‘Scene Missing’ the excellent latest album by the always evolving Sundayman was released late 2016 by Inner Ear Records. Apart form the music, already two eye-melting videos have been released (‘Alive’, ‘Dandelion’) and the we have to mention that the cover, and in general artwork, of the album won the EVGE prize award. Justifiably, one of the most important ‘ambassadors’ of Greek electronica speaks to Last Day Deaf. So, there you go!
Flashback to the past! How was the Sundayman project born? Were you ever involved in any other project/band apart from Sundayman?
Back in 1999 my friend Thanos Papadimitriou founded M-Beat Records out in L.A. It was a small, independent label but the interesting thing at the time was that he wanted to bring together Greek musicians of the-then-underground electronica scene with the purpose of releasing a compilation of anecdotal tracks. I ended up curating and producing it, with all tracks written under this scope. The compilation had quite a good response abroad and it ended up getting a small but very meaningful review on Billboard. On this particular compilation I made my first appearance as producer/composer under the Sundayman alias. Through M-Beat I, then, managed to get a deal with Water Music, which was a sub label of Universal America. However, the unfortunate coincidence of 9/11 partly canceled the deal for the release of my first album and so some of my tracks subsequently appeared in different compilations of the same label.
Your excellent third solo album ‘Scene Missing’ via the ever reliable Inner Ear Records is a fine mixture of electronic, synth-pop and retro sound. Would you like to talk about the “ignition” of this masterpiece?
‘Scene Missing’ is a recording of ideas for the soundtrack of a film that was never made. In fact, nothing was ever scripted or planned. It sort of came out almost instinctively as an imaginary dialogue between my friend/collaborator, George Manoloudis and myself. It was like a psychedelic fantasy, free of any time or script constraints that allowed us to write freely, however, always under the assumption that we were making the soundtrack to a film.
Why did you choose ‘Alive’ for the first video from your latest offering? In addition, would you like to talk about the work of Aggeliki Hatzi responsible for direction, photography, camera, art direction & editing of ‘Alive’?
‘Alive’ felt like a good starting point for ‘Scene Missing’. Sonically, it is quite a departure from the “expected” Sundayman sound, and it has a certain kind of groove that helps bring up scenes and images in mind. Aggeliki, apart from the fact that she has a proven track record as a director of clips, has the ability of being a good storyteller. She has a beautiful mind, she is intuitive and she is not conventional which is always interesting. The story of ‘Alive’ is suspended between reality and fantasy between a woman and her alter ego, and I think Aggeliki did a great job on all levels. Also, the fact that the video was picked by Impose Magazine NY as one of the best clips of 2016 (at number 6), is a good enough reward for a job very well done.
‘Sun King’ is a fine example of excellent musicianship. Divine vocals, perfect production and melodies that even the old good Pet Shop Boys should be jealous of. The 2nd video? What ‘s the story of this one?
Thanks for your kind remarks on ‘Sun King’. This track was initially recorded using a Yamaha cs70m only, just because I was in the mood of making a demo with my favourite instrument. After that, and with the help of George, we started working on the melodies and the vocal parts and then the lyrics were finalized. I would say that when I hear the track, the sound is closer to that of Underworld than the Pet Shop Boys. Following ‘Alive’, the next video is for ‘Dandelion’, a favourite track and probably the brightest moment of the album musicwise. I’d say that the story is more of a kind reminder of what it is to be human versus a busy/online creature, executed in a gentle and lyrical way.
You are lucky enough to cooperate once again with George Manoloudis (lyrics, vocals, additional composing and artwork) for ‘Scene Missing’. Would you consider George an inseparable part of Sundayman project? How did this cooperation emerge?
George is a highly creative and versatile person with a lot of creative energy. Somewhere in 2003, he came around the studio with some of his musical ideas (melodies and words) that he had recorded on a dictaphone. Soon after we formed a duo by the name of Bats Rats & Barbecues. In 2008 we finished an album (‘Bloodhoney’) that unfortunately was never released. Some of the tracks are still on YouTube. We work together for long hours at the studio, experimenting on melodies. If I have a fully developed idea on a track, then George will write lyrics over a demo I prepare myself with a vocal guide of me singing gibberish. Other times we follow melodic lines that George comes up with which match the music perfectly. This happened mostly on ‘Scene Missing’ like in the case of ‘Dandelion’ or ‘Alive’ among others.
Listening to ‘Scene Missing’ and to all your albums in general, there is a strong soundtrack feeling. While creating a tune, do you have something in mind or better think of a picture, a scene or even a movie?
When I write music I always have pictures in my mind. Mostly, these images come from how I feel at that specific moment. For instance, a walk will make me happy and that may translate into sounds and melodies in my mind. In no time, I may transfer the moment on the keyboard and put down a first, rough idea. If I still like the idea after a while, I will then work on it and try and turn it into a proper song (beginning, middle part, end). I think that this kind of procedure is not far from scoring a film soundtrack. Only difference is that what you feel is guided through a script and a director.
You have also been involved in doing jingles. Cannot overcome the immaculate one for an alcoholic drink! Being aware of the decline & fall of mass media due to the ongoing economic crisis how difficult is to gain money from your music or creation in general?
When you write music for ads you are following the needs of a script and the guidelines of a brief given to you by the ad agency. There will be times when I will have to write things that are not necessarily of my taste, but this is also a big challenge. It’s the part where you overcome yourself and that is exactly the charm of it. The production part of music for commercials is very much like producing music for an album. It’s highly demanding, but with very tight deadlines. This ongoing battle against time is the most valuable lesson in my personal progress on many aspects of my life. My occupation has given me the chance to make a living in a decent way, especially during these financially trying times.
Which are your 5 most favorite electronic artists? Not necessarily influential ones…
Vangelis, Kraftwerk, Jean-Michel Jarre, Underworld, Aphex Twin.
Do you believe that the Greek electronic scene has progressed during the last years? Are there any venues to support this kind of music? Would you ever consider moving abroad (for example Berlin) for your artistic expectations?
There has been great progress in the Greek indie scene. More with very good rock/pop bands and with some psych pop bands. A quick look at the catalogue of Inner Ear Records proves my point. As far as the electronica scene is concerned, if you put aside dance electronica which I’m indifferent to, regardless of where it comes from, there hasn’t been much progress in Greece in my opinion. What I mean to say is that there isn’t a solid scene that consistently feeds electronic music, save a few notable exceptions, which are always there to make the difference. I think, we Greeks are more geared towards rock in its broader sense, which is fine considering that we have more of a rock sensibility.
What holds the future for Sundayman project?
I will always find time to write music, and hopefully in the future I will have the chance to collaborate with other Greek artists, because this alone is very intriguing, creatively speaking. I never schedule something as far as Sundayman is concerned, because I don’t want something I love, to become routine. I think it would be self-destructive. So, no plans for Sundayman in the near future.
Thank you for your time! A message to the young ones starting experimenting/creating with electronic music in this difficult era? Words of wisdom in other words?