Report/Photos/Interview by: Jason Grigoropoulos

Intro

Welcome, you unlucky little fella, to this  wonderful (delayed) report. «Unlucky, you say?» Quite right, my friend, cause you must be of the unfortunate ones for not attending to Kokkinogia Lake the first two days of August and reading this, instead. Worry not, for Jason traveled 658 kilometers (a lot miles) just so you can grasp a fraction from this experience and be able to envy all those people who were there. Off we go!

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Day 1

It’s a hot Saturday morning in the bus station of Drama; so hot that we could grill steaks on the sidewalk if we liked to, in contrast with the weather report that predicted raging storms. Two buses, depart from the station, fully loaded with fuzzstastic campers. Luckily, the bus driver realized what kind of passengers he carried and didn’t play crappy greek music on the radio, as usual. As we arrived at the Kokkino-yeah planet, we took the time to admire the wonderful scenery of nature, set our tents and explore in the venue, with the soundcheck music playing while we enjoyed our beers.

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Fuzztastic Planet Gallery

 

(click on the band names to expand)

Sativa
It was around 18:40 when the crowed begun to gathering if front of the stage, when our friendly Bulgarian neighbors, Sativa appeared. An intruguing instrumental group, members of which were the iconic twins, who greeted us with their psychedelic space rock melodies from their album 100 Years After Never. Worth-mentioning tracks are Desert Minimal and Cenote. The humble band seemed glad to be part of this event. Best wishes for their future career.

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Instant Boner
As the sun was hiding behind the trees, it was time for my personal favorite band, Instant Boner to come on stage. One of the most creative bands of the greek scene, the six fellows from Thessaloniki made an excellent impression to the audience. Great vocals full of emotion, enhanced by the presense of the saxophone, all in well executed groovy blues rock compositions. We had the pleasure to listen to 4 new impressive songs from their upcoming album, as well as the trippy track Perfect Sunday from the same-titled debut. I have mixed feelings about the particular set; I’m glad that I had the chance to listen to all these new songs, though I feel incomplete as well, for not listening to more songs from their debut, like Illusions, My Guide.

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At this point, the first raindrops came down, proving true the weather reports, only to stop falling after half an hour. Still, this caused a one hour delay to the timetable and moving the appearce of unlucky Psychedelic Trips To Death to the end.

Night Knight
After the daylight was completely gone, and mosquitos had started their own festival on stage, there came Night Knight. The recent group founded by Serafeim Giannakopoulos, drummer of the mighty Planet Of Zeus, was a pleasant surprise to anyone who didn’t have the chance to listen to their soft rock tracks from the debut God Is A Motherfucker. The frontman took the time to say some nice stuff about the festival and its importance for the greek rock scene.

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Black Hat Bones
It’s time for some hardcore shit with the Spartans Black Hat Bones! It’s not a coinsidence that they are one of Greece’s favorites, as they always do what they know best; party hard. Bob, the energetic frontman, knew how to communicate with the crowd and get it pumped up. He didn’t miss to perform the classic ninja kicks too. Two samples from their rock ‘n’ roll set are Love Is A Dog From Hell and High Gain Devil Rockers from the same-titled debut.

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Black Rainbows
Black Rainbows took their turn on stage, filling the place with their fuzz. Even someone who didn’t have the chance to enjoy all of their albums before, could not resist to each of heavy psych track they played, mostly from their last album, Hawkdope. The Italians Fu Manchu (if I may) gave another vibe to the already party mood, and the audience showed its appreciation with lots of headbanging and small pits in front of the stage.

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As a fan of the Holy Moon EP, I was pretty excited as I heard MC5‘s Black To Comm cover. I think it was the perfect long jam for closing this gig. Besides, who could resist to the call of “Come on, come on! Clap your hands!”? And so did the greek crowd.

Samsara Blues Experiment
The time was 1:45 and the stars were glowing in the night sky, when the day’s headliners, Samsara Blues Experiment appeared and the first notes of Signata Mystic Queen were played. However, it took me some time to recognise  it, as the sound of sitar was missing, a catalytic element in their eastern-inspired music. Some may call me nitpicking, but what I think is that a band must do whatever it can for the songs to sound like the studio version when performing live. Anyway, that does not mean that I did not enjoy them. In contrast, Into The Black was a blast and was excecuted perfectly, as well as Center Of The Sun and the uplifting Army Of Ignorance. We also listened two track from Waiting For The Flood, their latest release, Shringara and Don’t Belong. The trio from Germany was mostly focused on their performance and were not particularly talkative, so they left the stage silently, only to return to perform the 20-minute masterpiece Double Freedom as their encore.

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Psychedelic Trips To Death
Psychedelic Trips To Death took over to write the epilogue of the first day, with a streak of bad luck, as a problem with a guitar caused another delay. Thus, the act was turned into a solo bass jam in order to keep the crowd entertained in some way, and I have to say that it was successful. Although some people went to sleep, there were still a many of them in front of the stage. When a guitar was found, the neo-psych band from Thessaloniki proved its worth by playing tracks that could be described like electronic Joy Division, an unexpectedly pleasant mix.

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And so, the first day passed in the Fuzztastic Planet.

Day 2

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Sunday morning began with a reveille that included Metallica; not the most pleasant way to get out of bed… Luckily for us, by the time we grabbed our morning coffee, Tuber was on the speakers. Soon I heard that Elder were about to have their soundcheck, so I ceased this opportunity to listen to this extra treat of music. This proved to be a good decision, as I managed to steal some of Nick and Jack’s time and scedule an interview jointly with Vasilis from Downtuned Mag. So, we met them at 18:00 in the camp’s tavern for a very informative chat, by the sounds of Their Methlab and Big Nose Attack on the background. Here’s what we learned:

ELDER Interview

VASILIS:  This is your first visit in Greece. What are your feelings and expectations of your appearance here which is a little paradox for us, since someone would expect that your first visit would be in Athens or Thessaloniki.

JACK: Well, it’s a festival, so we’ve played in a few festivals in the beaten path, even in like, Germany or Austria, in these little towns in the middle of nowhere, not in the main city, so it’s not too crazy that we are playing in the countryside. It’s almost actually a little cool because we get to see the greek countryside which is quite gorgeous.

[…]

VASILIS: Which are the 5 records that shaped the “Elder” we have here today in Kokkinogeia?

NICK: I’m gonna say Colour Haze. All their albums sound similar, so maybe their S/T and Tempel. King Crimson’s Red for sure. I don’t know if you guys have any…

JACK: Well, there is a bunch. I’ll say Gentle Giant.

MATT: Definitely some Motorpsycho.

NICK: Yeah, there are little moments of Motorpsycho. But when I heard Stefan Koglek from Colour Haze for the first time, he became immediately a huge guitar inspiration for me. I lifted a lot of his style for Dead Roots Stirring. He was like a blueprint. I was trying to listen to his riffs, try to pick them apart and see how he plays them. So that’s one thing. Motorpsycho, they are so free-form, they are such a versatile band. They can write 3 minute songs, they can write 20 minute songs. Those are my primary influences I think.

[…]

JASON: You were on a big tour around Europe. How was that as an experience for you? Was that your first time on a huge tour like that?

NICK: Yeah it was very long. We haven’t done anything longer than 4 weeks in the past, so doubling that… it’s been great, it’s been a trip that we experience more. Ι feel like I have experienced the past years of my life.

JASON: Did you have the time to get to know the countries you’ve been to, or did you just play a gig and then off you go to the next one?

NICK: Depends. Sometimes we have a day off, and we can actually see something, but unfortunately, usually if you have a day off you are so concerned with resting that you don’t even venture far. You do see the world but you see it from the highway or from the inside of the bus. You go to play to one venue, you go to sleep and you wake up in the next venue.

JASON: So it’s more like work than vacation to you.

