Demetris "All Around"
I think this guy is a much promising part of today’s and tomorrow’s prog history. He is so cerebral and emotional at the same time (both entities are interconnected in my mind anyway). His eclecticism of prog music is at the higher stage. And he unfolds it like a prog flower in our gradually eclectic music era (it really is; please, accept it)! And he burns the genre thing to the bone! I think we could talk for years. Hamlet, aka TRANSPORT AERIAN PROJECT, aka prog meets Platonic lyrical philosophy! I bet that one of Einstein’s phrases is partially representative of his mindset from a positive point-of-view: “I am a horse for single harness nor cut of tandem or teamwork…for well I know that in order to attain any definite goal, it is imperative that one person do the thinking and the commanding”. A great thinker of music anyway.
Dear Hamlet, thank you very much for your participation in that interview! It’s our honor!
Where are you now? Where this interview finds you exactly?
Well, I'm having my nextless cup of coffee, shuffling through the sheets of writings, considering the ideas between phases of drowning into the depths of another mass of work, so the interview falls into place, really.
What, in reality, struck me from the beginning is that progarchives phrase: “A dark and gloomy mix of progressive rock, trip-hop, ambient and industrial music”. How great is that eclecticism? Is that what you always wanted to produce as an artist?
In fact, I think it was a reviewer's attempt to describe in genre tags a wider concept of music in general. I do not really define the genre I work in. The thing is, once you try to limit the music within the borders of one genre, the seed of spirit inside it most likely to die, limitations destroy its freedom of speech, so to say. I mean, genre, just like the instruments used for the performance, is nothing but a tool or a sort of dialect, serving to express the meaning, a language in which music speaks. I never try to boringly fit the musical spirit within the borders of one genre. If I sense the idea that needs to be brought into this world, into the material form, I always know for sure which dialect of musical language must be used - and, fortunately, I have enough technical capabilities not to bother about whether I can play what I must play or not. I just do that. Eclecticism is a consequence of not being close-minded, rather than a goal.
Also, the lyrics of your songs are so…avant garde! I am in love with them!! Could you give us a brief description of the issues/concepts you take inspiration for that kind of lyrics?
That's a high praising, thank you! Different songs have different backgrounds, of course. But in general, I think poetry, just like music, belongs to some sort of eternal ideal world, which sometimes wants some things to be projected into our, material world, so from this point of view I follow the ideas of Plato and his allegory of the cave.
I just try to express what is there, in this realm of ideas. Sometimes songs just write themselves, sometimes I have to find the exact concepts to express certain models, but in general, I don't think I actually write songs. I think they somehow speak through me. That's why they might sound a bit avant-garde, as I think it's the most open type of language to transact them.
I also read that you have a big bio of live performances! Could you give us some more details about the bands, acts, projects and other collaborations you had (incl. FABULAE DRAMATIS) as a musician?
There were so many, I struggle to remember them all! You see, being a multi-instrumentalist and having some skills in production and sound engineering easily give you a ticket to be invited to collaborations, but at the same time, in such projects I decide very few musically, just using my skills and techniques to add some of the personal touch to what is already done. When I was a little bit younger, I was very open to such projects, and I still am, but now I simply have less time. But the projects in which I was participating just as an instrumentalist or those that I have mixed and produced, were not more than a sort of technical work, so listing or describing them here would bring on too large amount of text.
Fabulae Dramatis was very different, and very experimental. It was an international project with more than 15 musicians from different countries involved in making an avant-metal album which would merge various cultures and languages within one conception, and I was given a considerable freedom in helping with the arrangements, production and even wrote some songs for it.
I think the resulting album is still available, as it was released a year ago and it had some nice response, so I assume those who are interested in this wild mix of cultures merged in progressive metal alloy can find it!
You finally came up with your first concept album that was released in 2007 and it’s called “The dream”. What are the concept and the musical aura of that album?
