Yiorgis Sakellariou – a Greek sound artist based in Klaipeda, Lithuania perfom under the project-/ recordings name Mecha/Orga. Since 2003, he has been active internationally being responsible for solo albums, having composed music for short films and theatrical performances, leading workshops and ceaselessly performing his music around the globe. We’re pleased and proud, that Yiorgis Sakellariou is the first artist we interview for our new serie “13 questions to…“!
kulturterrorismus: Hello from Germany! We hope all fine with you? Where are you?
Yiorgis Sakellariou: All’s fine, thank you! I’m in Klaipeda in Lithuania now. I’ve been living here since last autumn but I’m not certain if I’ll stay here after the summer.
kulturterrorismus: Please, tell us your story! When did you start composing music?
Yiorgis Sakellariou: The oldest “composition” I remember was a song which I wrote back in 1991, when I was 15 years old. It was very simple; I played the guitar and also sung it myself. My excitement prevented me from realizing that I was a terrible singer.
kulturterrorismus: What or who were your early passions and influences?
Yiorgis Sakellariou: At that time I was mostly listening to the Beatles. They are the reason I wanted to become a musician. Regarding experimental sounds, the story goes way back. In fact I have no recollection from that, only the story my mother told me. I was three years old, she was placing me near the washing machine and fascinated by its sound, I was imitating it with my voice. I suppose those were my first “unofficial” concerts and apparently some things remain the same since then. I’m still captivated by the sounds of our environment and I want to make music by using them.
kulturterrorismus: What are currently your main production-challenges? Give us an example! Do you work mostly alone or with other musicians?
Yiorgis Sakellariou: I work alone basically. I’m a bit of a “control-freak” and I have very specific things in my mind which I can’t bargain. However, there are some very fortunate exceptions. Recently I collaborated, in two different duets, with Roel Meelkop and Jos Smolders. We did both studio and live work and the procedure and result was really outstanding for me.
kulturterrorismus: What do you usually start with when working on a new piece?
Yiorgis Sakellariou: Most of the times, the primary motivation is a series of new recordings that I’ve made at a certain place. From the selected sounds I choose one that’s appealing and try to see in what sonic atmosphere it will lead me. As soon as the mood is established I start adding additional sounds. Afterwards I find it quite natural to develop the manipulations of sounds and put them in a structure so that I end up with a new piece of composed music.
kulturterrorismus: Do you strictly separate improvising and composing?
Yiorgis Sakellariou: I think that the methods and techniques each musician uses are more or less similar in both but the big difference is in how time is controlled and treated. In improvisation there is no such thing as the “stop””or “rewind” button, time flows uninterrupted. On the contrary, when composing time is shaped, can skip forwards and backwards and gets distorted as it loses its continuity. Mistakes can be corrected and interesting parts can be repositioned in order to increase their impact and importance in the structure. There’s also the issue of how to present a composition in a concert, which factors should, or should not, have an amount of unpredictability. Personally I have the structure in my mind and I pre-select the sounds I will use. The decisions I make in real-time concern duration, volume and also filtering and resonation of sounds, all factors that closely depend on each different venue that I perform in as well as the sound system provided. That way the “backbone” of the composed piece remains intact but each performance varies as it sounds different every single time. It’s similar to improvisation concerts that can never be repeated exactly the same.
kulturterrorismus: What is better free jazz or classical style?
Yiorgis Sakellariou: It’s not a matter of “better or worse”. Let’s not put music in an antagonism mode. I’d rather say they are just different… Very different in fact, but each offers excitement in its own way. I can enjoy a symphony by Beethoven as well as an album by John Zorn and Fred Frith.
kulturterrorismus: Is any relationship between sound and live or working day? Please tell us your opinion! Do you feel it important that your music spread a message?
Yiorgis Sakellariou: I don’t intend to make music that symbolizes something specific, or use music as a medium to express something that’s outside or beyond the sounds. On the other hand, music is a strong message by itself. This probably seems quite self-portrayal but the non-message of music per se incudes all messages and thus creates a whole new, previously unknown, world.
kulturterrorismus: How conceptional is your music or only for hearing without thinking?
Yiorgis Sakellariou: I feel a bit uncomfortable with the term “conceptual” because I believe that every creation has a concept by default and hearing without thinking is also one -and actually it’s a really strong concept, despite its simplicity. Although “without thinking” usually means to listen with an empty mind, forget and let go of yourself, it can’t really happen. Even if we remove rationalism from the equation of the listening process, sounds are woven with personal memories and each listener has a subjective way of perceiving music. In the end, when music reaches the unconscious it reaches the deepest part of our being and it becomes a very personal experience therefore ourselves and our thoughts are getting extremely stimulated.
kulturterrorismus: What await your listeners?
