E very artist has their favourite songs and albums, but for writers it’s easy to guess at these influences and make blanket statements. With Yesteryear, we aim to dig deeper and give musicians a chance to talk about five specific tracks which have shaped their lives and careers.
Talking with Dimitris of KU earlier in the year, we discovered his bilingual upbringing and subsequent inundation of music. “All this music has changed my life and my sound in a natural, subconscious way,” he told us, and with his debut album being such a patchwork of influences and tweaks on the notion of pop, it was clear that inside him was an inherent love for music that is unique and soulful. We gave Dimitris the daunting task of plucking but five songs from his past that resonate the deepest within him.
Leonard Cohen – Dress Rehearsal Rag
“I remember my parents’ old boombox, a double-deck silver/grey Sony that was always on in our kitchen. I also remember tapes piled on the side of the device, my mother’s handwriting on the spines. One of them reads ‘Songs Of Love And Hate by L. Cohen’. This song has been so entwined with all my childhood memories that I don’t believe there is a single chord I’ve ever written or a single word I ever sung that is not inspired by this magnificent confession of a man in captivity to his own mind and emotions.
The song describes a descent into madness on an augmented fourth (the devil’s chord), as it turns into a lyrical self loathing rant, about a King Midas that realizes he had turned into a shadow of himself. From alcohol and paranoia to depression, from memories of love and prosperity to despair and then back to hope again, the artist looks in the mirror and translates his reflection into words and sound for us to take and learn that even the brightest minds sometimes immerse in absolute darkness.”
Fugazi – Long Division
“The band that got me into Fugazi was Bokomolech, An indie rock band from Athens, Greece that I would follow frequently. They had released one EP and two full albums by then, one of them engineered by Steve Albini. By the time I was 20 I had already seen them 10-ish times. In one of their gigs in 1997 I think, they covered this song. It was an electrifying performance, one of those that make you want to start a band of your own.
I was looking for the song to start with, but I couldn’t find Steady Diet Of Nothing, so I turned to a friend of mine that would hook me up with great music occasionally. He was studying at the Greek-American union at the time to be a translator and luckily enough for me he had a teacher that owned the back catalogue of Fugazi. She made us tapes of 13 Songs and Margin Walker to start with, and by the end of their semester, I had become a Fugazi follower. Slowly it all made sense. Their music is an eruption of ideas, energy and communication and had the truth and the originality to completely change such a powerful movement as punk rock. Their ethics, their ideals, their wonderful lyrics along with their mind blowing grooves and compositions gave me what punk couldn’t give me anymore. An articulate reason to resist.”
Robert Wyatt – Sea Song
“I never had any taste for 70s music, at least not until I was about 26-27. I considered it monolithic and kind of passé. It was punk rock that took me from puberty to adulthood and the practice of musicians after punk, like Throbbing Gristle and Nurse with Wound that led me back to what punk rock was against all that time. Little did I know that in this flamboyant era of overdressed virtuosos and music school alumni turned superstars, there were groups of people that made amazing and totally crossover music. Faust, Eno, The Soft Machine, all this incredible music made it to my ears at the time that I was ready to understand it.
The first time I heard Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom was two years ago. My friend and collaborator Prins Obi from Baby Guru came to me with a gift-wrapped CD telling me that it’s such a shame I haven’t heard this album and that it will change my life. It did. The first week it would play 24/7 on my stereo.I got really obsessed with his voice, his story, the deep sadness in his music, the idea of him stuck in a hospital bed unable to move his feet, with a small keyboard on his lap, composing these amazing snippets of his marvelous mind. The opening song encloses all these images, along with a deep adoration for Alfie, his wife, and a love that elevates him, from the rock bottom of his mind, to the heaven that is to love and be loved in return.”
Spiritualized – All Of My Thoughts
“There is not much to say about the only true masterpiece of the 90s. I was 16 when I first heard this album and still I haven’t heard something that touches me so deeply and intensely. It has been my favorite album throughout my teenage years and still is. I have had endless talks with friends about it, I have given a copy to every girlfriend I ever had and even wrote an article on my school newspaper covering a concert in 1997.
It’s all there: love, pain, addiction, joy of life, death, decay and prosperity, failure and success, the ongoing oxymoron, the whole amazing rack of references and experiences, electronic music, wall of sound, northern soul, psychedelia, folk, crooning, punk, free & spiritual jazz, all summoned by the creative marvel that is J Spaceman in 75 minutes of absolute magic. I chose this one out of ‘’Ladies & Gentlemen…’’ but I could have put any track in its place. To me this song is the victory of mind and heart over flesh, the absolute acceptance that there is no stronger drug than love, an elaborate journey through the chambers of one’s mind expressed in the difficulty to perform mundane actions of everyday life if the one you want is not by your side.”
Pavement – Here
“Really hard to talk about this one cause it travels back and forth in my mind almost everyday. There are no 90’s miserable indie kids who don’t get this song, deeply in their hearts. To me it works on so many levels. From the opening chords that resemble campfire better than a half-opened sleeping bag, to the lyrics that are able to break the toughest hearts.
An allegory of losing, given as an option to evolve and at the same time choosing to quit than lose. The mundane victory of acceptance, that every part of the truth will meet an end anyway.”