A local musical pioneer returns with a new album

There’s a unique quality about Giorgos Christianakis, a musician who hovers on the scene’s periphery, from where he has produced innovative work, including music for theater and films, three worthy albums, and colloborations with major artists in rock and Greek music. Christianakis emerged during the 1980s, playing with various acts including Rodondo Rocks, A Priori and Jazz Quartet. He also collaborated with the now-disbanded Thessaloniki rock group Trypes, but the bulk of his output has been focused on music for theater, including a local production of David Mamet’s «Edmond,» as well as numerous films. Christianakis, a pioneering local figure in production techniques, has attracted numerous major Greek artists for appearances on his projects, including Socrates Malamas; Melina Kana; Pavlos Pavlidis, a member of Xylina Spathia; Yiannis Angelakas and Babis Papadopoulos, both from Trypes; reeds virtuoso Floros Floridis; violinist Kyriakos Gouventas and vocalist Savina Yiannatou. He has prepared music for two theatrical productions to be staged next winter season, including Shakespeare’s «Comedy of Errors» for the New Thessaloniki Theater. With a new album, «Paraxenes Istories,» just released, Christianakis discussed his craft and also offered his overall views on music in an interview with Kathimerini. A large part of your output includes music for film and theater. On your albums, too, the listener can detect a directorial quality behind the sound. Is this deliberate? The listener can interpret the music this way, as directed work, but there were no such intentions when the songs were written. Naturally, certain images and stimulants pre-exist in my mind. The message of the musician, or any other artist, when manifested, creates a form and functions on the basis of some logic, so you could say that direction lurks behind creation. Is your music introverted, as many believe? I can’t, and must not, discuss the comments of others. But I can talk about my music, which is a reflection of me. I’m a moody individual, therefore my music also carries an introverted quality. Yet because I like to be self-critical – a very important process for an individual because it contains self-appraisal – the music also becomes extroverted, a self-portrait. At this point, I’d like to repeat that the listener, or receiver, always interprets an artist’s work subjectively. This is a positive process because it makes the product absorbable and reproduceable. Art, let’s not forget, is communication, an exchange of immaterial things. All the musicians you’re associated with reside in the same city as you, in Thessaloniki, giving the impression of a bunch of friends. Can we speak of a «Thessaloniki scene»? In my opinion, this is an ineffective term. There is no such thing as a «Thessaloniki scene» or an «Athens scene.» But Thessaloniki is a city where people meet with greater ease. You’ll always run into somebody you know if you go out because the city’s size is limited compared to Athens. As a result, musicians learn quickly about what’s happening in their field. Meeting people daily makes it easier to invite somebody over to the studio for a session. Also, the pace of life is far more relaxed, there’s no time pressure. You call up a friend and he turns up in 10 minutes, whereas in Athens you’ve got to plan a day ahead. Does the city have hangouts for musicians? We usually see each other at regularly frequented clubs where somebody’s playing. There are places like this in Athens, too, but it’s just that the proportions – distance and time needed – are smaller. Would you characterize yourself as a programmer or musician? A musician with knowledge of programming, but always a musician. Despite what you say, it seems that you play more with frequency than with melody. I disagree. I think there’s lots of melody in my music. Of course, with the passage of time, for personal reasons, I’ve changed the work’s foundations from chords to fabricated harmony created by frequencies. But I use the computer as a recording tool. I don’t make corrections. Whatever is heard is created using hands, played on instruments and recorded on the computer. How do you function when collaborating with other musicians? I get the impression that you just let them improvise. There are predetermined themes that they execute and parts that are improvised once they’ve adopted the original idea as a part of themselves. This is where the meaning behind collaboration with other musicians comes into the picture. It’s why I use them. I’m interested in their souls. I wouldn’t like it if they functioned as session players by simply executing my scores. I do pre-production; I create music up to a certain point. From there on, I seek the collaboration of friends. That way, both the musician feels better and my reach widens. Your style ranges from electronic music to entechno (quality Greek). It’s neither one nor the other. Personally, I can’t characterize my music, and I don’t really understand all the terms being used to describe musical trends. I’m a musician and I write music – I think that says it all. Would you write dance music? Do you go to parties? I never write for a particular purpose. I could use dance rhythms if they were requested for a performance. When I work on commissioned music, I take into account a director’s expectations – what the imagery and text require – and then seek the golden combination that express both sides. I don’t devalue this type of work. It does a lot of good for a musician to adorn the work of another, and also to play in a group. It helps him or her incorporate; the experience operates as an exercise in modesty that rejects egocentric elements. Now, as for parties, I don’t go to many because I don’t like crowds. You’ve infused lots of traditional elements into your music. What’s your opinion on the «ethnic» trend? It’s a fabricated term catering to a fashion. Needless to say, music throughout the world pre-existed. Personally, I’ve been listening for some 30 years now. As a trend and fashion, it gives us the impression of a unified whole and it deprives us of seeing regional music through its positive and negative elements. What’s your dream as a musician? To keep playing whatever I choose, to meet with those that I love and to have an enjoyable time with them.

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