PUTA VOLCANO has always played a significant role in the Greek heavy rock scene, pushing forward what they first set in 2012. “AMMA” is the band’s latest release, enforcing a long-lasting relationship with their fanbase. Their talent for constructing new sounds from the old building blocks of heavy psychedelia is simply awe-inspiring. We talked to guitarist & lyricist Alex Pi about their newest material and many more in an enchanting interview.
CVLT: Hi, Alex! What can you tell us about the band’s history?
Alex: We’re old, we don’t know what sheesh means. We play what pretty soon will go from rock to classic rock and eventually dad-rock. Our influences are very rapidly entering the “oh that’s now 30+ years old” territory. That being said, we’ve been playing music as PV since 2008 and we don’t plan on quitting anytime soon.
What is the hardest step a band has to overcome when starting to play? Can one think of success when we refer to such a niche?
I would say the biggest struggle is finding one’s identity. In my opinion that does not necessarily go hand in hand with originality, rather what the people in the band feel like expressing through music. Even if something is cliche but resonates with the band then it should be enough and will be very apparent in the way the band performs and even promotes its own music. On the other hand, if people try to be original for the sake of it, they might end up feeling like they are playing someone else’s music, and once again it will show.
Also, being aware of your artistic identity makes it easier to learn how to decline offers that do not necessarily suit the band.
Finding one’s identity is I think success and the only possibility, however big or small, to achieve what is most commonly regarded as a success, that is fans and financial success.
How do you think that the band’s sound has evolved over the years? Did you always have in mind to sound the way you sound today?
What we seem to have developed over the years of working together and something we actively try to hone more and more, is the ability to collectively agree when an idea does not fit our aesthetics at the time of writing a song. Anything that passes that filter, is fair game and on that, we might actually argue about which direction it should head. We never really set out to play a specific genre, but knowing what we don’t like at any given time has been gradually giving form to our music as a whole.
When someone’s livelihood depends on creating, today’s voracious industries can be a dangerous thing.
When listeners make their way through your music and hear all the songs, what do you want them to feel? What kind of situation do you see your music accompanying?
When people’s reactions to our music align with ours, it puts a smile on our faces. But it’s not our place to tell them how to feel. Hopefully, it provides people an outlet through which to decompress and put them in a mental state that provides some internal reflection, which is so hard to do in today’s way of living. As a rule of thumb though, our music is best served at a mild temperature, with a slight cool summer breeze under the night sky.
Lights off to be able to see the milky way, and headphones for extra immersion.
Do you think that rock music has become more of a business than an act of rebellion?
Any genre of music has the potential to be both. It all has to do with the individual. I would prefer the term ‘thought-provoking’ to that of ‘rebellion’ though because even under the umbrella of rebellion, people can be complacent, and conversely even the most popular and mainstream music can be surprisingly astute and profound when criticizing matters that concern us all. The business aspect of it does not necessarily prevent people from being rebellious, but whether they will be perceived as such is a bigger discussion.
Given the state of mainstream culture that permeates how we consume media, how would you introduce your music to a stranger?
I find it a bit hard. Invoking famous names that we might consider as our influences or other people attribute to us is tricky. It immediately puts a fresh ear into known paths and creates a bias. I prefer to say “we play rock music” and point them to our Spotify so they can make up their own mind.
Music is, more than anything else, a feeling that connects you with nature and places you in the universe. However, do you consider that the artist, in its time of creation, thinks about this perspective? Can this feeling become a vanity that might be taken advantage of at some point?
I agree that music can connect people with nature or with their own nature and by extension the universe. Whether or not artists think about it when they create art I think depends greatly on the form of art. Visual art in my opinion sets off from a point of intention and ends up being molded by the artist’s instinct and intuition whereas music tends to be the exact opposite, it’s the instinct that then becomes meaningful through our intent to express ourselves.
Like most things that we want to monetize when potentially we shouldn’t, it can be taken advantage of as well as become a bit sterile. When someone’s livelihood depends on creating, today’s voracious industries can be a dangerous thing.
“AMMA” is an album with one hell of a sound. Tell us a bit about it! Is there a hidden message behind it?
We haven’t tried playing it backward, but playing it regularly holds no secrets to people who want to spend some time with it. For us, it represents the idea of how going through dark times in our lives can cover our eyes with kaleidoscopes that distort all that we thought we knew and things that used to comfort us can’t do that anymore.
In retrospect, it feels very much suited to what we’ve been going through worldwide these past 2 years but we had no idea of what was to come when we were writing this album.
On top of that, the word ‘AMMA’ loosely means ‘super-mom’ and we dedicated this album to our (Anna’s and mine) mother who has been going through some rough times due to health problems but is one of the strongest people I know.
What do you consider to be the essential elements of this album?
Riff-based music, quality of riffs to be determined, with some atmospheric interludes and a dash of rhythmic variance. We tend to spend a lot of time on drum sounds because let’s face it if they fall apart, we fall apart and do our best to make the rest of the soundscape interesting.
Beyond that, I think people outside the band are better suited to answer this question.
Do you think it’s tough nowadays to come up with something original that sets you apart from other bands?
It is no tougher than it has ever been, which means it’s still pretty damn tough. I don’t think originality exists for people who get saturated by limiting their musical palette to a handful of genres. To a jazz player, anything that is harmonically less dense might appear contrived, the same way as a ⅞ time signature might appear exotic to a person who has only ever listened to western music but for us, in Greece, it’s the bread and butter of traditional music. Originality stems from mixing elements in a surprising way and being perceived as original varies greatly based on the listener’s experience.
How is the writing process working for you? Is there a captain of the ship or is it more collaborative, organic work?
I write most of the lyrics and the music. That being said, I would never claim that it’s mine. I’m always fascinated by the ways an idea mutates when exposed to the rest of the band and so I would say that even if I were to be labeled as ‘captain’, we all need to row for the PV boat to sail straight and not in circles.
What do you feel is the best song you’ve ever release and why?
I can only speak for myself, but I have a strong preference for ‘Infinity’ and ‘Kassandra’s Gift’. The reason is that although they are our songs I can still listen to them and not be overly critical but rather enjoy them for what they are. I feel like I wouldn’t change a thing about them and that is enough for me.
Roadkill Festival is an event at the beginning of the road. With a very special approach, from a country where music like this is still looking for its way through the world… Well, besides the organizers’ crazy courage, what do you really think about this kind of festival? What are your expectations?
In all honesty, a gig to remind us what gigs felt like. We hope to meet new people as well as people we met last time we played Bucharest and above all have a good time. I’m not crying, I just got something in both my eyes.
When you perform live, how do you want your audience to feel as they leave the show?
Content and excited for more at the same time.
Guilty pleasure time. What would you say are some of your current most guilty pleasures? All is fair game-food, books, video games, or even cock n’ ball torture, whatever floats your boat. Let us have it.
I can only speak for myself but there are no guilty pleasures here, just pleasures. I have been alternating playing Bo Burnham’s music from “inside” on repeat or literally anything released by Motorpsycho while playing Arkham horror lcg and a bunch of other board games.
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