EN24 obtained an exclusive interview with the enigmatic Lahari, CEO of Against ALL Authorities, a key player in the StainWagon coalition. Deviance Incarnate had a tough, frank and forthright discussion with Lahari about his ascension to the CEO position of Against ALL Authorities, the various issues confronting .-A-. and its relationship with various entities.
D: Are you an apple or pear person?
L: I like both.
D: Can you describe what your average day as CEO of Against ALL Authorities consists of?
L: I spend a good bit of time playing Skype Online, whilst tending to the various tasks that need doing and delegating some tasks for others. This keeps me pretty busy.
D: The issue that many alliance CEOs face is burnout precisely because they play Skype, Jabber and Forums Online and feel stress as a result of the significant responsibility placed upon their shoulders. Is there anything in real life that keeps you grounded?
L: In real life I work extremely well under heavy stress. It comes from my background. However, in a game I find some of these stresses to be quite irritating. An alliance such as -A- is not really run by any one person. You need a solid team to make things run smoothly. Finding such a team is not always easy. However, it’s quite important. Skype, Jabber, Forums definitely make disconnecting from Eve Online a bit of a challenge, because you’re playing even if you’re not logged on a computer.
D: Could you please briefly describe the history of Novatech Armada and how you came to be the CEO of one of the most renowned alliances of Russian origin, Against ALL Authorities?
L: Well, Novatech Armada was originally Novatech Alliance. That was a holder corp for my alt Lahari when I played under an alternative game life. Eventually I was pissed off at the group I was flying with, and I sold my mains and Lahari is where the ISK went. I went dormant and played SWG mostly, and when people wanted to try EVE, I’d activate the account and hand them ISK to help them get started. Eventually I came back full-time and started developing the corp. We rebranded to Novatech Armada and set our course for nullspace. We moved from alliance to alliance, trying to gain traction but often finding drama, BOB’d alliances and hard times. Eventually we landed in Imperial 0rder and that began our times flying with .-A-. I0 got BOB’d, and we eventually ended up in En Garde where we grew as a PvP corp and eventually gained entry to .-A-. As we arrived, the mass exodus occurred in late 2012 and most active corps left .-A-., some to join RAZOR Alliance, Pandemic Legion and even Darkness of Despair. NTA remained in .-A-. as we did not like our options offered by other alliances. Instead, some of our pilots went into stasis, others joined active corps, and we waited for .-A-. to become active once more. When we started flying with Darkness of Despair and hitting Esoteria, I began helping Alhana with .-A-. where I could. I was eventually elevated to High Command, and after Alhana reached his burnout point, the alliance was handed over to me.
D: Since taking the helm of Against ALL Authorities, you’ve built yourself a strong persona as a reform CEO who isn’t afraid to rock the boat. However there has always been tensions within the alliance between groups that regarded you as a newcomer and upstart due to your fairly low-key profile prior to taking the leadership, and those (such as the recently departed alphastarpilot) who believe that the pace of your reforms is too slow. How have you managed these tensions and addressed your issue with visibility as an alliance CEO?
L: When I chose to take the leadership, it came with a lot of broken bits. So many issues, so many mistakes, it was a full-time job just trying to plug the holes. Getting to know alliance CEOs, getting used to working with a coalition leadership. There were so many broken tools and hardly any delegation. Many important tasks were not being handled. And on top of all of this, we were at war. With the might of N3/PL kicking at our doors, in all honesty I am surprised we did as well as we did. However, there were many issues resolved. Only recently have I been able to come from “behind the desk” and start to address the alliance as a person rather than someone in constant damage control mode. As for my speed, yes, there were many issues that took way too long. There are always obstacles, however, this alliance requires everyone’s efforts to make things work. I feel there are many who are more “hurry up and get this done” in their attitudes rather than “what can I do to help?” At the same time, there are many who put a lot of energy and time into this. And those people are the true heart and soul of this alliance.
D: What would you describe as your most notable achievement since becoming CEO of Against ALL Authorities?
L: I’ve only been doing this since November. Any notable achievements are still to come.
D: As a native English speaker, although you have some Russian language proficiency, do you believe there are persistent problems with the language barrier and intercultural communication with your alliance? Aside from a strong English-speaker and Russian contingent, there is also a sizeable Japanese corporation (Runners High) in your alliance, and there previously was a Korean presence (AMC.) too.
L: The biggest issue any American has with other languages is understanding slang, context, culture and grammar structure. Most other cultures like the Russians think differently, they have a very direct approach to many things. My grandfather was Russian and he instilled many of his qualities in my life when I was young. So I feel I can understand where our comrades are coming from, however it is still a challenge.
D: Aside from the constant threat of N3/PL and other entities, Against ALL Authorities reportedly had to contend with low morale and lack of fleet participation which culminated in your controversial forum post in late December 2013. Were there any significant consequences from that post, and in your view, has the dynamic in .-A-. changed significantly since then? Do you believe that this is an exclusively .-A-. phenomenon, or does this extend to the rest of the Stainwagon coalition as well?
L: With that post there was an immediate jump in numbers. It helped and I felt it was a move in the right direction. However, as time goes on and the war progressed, fatigue started to kick in. There are many aspects of sov war that are not fun and the average pilot wants to do more than just grind structures and fight in endless ti-di. I think everyone, on all sides are feeling the sting, some deal with it better than others. It is important to provide the kind of content a pilot wants to log in and be a part of. One can only do so much with inspirational posts and speeches. As for how this affects SW, I can only speak for .-A-. Nullspace is not for the weak.
