Evolving in margins of industry

The album «Who Hurt You?» by Athens-based band Drog-A-Tek, has already received rave reviews from music magazines such as Britain’s Wire, though in Greece the kudos does not appear to have made much of an impact as yet. If contemporary jazz is continuing to create new musical forms and not depending on reheated versions of old classics, then Drog-A-Tek could indeed be described as a modern jazz combo. And, if the term avant-garde has any real meaning left in this day and age, then it could be applied to its music. Kathimerini spoke to the band’s bassist, Makis Kendepozidis, about changing perceptions of sound, the death of the classics and the manner in which so many music performers are at each other’s throats just for the sake of getting attention. It is quite difficult to categorize your music. How would you describe it? We base our music on improvisation and we are definitely an offshoot of the experimental scene. We are continuously moving in every direction because we haven’t yet found the ideal form. The more we play, the more forms we discover. As far as musical form is concerned, you emphasize the play between frequencies more than rhythm and melody. Don’t you think this may alienate the average listener? The «frequencies» game is an especially interesting feature and is one of the parameters of our music that piques the audience’s interest. Ever since the 1970s, the time of Faust and Throbbing Gristle, musicians have been experimenting with the frequencies of music and music today is based mostly on this process. Our sound is a bit hard to handle for the average listener, but the audience needs to be «exercised»; no one knew what Jimi Hendrix was on about when he started out. Many young people in this metropolis we live in try to listen to these sounds. And we aren’t really concerned with how our music is received. We are just as comfortable playing to a room of five people as we are playing at a festival for thousands. Experimentation simultaneously trains the audience and the musician and we are constantly evolving together with the audience. Now, rhythm interests us. It’s just that we move in an environment which is sparse in rhythm. We also have to consider what the reception of black music, the ultimate music of rhythm, is in this country. Melody is also included in our music, but it’s heavily edited. We use the bare essentials. In the song «If,» the accordion and other acoustic instruments bring to mind Western European musical traditions. Do you feel European in terms of musical culture? The secret of technique is the manner in which you unite different things: the wheel with the axle. The same happened in music, and particularly in Greece, which, because of its geographical location, can combine the esoteric qualities of the East with the rationalism of the West and the movement of the body that we find in Africa. Your album could have easily been made by Germans or Belgians, but it’s hard to imagine it coming from Jamaicans or Cubans. A common musical platform has come to be created in all the capital cities of the West, and it is global rather than local. It has to do with having the environment and experiences of a country imposed on you. For example, we love Tsitsanis’s songs, but we don’t live in post-civil war Greece. The reproduction of these models of music would have to be pre-designed. We experience things momentarily and fleetingly, so we construct our own vision of the present and, thankfully, reality is just as quick in overtaking us. I am talking about the reformation of style: You innovate, integrate, change. There are artists who plan their music, like Brian Eno, who by studying Eastern music makes reference to «Arabic blues.» Artists who are all about immediacy however, cannot design their music in advance. They can’t give unknown things a familiar veneer simply in order to avoid creating a chasm between themselves and their audiences. Was the installation you participated in in London, by Joe Davis, shocking to the audience? No, and we realized this while we were playing inside the installation. Art does not shock anymore. Can an artist really shock London after so many people were killed by the blasts on the Underground? When we say we want to shock the audience, we mean that we do not want to spoon-feed them palpable music. Because style mutates, you have to understand the laws of change and use them. The music industry – which creates tailor-made products – is always one step behind the artist, which means that the artist will always have a bit of room to maneuver if he or she moves fast enough. You call yourselves a music collective. What does that mean? It means six people trying to combine various skills to create a complex environment. We have someone who deals with projections of videos and transparencies at our concerts. Another two construct audio ready-mades which encompass the sounds created by the rest of us. Together this creates a sound environment. Other than that, we are a group who have huge disagreements and fights because we believe that tension – and not habit – creates good music. Adventure is man’s most exciting companion. Walking into the studio and not knowing beforehand whether you’ll be able to agree on a single thing is an adventure, and I must stress that all our recordings are live. If we were embodied in a couple, it would be a passionate, stormy relationship!