Avant-garde Greek artist Andreas Mouzakitis talks about counterculture and counter-tradition of music & art

"Consciously or unconsciously, Rock 'n' Roll is a revolutionary movement. It carries the message of the beatniks, hippies, feminism, sexual liberation... Despite its transformation to a commercialized form, it still carries its revolutionary ideas and expresses comparable trends of next generations."

Andreas Mouzakitis: Aesthetic Virtues

Multitalented artist (music, poetry and mixed media constructions and sculptures) Andreas Mouzakitis was born in 1954 in Kerkyra, Greece. Today he lives and works in Athens and his main occupation is music. At the time when Athens experienced ‘rock situations’ he worked with outlaw singer/songwriter Nicolas Assimos (1973-75) and joined friends in setting up the famous Greek rock band 'Spyridoula' (1977). In 1978 he worked with rock/blues musician, Pavlos Sidiropoulos in many concerts and in the historical Greek LP "Flou". In the 1980s he stayed away from record companies, being in favour of a free and authentic artistic creation; during that time he published the poetry collections "Tropopiissi" and "Onirou Odyssia", illustrated with his own ‘paintings’ made of typewritter letters (ASCII graphics). Together with Liana Koutrolikou they formed the LPB band (1989), made independent music productions and composed music for theatre, dance performances and video art.                       Photo by Nikos Zappas

First vinyl maxi single "light pop beat - elafrolaikos rythmos", featuring "mundi-a-hell 'n' hi" and "these boots are made for walking" (1989). Live performances (1990 - 1993) in Athens, Greece. First vinyl LP album "LPB light pop beat - elafrolaikos rythmos" (1993) by Thodoris Manikas' "Iptamenoi Diskoi". All other albums are independent productions by LPB: "LPB amykonos" (1995), "LPB panselinos/8" (1998 - original soundtrack for the dance-theater "Panselinos/8", a creation of Maria Gaitani, performed by her "Eos" dance group), "LPB six soundtracks" (2002 - a collection of six original soundtracks for video art), "LPB Faust" (2004 - original soundtrack for "Faust" video art by Nikos Zappas), "LPB seven of clubs" (2007). Now working on two new collections: "LPB electroSHOCK" (electroacoustic works) and "LPB studiolive" (live performances recorded in the studio). In the last decades he has been making constructions and sculptures out of reused objects and materials (Mechanicart). At the same time, he is constructing and using experimental musical instruments and composing and performing pieces of music written for drums and percussion. He has exhibited at Booze Cooperativa: "Carte Blanche V" (2006), Booze Cooperativa: "A flag is born" (2006), ESTE Foundation: "Anathena" (2007), Galerie Melnicow, Heidelberg - Germany: "3 Künstler aus Athen" (2013). Andreas was co-owner of legendary LOUKI club (1978 - 1985), a famous meeting point for artists, and jazz, rock & blues fans in Kolonaki, Athens.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the counterculture and what does underground art/culture mean to you?

It is a very rare phenomenon for new ideas, new aesthetics and new trends to be born in a long-established art/culture context. This is why the underground has always been - and will continue being, unless our civilization experiences a drastic change - the fittest social environment for experimentation, free thought and new proposals.

In my opinion, the most remarkable lesson a person - with a tendency toward self-criticism and self-improvement - will learn about himself is how conservative and biased he is at the beginning of his counterculture endeavor - as a result of his family and social education.

"The Rock Era is, in my opinion, a revolution which has not yet been historically recorded to the extent and with the recognition it deserves." (Photos: A. Mouzakitis Artwork - Magma & Bonsai)

What characterize your poetry, music and artwork? What experiences have triggered your ideas most?

A first characteristic I can discern is my tendency to remove from my works as many elements as possible, elements that I would like to see removed from the human way of thinking and behavior. Difficult effort... These elements are hidden everywhere! A second characteristic is my attempt to integrate technological progress in my works without destroying the aesthetic virtues and the aesthetic codes of older technologies.

I believe that all our experiences contribute to the determination of our inclinations and decisions. But I can say for certain that my experiences as a teenager in Greece, during the Greek military junta, have been decisive. I remember myself, at age 16 or 17, watching Woodstock in an almost empty movie theater, with only 10 - 15 spectators, some of whom were certainly police officers in civilian clothes. Subsequently, I was challenged by the very oppressive conditions I met in two key areas of our social life: work and personal/intimate relationships.

What were the reasons that you started the artistic, social, spiritual, and counterculture researches?

The main reasons are the pleasure and the sense of completeness I experience when I deal with each one of them. Logical explanations and desired objectives - such as my wish for reaction to the "wrongs", my wish to contribute to the cultural and social evolution, or my pursuit for existential answers - come next.

"I would require - as a top priority - high quality original music from the music industry and the musicians, and I would urge them to encourage quality and originality before profit and success." (Photos: Aromatherapy Army Souvenir - Mixed media construction sculpture by A. Mouzakitis)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

The fact that musicians are not in the mood and don't have the time for meetings, rehearsals, research and music performances. My hopes? That this positive mood will come back. My fears? That this is not going to happen.

If you could change one thing in the music world/musicians and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I would require - as a top priority - high quality original music from the music industry and the musicians, and I would urge them to encourage quality and originality before profit and success.

