New film’s reminder of earlier times lures songwriter for its soundtrack

One of his new songs, «Achilleas the Astronaut,» sung by Alkistis Protopsalti with lyrics by Lina Nikolakopoulou, is enjoying heavy local radio airplay, while his music for «Uranya,» a new film by Costas Kapakas, is winning over hearts. It is customary for Panayiotis Kalatzopoulos to provide charming work that is able to stir feelings. Releases aside, Kalantzopoulos is currently performing shows at Thessaloniki’s Principle Club with his partner and fellow composer Evanthia Reboutsika and the singer Elli Paspala. They will also be playing in Athens in March. What were your thoughts when Kapakas asked you to write the music for his new film? One of the reasons I accepted was the script, the other was my association with him on [the film] «Peppermint.» I liked the plot: A young hooker in the late 60s who has a small house close to the sea becomes the object of desire for the village’s entire male population. A bunch of young men collect money and pledge to visit Ourania and discover her secrets. But Achilleas, who is mad about flying and airplanes, learns of man’s [imminent] landing on the moon and that the entire world will watch the event on the new magical box called a television. So, he suggests that the group of friends spend the money collected on an Uranya – an Italian brand of TV – rather than on Ourania. There was the Agnew visit, Woodstock, the landing on the moon… it’s what I also experienced at this age. Do you remember where you were when the first man landed on the moon. At a campsite somewhere outside Anavyssos [a coastal town east of Athens]. It was one of those long Greek summers full of swimming, salt, love stories and treasure hunting. There was a television set and I still remember the initial global excitement, the black-and-white images, and the sound with interference. I was unable to comprehend the greatness of this event. I thought it was yet another one of those accomplishments we learned about at school. Now that I got to see the footage over and over again, because of the film, I was struck by the tone of the voice. The classic phrase «A small step for man and a giant step for mankind» sounds like it’s being said by the best actor in the world, in a totally natural way. Your music [for the new soundtrack] carries a bittersweet nostalgia. Was it intentional? Kapakas’s work gives this quality. When it starts getting serious, it turns to humor. When it’s jovial, it suddenly turns to emotion. This suits me. I like mood twists from chorus to verse, or phrase to phrase. Was the aforementioned era really more innocent, or are we being betrayed by our memories? Time erases the negative and holds onto the positive. Memory wants to forget about hard times. That’s nostalgia. On the other hand, we live in an era where faith has been run into the ground. People may be hoping, but faith is fading away. Back then, faith was maintained. And I’m not talking about religious faith, but the kind that makes you surpass yourself. How does today compare with back then? Today is a very refined form of Stalinism. Stalin needed three-story buildings to keep personal files. Nowadays, it’s done on a PC. Back then, torture could be confirmed by the International Red Cross people when welts on the backs of people still showed. Today, the torture methods at Guantanamo Bay are so sophisticated that judges can’t figure out why detainees are committing suicide. I’ve read that they’re kept in isolation where they can smell the stench of rotting corpses, which drives them crazy. Fascism and governing power have discovered ways to make violence intangible. The violence being exercised by television is also refined and intangible. Addiction to bad taste? It’s a reduction of words… And there’s no resistance in society to react against all this… Would you offer one of your songs to a youngster that’s just emerged from [reality TV shows] «Fame Story» or «Dream Show»? Even if he or she had quality, I wouldn’t, because everything should carry a cost. In the past, television had an outlandish quality. There was television and there was life. These days, TV seems to have replaced public life. It’s worse than a whore. It’s convinced millions of people that real life is the box itself and that reality is a virtual thing… If you were told that your music reminds of Nino Rota, Nicola Piovani or Manos Hadjidakis, would that bother you? Maybe because I was classically trained I often feel an eclectic association with Italian and French music. Does [the prospect of] innovation exist as comfortably in music as it did 15-20 years ago? Innovation no longer lies in lyrics but in melody – in the purity and simplicity. I don’t try to do devilish things with the arrangements because technology has made it so simple that everybody’s doing it. I prefer to impose limits on myself, as if I’m painting with three tubes of paint and a paintbrush. What do you aim for when writing a song? I seek to move myself. To identify with the result as I identify with the songs of others that I like. It’s been four years since you and [fellow composer] Evanthia Reboutsika launched your own label, Cantini. What are your impressions? Recently, I had complained a lot and was highly critical of this experience. At times I’ve felt that it’s gobbled up creative hours, weeks, months, maybe even two years, of what lies closer to my heart. But going along to meetings of independent labels, I saw that the gaps being created in the music industry will be covered by small labels.

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