Ilias Pitsios talks about Greek underground music, the Beastie Boys and his labels Echovolt and Into The Light
Ilias Pitsios (aka Dynamons) is the co-founder of the Greek label, Echovolt Records, and Into The Light Records. Based in the beautiful surroundings of Athens, Echovolt has been beaming fresh and versatile waves onto the international club and electronic music scene since 2009. It’s been 4 years since Ilias and celebrated selector Tako Reyenga got together to form Into The Light. Their inaugural compilation of Greek Electronic Music, Classics & Rarities was a sublime introduction to a world of lesser-known musical excellence, which received deserved critical attention. Ilias Pitsios’ DJ sets are rooted in classic and leftfield dance music approaches with a modern and contemporary twist.
Can you talk about how you started in music?
The first thing I can remember is watching my dad make cassette tape compilations with the records he had back then. He was listening to legendary Greek producers like Theodorakis, Hadjidakis, Xarxhakos, and some classic music. But the care he showed, writing down the titles and tracklists by hand on custom-made covers and carefully storing the records back onto the shelves, really drew my attention and taught me a lesson I still carry inside me. I feel that listening to music is something like a ritual. At the age of ten, I bought my very first records. They were strictly hip hop records like Public Enemy, Ultramagnetic MCs, NWA, etc. In high school I got into the punk hardcore thing and then again into hip hop, discovering its roots; funk, soul, disco breaks, etc. So in the late 90s I got my first turntable and basically started as a battle DJ, scratching and doing routines. Then I realised that I was enjoying mixing electro instrumentals from those DJ tool records, and with the help of some online forums I entered into the world of old school electro, Miami bass, etc. Soon I got to know the newer electro production that I never thought existed, and ended up listening to Underground Resistance, which blew me away. The rest you can imagine. I’m trying to license some very rare recordings by the Greek composers my dad used to listen to and somehow it feels like I have returned to my first ever music memory! It’s a full circle!
You run two labels: Echovolt Records and Into The Light. What motivated you to set them up and what kind of music direction do they have?
Currently, I run Echovolt with two great friends of mine, Dimitris and Kostas. The idea came to us during our usual summer vacation on Crete in 2009. I guess it was just a way of doing something music-related that had the potential to be appreciated by more people than just our local circle of friends in Greece. And I guess we kind of reached our goal. We release all kinds of contemporary dance music from our friends, or from random people that we find on Soundcloud. I run Into The Light with Tako Reyenga of Redlight Records, Amsterdam. We debuted with an official double vinyl compilation featuring obscure Greek electronics from the 80s. Into the Light still specializes in Greek producers, some of them already famous but with a vast unreleased material, and some of them completely unknown even in my hometown, but with equally interesting material. By running those two labels I feel that I have found a balanced way to release almost all kinds of music that I love.
Can you talk about how you structure your DJ sets?
It always depends on the party I DJ at, but whenever I have the freedom I try to tell a story. Actually, it’s funny that you are asking, because I recently realised that the Check Your Head album by the Beastie Boys really played a big role in terms of structure. I know that the connection might sound weird to many people, but it used to be (and still is) my favourite Beastie album because of its diversity. I always have that album on my mind whenever I play.
Into The Light was inaugurated by the compilation, Greek Electronic Music, Classics & Rarities. Can you talk about it?
I had not heard most of the records until Tako, with whom I run the label, played them to me. Tako knew those records from a friend he had in Athens called Petros, who unfortunately passed away. The Into The Light compilation is dedicated to him, as we kind of only know all of that stuff through him. After Tako left Greece, I kind of got obsessed with those obscure Greek records and started digging alone again and found more. I felt that I had to do something with those records, especially when I realised that almost nobody in Greece really knew about them, with a few exceptions of course. It was a procedure that lasted almost a year, but it was really worth it!
The Greek electronic scene is not widely known. Can you talk about some of the clubs/labels/artists worth mentioning? What is the state of the club/arts scene in Greece nowadays? How has it been affected by the financial crisis?
I think art and social life are pretty vibrant right now. I have noticed that more and more people are trying to be creative and do something for the public good in general. It is kind of reasonable I guess, in a period of crisis, that more and more people are trying to be more creative. The club scene is also quite good. There are less proper clubs and venues left but the quality of events is not bad at all. It’s funny to say but I’m not really a club type of guy. I have also noticed that the level of producers and DJs is getting higher and higher. Some new record labels have popped up recently as well. Check out the amazing Teranga Beat, Modal Analysis, Lower Parts, or Insi. As for record stores, that’s a different story. Only a few are left, unfortunately. But there is always the flea market every Sunday, and a few second hand record stores, which are always fun to visit!