Make an account of the case of Rock & Blues in Greece. Which is the most interesting period in local scene?

Rock and Blues became known in Greece during the '60s. From the beginning, the movement was connected with the revolutionary youth of that time... also undoubtedly, with trends and fashion. This type of music was not traditional in Greece. It was something completely new. New sounds, new rhythms, new musical forms. The only means of being initiated to this musical revolution was through imitation, improvisation and self-education.

Occasionally, a limited number of musical groups and solitary musicians managed to win the young audience and created what we call "Greek Rock". The traditional Greek music was only slightly affected by these musical streams - mainly through orchestration - and there was no remarkable merging. Greek sorrow and complaint were never expressed through the Blues. So, Rock and Blues was always both counterculture and counter-tradition. Most of the good Rock and Blues musicians I have encountered in Greece are either exiled or self-exiled from the main scene of music. Most of them have only slightly experienced on-stage performance. Perhaps this is what helped them maintain their - barely famous - originality and stand out of the identifiable "celebrities" who claim with professional consistency the pocket money and the admiration of the youth. The remarkable Rock and Blues groups are constantly disappearing small islands in the ocean of the Pop and Bouzouki Hybrids industry.

The most interesting period? The '70s, because of the many different forms and experimentation in process. Personally, I would add the period '84 - '94, because of the many Rock and Jazz-Rock progressive efforts which resulted in the creation of LPB. And finally, the period '96 - '02 because of the very interesting electro-live shows and productions.

"In my opinion, the most remarkable lesson a person - with a tendency toward self-criticism and self-improvement - will learn about himself is how conservative and biased he is at the beginning of his counterculture endeavor - as a result of his family and social education." (Photo: Spyridoula, 1978 - N. Spyropoulos, M. Mplazis, Mouzakitis, K. Kouremenos, V. Spyropoulos & P. Sidiropoulos)

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Rock & Roll and Blues with Nicolas Assimos & Pavlos Sidiropoulos?

During that period, a musician could express his social and political objections through two musical tendencies: Folk music or Rock and Blues. The first one was the music of the traditional Greek left wing and the second one the music of all other nonconformists.

Nicolas, who derived from the working class, was mainly a Blues artist (Blues as an expression of his feelings rather than as a musical form) and was influenced by American Ballads and their European - mostly French and Italian - versions. Many rock elements were added to his music through his collaboration with significant Greek rockers and were mixed with his own Greek Folk and Country sounds.

Pavlos, who derived from the middle class (bourgeoisie), was more directly influenced by American Rock and Country Rock as well as by mainly White Blues. A very important influence is found in Rock and Blues lyrics.

Both musicians were natural and authentic and both managed to spontaneously reproduce Rock and Blues with Greek lyrics.

Which meeting/collaboration have been the most important? Are there any memories which you’d like to share?

The most important meeting/collaboration is with Liana Koutrolikou who is my primary music collaborator (bass guitar - LPB band) and my constant companion and advisor, even with regard to my "solitary" activities. We work together since 1978. Sharing memories would require many pages of writing...!

What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you from the LOUKI club era and nights?

The reaction of the conservative high society of Kolonaki district to the club's trademark (Rodin's The Thinker): LOUKI was characterized as gay-club. Yes, this made me laugh!

I was touched by the sensation of "upgrade" LOUKI club inspired to his regular customers. Without compromising the essence of the project, LOUKI was the first Jazz-Rock-Blues club with high aesthetic standards, high service quality and good sound, in an Athens district difficult to by accessed until then by Rock 'n' Roll fans.

"The main reasons are the pleasure and the sense of completeness I experience when I deal with each one of them. Logical explanations and desired objectives - such as my wish for reaction to the "wrongs", my wish to contribute to the cultural and social evolution, or my pursuit for existential answers - come next." (Andreas Mouzakitis, "Flou" album's photo by Giorgos Maniatis, 1978)

What is the Impact of Rock & Roll culture on the literary, and the relationship to the socio-cultural implications?

Consciously or unconsciously, Rock 'n' Roll is a revolutionary movement. It carries the message of the beatniks, hippies, feminism, sexual liberation... Despite its transformation to a commercialized form, it still carries its revolutionary ideas and expresses comparable trends of next generations. The majority of conservative people of our epoch do not realize that tens or hundreds of things that they can do in public nowadays are the result of what happened during the Rock 'n' Roll era.

Literature was not excluded from this stormy change which started with the Rock Movement. It was influenced in form and in content. As far as language is concerned, Rock 'n' Roll opened a door for thousands of words and expressions, without the customs control of academics, and the door remained open ever since. As far as the content is concerned, topics were freed from the conservative "comme il faut" and moved to areas which were once social taboos.

The Rock Era is, in my opinion, a revolution which has not yet been historically recorded to the extent and with the recognition it deserves.

Where would you really wanna go with a time machine and what memorabilia (books, records) would you put in?

Honestly, I would not replace the Present with any other era. I feel that the biological "Time Machine" has brought me exactly where I should and would like to be.

Andreas Mouzakitis - Home

Portrait of Andreas Mouzakitis by the painter Pericles Pangratis (Kerkyra, 1989)

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