JACK: Definitely! And on the days you do get off, like we were in Wiesbaden, Germany, we were there for two days total and I walked around the city center five or six times and I was like “oh yeah, I know Wiesbaden pretty well!”. I know how to get to the train station! [laughter]

JASON: You are about to play as headliners in one of Greece’s greatest rock festivals, how do you feel about that?

NICK: It’s good! It’s pretty flattering actually. We didn’t expect to be headliners. I know that last year was Radio Moscow and they are kind of bigger than us. It’s very nice, cause I know there is a lot of underground support for us too. And there are fans of the underground, the underdogs who would probably not make it there, unless a festival gets them there.

JASON: Were you afraid of the recent economical events in Greece? Did they affect you in some way?

JACK: Well, it was a thought. All that happened while we were on tour on Europe, and it happened to us to connect to the internet and connect to the world, so we kept reading things every now and then like “Greece is having a referendum” and we were like… “Oh, okay…”

NICK: “…Are we still gonna play there?”

JACK: Yeah, cause we didn’t know if the euro would exist in Greece by the time we get there. But then, seems like everything worked out.

JASON: Did you have any practical difficulties?

NICK: No, not one so ever.

JASON: Glad to hear that. So what does the setlist includes for the upcoming show, if you want to reveal it?

NICK: It’s a pretty good mixture of old and new. Dead Roots Stirring and Lore and we are going to play a track from Spires Burn/Release EP. But we won’t play anything too old from the Self Titled.

JASON: Oh, damn it!

[laughter]

JASON: Well, I love all of your work! So, I think this has already been answered indirectly, but I was about to ask you if you are going to include any doom elements to your future works -not necessarily like the S/T- or have you moved away from that?

NICK: I like heavy music, you know. I like slow parts in songs. Yeah, I mean, sure, that’s gonna probably be an element to the music forever, I think maybe the music is gonna be more broad in terms of scope. Definitely we’re not moving away from that. I don’t know, we just barely started writing songs for another album, and one of them is quite doomy.

JACK: Yeah, it’s actually kind of cool. I kinda like that. It’s pretty doomy. [Laughter]

JASON: Nice! Every time I listen to your albums I imagine legendary times with kingdoms and stuff like that. A very important to me question is: what are your albums about? Are they based on any concepts, stories that might have influenced you?

NICK: They are all conceptual in a kind of way. The self titled was mostly about mythological tales, Conan The Barbarian and that kind of shit. Dead Roots Stirring’s lyrics were inspired by the book “War & Peace” by Leo Tolstoy, cause that book is a lot about the great deeds of humanity, you know, living as a human being with the knowledge of your death, and how does man cope with the idea about being alone in the universe. Lore is almost the extension of the same themes, thoughts about religion and philosophy, and all these things that preoccupy my mind. But the albums are not based on any certain story. Well, it really depends on the song. For instance the song Legend from Lore is a bit narrative, I had in my mind Joan of Arc, the figure from France, but you probably don’t get that from reading the lyrics. I don’t know but it somehow fits into the scheme the albums have, which is about different philosophies, religion and mythology that human beings have come up to, to explain life and stuff. I like the thought of writing lyrics that apply to everyone, when living in a world where most pop music is concerned with the eye and very “me” specific themes. I like the idea of a song that actually relates to broader themes amongst to all people, even if it doesn’t come across that way.

JASON: So you ever considered making an album based on a concept? I keep asking this because I recently watched a short animated filmed of Adrian Dexter, your album artist, for which you wrote the music and I really liked as a concept for an album.

NICK: Yeah, we’ve thought about concept albums, but it’s hard to write that way for us.  We write in such fragments and ways that the lyrics could definitely form a concept; well I think they do across Dead Roots Stirring and Lore, for sure. But that’s not something we’ve thought about too much.

JACK: The fragments and nature of the music too, is quite unique; almost aid us to write original songs.

JASON: Is your collaboration with Adrian Dexter still on, I guess? Because I think that you match as artists, musically and visually.

