What made you start collecting records?
I started randomly purchasing records in 1977. On and off, 2 to 3 records per week, whatever caught my fancy. Somewhere in mid-1978, a friend of mine we went to french class together, was talking to me about all this weird british progressive scene we knew very little about at the times. He lent me two records his older brother had bought from a trip to London: VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR’s “The Least We Can Do” –you know, the pink Charisma pressing with the poster and QUINTESSENCE’s “Quintessence”, with the door gatefold cover. I was hooked! Mesmerised by the magic of it all. From that day, music had been non-stop. And I never looked back.
However, I’m not considering myself a typical record collector, in the way most people think; buying expensive originals and specialize on a musical genre. I prefer instead of spending 200 euros on one album, spend 200 euros on 15. The aim is to listen to as many music as possible. I like to emotionally invest on the content, which is the music of course. With the cover as a dear companion to the aural experience. Listening to an album was, is and will always be a ritual for me.
Do you remember your first purchase?
How couldn’t? It was 1977 and I’ve been saving my allowance for three months… It was a bunch of five, all greek pressings. STATUS QUO “Blue For You”, NAZARETH “Expect No Mercy”, ROLLING STONES “Love You Live”, SEX PISTOLS “Never Mind the Bollocks” and GENESIS “Wind and Wuthering “.
You seem to have a broad taste, and not one of these who only listens to old music. Would you agree with me that people who thinks all music after 1978 is bad are missing out a lot of quality music ?
Absolutely. I think that the amount of great music recorded nowadays is astonishing. Many records that are overlooked by most oldest collectors, had they been released in the 70s they would have been holy grails. ESPERS debut for example or JOSHUA’s “Gold Cosmos”. I remember myself following all these wonderful scenes first hand: NWoBHM, punk, hardcore, industrial, post-punk/new wave, avant electronics, festival psych, spacerock, thrash/death/black/doom metal, grindcore, post-rock, paisley underground, free folk, new weird America… I would have missed so much if stuck in the 60s-70s. It’s a crime to dismiss the artists of today as being the yesterday’s clones. Can one put a time stamp to creativity? It’s pure narrow-mindedness to me.
I know you started early with your vinyl passion. How do you think the music progressed from the time you begun to discover music to today’s style ?
Well, I think that rock based music, really progressed up to the early 90s. Then there was no substantial evolution in sound, it just begun to fuse. Which is equally interesting to the hungry listener, because for example you couldn’t listen to a heavy metal band with acid guitar leads or to a doom metal with sitars back in the 80s. For me, that have been heavily in krautrock in the 80s, listening to post rock, especially the european scene, was something revisited yet challenging, because it got all these new electronics, static noises, glitches, studio trickery etc. You can’t call it progress what happened after 1995, as it is not something that hasn’t been done before but it is definitely an enrichement. And my ears are all wide open for it.
What sort of music do you mainly focus on?
To keep it short, better to tell you what I’m NOT focused on: alternative/indie rock and progressive metal. Nowadays I have a soft spot for doom metal with a psychedelic edge, spacerock, retro prog, psybient with ethnic elements and avant progressive/experimental.
I am especially very much into a few Greek groups like PLJ Band, Nostradamous, Socrates. The Greek band have special sound I think. How do you look at native Greek music ?
I’m not that big fan of 60s/70s greek rock, as I think it was rather derivative and poorly influenced. Due to the military junta mostly, that persecuted the local underground (we lost that 1967-1973 european peak). However, a few bands in the 70s had this special influence from greek dimotiko songs (our ethnic traditional music), which is very evident in some local progressive rock albums like APHRODITES CHILD “666”, SOCRATES “Phos”, PLJ BAND “Armageddon”, IRAKLIS or early Dionysis SAVOPOULOS. For the record, I’ll give you my top 5 of the local 70s stuff:
APHRODITES CHILD “666“
Dionysis SAVOPOULOS “Ballos“
Dimitris POULIKAKOS “Metaforai Ekdromai“
PETE & ROYCE “Suffering of Tomorrow‘
AXIS “Axis” (the 2nd album from 1973)
How do you discover new music?
