EITZEL TALKS TO US ABOUT HIS TRIP TO GREECE AND THE SPIRIT BEHIND
THE "UGLY AMERICAN"
There was obviously plenty of rumour " mischief " concerning
the ace recording of the " Ugly American " that took
place in Greece. Loyal fans were apprehensive to say the least
and probably expecting some kind of " Greek tragedy "
- Eitzel style. The neutrals dismissed this album - without even
having heard it (naturally) - by claiming that nothing great (musically)
has come out of Greece for aeons. Well it is time to calm down
because " The Ugly American " not only presents MARK
EITZEL in a great vocal form but it is also an album that is a
glorious testament to his amazing songwriting past. People that
have started to hear this album respond by saying something in
the line of " ...it is so much different to what I expected
" and claim their allegiance to this beautiful recording.
Thanks to MANOLIS FAMELLOS the Greek instrumentation tugs at us
in just the right places giving a warm glowing feel to the listening
experience. And after devouring this album younger Eitzel fans
will be scurrying with some urgency to find those indispensable
old AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB albums. We will let MARK EITZEL himself
put the record straight with an interview below together with
a MANOLIS FAMELLOS questionnaire as well.
TM-YOU ARE INVITED TO GO TO A COUNTRY TO WORK WITH A MAN YOU HAVE
NEVER MET, NOT KNOWING MUCH ABOUT GREEK MUSIC, TO EMBARK ON A
PROJECT WHICH INVOLVES YOUR PAST. IT SEEMS YOU LIKE TO TAKE RISKS!
IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU AS A MUSICIAN TO TAKE RISKS OR TRIPS INTO
EITZEL- Well sure - you never know what good things will happen
unless you take a chance.
WERE IN GREECE FOR THE RECORDING OF THE " UGLY AMERICAN "
IN NOVEMBER 2001, WITH THE AFTERMATH OF 9/11 STILL LOOMING LARGE.
WAS IT A RELIEF / HAVEN TO BE IN GREECE FAR REMOVED FROM THE AMERICAN
REPRISALS OR WAS IT AN UNSETTLING EXPERIENCE BEING IN AN ALIEN
ENVIRONMENT FOR A MONTH?
Well it was a relief perhaps - but you really never can escape
where you come from. Greek people have a rather jaundiced view
of the US and most of the people I met all said that somehow it
America brought it on themselves - with the agony the US goverment
has caused since the Cold War. I found that I had to agree with
everything - except that I feel uncomfortable with judging relative
evils. I had to point out occasionally that the Greeks would be
just as angry as the Americans if terrorists from Turkey has used
an Olympic Airlines jet to destroy the Acropolis. However now
that America is on the brink of becoming a dictatorship I think
all of us in the world will lose.
AFTER WORKING WITH MANOLIS FAMELLOS & EXPERIENCING A POSITIVE
CREATIVE CHEMISTRY IN A TOTALLY DIFFERENT & NEW ENVIRONMENT,
WOULD YOU URGE OTHER MUSICIANS TO ABANDON THE " LEASH "
WHICH ARE THE BOUNDARIES OF THE US / UK MUSIC INDUSTRY?
Absolutely. Manolis, his band and the engineer that mixed and
recorded the record are world class - and Athens is a dynamic
and cool place.
AS YOU RECENTLY EXPERIENCED IN BELGRADE, MELANCHOLIC SINGER SONGWRITERS
ARE VERY POPULAR IN THE BALKANS. DESPITE LANGUAGE OBVIOUSLY BEING
A BARRIER IN GREECE DID YOU FIND PEOPLE IDENTIFYING WITH YOU AND
I think that it is because my eyebrows meet in the middle that
they identify with the most. No - they seem to and I don't know
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY TO THE PEOPLE THAT BECOME VERY "
PURIST " ABOUT YOUR PAST MATERIAL? DO YOU BELIEVE THAT EITZEL
GEMS SUCH AS " LAST HARBOR " OR " JENNY "
SHOULD HAVE THE LUXURY OF BEING RE-RECORDED OR RE-EXAMINED AS
TIME GOES BY?
Well I wrote the damn things so I should be able to do anything
I want with them. Songs are either alive and transmutable - or
they are dead.
WHAT KIND OF A REACTION DO YOU EXPECT TO GET FOR THE " UGLY
AMERICAN " IN AMERICA?
DO YOU THINK YOU & FAMELLOS'S BAND COULD BE A GOOD LIVE TEAM?
FAMELLOS THE GREEK CONNECTION BEHIND MARK EITZEL'S " THE
UGLY AMERICAN "
TONGUE MASTER caught up with arranger and composer MANOLIS FAMELLOS
who was the man behind the scenes. FAMELLOS had the huge responsibility
in preparing his motley crew of Greek musicians, ensuring that
they familiarised themselves with an alien (to them) material
and orchestrating a project fit for a world renowned cult singer
songwriter. So without ever having met MARK EITZEL, it must have
been a daunting undertaking for a musician far removed from the
UK/US alternative music scene. To expand things further we asked
him all about the recording of the " Ugly American "
(which has already been - lazily - dubbed as the " Greek
Album " by the industry hacks) and the chemistry between
him and MARK EITZEL.
TM-HOW WAS IT WORKING WITH MARK EITZEL? WAS THERE A MAJOR CULTURAL
/ LINGUISTIC BARRIER?
FAMELLOS - Our English (my band-mates and myself) might not be
so great, but in the end we got along fine! Mark is unpredictable
but also hilarious and from an early stage he got the central
gist of things. Our aesthetic approach to the material - I could
say - was quite close to what he had in his mind
HARD WAS IT SITTING DOWN AND SELECTING TRACKS FROM 13 OR SO ALBUMS?
DID YOU AND EITZEL HAVE A MUTUAL AGREEMENT FOR WHAT TO DO OR WAS
THERE A BEHIND THE SCENES TUG OF WAR?
We started with the intention to record an EP, the idea of album
materialised during the proceedings. I want to believe we had
a " smooth operation " and a good interpretation with
the 5 first tracks we tackled before we met Mark Eitzel. When
the final results started to emerge during the rehearsals we decided
to proceed towards an album status, just because there were numerous
ideas for many more songs and it would have been a shame not to
try them out.
MOST PEOPLE IDENTIFY THE BOUZOUKI INSTRUMENT WITH GREEK MUSIC.
HOWEVER YOU HAVE DELVED FAR DEEPER INTO THE GREEK MUSICAL TRADITION
BY INTRODUCING AN ARRAY OF DIVERSE " ROOTSY " INSTRUMENTATION.
HOW HARD WAS IT FOR YOU TO PLAN WHAT TYPE OF " GREEK STYLE
" TO PAINT YOUR CHOSEN TRACKS?
I think that each song in its own way dictates which instrument
is suited as long as you provide the freedom for it to "
talk to you ". We were lucky because we worked with some
musicians who had an abundant knowledge of different instruments
and the construction.
WAS A RUMOUR THAT THE ALBUM WOULD LEAN TOWARDS A REMBETICO [Heavy
Blues 1930's] STYLE ADAPTATION, BUT IN THE END YOU ADOPTED A FAR
MORE TRADITIONAL AND LYRICAL APPROACH. HOW DO COME TO THIS DECISION?
Look, for me traditional or revolutionary music does not exist,
neither as a conventional or anti conventional approach. All kind
of music constitutes these concepts but they also refute and overtake
them. Each music style is revolutionary as long as it reflects
its inner beauty and is traditional in the sense that it doesn't
root at zero level but at its chosen time. So we did what we felt
like - and that is as simple as that.
