April 05, 2017
Known as the head of experimental electronic label, Deep Sea Mining Syndicate, one half of Calgary’s ambient experimental duo Sanctums, and resident DJ and co-founder of Calgary’s most successful weekly hip-hop night, Natural Selection, Evangelos Lambrinoudis II is a pretty busy guy.
Lambrinoudis also goes by the name Corinthian, and is a dedicated hardware techno artist. The project, which hinges on the fundamentals of urban techno, dance, and minimalism, couples audio and visual components with recorded sound and live performance to create a deeply stirring cinematic experience.
His last album, Eurozone Ghost, which was propelled by its own moody drawl and an array of endless droning beats, painted a sweeping portrait of the global financial crisis of 2007-2008.
But, Lambrinoudis isn’t trying to be grim; the music is his gut response to these crazy times we live in. It’s his way of digesting life in an era marred by political extremism, fear, and hate, and it’s his personal contribution to the larger cultural conversation.
As an artist, label head, and active member of Calgary’s electronic scene for more than 15 years, Lambrinoudis views electronic music as an emotional language––one that can serve society both by reflecting its collective heartache and acting as an escape from it.
Juliette Jagger: I want to talk a bit about each of your current projects but why don’t we start with Corinthian. You’ve been known to explore some pretty heavy themes that often reflect the current state of society. When you look out onto that landscape how do turn that confusion and misery into inspiration and into something you can communicate musically?
Evengelos Lambrinoudis II: “The easiest way for me to develop the themes for this project has been to explore them through the ease and accessibility of the Internet. There is always this constant dialogue that is happening where people are posting things, we all make a judgment on something, and everyone is really strongly routed in whatever it is they believe. It’s a lot like this terror-dome of opinions and ideas that are clashing and no one’s really getting along.
“As an artist, what I’m trying to do is present those themes from my perspective in terms of the way I’m interacting with them. I’m also trying to find ways to communicate the things that matter to me like my culture, my history, the people around me and the things that are affecting them. A lot of times that’s not necessarily as a conversation but as something a bit more vague that you can’t fact check on Wikipedia and that requires interpretation and some metabolizing.
“The subject matter is, as you said, quite heavy, but I also feel it’s appropriate for the heavy times. Essentially, through the subtlety of visuals and music I’m trying to find ways to communicate that aren’t so hostile but creative instead.”
JJ: Obviously there is a great deal of fear and hostility stewing in the culture right now. To be able to address and express that in a way that is artistic rather than combative is probably more important than ever.
EL: “Definitely. It’s the only thing that I feel I have that is relevant to add to the conversation, you know? In other interviews I’ve often talked about how the things that I am interested in are surrounded by this idea of the underdogs of society. I don’t necessarily fall into that category; I’m not a very rich person and I didn’t grow up rich, but I’ve had a lot of other privileges that a lot of people don’t have. So, for me, rather than taking the stage to stand up and tell others what I think is right, I just sort of tell my own story through the art that I’m making and the way I’m dealing with these things.”
JJ: As Corinthian, you perform all of your songs live using hardware like synthesizers and samplers rather than a laptop. That’s quite the opposite of your work with Sanctums. Why was that important for you?
EL: “Having worked on other projects where that was more of a priority, when I started Corinthian I decided immediately that I wanted to do things differently. At the time, I was also really interested in physicality and also the intersection of industrial production and art.
“When you think about using machines, it’s really the machines that are making the music; it’s different than when someone is playing the guitar or playing a concerto. What I’m doing is much closer to a person who works in a machine shop or who is working with delicate tools to make jewelry. The idea was to do something really physical and the only way I was going to be able to do that was by harnessing the machines and sort of creating that conversation with them.”
JJ: In a time when most things are as simple as a push of a button and the average person can’t explain the inner workings of the technology that facilitates how they live every single day, there’s something to taking the time to learn your instrument intimately. It’s not unlike driving a car––it will not take you where you need to go unless you know how to operate it.
EL: “Exactly. I like those limitations and I guess the engineer in me also enjoys something that’s convoluted. It’s sort of like a Rube Goldberg machine where you have all of these wires that are all connected but don’t always work. They are clunky and take hundreds of hours to learn, but within all of that complication there’s something creative happening and you’re able to harness that and use it. I just think that’s so cool, and it’s way more interesting to me than pressing play. There’s more risk involved.”
JJ: You mentioned limitations. Even though the instrument has these parameters, engaging with them seems oddly freeing in a way. Is it because you want to find out how much you can or can’t do within those boundaries?
EL: “Yeah, and for me as a buyer and often collector of synthesizers and pedals I go through these cycles where I’ll get a bunch of stuff, think that I have too much, pick three things that I like, sell the rest, and only use those three things until I’ve pretty much used them up. Then I think maybe I need a few more things, and then I think I have too much again. [Laughs] Part of the fun of this project is that it’s not like you have your signature item, you know? Between the songs and the albums especially, I can kind of say that I’ve recycled the whole kit into something different and have been able to fit it to exactly that moment or the sound that I was trying to achieve at that time.”
JJ: We briefly touched upon Sanctums, which is your DJ project with Dan Solo, but let’s go a bit deeper into that. You guys have addressed some of the same themes that have appeared on various Corinthian albums, but this project seems much more focused on the storytelling that happens in the spaces between the sounds and the beats.
EL: “Dan and I have had this sort of lifelong collaboration. When we’re writing, we do a lot of driving around and we’ll just build a really strong narrative that is very conceptualized because we both really love movies and stories. As for the way the sounds work, one of the reasons that Sanctums is so different than the other projects that I’m doing is because when we started the whole thing it was really rooted in that we were both DJ kind of people, and that Dan was just starting his family and I’m such a family guy. While all of his other friends were like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know if I’m going to hang out with you cause you’ve got a baby and stuff,’ I grew up around kids, I have four sisters, so family is super important to me and we kind of got closer through that. The types of stories that we tell and the type of music that we play, we really think about our families when we’re writing it.”
JJ: In what way?
EL: “On one level there is the narrative that we put out to the world, but on a deeper level I think there’s a lot of us just thinking about those softer moments, like when one of your siblings falls off the couch or you see kids drawing or something, you know? Those moments that aren’t necessarily as hyped up in the nightlife. It’s just about seeing the beauty in the mundane.
“With the Corinthian stuff I’m a bit more steadfast, I kind of just know, not like it’s me against the world but I feel like it’s me sort of putting out this statement about myself. Whereas with the Sanctums stuff, when we’re working together, I get very emotional about the songs and I feel almost touchy about the writing; it’s definitely a process with Dan and I.”
JJ: I came across a really great quote while reading another one of your interviews and I’d like to read it to you…
EL: Oh boy, okay. [Laughs]
JJ: It says: “Socially, everyone’s in this congratulatory period where everybody’s just like jerking each other off,” he says. “That shit just makes me shrug my shoulders. I feel like there’s a lot of talent in this city’s electronic music scene, and there are a lot of people making cool shit, but nobody’s breaking through. Nobody’s leaving town…. Where’s the punk rock? Where’s the tour van to Winnipeg? Where’s that sacrifice?”
Talk to me about the sentiment behind that quote because it really does sum up what it’s like to be a creator in the digital age. So much gets lost in translation. Has that been your experience in the electronic scene and in Calgary?
EL: “Yeah, and I definitely still feel that way. I hate to add upon it but my outlook only manages to get bleaker as the years go on. [Laughs] I mean, it’s such a strange thing to be an artist where I’m from in Calgary. It’s a mostly hopeless experience and people are so touchy about the scene. It’s really difficult to put out stuff that you artistically believe in and to get a crowd to go check it out––it’s a tough city.
“Compared to when I said that, I think it’s even more true now. People sort of egotistically impose themselves online as these creators when they’re not even trying to engage in a conversation about where music is at or where sounds are at; it’s literally the most self-indulgent process. That’s most of the people here at least. They’re just so caught up in their own inner dialogue that they don’t even have any sense of doing anything for the culture. It’s entirely a show of how many friends you can get out and that’s it; that’s success and failure right there.
“I just find that so bizarre because look, I can’t say I’m the greatest person in the world or the greatest artist in the world, but when I sit down to write music I look at what’s out there and I try to add to that conversation. I try to do something that’s different enough that what I’m adding is in the stream of consciousness, you know?”
JJ: Do you think that’s the general feeling among the majority of artists or among the patrons of the scene?
EL: “I think it’s a combination. Partially it’s the patrons because they are the one’s who are going out, but the one thing I’ve learned from doing the Deep Sea Mining Syndicate thing is that the people who are really listening to the songs are not necessarily the people who are going out. The culture of the people who are going out, that’s sort of one thing, and if you’re cool with them that’s great, but there’s also the group of people who actually know the songs, and that’s a different thing all together.
“Sometimes, the fact that those never line up is really frustrating because I’ve played so many shows, last year alone I played myself to death. I still don’t think that anybody who has seen me perform knows any of my songs, but I’m okay with that. There is a community of people out there that the music speaks to, and I want to continue to try and reach them and encourage them to come and join in on that part of it because the going out culture thing is just about drugs man. Straight up, it’s about fucking coke and that’s all people give a shit about.
EL: “That’s my opinion. I’m sure people are going to be offended by that. People are often offended by that shit I have to say, but honestly, I fucking hate cocaine. I hate the culture around it, and that everybody around me is so obsessed with it because it shows in their art. I don’t often get a chance to say that, but given the platform, that’s what I’ll say.”
JJ: Given that there is such a huge disconnect between the people who are going out to the shows and your core audience, have you had a chance to interact with the people who are actually listening?
