CULTURE

Greek musician’s struggle against virtual reality

About two-and-a-half years ago, brothers Haris and Panos Katsimichas chose different paths on stage. All that talk about disagreements proved to be nonsense and they are bound to meet again on another album, which is why they created their own record company, Lychnos. The company recently released Panos’s first solo album «Oi Balandes ton Polykatoikion» (Ballads of the Apartment Blocks), which consists of short songs about ourselves, those around us and the beauty that can be found even in rubbish. In your first solo work, did you miss having company in the studio? I did – habit is a terrible thing. But I managed to get past the easy solution of having Haris to deal with problems; I had to do everything by myself and I’m happy I succeeded. When you were still working together, what did each of you contribute to the songs? We both did everything. We would both correct the other one’s verses and music and, literally last minute, one of us would end up singing the other one’s song. For instance, the night we went into the studio to record «Monaxia tou Skinovati,» Haris asked if he could try it out and I let him because I saw that specific look on his face that only I can interpret. And he delivered it in an unforgettable way. The opposite happened with «Amorgiano mou Perama.» Everything was ready and the orchestra was great (the Klouvatos family had played) and right when he was about to sing I asked him if I could give it a try, and I did. It all happened with complete trust and a total lack of competition. Whoever served the song best took it on with just a few words, or even without any words, with our secret communication. In this album, Haris just participated. Did you go through the material like you used to or not? It all happened like in the old days. He came over to the studio one night and after drinking seven espressos and smoking a pack of cigarettes, he asked if he could join in. What could I say? He had that look. Regarding the material, I wrote it all myself, but during the two years of preparation, I asked for his opinion. You sang «No Passaran.» Are slogans like that outdated or do we still remember them in hard times? For some people, they might just be dead words, while for others they could be a relief in these difficult and strange times we all are living in. What made you write a song about immigrants? That I explained on the CD’s booklet. We needed cheap hands to do the work that we despise, so that we could achieve progress and all that. But we forgot that along with these cheap hands come people. What will we do with them now? Start shooting them? There are two realities in Greek singing: the audience that attends the Stavros tou Notou Club and has been sending your albums platinum for over 20 years and then there’s the reality where artists like you don’t exist unless a «Fame Story» participant sings one of your songs. That reality was brought to society by private television. In its fascist rules, if you don’t exist in television, you don’t exist anywhere. Umberto Eco analyzed that a long time ago; he said that the next century’s dictatorships won’t be based on weapons but on the power of television. That is exactly what we are experiencing now. Is the producers’ excuse that «this is what people want» valid? Up to the ’90s, Greek television was harmless and useful. It was adjusted to the psychology of the Greeks and had some wonderful series, based on Greek literature. Even entertainment shows were of a certain standard. From the moment that the American mentality and market logic started to prevail, we moved on to the trilogy of blood, sex and violence. After bombarding the average person with all of that for 15 years and distorting our tastes and our minds, TV producers now claim that people are asking for such stuff and that it’s not their fault. I think we were better off without them. The truth is that people are no longer seeking demanding songs. At one time, the audience was happy to discover something in song, because it was educated enough to realize that real communication with a song lies in trying to appreciate it. Without the education, that doesn’t happen. When television is happy with nonsense, the music industry does the same, though there is no excuse for that. The music industry has been carried away by the atmosphere that the media and the market economy has created. Record companies want low-budget productions that are easy to digest because the media is also persistently looking for such products in order to easily enlarge their audience. A song that is readily accessible becomes boring rather quickly and has to be replaced by another quite similar one. It’s all a chain. What led us to this? I suppose those who have been governing us for two-and-a-half decades; who else? They are the ones who have shaped today’s political and social landscape. Their intentions may have been good, but they can only be judged by the results. Then again, people voted for them. Well, maybe people should have been more careful. Many divide Greek songs into entechno and nightclub. Could it be the rise of entechno songs that led to this silly reality? Poseurs and sulky faces make me sick. I want people to be smiling when they leave my show, otherwise I think I’ve failed. Sometimes, in the past, we fell out with some «sulky» colleagues. We have often tried to explain that you can’t heap the audience with dark songs for two hours. If you really want them to follow you, you must include a pressure-releasing valve in the show, like jokes or light songs, so that the audience can have fun after you have sung 30 heavy songs. Is there nothing good in folk-pop? I am not absolute against any kind of music. Folk is folk and pop is pop. While the two don’t mix, I am fine, but when we enter the folk-pop paranoia, I become sick. No matter how much humor or stamina I have, this cocktail is bound to make me sick. Of course, many people drink it and enjoy it…