In Conversation: KU

ku-interview

Feathers was such an interesting record, with its indie, pop and electronic sensibilities,  that we just had to get the thoughts of the man behind it, Dimitris Papadatos, otherwise known as KU. We managed to track the Greek wizard down and quiz him on his past, present and future.

Noted: Feathers is your first studio album under the KU name, but you have been performing and composing since 2002. What do you consider to be your biggest achievements in this time?

Dimitris: Feathers is of course the most life changing experience I have ever had with music. Working with Baby Guru for Feathers was a priceless experience. These guys are a well tempered music machine, and approached my ideas with much grace. Since Feathers was released and I decided to form a band of my own in order to play the songs live, I realized that there is a great dynamic in such an ensemble, one that I have never before seriously engaged to, and in this case where the music we play is  the music I wrote, a pivotal point in my career. On other fields, composing music and designing the sound for theatrical performances in the National Theatre and Athens Festival respectively are really important moments in my career. I also had a great time when I performed for the Athens Biennale inside a futuristic trailer that looked like a flying saucer.

Noted: You seem to be well connected in the Athenian music scene, but many people will be unaware that such a scene even exists. How would you describe it to those people?

Dimitris: It is a small but very active scene. There are great bands and artists that work on different territories from synth punk to free jazz and from folk to free improv. There are also a handful of great indie labels that help and support these musicians to release their work. The biggest problem that existed when I stared playing was the lack of spaces for these musicians to perform. This also has been sorted out throughout the years. At the moment Athens has a really fruitful scene and there is a chance to see something different almost every night. It is of course not unlike everywhere in the world, a closed circuit system that has its flaws and weaknesses but if you search extensively you can find really good music that could have its own position in the global field.

ku-image
KU prays to the skies.

Noted: On Feathers, you sing entirely in English. Have you considered singing in Greek? Do you sing in English to make your music more accessible?

Dimitris: English is my mother tongue. I am half American and my parents would talk to me in both languages since I was a toddler.  Growing up bilingual was really helpful on the way I treated my lyrics and my singing, but I prefer the English language as it works more elusively with the way I compose and of course it is more accessible. I have a bunch of songs with greek lyrics that I don’t know if I want to release yet. Greek language is really beautiful but it doesn’t always work for me when I put it in the context of a pop song. It definitely needs more time to work with than the English language, at least the way I construct songs.You know, you can sing something really simple in English like ‘lalala love you’ and it sounds way better than it would if you would have sang it in Greek.

Noted: According to your album’s Bandcamp page, you created certain compositions and lyrics on the spot during recording. What is your reasoning for this?

Dimitris: I am not an academically trained musician, so I had to overcome this lack of technical education with other methods. Improvisation was always my basic modus operandi. My performances would always differ from each other, in the way that I never played the same song twice. Everything was instantly composed on stage. We followed this tactic in the studio as we would start from a basic idea and then improvise on how the songs would be constructed. I find it easier and more liberating to work like that. I am always open to suggestions and ideas and this I think is why the album has this sound. The ability to allow different approaches to penetrate a workflow, to me is a vital factor in creating a music album.

On other fields, composing music and designing the sound for theatrical performances in the National Theatre and Athens Festival respectively are really important moments in my career.

Noted: Your music is a representation of your own explorations of pop music. What musicians have influenced you the most and who do you take inspiration from?

Dimitris: If you look at my record collection, you will find a rather large selection of albums that one could say have influenced my sound. From early Brian Eno to Kraftwerk and from traditional/world music to Neil Young and Plastikman — the list is really endless and I could go on for hours just namedropping but it would be pointless. All this music has changed my life and my sound in a natural, subconscious way, it is all there for the taking, coming out on its own in unpredictable ways. My real inspiration though is drawn from everyday life. This ‘mundanely spent time’ that takes everything back to its real proportions, the sun that shimmers on the leaves, the sound of the wind, the eyes of my dog, living a normal life as a free man in a completely non-free society.

Noted: When the rest of the world hears about Greece, we are told of corrupt governments, poor leadership, and oppression of people. Such anger is reflected in the bleak music of Ruined Families, but Feathers remains diligently calm. Has it been difficult for you to focus on the pleasures in life or are you a natural optimist?

Dimitris: I felt that releasing yet another ‘angry’ album that talks about the awful state that Greece is at, financially and socially, would not be an honest attempt. It would feel to me like I am taking advantage of my less fortunate compatriots, by exposing this horrible and degrading situation that more than the 30% of the population in Greece lives at. I believe that releasing a ‘lyrical’ album is a more revolutionary and powerful statement. There is darkness and poverty and hunger all around us and to me light and optimism is the answer. I wanted Feathers to be the smallest candle that can light the darkest room. Of course this doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the work of bands like Ruined Families. They are an amazing band with a very powerful stage presence and I have been following them for a while. It feels to me like we are the two sides of the same coin. We are both needed to keep the balance, and to keep things interesting.

Noted: Your wife features on the cover of your album and is an obvious champion of your music. Has she influenced the music itself in any way?

Dimitris: She is a large influence on the way I see life in general and consequently music. She showed me mature life can be fun too. She has helped me overcome a lot of my fears and accept my weaknesses. She is an amazing artist and I always value her opinion, something I never used to do for anyone before I met her.

Noted: What are your goals for the rest of 2013 and beyond, musically or otherwise?

Dimitris: There are a lot of plans for this year, apart from the promotion of the album in the summertime with performances etc, and the launch of the recordings for my second album, we are also working with my wife, on our duo’s VIRILIO first official release via Panospria records. Add to that the work I do with the other ongoing projects that I have XLOE and MT DU and I guess I am kind of done for the year. Oh yes we are also moving to the States hopefully before December. Crazy times.

Noted: If we were coming over to Greece for one night only, what would you serve us for dinner?

Dimitris: Deep fried calamari, boiled octopus on oil and vinegar, grilled sea bream  and a nice onion tomato and capers salad. I love fish.

Ashley Collins
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Ashley Collins

Ashley is a Noted co-founder, scribbling his thesaurused thoughts on music and all its accessories from his South England sty.
Ashley Collins
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