The Athens based industrial post-punk duo, The Rattler Proxy, is comprised of Gerard Papasimakopoulos and Lucas Savvidis. Their debut LP ‘Vertebrata’ was released via Lurid Music at the end of last year, producing such hauntingly delightful tracks as ‘Follow’ and ‘Mother Goose’.
What is The Rattler Proxy’s origin story? How did you come to be?
The Rattler Proxy was essentially born out of my personal obsession with Suicide. I’d spent so long listening to every possible recording made by Alan Vega and Martin Rev that in the end I had to get everything out of me. Every note I’d heard, every image that their sound conjured up in my head. Along the way it has obviously morphed into way more than just a fan-boy project, but and it’s very core the idea of The Rattler Proxy is still a thank-you to Suicide. That will never change. As far as the people involved with the band are concerned, the first chapter of the Rattler Proxy story was written between myself and Dimitris Pichliavas and since his departure, Lucas Savvidis has provided the musical talent, while I provide the mumbling, screaming and shaking.
Your debut LP ‘Vertebrata’ was released last fall, what is the general zeitgeist of the album for those who have yet to hear it? Though honestly I don’t know why anyone hasn’t…
I’m pretty sure A LOT of people haven’t heard it and I’m not entirely sure who will when all is said and done! As far as the album itself, it was conceived, written, performed and recorded in under a week, under the watchful eye of Thomas Bullock, who provided some much needed guidance when the shit hit the fan. I’d say that ‘Vertebrata’’s heart is most surely urban, concrete if you will and reflects our headspace at the time when it was created. Low on optimism, constantly on the edge of losing our patience and trying to remain afloat in a town and a country that feels like it wants you to drown in a sea of asphalt and despair. There are very few moments of true optimism in ‘Vertebrata’ (one I think). The rest is just bad, pretty angry sex, murder, death, dirty pavements and insanity. For the most part.
What’s the writing process like? Are you a lyrics first, production later, type of duo? Or do the lyrics purely play a backing to your sonic allegories?
Um, I’m not really a musician and I would never EVER call myself one, so all the musical creation rests solely in the hands of Lucas, who essentially constructs everything in his studio. He usually plays the bare bones of an idea back to me and if I can hear myself singing on top of it, then we move forward with it. In the end, despite my best attempts to pretend I’m some kind of lyricist, I end up making it all up between the 1st and 4th take. I’ll have an image in my head sure, a shred or two of a story, but the flesh and bones of it comes to me on the fly.
‘Ex Cop’ is quite the wild ride, where did this come from lyrically?
Um, I’m not quite sure how much of this story I can actually talk about, but I’ll try. Let’s just say that I kind of knew (perhaps still know) a guy who once served as a police officer, but who packed it in, because he realized that working the other side of the fence was rather more lucrative. And let’s just say that he MAY have dabbled in the drug trade. And let’s just say that he MAY have been open to lending you his ear IF you had a problem with someone and had a decent wad of cash in your pocket. ‘Ex Cop’ is perhaps based on this individual.
Your cover for ‘C60 Hustle’ featured the rad artwork of a tattoo artist you’ve used in the past, Leonidas Lonis Skiadas. Now what’s the story behind the cover art for ‘Vertebrata’ and your single ‘Oscillation’?
The images used for both ‘Vertebrata’ and ‘Oscillation’ were taken by our main image dude Christos Sarris during a rather extensive walk around the downtown Omonia area in the center of Athens. It was Christos who had the spots in his head, we just followed and posed or sulked while he snapped away. Christos was also the man responsible for the ‘Oscillation’ video.
Speaking of your track ‘Oscillation’, it’s an album highlight for me definitely, could you tell us the story behind this song?
