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The Greco-Roman Interview

11:08 PM

greco-roman

If you’re following this site or are part of the cool kids scene around the globe you’re surely already aware of the new club sensation Greco-Roman Music. They started running secret parties in London some years ago, then doing nights across the globe and at Glastonbury and finally even putting out their own records. Next stop: total world domination.

It surely did help them that one of their founding members is Joe Goddard from Hot Chip, but what’s really special about Greco-Roman is their playful and open-minded attitude towards every good genre and music on this planet and a way of life not caring about money but about great fun and exploring new things. And with Drums of Death and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs they have two of the hottest talents we can think of at the moment under their wings.

So after -finally- surviving our first ever GR-night in Berlin earlier this summer we sat down for a chat with one of the label’s mastermind, Alex Waldron. Calling himself a professional A&R manager Alex surely already had his hands on at least one of your favourite records ever, since his quite impressive CV includes employments for the likes Island Records, 13Amp,  !K7 and currently XL Recordings in Berlin, the city which he calls home now.

Too, started the now infamous Über Alles nights and then went on deejaying together with Joe or solo as Half/Full Nelson – a fruitful cooperation leading into into Greco-Roman. According to his Myspace Alex is seeing himself in 30 years “wearing a Hawaiian shirt with a silver pony-tail and sunglasses […] going on about [his] times with Tom Vek, Matthew Herbert, DJ Shadow, Hot Chip and Nine Black Alps”. That pretty much says it all. Or not?

When did you start the Greco-Roman label?
Three years ago, when we started doing the parties. We actually didn’t intend to be a record label, although we all had worked for or with ones, but the parties kind of had an own natural scene. Then there was David E. Sugar, who played on our parties and wrote this song about us. We thought: We have to put this out, it’s really good! So that’s how the record label started.
The record was going to be a flyer for the party as a record about a party. So if you bought the record, you could come to the party for free, we’re going to put some free ticket or so in it. It would be a white label. That was the idea. And then we got a remix done and Jesse Rose wanted to remix it and then Hot Chip. Suddenly we had all this remixes coming it, so it felt a little bit more official and we could sell it.That was it.

Who’s we in this case?
Well, I don’t make music. But Joe (Goddard) from Hot Chip will do his solo album. We’ll hopefully finish it next week. And then there will be one by Drums of Death. Obviously we want to release good music, but the idea behind the label is to release music that represents the parties we do. And therefore every artist we release has got a very strong personality. They always look really good, have a good light show. That’s really important to us, to see the show before you release something.
Hopefully the people now listen to this music and come to our parties. We experiment a lot on the parties. Joe plays a lot – he’s in a band, he deejays a lot – but he likes our party since it’s a bit more informal for him. It’s his party so he can do whatever he wants. We can experiment a lot more, play back-to-back with other artists or sometimes Alexis or Owen from Hot Chip come down and try out new tracks together, plugging in drum machines and other stuff and singing over the top, putting masks on and just doing some hot shit. It’s just trying out new material and being stupid sometimes. We are friends and you can only really do this with friends.

Joe has been pretty busy at the moment. He produced two tracks for Little Boots before she totally fucked the whole thing up.
Yeah, I know. He was quite happy he didn’t produce the whole album. Well, maybe he should have done it since it would have been a lot better than. But he wants to move into the more production stuff artists anyway. He’s producing Drums of Death. He’s not writing with him in the studio but helping him find his tunes.

Like Rick Rubin?
Maybe, I don’t really know this Rick-Rubin-style. Joe not only lends him his equipment but he also gives him a lot of tips about how to finish tracks. Finishing tracks is really the hardest thing for anybody. Drums of Death has not only one but five new ideas everyday. They are all amazing but he never actually finishes his particular track. But when he and Joe are together they can finish that stuff.
When Drums of Death started he was making just hard beats, they were really clubby – six minutes long beats – and worked really well as club tracks. The first EP was bit like that. But through the last months he’s really developed as songwriter. He’s really singing them and playing a lot more piano. The new single (“Got Yr Thing”) is quite a club track, but the other stuff on the album is a lot more song-based, a bit Gonzales-like.

