"Music is Devil’s work so we must make a deal and set the controls…"
Voodoo Drummer: Swingin' The Passion
Greek musician Voodoo Drummer (aka Chris Koutsogiannis), for more than 30 years he has appeared at festivals, theaters and venues in 24 countries so far, such as Rouge Cabaret Festival (Paris), Villa Celimontana Jazz Fest (Rome), Herodion Theatre (Athens), Secret Garden Fest (U.K.) & Doha Jazz Festival (Qatar). He performs with the cult British musical trio THE TIGER LILLIES and he had cooperated with significant artists like New Orleans singer MESCHYIA LAKE, Chicago Bluesman MICHAEL DOTSON and Greek singer-songwriter DIONYSIS SAVVOPOULOS. Has also recorded with members of Tuxedomoon (U.S.), Nouvelle Vague (FR) & Ojos de Brujo (SP). He co-founded: Drumbone (Experimental duet), Deja Voodoo (New Orleans Music) and Opera Chaotique (Dionysian Cabaret). His composition based on quote by CHARLES BUKOWSKI has been recorded with American Blues legend LOUISIANA RED. Also, a painter and a lyricist. His plays touring all over Europe, while his adaptation of ARISTOPHANES play “The Frogs” premiered in the National Opera of Greece. (Voodoo Drummer / Photo by Effie Traitse)
Voodoo Drummer recorded his debut solo single, a version of Pink Floyd's song in a 7/8 Greek Rhythm! (2022) feat. Adrian Stout of The Tiger Lillies on Musical Saw. It’s an experimental, instrumental version of “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” (by Roger Waters), where Tubular Bells, Cello and Musical Saw prevail! In this 7/8 rhythms the melody mixed with the theme of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” while the Greek traditional tune “Milo mou kokkino” close the recording. These influences along with the ones by Moondog and Erik Satie dominate his work. Voodoo Drummer's single "Drunk Dionysus" (2022), inspired by his ancestors, he has created an Afro-Dionysian experimental piece where weird Cello voices dance on top of a unique combination of odd rhythms, followed by a swinging version of a 9/8 Greek dance. Therein enters the Balafon master Mamadou Diabate from Burkina Faso (West Africa). In this track, the God of wine, theatre, fertility, ritual insanity, the notorious libertine himself Dionysus, is just drunk as usual! “Aristophanes' FROGS” (2023) is the new composition by Voodoo Drummer. Inspired by the play “The Frogs” written by the Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes, Voodoo Drummer has created an Afro-Dionysian Suite in 3 movements. Voodoo Drummer: Drums & Percussion with Stavros Parginos: Cello ft. Blaine L. Reininger (Tuxedomoon): Violin Special guest: Martyn Jacques (Tiger Lillies) on Aristophanes’ famous line from the play.
How has the Blues/Jazz and Rock music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
Hard to say because with music I always travel through time, so in the 90s for example I was living mostly in the 50s – 60s and sometimes in the 20s … Then you have the everyday influences, a hot widow passing in front of you when the Elvin Jones concert in Lycabettus Hill starts. So, I missed some poetry and culture classes!
How do you describe your sound, music philosophy? Where does your creative drive come from?
After 30+ years I believe that my sound is a mix of my influences with the common issue that how I sound is not how I want it!!! It’s just MY WAY. Not technical or academic, for sure not imitating but full of feeling, passion and swing. My philosophy is the same in life too: find yourself and don’t accept him! To be able to listen, practice and play here in HELLaS (Hellas: Greece in Greek language), all the creative drive must come from the mind. Hard thing when in the left side of our brain there’s nothing right and in the right, there’s nothing left!!! (Voodoo Drummer / Photo by Christoph Kaltenböck)
"Music became just a job or a show-off. It matters only how well you can copy a style or a player. In the past it was negative to sound like someone else, not only as a musician but also as a band. So we had all these great (not perfect, but unique) musicians and groups."
How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started and what has remained the same about your music-making process?
I am not the same person but Ι have the same passion for music. I always change and move to new directions trying to be as close as Ι can to what Ι want every time. My mind remains creative all these years even if my own creations are not so frequently. I try to follow the way Ι hear the things and not the way they sound.
What musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What's the balance in music between technique and soul?
Ι always loved the New Orleans music and Max Roach inspired me since I saw him in 1994 but Ι saw or heard a lot of others all these years and still discover great musicians that inspired me in a way. I am not a technical drummer but Ι got the soul, the imagination and the vision so Ι don't just imitate or copy, Ι mostly do things, Ι create (or destroy).
What has made you laugh and what touched you from The Frogs of Aristophanes?
Maybe it’s funny when Xanthias teases Dionysus but it’s interesting when we recognize parts of our personality to both of them. I chose this play because I can make my adaption and enjoy it!
If you had a question you would like to ask Aristophanes what would it be?
Do you mind that I ruined your play when I did my adaptation? Especially now that I said that “Ignoring Aristophanes, Dionysus ultimately decides to stay in Hell”?
