What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation?
Vassilis: Terrapin was formed five years ago; I had some songs which didn’t quite fit in with what No Man’s Land, my “other” band, was doing at the time, so I asked long-time friends and frequent musical collaborators George Tzivas (drums) and George Papageorgiadis (bass) if they would be interested in starting a new, acoustic guitar-oriented unit. They both consented; the new band was christened Terrapin and rehearsals started, as well as numerous gigs all around Athens. In due time we entered the studio and started work on our first album, “Sanctuary”. Soon after its release George P., the bass player, left and was replaced by Kostas Sidirokastritis. In the meantime, we had begun pursuing a more electric sound; new material was being written and tried out live as the gigs continued. At this point in time we are in the pre-production stage of our second album.
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
Vassilis: “Sanctuary”, which was released two years ago, took us almost three years to record and produce. We invited a few good friends who are also brilliant instrumentalists to grace our songs with cello, harmonica, mandolin, keyboards and sitar. The acoustic (and, to a lesser extent, electric) guitars provide the focal point for the songs, while the rhythm section and the different timbres of the “guesting” instruments lead them into varying, sometimes unexpected, directions. The results are very close to what we had envisioned when we started out, so I would say that all in all it is a satisfactory piece of work. Now for something a bit different.
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
Vassilis: Some of what I consider musical influences would be Syd Barrett and early Pink Floyd, Neil Young, King Crimson, Thin White Rope, Van Morrison, Miles Davis… non-musical ones include writers such as Ray Bradbury, Brian Aldiss, Robert Silverberg, Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard and the films of Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch and Akira Kurasawa. Also, the madness and wonder of everyday life.
George: I’ve always gathered inspiration from all over the place. Music- wise from Cream, Van Morrison, Buddy Rich, Thelonious Monk and many others. Non-musical influences include Henri Cartier-Bresson, Vincent Van Gogh, Hermann Hesse, Fernando Pessoa, Lawrence Durrell…
Kostas: A huge amount of influence comes from loved ones, the environment, emotions, beautiful and truthful things, books, paintings, movies of any kind. Music-wise, I really like singer-songwriters, but also improvised music. Artists are too many and too different to pick specific ones.
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
Vassilis: I don’t really know what genre we belong to. We call our songs “spaced-out folk songs”, even though they aren’t really folk – as for spaced-out, they can certainly get that way when we play them live, and they usually do… I would say that folk, or folk rock, serves as a starting point, there is also an element of psychedelia, obviously, some prog, together with other different things that pop up here and there… we always try to keep an “openness” about what we play, as we play it, to let the music breathe, as it were, and also to keep ourselves open to whatever each moment may bring…
George: Improvised, emotionally psychedelic -non genre- folk rock.
Kostas: The songs written by Vassilis are already very unique and special. The discerning listener will surely notice that. Also, there are no constraints whatsoever on the personal musical expression of each member. I personally feel very free to express myself while “recreating” the songs.
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
Vassilis: Well, three aren’t nearly enough, but anyway… Albums: Laughing Stock by Talk Talk, Pink Moon by Nick Drake and Live Rust by Neil Young. Movies: 2001 A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick, Blade Runner by Ridley Scott and Mulholland Drive by David Lynch. Books: Tales of the Dying Earth by Jack Vance, Complete Poems of C. P. Cavafy and The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil.
George: Books: The Alexandria Quartet – L. Durrell, Steppenwolf – H. Hesse and The Book of Disquiet – F. Pessoa, Albums: Astral Weeks – Van Morrison, Purple Rain – Prince and Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane – Thelonious Monk.
Kostas: Albums: James Taylor – October Road, Marvin Gaye – What’s going on, The Weepies – Hideaway
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
Vassilis: Both are important and each is very different from the other. I probably prefer performing live a little bit more, since it gives you the opportunity to go to different directions with a song. I’ve always been in favour of not playing the same things the same way over and over again –not exactly improvisation, but more like finding out where the moment takes you during a performance.
George: Live performances are my favourite, because during gigs I feel like we are taking a colourful flying trip
Kostas: I really like playing live and interacting differently each time we play. However, recording can be a great creative and warm procedure that I’m looking forward to experiencing with the band, since I didn’t take part in the first recording session.
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
Vassilis: One day I saw this young man busking outside a subway station. Both I and my wife, who had also come across him on another occasion, commented on his excellent style and musicianship. When our first bass player left, we started looking for a replacement and after a couple of unfruitful try-outs, George announced that he had at last found the perfect guy: it was none other than Kostas Sidirokastritis, his teacher’s son, who also happened to be the busker I had admired a few months before.
George: Lots of times while travelling to gigs we find ourselves crammed in my small Renault: 3 people, 2 guitars, a bass, 3 amplifiers, a full set of drums including stands, drum thrones, a big bag with pedals, microphones, cables, a bag with cds, a bag with Lps and a lamp (our mascot). Next time we will apply for a Guinness World Record…
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
Vassilis: “Dancing Mice” from our first album, because for some reason the other two in the band can’t stop going on about it. They’re even talking about re-interpreting it in different styles. So far I’ve managed to prevent this from happening, but…
George: “Dancing Mice” of course!
Kostas: It would be an insult to the band’s tradition to say anything else except ‘’Dancing Mice’’!
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
Vassilis: Very soon we’ll be heading into the studio to start work on our second album. It will most probably consist of eight songs, thoroughly field tested, since we have been playing them live for some time. Hopefully it will be ready by the end of the summer. We also have a few more gigs lined up: on 7th April we are playing at Kik Project, on 5th May at Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, on 17th May at Underflow Record Store and Art Gallery and on 29th June at The Zoo. For next autumn we are planning something special: a unique live tribute to a certain album that was released 50 years ago and is generally regarded as one of the most influential albums of all time – more details on this soon.
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity.
Is it true that you call your rehearsal space “Studio 54” and why?
That’s right. It just happens to be the street number of the building, so it was kind of inevitable to call it that. Also, we like disco music.
Photo credits: Vagelis Zavos (1st one)
Curated by: Christos Doukakis
Connect with Terrapin: