THE SOUND EXPLOSION - An informative study of the early years of the band with leader JOHN ALEXOPOULOS - Part 2
BEFORE THE SOUND EXPLOSION: “60’s KITCHEN PUNK”
Q1. Tell me about the very early days. How did you become interested in 60s garage and what sort of equipment did you use?
I started playing in garage bands in the mid 80’s with some friends of mine. I was in my mid-teens but was already a fan of all those Pebbles and Back From The Grave comps that were coming out at the time and of course the then current wave of new garage bands coming mostly from USA, Sweden and Italy.
We had no gear really, we were using beat up old guitars, sometimes even acoustic guitars, drum sets that consisted of a snare drum and some Tupperware (filled with jam), an old Casio organ which could not play chords and for an amplifier I had a “device”, a friend of mine had made, that was made out of telephone speaker and a cable, that created the most buzzing fuzz sound I ever heard (wish I had that one now)!
We called ourselves The Underground Shades and we used to play stuff like “Surfin Bird” and “Night Of The Phantom”, but we didn’t do any gigs as we were not a really serious band, just a bunch of angst ridden teenagers having some fun!
In 1987 or so I met Stelios Drissis and we started talking about forming a band with me on guitar and him on the organ. We started jamming in the kitchen of his house of all places for two reasons, a) it was the only place where we could not annoy anyone and 2) for some bizarre reason we thought it had better acoustics!
We played stuff like “I Never Loved Her”, “Be A Caveman” and “Psychotic Reaction”. We called our style “60’s kitchen punk”. You see, garage bands played in a garage, but we played in the kitchen, hence “60’s kitchen punk”!!!
We couldn’t find a steady rhythm section. The main reason was that we were still at school and our school mates and friends of our age had exams to take in order to go to a university. So again no gigs and our plans for spreading the word of “60’s kitchen punk” were cancelled!
THE EARLY DAYS OF THE SOUND EXPLOSION
Q2. How did The Sound Explosion form and what was Athens like for a neo 60s garage band? Tell me about your early gigs.
After we finished school Stelios Drissis met Dimtris Dimopoulos who along with Stavros Daktylas played in a band called The Daylight Dreamers, who had made some gigs and had a song on a comp, but had just split. Dimitris was playing guitar in this band but switched to bass and brought along Stavros for the drums so in 12th May 1991 The Sound Explosion were born!
We were all crazy about those wylde garage sounds and from the moment that we started playing “Shapes Of Things To Come” (Max Frost & The Troopers) in that first rehearsal I knew we had something good here!
The good thing is that we shared the same vision, to form a garage band that was dedicated strictly to that fuzz’n’farfisa 1966 USA garage sounds. The sound, the style and the look played a big part to us. We all had adopted the garage look (mop tops, black turtlenecks, black tight jeans, pointy boots, medallions etc), that would cause us some laughing at! We were very rough and primitive and most people in the local scene (local music mag scribes, radio djs, fanzine editors etc) were either neglecting us or considering us a joke!
In the early 90’s the grunge and madchester thing were the then “hip” thing to do, so being a moptop garage band in the early 90’s in Athens was totally doing the wrong thing in the wrong time! But we really didn’t give a dime, as we were 19 years old and at that age you just do what you like and you don’t care about what other people think!
We started doing covers like “Blues Theme” (Davie Allan & The Arrows), “Meany Genie” (Tony Brook & The Breakers), “Nothin” (Ugly Ducklings), “Don’t Need Your Loving” (Chocolate Watchband), “I Want My Woman” (The Emporers) and tons of Pebbles and BFTG.
We also started trying out our own songs. I would usually bring the main parts and chords and then everybody would add their ideas on their instruments, affecting strongly the overall sound of the song. That was the way, we worked out songs.
We started doing gigs in Athens and the first one was on a free open air festival. Half of the audience were drunk hippies and the rest were old people who happened to be on the square the festival took place. It was really bizarre.
Then we did a gig of our own in “AN club” which was the main place were local rock’n’roll bands played. We made a poster full of catchy words like ”primitive”, “wyld” etc and literally filled Athens with them! It was a miracle we didn’t get arrested as it was (and still is) illegal to hang posters in places like the entrance of the local metro stations or the front doors of public buildings!!!
Our “shows” were very chaotic affairs where anything could happen and being naïve and primitive usually we ended them in mayhem! So we grew a small core of garage fans that followed our gigs everywhere. In November 1991 we were lucky to open for The Fuzztones here and that was really our big break! I still remember how nervous and frightened I was before going on stage for that gig! It was our 2nd or 3rd gig and here we were, opening for one of the biggest and most successful garage bands of all times in front of almost 2000 screaming people!