When INK recently hit up Toronto, Chris Gonda had the opportunity to chat with these Greece natives. They discussed the bands origin, the major differences between the Greek and North American music scenes, and much more.
INK is the name of the group and you hail from Greece, but who are the members, what instruments do each of you play, and where exactly in Greece do you guys live? Chris: Well INK are Savvas Karabalasis (guitars, samples, production), Kostas Apostolopoulos (lead guitars), Chris Tsantalis (vocals, lyrics), John Hatzipapas (bass), Panos Ginis (guitars), and Chronis Margiolis (drums). We’re all in Salonica right now for studies and work, but all of us have the same birth place which is Alexandroupolis, a beautiful city in northern Greece. So we are friends of many years, even before the creation of INK by me, Savvas, and Kostas back in 1999.
How did you guys all meet and what was it that ultimately led to INK’s creation? Chris: Savvas and Kostas were recording some songs in Savvas’ home studios. They worked together for years and they were searching for a voice for their new songs. Kostas brought me into the picture in 1999 and it was my first experience recording something except covers. Soon we were all in different places; I was in Bulgaria where I was studying law, Savvas was in Volos studying engineering, and Kostas in Salonica as a student of archaeology. So as you understand INK was a project and we wrote music only for the times that we got together in our home town of Alexandroupolis. By 2002 I left Bulgaria and INK took a more serious form in Salonica where I’m continuing my studies in law right now. So it was something that had to happen.
Your sound is that of a brilliant breed of new and old school elements. Overall, however, your music is a creative combination of sounds similar to: Tool, Alice in Chains, Deftones, and Soundgarden. Every group has their own influences and favourite artists, apart from these previous ones, are there any other big names which you could add to the list? Chris: Well I’m a big fan of the great Seattle scene back in the 90’s and I love stoner rock too but I’ll tell you that I my childhood heroes were all the above as well as: Pearl Jam, Kyuss, Monster Magnet, Stone Temple Pilots, Gruntruck, Smashing Pumpkins, Screaming Trees, the Tea Party, the Doors, Life of Agony, and great British bands like Suede, Radiohead, Puressence, U2, The Cult, etc.... I can tell you a thousand right now cause that period was a very good one for music, a lot of great things happened in the 90’s.
How did you guys come to hear about these groups? Living in Greece, is it difficult to discover new music or do you have the same amount of access to all types of groups and genres as if you were living in (for example) North America? Chris: Bands like Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Tool, and Pearl Jam were popular in Greece too, as for the others, we are all music fans and we gave all our money for CDs and magazines. I think that when you want something really bad you can find it, but I can tell you that it’s not the same as being a teenager in America or the U.K. We had a lot of difficulties and a lot of searching to do to find bands like Sven Gali, Our Lady Peace, Sponge, the Tea Party, Mental Hippie Blood, and Truly.
For that matter is rock, metal, or music similar to yours very common (or popular) in Greece? Chris: I can tell you that it’s extremely difficult for a band like us to sign a record deal here in Greece with this style of music that we play. Every label asks for Greek lyrics. The market is built this way here so it’s a pretty fucked up situation, we don’t expect anything special from here but I’m really happy that people like you from the other side of the world are giving us exposure. I’m also happy that we achieved to create a strong fan base right here and whenever we are playing live the places are packed. So if you’ll see the difficulties that we are facing I think that you’ll understand that we are putting our soul into this so we’re happy and it doesn’t matter what will happen.
Living in Greece, a country renowned to be heavily laden with tradition, is it not difficult to survive as a modern rock/metal band? Chris: See Above.
Furthermore, since your musical style is somewhat old school, does that make it even more difficult for your band to succeed? Chris: No I don’t think so. Look for example at what’s going on in America right now. I can see a lot of bands playing the same song right there and every little band are influenced by the same bands as us. I can find some good bands like Dead Boy and The Elephantmen, Unjust, Cold, Second Coming, and thousands of bad groups like Puddle of Mudd who are selling millions of records, so it’s not about our style. It will always sell in America cause it’s pure American rock music.
Is it hard for you as a group to increase your local fan following and is it equally difficult for you to book concerts and gigs? Chris: Yes it’s difficult right here in Greece, but we do our best and we are playing a lot of live shows always building an even stronger fan base.
Have you ever played any tours or shows outside of Greece and if so can you name some of them? If not, what are you waiting for? Chris: We haven’t been outside of Greece, but we’ll try to make it.
What does INK stand for and how did you guys come up with the name? Chris: The meaning of INK? We hope that our music will be in your soul forever just like ink does for books and papers. We wanted something that is good, clever, and short. I think that INK is a great name.
Do you sing any of your songs in Greek or do you always sing in English? When writing songs is there a main reason why you use the English language? Chris: All about your influences! Me and the other guys in the band were always into that kind of music with English lyrics, but we have some Greek songs as well.
The colours on your debut album’s cover art are mostly blue and white. Does this bear any commonalities with Greece’s national colours? Chris: No we just liked our designer’s idea. I think that it’s a good logo, one that stays on your mind and when you’ll see it you will remember it forever.
You have already written and released many very well recorded songs. How did you produce these tracks? Was it on your own or in a professional studio? Chris: Savvas has a home studio so all the tracks that you’ve listened are produced by this great guy who is a real music genius; along with Kostas Apostolopoulos, our lead guitar player.
You are currently unsigned and looking for a label to represent you. Did you want to break out and come across to the North American market or are you looking to stay in Greece? Chris: It’s the biggest dream I’ve ever had to play our music on an international level. So if we find the right label I don’t think that I’ll have many things to keep me doing this in Greece.
What are your main motivations for continually writing and recording new music and what is in store for INK in the near future? Chris: First of all it’s about self expression and letting your demons out. I think that if we didn’t have this way of expressing ourselves we were going to be very miserable and very unhappy, maybe mad or something really wicked. When we were 15 we had this dream of having an alternative metal band in Salonica and playing live. This was my childhood dream back then in Alexandroupolis and then came all these great bands and we saw on MTV Layne Staley singing “Would?” and I thought it’s the coolest think I ever seen so I’ll have to make it my way. And by that time Eddie Vedder was singing in that great unplugged show “Black and state of love and Trust”, and then Chris Cornell wrote “Fell on Black Days” and I thought that it was about us and our generation. Then Tool blew us away with the colossal “Aenema”, and right now Daxx Riggs is doing something great with Dead Boy and the Elephantmen. So it’s all about the things that make us have these really strong feelings, and this really strong belief that we can do something good, something true, and something that has emotion and soul and teeth. So I don’t mind if it’s gonna be a record release or something, but we’re gonna follow our hearts and our dreams till we are dead. [ END ]