Artist: Martian Arts
Q: What’s your defining feature as a human being. Who are you?
I am an instance of the whole, currently experiencing itself through a minuscule amount of the human construct called time. I can’t really say who I am, but I can say who I am not. I am not the person I was 20 years ago or last year, or last week even. I am constantly changing, striving to evolve and disidentify with my own thoughts and feelings and only focus on the present, observing, without judging.
I do love music, its the one thing that has stayed with me for as long as I can remember but I don’t think I have a defining feature, other than the lust for learning.
Q: When & how was your first encounter with psychedelic goa trance music?
Summer of 1994. I was lucky enough to grow up in the northern suburbs of Athens, close to the forest of Varibopi where illegal parties took place. It was all Goa Trance back then, no full-on, or dark or prog or whatever, yet the tracks were extremely varied in style, but the people didn’t care to nitpick. It was either something they liked, or something they didn’t. There was no need for labelling it, it had a name anyway - Goa Trance.
Q: What you do for living? Is writing & performing music just an important hobby, or the way of life?
I manage/bartend a rock bar in the centre of Athens for the last 8 years or so. This is the only job I can do in order to be able to go to gigs on weekends, or go to Goa for a couple of months or go to festivals as there are other people that can work in my place. The managing part, I can (kind of) do anywhere with a wifi connection when I am away.
I was in IT when I lived in the UK until the end of 2007. But working every day using a computer meant that I didn’t want to spend the rest of the day, in front of a computer. So I quit that job, moved back to Athens with the purpose of doing something that will allow me to make more music. Then I started bartending which allowed more time to make music, especially in the morning when I woke up with a fresh mind (when I wasn’t hungover from the night before). That mostly did the trick.
Music for me is a way of life, of course it is also an income but I feel having a “normal” job, allows me to express myself freely in the studio. It's a good balance. When I am in the studio I don’t worry about having to make music that will bring me gigs to pay the bills, not saying that the people that play a lot of gigs, don’t make the music they love to make, but it does allow me to be selective of the gigs I’ll play and I just do whatever I feel like doing in the studio, even if it's not psytrance, which is the case a lot more often recently. It's quite liberating actually.
Also, music means travelling, something I could never do before cause I could never afford it. Making this music means playing in the Mojave desert in California and some massive club in Tokyo and some gorgeous forest in Hungary and then a tropical beach in Brazil, or in a jungle in India. This is one of the best things about Psytrance, the venues! I cannot stress how grateful I am to experience all this.
Q: Do you have any formal musical training, or are you self-taught? Any other art-forms that you practice and enjoy?
Self taught. From a young age I’ve played bass guitar in a couple of bands, also had a drum kit at home that I loved playing, played guitar, tenor saxophone, played the tablas for a couple of years and it's the only instrument I actually did some classes on when I lived in Cambridge, but I haven’t had any formal musical training. Just play stuff by ear on the keyboard. No other art forms, just music.
Q: How you incorporate your fascination with modular analog systems in your music? Do you take (part of?) it on the road when performing live?
My first encounter with modular was in Anglia Ruskin university where I did my BSc in Audio & Music Technology in 2000. When we were given a tour of the studios there was one studio that I knew, I was going to spend most of my free time in and in there was what people called, “the silver beast” that very few people were able to control (or spend time on as there was a Juno 60 and Supernova 2 right next to it). It was a Doepfer Basic System 2. So in my free time I would be in there, reading the Doepfer manual and understanding modular synthesis which was great cause once you understood that, you could use just about any subtractive synthesiser with a clear interface. That university also had an EMS VCS3…that thing was wild, hopelessly bad tracking but wild sound…anyway, its all quite nerdy really, but I like nerdy stuff.
Come 17 years later and I am lucky enough to have lots of modular. I do have fixed architecture synths as well and use them from time to time, but it's almost all modular nowadays. Not because its “better”, but because it's exciting for me to make music like this. Also there are no presets, everything I make, I make right there and then with an open mind. I don’t sit there and “plan” the track. I start patching and help the music go where it wants to, instead of me “forcing” it to go somewhere.
Also for me, it's extremely important to not use or even look at a computer, when writing music - it’s like meditation. Having said all that, I do believe that it’s the person that is making the music, not the amount or worth of the gear s/he uses. But yeah, modulars are like magnets to me.
On the road I do take a small 6U case (the one that fits in the airplane cabin and that’s not every airline, some organisers pay two tickets) to perform live, but it’s festivals where the budget covers a good airline and the stage is going to be spacious enough for me to bring the modular along. This case is also necessary when playing Strontium Dogs sets with Merv as we don’t use a computer to play out and a lot of it is just spontaneous improvisation.