The Dream wasn't the first concept I had, but it was the first itching so hard I couldn't hold myself from making it happen. The significance was that I discovered about that time that to make a good album you don't need anything besides the idea and technical means, enough to express this idea. Musically things fell into place. Spiritually... Well, the concept, and the aura were around my quite stormy personal life in that period of life, and a nasty hard corner into which I managed to put myself that time. Strange, long and barely a bright story, so the album was very dark, desperate and very egocentric. But at the same time, life collisions brought me to the point of being able to record and release an album, and I used that possibility. A painful time of discovery. I don't think The Dream is available anymore, as it was released in a limited amount and that time I didn't spread music freely as I do now.
I remember from our “Full Album Hour” discussion on chat that you insisted on a philosophy of strictly individualistic music making approach. What are the reasons behind that and, is that your only music route from today on as an artist? Or, are you going to be more open to collaborations in the near future?
The individualistic approach has different edges. In short words, I do that just because I can. If I am able to make an album from beginning to the end, playing every instrument and doing all the technical work exactly the way I want it to be, and it gives the optimal result in the end, why wouldn't I? If I couldn't or if I needed somebody else's artistic language to be integrated in the musical canvas, I'd have worked with the other musicians. For instance, that's one of the significant points about Charcoal, as on that album I really wanted more diversity in music, I wanted more complex drum parts, sort of solo's that I wouldn't play myself, sort of parts for which another kind of music mentality was required... So I made the album with the other musicians involved, it was needed to express the idea. For The Dream, Blessed and Bleeding the best was to do things on my own, because these albums required intimacy and absolute authenticity.
Second reason for this approach is that there are dozens of musicians in the world, and an amazing amount of great ones, but there are very few of those who would combine the qualities I need and the availability, so I simply go the easy way, not having to look for them and not having to rely on them.
That's no arrogance, though. For instance, I don't know much about the visual side, so I try to collaborate with the visual artists and designers. Also, if I perform live with Transport Aerian, I always listen to the opinions and the interpretations of the musicians I work with, because it's a joy to see and feel the interactions and different kinds of personalities on stage. Right now I have a fantastic guitar player in the line up, and I really consider making some recordings and live interpretations of songs with him. Regarding the collaborations in side projects, I'm absolutely open as long as they would provide something that really fascinates me.
In your bio in progarchives site it’s mentioned that “After a complicated twist of faith” you established your project TRANSPORT AERIAN in the summer of 2008. What was that twist of faith and what’s the concept behind such a name?
I actually don't know. This name somehow emerged in 2007 and I simply loved the phonetic component of this combination of words. You know, I think project's name has a right to be just a phonetic abstraction as long as it sounds well, easy to remember and easy to pronounce, so here I don't really follow any complicated philosophy. A twist of faith is a very long story, too long for this interview.
After the TRANSPORT AERIAN name you have already released three studio albums titled “Blessed”, “Charcoal” and “Bleeding”. Is there any preference for single titles (titles with one word only and, if yes, why?). Give us a brief description of the whole making process for each album highlighting some common and diverse elements of those three pieces of your work.
I don't think there is a system in one-word titles. The thing is, a choice of the title is always very difficult task as it has to emphasize in one way and expand in another. I always try to find the title that would be most relevant and most irrelevant at the same time.
Every album I make is a consequence of sets of spiritual and practical experiences which make me feel an urge to express a certain idea. As I'm still old fashioned enough to think in the terms of albums, they are all conceptual in a sense that they are not just sets of songs but rather they tell their stories, in a way. I don't write single songs, I always come with the idea of an album and start building it piece by piece, knowing how it is going to start, where will it reach the culmination point, the structure, the emotional curve and so on. From this point of view, all three albums (or four, counting The Dream) were following the same methodology.
The big difference was the actual conceptions. Blessed was about being given a second chance to rebuild the life which is completely destroyed, at the same time facing death, mistakes of the past, fears and having to break through them all. Charcoal was about an anger, hate and the consequences of anger and hate. Bleeding is the most complicated one, because it is, simply said, about love in all its forms.
