THE SOUND EXPLOSION
Interview by Periklis MihosIn 1991, The Sound Explosion formed and was the first Greek band with a pure garage punk sound. They created the spark to begin the garage scene in Greece, and until today we've seen many great Greek bands being loyal to the pure garage sound and not being carried away by the "new kind of raw and heavy sounds" that many other call garage music.The characteristic sound of Sound Explosion was their fast playing, many times reminding us of 80's U.S. garage legends the Miracle Workers. Sound Explosion realesed four 7" and one album by the German Music Maniac Records for the serie teen scene #14. Their live shows were always a party and fans were dancing there from the beging to the end. They had played with groups like the Marshmallow Overcoat, the Fuzztones and others.
In the winter of 2003, I found out from guitarist/singer John Alexopoulos that the band was back together (with a new member on organ) and they had started having rehearsals. The news was fantastic as it came up into my mind all kind of thoughts and visions about live shows and vinyl releases. But John brought me back to reality, pointing me out that it's too soon (I personaly believe that he is very anxious to get up again on the stage). The comeback of Sound Explosion and a conversation that I had with John a few months later was the motive for me to create my zine and the following interview is the first one that I got for it.
ED NOTE: A version of this article originally appeared in the Lost in Tyme magazine
Q: Let's start from the begining. The Sound Explosion started with who?
The line up was me (lead vocals, 6 and 12 string Vox guitar, harp), Dimitris Dimopoulos (bass, backing vocals), Stelios Drissis (Farfisa organ, maracas) and Stavros Daktylas (drums, tambourine).
Q: How did you come up with the idea to create a garage band and how was the scene in Greece at that time? Were there any other groups with that '60's sound?
We were all '60's garage maniacs and we thought it would be great to start a band with that "US teen 1966 Farfisa and Vox" sound. Actually we were the first in Greece to play in that particular style. Until then, there were some great other bands like the legendary Last Drive, Human Grape, Mushrooms and Purple Overdose that had some garage influences, but those bands had also some other more "open" influences from psychedelic, rock'n'roll and 80's indie/guitar bands. On the other hand, we were very strict in our sound, meaning that we were 100% dedicated to the 60's garage bands' style. We were stubborn and naive teenagers at the time and we were not so "open-minded"!
Q: In 1993, you released your first 45" with one garage dynamite on A-side "Hangover Baby," and it became a hit here in Greece and in other countries! How many copies were released from this single? It is hard to find it and you have to pay a lot of money to get it from mail orders or eBay.
The 1st 45 was to be released by "Who Stole The Summer" records, the label that had released the Ultra 5's first LP, but it kept delaying the release, so when we took it from them, Petros Koutsoumbas from Pegasus Records stepped in and told us he wanted to put it out on his label, so we gave it to him. I think about 2000-2500 copies were pressed. The first pressing (500 copies) were gone within a week. Although many copies were pressed, now it's rare and I've seen it being sold for 25 Euros in stores and on eBay. At the time, it got nice reviews in fanzines and it was on the playlist on garage radio shows, mainly in Europe. It was quite a nice start for us.
Q: When was your first live show? How was it playing first time?
We started rehearsing in 12 May 1991 and we were rehearsing like crazy for two months, mainly in order to cover our musical lack of abillity!!! After we came back from vacation, in September 1991, we played our first official gig. It was in an open air festival, which was being organised by a sound studio at a square in a suburb of Athens. I remember that we were very anxious and that the strong air was blowing against us, making things even harder. Another funny incident I remember from this show, is that before we went on the stage, we had gone to a cafeteria at the square where the festval was being held, in order to drink some coffee and relax. At the next table, there were some old people playing cards and drinking, who were making snide remarks about the festival, like "who are those crazies" or "look at those stupid kids yelling, haven't they got nothing better to do"!!! We were next...
Q: For which bands did you play as a supporting act? Also, tell me what you remember from those gigs?
