Juno Plus Podcast 97: Dynamons
Slip into the deepest strains of Greek ambience on this 80-minute mix from the man behind Echovolt Records and Into The Light.
If you read Juno Plus regularly, the sight of a mix from Ilias Pitsios should make perfect sense as his two label concerns, Echovolt Records and Into The Light, have featured prominently on these pages over recent years. Founded with friends Dimitris and Xpiths, Echovolt has blossomed over the past six years into an Athens outpost for “all kinds of unusual, quirky, deep and atmospheric electronic music”, working with the likes of Legowelt, Willie Burns, JT ‘$tinworx’ Stewart and Steve Summers. Recent times have seen the label expand and take on a more archival approach with reissues of ’90s New Jersey house records by Vil-N-X and Sound Source, seguing nicely with Pitsios’s involvement in the label Into The Light.
Founded with Redlight Records man Tako Reyenga, Into The Light has provided some welcome insight into the array of Greek artists and musicians whose output between the late ’70s and early ’90s didn’t get the exposure it truly deserves. Inaugurated by the superb compilation Into The Light: A Journey Into Greek Electronic Music, Classics & Rarities (1978 – 1991), subsequent releases have looked to focus on individual artists from that set, with both the Vangelis Katsoulis and the recently issued George Theodorakis retrospectives very much worth your attention.
We have been badgering Ilias for a mix for some time now, and we were more than happy when he submitted an 80-minute selection of Greek music, much of it unreleased and forthcoming on Into The Light. He was also kind enough to respond to a selection of questions regarding this mix, his plans for both labels and more, which you can read below.
Hi Ilias, how are things in Athens currently?
Hello. Well there is a feeling that things are slightly better in comparison to the previous two to three years. Maybe it is just a false image that I have, maybe not. I mean I can’t really tell for sure as things are still shaky. Make a living is still an issue but I’m trying to explore the good side – if there is one – and focus on aspects of life that I was complaining I had no time to do back then when I had more income and less free time.
We are very happy with this mix you submitted – could you tell us about your motivations for the selections? Is this unreleased material scheduled for issue on Into the Light? Could you outline in more detail what is in store?
Well I guess it is kind of a special mix considering that all the tracks are made by Greek producers, from Vangelis to lesser known artists and beyond. Almost half of the tracks are exclusive unreleased material that will feature on forthcoming Into The Light releases. More specifically the opening is an exclusive shorter edit that Akis made for us of an originally 40-minute track he had from 1987! There are further productions from Akis, Dimitris Petsetakis, and a great George Theodorakis side project with a guitarist. The rest of the mix is random selections from some of my current favourite Greek releases that came out around the ’80s and ’90s and a more recent sick track from 2007.
I read in your interview with Testpressing that Tako’s refined digging skills were the impetus behind the decision to start Into the Light. How was it to discover all this music from your country’s past?
It is true that I did not know almost anything about that side of Greek music until Tako played me those records that winter he was staying in Greece. It is also true that he got to know about that stuff through a close friend of his called Petros that was no longer in life. We basically used Petros’ knowledge for the first compilation and that’s why the release is dedicated to him. I think Tako never thought about re-releasing anything at that time and at the same time was also too busy with launching the Redlight Records shop.
It happened that I was already familiar with the process of putting out records through the Echovolt project so one day I said to him “Why don’t we make a compilation with that crazy stuff? I will try to track down all those artists in Athens and get the license for that purpose,” and of course he agreed from the first minute. Discovering all this crazy stuff and meeting some of the producers was probably one the most exciting periods but it also had its rough times. I mean at the end it took me almost one year to spot the artists/labels and make all those personal contracts and of course find the original WAV files. But it was worth it.
But it is also the reason that we won’t repress the first release. I can’t be bothered to go through all of these again and I’d rather focus on the next releases which are more creative. I hope people see this and stop sending emails and messages requesting a repress of that compilation!
Have you experienced any licensing issues so far with the label?
Not really. As I said the hardest part was to track down the artists and explain to them why you are into those old and forgotten tracks and especially why in 2014 you want to press them again on vinyl and not on CD. Then it also took me more than a year to convince George Theodorakis to answer to my messages and moreover to make him trust me to do this last release. It’s also funny that he found all those DAT tapes after I put pressure on him to search his place better. Until then he thought he had nothing left from that period and when I visited him at his place he discovered literally in front of me 5 dusty boxes with DAT tapes!
Do you think it’s strange that no one has thought to work on presenting the music of artists such as George Theodorakis and Vangelis Katsoulis in a manner similar to Into the Light before?
There are few people that could have done it earlier than us for sure I guess. But I don’t know…I think the fact that I was already experienced with all this vinyl pressing and distributing process made things easier, or at least made me have no second thoughts. Still, the difficulties encountered were many and sometimes we felt we could just leave it, but instead we were patient and stayed on focus. At the end I don’t think it really matters who did it first or could have done it before. I really mean that. The important thing is that with the first release all those tracks were exposed to a wider audience and now it is so exciting to able to listen to all this forgotten material.
Switching the focus to your other label concern, Echovolt is currently in its fifth year correct? How do you feel it’s grown as a label since it launched with that PG&S 12” back in 2009?
Yes, Echovolt was launched during the summer of 2009 with my friends Dimitris (Jimmy Jib) and Kostas (xpiths). It all began as a way out to do something music-wise that had the potential to be appreciated by more people than our local circle of friends in Greece. I had just met William (Willie Burns) back then and he happened to have those jams as PG&S in collaboration with Jorge Velez. I remember they were searching for a label to release those tracks and it just came to my mind “Hey, I could do that. It won’t be so difficult”. And from that moment we never stopped releasing music by friends or friend of a friend or even random stuff we might dig on SoundCloud etc.
Lately we also entered this official reissue field but we are trying to do it slightly different or at least I think we try to do so. There is not really a general plan or a strict line that we follow. We basically try to put out different approaches of modern dance music and that’s why each release is bit different or has its own vibe. I mean the truth is that we have our day job thing and releasing records is mostly a hobby to us and at the end one more creative thing that we can discuss and enjoy at our meetings.
There’s naturally a discernible link to many of the artists on L.I.E.S. within the Echovolt discography. How were these relationships formed?
Yes I know what you mean. As I said it all began when I met William (Willie Burns) in NYC and the same night we went to a place where a friend of him was DJing. That friend turned out to be Ron Morelli, whose DJ set was sick. After we had the first release out with PG&S I asked William if he knew any other producers that had interesting tracks. So he said Ron had some tracks.
I still remember chatting with Ron on MySpace (!) back then to send me those tracks, which became the Comeback Dust EP. In the meantime Ron introduced me to Jason (Steve Summers) and we did the Steve Summers EP first, although lately I don’t think we have any common artist in our catalogue with L.I.E.S. So I guess this discernible link seems to belong to the past, and basically refers to the birth of both Echovolt and L.I.E.S. records.
The Ophelia EP from JT Stewart stands out for us as a label favourite, but is there an Echovolt release you are particularly fond of?
That is great to hear as it is also one of my favourite ones! I love almost all the Stinkworx stuff and actually we were trying to do a release with him for our first installment but at the end it took us almost three years to achieve it. For some reason though it did not sell enough – not to say that it’s the least popular Echovolt release. I can’t really say I have a favourite one. I can surely say that for some reason the Entro Senestre EP is always in my record bag but I also like to listen to the Bridge & Tunnel Kids EP on my iPod. Also that D’Marc Cantu remix on G-String’s “Ghoul” track is something I will never get bored of.
The next Echovolt release comes from Paradise Box, a relatively new name. How did you come to work with him? What else is on the horizon for Echovolt?
It is funny because I recently realized that the next releases are producers from Australia. We did that Harvey Sutherland EP and Paradise Box is also from Melbourne. I will be honest and say that I don’t really remember how I got in touch with him. I think I just listened to his “Slave2Knowledge” track on SoundCloud that just came out on that Rock The Box Vol.1 compilation. Actually I asked for that track and he said it was available but then I was really slow to get back to him. However, now we are releasing his debut EP called Reel Nitty Gritty, featuring a vocal and instrumental version of the title track and two more deep mellow jams on the B-side. Then we have another one called L Neils who is also from Australia. There’s definitely something going on there at the moment.
We are also doing another debut EP by Jan Woo from the USA, and this is actually one of the releases that we cannot wait for! Actually we do have like four or five releases already lined up but I won’t get into details right now. Last but not least, we are really proud to release the eight-track tape demo of Colonel Abrams’ “Release The Tension/ You Got Me Running” produced by Boyd Jarvis and the very first “Stomp” track by Boyd Jarvis again which was the very first demo version of Visual – “The Music Got Me”!
No Tracklisting was provided
The Rules Of The Game: Original Studio Recordings (1978-1996) by George Theodorakis is out now on Into The Light.