Sounds cool, but let’s move back to the parties for a while. How got the first one set up?
It was spontaneous. Me and Joe deejayed as Greco-Roman for about a year, before Hot Chip became really big and before I moved to Berlin to work for !K7. We always really enjoyed it and we wanted to do our own party, since London is really shit – or it was it four, fives years ago. Clubs were really expensive and it was really difficult to get different styles in one. You had house in one club, techno in another and then drum’n’bass or hip-hop. But we like everything. It’s quite normal to say this now, but three and half year ago it was more interesting to put everything together.
So we did our own party and organized it three days before and announced it two days before. We did it in this warehouse in North-East London and thought no one would come. But it was amazing! About 400 people came. This is why Myspace is really powerful. Joe just put one Hot Chip post out saying he’d got some new material and wanted to test it out. And they all came!
But we were really disorganized and had only one turntable working the whole time. We didn’t have anyone on the door. Matthew Herbert turned up – I knew him and he knew all of us anyway – and he came in and said: You really need someone on the door! And then: Okay, I’ll do it for a bit. So he did the door for us about two hours, which is amazing! But he had just been on this weird country trip, where he and this quite famous TV guy went camping to a forest for about a week or two. They just ate worms and washed themselves in a river and survived. And he came back with this massive beard and really big hair doing the door for us. He really wanted something to drink because he hadn’t for about two weeks and was really exhausted, so he left the door later with the money box open and everyone came in for free.
And that was it but it was a really magic party, a very special one. So we did another one at the same place after some months and even more people came. That was again fucking awesome. David E Sugar played there and then we went to New York to do a party there in November and his a bit of a sound-clash record „OI NEW YORK THIS IS LONDON!“ was ment for this.

Was there no American response?
No, there wasn’t actually. They were really interested, lots of people came to our party. I think because it was a Hot Chip thing. When we go abroad the Hot Chip link it was people know us for since Joe, but it’s actually four people who do Greco-Roman. He’s only one quarter. But anyway, I wanted a „OI LONDON THIS IS NEW YORK“ record but it sadly never happened. But the idea is that the travel a lot as Greco-Roman naturally. We go to different parties in different countries.

You were for instance in Ulm, Germany, which left me quite confused seeing this.
I don’t know. It was a guy, who I knew from Berlin, who does some parties down there. So we went there with Drums of Death, me and Raf Daddy.

And you went to Austin, Texas.
Yeah, last November with Drums of Death and Joe from Hot Chip. That was almost the most amazing party. I didn’t go but they told me. Some guy had a swimming pool in his back yard and he likes doing parties and let us have one at his place. Then 650 people turned up, climbing over the walls trying to get in and then someone called the police.
[Some strangely looking guy from the desk beneath us turns around interrupting the chat talking about L.A. and doing parties over there. Alex met him afterwards for business.]
I’m really interested in doing something in L.A. Sorry, where were we?

Talking about your international parties. Where else did you go to?
It’s Moscow – fucking weird -, Lyon – that was great -, London – obviously -, Berlin. We shall go to Paris, too, and will do a party in Tel Aviv quite soon.

So you’re global players, I guess.
You know what we want to get across when we do this is… Well, this is a side project to all of us. It’s neither a Hot Chip nor a !K7 thing. We only play cities we really what to go to. So we’re currently really fascinated by Tel Aviv and so we go to Tel Aviv, do you know what I mean? Some parts of the club scene in Paris are really amazing, but they aren’t the most interesting places, where I want to party out. This is about exploring new places. Maybe Ulm isn’t the best example for this but it’s about going to Malmö instead of Stockholm when coming to Sweden.

So why do play festivals like Glastonbury then?
Because they are really good fun. We try to do all small version of our parties there. What we do is: we get three to four hours and then put everything from a London party into a few hours. We have too many DJs playing, live acts and even live acts emceeing over the DJ-sets to see if it works in front of a thousand people. You know, what I mean? It worked really well last year at Glasto but it didn’t at another London festival. It was a chaos, we were terrible. It was the worst Djs I’ve ever seen and it was us… But we do experiment a lot, play new track and friends join.

Are the crowds usually like your fan-base?
Sort of. I was working all the time and so I didn’t want to push it in the same way I push other things. I wanted the people to come to us and so we never advertised a party. So we heavily rely on word-of-mouth. And in London we can do that since so many people are involved there. We do a party, don’t advertise it and still get 500, 400 people. If I would that in Berlin I would have a problem since I don’t know that many people here and do all on my own. But it’s good that we can now take us and our music around the world.

So your current record is four releases in about two years. Doesn’t look very busy. I guess you want everything to grow naturally, don’t you?
Sort of. We had jobs as well. Until this time last year I was working for !K7 and everyone had job, too. So it was difficult to find time to put a record out. But now we’ll put out two albums and more. And, too, it’s not only about the music, it’s about the act. You don’t find people making amazing music, looking great and having fantastic live shows all the time. You have to wait for these people to come.

