Exclusive Interview: 5 minutes with Theodore

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Theodore is a composer and multi-instrumentalist based in Athens, Greece. Schooling in piano and traditional Greek folk music lead to a professional music career in London, where he studied Music Composition in 2011. Theodore has written music for theatrical pieces such as Matina Megla’s Window, Vladan Nikolic’s film Bourek, and was commissioned to write a new score for Buster Keaton’s classic silent comedy of 1928, The Cameraman. Theodore and his band then performed the score live at the film’s screening, in the unforgettable setting of the Temple of Zeus in Athens, which he describes as “one of the best moments of my life.” Theodore has gained notoriety for his memorable live performances, dazzling audiences with his mesmerizing stage presence.

Fusing classical composition with electronic elements to create beautiful, atmospheric and often cinematic songs, his sound is characterized by contrasting styles. Citing influences such as Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Doors, Chatzidakis, Vagelis Papathanasiou, Nils Frahm, The National, Olafur Arnalds, Arcade Fire and Max Richter, his unique mélange of influences allow a broad scope of movement from ethereal to melancholic, to classical, to post rock. The latest single titled ‘Towards? (for what is to come)’ is a sonic stream of consciousness, capturing every nuance of Theodore’s technical wizardry. Covering a wide sonic scope, he drowns ethereal melodies in a cauldron of psychedelic sounds.

We caught up with Theodore on studio improvisation and secret mascots:
(Be sure to stream Theodore’s latest single ‘Towards? (for what is to come)’ below!)

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

Very early in my life I realized that the most intense moments were when I was improvising with my piano. When my family or friends were around this feeling was multiplied and when I first played in front of 20 people, that was the most unique feeling I have ever experienced. And that’s why I want to do music and share it with as many people as possible, to see how big this already huge and intense feeling can get. As a teenager I always said that I would be an astrophysicist. I think I could also thrive in that business. However, I would not be fulfilled living a life without working in music.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

I like to decide on a concept first, write the music and then lyrics for it. I prefer to approach an album as a complete body of work rather than a few songs in a row.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

On my previous album I worked with Ken Thomas, producer of Sigur Ros, Yann Tiersen, M83 etc. But this time around I’ve decided to work with my own team, the band and engineers that we are working with on our live shows as well – in order to have people that care and love the music as much I do, people who feel like what I produce is also their own.

What’s on your current playlist?

Radiohead, Sigur Rós, The National, Nils Frahm, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Patrick Watson, M83, Olafur Arnalds, Bjork.

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

During my shows, I strive to create a special ambience that connects me with my audience. We always incorporate light installations to the shows as a way of highlighting the antithesis between light and darkness, which is a theme that runs through my music, which in turn is characterised by intense contrasts. The energy in the room is usually quite mesmerizing; the audience is mostly standing there with their eyes closed, or they stare at us fascinated and they usually take a minute before they start clapping/cheering.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

I usually work with guitars almost as if it was a Greek bouzouki, but at the same time I try to make it sound as big as an orchestra. In my music, I use a lot of minimal techniques someone could find on Steve Reich, combined with psychedelic moods and nice sweet pianos.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

I usually arrive with the basics of the music ready and my general view of where it should go. Then we work all together with my band to understand it. After recording these ideas, we all have some time to experiment with them.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

As a child, I spent my summers with my grandmother at a seaside area near Nafplio. Every night, we ate at the same tavern and we listened to the same musicians play. When I was seven years old, I got my first bouzouki and that summer I approached the musicians and asked if I could play with them. I played with them all night and over the next two summers as well.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

At every gig, we have a secret mascot which is hidden in a different place on stage, so maybe eventually everyone will discover it!

Any emerging artists on your radar?

Yes. Recently I’ve seen many emerging artists live at the showcase festivals I’ve been playing at (Live at Heart, Reeperbahn).  

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Inspiration hits when the whole band gets together in the studio to experiment and explore new ideas and sounds.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

Live and in the studio, I often process my vocals with Korg kaoss pads, and I basically play all the piano.

Any side projects you’re working on?

I compose music for films, dance and theatre. I also own and run United We Fly, a music production company based in Athens, Greece.

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

The way I work has changed a bit – I feel I understand the sound I want to create and my true identity more.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

I am currently in the process of finalizing my new album, which will be released in late 2018. At the same time, I’m also excited about the concerts I have scheduled this year, especially for my performance at SXSW Festival coming up in March.

Order Theodore’s latest single titled ‘Towards? (for what is to come)’ via iTunes

For more information follow Theodore on Facebook

(Image credit: Mariza Kapsabeli)

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