NICK: Yeah, he’s been on tour with us the whole time, just not today. He’s been doing live visual animations for us, with projectors and stuff. He’s a good friend of us.

JACK: Yeah. We grew up in the same town.

JASON: Give him my regards and my respect for his artworks. So, closing, would you like to say anything to your fans in Greece or worldwide?

NICK: We love you guys. Thank you and continue to inspire us!

JACK: And thank you for having us here to play music for you!

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So, that was Elder, folks! Thanks to Vasilis and Eugene, we learnt thigs like Elder’s opinion on where they belong in the music spectrum, their preferences in venues, and many interesting things which you can find on their part of the interview. Being a fan of the doom genre, I’ll just sum up that they seem to not show off their debut album, like it’s the black sheep of their discography (or maybe they get tired tuning in C standard). It’s a shame, for all us fanboys who wanted to listen to Rrridddle Of Stteeel live once. What’s important, though, is that they constantly evolve as a band, towards unexplored paths and only time will tell where they will lead them. Somewhere glorious, for sure.

Big Nose Attack
Going back to the show, I caught up with the second half set of Big Nose Attack, which was mostly enternaining. I’ll too hop on the bandwagon and say that their Black-Keys-inspired sound doesn’t appeal to me, so I am not the best person to form an opinion on their live appearance. What I can say with absolute certainty though, is that the big nosed brothers don’t mind all these comparisons, and through their career, they have developed their own unique attitude in music. Besides, it fitted perfectly for the summer mood of the festival and the audience seemed to appreciate that.

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Stonebringer
The next act was an abrupt change in mood. Stonebringer is the most swiftly upcoming band lately in the greek scene, and definitely the most heavy appearance of the festival. In contrary with the public opinion, I am not a fan of the particular post metal genre, mostly because I hear death metal compositions along with post vocals and I just can’t comprehend that. But who am I to judge a band that has worked hard and released an album such as Those Winds, and had an excellent presence on stage. Full of energy and passion, they amazed the crowd and even I couldn’t resist singing along in their track Rubin.

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Whereswilder
And back to relaxing tunes played by Whereswilder. The debut Yearling was another one of the many recent released that were presented in Fuzztastic Planet Festival. Some of its ingredients are: lots of smooth summer melodies, a cup of stoner fuzz, and springle with some psychedelic breaks. And here you have the perfect music for sunbathing on the beach – or sitting on the grass with your buddies while emptying beer cans on a festival. In other words, listen to Whereswilder. 100% worth it.

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Temple Of The Smoke
The unexpected wonder of the day was Temple Of The Smoke. Feeling guilty for only had taken the time to check their album The Lost Art Of Twilight once; so I was curious about their live performance. From what I saw and listened to, I’d say that the particular band was the most fitting with the whole «space» concept of the event. The spectrum of their music ranges from heavy riffs and short doom sections to psychedelic effects and trippy jams. It’s so vast that is impossible to label it. Even though a humble presence, they received the love from the audience, while I received their last LP copy from the merch booth. Harharhar!

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And while I was sitting there thinking: How would it be when Nighstalker will have played their explosive set and then (the relatively less known to greek crowd) Elder come on stage after that? And then, we are informed by the organizers that Elder would appear first. I don’t know the reason for this, but it was a smart move, if you ask me. Truth be told, Nightstalker were probably the greatest attraction of the event for the Greeks and even Metallica themselves couldn’t top them by appearing after them. Thus, the moment I was waiting for had arrived a bit sonner than I expected.

