CULTURE

Fiercely independent and growing

For several years now, the Greek-language local rock group Diafana Krina have enjoyed a sturdy domestic following, as highlighted by the enthusiastic response to the act’s latest album, «Oti Apomeine Apo Tin Eftychia» (Leftovers of Happiness). Released just two weeks ago, each of its 6,000 first-edition copies have already been snapped up, despite a total lack of advertising or support from a major label. A second edition is now being prepared. After forming in the early 1990s, Diafana Krina released their debut album, «Egine I Apoleia Synitheia Mas» (Loss Has Become a Habit), in 1996 and have since enjoyed a rising popularity. The second album, «Kati Saravales Kardies» (Tattered Hearts), released in 1998, outsold its predecessor, as did «Evodiazoun Agriokerasa Oi Siopes» (Wild Cherry-Scented Silences) in 2000. Steering clear of convention, Diafana Krina prefer to release their work independently. On the occasion of the new album’s release, Pantelis Rodostoglou, the act’s main vocalist and songwriter, discussed a variety of topics, including the band’s material and its entirely independent approach to music, in an interview with Kathimerini. Despite offers from big record companies, your band continues to release its work independently. Doesn’t that burden the musician with additional responsibilities? We want to have control of our material. It’s difficult and challenging at the same time. We’ve done everything alone for the new album – artwork, production, music, lyrics. We wanted a low-quality production, «lo-fi,» as they say. This particular style was predominant in the 1980s. We’re not re-examining that kind of sound. Artists back then were driven toward such productions because of certain reasons that happen to still be valid today. We don’t like pompous productions, we operate on a low budget, and operate collectively. We’ve defied pressure throughout our career. At some point, we’ll probably be considered peculiar, but it’s just the way we go about doing things. So the choice of name for the band’s record label, «This is My Voice,» is not accidental. It comes from a Leonard Cohen song, and sums up our efforts accurately, I believe. Your lyrics and their references to figures such as [Vladimir] Mayakovsky and Ian Curtis of Joy Division generate a pessimistic mood. Is that deliberate? There’s something there in the sense of a deeper need, because we believe that nothing can be built unless it is based on personal despair and the effort to overcome this state. The aforementioned artists, and numerous others, felt this need. It’s like a common starting point. The current era, however, rewards feel-good styles and shuns artists that are damned. If you want to confront yourself and the world, you’ve got to begin from the big questions. Some people would consider these as depressing, boring or incomprehensible. You can, of course, shove everything under the carpet, forget about it, and spare yourself a negative mood. The trend is to close your eyes to everything that’s happening… becoming senseless and manageable, like a brick. Unfortunately, this total leveling constitutes the modern Greek culture. The song «Diafana Krina» (Transparent Lilies) [on the new album] is autobiographical. Does this mean that a cycle in the band’s course has been completed? A cycle of collective experiences and musical creation has ended. We may now focus elsewhere. Also, to a great degree, a lyrical cycle is also ending. Has the band’s course been lonely? In understanding our loneliness, in our field, one must take note of our efforts to maintain our dignity, the right to exist, and our self-respect. On your new album, you’ve gone on new musical roads, with songs such as «El Hombre Solo,» which is reminiscent of Calexico, the pop-sounding «Skismenos Hartaetos» (Torn Kite), the free-jazz influenced «Tragoudi Tis Valias kai tou Lykou» (Song of Valia and the Wolf) and the warm-sounding «Teleftaio Poto me ton Diavolo» (Last Drink with the Devil). We carry listening experiences and influences which we’re not trying to hide. We strove for a «Mexican» atmosphere in «El Hombre Solo.» In the song «Diafana Krina,» Thanos Anestopoulos [band member] lifts an entire Iggy Pop chorus – from «Passenger»… Just a few years ago, there was widespread enthusiasm for Greek-language rock. Why has that now waned? We feel like we’re part of the rock music scene in Greece. Musicians who endure and keep up their strength don’t pay attention to hype and deflation. But isn’t it natural for somebody to feel disappointed if his or her work has not been well received? It depends on what sort of response we’re talking about and how much you love what you do. Persevering over time depends on the amount of faith you feel for your work, irrespective of whether it’s being received by many people… When you first set off, the whole thing about the «western suburb» [working-class] scene, which you were categorized under, generated interest. Is this still valid today? It was a term used to describe a movement, which, however, cannot be explained using superficial indicators. At the time, the question of «Why is this kind of music being produced in regions with low living standards?» could have been posed. In spite of all this, you’re faring very well in terms of reception and sales. How do you explain that? Probably because we have the fundamentals needed by a band to last – close ties between members, continual musical and aesthetic curiosity, and respect for issues and people. Does an artist’s authenticity play a role? Definitely. People see something in each artist, initially through instinct. Then come the needs that lead them to the individual that expresses and satisfies them. Our era is a difficult one because it’s based on a pseudo-reality, which asserts that whoever doesn’t sell doesn’t exist. There’s nothing worse for art – this levels everything. You collaborated with Alkinoos Ioannidis on one song for the new album. Is that a foot inside the «entechno» [quality Greek] door? We’re individuals interested in music; we listen to lots of things; we feel like we’re in a huge garden and can touch any flower we like. We grew up with Theodorakis, Hadjidakis, Loizos. We collaborated with Alkinoos Ioannidis as part of a wider exchange of musical ideas. Music is created by cooking and mixing.