Methismena Xotika Interview
Presentation by Yiannis Kafouros
The name Methismena Xotika (Drunken Elves) is much more than a diy punk rock band in my mind. It’s a group f Brahami neighbourhood that has managed to stand the test of time, especially towards the barbarism of friendly ties opposed to the tying of band’s members on musical level, and yet the maintenance of the band depends primarily on them.
Having given numerous concerts throughout Greece, in social and libertarian areas, schools, squares, places and squats, maintaining a social identity of a self-organized music project while re-editing the new data and needs of non-commercial space, constantly active on the music side, communicative with the world, the Drunken Elves exist from the late 90’s until today, offering their own history in the independent music scene.
Inspired also by the subversive manifest of the Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich “Listen, Little man” – 1948, the paranoir stories of Tassos Theophilou, poems by Dimitris Varou, Wolf Bierman n, etc., having bravely made covers from folk and rebel songs, but also a song of the French-Argentinian, Keny Arkana, of the hip hop culture, “Rage of the People”, the ”KGB” Michael from Patras, the “Free Yourself” from Rhineland of Germany, as well as compositions by Manos Loizos, Nikolas Asimos, Thanos Mikroutsikos, Pavlos Sidiropoulos Christos Leonti, Yiannis Markopoulos, Alexis Papadimitriou.
The band consists of:
Thanos Mutis – Bass
Stelios Bouziotis – Trumpet
Panayiotis Panagopoulos – Drums
Yiannis Biliris – Vocals, Guitar, Lyrics, Music
2003 – “Parental Advisory” | Demo cd |
2007 – “Drunken Elves” | Disc cd |
2011 – “Festering” | Disc cd |
2013 – “Pillage” | Disc cd |
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Recently me and the members of the magazine met Yiannis Biliris, singer, guitarist and songwriter of the band, in a quiet café of Brahami where he gave the following interview for the magazine Palinodiae (Thanks to Yiannis Kritsovas and Yiorgos Kafouros for their help):
Interview of Drunken Elves to Yiannis Kafouros, May 28, 2014
Y.K. – If during armed liberation struggles, rebel song is being created, somewhere in the saturation of the political song of the new regime, punk is being created in Greece, what is your personal music project and what form is it based on?
D.E. – Just like the punk in the early 80’s already acts as a radical response of the youth of this time to the new-regime generation that had already begun to look like reformist, the same happens in the coming decades – and since capitalism and the show try-and largely fail – to assimilate everything, the ones that resist invent every time new codes to re-appropriate human communication.
From the revolutionary rock of hippies, the hip-hop of protest, to electronic music, this research of the next step is to establish the driving force. At present, that there is the prevailing notion that everything pretty much has been said, the synthesis of ideas and radical ideological trends seems that can process the cultural heritage and give birth to something new. This comes out from our songs and the eclectic musical character of the band.
Y.K. – You are a band which supports and is supported by self-organized production and distribution processes; from the management committees and the services collectivization in the revolution of Spain in modern material alienation of squats and the running of libertarian areas – urban and Internet, how important is this kind of help for kinematic and widely independent ventures?
D.E. – Obviously this help is very important, but what unfortunately is usually overlooked is the reverse process that is fair. As kinematic processes support an artistic project , so artistic projects support these processes, interactively and in parallel. In our case, we found space through such procedures to bring closer things like rehearsals in self-managed studio, recordings through personal and collective work, the production of the final result of a cd that has to do with the graphics through partnerships and an informal barter economy process; with the logic that someone or a group can help you do something and knows that in a future project or organization may apply to you, the band, the people in order for you to support them and so they do something similar. Without this being a prerequisite.
