An Interview with Alex Machairas from IN TRANCE 95

Broken Down Machine

Fans of emerging and re-emerging synth music genres like cold wave and minimal synth no doubt have found their favourite French, Italian or of course German obcurity. A band, a song, a year, a sound.

But for every cleanly picked bone, there still remains to be explored hidden depths.

This is part of the cold/minimal wave movement’s charm: that sense of discovery, the notion that you have stumbled upon an unmined sonic seam, and can bring some brilliant and sadly forgotten genius to light once more.

In this way, many great artists have resumed careers after gaps of thirty or so years. The enthusiasm of fans has resurrected dormant careers of artists the world then gratefully re-embraces. It’s a success story of passion and merit, where underground remains underground – very few of these bands or artists enjoyed major labels or superstar lifestyles first time around.

Some bands have disappeared and remain a beloved enigma. Some sounds are only now being discovered.

The new wave and post-punk scene of Greece is one of the new (wave) frontiers currently being joyfully explored, and heavyweights of the scene IN TRANCE 95 are deservedly getting some fresh attention.

The period between 1988 and 1992 saw this band concocting some sterling proto-dance music, somewhere between the robotic concoctions of CABARET VOLTAIRE, the body music of NITZER EBB or FRONT 242 and the groove of Arthur Baker, with a slice of synthpop melody gluing it together. At their best, IT 95 were as good as any of their better known contemporaries with early hit ‘Desire To Desire’ rivalling the early synthpop period MINISTRY for infectious industrial groove.

With only one album ‘Code Of Obsession’ to their name, IN TRANCE 95 are about to release a new album ‘Shapes In New Geometry’ having issued a collection of unreleased material entitled ‘Cities Of Steel & Neon’ on the scene-defining label Minimal Wave Records and made a video for new song ‘Wave (Are We Alone)’ in 2011. IT95’s Alex Machairas talked to TEC about the past – and the future.

Tell us about the earliest days of the band: what brought you together?

It was a random encounter between two complete strangers at a BLAINE L REININGER gig in Athens in May 1988.

We found that we had a common interest in creating music made entirely with synthesizers.

We quickly moved what we each had together in Nik’s (Veliotis, the other half of IT 95) basement studio, and started spending countless hours together writing, experimenting and rehearsing.

This became IT 95’s studio – which we named Airdawn because we often finished our sessions at the crack of dawn.

Why were you interested in making synth-based music? That’s an aesthetic that seems more associated with post punk acts here in the UK…

We had just turned 18, and both grew up with post punk, new wave and synth pop, but it was definitely synthesizer sounds that fascinated us. At that time in Athens, bands that used synths and drum machines exclusively were rare to nonexistent.

What equipment were you using? It was the early days of computer based sampling – were you a part of that?

We had no computer back then, our instrumentation was very simple: a four track tape, a CS01, a heavenly Boss DD2 delay, a TR606 drum machine, Mattel Synsonics and a nasty Yamaha Portasound! That was it! Sometimes we could borrow a Roland TR909. Our set up presented us with many limitations (we had no sequencer for one) but on the other hand it made us resourceful.

We overcame the lack of a sequencer by using the delay pedal for bass-lines and since we had no reverb we added white noise to snares, things like that. All done by hand and recorded to tape. It really shaped our sound and we still use these techniques today! Later on we got the chance to use more synths and drum machines as well as computers and samplers. But our preferred sound is the early lo-fi one for sure.

What brought you back together? What had you both been doing in the meantime?

We have missed the band. And we have missed working with one another more than we even knew.

It was difficult to reform for many years as we have moved away from each other. There was never a fight and the strange thing is that we were best of friends too.

Our very last recording in the late 1991 kind of burnt us out and we took a break that ended up longer than we expected. After that we met a few times by chance but nothing happened.

Nik focused on his solo and other projects while I continued for some years with IT 95 mainly as a live act and some recordings that were never released (however some of these tracks are being reworked now for our future releases).

In April 2010, we were offered the chance to open for RECOIL in Athens. So it was thanks to Alan Wilder that we got back in the studio together again. And of course Minimal Wave Records’ Veronica Vasicka played an instrumental role, as her interest and support gave further enthusiasm to those first recording sessions that took place after the reunion gig.

Tell us about writing new music now, and how you feel about your early music.

Looking back now, our early work seems like a nostalgic photograph, but at the same time we are really happy that it has an audience now! We feel that our new tracks take the sound further, incorporating all the different influences and sonic adventures we experienced in the last two decades. We still love the analogue feel and in a way our sound is the same in terms of being as ‘dirty’ as it was back then, but it is also different in terms of taking it more to extremes.

With your new album Shapes In New Geometry, what instruments or software have you used? What is your music writing process?

It’s a combination of old and new technology. We are still using old analogue equipment but the difference is that there is no 4-track Fostex anymore but a computer.

It is really amazing that we still use the Yamaha CS01 synth from 1982. We have four of those in the studio, one of which is circuit bent. We are also still using the Boss digital delay pedal. We have used the Roland TR606 and CR-78 drum machines, and a Korg Micro-Preset.

When we first started recording again there was an explosion of tracks, we were happy to work together again and the writing process is as it has always been. We both do everything, recording, writing parts, lyrics whatever even when not in the studio each of us works on his own and then we go back working together. It is not a democratic duo, it is a completely anarchic duo that somehow it works and we just keep it at that!

What is your favourite synthesiser of all time and why?

The CS01 synth is the IN TRANCE 95 synth without a doubt. It probably seems less impressive, and of course there is a whole world of analogue, modulars, you name it – but this little wonder has always worked for us.

We have used and owned many synths through the years but we went back to our first love, the CS01. It easily proves that you can be creative with the most minimal set up, especially now that it is so easy to get lost in the endless possibilities of the new technology.


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to Alex Machairas

‘Cities Of Steel & Neon’ is currently available as a vinyl LP and download via Minimal Wave Records. ‘Shapes In New Geometry’ is set for release in 2012

http://www.intrance95.com/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/In-Trance-95/212761248748967

http://minimalwave.com/articles/article/mw029-in-trance-95-cities-of-steel-neon/


Text and Interview by Nix Lowrey
18th May 2012