Reading, reading and more reading. Long gone are the days we used to gather together at friends for listening marathons. Nowadays it is mostly internet and newsletters by e-mail. Something like Record Heaven’s weekly list is always what I’m after, these days. A brief, accurate description plus a cover pic and a sound sample always does the trick to initiate a new purchase. And thanks God, we still have record stores in Athens!
I have heard this crazy rumor at a time, but never got it confirmed, so I ask you : I heard that when Manowar was releasing a new album, a Greek store had not enough copes for sale, so the buyers got angry and burned down the store. Sounds crazy, but “understandable”. Is this something you’re familiar with ??
Never heard it, so it’s unlikely to have happened. However, the first time the band came to play in Athens, they had Joey DeMaio sign some autographs at a metal record store. The cue was so big, you had some fans waiting since 3 in the morning to be the first ones in the row… MANOWAR were (and I believe still are) really huge here. And guess what? I’ve been the first that ever got a MANOWAR album in Greece; “Battle Hymns” which I got from a trip to France (with MERCYFUL FATE’s debut miniLP on Rave On). Nobody was listening to that stuff here, it was all about IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, SAXON, SCORPIONS and AC-DC. We used to hand out to a rock club named “Rainbow”, the DJ was my mentor in krautrock and french prog but he had an open ear for the new and unusual. Soon, “Dark Avenger” became the club’s anthem on its heavy metal day and the rest is history…
In Sweden, the legend Demis Roussos is still an musical icon due to his solo carreer after Aphrodites Child. What status do Demis have in Greece ?
Really huge in the 70s. Then everyone seems to have forgotten him. I think himself residing in France and not performing in Greece and the many lousy solo albums that he issued were the reasons it lost his popularity during the 80s. On the contrary, Vangelis is still very popular down here.
Please let us know more about the Greek situation. Many people who collect?
There were many collectors –especially in the 80s/90s, most of them in the psychedelic, garage, new wave & heavy metal styles. Very few in progressive and krautrock; and counted on the fingers of one hand, these whose collections span decades and different styles… A sad thing is that due to the economic crisis, more and more collections are liquidated in second hand stores. Sad, because collections always speak about their owner –they’re often a testimony of one’s life and character.Many record stores left?
Yes, it seems to me that we still have more record stores in Greece than in other countries. Many closed down during the last 5 years but it was usually the supermarkets of music –the chain stores that suffered most from the crisis and the download trend. Independent stores proved stronger, they had a more loyal client base. However, in Athens more stores are currently focused on 2nd hand items than new music, which is somewhat a let-down for me.
Where do you prefer to buy your records?
Since the mid-90s, I’m mostly buying online nowadays. As my collection grows, I am undergoing focused purchases. There is always the occasional record fair trips. And the traditional weekly visit to my two favorite local stores, “Strange Attractor” and “Sound Effect”.
Name three records that are special to you, and will be buried with you. Please tell us the story of how you got hold of them.
My all times best album is INCREDIBLE STRING BAND’s “The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter”. I always adore sitting by the seaside or travelling by boat and lose myself at gazing the infinity of the ocean while listening to it. Then POPOL VUH’s “In den garten pharaos” and VELVET UNDERGROUND’s “Featuring Lou Reed & Nico”. They don’t make them timeless like these anymore!
But my most treasured purchase is a rather common album: “Earthdance” by the british festival band MANDRAGORA. I was living in Belgium at the times and went to a festival in a village where they got all these psychedelic bands on the bill… MANDRAGORA, WOBBLE JAGGLE JIGGLE, GIANT EYES etc. It was organized by Andre, editor of the Crohinga Well fanzine. I had some money to get back home on the last train but spent it all to get the album, as it had been just released and sold at the concert by the band. Remember, it were the pre-internet days and having pain finding the previous MANDRAGORA albums in Greece, I thought that the vinyl should be rather rare. As a result, I ended spending the rest of the night in the open air, half asleep in a park bench, cuddling onto the album till the morning, where I hitch-hiked my way home… Those were the days!
And finally: what do you see in the future of record collecting?
Looking back on our kin, it seems to me sometimes that we are the last dinosaurs. There will be fewer people buying more and more expensive die-hard or super deluxe editions but this game is out of my personal interest. However, I’m always saying: “we do not search records, they always come to you when you call them” and I am convinced that good records always will find the right people.