We covered the single “Am I Cher?” by CHiCKN recently, saying ‘”Greek band CHiCKN are new to me, this is just a brilliant retro tune, like Cat Stevens overdosing on acid. Pure class. I am Cher about that.” In fact, we were so taken with their (soon to be seminal) new LP “WOWSERS!” (Inner Ear Records) that we just had to find out more, so we were delighted when Angelos Krallis gave us the lowdown on the whole project. Check it.
Yes, and what about the amazing “Mr. Birdie” he provided for our gallery*. Wonderful, isn’t it?
Wowsers sounds like a real blast, you can almost feel the spontaneity and joie de vivre coming off it like a heatwave. How did you approach making the record? Did you have templates, sketches for the songs that you worked around?
We used no templates and a ton of sketches. We have that specific kind of spontaneity you refer to when we compose music that we try to keep it intact until the time we record. Everything stays open and ever-changing until the last minute. By the time we hit the REC button, everything locks in place as we assume that we got the best out of it, given the circumstances.
How did you all agree when a particular song was “in the can”?
All of the songs that were written for WOWSERS! had a singer/songwriter demo version that found its way to the rehearsing room. Then it is deployed, jammed and arranged by the band. As soon as we had the band’s version for all of the songs, we compiled a group of the most potent ones, while keeping in mind the consistency of the record. Leaving a song outside the can doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s weak. It could just be out of context.
Even on first listen to the record sounds like a classic, like it captured the essence of a special moment – does it feel like that to you?
Recording WOWSERS! was a landmark for every single one of us. It somehow affected us in so many aspects both in person and as a band. I don’t think it’s a classic -that’s too soon- but it is a lovechild for sure.
Do you think it reflects the wider Athenian music scene?
No. It reflects our personal aspect of what could mean to live, compose, record and perform our music in Athens. Athenian music production is really chaotic and solipsistic – I am not sure though if this is a sign of our times or a town-specific characteristic. So I do not think that one band’s piece of work could reflect the whole “scene” by any means.
You release on Inner Ear Records, how did you come to sign for them?
Inner Ear Records is probably the only indie label in Greece with a constant presence during the last ten years while releasing some of the most interesting stuff that has seen the light in this small part of the world. They reached us after a crazy gig we had three years ago while having released only three singles and a couple of bootlegs -but with the word of mouth by our side. We signed for two records and here we are!
Do you think recording as the old year turned into the new influenced the music in any way?
It gave us an extra push into building a non-temporal nest for our music. I have to tell you, our time perception was severely warped while recording! Getting in action when the counter is about to turn, really helps that condition.
What sound is December? What colour is January?
December is the sound of Fender Rhodes Mark IV previously owned by the Grateful Dead, plugged into a Fender Vibrolux. It is the sound of our little hearts melting away. January is Sherwood Green Metallic.
How has it been to play the songs live? Given the make-up and ethos of the band do the songs change much when performed again?
Hahaha, make-up ethos is a thing indeed! How did you know? Playing our songs on stage is always a ritual. We mostly do set-lists a couple of minutes before we go on stage and we mostly don’t stick to them. It’s kinda like drawing on the sand. As for the song’s renditions, it is all about the circumstances. How much time we have, how many we are, where we perform, what is our aim or our goal. So it could be anything from 30 minutes of shiny yet raging rock&roll – tight as our consciousness – to a two and a half hour or wandering around endless fields. It always relies on the intention (same applies to our make-up ethos).
When did your musical journey begin?
CHICKN came to life on 24.12.2012. Time has been good on it, for sure.
What was the first piece of music you loved, and why?
The first piece of music I can recall losing my mind in it is Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”. I was three years old and my aunt gave me this VHS tape of Toei Animation’s Version of the “Swan Lake” that I quite literally melted down. A couple of years later I really got into Sailor Moon and it’s music and sound design was again astonishing and captivating.
Did I go too deep? Sorry. The first piece of music I adored as a young adult was Lena Platonos’ “SABOTAGE”. It was the first time I conceived music as a piece of art that I literally fit in. It still influences and moves me in the same way.
Do you have a favourite song on the record?
The only one of us that has an outspoken fav song on the record is our bass player, Axios, and that song’s “Too Many Parables”.
I love the discography you included with the press release, the more I listen to the record the more it adds context and it’s like a game guessing what influenced what – if you could only choose one record from the seventeen what would it be?
If you mean from the 70’s, oh it’s a tough one. Lets set some criteria; If it has to be one it should be a double LP at least. Additionally, when it’s about the 70’s I am all about 1971. From the top of my head, I would say CAN’s “Tago Mago”. Probably the most generous record I have ever listened to.
Following on – what artist(s) has been your biggest influence and in what way?
There are three specific acts that got me into starting a band and made that sound like an option. Those are The White Stripes and Captain Beefheart and the Grateful Dead. I blame them for not being a singer/songwriter or a Trap Lord right now.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written and why?
Cpt. Beefheart’s “Party of Special Things To Do” would make a nice CHICKN song I guess.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you recently?
Waking up alive feels weirder every day.
What’s exciting you on the Greek music scene?
The Sun, the Debt and, of course, Parthenon.
The only thing that is genuinely exciting into Greek music “scene” is that it allows artists and musicians to blend in organised society. Please let me explain myself. We are still in the margin, that very special place that the western world has built for many groups of people, artists included. That marginal space, here in Greece, gets broadened and broadened as more people have to fit in. So, without being less tough or ugly, those margins suddenly get lighter and airier! It gets easier to mind your business without caring about organised society’s reactions, preoccupations and thoughts on what you do, as it is really busy collapsing.
What’s the best phrase you’ve picked up in another language?
“Sacco di merda” is a punchline that really inspired us while riding the Autostrade.
What’s your idea of success?
Oh we are way beyond that. This is a notion that has failed humanity for centuries and it is really time to get rid of it. The only thing perceived as success by us is not being dead.
What question would you like to be asked that you never are and what would your answer be?
“What’s on your mind?”. I really miss that question., only Facebook asks nowadays. Answers, of course, can vary.
Does the path of excess lead to the palace of wisdom?
We are still on the page where we have to deal with notions like necessity and invention. At this point, excess and wisdom are out of our world.
Drawing: “Kyrios Poulis (Mr. Birdie)” / Pastels, pencil, acrylic spray and glitter on Awagami paper (2017, Angelos Krallis)
*The Gallery will be completely updated by end of August.