Going into today and the quest of the way of organization that could respond to the economic problems of everyday survival -since you mentioned the Spanish revolution that was working a lot on these things and aiming to a more realistic implementation of ideas in real life; the structures that seem to be able to answer this and have started timidly to burst, are collaborative structures that have started from a relatively tested and easy level of small cooperative ventures as collective kitchens, cafeterias, and of course the very promising effort of VIOME. In such a context, the artistic domain could be included, we believe, with a corresponding logic, not this of a professional musician with capitalism terms, but of a musician of a community that can be self-sufficient and subsist on its own forces both financially and spiritually.
Y.K. – The folk element, the verse and its roots stem from a deep form of freedom which always matched music with social identity – from rebetiko to Akis Panou; how does it affect your music and how are they supported socially?
D.E. – It exists in personal level to each of us, as we have grown into a popular environment, and in cultural level as you described – as a continuous flow of the way that the ones “from below” communicate and express their everyday lives, their passions, their thoughts. This conscious support is expressed in songs that have clearly popular features through a cover as you mentioned, but even in songs that are considered more modern and are derived from a popular culture. Since the structural character of popular music on the basis I described it, is real in a song, whether punk, or reggae, or whatever, it is still popular music.
Y.K. – Tsitsanis for example after his live shows in Kessariani was coming to a café in Brahami and giving back the night labor to his listeners by playing cards. Where and how popular music was treading in this inverse qualitative development from rebetiko in nylon tambourine?
D.E. – Always in the popular song there is this conflict between the virtual and the realistic. The artists, composers, always were facing the question of “how I want to express myself freely” in connection with “how to manage to exist within this…” for decades, not to say even before “…capitalist system.” They were always trying to combine their expression with livelihood, and within this matchmaking popular music was treading, sometimes managing to conflict and radicalize things, and sometimes by an assimilation procedure that yet evolved things once again.
As there is the gap between rebetes of Piraeus school and Tsitsanis, there is also very clearly the margin that entered slowly the salons, between the three-stringed and four-stringed bouzouki with the modern rebetes. This development reached the skiladiko that is not popular music as it doesn’t express the everyday life, but only specific aspects in a digested and completely spectacular way.
Y.K. – Satire has been recently developed, setting up its own scene with modern conditions, and having its own character in relation to the domestic art scene. In Palinodiae festival you recently participated, you played also two new songs which have a highly satirical nature. Tell me about it and what you think of the contemporary scene of stand up comedy.
D.E. – First of all, the stand up comedy exists in Greece for years but in a much more underground way. Abroad, it has a highly developed stage for years and in Greece it has recently found anew space through Internet and began to grow. It is definitely a fashion, and since now a lot of people has started getting interested in, it is ongoing, making its first steps addressed to a large-scale and not to the initiated ones who may were watching it once by someone in a bar. It is under development and potentially upgradeable.
Currently it seems to work in quantitative terms – at a level of “likes” and “views” on the internet – something that seems to affect also those who do it. Many try to gain reputation and translate it into something that can exploit professionally. Some, being well known in a very short period, have already burst into radio broadcasting etc; and all these without being able to reach a level of artistic and quality improvement. Without someone having to tell something important concerning the art, exploits the bruit and fashion to be able to cartwheel better on a personal level.
Besides that, it is something that seems to affect a lot of people and it’s also up to the audience to turn this stream in something more radical, not only politically but also in artistic level. The song “Be a Cop” has a quite satirical stand up comedy character, as it is based (like the second you mentioned) on texts of Theophilou, imprisoned for a famous / burglary- homicide. The “justice” has got him into this by having no data, just by the known trick of DNA. Tasos Theophilou had written some texts, exploiting the ability to communicate with the world via the internet, on his blog.
Some self-organized publicatons (Asymmetric threat) decided to issue these texts, so this book was in our hands. Beyond that we had an affiliation with the blog, in its printed form works very differently and was served as a form of inspiration for what we could do transmuting it into something musical and something that many people could watch with the concept of stand up comedy. So there was the combination of stand up comedy with music and two songs have been written. The one of them has kept the recitation uncut and some lyrics of mine have entered inline closing with a-like chorus that has its satirical incitement “Be a Cop” which is the title of the song. These two songs are going to be in a 45 disk, while you can have a small taste of them these days in our channel.
