Christos is the multitalented musician, videographer and artist using his work - and his unique vocals - to take a stand against global injustice. Incensed by the catastrophic effects of the global recession on his home country of Greece, he has poured anger and activism into his debut EP, Teargas, which combines catchy Aegean-trap bops with searing socio-cultural critique. Fresh from the release of his second single Teargas, and its sun-soaked, self-directed video, Christos spoke to Coeval about Palestine, post-Capitalism, and the fallacies of Pop.
My debut EP, TEARGAS, is coming out on june 8th through Doomdab records. all songs produced by me. Cover art - @samuel.ibram Retouch - Mark Crisostomo wearing @sherynakiki mixed by @spr_macchina, Giorgos boussounis, G Ginis, D Romanidis and mastered by Doug Shearer Thanks to @_____hd 💖for everything also @tomorrows__trade for the cover shoot🌪🌪🌪🌪🌪🌪🌪🌪🌪🌪🌪🌪🌪🌪🌪🌪🌪🌪🌪🌪🌪
Tell me a little about your decision to call the EP Teargas...
Walking through teargas is one of my most distinctive memories of growing up in Athens, and the adjacent chaos of all the anti-austerity and anti-police protests between 2008 and 2015. One summer it was pretty common to have your apartment’s windows shut throughout the day, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to breathe, if you lived in the center of Athens. I want to express a message of resilience, that life goes on despite being forced to live that way.
How many tracks does it comprise? What can we expect from them?
The EP is made up of four songs, the first three are more club-ready and the last one is slower. I have been making music for six years now, but these songs are my most accomplished and therefore I thought the time had come to release them. I produced all the songs and sang on all of them, but I also had a few sessions with traditional Greek violinists that played on top of my production. I chopped them up and sampled them and you can hear them most prominently on the dance tracks, ‘Teargas’, ‘Yasemi’, and ‘Region’. I like the way the violin melts into the rigidity of the electronic beats.
What are some of your earliest music memories (both listening and making); do they inform your process now?
Actually, Greek pop and traditional styles of music have a huge influence on my perception of groove, rhythm and melody, so those instinctively come up when I’m making a drum pattern or improvising a vocal line. One of my earliest musical memories is a friend of my mum’s who used to work for what I think was Sony Music Greece or some other major label. She would bring me enormous bags of all the latest pop albums and singles every few months, as well as more obscure releases, and that was how I was introduced to so much music–and a lot of it was one hit wonders. That’s how I was introduced to everything from Brandy to Anastacia. Being an only child I guess I studied them, not just the music and the deep cuts but also the booklets and visuals. I’ve been a music nerd from a very young age.
The tracks I’ve heard thus far: Forever No and Teargas - and their visual accompaniments - both carry distinct messages of political engagement and a sense of disdain for our befuddling late-capitalist, ‘post-era’ era. Do these themes extend into the rest of the EP?
The video for Teargas very specifically references the visuals of pre-recession Greek pop videos shot on different picturesque islands, with all-white outfits, in the late 90s and early 2000s. It was the time of economic euphoria for Greece and you can really tell from the pointlessness of the imagery, so I thought I’d do a take on that, with pro-Palestine lyrics like “down in the war zone there’s unrest, we’re taking back Jerusalem.”
Where did you shoot it?
We shot the video in Milos, which is an island in the Cyclades, in September. The whole place is made up of volcanic rocks and has a very unique ambience. The beach we shot at is this lunar-like landscape, so the whole experience was pretty otherworldly.
Going back to what you said about the influence of the late-90s and early 2000s, I think you make a really good point. ‘Pointless imagery’ and scenes of conspicuous consumption were essentially at the core of our audiovisual cultural lexicon as children and young people growing up at that time. How important do you feel it is to critique and perhaps even weaponise these concepts now?
I mean, revisiting those visuals now is so strange, especially since contemporary music videos look way worse? The budgets have gone down since the recession across the board, so the people getting hired to work on them are not the best. Everyone wants to recreate that late 90s/2000s look, but you can’t make a futuristic Aaliyah video without a budget. Also you can’t make an Aaliyah video without an Aaliyah–there’s no personality in pop these days, just random label signees pushed through radio and streaming platforms. So it feels like the spectacle has regressed or something, where everything feels and looks cheaper.
Our generation should instead try to critique modes of representation that have nothing to say about the way we live now. What are the conditions and circumstances of impoverishment and alienation under which we operate? And to create new things, as opposed to constantly recycling old ones.
Definitely, nostalgia can be a dangerous and distracting force! It all bleeds together at points, which is unavoidable, but it does feel slightly ridiculous now to not acknowledge that the entire industry was/is a bubble like everything else. I really like the image of you riding on the back of a vegetable truck whilst wearing pristine P. Diddy-white, it’s a timely juxtaposition!
I think nostalgia is OK sometimes, it’s just a bit worrying when it’s the singular dominant trend everywhere. And there’s musicians whose whole thing is emulating a 90s aesthetic, like why?
Your Greek identity evidently plays a key role in your work, how have recent political and economic events reframed your perspective on your home country?
The recent events, the referendum and the ‘NO’ vote made me and the rest of my generation more politicised, not by choice but by necessity. I can’t deny I’m one of the more privileged ones since I have lived in London for a section of that time but someone has to voice these concerns on a non-domestic level.
How has this motivated you creatively?
It’s motivated me to make work that is urgent and timely, and not try to chase a hit or a record deal, or an Instagram following.
You live and work between London and Athens, how do their music/creative industries compare?
London seems pretty dry at the moment. I am more inspired in hot places. I think humans need to be outside, or at least I do. I made the title track when I was in Mexico, and I was 100% influenced by reggaeton and cumbia blasting everywhere. But a version of that type of bouncy reggaeton beat exists in Greek folk music too, so I think I’m making that connection.
You directed the video for Teargas, tell me about the filming process, had you ever worked with video before?
Yes, I directed and edited and colour-graded both my videos so far, I think it’s important to do it myself at this point, because I don’t really trust anyone with my vision. I like collaborating with people on other things though. I work with amazing DOPs for the music videos, and Samuel Ibram shot the cover of my EP in London.
Are we going to see you performing Teargas anytime soon?
Me and Doom Dab, my friend HD’s label, which I am releasing the EP on, are throwing a release party at Le Bain in New York tonight! My TEARGAS EP is out today (Friday June 8th) on all platforms.
Images/music courtesy of CHRISTOS
interview HARALD SMART
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