Malamas at Zygos once more

«When I’m preparing a new album, I’m completely immersed in it – it eats away at me. I don’t want to talk about it. The singer who will sing on it is from an older generation of musicians and I want to be extra careful and protective of her, just as I always do when I invite someone to collaborate with me.» The only moment that Socrates Malamas was reticent in our conversation was when I asked about his upcoming album and with whom he was collaborating. When we chatted about popular music, his family or the economic crisis, the Greek song-maker was very open, direct and passionate – just as a genuine folk singer should be. You just began playing live shows at Zygos. What’s on the agenda? My shows have no surprises – don’t expect any innovation. We are the progeny of the old folk scene, even if what we play isn’t exactly folk music. Don’t you like surprises? I like them only if they are a part of someone’s actual personality. Don’t you ever get tired of singing the same songs over and over again? Never. I feel as if I’m singing someone’s else’s songs. My songs don’t belong to me, anyway. I may own the copyright, but as soon as you release a song, you have no more control over it. Do you feel you are a «laikos» (working-class folk) musician? Completely. Vassilis Karras and I are «first cousins,» and I don’t want to hear about being «entechno» (art house), because I have nothing to do with that scene. On the other hand, what we call «laiko» today has no relation to what is truly «laiko.» «Laiko» for me means Tsitsanis, Kaldaras and Savvopoulos. Shouldn’t a «laikos» singer practice what he preaches in the venue he performs? For instance, why sell a bottle of whiskey for 250 euros? He should sell it for 1,000 euros, if his audience can afford it. I remember going to see Stelios Keromitis in tiny joints in Thessaloniki as a student and spending my entire monthly allowance in one night. You pay for cars and suits, so why not for a experience you love? But shouldn’t the economic crisis be considered? People are in debt left and right. That is our own fault. We have individual responsibility; it’s not just the governments who cozy up to big financial institutions. They stole our time – and now we work for yesterday, not for tomorrow. Do you think that there is any hope to be found in collective effort? Collective community effort is long gone; every administration has worked toward its demise. Members of the intellectual elite and those who know how the social machine works took a pair of scissors and severed the possibility of reconciliation and communication between the people. That is the way they can control us. And we all know this – and we have all consented to it. And what is the role of the artist in these circumstances? Even silly songs can be deeply political. When you sing «Everything’s great, stop worrying,» you’re making a political statement. How did the December youth uprising make you feel? We have this educational system that is, in effect, a prison. What do we teach kids? Do we teach them the meaning of nonviolent communication or compassion or how to change a spark plug or the system that controls us all? We don’t teach them the bare essentials they need. We give them money without explaining its meaning. We are lying to them. I despise violence, but I can’t say that I don’t understand why all this happened. Did you become inspired by what you saw? No. Everything I had to say about the death of instinct, I have. I lived through all the ideological and political phases of this country and I know that the only thing that changes is the image. Socrates Malamas is playing with Marianna Polihronidi and Marina Dakanali at Zygos (22 Kydathinaion, Plaka, tel 210.324.1610) Fridays and Saturdays at 10.30 p. m. and Sundays at 9.30 p. m.