Panos Birbas will be performing on March 2nd at Death Disco! He recently released his 2nd solo album ‘Finchley Road’, on Violins Productions. His music is distinctive, emotional carrying many influences from legends like Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen & David Bowie. Panos was kind enough to provide answers to Last day Deaf’s questions, so let’s get to ‘know’ him…
Hi Panos! I will skip the classic introductory question about you, and ask you how did your passion with music, and especially with song-writing, emerge?
Music began to interest me when I was in a very young age. It’ didn’t take long to realize that it would be an important part of my life. I started playing the guitar and tried to write my own songs. Ι soon started playing with various bands trying to figure out where I was going. My involvement with all these bands made me understand that I had to follow the lonely way of the “solo” songwriter. Music is vital to me and at the same time it is therapeutic. I need, if we can say so, to express myself freely through my songs about everything that concerns me and about what I believe that must be told through this process.
Lets “travel” back to 2013, when your debut ‘Mournful‘ (FM Records) was released. Would you change anything to this album, or does it reflect exactly what you wanted to express?
‘Mournful‘ is a project that captures an earlier creative phase of mine. The songs recorded at that time, were written earlier than 2013. When I listen to it today, to be honest, I feel it is really far from where I am standing now. ‘Mournful‘ was a pretty inner and experimental LP which helped me discover some important elements of my identity as a musician. It also helped me to understand what actually means to record an album and how difficult and painful it can be in order to have the result you desire. I think that every album belongs to the era that it refers to and was recorded and that it reflects the thoughts and the feelings of it’s creator at this specific point of time. The different way that I would probably record nowadays the songs of that era is of no importance. What is important is to keep all those created with love, to learn and to move on.
In the end of 2017, you released the follow-up to ‘Mournful‘, ‘Finchley Road‘. Would you like to talk about this album. I think its much more “personal” in a way. In addition, who are your main collaborators on this recent ‘adventure’?
‘Finchley Road‘ is definitely an album that captures my creative phase today. It was recorded in a direct and honest way, which highlights the reason of it’s existence and also what stimulated me and led me to create this album. ‘Finchley Road‘ expresses strongly some issues that concern me a lot. Love, loss and some other matters of social interest are expressed in a very direct way and I’ m very happy because I believe that I managed to talk about these matters the way I wanted. I got all the help I needed from Fotis Papatheodorou who is one of my collaborators and also the producer of the album. Fotis with his great ideas during the recordings gave the right musical direction to the album and helped me finish this project in the best way. Some really great musicians recorded in this album and I’ m even happier because these top musicians perform with me live. I’ m referring to my friends Dimitris Klonis, John Marinis, Manos Anagnostopoulos, Diamantis Kalafatiadis and Jennie Kapadai and also to my friends and great musicians Dimitris Grigoriadis and Makis Kafetzidakis, with whom we no longer perform live but they also recorded in the album and contributed to its creation. My friend Apostolis Psihramis is responsible for the excellent vocals of the album.
Which 3 tracks of ‘Finchley Road‘ would you say are most representative of the album and in what way?
It’s difficult for me to choose 3 songs because I really love every song of the album for a different reason. For purely personal reasons I would choose ‘Tears Like Raindrops‘, ‘Seed Of Love‘ and ‘St James Hotel‘.
‘Room 7’, the 1st single from ‘Finchley Road‘, is an excellent duet with Jennie Capadai, accompanied by a great video. I could figure out Nick Cave & Leonard Cohen as the main inspirations, always filtered by our uniqueness. Agree?
‘Room 7‘ is the last dialogue between two people who are separated. It is actually the last act of a love scene. Take one last look at the place you loved and leave. A hug song and a farewell song. I couldn’t have a better companion in this dialogue than Jennie Kapadai. Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Mark Lanegan and others I love are always there when I write a song, but as you correctly noticed their influence is always filtered by our uniqueness.
Which were the main reasons for choosing Violins Productions for the release of your 2nd album?
Violins Productions, in my opinion, is a firm that made a very good start. At a time when no one believes in record companies – nor myself- we have to create from scratch teams which operate in a healthy way in order to help music travel farther, something that is difficult today. Spiros Ballios, the founder of Violins, is a very active man and he has the vision to create a quality Label. Besides ‘Finchley Road‘, Violins has already released some great LPs of the current period such as the excellent work of Christian Ronig with covers of Greek rebetika in English.
Always wanted to ask this question to solo artists using their real name, so this is the time. Why did you choose to create music & perform under your real name? Wouldn’t a moniker, or even a band name be more appropriate for international acknowledgement? In what way does your solo project differ form your primary band, Dustbowl?
I never wanted to change my name and I never thought that changing my name was something necessary. Abroad, for example in the U.K., Birbas sounds interesting even exotic! Most of my British friends call me Birbas and not Panos! Anyway this xenomania really irritates me and does not have so much fun. You don’t need to change your name. What you need to do is to write good songs and let your music talk about you. Good music is your business card and fortunately music talks directly to everyone. I like everyone to understand that you are a Greek who makes his music and this is important. If your music is good, it will find its way and it is important people to know who you are and where you come from. Xatzidakis, for example, never needed a moniker in order to persuade anyone abroad.
Regarding the two different projects I’m dealing with, my solo project and the project with Dustbowl, the answer to your question lies to the fact that I love songwriting very much. This is the beginning and the end for me in music. The style or the sound doesn’t matter for me. The music I write always leads me to a more noir aesthetics which differs from Dustobowl’s alt americana aesthetics. The rule is, however, that when there are good songs, there is always a good reason to make music. This creative process offers me the perfect balance, whether I write my personal songs or songs with Dustbowl. I feel very lucky because there is good material in both projects and many remarkable companions.
Why should we come over and see you at the 2nd March live performance at Death Disco? Any clues, what will happen that night, apart from (obviously) performing ‘Finchley Road‘?
On March 2 we will perform live ‘Finchley Road‘ LP. Apart from that we will try to play in a different way some older songs of mine and of course some covers of my favourite artists, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, David Bowie and others. Danai Kasimi and Strange C, two young and very talented musicians will perform the opening act.
Feel free to tell us which are your next plans?
I am already in the process of forming my next album. I choose the material, the songs of the album to follow. At the same time we are in the process of organizing some concerts abroad and in other cities of Greece besides Athens.
A tricky one for the end! If you had to ask a rhetoric question to your fans which one would it be?
Sometimes this world we’ re living in, our reality, seems pretty strange to me, even frightening. You know, this cruel face of people. I would ask them what Bob Dylan once asked:
‘’How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man…”
Photo credits: Tilemachos Papadopoulos