The most famous stand up comedy artist in Greece and probably the oldest one is apparently Jimmy Panousis – that’s why I said earlier that this is not a new thing. Our own debilitation comes due to our age and because of our political expression and radical discourse in which we choose to express ourselves from people like Panousis and Asimos, who had used this way of expression to criticize the modern everyday life, according to Aristophanes. Even through these we choose to tell through our songs to live shows, and they way we do it, there is this kind of satire anyway.
Y.K. – A decade ago, maybe more, you had covered two songs of the band hi5 in a united song, presenting it as a bonus to your 1st demo. So you had satire in your mind since then. In what context was this cover of the commercial hit of hi5?
D.E. – In this cover there was the idea of satire because it was quite funny and highly controversial the fact that the lyrics of a vocal girl band that was clearly made by the sight, could change completely meaning if assigned by a band that people has accustomed to perceive what it says in a political way. Expropriation of lyrics literally! (Laughter) We had the impression that it would be fun, so we had put an introductory then – that the girls enrich their songs with political sub messages etc.
Y.K. Covers are very common for the newly formed music bands. On the form of cover, the band is being tied musically but in the absence of its own material it can also make a living, a beginning of somewhere. You’re a band that recently completed 15 active years of creation – in your first live shows you were making covers of Sex Pistols, yet after such a long time you continued covering songs, with the album “Pillage” as crescendo that is a project completely of covers! What is the meaning of cover? Getting a synthetic piece and put aside the authoritative interpretation is a kind of rejection, disillusionment, reintegration tendency of some value?
D.E. – Yes, we as well, at the beginning of our course, we were making covers, as you said, so that we learn playing, because we were quite young- we started as a band in the age of 15. The more we were playing our own songs, the more the covers were decreasing without ever missing from our live shows.
It is important to bring back in present the things said in the past updating them and giving them another musical perspective that can revive them. The musical language attributing it with a more modern way can make an old song new. That’s what we had done in the rebel song “Heroes” in our first album and in “My empty pack” as well in the second one. The third release emerged (as we also refer in the 36 pages brochure accompanying the album) by some texts I had written in the “Antidote” magazine and does just such work.
There are many younger people coming to our shows, listening to our songs, thinking, looking, etc and are unfortunately in darkness concerning older artists who had offered too much, and that can still be up-to-the-minute, act as memory tools and avoid pitfalls of the past that reappear. This is the first point. On the other side, each period, depending on its characteristics, has created the field in which performers and composers act and express themselves. In another period, this would seem completely alien, and if you recreate it, you can remove the elements that make it look foreign and thus make it look familiar.
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In the example you cited off record before, with Dalaras in “The frozen chimney” … beyond the face of Dalaras – which has a meaning to dedalarastruct a song for all the obvious reasons that make so many people to hear Dalaras and feel disgust, many of these songs that are covered in “Pillage”, had an epic element of social protest that was fitting with their times, and that today seems a bit out of place.
The basic idea of the song can be timeless, but the way of expression was limited to the specific historical circumstances that were requiring this encouragement of the masses, the epic orchestration and the epic imperative leading way in which a song was interpreted. Today there is a debunking of the “end of history” and “the final victory.” The masses did not rise up listening to the “political leader” or the “leader artist.” A reflection has begun to exist on these things and the world turns to more collective, daily, “from below”, collaborative solutions.
In all these, an interpretation and a performance of songs were fitting in order to give them a line and bring them closer to the way in which each person would express them – and not the illuminated artist who is on stage with the loudspeakers blaring. We think that this has been done, or at least we have tried to do it through these songs.
Y.K. – One of us has an inspiration, a verse, a riff or something more complete, and brings it to the band. I’d like you to tell me whether there is a natural acceptance, and whether every member individually can defend it, so that when it is played, it consists a single project as to its essence, in relation to the interpretation and performance of the band.
