CULTURE

Back to Greek roots with UK band

He emerged musically in Patras, western Greece, with local group Raining Pleasure – at the time still little known – and ended up playing with a promising British alternative-pop band, the Chap. Panos Ghikas, a co-founder of Raining Pleasure, will be in Athens with the Chap for two shows this weekend at one of the city’s smaller yet warmer venues, the Small Music Theater (33 Veikou, Koukaki, tel 210.924.5644). The Chap’s upcoming performances were preceded by an appearance by Ghikas at the Athens Concert Hall. Just days ago, he presented a commissioned composition for the venue’s annual «Workshop» event, organized by music professor Thodoros Antoniou, with whom Ghikas came into contact while studying for his PhD. Returning to the Chap, the band’s work has generated favorable reviews from influential UK media. Looking back at the Greek music scene, Ghikas, in an interview with Kathimerini ahead of his band’s shows, suggested that he found it stifling and restrictive. How did you end up playing with a London band? I was studying physics in Patras, which is how I became involved with Raining Pleasure. I experienced the entire process of how a band functions – concerts, rehearsals, songwriting. But I was also interested in other things and found myself in Athens for a seminar on film music by [popular composer] Dimitris Papadimitriou. Unfortunately, Greek musical culture is made up of very specific factors which you’re forced to follow, so I decided to try my luck elsewhere. I ended up at the London College of Music with the aim of focusing on film music. There, I met Johannes von Weizsaker and Claire Hope – who is now my wife – and the Chap was formed. I recently also finished my PhD thesis on composition. Judging by the very good reviews from Wire, a magazine for music fans with lofty demands and knowledge, your band probably caters to intellectual crowds, right? Not all of the magazine’s readers have accepted us, and at the same time, far younger crowds, not necessarily well informed, have partied unbelievably at shows of ours. I’m referring to our recent shows in France, before youngsters who don’t read the English press and haven’t formed an opinion [about the Chap]. Although your band touches on pop, you often experiment with cacophony and harass melodic lines to play something like – please excuse the phrase – «free pop.» That’s true, because we’re not looking to use melodic elements to a great degree, even though they exist. However, determining what is «cacophonic» and what is «belligerent» is clearly a subjective thing. We’re not striving for cacophony either. Our influences are broad and blend with the material. Some Wire readers, as we mentioned before, appreciate certain deeper elements, and others are satisfied by more direct aspects, such as groove, or a good melody. The Chap’s lyrics sound grotesque to my ears. What kind of stories touch you and propel you to turn them into songs? The lyrics [of our songs] are a product of spontaneous selections of a few words that function well next to each other. Some of the themes, of course, are of great interest to us, despite being about day-to-day situations without any emotional turmoil… Why did you name your recent album «Ham»? For one, it sounds like a great title. Also, it contains a kind of vulgarity that, perhaps, is irrelevant to what we do but may have a stronger connection with the music industry, the vulgarity of life, or the aesthetic vulgarity surrounding us. What’s your opinion of Raining Pleasure’s road to success? I’m very happy to see how far they’ve gone. You know, they persevered through various difficulties. But, ultimately, all is possible when there’s talent to spare and opportunities arise. When Vassilikos [Raining Pleasure member] sent me [their first hit album] «Flood,» I remember thinking that if an album like that did not connect with listeners, then I would not want anything to do with Greece. What do you believe about the rest of the Greek scene? I try to follow it as much as possible from London and must admit that I find Drog-A-Tek interesting because they dare to combine various things – improvisation with electronic and acoustic aspects, all with mostly regional sounds. Your opinion about Greek music fans? They’re a particular case. I know Greeks with record collections and specialized knowledge that most Brits don’t have. I believe there’s a passion for particular musical trends and bands; which is why the Greek [music] market is a case in itself, even though I’ve never really understood how it works. Perhaps it’s because Greece lies on the crossroad of civilizations that demands a different type of marketing. Will acoustic and electric instruments disappear amid today’s digital environment? Will there be a day when you will bury your guitar? Purely guitar-based bands mimicking new wave and post-punk bands of the ’80s are all the rage in England right now. Everybody’s returning to the aesthetics of work made in the old analog studios. I don’t think there’s an issue between technology and conventional instruments. Of course, technology has democratized composition and production, which doesn’t mean that the number of good artists has increased. More about the band Started off by London College of Music students Panos Ghikas (bass, violin, guitar, electronics) and Johannes von Weizsaker (guitar, vocals, electric cello), the Chap were bolstered by the arrival of Keith Duncan (drums) and Clare Hope (vocals, keyboards). The London-based act has released a mini album, «Fun» (2002), and two albums, «The Horse» (2003) and «Ham» (2005). The latest has made an impact on the international alternative pop scene, prompting the band’s current European tour with dates in France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Athens as the final destination.