It is one of those rainy and moody mornings in the apartment’s living room where drummer Trikalero is having his breakfast, a toast with cheese and turkey and an espresso coffee. Sitting comfortably in his tilting chair and having his feet on a stool while stares the serene view from his window. There is a panoramic view of the old town and the sixteenth century castle of ‘Fortezza’ from that point of town. That's why the name of the region is ‘Panorama’! The strong wind indicates the start of the winter season. Colder days are coming. Time to get closer!
Babel Trio, are a heavy rock band from Crete, Greece. They have a new eight track album out now called 'The Martyr' which runs in at just under fifty minutes long and is the bands third release.
1- How did you become involved in this crazy world of music?
I was involved into music since my childhood by learning the bouzouki and the classic guitar from my cousins. Just from curiosity and while hanging out with them I asked them to teach me some songs in each instrument. From this infused combination of curiosity, talent and freedom, after some months, I found myself at a ‘Trypes’ concert in my hometown (Trikala) back in 1996. ‘Trypes’ were a very famous post rock band in Greece during their career. From that moment and then, my dream and passion was to be part of a band that would playing around the world in large concerts and festivals. Driven by my dream, I managed to persuade my cousins to form a band that we named it ‘Anesthesia’ and without having an idea of my role in the band yet. We were missing the drums! So, I said ‘I will play the drums’ and so that was it! My first band, that was a cover band playing Metallica and ‘Megadeath’ songs.
In fact, I was born in this crazy world of music, my parents were both musicians. My father was a bouzouki player and my mother played accordion and guitar. As much as I wanted as a kid to skip music learning it was obligatory to study. As a teenager, I got hooked to my Fender Stratocaster! That was it! After that i found my musical roots by discovering the Cretan lute. After many years it became my profession and my original way of expressing my self.
Music has always been a part of my life, since the early years of my childhood. I was raised in Corfu Island, a place where people have deep connection with music. At the age of seven I started playing the piano, inspired by my brother. A few years later, at the age of nine, I started classical guitar lessons and decided to attempt the Music High School of Corfu where I graduated from.
From high school I used to play electric guitar in several bands with friends and experiment with the electric sound. I was always flirting with the bass, but I took it seriously at the age of 23 and I’m still learning and loving it. I believe that I’ m very lucky because I always knew what path I wanted to follow in my life and never had doubts about what to do when I will grow up. First of all I fell in love with music and after that all the other things followed.
2- Tell me about the new album?
"The Martyr" is the third album and contains eight new tracks of which five are songs and the three are instrumental. Both the name of the album and the titles of the tracks themselves refer to the narration of a story about a symbolic person who is born, lives and dies. For a martyr who is prosecuted for defending, confessing, denying, refusing to deny or refusing to accept the beliefs imposed on him. He refuses to comply with the situation as it is today, and is ready to be punished to the point of death to defend his beliefs. It becomes a symbol of heroism and an example to be imitated in difficult times.
Thus, our protest takes place in this encounter with the ‘martyr’ in the very creation! Lyrics from tradition and original ideas, intertwined with the electric sound in a unique combination of Heavy Rock, traditional Mediterranean music and modern lyricism.
3- What is the difference between the new release and your previous releases?
This release is similar to our second album, I think, "The Island of Cretal", in terms of style, but it is darker and definitely doomy in some points. Comparing to our first record, this one has less progressive rock elements in my opinion. Also this is another step in creating our unique sound by producing more original songs and fewer revisions of traditional melodies and tunes. It’s a much solid album in terms of music arrangements from the other two albums. Finally, the sound production of the album is much heavier and that’s the main difference.
4- Who are your musical inspirations and what was the inspiration behind the album and the songs?
Some of my main musical inspirations are Kyuss, Black Sabbath, Villagers of Ioannina City, Dio, Metallica and Pink Floyd. I find also inspiration in jazz standards, traditional Greek songs from all around Greece and especially from Crete! Like listening to classic lyre players like Skordalos, Mountakis and many more. Specifically in this album, most of the inspiration came out from listening to Cretan traditional music and our second album ‘The Island of Cretal’.