We had opened for the Fuzztones, the Marshmallow Overcoat and Dead Moon. We had also played with the Others. The Fuzztones show was really our first big break. It was our second or third gig and many people got to know us form this live show. By the time we had played with the Marshmallow Overcoat, we already had a following. I remember going to a cafeteria before the show with Tim Gassen and talking for hours about garage music and some legendary stories about lost tapes and songs by 60's garage bands and maniac 60's record collectors. We were so psyched up and excited by that talk, that afterward, we were playing like having just escaped from a mental asylum. The Dead Moon gig on the other hand was one of the worst shows we ever played. We were so tired and had many sound problems, but it was great meeting Fred Cole, who, although a 60's legend, was such a nice, gentle and down-to-earth guy. The show with the Others was a nice one, too. Actually it was one of our last shows ever. I remember that The Others were a very tight 60's folk-punk combo at the time and Massimo was/is a very cool guy.
Q: After your first single, there was the release of your album by the German Music Maniac Records. How did this suggestion come up? And what about your second single "I'll Shake The Universe" for Dionysus Records?
If I remember right, Hans Kesteloo, the owner of Music Maniac, had visited Greece for a festival where the Droogs were playing. He heard about us here and visited the record store where our bass player was working at the time. There, he listened to our 1st single and expressed his interest in the band. We sent him some demo/rehearsal tape of the LP and then he told that we had a deal and sent us the contract.
Q: Two years ago. you released a 7" EP with four songs. This 7" supposed to be released many years ago by the German Outter Limits Rec. (one of the best mail orders in Europe). Why didn't this release happen and why did you decide to release it now?
"Outer Limits" was a label that was started by Axel Keuneke from Germany, who had a mailorder with the same name and was a very nice guy. It had released some great 45's by the Insomniacs, the Kliek, Head & The Hares and Something Weird. We were in contact at the time and he wrote me that he wanted to release an EP by the band. We made the recordings in December 1994 and the EP was to be named "The Sound Explosion In Outer Limits." Just before the EP was released, the label closed down, due to financial reasons. After that, the band broke up and the recordings remained unreleased for years until the people from "Diskadiko" Records approached us, although we had gone our separate ways, and each of us gave the OK for the release. It was released as "The Last Recordings," which actually weren't, as we had made some more recordings in May 1995 for the "Another Lie" 45. So a more suitable and accurate title could be "The Last Unreleased Recordings." This release didn't make much sense for me at the time, because I thought that the band was gone for good and I was occupied with other things in my life. However, it was nice to see those recordings released, because I think it's perhaps the best thing we ever did.
Q: Whose idea was it to cover the song "Hopeles Endless Way" (by the Greek 60's group Olympians) that's included on your LP?
It was a song that everyone in the band loved even before the band was formed. So, I guess the idea came from everybody more or less. Personally, I think it's the best 60's garage beat song that was recorded in Greece in the 60's.
Q: When did Sound Explosion split? What were the reasons?
The band did not really "break up." There was never a decision like "OK, now, it's over, goodbye" or a big fight. It was more like we dissolved. Things in our personal lives were changing- people in the band were finishing their studies, getting day jobs, starting families. A couple of members in the band, including me, had to join the army for the obligatory military service and that played its part as well. Also, we were a little bit tired and fed up with the usual band frustrations and difficulties. For instance, we were about to do our first mini-tour outside Greece, but that never materialized because we were never organized and there was a lack of communication among us. So we just stopped rehearsing and (stopped) seeing each other.
Q: When you split the band what did you miss more- the shows, the recordings, the rehearsals?
Speaking personally, in the beginning after the "break up," I did not have any special feelings about it, negative or positive. I was just a little disappointed, because we stopped playing at a very interesting and satisfactory point, creatively and in terms of the things we had achieved as a band until then. Of course, by the time, I missed all the good things in a band- playing live which was a good means of communication with people with the same tastes as us and the excitement that goes with it; recording because it was nice seeing our songs taking a final form and shape; even rehearsing because we were having lots of fun, even if we had big arguments (actually we were having lots of laughs when we were quarrelling).
Q: After the Sound Explosion, you formed a new group the Inner Mystiques. With Inner Mystiques, you didn't have any record release but you wrote some fantastic songs and there were the memories of a live show with Fuzztones (in Athens). When did you form the Inner Mystiques and what made you form a new band?
