Musical unison of different paths and different times

We were drinking tea at a quiet cafe in downtown Athens. Yiannis Angelakas, the former frontman of the popular Greek rock act Trypes, and his gifted music partner of late, the talented cellist and composer Nikos Veliotis, an active figure on the international experimental circuit, were preparing to depart for Thessaloniki for final rehearsals ahead of a mini tour, now on. The pair has just released a second album, «Pote Tha Ftasoume Edo,» following their very well received first outing together, «Oi Anases Ton Lykon.» Both albums are unique. Veliotis’s multilayered sounds, chords, and drones, all on the cello, blend with Angelakas’s thoughtful lyrics. The duo traveled along different paths, at different times, before joining forces. From Thessaloniki, Angelakas picked grapes as a youngster before rejecting that line of work. He turned to music and fronted his rock band Trypes along a blazing trail for 15 years. Back then, an entire generation here identified with the angst-ridden words and thoughts of Angelakas, now 48. Born and raised in Athens, Veliotis, a cool-headed 38-year-old, thrives on city life. The classically trained cellist prefers anti-academic ways in music, surfs the Internet, and gets his kicks out of watching trash TV and frequenting small venues with experimental leanings. Yiannis Angelakas, are you still mad at [the late archbishop] Christodoulos? Y. A: I was not mad at Christodoulos, nor was the song «Airetiko» (Heretical) just about him, but about what he represented. Christodoulos was a passionate priest in a mad world, a rock star who controlled listeners, and a TV star, but his show was cheap. In the end, of course, he became a hero. Everybody emerged in the media and spoke lofty things about how significant a personality he was. Big deal, we knew what he was. N. V: Greek hypocrisy is a well-known fact. We need mass, national psychotherapy in order to be able to move on. Should I assume that you were not at all alarmed by all that has gone on at the Culture Ministry (Zachopoulos affair)? Y. A: It’s a joke in itself that a Culture Ministry exists. Power, amid all its interests, cares little about how it will further develop people. Like the Public Order Ministry and its enforcement of order as it sees it, the Culture Ministry imposes its own views about culture. And we’ve seen what the results are – dirt, money, scandals… Would you accept financial backing from the Culture Ministry? Y. A: We would most probably say «no,» as we’ve done in the past. If we lived in a more serious country with serious leaders and I saw that people like Socrates Malamas and Thanassis Papaconstantinou received occasional ministry backing, then I may have asked for funds to maintain the band. N. V: I would prefer it if young, unknown artists received ministry funds. But, as Yiannis just said, we don’t live in a serious country. We’ve suddenly just realized that the Chrysi Avgi (right-wing extremist) group enjoys good ties with the Greek police force, and that immigrants get beaten up at police stations. Reality is just what is captured on video and put on the screen. Do you watch television? N. V: I do. I’ll find something even in the junk. There’s something worthy there, too, if you watch with a conscience. I’m just as conscientious about not watching the news. Y. A: It’s not news, its a show. Fortunately, not everybody is feeding television’s atrocious state. TV junkies in Greece number no more than 2-2.5 million. They’re the minority. There are also people who think, worry, and get out onto the street to fire up the thoughts of fellow citizens. Are you optimistic? N. V: Yes, because we get around here, meet people, young people who think. There’s something alive out there that’s boiling. Is this why your new album is more optimistic than the previous one? Y. A: When we were making «Oi Anases Ton Lykon» it was a difficult period for both of us. Things around us then changed, as did our energy, and this new album is truly more luminous. How did you two get together and find you matched? N. V: Yiannis was doing the soundtrack for Nikos Nikolaidis’s film «Loser Takes All» and wanted to do something with the cello. Y. A: And we became friends. It’s the only way I can work. I don’t function in a totally professional way. I create human bonds and, then, music through them. N. V: What we do is like a serious game. Is there any chance of us seeing Trypes on stage again? Y. A: No, no chance whatsoever. We have nothing to do with this trend for band reunions, all for the sake of making money. N. V: It’s still early. You’re all too young! Nikos Veliotis, did you follow Trypes. N. V: No, I’d started getting involved with experimental music at the time. Y. A: I like to collaborate with people who didn’t listen to Trypes. Much of the Episkeptes [Angelakas’s current backing ensemble] lineup had no idea about the old band. How did you manage to gather all these exceptional musicians? And how can such a large band of about 15 people on stage survive financially? Y. A: It’s total madness trying to maintain such a band in Greece. It does generate some wages. Our nerves often reach the breaking point, but we carry on because the guys understand that what we do is worth the effort. Which is why they often sacrifice better pay to be with us. Do you believe in the freedom that the Internet provides musicians? Y. A: I believe with hesitation. I need to wait a few more years. There’s momentum and potential, so something may be achieved here. N. V: We feel concern about the distribution of our work. Total freedom may come through the Internet. Your album sells for about 17.80 euros. That’s expensive isn’t it? N. V: It’s expensive because of the middlemen. Y. A: We dream of cheaper albums, but at this point in time, don’t have the power to achieve this. Of the 17.80 euros, our label, Alltogethernow, which does all the production work, gets 5 euros. The money we get is in there. We give the distributors completed work and they share the remaining 13 euros with the record shops. Let’s not talk about this anymore because it drives me crazy. N. V: And just think, albums are even more expensive in the country’s provinces. Does it annoy you if some listeners freely download your music? N. V: Now, that’s just the way things are. Y. A: We try to be on good terms with our fans. And because they’re quality-minded, they understand that Alltogethernow needs the money to survive. Until now, despite these difficult times, people have been buying our music, consciously. I’m certain that if we were to ask our following for support, it would offer it. At some point, when it became known that Alltogethernow had problems, a girl called me to say that she had 1,500 euros which she could gladly give me. There was a boy, too, offering about that much more. I didn’t accept it, of course, but it’s touching when somebody says: «Well, I’m here and want to help you continue with what you’re doing.» People know.