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INTERVIEW: Kondaktor On Fasma Festival
Theo Darton-Moore , April 7th, 2016 10:06

With this year's Fasma festival beginning today, Theo Darton Moore talks to George Papageorgopoulos, the organiser, Modal Analysis co-owner and producer, about collecting the broad church of electronics in Athens

A few weeks ago I attended Bloc, a UK techno festival hosted at the Butlins resort in Minehead, with an at-times chaotic relationship with its audience. As much respect and adoration as I have for many of the artists that were on the billing, the event ended up feeling rather stale in some respects. Arguably, the festival felt a little too much like three nights out in a row, rather than an event that enjoyed the diversity you would hope for from a festival of that size and reputation.

This is a criticism which I think could be leveled at many electronic music festivals operating today, but one you'd be hard pushed to direct at the Athenian festival, Fasma. Amongst the wide variety of acts, workshops and installations being showcased, this year will see Fasma host a Moscow-based Tibetan choir, a sound art installation by Michalis Shammas, and a build your own drone-synth workshop. This is without mentioning the impressive selection of jungle and techno DJs and live performers featured, ranging from Benton, Source Direct and An-i, to the likes of Actress, Unit Moebius and Jesse Osborne-Lanthier.

Another of Fasma's primary focuses is supporting local talent. Scrolling down the festival's website you'll see plenty of acts with the Greek location marker next to their names, from the gritty warehouse stompers of Sawf to the blissed-out dub-house of Miltiades. Another Greek artist performing at the festival is George Papageorgopoulos, aka Kondaktor, who is also one of the organisers of Fasma (along with Anthony Kazakos and Eva Bololia), and a co-owner of the Modal Analysis label to boot. With Fasma just around the corner and new material planned from him later this year, we decided to to catch up with Papageorgopoulos to speak about the festival and his other endeavours. 

First off can you tell us a little bit about how Fasma started?

George Papageorgopoulos: It started four years ago, first off as an idea. Along with my then-partner at Fasma – and already having some experience in event organisation under our belt – we decided that it was about time that we should try and organise something larger and more communal. Something that will have the potential to evolve along with the ever-changing face of electronic music and urban culture, as well as act as a medium within which all types of electronic music can be expressed and manifested. Hence the name Fasma, which means 'spectrum'. 

You use a number of different venues around the city, similar to how CTM operates. Can you talk us through some of the spaces used this year?

GP: Clearly CTM is an influence, since it is an organisation that every audiophile and festival goer should look up to. We think it has a unique way of staying fresh and edgy, including acts that span from folk instrumental music to hard-hitting techno. As for the spaces we choose for Fasma, every year we try to choose some of the most unique spaces in town combined with the best clubs. This year we chose Vyrsodepseio, which is an old tannery and quite striking architecturally, six d.o.g.s and ROMANTSO, which are two of the best clubs and multi-purpose spaces in town, alongside with the historic Astron bar. As for Thursday's event at St. Paul's Anglican Church, surprisingly it was much easier to book than we thought, since the people there are very friendly and open to suggestions for collaborations!

How do you think that the festival has evolved over its lifespan and where do you see it going in the future? What is it you look for in an act to play Fasma?

GP: Since our resources are limited we had to put a lot of hard work in so that we could make the festival grow organically. And so it has. The difference between the organisation and turnout each year is impressive. However, our goal is not to become as large as possible. We are aiming to create a high quality 'boutique' festival that will attract people from all over the world, driving them through a unique experience that combines the visually captivating Athenian surrounding along with a cutting edge line-up. 

We are seeking anything that is honest and original and this is exactly what it takes for an act to play Fasma. Supporting our local artists is also one of our priorities. This is something that differentiates Fasma.

One of the defining features for me is the workshops and art installations. This works as a really nice way of breaking up the festival and making it a more rounded experience. You have a sound installation by Michalis Shammas featured this year, for example. What can people expect from this?

GP: We love music in all its manifestations as well as anything that it takes to create it. Thus this year, along with our DIY modular pocket-synth workshop, we have Michalis' mechanical instrument. An engineering feat that originated from his master's degree thesis, combining immaculate aesthetics with ingenious engineering and music. You have to look at it and listen to it to fully understand. People can expect to be left gazing in awe.

How about the synth workshop too? Will we be taking our constructions home with us?

GP: Not only will you be taking it home, you will also be taking it to bed with you. A very limited edition, custom-made item, specially designed for Fasma 2016 to make drones that are guaranteed to wake your neighbours up. We hope that this is only the beginning, since we plan to organise longer and more detailed workshops that will give those who participated the chance to create more complex musical instruments. 

Can you tell us a bit about the future plans for Modal Analysis? I've been following the Vanila series too... are the labels connected?

GP: We are trying to be strict about quality over at Modal Analysis and that is the reason why we do not release that often. On the other hand, we have a heavy programme ahead of us for the next year. We are scheduling a new ANFS release along with a release from our local mate Morah, as well as one from one of our favourite artists, Umwelt. Our first LP release is also in the works with more news due by the end of the year. 

Vanila is a sister label to Modal Analysis, run by ANFS. A lot of booming new music will come out on this one in the near future, alongside some impressive collaborations... Keep your ears open. 

Let's talk about your own material. You mentioned an LP is in the works and I have noticed you are joining the Where To Now? label showcase at Fasma – is it reasonable to connect the dots?

GP: I have been relatively silent production-wise for the past year, but now I have two albums about to be released in the next few months. So yes, it is reasonable enough to connect the dots regarding Where To Now? as I have a debut album coming out on cassette on the label soon, and a second one on vinyl coming out on Girouette Records (with that last one being completely different to what you have heard before). I am really excited for both releases as I am a fan of both labels!

I read that you grew up with house and disco records. What sparked your interest in darker sounds? Did you have much exposure to electronic music growing in Greece?

GP: I was always interested in darker sounds, yet it wasn't until my studies in music production, where one of my tutors properly introduced me to more experimental, avant-garde sounds from the likes of Greek composers such as Iannis Xenakis and Jani Christou. As for the exposure to electronic music in Greece, I can always remember myself listening to it from MTV back in the mid-'90s, as well as from my father's collection of synth-pop. After that I started clubbing and then came the internet. Therefore the exposure was always there. Electronic music might not be the most popular in Greece but it has been up for grabs since the early '60s, with a growing audience which we are trying to culminate and expand nowadays.

Fasma runs from April 7-9 in Athens; for full details, head here