D: Against ALL Authorities has faced a very tough situation since December 2013. Six corporations (Kenshin., Unknown Soldiers, Phoenix Co., Born-2-Kill, Unified Combatants, Nex Exercitus) comprising around 650 members (almost 25% of the alliance) has left, and your AUTZ appears particularly vulnerable. Many observers continue to talk about a failcascade and/or the “annual return to LGK-VP”. Despite this, to whom or what do you attribute the continued resilience of the alliance, and what steps are being taken to reverse the decline?
L: It’s not numbers that define an alliance, it’s participants on the battlefield. Some of the corps you listed did not put in useful numbers for CTAs. Some found the situation in Catch unwinnable and ran for greener pastures, whilst others simply grew tired and have had to find ways to reinvigorate their corps, and that is hard to do during a war. Does this hurt us? Yes. But does it send us back to LGK? No. It takes more than knocking out a couple of systems to send .-A-. back to LGK. Those that remain have heart and still want to fight. And we will bring in fresh blood and bolster our numbers. .-A-. doesn’t go to LGK-VP annually, it requires a real push to get us there. And it’s not going to be done with any one system.
D: There are constant accusations from bittervets and former .-A-. members (in particular, Makalu Zarya) that Against ALL Authorities is just a shell/zombie alliance and the current incarnation does not deserve the .-A-. name. What is your response to this?
L: I think that anyone that chose to leave .-A-. or was removed from .-A-. loses any privilege to decide what .-A-. deserves and does not. Whilst I respect Makalu’s FC’ing abilities, his opinion and the opinion of all those trashing this alliance is mere background noise to me. We aren’t the .-A-. we once were, I am not going to pretend that we are. Only the future will tell what kind of .-A-. we become. And that will be determined by the pilots that chose to be part of this alliance. For better or worse, our destiny lies in our own doing, not in the mouthpieces of our fine community.
D: How would you describe your working relationship with Sort Dragon and Skilo? Has the relationship with the rest of the alliances in the StainWagon bloc remained consistently amicable, or have there been tensions at times?
L: When I first joined the coalition command channels, Sort Dragon and I definitely had some tensions. However, at the end of the day we put aside those issues and worked together as best we could. I feel the relationships in SW are still amicable. We will continue to work together as the enemy escalates their push on us.
D: You made a recent mention in your SOTA that there are significant tensions between the Ukrainian and Russian contingents in SOLAR Fleet and Darkness of Despair. Could you please explain in further detail the problems that the Crimean issue has caused, and when you anticipate these tensions will be resolved?
L: This was in reference to the real life events only. It did not reflect the relationships in the game. However these real life events were having some effect on some members of these groups.
D: According to unconfirmed reports, Black Legion recently reset Against ALL Authorities, which essentially amounts to the collapse of the DTF coalition. What happened in the Black Legion – Against ALL Authorities relationship, and does this have anything to do with Elo Knight’s recent resignation as CEO?
L: Technically, we reset them first. It was due to BL interfering with the ‘hell camp’. However, I don’t believe the proper diplomatic channels were followed as BL was not properly informed. No further attempts have been made by me to contact BL.
D: Many nullsec pundits and observers have lambasted Against ALL Authorities and Darkness of Despair for Stainwagon’s decision to ally with Solar/BL and then the Clusterfuck Coalition against N3/PL. Which individuals or group(s) were responsible for this decision, and in hindsight, was it absolutely necessary?
L: The decisions regarding bringing CFC/BL/SOLAR into the mix predate my ascent to command. I was not involved in those proceedings. I was not involved with coalition affairs as a member of HC. However, seeing as our enemy choose to fly a doctrine that demands a high escalation of high numbers of expensive ships to counter, they shouldn’t be surprised that such numbers were called upon. You can’t run around flying a blob of slowcats without expecting some sort of tactical response. They aren’t looking for good fights, they are looking for an “I WIN” button. They brag about fighting outnumbered but they often fight with capitals vs subcapitals.
D: The newest threat to Against ALL Authorities and StainWagon appears to be the 14,000-man H.E.R.O coalition who, despite rhetoric of being apolitical, appear to have scores to settle and have begun the invasion of Northern Catch. Are they a significant threat in terms of your short and long-term military planning?
OMG I love those guys. I created an alt and joined them. That is one huge pile of pilots that, in spite of all odds or sometimes common sense, will fleet up in a heartbeat. They find fun in doing so. And I feel they represent the true spirit of what PvPers should become. Sure, they lose LOTS of ships, they make some pretty silly errors. And maybe their FCs shouldn’t chastise each other on open comms (you never know who might be listening) but man, they are fun. I hear they are having some ISK issues though, and put up a bond thing on their forums. Not sure if that’s a scam or not. But very tempting to contribute to. They provide content, entertainment and Mister Vee really seems to love killing them. As do we all. Some of those guys,they will grow and become formidable PvPers I’m sure. The rest just seem to be having a lot of fun. But are they a threat? Well it’s pretty easy to drive around a region tossing gasoline on it and lighting a match when the owners are busy, but there seems to be no shortage of people looking for the fun kills.
D: In conclusion, are there individuals in particular that you’d like to thank for their exemplary efforts in what has been very trying times for Against ALL Authorities?
L: Frontfixx, Shadowandlight, Vigilanta, GeneralGree when he’s not raging, Hawkcrest when he’s available. Vlade when he was one of us and my main dude allianc for stepping up in NTA while I took on this job. These guys give their all and have been a great help to .-A-. during these very challenging times. There are others, they know who they are. OMG, and Dinka. Can’t forget Dinka.