Mike Pougounas is an exceptional figure in the Greek music scene. Flowers Of Romance, Nexus, Cyberdelia Records, New Zero God, are some hints of his priceless music career since mid 80’s. Last Day Deaf had the chance to interview Mike and New Zero God, ahead of their very special gig at ILION Plus, on December 16th, in which they are going to perform an exclusive Flowers Of Romance set. Hope you enjoy this one!
Hi there New Zero God. Please tell us which are the latest NZG’s news, and how has 2017 been for the band?
We had a great year. Started by playing live in Athens, Volos, and Thessaloniki and then came the digital release of our EP ‘Under The Influence Of Captain Pan Ikatac‘ in May. It attracted the interest of the American label, Custom Made Music, and they will re-release it sometime soon. We did a special version of an old Flowers Of Romance number, ‘Winter Waltz‘, with Irini Tiniakou (Incirrina, Tsiri Band, and Ward Of Cause) that was re-titled as New Zero God feat. Irini Tiniakou on the English compilation ‘The United World Underground Collection‘ a couple of months ago…
On December 16th you are performing at ILION Plus, an exclusive Flowers Of Romance’s set. What’s behind this move? Any chance reforming FoR? No NZG that night then?
Flowers Of Romance and New Zero God is one and the same. In 1998, after 18 years of being with the Flowers Of Romance I decided to experiment with a new project going by the name Nexus. So, instead of going by my name, Mike Pougounas, I picked the name Nexus and did four albums that opened the door to a world of new experiences and ideas that some of them I use with New Zero God. Since the Flowers Of Romance was my brainchild, I don’t need to reform the band. I present the evolution of my music as it is taking shape through the magic of my brothers in the band, Akis Nikolaidis, John Psimopoulos, Michalis Semertzoglou and Babis Efthymiou. That night on December 16 we will also have on stage Iraklis Anastasiadis (Trespass, Atria, GAD., Dark En Ciel) on the keyboards as well as the electronic duet of Incirrina (George Katsanos and Irini Tiniakou) on the mellotron and piano respectively. That night will be dedicated to the songs of the Flowers Of Romance through a more mature point of view that everyone will enjoy. That’s for sure.
In 2016 you self-released your latest full-length ‘Short Tales & Tall Shadows’. Are you satisfied with its acceptance? Why did you choose to self-release it and not do this via a label?
First of all we had a great time recording it. It was the first album we recorded in our own studio and you know how children react when you give them a new toy… New Zero God is a DIY band. This is not something new to me. By the late 90’s I founded my own record label, Cyberdelia Records, in order to release my Nexus albums. We now have the whole package: we record our music by our own means and we self-release it. There have been indie labels that offered to release our work. This happened with our first album which was released by Puzzlemusik, then came the English label Secret Sin Records that released ‘Club Bizarre‘ and ‘MMXIII‘ and it happened again with ‘Short Tales…’ where we released the CD edition and To Diskadiko released the vinyl edition of the album. A few years ago, Surgut Resort Records released our 7” single ‘Destination Unknown‘ and now Virginia based Custom Made Music will put out our latest EP. My days of being signed to a record label are long gone, though. I want to be in full control of my work and if any record label is honoring New Zero God by offering us a deal to release it for us, that’s great. It is a wonderful compliment but this way all rights remain with me…
You are a social-sensitive band “donating songs” to and music for philanthropic work. Would you like to talk about your experiences so far? Would you encourage other bands/artists to follow your path?
It is a noble idea. Music won’t make us rich but we can use it to help others. Either by gathering money or raising public awareness about a cause. I don’t know if this will give us good karma or not but we live in a world that many people are taking advantage of other people’s tragedies. Rich people and multinational companies use philanthropy as a promotional tool or as tax relief by giving money to foundations that were created specifically in order to use this money for their own benefit and whatever is left is forwarded to the ones in need. I am not saying that all foundations are doing it but there are many out there and you can’t tell which ones are the rotten apples unless you get in touch in order to donate a song. It is a cruel world. There are even priests that use charities as bait to convert people to their own religion. But there are also good souls out there too. That’s for sure. Yes, I encourage all artists to support these good souls or to do it directly like the UK Subs do. I was talking to Jet, their former guitarist and he was telling me that each year, they gather money for a cause and they give it directly to the person in need. There aren’t any others involved. There is a lot of suffering out there… Find a cause and offer your services. The Greek music collective Antibodies are doing a great job too by gathering clothes or putting together festivals to raise money for refugees and poor families. Artists need to be active. And if art is the only thing we have, art is what we use to help.
Describe in a few words what does “post-punk” & “goth-rock” mean to New Zero God…
Music labels mean nothing.
Back to 2009, when your debut ‘Fun Is A Four Letter Word’ was released and one of the best tracks ‘Kiss The Witch’ reached the audience. Would you like to ‘repeat’ this one then? What was the inspiration behind this gem?
‘Kiss Τhe Witch‘ was a song about the transition from one relationship to another. From one lover to another. In other words I was inspired by breaking up with a girlfriend and I was moving to the next one. Without thinking too much about it and simply trying to express the condition I was in, I wrote a song about this very common human experience. Thanks to this song, New Zero God was introduced to a great number of people abroad. If I want to “repeat” it… to be honest, I never try to repeat myself. I am trying to become better. I like being unexpected whenever I can and I am interested in a lot of things in life. I get jealous sometimes when I hear a great song that someone else penned. That’s the beauty of expression. You know? Saying “I do feel the same but this guy really nailed it…” On the other hand, New Zero God is not a mainstream band. If people like a song I wrote, I blush a little and try to do a better one. I am just trying to express myself. The music world is a wonderful place where one can gain knowledge by trying to write a song. Every time the artist creates something beautiful he becomes a little god.
The post-punk/darkwave/goth-rock scene has blossomed for the last few years, if not resurrected. What about the Greek scene? Would you like to recommend some (Greek) breakthrough acts we should take notice?
First of all I believe that all the labels we use to pigeon-hole music are only needed for the record stores. In order for the customers to know in which section to look for the album of their favorite band. The Greek scene in general, is a small one with a lot of balls but no financial back up. Every Greek underground musician (meaning: not mainstream) is a hero. Of every music genre. Under these circumstances, practicing for hours, paying good money and passing through different stages of stress for something that doesn’t put a plate on the table is heroic. But to answer your question, the specific music genre you ask gave us some exciting new acts lately. People should take notice of Remain In Light, Cold Remembrance, Electro Vampires, The Moon In June, Mosquito, Selofan, Incirrina, Siva Six to name but a few…
5 albums that have mostly inspired NZG…
The Lords Of The New Church – ‘The Lords Of The New Church‘, Slade – ‘Slade‘, The Clash – ‘London Calling‘, Siouxsie And The Banshees – ‘Kiss In A Dreamhouse‘, Nine Inch Nails – ‘Fragile‘.
Plans, hopes and goals for 2018…
The new year will find us on the road, with gigs booked in Thessaloniki (Saturday 20 January) supported by Ypogia Trohia, and Ioannina (Sunday 21 January) were we will play the Flowers Of Romance tribute and I am sure many of our friends won’t like to miss it. More cities will follow and we are also planning some Italian dates but nothing to confirm so far. It’s been some time since we started recording the new album, planning on releasing it next winter. Some additional musicians are taking part and be sure, this one is going to be very different from our previews releases.
Feel free to add anything you like and haven’t been asked.
I’d like to thank you for this interview and wish you and your readers to be safe and happy!
Photo credits: Steisy Mandaltsi