For me, inspiration is a present thing that can be triggered from everything, like emotions, images, smells and thoughts. For example, the name of the fifth song in the album which is ‘Up in the Sky’ was half inspired by the name of the color in my living room’s wall which is ‘in the stratosphere’. The color also is a mix of deep blue and grey!
Behind album’s inspiration is also the situation our nowadays world is in. Ethical matters that concern me like justice, equality and a prosper living for every human in the world. Finally, the bitterness, the anger and the frustration are some of the feelings I tried to capture in this album.
My inspirations go back to the first recordings of Cretan and traditional music in general, I find the old material more fresh than anything. Of course the deeper inspiration is the matters of life, the poetry of feelings and thoughts. Our new album is inspired by the political and social condition of our lives, very old and also new lyrics and melodies coexist as we try to build our own vocabulary to express the urgent times we are in.
I listen to many kinds of music since I was a kid. Traditional Greek and Mediterranean music always moved me, but my big love is classical music and especially from the period of impressionism till nowadays. Some of my favorite composers are Debussy, Ravel and Bartok. I also obviously love rock music and some of the bands that I’m inspired of are Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple.
The album is based on the Cretan music and especially the old traditional artists from the early century. The heavy electric sound is “grafted” with traditional lyrics. The inspiration came from all the things that happen around the world, injustice, wars and people dying while trying for a better way of living.
5- What are your interests outside of music?
I can’t say that I have plenty of time outside music and especially Babel Trio, but when it happens the most I like to do is enjoying a couple of Guinness beers with my close friends in a quiet bar. I also like photography a lot! Capturing landscapes, people and buildings are some of my favorite themes in photography. Cinema is also another interest of me. I love the old European cinema like the movies from Fellini and Pasolini.
Another thing that I like to do is dealing with stuff that is broken. I am a DIY person in many situations, so, fixing and making things work is something that I also love to do in my spare time even if this is to change my car’s upholstery or to fix Michael’s electric power strips!
Interests other than music, I like to interview very old traditional musicians and reveal a part of our identity that is expiring. Also, making close friends and long talks over anything. I enjoy being alone and thinking about things that bother me, to sort things out. Of course food and alcohol, here in Crete we value good food and drinking with friends for hours and hours. Art in general is a pleasure and a main source of inspiration.
I like reading very much in my spare time. My favorite books are about legends and stories from all around the world. Generally I like all kind of books and specially books about any kind of art. Another of my interests is movies, plays and any kind of performing art. During the lockdown I found out (like many people I guess) that I cook very well! Also, I really enjoy astronomy. The universe fascinated me since I was a child.
6- Could you tell our readers about the band and what makes you different from other artists?
Actually we are a trio of a custom electric lute, an electric bass and drums. What we love most is to spend our time experimenting at traditional Cretan and Aegean music. Trying to explore and express ourselves. The band started by me and Dimitris when we met for jamming in some ideas He had back in 2012. After some weeks I introduced Michael and that was all. From then we are together on this that we call Babel Trio!
What makes us different from the other artists is something I let our fans to think about! What makes us unique is the sound of the electric lute, a custom electric instrument that is designed by Dimitris. We choose this sound and not an electric guitar because this helps us to present our musical roots in a most precise way. Most of the music melodies that inspire us are played with the acoustic lute anyway. Electric lute is something more heavy than that of course. It certainly gives us the sound we need to present our music to a broader audience. To someone that likes heavy sound, rock and psychedelic music, stoner and even metal to some degree. We ‘transform’ the traditional music of our homeland in a way that can be approachable and liked from people who not listen to traditional music but are coming from different genres like the ones I mentioned above. I believe that’s the difference and everyone in the band is content that we have succeed that.
7- What is the highlight of the album for you and why?