D.E. – This is something we achieve over time, with the musical and human friction of band’s members and is directly linked to a building of trust in the one who brings the structural form of a song. An idea comes through a process of spontaneous inspiration and a combination of many things, and often of divergent stimuli. When this original concept is shown to others – members of the band – the proper treatment is to reinforce this idea and not to deform it. To achieve such a situation, the original idea has to be communicated and fully understood in all its dimensions, by those who want to shape it as equivalent partakers of.
Y.K. – The lyrics are powerful because they enlist the ultimate trend of the thing in its essence; or its destruction. How far is the phraseology from the very essence of the lyrics? In placebo effect, the revolution is proved to be a dream?
D.E. – What someone writes publicizing it, he communicates it with others around him – it functions imperatively as well- perhaps he cannot always implement them to the extent that he hopes their upcoming partakers will do. That’s the goal after all. Definitely whether you put into effect what you are talking about, lends it a significant weight.
Beyond that, there are people who may have lived in a quite conventional way, but they said things that have inspired other people making things go much further, that even they themselves would never have imagined. You cannot overlook this kind of offer. Nor anyone can know if these “theorists” who entered the process of disclosing certain things – this is what we call action – could also implement them. The goal is to transcend us in practice, even criticizing us!
Y.K. – “Maybe I don’t have the balls to do it”?
D.E. – Yes that’s also a fact, but you won’t put it in the interview because you are an artist… (Laughs and banters)
Y.K. – One of your recent live performances was in Brahami in Al. Panagouli square within the 1st Cultural Festival Palinodiae. What plans do you have as a band for the future and, personally, in what other musical projects are you involved now?
D.E. – Well, yes, one of our recent concert experiences we had was at the festival of the magazine Palinodiae, and as a continuation of this cooperation this interview takes place as well. It was a very promising organizing in the neighbourhood we grew up, which, as its goal is, we hope to be established and function as an influence transmitter of cultural events in our region and beyond. It was indeed a very successful concert and organization, too, at all levels, since there were entailed exhibitions, theatrical performances, puppet shows, graffiti etc.
As I said before, we aim anyway to make two new songs at a 45 disc. We think that it will be quite refreshing for the band and people who like us the fact that we will have songs of ours after a long time, since our previous project was with covers. These two songs have the following feature: they refer to our oldest ones. Sometimes it has to do with a bit of childishness. The one, we can say that looks like to the “Irony” and the other to the “Ciao Kafao” for those who know – Senile punk… (Laughter)
Obviously it will involve us in a pleasant process to go out on the road, depending on the capabilities we have as a self-organized project – financial, time etc. We believe that this is not only in our hands and mood. It’s also a conscious choice, at a time when there is a need by people who express themselves, communicate, and try for a continuity of creation, to remain active and create a hearthstone of resistance and expression.
Individually, we are occupied with various things, not only music works. There are also videos that we occasionally make to frame our songs audio visually, photographs, graphics, sound. We have a direct relationship with all these, so some of us are dealing with this section. Some are interested in cinema and short films. In musical level we don’t only play with the Drunken Elves, we are musically active and each one of us prepares various things either in similar musical paths with the Elves or completely different.
As Drunken Elves all these ways of expression that each one of us works at the same time with the band and these we think that make sense to communicate with the world and help by putting a stone to the cultural material of our time, we will spur them through the online tools we have and informing generally we and friends of the band.
Y.K. – Thank you for the interview!
D.E. – We thank the Palinodiae team. Hoping that all we discussed will be supported in the near future by groups like yours and that we’ll see new things springing up in neighbourhoods and downtown, with new beliefs free of the past and things that are standard and by suggesting new ways of communication and response to all the issues raised today both in art and in general.
Contact with Palinodiae Magazine: [email protected]