Q&A with Greek musician Alex Dante, redefines the aesthetics and sound over Classical, describing a route to Jazz

"Spirit, god, meaning of life and other intangible concepts are always there when we cannot describe something with words. To reach that point and communicate with other people by spirit is something magical and maybe not so understandable. But the first good step to reach that point is love. Love what you do and with whom. Expect nothing with no second thoughts. Just love."

Alex Dante: Beyond From Music Forms

Alexandros Dandoulakis (born 12th of May 1983), better known by his stage name Alex Dante is a Greek musician originally from the island of Crete. Since 2001 he lives and works as guitarist, music teacher, arranger and composer in Athens. He studied Mathematics and Physics at the National Technical University of Athens and Music at the University of West London which he graduated with the Licentiate of Teacher’s Diploma in electric guitar. He has collaborated with many Greek artists and world class musicians like Bill Frisell, Alan Zavod (Zappa & the mothers), Monophonics and Jazz Soul Orchestra. His projects cover many music genres such as Jazz, Soul, Rock and Classical music. Alex Dante, with his electric guitar, redefines the aesthetics and sound over Frederic Chopin’s and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s pieces, describing a route from Wes Montgomerry and Joe Pass to Pat Metheny and Kurt Rosenwinkel.             (Alex Dante / Photo by Dia Papadopoulou)

In 2019 he releases his first personal album titled Alex Dante plays F.Chopin’s Nocturnes in 12″ LP, CD and digital album format. Guitar effects and the massive headroom from 2 amplifiers combined with the fundamentals of Chopin’s compositions make one wonder about the existence of boundaries between different musical styles. Alex Dante and Manolis Giannikios (Whereswilder) formed the Alex Dante Duet during spring 2019. This collaboration gave birth to their first release in March 2020 titled “Alex Dante Duet Plays S. Rachmaninoff” which consists of an electric open interpretation of four of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s compositions. Using their main instruments (electric guitar & drum set) as means for expression, the duet aims to create a bridge between the legendary classical composer and contemporary western music.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Jazz and Classical music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Jazz music represents my daily life with my simple habits. My realistic environment with my friends or me by myself practicing at home, drinking coffee in the morning, try to explore my favourite musicians and discover new pieces of music or new albums. People I play with (duos, trios, or bigger ensembles) we share our love about Jazz music and use it as the engine to create new things.

Classical music represents the untouchable, the uncopyable. This music era is the one that reminds me how tiny I am and how short is life in general. Any Classical composition from the shortest Scriabin piece to the longest Mahler Symphonies can be so moving and inspire me from one moment to another.

How do you describe your sound and music philosophy? What's the balance in music between technique and soul?

I have a super simple thing in my mind. There are no music genres and styles. There is only one music and one sound. I believe in good sound. That is all. The quality of music depends on the love that we will give during the creation of a musical piece. Personally I love doing music no matter if it is a Sergei Rachmaninoff rearrangement or I write music for kids!

Technique is trying things that used to seem impossible at the past. I respect good technique. It shows patience and loyalty. Good technique helps your musical expression and you may communicate your soul better, and that’s the goal.

"I believe that there is music and artists that no one will remember after a couple of months or maybe a year. This might affect some people and with the use of the media might also have some impact about social and cultural life, but there is also timeless music that will always be the basis of our inspiration. I want artists to express their opinion from their works. Aesthetics is ethos and ethos is your political opinion. We need artists that will stand bravely and give all of their passion for common good. Against war, against fascism, against racism." (Alex Dante / Photo by Dia Papadopoulou)

Why do you think that Frederic Chopin & Sergei Rachmaninoff music continues to generate such a devoted following?

I would say that they created fundamental music. They settled our musical aesthetics. I do not believe that there is musical taste or something subjective in music. Good music is always good and for everyone. They did good music in general and through the times. When I play their music in concerts, many people tell me that their sound reminds them bands like Radiohead and I find that fantastic because it proves that these composers are timeless!

Are there any memories from Bill Frisell, Alan Zavod, and Jazz Soul Orchestra which you’d like to share with us?

I opened a Bill Frisell concert before 5 years. He came to play in Athens with Kenny Wollesen. Before the show I would say that he was my musical hero, after that, I would say that is my favourite human being in the whole world. The kindest, simplest and most generous man I will ever meet. He watched my 30 minutes solo set sitting at a chair beside the scene and when I finished, he hugged me and thanked me for my playing. He finally said to me: “You are playing all this music by heart! Sometimes I play a Beatles song and read it from the music sheet, I shouldn’t!” I read his biography “A beautiful dreamer” by Philip Watson, such a great book! Bill changed guitar sound and continues to innovate and surprise everyone with his playing.

Alan Zavod came to me just before the second set at a gig with my trio and asked me If he could play with us. I said to him that we would play originals for the second set and he said: “OK”. He played anything by ear!! A monster!

"Jazz music represents my daily life with my simple habits. My realistic environment with my friends or me by myself practicing at home, drinking coffee in the morning, try to explore my favourite musicians and discover new pieces of music or new albums. People I play with (duos, trios, or bigger ensembles) we share our love about Jazz music and use it as the engine to create new things." (Alex Dante 2018 , Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Athens Greece / Photo by Dia Papadopoulou)

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

The thing that I miss most is the way that people used to listen to music. Full length albums on their turntables, or cassettes or CDs. Now anything moves so fast. Even in Jazz recordings, they are trying to create shortest and more “friendly” versions for Spotify and Youtube music. Imagine a composer, let’s say Igor Stravinsky nowadays. Would he make short Spotify editions for Firebird, Petrushka or Rite of Spring? Same with rock stars like Led Zeppelin. Imagine Stairway to heaven in a 3 minute version!

The main characteristic of our time is the access to any information. And here is my biggest hope. That musical information will be used well to expand our creativity.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

This is a huge thing. I believe that there is music and artists that no one will remember after a couple of months or maybe a year. This might affect some people and with the use of the media might also have some impact about social and cultural life, but there is also timeless music that will always be the basis of our inspiration.

I want artists to express their opinion from their works. Aesthetics is ethos and ethos is your political opinion. We need artists that will stand bravely and give all of their passion for common good. Against war, against fascism, against racism.

"Technique is trying things that used to seem impossible at the past. I respect good technique. It shows patience and loyalty. Good technique helps your musical expression and you may communicate your soul better, and that’s the goal." (Alex Dante / Photo by Dia Papadopoulou)

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the Greek music paths/scene?

I used to play as a session musician a lot. I played almost in every place in Greece. The thing I learned is that I had to stop doing gigs that I don’t like. I had to focus on the music that I love and play with musicians that I truly and deeply respect and make my own bands and projects. It may be sound cliché but, I had to follow my heart.

John Coltrane said "My music is the spiritual expression of what I am...". How do you understand the spirit, music, and the meaning of life?

Spirit, god, meaning of life and other intangible concepts are always there when we cannot describe something with words. To reach that point and communicate with other people by spirit is something magical and maybe not so understandable. But the first good step to reach that point is love. Love what you do and with whom. Expect nothing with no second thoughts. Just love.

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