Yiorgis Sakellariou: Whatever they chose to discover. It’s not about what music does to you but what you do with music. Let’s say that my role is to reveal a world, through sounds, which the listener can discover and explore. This requires an active approach on behalf of the audience. I’m not playing some kind of ambient music that accompanies another action (or a non-action); the listener will make something out of it in a condition of alert, curiosity and creativity.
kulturterrorismus: The role of an artist is always subject to change. What’s your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
Yiorgis Sakellariou: I think the problem is that the role of the artist is not clear nowadays. If we focus on the Western culture we’ll see that the way it deals with art is vague. On one hand the survival of the arts seems necessary as a reminder that life in not only about frustrating deadlines, office working hours, stock market numbers and so on, but it should also include the excitement, the mystery, the beauty and ecstasy of art. Nonetheless, there seems to be no exact way to keep artists active and make it possible for them to survive by depending entirely on their artistic skills. Each artist must find his or her own way, not only for how to make ends meet but also for how to establish communication with audiences and how to make an impact on public memory. This happens because the relation of art and society as we knew it doesn’t exist anymore. It changes so fast and so dramatically that we can’t even begin to adjust. I find myself lost in an ocean of data and distorted ethics and day by day I struggle to figure out how to fulfill my ambition: to keep doing what I do. This may sound modest but actually it is not at all.
kulturterrorismus: There seem to be two fundamental tendencies in music today: On the one hand, a move towards complete virtualisation, where tracks and albums are merely released as digital files. And, on the other, an even closer union between music, artwork, packaging and physical presentation. Where do you stand between these poles?
Yiorgis Sakellariou: Through my label Echomusic, I’ve been releasing CD-Rs since 2004 but recently I started online publications only so I really had to think a lot about this issue. One basic reason why I shifted to “www” was that every argument against it just wasn’t strong enough. I’m not scared of the dematerialization of music, on the contrary. Let’s not forget that sound is an abstract phenomenon and it’s been since only relatively recent that music is so strongly connected, as a product, with hand held formats. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate and enjoy good, luxurious, releases on CDss, LP or cassettes. Sometimes though, I have the feeling that the format and the artwork become more important than music itself and the purpose shifts from listening to good music into owning a fancy collector’s item. Some people tend to consider music released on CD or LP to be superior to one that’s released online. This is quite deceiving; I feel it’s best to judge music as what it is, regardless of the format.
kulturterrorismus: Music-sharing sites and -blogs as well as a flood of releases in general are presenting both listeners and artists with challenging questions. What’s your view on the value of music today?
Yiorgis Sakellariou: This is a very difficult question to reply to. Same as the artist’s place in society, music’s value is something that seems to be re-evaluated every hour. I honestly can’t be certain about how we put music in our lives, as a society. Everything becomes very private and each person has her or his own way to obtain, share and enjoy music. Maybe the idea of live music, of concerts will regain a lot of importance as it is the place where music unavoidably meets society. From there we can start having again a more common feeling about music. That’s just a risky prediction (or hope?) though.
kulturterrorismus: Do you see Facebook as blessing or shit? Is it right, that musicans can not work without Facebook, if they want near by their fans, make cooperation with other artists and so on?
Yiorgis Sakellariou: I see it as neither a blessing nor shit. I believe it’s totally wrong to connect music so much with specific tools. Remember myspace, the… “future of music”? Quite a wrongful claim as it was proved. I’m not suggesting that internet doesn’t play a huge part in how we perceive music today but we must understand that the main idea is to network and share, to publish our work and discover other people’s music. Especially in experimental music, such an approach and network existed, and functioned excellently, before fast internet connections. Internet perhaps simplified and accelerated some procedures but certainly did not create or inspired the DIY mentality. I’m using the term DIY in a broader sense, more literally, although there’s still a hidden reference in the punk/post punk movement. Internet, and the platforms it provides, is a tool, like the post office was a tool used for spreading the tape network back in the 80s. The need to create and share music is still a fundamental human need. It existed before facebook and it will still exist after it’s gone.
kulturterrorismus: Is money the only thing to be recognized artist? Or could non-mainstream music same successfull as mainstream?
Yiorgis Sakellariou: You can’t buy happiness with money but it’s definitely positive when you have it. Money is very necessary, not because it has value but because it helps to take care of every day needs and focus on more abstract thoughts and ideas. Obviously you can’t measure success with money and generally it can’t be defined with any measurable standards or statistics. That includes the number of “friends”, “followers” and even the number of tickets sold in a concert or of the copies that are bought by fans. One of the first things I understood when I discovered the world of experimental music is that you don’t need a big crowd to make a concert a truly amazing experience. While I don’t like labeling music as “underground” and “mainstream”, it is a fact that there are types of music that demand a big crowd (and the money it will bring) to make a “success”.
kulturterrorismus: The last words are yours!
Yiorgis Sakellariou: Thank you Raphael for giving me the opportunity to write and share my opinion about so many important to me subjects. And thank you all very much for reading this!
kulturterrorismus: We say a big THANK YOU to Yiorgis Sakellariou for answering our questions! Yes, our first artist split the questions and so you must read more!