Making process always involves a certain 'existential itch', as Lou Rhodes sharply called it in one of Lamb songs, which motivates you to express something, then goes a planning stage, when I would think how to make it clear, understandable and affective, and then, finally, an actual recording stage begins when I just take my time in music weaving! In many cases, songs or compositions just come out of nowhere, when I let myself flow with the ideas, mediating, or improvising. Sometimes pieces come and you don't understand what they mean, but their true meaning comes over years - that happens a lot and I think it's a normal process of trying to project those shadows on the cave wall.
My favorite is your last album because I think this is the more mature and structurally spontaneous album. Gradually you grew up in experimentalism and you added all those avant-garde crossover prog elements that I loved from the PHIL COLLINS era. What do you think of all the above?
I tend to agree. I like Bleeding the most, too, shortly said, and I agree with your description, besides the comparison with Phil Collins, not because I don't like him, rather because I don't like comparisons.
How easy or/and difficult is to produce “absolutely new and original atmospheric music” according to your bio in an era of unending releases (I don’t think this is a problem necessarily, btw)?
I really don't think it's a problem. If you just do what you feel you must, it appears to be new and original by itself and atmospheric by nature.
The thing is, in making music everyone is absolutely free, unless trying to limit oneself within the genre borders or trying hard to 'sound like' or become a 'second <insert favorite band name>' or intentionally making a sell-out music, which is often a sad case of even young or unsigned bands. When one tries to sound like something that is already known and already exists and in that way sell him/herself, the Music dies.
Once you have to sell your soul and your precious gift of being a musician, there is no turning back, and that's a very sad way to follow, especially given that most of those young musicians who do that in search for a fame and money actually end up being just another band, pale copycatting what is already done before and reaching virtually nothing besides the spots at the local festivals to which people don't even come to listen to their music, but just to have another beer. Sad, isn't it? But a lot of musicians do that to themselves!
Regarding the endless releases, it's not the problem neither. It's getting difficult to promote music, but promotion has nothing to do with music itself, just as music industry has nothing to do with music and as show business has nothing to do with art.
I follow Message In The Bottle approach. I put my message in the bottle and throw it in the open sea. Sometimes it finds its addressee, sometimes not, but it's here, in this world, physical and existent.
How would you describe your sound to someone unfamiliar with your music? Progarchives platform says it’s crossover prog but you are the most appropriate person to define this.
I really don't know. I would just give that person a chance to listen, because I think music says more than I can. I think Progarchives has a strictly formalistic approach to categorization, which I personally don't really follow. But they have to do that, because sorting such an enormous mass of music is a very hard task, so if they think Crossover is the closest definition to what I'm doing, it's okay. They feature me, they help this bottle with message inside finding the shore. I'm thankful for that.
How do you compose music? What’s the procedures/routines you follow? Also, lyrics first? Music? Or, both?
The idea is first. Then I meditate and let the idea give me the lyrics and the music. Then I just play what I think is right, and produce it the way it would express the idea in the best way. If technical details interfere with the idea, I put the idea as a priority.
How do you really become a multi-instrumentalist and a focused producer? Does that also entail for someone to be solitary and introverted as a person besides exercise?
I think it was natural. I started learning to play different instruments because I was curious how they work in the arrangement, which techniques can be used to express which feeling. I think you can truly understand how instruments interact only if you know how to handle them, and for me music has always been a way of expression, so to be able to say what I needed to say I've learned its language. Sound production has always been my passion, so I worked an amount of years as both live mixer and a studio engineer and I think this experience saves my time as I don't have to look for a producer to make my music happen.
What are your influences as a musician and as an artist? And where do these appear in your music?
Very many, because I listen to an enormously diverse amount of stuff, and I think I learn different things from different musicians. They never appear in what I write literary, though. You can't say, for instance, 'this is taken from that artist' or 'this is influenced by that', but I like learning different means of expression from different people and try to understand the spirit that dictates them what they do. I talk about real artists, of course, if you know what I mean.
