Interviewer: Menelaos Megariotis
In the last two years, I have listened to the whole "Book Of Illusions" trilogy and found it a very interesting work. This is the very simple reason why I decided to work out an interview with the man behind the ~VLE~ to talk about everything: beginning from his opinion on his own work, but mostly about his opinions and views on music and art in general - what follows hereunder is a brief talk which definitely has a lot to offer. The opinions of a musician who decided to create something different...
1. Hello and congratulations for your new, very good work. Shall we start by comparing this work to your previous ones...? What's different, what's still the same...
Hello to you too and thank you very much. Book of Illusions: Chapter III CD has more vocals, drums, guitar and I also I spent quite a bit of time trying to improve the production quality of the mixes from cassette tape with some musical editing software. But I believe Chapter III still has the same atmospherically rich quality as Chapter I and II.
2. Do you believe it's better? And if so, in what way?
No... it's just another path.
3. Gaining more experience, album after album, how does this show in the result? Does it affect the songwriting and the recording process a lot?
Well, now that I know others might hear the music it will probably cause me to pay more attention to capturing the sounds better, which should help improve the production quality.... one can only hope ;). I will always create the same way in that I create when the mood hits me and I don't consider anything other than getting out some stifling emotions and expressing them through sound. But all the music on Book of Illusions is old material that I had stored on cassette over the years. So in truth, I have yet to release any new material.
4. By the way, here's something I really wanted to ask you: You mention in your press release that all material is created by means of improvisation. Have you studied musical theory etc to achieve a good improvising level, and how important do you believe such studies to be?
I believe I was forced to take some basic music theory classes for degree requirements, but whatever I was taught my brain refused to store because I have never been able to fully apply any of it to aid in writing music. So I would have to say no, I don't have any musical theory training. I just picked up the guitar and played by ear... that's the only way I know how to do it. I cannot read music or even tell you the notes on the guitar. When improvising, I just do whatever I feel like doing. If it sounds good to me, then that's what you will hear. It's all about being natural. I don't have perfect pitch, but I think I have some instincts that work well for me so I'm extremely flattered that other people can find something good from my ignorance.
5. I have a strange feeling about improvising... I, myself, always like to improvise parts of a song, but I usually feel like working more on the harmony and arrangements afterwards. Don't you ever think that you could add more "depth" to your sound, in this way? Or do you believe that theory destroys the feeling in music?
I don't have any set pattern or way of writing. I don't sit down and decide what or how I am going to create a song. Even though I don't know what I am doing theoretically, I am creating harmonies and arrangements do formulate. You don't need to know theory to create "depth" within music. For me "Depth" is a somewhat subjective term and I don't think theory can destroy perceptions humans extract from a musical work. For some, one note can have more depth than a Beethoven Symphony. The only thing that I wish I could improve in my music is the execution of the notes and the recording quality, but I think these things actually add to the overall atmosphere, so...
6. Do you like classical composers, and if so, who? Can someone with a rather minimalistic approach (I suppose you agree that this is the natural outcome of improvisation...) towards music love the somewhat mathematical words, such as Bach's compositions?
Yes, I like some classical composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Vivaldi, Grieg, Barber, Paganini, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Berlioz, Monteverdi, Wagner, Rachmaninov, Philip Glass, etc… I grew up listening to mostly classical and religious music but I can still say that I have a very open mind towards what I listen to. I can appreciate anything that moves me… for me genre, style, technical level in music doesn't matter.
7. So, concluding this, what's your opinion on music (or art in general)? Do you believe in easily accessible art which everyone can understand, or do you find it more natural having to "train" the audience to be able to see the meaning of your work? I mean, the difference between renaissance and baroque, or the same difference between power and progressive metal...
Hmm, I think ultimately if you express yourself in a very natural and honest way, the people will understand. I can only express things as I see them. It's not my intention to "train" the audience to get my meaning. It's more about how the individual chooses to relate to the work… they will ultimately decide what they want to see. Of course there are notes and progressions in music that have proven to elicit certain feelings/emotions in people, but I feel the notion of "art" is so subjective that all the questioning of clear-cut intent and meaning in music seems almost pointless to me.
8. How much do you believe that time can change a person's approach towards art? To use an example, the Beatles took crowds of people who listened to easy stuff by singing "Love Me Do" or "She Loves You" and in the end took them to the more sophisticated "White Album" and "Abbey Road", works that they wouldn't initially have liked, if they were not taken there gradually.
Well, I'm not certain that they wouldn't have liked it. It's more about what people are exposed to. And I don't think the Beatles consciously wrote one kind of music and decided to write a more sophisticated work later on. They were a creative bunch to begin with… they progressed as their own exposure to the world influenced their lives and ultimately filtered through to their music. They took influences from around them and put their little spin on it… you can see that clearly in their albums. They didn't stifle their creative energies by following a specific formula either. Now it appears to be a challenge for musicians to feel free to do this… or maybe they don't want to, I don't know. When you have a record label breathing down your neck trying to tell you how you should write music, it's kinda hard to see how things can ever progress. I really believe that the 60's and 70's provided a more creative environment for musicians, and that's why I love the music from that time period. Now marks a time for closed mindedness, fear and stagnation within the music industry. I don't think so much that time changes people's approach towards art… I get the sense that it is the money hungry music industry executives who have more power over this phenomenon than the creative musician and listener.