Um, I guess it’s one of the record’s rare rays of sunlight and at the same time it’s our most “approachable” track so far. People have reacted really well to it, even though I have a hard time remembering all the lyrics I wrote and end up writing all sorts of lyrical reminders on my hands when we perform. The story is pretty straightforward. When we were recording the album, I was having trouble getting the lyrics down for the track that would eventually become ‘Oscillation’. I was getting frustrated and mad (which isn’t unusual for me) and in the end, when I was fresh out of “mad”, I kind of slumped into a nearby couch and started writing about how we rarely think about the simplicity of how we are connected to a city and the souls in it, about how it’s actually a lot easier to decipher when you just try and define it according to moments and images you usually ignore. Like a reflection in a bar mirror, or the pavement squares that plot out your course as you walk from place to place throughout your day. And how in the end, no matter how much you want to complicate things you always end up “padding” yourself with what you know in order to move forward and to continue existing. I’m going to read this back in a while and hate myself for it, but yeah, that’s it.
The world recently lost Alan Vega, one half of the band Suicide. Your sound is quite reminiscent of Suicide, how much of an influence have they been to you? Do you have a favorite album? Favorite track?
I was devastated when Alan Vega died. It just so happens we share the same birth date (23rd of June) actually. Anyway, I was sleeping when the news of his death broke so when I woke up, I stared at the headline for a few minutes thinking I might still be asleep. It was quite numbing. Like I’ve already said, Suicide were and still remain a massive influence on The Rattler Proxy. Personally, I humbly think they were the best band/artistic duo to ever walk this earth. I don’t think anyone will ever come close to being what they were. I had the pleasure of seeing them perform twice and although I’m SLIGHTLY biased I still found their live show to be phenomenal and life-changing to an extent. I could write a truck load of words about Suicide and Vega himself and it still would not be enough. Just go listen to anything they ever recorded. As far as my personal favorites, I’d easily say that their second album is simply faultless, just no filler whatsoever, with ‘Mr. Ray (To Howard T.)’shining slightly brighter, especially in some of the live recordings of the track. Just insanely brilliant and front-foot-aggressive. It’s actually interesting that the recorded version of ‘Mr. Ray (To Howard T.)’, it’s rhythm is more of a jab-jab-cross in boxing terms, while the live versions of the track go for a more speedbag like tempo. Can you tell I’m a fan?
Who are your other influences musically?
John Carpenter, The Cramps, Sandra Electronics, The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, Barry De Vorzon, Brad Friedel (the composer not the goalkeeper of the same name), Silent Servant, A.R.E.Weapons, Gene Vincent, Joy Division and a bunch of others I can’t quite recall right now.
Word on the street is that you two are a bit obsessed with toilets, and out of a general sort of curiosity: would you care to explain/elaborate?
We are indeed. Toilets are just great. That is to say, bar toilets. They offer you the opportunity for some truly awkward and vulnerable moments, they can be a haven from a bar storm, they usually have some pretty weird lights (well, the good ones anyway), they can be used as a meeting point and staging spot for all sorts of depraved actions and ultimately they’re the great social equalizer. Take any self-important, snobbish, i-am-better-than-you kinda person. Now put him or her in a toilet, let them take a shit and watch them try and scavenge some crumbs of dignity from the toilet tiles, as the pungent smell of they have just created hangs on them like a shroud. Not so high and mighty anymore.
You’ll be playing with Drab Majesty at the Death Disco in Athens on May 6th (publisher’s note: cancelled). What can concert-goers expect from seeing you live?
I don’t rightly know. We haven’t constructed the set yet, but if past live performances are anything to go by, then there will be twitching and shouting and crooning and screaming and writhing and some pretty noisy stuff for everyone.
What’s on the horizons for The Rattler Proxy? Are you writing any new music? Any new gigs?
We’re playing a few gigs through May and June, but what we’re really excited about is a potential tour in November, which we’re in the process of finalizing as we speak. It’ll be our first time cramped in a van for a prolonged period of time and we’re not THAT social as creatures, so we could end up going at each other with shovels and/or shoes. As for music, we’re always writing new stuff, even if it all ends up on the cutting room floor. We’re also in talks with two labels for our next series of releases and we’re still staying close to Lurid Music, because they’re essentially family. Keep checking our Facebook page and all will be revealed.
Photo credits: Christos Sarris