What’s your personal philosophy in life? How do you overcome barriers and how do you build/use your strengths?
I'm a traveler in the wild forest full of dangers, opportunities and fascinating occasions so I follow my instincts to stay on the track. There are no real limits as long as you don't set them for yourself. There are always dangers, but there are as well always ways to fight them or to avoid them. Once you realize that you have not much to lose and not much to achieve you just do what you feel you must do. And so I'm just walking my way and fight my little war.
What is prog rock for you? And prog music in general, anyway? We think this is a concept and not a genre, as many believe. What do you think about the future of prog rock and prog music in general?
Couldn't have said better about prog. For me it is the concept indeed, and it's sad that it is being often referred to as a genre, because such definition ruins what prog originally meant, as much as saying that, for example, Rock In Opposition is a genre of radical avant-garde music, because in fact it is, first of all, a way of operating in the musical environment.
Although, I think the concept 'music' in its primordial meaning is what I enjoy the most, regardless of it being 'prog' or not. For me music is strictly divided in two big categories: technically made stuff, which can be awesome, fascinating and whatever else and actual Music, that has something else beneath the surface, a spirit of some kind. I only like the second kind, first doesn't interest me, regardless of genre or concept.
The problem is, a lot of people associate music with music industry, and a lot of artists are forced to do such to be able to survive if their financial condition depends on what they are doing in music business environment, they want to eat, their children want to eat, you know? But one has nothing to do with another. Show business has nothing to do with art, music business has nothing to do with the quality of music that it sells.
Of course, the artists who operate on the high levels of music industry have more resources to make more impressive constructs, as it's their direct job, but at the same time, a lot of artists have to compromise or even sacrifice what they really are about to be able to sell out. At that point music or its spirit dies, full stop.
I am happy to be an independent artist, having my freedom, not having to sell my soul to anyone and not having to bother whether somebody out there is going to like it or not. I pay the price and I accept it, that's the reality we have built. But that's not the point. The point is, and this is what I really like to see, is that there are actually enough great musicians out there - and some of them are even quite well acknowledged, which is significant, - who do music for art's sake, proud of being themselves, not willing to sell their souls, trying to express rather than to amuse the crowd. As long as such artists exist - and they always will - Music will survive.
Regarding the industry, if you want my opinion, it's clear that it is standing at the sort of turning point as it's adapting to the new realities of internet and open informational space. Music industry, including prog as a genre or rock as a genre have to evolve, which is most likely to happen, because the big important guys who have made their wallets stuffed tight selling music and muzak of various kinds would love to keep the things that way.
So I see it positively at one side and I absolutely don't care at another.
Could you give some info on your short- and long-term plans?
A great question. I have a lot on my plate now. Both in musical and in personal life. Music wise, I'm considering to gather some good musicians who think the way I do to organize a set of culture-related events, make a sort of evenings of music and poetry, rather than 'normal' shows, as I think Transport Aerian has more to do with poetry than with rock scene. In general, it's one of those questions, to which I would never have an answer, regardless of time it is asked.
A message from your part for the listeners of JustIn Case Prog Radio and for all prog’n’rollers out there is…
Most of the people who appreciate prog, especially those who appreciate underground, independent or self-promoted artists are the ones who without even knowing or realizing give enormous support to these artists. It is immense. Keep doing that, and keep being yourselves. I cherish the knowledge that you all exist and I love the fact that this knowledge is true.
Anything that you might add?
I must thank you personally, and those who are out there, reading this. You do amazing job in making the voices in desert be heard. That is worth a deep respect and that's why I say thank you from the depths of my twisted heart.
Dear Hamlet, thanks a lot about answering those few (lol!!!!) questions!
Demetris “All Around”
Founder and Progducer of JustIn Case Radio (www.justincaseradio.com)