make waves in music and fitness. His story serves as an inspiration to aspiring musicians and fitness enthusiasts alike, showcasing the extraordinary possibilities that come from pursuing one’s passions with unwavering determination.

Let’s dive in …

Inner Light Studio has recorded and produced countless artists across genres. Please share how you founded Inner Light Studio in 1999 and what inspired you to create a fully digital recording facility.

Destrophy recorded our first album on one of the first digital hard disc units – a Roland VS880, and I found that I enjoyed recording the band as much as I enjoyed making the music.  I was employed at the University of Iowa Recording Studios in the late 90’s. After that experience, I realized I had enough equipment and drive to make the leap into a business.

Revolver Magazine has described your band DESTROPHY as having “raw, unpredictable energy.” Can you delve into the evolution of the band’s sound and what drives its energy?

The energy of music is really what I’m after – it’s like adrenaline, and it can be in the form of a really intense riff or a catchy melody. I’ve heard people describe what they get from music as goosebumps, a full body rush, or an emotional peak – whatever it means to them; that’s what I’ve been constantly trying to recreate for myself since I started. For me, it’s a great beat with a familiar but unique melody with lots of dynamics.

Could you share insights into your songwriting process for DESTROPHY and how you bring your philosophical themes to life through music?

Lyrically, at least, I’ve always felt like an outsider (from what I’ve heard, it seems most people do), but as an outsider, you find yourself always questioning where you fit in, if there is a place that you are supposed to be, and why you feel out of step with where you are at in life.  Philosophically, it seems most in tune with existentialism but not hardwired to it.  Musically, it’s about mixing those philosophical musings with the most ripping beats and riffs I can summon at the moment.

Being signed to Victory Records was a significant milestone. What did it mean for DESTROPHY, and how did it impact the band’s trajectory?

Getting signed felt like the culmination of all the hours of recording, performing, and promoting that particular iteration of the band, which restarted in 2006.  It was restarted with the intention of getting a record deal, and in retrospect, three years seems pretty short.  To be fair, the real restart was in 2002, I guess, with a new guitar tuning and overall visual aesthetic.  Anyway, the signing was accompanied by more touring than we had ever done, truly living out of a van and trailer and having to stand up to professional acts with far more experience, and I think we did pretty well for a time.  It was a tough time in the industry, the start of streaming and Spotify, and everyone’s album sales were basically halved each year, so the writing was on the wall as far as it not being sustainable.

You’ve achieved multiple songs on the Billboard charts and significant success on radio. Could you discuss the creative process behind these successful Destrophy songs and what it meant for your career?

Pointing specifically at The Way Of Your World, that song was rooted in a very common feeling of wasted potential, or even more specifically, seeing wasted potential around you. It is a darker song, and the rising chord structure came out of a pile of riffs that I was generating in early 2007, I think.  It came together really quickly, as I find the better songs usually do, and we titled our 2007 release after it, knowing it was a strong song.  When we were signed to Victory in 2009, our wonderful A&R Brett Greenberg identified the song as the strongest of the lot and said – that’s the single.  He had me pump up the production on it to “November Rain” size, and it ended up doing pretty well on the radio.

You’ve toured extensively with a wide range of artists. Are there any standout moments or stories from your years on the road that you’d like to share?

Touring with Type O Negative on their last tour in 2009, and getting to show my stupid kettlebell routine to Peter Steele and entertain him for a bit.  He was so kind and such a big hero of mine (literally), and to have spent an October as direct support for that band is truly a once-in-a-lifetime pinch-me we’re-not-worthy type of thing.

How has your background in fitness and bodybuilding influenced your approach to creating music, and how do you balance both aspects of your life?

They both rely on fundamentals – skip the fundamentals, and you have nothing, but if you nail the fundamentals, the rest is easy, or at least you’ve done all you can, and the rest is out of your hands.  I still train every day, eat well every day, and try to get something musical accomplished.

In what ways do you think physical fitness and mental discipline contribute to success in the music industry?

I think you instantly take someone a bit more seriously when it looks like they take themselves seriously, whether that be their clothes, their health, or their mannerisms, and I think during my time on the road, I could definitely see the shift in performers trying to keep themselves healthier, realizing that performance is a very physical discipline.  There are a handful of people who can get away with almost anything and still put on a show, but I think the list is short and growing shorter.

As an accomplished bodybuilder, how do you incorporate your passion for fitness into Ari Army, your personal training facility, and what types of clients do you typically work with?

I’ve worked with 18 to 90-year-olds, primarily focused on health, mobility, wellness, and total body fitness. I’ve helped someone lose 150 pounds and helped a natural bodybuilder get their Pro card.  I believe everyone should consider their health as a top priority, and finding ways to stay mobile and eat well is a great part of that.  In general, people are fairly confused about what it takes to do those things, and it’s no surprise because our culture, in general, has a very confusing message about it. But that’s where I come in: to remove the BS and simplify the message into something that has personal relevance to each client.

Can you share any personal fitness tips or philosophies that have been particularly effective for you and your clients?

Eat well every day, walk every day, and train something to failure every other day.

What’s next for DESTROPHY? Is there new music in the works? 

Honestly, I feel like some of my best work has been the past few years – I feel like I finally know what I’m doing and how to keep doing it, so I have no intention of stopping.  I think people need to focus on less output but really make it count, so that’s the philosophy I’m personally following.

What are your long-term goals and aspirations, both in your music career and in your personal training endeavors?

I absolutely love doing both of them and will be very happy to continue doing what I’m doing, balancing a wonderful home life while working with musical and fitness clients who want my help to improve what they are trying to accomplish.  Musically, specifically, I’m hoping to help artists strategize over longer periods of time so that they can lay the groundwork to enjoy larger audiences in the years to come. 

As we know, touring can be physically demanding. What are some practical tips you can offer to musicians to maintain their physical fitness and overall health while on the road? 

Eat well, walk every day… it’s really the same stuff!  In the early days, I was making sure I had some training implements with me like kettlebells or bands, even carrying a full weight set up at one point; but as the years went on and Anytime Fitness and Planet Fitnesses popped up everywhere, it was a much better idea just to get a membership and find one to walk to before the show.  If that’s not your thing, I still recommend finding some sights to see and walking about 3 miles a day to make sure you’re getting a healthy amount of activity in.

Are there specific exercises or workouts that you find particularly effective for staying fit during a tour, and can you recommend any equipment or routines for musicians to consider on the road?

Walk at least 1.5 miles from the venue, then walk back.  I used a jump rope to great effect for years, and it was very easy to pack.  A bag of variable-strength bands with handles works well, too.

Finally, can you offer some advice to aspiring musicians who hope to achieve the level of success and versatility you’ve experienced throughout your career thus far?

Write the best songs you can, then spend as much time as you can making them better.  But no matter what, make sure you stay in touch with whatever drives you to make music in the first place, and chase that particular sound or thing you love as hard as you can.  The closer you get to your particular vision, the more likely it will resonate with more people.  Either way, if you succeed in making your music sound the way you wanted, no matter what happens after that, you have succeeded!


You Can Learn More About Destophy and Everything Ari by Clicking Here

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