Elder

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The trio from Machas- Massuch- FROM BOSTON, they are from Boston, anyway- appeared on stage and I felt goosebumps rise in my arms by anticipation. Even during the soundcheck, every typical drunk Greek was yelling (in our language this means that we are excited). A few moments of silence and then there were the first notes of bass and drums. And guitar. It was finally true; I was listening to Dead Roots Stirring live. Apparently, the excecution was flawless, while I was surprsised to see my fellow fans singing along Nick Disalvo the lyrics of the song perfectly (even though they are rare to find on the internet). The melodic intro of Compendium followed –one that suspiciously reminds of the one of Camel’s Another Night, as my friend Jim aptly noticed– and then the colossal riffs made everyone shoving each other. After we sang “faces change, thought returns to dust-ashen countenance, holy rust-I am compendium!”, a strangely familiar dance of drums began, which proved to be the intro of the instrumental masterpiece III. The band was well tuned and energetic, especially the bassist, Jack, who seemed to having fun with the projectile beer cans.

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Another track from their latest album Lore followed, Spirit At Aphelion, when the American frontman, took some time to comment on the festival and how happy the band was to be in Greece for the first time. Time for Release, for the most demanding fans and for the closing Gemini, the track that probably introduced most people to Elder’s music. Unfortunately, that was all the band’s set, as they didn’t return on stage, even after our begging cries. Let’s hope we will see them again soon!

Nightstalker
Time to get the party started with our loved Nightstalker. Few words are needed to describe one of their live performances. For the unitiated ones, Nightstalker means headbanging, beers, weed, jokes, party. To be more clear, after each song, a barrier was left in pieces, until none remained and the pit became one with the stage and so the first dives appeared. Latest shows open with the glorious riff of Go Get Some and go on backwards to their older releases.

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We all sang along “I was old when I was too young – I was wrong when I was just right» in Superfreak, then Brainmaker from the ultimate USE LP, satanic drugs from outer space in All Around, cigarettes on our hands in Just A Burn, Voodoo U Do, the goddamn Line, Soma, the emotional This Is U, the sexiest bass solo ever in the explosive Baby, God Is Dead and endless shoving in the pit in Trigger Happy. The ‘Stalker’s encore included the energetic Dead Rock Commandos and of course Children Of The Sun, where the typical fans climbed up the stage to sing it along with the band.

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That’s all, folks! This was Fuzztastic Planet Festival 2015, an event which was organized, performed, attended to and supported by people with one thing in common: the love for music. At this point I’d like to quote Stef Dimou:

«The greek rock scene exists and its momentum is HUGE. For this we have to «blame» exclusively the local bands, which have lured all these people into rock music. Guys who struggle to gather 50 or 100 euros, in order to buy a pedal, or new strings, or and amplifier, in order to produce quality music, knowing that probably they will never get this money back. But people, hearing each note, understand the sacrifices these guys make and their meraki*, and reward them with an applause, a smile, a pat in the shoulder.

The local bands and the people around them are the rock scene; not the organizers, promoters, shops, unions, or I-don’t-know-who-else organizes live shows in this country. If not for the local bands, rousing us from our couches, and getting us to attend events, none of these bands from abroad would be here. Because we wouldn’t exist in the rock festival map of the planet.»

*Definition: Meraki (pronounced: may-rah-kee); Greek; adjective
1. To do something with soul, creativity, or love.
2. To put “something of yourself” into what you’re doing.
Note: There is no English equivalent for this word. Meraki is, unsurprisingly, untranslatable.
Going Home

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On the next day, as I was waiting for the train, I seized the opportunity to create a little poll with my fellow fuzzcampers. So I asked them which were the bands they attented the festival for, which liked the most (from the ones that they didn’t know). Here’s what I got:

Came for: They liked:
Sativa 3
Instant Boner 7
Night Knight 5
Psychedelic Trips To Death 3
Black Hat Bones 5
Black Rainbows 6
Samsara Blues Experiment 10 2
Their Methlab 4
The Big Nose Attack 2
Stonebringer 3 7
Whereswilder 3
Temple Of The Smoke 8
Nightstalker 6 4
Elder 8 5

Lastly, I asked them what bands they wanted to see next year. Those were. Villagers Of Ioannina City,  Dead Meadow, My Sleeping Karma, Colour Haze, Re-Stoned/Maat Lander, Naxatras, Brotherhood Of Sleep, Ancestors, Hypnos69

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