Thomas Petrou interview
1.Please tell us and the readers a bit about you and your band No Brain Cell and the individual members.
Considering that my relation with this group, started many years ago, I would divide this time into three periods.
I would say that the first period was a phase of general search of identification, direction, and even of taking the decision whether to communicate with the audience through English or Greek lyrics.
At that time we were "experimenting" with Stelios Tselios (guitars), John Katis (drums), Paul Chatzisymeonidis (keyboards), Nick Efthimiadis (Bass) and it could be said that everything was in an uncertain and ephemeral state.
This lasted for some time, when, after reclassifications and redefinitions of roles and individuals within the group, I finally understood that I should compose openly not on specific forms, but to set free all the genres that have already influenced me at times or I have been occupied with.
So, Ilias Papadopoulos (guitar) was added to the group; with his acute perceptive capabilities and close aesthetic affinities with us, he sensed the sound we were looking for and gave it form reaching the desired result.
Around this point Dimitris Skouras (drums) entered the group so that to move to the second more substantial and more specific phase of the group, which then took its name “No Brain Cell”!
Someone could perceive the name in various ways, either as a phrase and concept, or as "no brain - cell" (prison cell). But from whatever ankle you look at it, it implies a sociopolitical sarcastic comment, which in accordance to our approach references the average spectator’s addiction and entrapment in the plethora of digestible and superficial, crude sounds and images that flood the media.
So we are entering a period of live performances in Athens and Thessaloniki in order to complete the cycle of the second period, after three years, having under our belt a support to Porcupine Tree too!
It is then that we accept the proposal of the German company Bellaphon to release our first album through the Bacillus Records label and then things go through another more "serious" turn.
Unfortunately, numerous professional duties of the majority of the group members did not provide me with the desirable evolution, which is the priority for me in my music; that’s why the decision to continue the journey with significant losses and no matter the cost was taken!
Having Ilias Papadopoulos always along side me and as my right hand man my close friend and collaborator Alessio Kontodimos who not only has written the lyrics of my music and participated in four songs as the lead singer, but also his contribution, assistance and psychological support are invaluable to me, giving me impetus to envision and dream the present and the future of No Brain Cell.
2. How would you describe your style of music?
One definition is not sufficient to describe the style of our music. We are influenced by a variety of different genres: progressive rock, progressive metal, psychedelic rock, alternative rock, krautrock, ambient, post-rock, canterbury scene, neo-progressive, art rock, zeuhl, space rock.... The list is endless!
3. “Monuments” your second LP has just been released on Melissa Music. Please tell us a bit about the songs.
Listening to our songs and lyrics carefully, one will realize that we are not afraid of the journey and where it will lead us. Our music knows no restrictions. It is composed by different layers of sounds that comprise a whole, an atmosphere of equal elements, which converse in order to form the desired result. So, the goal is the harmonious synergy of all individual elements towards a seductive and complete musical entity. Against all flamboyant mastery and skill of the separate individualities. The collective and democratic character of the final result as a whole is emphatically underlined. It is freed from the I and transformed into a We.
The sounds, the melody, the harmony, the lyrics – everything composes an atmosphere as if these were comprising a fragmented representation of life itself, bearing the emphatical underlinings and tensions of the elements we choose to activate or address, in order to create a path of communication with the public. The co-existence and alternation of silences, tensions and flares, the alternations and co-existence of the sound’s harshness and the voice’s depth, together with the unrestricted evolution of melody – everything leads to an unexpected end, that leaves you hanging and therefore vulnerable, in order to sense the entire work and its meaning. In other words, we create the circumstances appropriate to perceive the work. Rhythm functions as an antidote to entropy and chaos. Melody acquires a narrative that liberates the listener from his/her personal impulses. Melodies become detectors of sentiments, memories, traumas, realizations and redefinitions, containing all the influences that have left their mark on us.