After the break up of the band and for a couple of years, I didn't want really to form another band. The Inner Mystiques begun in early 2000 when my pal George Rigas from the Walking Screams, who had at the time broken up as well, and I both decided to start jamming and playing classic garage standards. I dusted off my Vox guitar, George took his bass from his case and with the addition of Stathis on drums, who was also ex-Walking Scream, and Paul on the farfisa organ, who had played before in various garage bands, we started playing (together). The band lasted for something like a year. In December 2000, George had to quit the band, due to lack of free time, and another ex-Walking Scream, Lefteris, took his place until the Spring of 2001, when we finally broke up.
Q: The sound of that band was '60's with more beat elements and reminded me of the last period of the Sound Explosion. Tell me about the music of Inner Mystiques.
I don't think there's a certain musical connection between the bands. Actually I think the sound of The Inner Mystiques was quite different to that of The Sound Explosion and The Walking Screams. It was like a merging of musical tastes, all in the "garage" music field, like we played fuzz punkers, garage beat songs, folk-punkers, some minor key stuff, you name it. So it was just garage music after all, but in a different vein compared to our previous bands.
Q: Beside the live show with Fuzztones, had you perform any other live gigs?
No, we didn't any more shows. Just after that gig, opening for the Fuzztones in their first show in Greece for 10 years, we broke up.
Q: What was the fans reaction for the new band?
I think the reaction was quite positive. Every garage fan wants to see new bands forming and playing in their town.
Q: Inner Mystiques had no record releases. Did you have any contact with any record labels?
We never really had the chance to record something because the band had a really short life. We were together for something like a year, but only in the last six or so months we were serious about it. After that show, there was a talk with a couple of labels, but we broke up. There are some songs, which were recorded rough and live in a rehearsal with two mics. We did this with the first line-up in November 2000.
Q: When and why the band split?
Like I said before, we broke up in Spring of 2001. The reason for the break up was differences between the members if the band.
Q: And here we are back in 2004... before a few months you told me "the Sound Explosion are back again" Tell me, how did it happen?
After the break up of The Inner Mystiques, Paul and I thought for a while to continue that band with a few new members, but it seems that we could not find any suitable members for it, so I just completely forgot about it. After some time, I got frustrated and was more or less determined that my garage band days were over and gone for good. A few months ago, out of the blue, I got a phone call at work from Dimitris asking me "if I had any plans for next Tuesday night." I replied "no" rather confused and then he went on and told me "OK, because we have a rehearsal with the band." "Which band?" I asked and he replied "The Sound Explosion, of course you lunatic, who else?" After a few moments of pause due to my surprise and after I made sure that was not a joke of his, I just said "OK" and hung up the phone. Next night, we were back in the studio playing together again after 7 whole years.
Q: Are there any changes from the first line up of the group?
The first big problem we faced when we got back again was that Stelios Drissis, our Farfisa man, had left Greece and moved to Belgium. There was a BIG gap there. It was hard for me personally to imagine the band without him, because above all, he's one of the closest friends of mine, way before the band was even started. His approval in continuing the band without him was necessary. He was very cool about it and told us to go on. For me he was, still is and will ever be, a member of the band forever. After that, we were very lucky to find Stelios Askoxylakis to fill in his place. He's one of the best accomplished musicians I've ever worked with and he immediately got into the mood of the band. He's brought many new elements to our sound with his unique organ-grinding technique and knowledge and he's an equal member of the band.
Q: In your rehearsals, are you playing old songs of Sound Explosion or you have new tracks? And how is the feeling at rehearsals?
We try to remember the best from our old stuff, at least the songs that we like. Also, we have some new original songs in the same swinging garage a-go-go sound that we like. As for the covers, yes we have some new (ones) in store and a few surprises, but I won't reveal them now. In rehearsals, we still have arguments and that's a good thing. It's "The Sound Explosion way"! Quarrelling about things and then having a laugh about it, without any hard feelings left. I can't stand playing in a band where everything is calm and passive and there's no tension. We play in a garage band and not a stupid "fusion jazz" band, you know. Having arguments and tension is a healthy sign that everyone is showing (some) care about the band and (it) raises the adrenalin. And that leads to creativity and fun.
Q: What about the future plans of Sound Explosion- are there any plans for live shows and recordings?