Well, I’m not so sure about this looking-fantastic thing. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs actually looks pretty weird.
Well, it may not be fantastic, but it looks interesting. I guess it’s that we’re all into live music and that’s what Hot Chip are. You can really tell they are a proper band. And we always want to have this. Also – after the first party we’ve done here in Berlin – I wanted to bring this Berlin-party-to-the-morning thing to London, because two or three years ago every club closed at two or three o’clock. At the same time I wanted to bring the eclectic thing of the London scene to Berlin.Because everywhere the Djs used to play for hours the same fucking beat. Or people played on laptops.

It’s not the real thing.
Yeah, I want a show. I want something to look at and our music to be different. We’ll always keep our music changing at Greco-Roman.

Ah, here’s your wrestler attitude. Where does the name actually come from?
Oh it was because when me and Joe once deejayed we felt like wrestlers. We were drunk. It was a really funny night. And then it stuck and so we kind of explored the wrestling thing a bit more. I like it because it’s not the stupid American wrestling. It’s…

Classic.
It’s indeed classic. It’s slow. It’s sweaty. It’s quite unsexy.

But it’s still erotic.
It is a bit erotic since it’s about sweating and hugging. That’s Greco-Roman.

And who does this fantastic cover-art for you?
It’s a guy called Lorenzo (Fruzza). He’s an illustrator in London. He’s amazing and was working in some advertising companies and then did our first sleeve. It was very, very good and so he kept doing them. And he’s getting better and better and people really do notice him as well. That’s cool. He’s really young and he needs a break. We are happy with the outlook.

Especially the new TEED-one.
Yeah, I think that’s his best yet. The Drums of Death one is really good as well.The idea there is that someone stole his heart and they put a drum machine in instead.

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Drums of Death deeyaing in London

So the record will be finished this fall?
It should be done two months ago. He went on tour with Peaches and I said: You know, when it’s not finished yet you will never finish it after the tour. And he was like: Yeah, yeah, I know. So he went on tour and left it unfinished. I’m going a bit mad. But it should be finished this week.

So he’s currently working on it with Joe?
Yeah, they’re doing it in his bedroom. Everyone in London is doing it in his bedroom since you don’t get any space like here in Berlin. Hot Chip got their own studio now. For the fourth album they finally managed to get their own studio. The first three were all done in Joe’s bedroom which is from here to here.
[Alex draws a tiny room in the air.]
It’s tiny. He’d a double bed for him and his wife there plus a desk for his computer and all his records. That’s it. And there they made all their albums til now. Drums of Death’s is the same. He’s got a desk, a bed and a chair. In fact they’re rooms are nearly identical.

There’s this theory that you make better music than you face tough conditions.
Maybe. At least you do make music quicker in that situation. Something I noticed about London is that there’s a lot more urgency in the air. People push it really hard. I don’t know if that’s better or not but the style is way different. There bits of both sides which I like but Drums of Death definitely needs the money. He makes the music for that reason. But rich people can make good music, too.

And why aren’t you doing your own records?
I don’t know.

Did you try?
Yeah, but I was really bad. This is why I always worked at record labels. I can’t make music myself but I always wanted to work with it. I always understood that it was about, what would look good and who would be interested by what.

You have a talent for this.
Yes, that’s, too, so good about Greco-Roman. One is a musician and record producer, one’s working for record companies, one’s managing artists and the guy works at bank. And then there’s the other two. One already runs a record label and the other is a radio host and dejays a lot. Everyone comes from different directions, which is wise. The only part missing is someone, who used to promote events. That’s why our parties are that great fun but we don’t get any money out of it, because we aren’t actually good in organizing parties. Well, we made a small amount with the first but then lost a lot of it as well, but that’s why it still feels like a party and not a club night.

And what about the records?
No, we loose money with them as well. But we get it through festivals. That’s one reason why we do them. They pay a lot better than anyone else.

So what about your future. Are you still looking for new artists?
I think we have already enough so we aren’t actively looking for new acts, but I always want to listen to new stuff. Also we want to release different music from different genres as well. We done an electro record, a disco-pop record, a rave record. I’d like to put out a dub-step record and a garage one. Two weeks ago we talked to an indie act, Wolf Gang, about a single, but it didn’t work out.

So in the future Greco-Roman will operate like Kitsuné?
Yeah, quite similar. They tour a lot and have a very distinct visual identity. We’re kind of doing what they do I guess, but we’re a bit more fun.

So how does your and the label’s future look like?
It involves me sitting in my swimming pool with a pony-tail. I don’t know. Lots of parties in lots of different cities. Lots of mistakes especially live.

And if you’d still be on the screen than mankind starts settling on Mars and you would be the first DJ-Team to go over, would you grab this chance?
I wouldn’t take Drums of Death with me since he would scare the Martians.