The highlight of the album for me is inextricably linked to the times we live in. The music and the lyrics are fitting exactly to the condition of our society! As a band and as individuals, we have never felt more close to expressing our social and political environment and its urgent times. It's a difficult time for an album release, not being able to be played and get the music out there, but the album expresses this difficult time deeply. Taking in consideration the purpose of arts in general, I could say that this is the embodiment of a reaction, even a revolution against a given world order and that’s the highlight of the album.
8- How are the live shows going and what are you and the band hoping to gain?
Live shows in generally was going very well. It is the most pleasant moment for me. People also are very excited in every live that we had till now. Having done four tours in Greece from 2016 till 2019 and having played in several other concerts, we managed to have an average of about 22 live shows per year. Speaking about a self-managed band like Babel Trio and taking in consideration the political and economic situation in Greece, I could say that I am fairly satisfied till now but I definitely want more!
Now, speaking about nowadays situation, to be honest, live shows are not going at all! This period with the pandemic it’s so hard for a live show to set up, mostly due to the restrictive measures for the coronavirus. Live streaming from the other hand is something possible and in this stage and for quite some time will be the only way out. Although, it is questionable how much the audience can actually participate in a live streaming and I am personally very afraid of getting used to it. Art is a living organism and thus the interaction of the concert experience is eliminated. For example, gathering one thousand people together in a live and dancing together is something like a cure, a ritual, a small revolution. And that’s the most of our gain from the live shows. That experience. Playing in different people around the world and communicate in the most emotional way our music. To make people feel the way we are feeling when we perform our music. This is something we are hoping to continue in our live shows in the future.
9- Where was it recorded who produced it and how long did the process take?
‘The Martyr’ was recorded at ‘Headroom Studio’ which is a home studio. This studio is outside of Rethymno in a forest. A very convenient place to work in, away from town’s noise! For this album we decided to work with our in-life sound engineer Telis Aristotelis. Telis, is family for us and also our engineer in every live show. We also produced with him our first album which is ‘Roots Electrified’. So, With Telis, we were working from October of 2019 till April of 2020. This period included the recording and the mixing of the album. After that, the album was mastered at the studio of our label ‘Labyrinth of Thoughts Records’ in Athens by Nick Stylidis. The whole process was very pleasant for us and Ι can’t hide from you that many musical ideas was edited directly at the recording sessions we had back in the studio. The album was produced by me, Michael Avlonitis, Dimitris Sideris and Telis Aristotelis.
10- What's in store for the future?
Speaking about the future, as much as we can make plans due to the situation prevailing with the coronavirus, we would like to make a tour in Greece for 2021 to present live our album at as many towns as it is possible. Till that time, we will manage to perform for the audience, thru live streaming also. Inevitably!
We would like also to have a European tour in the near future. Musical inspiration is always present, so it is very likely to have a fourth album in the next two years also! Some other things we are planning to do are to print ‘The Island of Cretal’ in vinyl also, and finally print ‘Roots Electrified’ in a physical format. Definitely we want also to renew our merchandise with tees!
11- With the current situation the world is in, how does the Coronavirus affect the band as a whole?
The most negative thing about the coronavirus is the difficulty or even the impossibility to have concerts with the band. Also with all these lockdowns it is impossible to meet each other and communicate in person. This definitely affects the band as we cannot hang out as a group and share common experiences. Also about music the affect is that we cannot jam and develop new ideas.
Generally we feel anxiety about the future of the cultural and creative sector as a whole, as if we are obliged to live a life without art. It is important for the artist to have a living from what he does. On the other hand, such a small virus that destroys the planet may provide the content for the evolution of the art itself as an inspiration from everyday life and this anomaly. We have a mental need to express ourselves and interact with the world. We close the door in fear by releasing our new album. Isolation may lead us to a greater need, to longing when conditions return to normal, we hope without fear.
PS: We miss the hugs!
12- What formats is the release out on?
The release of "The Martyr" is on three different forms. In a twelve inch long play vinyl of 150gr, in a compact disc in a glass case as well as in a digital format. Both vinyl and cd were printed in limited editions of 150 copies each. We are very excited about this release, because it is the first album we have ever printed on a vinyl record!
Source: ROCK & METAL FIREWORKS UK