Hailing from the south side of Athens, Greece, Vangelis Kostoxenakis has been doing the business on scene for some time. His talents have seen him release on labels such as Moon Harbour, Food Music and Dirtybird. He latest EP sees him return to Moon Harbour with the ‘Huge Organ’, which is set to cause a stir this summer.
With an expansive career, he has developed a deep musical background and knowledge through various styles and avenues. UpFrontBeats caught up with Vangelis to talk about his latest release, his thought process behind his craft and how he goes about creating the perfect blend of music, which can be heard throughout his excellent and well-polished guest mix.
How did you first become involved with electronic music? Where and how did your first big break come about? What has driven you into taking a career in electronic music?
First of all, thanks for having me. I’ve been following UFB for some time now.
I have always been fascinated by electronic music. My passion began when I stated to look how I could use the mighty Vangelis or JMZ synthesizers to create a big analog sound, while creating atmosphere. I was extremely excited to discover how they worked and what I could do with them. My first ever producing experience came when I used the Roland MC303, which my parents bought when I was 16. I learnt how to sequence, create beats, basses and in general how to setup a track. I’ve been producing since 1999 and have always been into music since an early age. However, my first break came around 2004-05. I remember the period well, I was writing music with another partner and school friend under the moniker ‘Phatjak’. At the time, we were the only serious Greek project which exported good music on top labels and, in turn, managed touring the world. This is what has driven me to into taking a career into electronic music.
Congratulations on an already successful year, with releases on Dirty Bird, Food Music and MadTech, but can you tell us a little bit about your forthcoming release, ‘Huge Organ’ on Moon Harbour. Where did you get the inspiration from? How did you go about creating the track?
The ‘Huge Organ’ EP is my second EP release on Moon Harbour and I’m very excited to be part of the family, as they take what they do very seriously. During the production of that EP, I had in my possession a little drum/sampler box (thus the name Little Box on the EP) from Korg, a Volca sampler which is very gritty and dirty. This silly box inspired me to do a lot, using tricks with custom samples. This was very fun to do. The rest of the tracks on the EP, came about from my weekly studio routine. I don’t really have specifics to get me inspired, it can derive from kids song from the tons I listen to everyday with my children. This is how I created ‘Monkey Business’ on the Dirtybird imprint. However, I have been inspired by listening to natural percussive sounds from the city, but most of the time the gear I use inspires me and that’s why I’m a synth nerd.
As your own musical journey progresses, are there any staple/classic tracks which have inspired you throughout your career? Any notable mentions and why?
There is so much music to begin with and I have so many influences from my past. From breaks to 90s techno or deep house to Chicago. I’m glad the genre has become more open minded and I can express myself more freely, by dropping all sorts of styles in my productions. I don’t like flat beats and mathematical sequencing. I produce with feeling, funk & balls.
Studying music technology & sound engineering at college, how has this helped craft your sound to date? Any particular plugins/equipment you enjoy working with and why? Any advice for aspiring artists?
Oh yes! It has definitely helped me unlock the how to and I’ve learnt what I do for a reason. I don’t just go by the sound of my ear. There is so much theory behind the technical part and I’m glad I had the opportunity to study my craft. To Aspiring producers, I strongly recommended you look into the theory behind music. Following on from what I said earlier, I’m a heavy user when it comes to external equipment, mostly analog. I’m an old school dude anyhow and I can’t think of myself working on a VST for example. Machines have souls, smells and can be touched, there’s nothing like the real deal. Mainly, I enjoy working on my synths, creating all sorts of weirdness but also invest a lot on UAD plugins for my dynamics and equipping which sound, just like the real deal.
You have developed a deep musical background through various styles and labels, but what’s your thought process behind a track? What are the essential features a track must have? How do you cater for each label you release on?
My main process is to have a solid foundation. That’s the kick and the bass. If you have those 2 elements strong, then the rest of the parts is just sprinkle. That doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention to them, on the contrary, I’m very careful with the selection/creation of each sound. Once the release is ready, I’m looking for the best possible label. If I don’t sign where I want it, I will be keep in my crate. Trust me I’ve got loads there.
In your opinion, how would you describe the perfect set? What fundamental elements must be included? Any notable sets you’ve listened to recently?
The perfect set to me is when the crowd syncs with the DJ. It’s pure magic. The basic element for me is for the clubber. Doing your homework has definitely payed off for me. You need to know beforehand, who will be attend and what type of night it is. Furthermore, you need to now the venue you’re playing at and previous guests.
Your sound is definitely club ready, but where can we catch you playing these tracks this summer? Anything we should be looking out for?
Catch me if you can!
As we move into the second half of year, what do you have in store in terms of releases? Any weapons on the horizon?
Sure, I have my upcoming EP release on Dirtybird. I have so much anticipation for this track, as Claude has literally been hammering the lead track in every set of his. I have a single on my own label, ‘Talk of the Town’, a singe on Elrow and a couple of remixes which I’ve been working on. Furthermore, I have several pending signings which I unable to verify at this point but watch out.
Looking into the future, what do you hope to achieve and why?
I’m pretty happy with my production schedule as I’ve signed in most of my “to sign” labels list. However, there are a couple which I’m not on yet and working hard to be in the near future. Mostly, I’m looking to start gigging normally again as being a father of 2 very young kids has its own responsibilities and is time consuming, but I’d never change it for the world anyway.