Q: You’ve done a lot of collaborations over the years - how do you think they influence you as a persona and as a musician? Which collaborations you value the most? Who’d you like to collaborate with but didn’t have the chance yet? And when can we expect Strontium Dogs (you + Eat Static) debut album? Any chance of new Disco Hooligans stuff?
Collaborations are basically me hanging out with my mates. Most of them have been with Costas - Black Noise as we live close by and he’d just come hang out at mine, we’d make coffee (lots!) and have a few smokes and just play with synths, just record sounds in, arrange them and repeat the process. I have done online collaborations as well, but most of them are from when people visit (or I visit their country for a gig and hang out at their studio for a couple of days). Its great cause most of the people this happens with, are my mates, so we get to hang out, have a few laughs in the studio and just get psyched on recording new sounds. Being in the studio with other people always has an influence on me, the same way hanging out with my friends does. Be it in a hut in Ashvem with Goa Jonas with just a sound card with two headphone outs and just a computer, or Merv’s space station of a studio in the UK, its all brilliant and I am grateful to be able to do this in my life.
Strontium Dogs album will be released this year. I can’t really say what Merv is doing at the moment as I am sure it’s something he wants to announce, but we are releasing it this spring time and will be performing more this year as well. We’ve made lots of tunes, we just need to sit down and think which ones are suit for the album.
Highly unlikely of doing Disco Hooligans stuff, but Jordan is doing quite a few remixes of Disco Hooligans tunes and is releasing them with his Outer World Elements project which he is part of with our good friend, John Petsopoulos.
Q: What is your view on the advancements of technology - both in terms of music distribution (“death” of CDs, prevalence of digital distribution & streaming) as well as for music production (ease of producing, i.e. quality vs. quantity of releases)?
It is what it is. It was never easier for someone to download some software and just make a whole track in their computer. I have read many opinions on this and some people think it's what contributed the most, for the decline of “quality”. I have the opposite opinion, I think it's great that a kid that could never afford a studio, can now afford to make music by figuring out new smart ways to use software and you never know who is going to come with a brilliant fresh style and help change the scene as we know it today.
Yes, there are an awful lot of people just downloading presets and repeating what others did, but that is what they like to do and that is fair enough. I think the fact that people re-use, used to death, presets, will actually make it easier for someone to stand out from the crowd as well. Also I do feel that there is a growing number of people that are experimenting more with sound again…or maybe that’s just me hanging out with that crowd and not a realistic view of things… Time will tell.
CDs are dying (well they are dead, really) cause they cost money and require people to buy them. I do feel that people prefer physical, but I think again, it’s just me hanging out with that sort of crowd, that shapes my opinion, but I do prefer to hold something in my hands, with a nice artwork. Also, the minute something gets released, it’s “free” to download off some site. And nowadays even labels themselves, upload the whole track on youtube and I think most people, mostly listen to music on youtube (I do too to be honest) and that’s that really.
On the other hand I am getting some CDJs this weekend and planning on buying a set of 1200’s [Technics’ SL-1200 turntables] as well. I miss DJing in the old fashioned manner, I want to get back into it as I am also into techno and DJing techno is a whole different ball game. I also miss playing my old Goa Trance records.
Q: Over the last 15 years the scene split in several sub-genres: minimal/prog, full-on, neo goa, tech/forest, suomi (and much more); each of them with clearly defined do-s and don’t-s on how it should sound. Do you think it makes it easier to find one’s place - as an artist - on the scene, or more difficult?
Easier for me as I skip all of the sub-genres you just mentioned. I might miss on someone good by skipping all the triplet prog, or dark stuff, but yeah, I don’t have time to listen to new stuff. And besides, if it’s something special, I am sure I’ll hear the person playing it in some festival.
I do believe most people would classify my music as full-on and that is fair enough. Full-on for me is the fluffy morning sound of 2000 which was not my cup of tea, really (although there is some old Disco Hooligans stuff that is a proper cheese fest!). At that time I was really into the polar opposite of that sound. I was amazed by The Delta, Spirallianz, Midimiliz, that sort of borderline techno, but psychedelic and heavy bottom end, overdriven to the point of face-melting-distorted, sound. There were full-on parties everywhere at that time and there was barely any artists I liked, playing. So around that time I stopped going out to psy-trance parties. Not completely, but the full-on “invasion” meant there were only a few parties I’d go to.
Q: Which artists, outside of the broad goa/psychedelic trance genre, influence your musical creations?
...Jan Hammer, John Carpenter, Joseph Fraioli, Alessandro Cortini, Don Buchla, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Arovane, Autechre, Boards of Canada
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Away from the capital. I am ready for a quiet house in the countryside with a studio, with an airport relatively close by and a lot less expensive life style. I want to learn agriculture. I want to live as much, off the grid, as possible. Ideally I’d live in a house with solar panels, a well on a small piece of land that receives the love it needs and it provides food, nice smells and beautiful plants, extra bonus for ones I can smoke.