First, I'd like to point out that we take things in the band more relaxed now. We are not anxious about are next move or something, mostly because we have already done records, live shows and other things in the past. That's very good in a way, because we enjoy ourselves now more than ever. Of course, we'll do live shows and records in the short future, perhaps by the time you're reading this, most likely we already have. We'd like to try out new things now, perhaps experiment a little bit more with the garage sound or play in new places and why not, new countries.
Q: Can you make any parallelism between the first period and the time nowdays of Sound Explosion?
Yeah, there are differences! Our bellies our bigger and our moptops have some grey hair on the sides. Seriously, when we first got back together, it was like nothing had changed- the same nutty faces, the same music, the same stupid remarks and jokes. It was kind of bizarre, like traveling back in time. Of course there may be a few changes in our sound now, but I can't really tell.
Q: What do you listen in this period? Name me a few records that you really liked lately.
My big love are all the "Farfisa' n' Vox" garage bands from all times, but I also listen to all the good stuff that came from 1956 until now, like '50's trash rockabilly, surf and instrumentals, mod, 60's psych, easy listening, '70's powerpop and early punk/KBD bands, lots of black music like 60's R&B, soul and early '70's raw funk, and of course the "revival" '80's and '90's garage bands that most stupid "60's purists" hate. On the other hand, I hate progressive/classic rock, all "serious" indie bands like Radiohead and all the phony "nu-garage rawk" bands like the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeah's, which are really bad new wave bands in disguise. Also, I'm disgusted by everything that has computers, samplers and DJ's, like techno, electronica and hip-hop. I like music that's raw, simple and inspired. I loathe bands that take themselves seriously and pretend they're doing something important.
Q: What's your opinion for the Greek garage scene and which groups do you like more?
There are always great garage bands in Greece and we regard them as comrades and friends. It's no use to mention specific names, because we know them all. However, I don't think that 4 or 5 bands make a scene and that's a pity, but the reason doesn't lie with the bands themselves, but with the bad situation with the media, clubs and radio stations in Greece.
Q: In the last years we've seen many comebacks from '60's group like the Seeds, Electric Prunes, the Remains, Arthur Lee/Love, ? Mark And The Mysterians, etc.. They perform live and some of them have had new releases. What do you think for these comebacks and which of them that you saw live did you like it more?
It's usually interesting to see legendary '60's garage bands play live in front of you, but some times this can be a really disappointing experience. Most people do it again for the pure excitement of it, some people do it again just for money and a few shouldn't have played again, but should have stayed in their homes with their grandchildren and their favorite Dire Straits CD's. From all the 60's garage bands I've seen in the last few years getting back together, Question Mark & The Mysterians are the undisputed winners. Seeing them play live is just like seeing a band of adrenalin fueled teenagers, who have just discovered their love for garage music and want to tell all the world about it, by playing it with so much frenzy, energy and passion. I'd like to see the Remains play live, as well, because I've heard so many good things about their reunion gigs.
The following lists come right now from the top of my head. Tomorrow, they could be completely different... So in this particular order, here are my today's "all time" faves.
60's USA garage LP's:
1.Seeds - S/T
2.Sonics Here Are...
3.Question Mark & The Mysterians 96 Tears
4.Remains - S/T
5. New Colony Six Breakthrough
60's USA garage songs:
1.Tree "No Good Woman"
2.First Crow To The Moon "Spend Your Life"
3. We The People "In The Past"
4.Thursday's Children "Try Girl"
...and a about a million songs more
80's garage LP's:
2.Chesterfield Kings Stop!
3.Miracle Workers Inside Out
4.Cynics 12 Flights Up
5.Pandoras It's About Time
80's garage 45's:
1.Lyres "Help You Ann"
2.Crimson Shadows "Even I Tell Lies"
3.Misanthropes "Why Do You Treat Me So Bad"
4.Backdoor Men "Out Of My Mind"
5.Stems "Tears Me In Two"
90's garage LP's:
2.Mystreated Looking Right Through
3.Lust-O-Rama 26 Screams
5.Hoods Gangsters & Morticians
90's garage 45's:
1.Mystreated "You Better Run"
2.Cryptics "You're Evil"
4.Woody Peakers "Going All The Way" EP
5.Worst "Creepy Thing"
It's hard to tell my 00's top 5 lists. It's too early!!!
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