EL: “Totally. After last year, I came really close to quitting music. I just felt so burnt out by the energy and the vibe of the whole thing. Then I started meeting all of these people who were like, ‘Hey! I just bought all of your records online. I don’t really go out, but I get what you’re doing and it’s really cool.’ That’s when I think, ‘Wow, that’s pretty special.’”
JJ: Tell me more about Deep Sea Mining Syndicate because I get the impression it’s about paring with like minded artists to stir the pot a bit. Is that fair?
EL: “Yeah it is. When we came up with the idea, I was touring around China with a friend of mine and we were talking about mechanical reproduction, like when you make a whole bunch of stuff with a machine. From there we sort of decided it would be cool to create something that was really aesthetically driven, something like the Superstore’s No Name brand for example, but turn it into a never-ending collection of things that we were making.
“So, it has been about bringing in like-minded artists, but it’s also definitely been about bringing in artists who are also interacting mechanically in a way that fits. I think if you take a look at the artists that have come out on the label, the stuff that they do for Deep Sea is really quite different than the stuff that they do on their own. That to me is really special because I’m sort of able to take a chance on material that is a bit more challenging and doesn’t give it all away. It’s stuff that isn’t necessarily trying to make it onto famous websites; it is just stuff that I think is unique.”
JJ: Listening to some of the artists you’ve put out through the label, they do feel very much like they should live under the umbrella of Deep Sea Mining.
EL: “I’m trying to create a little network almost. Like, imagine if we were all living in submarines under water and we could send emotional yet provocative messages to one another through intercom; that’s kind of the idea of the project––to just create this connectivity.
“I also love the idea of creating this underground network because if you look at where these artists are from, there are some Calgary people but also there are people from across the country—from Nova Scotia, Vancouver, and Edmonton. Actually, our latest release is by a friend of mine from Greece, so, I guess it’s just about trying to find the misfits and people who don’t necessarily get that particular thing that they want out there and building that network. We’re not like a clique we’re just part of a syndicate, we’re just workers, you know what I mean?”
JJ: What motivates you as an artist?
EL: Honestly, it’s about the culture for me––that’s what I do and that’s what I’ve always done. I think, in a lot of my other interviews I have come across as the sort of person who says what is on my mind, but what I’m saying is because of the music. I’ve never given a shit about bringing out a big crowd or trying to compromise in a sense because I’m trying to impress my peers. I try to create that conversation because to me it’s always been about certain facets of electronic music that I think are really important to expressing emotion in society right now.”
JJ: I think it’s only when you stop giving a shit about that sort of thing that you are able to free yourself up to create something, honestly.
EL: “I’ve been doing music for almost 15 years now and I wish I had this sort of mentality earlier on because now I realize that there are certain people who are just lifers. As a lifer in music and as someone who is always going to be making art this way and expressing myself this way, it’s not me against the current trend, it’s me against myself and me against whatever is going on at the time, you know? It’s a long game and I’m in it for the long haul now that I know that I feel a little less stressed out when I say something that is a little bit bold. It is just what I think about the culture; it’s not personal to anybody.
“I think it’s also really important to note that although I may come across as one way or the other, I’ve always seen myself on the same side of the things that I’m critical of. I’m saying these things about myself, I’m saying them to the people around me, and I’m saying them to the people who are participating. The worst thing a musician can do when they leave here and they go somewhere else is to have this attitude like this place is a piece of shit or something; that to me is the antithesis of making things better.
“In other parts of the world, things really build in a crazy way and I like that aspect of the electronic scene. The way I see it is that we’re all in it together and we decide how good things get.”
JJ: What are you going to be working on during your residency with the National Music Centre and what are you hoping to achieve?
EL: “Well, since I found out about the residency I’ve kind of been going non-stop. [Laughs]. I’ve seen Instagram photos of people who I idolize, my heroes, who have come through town to checkout the collection at [Studio Bell] and been like, ‘Wow, I never thought I’d get to see one of these.’ Now it’s me, this guy from Calgary, and I get to actually go there, handle that equipment and use it in a creative way in a very open setting. I’m so humbled by the fact that they asked me to do this, so I haven’t been taking it lightly.
I have a new album all sketched out so I’ve been trying to write as many loops and percussion concepts as possible to get myself ready.
“I think my primary goal for the residency will be to use their resources to record as much as I possibly can, and hopefully get enough material to put the album together properly. I also have a few friends who are going to be coming through to do some collaboration type of work, so that’s really exciting. That said, the great thing about working with electronic music is that there is only so much preparation you can do; the rest is all spontaneity.”
Corinthian will be taking over Studio Bell’s Artist in Residence program from April 3–13, with a public workshop scheduled for April 8, and a performance in the King Eddy on April 13. For more information or to purchase tickets, head to studiobell.ca/whats-on.