Currently you’ve one release with Martyn Jacques of Tiger Lillies. How did that relationship come about? (Voodoo Drummer with Tiger Lillies / Photo by Karlina Vitolina)
I am a big admirer of Martyn long before I start perform with the Tiger Lillies. Now as a collaborator I asked him to try this famous line from the play. I am grateful that he accepted. He has the perfect voice for that too!
"Ι always loved the New Orleans music and Max Roach inspired me since I saw him in 1994 but Ι saw or heard a lot of others all these years and still discover great musicians that inspired me in a way. I am not a technical drummer but Ι got the soul, the imagination and the vision so Ι don't just imitate or copy, Ι mostly do things, Ι create (or destroy)."
Do you have any interesting stories about the making of the new single "The Frogs"?
Blaine L. Reininger did a wonderful job too. I wrote the Rapsody of the Frogs (the 2nd half of the 2nd movement) while waiting in a café at Thessaloniki (2018) for the club to open for the soundcheck. The basic melody of the track came to me in the first two weeks of last November and I was singing it in my head during the last minutes before all the 9 gigs with the Tiger Lillies at Half Note Jazz Club in Athens Greece.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?
In one of the Dionysian Mysteries mostly for the wine and the Bacchae. Hope the frame drum don’t beat in a 4/4 rhythm all night long!
You've a single titled "Drunk Dionysus" with the balafon master Mamadou Diabate from Burkina Faso (West Africa). How did that relationship come about?
I am a big fan of his music. When the piece was ready, Ι imagined his balafon there, so I just had to ask him and fortunately he said yes!!! He is very generous and supportive, so Ι am grateful. Thanks Mamadou!
How did the idea of "Drunk Dionysus" an Afro-Dionysian experimental piece with cello and 9/8 Greek dance rhythm come about?
The first part, the 25/8 rhythm, came before almost 20 years while practicing and soon the melody followed. The swinging 9/8 came before 4 years, on stage, when I was trying to make this rhythm more interesting. But it was this May that I worked the composition, on the piano first. At the end of June the "Antikrystos" was ready. Even if it's a Greek Dance (and my name is Christos), sounds like Antichrist (it wouldn't help to put also my wife's name: Magda) so Ι decided to change the title (Ι'm not a big fan of either the son or the father, anyway). So drink, this is my track: "Drunk Dionysus".
"Equality of opportunities. That’s all we need; we can do the rest! As you see I did my own recording now that I am 52 yr. and if it will become a hit, I won’t have the excuse of youth for my ego trip!" (Greek musician Voodoo Drummer (aka Chris Koutsogiannis), 2022 / Photo by Tasos Agapis)
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
Music became just a job or a show-off. It matters only how well you can copy a style or a player. In the past it was negative to sound like someone else, not only as a musician but also as a band. So we had all these great (not perfect, but unique) musicians and groups. Now it seems they care for everything except the music. Views, likes, followers, posts, video, image etc. really matters. To be good is acceptable occasionally. But in music and in life the point is beyond to be good or bad. You have to be YOU.
How did the idea of single "Pink Floyd in a 7/8 Greek Rhythm!" come about? Why do you think that Pink Floyd, 7/8 Rhythm and John Coltrane's music continues to generate such a devoted following?
One day I was listening to the song from the Live in Pompeii album. Then I just thought that it will be easily converted in a 7/8 rhythm. I am singing it for a while and that was it. 2-3 years later when I was listening the “A Love Supreme” record by John Coltrane I just “heard” the basic bass line in my 7/8 Floyd version. Great artists with unique work will always have devoted fans. The 7/8 Greek rhythm came before even the Dionysian orgies, so it can handle Coltrane and Floyd easily!
What moment changed your life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?
I have to say that the death of my parents in a car accident back in 1999 was a crucial moment… In music, my second time in New Orleans but first as a musician (in 2009) was the end of my “Nawlins-freak- period”. Unfortunately, the “Freak” stayed!!! The Tiger Lillies is The highlight of course.
What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?
Music is Devil’s work so we must make a deal and set the controls…
"My philosophy is the same in life too: find yourself and don’t accept him! To be able to listen, practice and play here in HELLaS (Hellas: Greece in Greek language), all the creative drive must come from the mind. Hard thing when in the left side of our brain there’s nothing right and in the right, there’s nothing left!!!" (Voodoo Drummer, Herodeion Theater 2021 Athens Greece / Photo by Nik Nak Studio)
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
I was working in a Strip-joint, here in Athens, and one night we end up locked in the Police station cell, watching from the small window the dancers sitting with the officer, till 5.30 in the morning that they let us. The next night the same officer was in the first table enjoying the show. Playing in New Orleans with the great singer MESCHYIA LAKE and the band these lovely Early Jazz songs was a thrill. Playing with The Tiger Lillies in Europe and especially in Herodion Theatre was a dream come true!
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
Equality of opportunities. That’s all we need; we can do the rest! As you see I did my own recording now that I am 52 yr. and if it will become a hit, I won’t have the excuse of youth for my ego trip!
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?
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?
I try to stay close to my spiritual self that is hidden in all the must and should of the everyday life. With "Drunk Dionysus" Ι feel that Ι spiritually connect through creation and music, Ι feel that life has a meaning.
(Voodoo Drummer / Photo by Michalis Tse)
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