4. What inspired you? How long have you worked on the songs?
We might be inspired by a chord, a melody, a rhythm or a motif that contains the sperm that will later become inseminated collaboratively, by everyone, leading to the final work. The next step might come up either automatically, with great ease, or tantalizingly, after a long period during which it takes the form that will finally satisfy us. The common aesthetics and aesthetic affinities that run through our work are the distilled essence of working together for years. The time of gestation necessary for each song is unique and depends on many factors. The resulting sound succeeds in activating memories. It transforms them and shapes them into something new that comes into being and acquires substance – this is the fascinating part. It is catered by a feeling and in turn feeds into new feelings, each one of which is something different.
5. What are the lyrics about?
The lyrics dress the music following a course reverse to that usually followed to write music for lyrics. Music always comes before Speech. The feelings generated by the music –love, sadness, anger– trigger the creation of lyrics by Despina Hatziagelidou, Alessio Kontodimos and Dani Joss, so that images emerge through lyrics and music, as an introversion that has to be externalized and communicated. All with measure and balance beyond mannerisms, through freedom of expression. They compose the imagery of the self-entrapped contemporary man, an agonizing search for escape routes from the grey, the shadows and our demons, from emptiness. They sense the agony, the sensibilities and the fears, sneering at contemporary man’s complacency, entrapment and illusion of fake self-sufficiency, suggesting escape routes through reevaluations and redefinitions. They attempt to escape the past catering for endurance for the present and resistance for the future.
6. Where did you record them? Who was the recording engineer?
The production and composition of the album is my own work.
We recorded our second LP in the studio of Dani Joss (between December 2013 and May 2014 in Thessaloniki), who really gave his best, trying to understand what I had in my mind in order to give this as a desired sound effect.
The mastering was done by Apostolos Siopis (OdeonMastering).
Together with Elias and Alessio we decided to utilize the skill and sensitivity of remarkable friends, session musicians.
Recording musicians :
- Thomas Petrou :lead and back vocals, keyboards, piano, programming/sequencing
- Elias Papadopoulos: electric and acoustic guitars
- Alessio Kontodimos: lead vocals
- J.Demian: electric and acoustic guitars
- Dani Joss: electric guitar - voice
- Lazaros Pliampas: percussion
- Michalis Piperkos: clarinet
- Kostas Vavalas: bassoon
- Katerina Vavala: oboe
- Traianos Papadopoulos: french horn
- Tasos Korkovelos: synths
- George Vasilas: electric guitar
7. Nowadays it´s more difficult to break through as an emerging artist. It´s more important than ever to find a niche and develop a strategy to get people interested. What makes you different from other bands? Do you have a strategy? Have you found your niche yet?
Having completed the second LP of No Brain Cell, of course I realize that I'm still at the beginning.
I'm open to establishing the foundations of this band, without being trapped to the success.
The desired outcome is to constantly evolve!
8. You are living in Greece, which is experiencing probably the worst crisis in history right now. How does this affect you as a band? Or other bands you know? How do you feel about it?
The financial crisis causes chain reactions. Noone is left outside. Let alone art! Art is the first victim, in a society that is now governed exclusively by bank interests and superficial values.
The issue however is not to give in, considering all our efforts pointless. Creativity is never constrained by financial crisis. On the contrary, in times of crisis art often flourishes. Quoting Baudelaire, art is the flower that blooms within the daily decay we experience.
9. You met Porcupine Tree at a show in Greece in 2010, where you were asked to perform a cover of their “Fear of a blank planet” during your opening slot. How did the whole thing come about? Did Porcupine Tree like your performance? Did you have time to speak with them after the show? Was it a key moment for you as a band? Why?
The experience has given us stimulus and courage to go on. Being the surprise support band on Steven Wilson’s birthday and later becoming news on Porcupine Tree’s official site has been one of our happiest moments and expanded our horizons for the future. Even Steven Wilson himself enjoyed it and this gave us hope and impetus.
10. Where do you wanna be in 2015?
My goal was, is and will be a short or long tour outside the Greek borders.
I hope I will be given this opportunity.
I guess that, finding the right person will help achieving this goal… !!
Thanks for your time!
Posted on : 2014-11-16