9. Anyway, let's go back to your new album for a while. First off, do you find signs of evolution comparing it to your older albums?
Chapter III merely shows another path.
10. You've included "Kano" as the first track, again. Why did you choose to do this, since it had already appeared in another chapter of your "book"?
Kano is the torch... the candle to light the way through the darkness. It is the way towards opening up the mind, body and soul to knowledge by the joining of opposite elements for the creation of new ideas. So, Kano marks the beginning and the end.
11. Musically, which genre would you place your work in?
12. Which artists have influenced you in achieving this result, and what other bands do you respect in this music style?
Well, I believe my early exposure to classical and religious music really influenced the way I create music. I also appreciate other genres of music so this too is naturally reflected in the sounds you hear in my music. Some of the artists that I have found inspiring are: Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Boston, J. S. Bach, Kitaro, Emperor, Jeff Buckley, Arcturus, Randy Rhoads, Beethoven, Primordial, Journey, Paco De Lucia, Philip Glass, My Dying Bride(old), Kila, Last Crack, Anathema(old), Vivaldi, Jimi Hendrix, Bethlehem, At the Gates, Dream Theatre, Abigor, Los Incas, Zeppelin, Borknagar, Sabath, Zach Wylde, Cynic, Iron Maiden, Ulver, Radiohead, Michael Shencker, In the Woods, the Doors etc...
13. "Improvisation": what feelings would get you running to your guitar to play music? Is it more like a need to compose, or is it like "ok, let's try to write something today"?
I can sit down and write even if I don't feel like it... like when I get together with my other band. Sometimes, I don't really want to do anything, but I gradually get in the mood as the music takes over and fuels me. But with VLE, there is always a feeling that compels me to release some energy through this process of creating music… that's how Book of Illusions came to be. VLE is just the result of me expressing some stifling emotions I felt throughout my life.
14. How do you record your songs? What equipment do you use?
The music is created without a set pattern or prior thought of how the outcome of a piece should be. For instance, I sit down before the keyboard and place my hands on the keys and record the sounds as they happen. When I finish recording this initial release, I then add other sounds, phrases, and outside instrumentation to the initial progression until I feel that the piece is finished. This is determined by how I feel when I listen back to all the sounds together. I don't use any programming techniques (ie. Loops), mainly because I don't know how to do it. All the music is created in real-time... even the drum sounds (except in the case of Kano). A piece may start with keyboard/synth, guitar or a simple vocal melody. Some songs were done within a few hours, some a few days or months and in a few cases years. Each time I create, it is because I have to express myself... I have to do something in order to regain some sense of calm. It is one of the few outlets available to me. It's just me recording sounds and working with those sounds until I feel I have nothing left to express. Some songs have started with just guitar and I don't re-do the tracks, so there is a lot of timing errors and notes that are played incorrectly as well. There is no technical aspect to it at all… it is only that I have a way that I do things and I don't try to really understand or analyze it. I regard every musical experience as some sort of emotional exchange, so I suppose this ultimately affects how my music is created. Basically this music was meant for me as a way to release dark feelings within myself, which were becoming quite stifling. I didn't plan on anyone else hearing the music so I never paid attention to the details of proper recording techniques and such. The instruments I used were a shitty 4-track, which I suppose most wouldn't consider an instrument, but mine definitely added a nice bit of noise to some songs, so for this reason alone it warrants inclusion… Westone and PRS electric guitars, Ovation and Yamaha acoustics, Fender bass, E-mu and Korg syths, Tama drums(only on Kano) and my voice. For capturing and mixing the sounds I used a Tascam 4-track, Sony double cassette boom box, Computer, Sony DAT, Mackie mixer, Alesis effects unit and some other stuff I forget. Most of this equipment I borrowed or had access to for a short period of time.
15. Comparing this way of recording to a professional studio, what advantages and what disadvantages do you find for each recording way?
Of course in a professional studio you have a lot of advantages in that you don't have to worry about the technical aspects of a production and you record with much better equipment than a home studio… this is what I do when I record with my band. But with VLE, I prefer to just sit comfortably in my little room alone and record whatever I want whenever I want. The result will not sound like a professional studio recording, but it will have all the peculiar qualities of my nature. 16. I suppose you're not at all interested in performing your songs live... Don't you like gigs in general?
I like playing live with my other band, but I don't think I would ever perform the VLE music live.
17. So, what are your plans now? Are we to expect more chapters of your book? ...And how many of them are there to come out, anyway?
The Book of Illusions Trilogy is done. Unfortunately I don't really have any plans... only hopes and dreams. I hope to release some more music while I continue to dream of my death. So, you should expect the unexpected...
18. Ok, I think that was about it! Have I forgotten anything, or is there anything more you'd like to add?
I'd like to invite all your readers to visit my domain... listen to the sounds then let me know how you feel... Play it Loud. Hail and Kill!
19. So, thank you very much for your time and best wishes for the future!
Thanks for showing interest in my music. I really appreciate all your support through the years.