YOU HAVE RE-RECORDED " JENNY " & " LAST HARBOUR
", WHICH TO MANY EITZEL FANS ARE SONGS THAT HAVE A - ONE
& ONLY ONE - ULTIMATE ORIGINAL VERSION. ("THE HOLY GRAIL
OF AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB SONGS"). AREN'T YOU WORRIED ABOUT
PEOPLE CRYING " SACRILEDGE "?
Oh, thankfully I am oblivious to this, otherwise I would have
. Haha! Now I think it is too late for
things to change.
TM-HOW DO YOU THINK FANS WILL REACT TO THIS ALBUM? AN UNNECESSARY
EXCURSION OR AN EXOTIC DELIGHT?
can I say
I have not met Eitzel fans abroad apart from the
ones in Greece. Nevertheless any excursion - even in the worst
case scenario - isn't unnecessary. I believe that for all great
artists, even their " mistakes " are interesting!
HAVE A CAREER OF YOUR OWN IN GREECE HAVING RECENTLY WORKED WITH
RESPECTED COMPOSERS GEORGE DALARAS & MIKIS THEODORAKIS. WHAT
DO YOU THINK THE GREEK PUBLIC - WHO ISN'T FAMILIAR WITH MARK EITZEL
- RECIEVE THIS COLLABORATION?
The Greek public, it seems, greets with a cautionary attitude
anything that is new and anything that cannot be pigeonholed at
a first listen. Like every public it believes it has the need
to feel secure in what it has dished out to them. I from my side
do the best I can to maintain the element of surprise but time
is always essential for new musical efforts. Thankfully time is
with our side.
ARE OBVIOUSLY AN AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB / MARK EITZEL FAN. WHAT DO
YOU THINK IS HIS MOST UNDERRATED ALBUM?
I do not know what level of success each of his albums has had
in the past apart from what Mark Eitzel himself has told me. Here
in Greece, the known " few & blessed " fans, always
eagerly followed his progress, but thankfully they only focused
on its content and not on what critical or commercial appeal it
had abroad. From the 1980's when I first bought American Music
Club until today, Eitzel for me, is still a secretive, well loved
and undoubtedly an influential artist keeping his loyal public
entranced. I do not really pay much attention to reviews. I believe
most reviewers love the reviews more than the music. I prefer
YOU THINK YOUR BAND COULD PERFORM THESE SONGS - WITH EITZEL -
AS A LIVE PERFORMANCE? ANY PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
it is undoubtedly an interesting challenge. I would like to expand
on other compositions and different versions as much as we already
have, I hope.
UNFORTUNATELY MANY PEOPLE THINK OF GREEK MUSIC & THINK OF
THE AWFUL DAYS OF " CHEESY " MIDDLE-OF-THE-ROAD DEMIS
ROUSSOS & NANA MOUSKOURI. THIS HAS STIGMATISED ANY POSSIBLE
CREDIBLE IMAGE OF GREEK MUSIC. DO YOU BELIEVE THERE IS A HEALTHY
MUSIC SCENE TODAY IN GREECE THAT COULD INTEREST AN OVERSEAS AUDIENCE?
There is definitely a scene. In a certain way I believe that somebody
has to be national to be international. As long as there is agony,
soul searching, and an open mind. And that we don't keep re-hashing
a sterile and uninspired " tradition ", but we always
search for ways to bring this a step further to our current day,
to our daily life, open to all sorts of influences. That is how
- I believe - music essentially survives.
APART FROM MARK EITZEL, WHAT OTHER MUSICIANS FROM THE UK OR US
ARE AN INSPIRATION TO YOU?
There are too many! As I stated before in the Anglo-Saxon world
it is so simple and natural to extend your history within the
boundaries of the current frame and happens so many times with
spectacular maturity without any self doubt or hesitation - like
i.e. Beck. Here (in Greece), the music (and not only) our history
is full of gaps, turbulence and divisions which makes the game
a much more difficult affair. Sometimes it can be interesting
challenge for us but without any doubt a much more difficult task