Solo Musician Interview: John Kampouropoulos

John Kampouropoulos

Where are you from?
JK: I’m Greek, I live in Athens. Well, in an athenian suburb, to be precise. Near some beautiful mountains.

How long have you been playing your respective instrument(s)?
JK: I started as a drummer, back in 1987, but quit right after completing my army draft call in 1997. I also play a little acoustic guitar. I’m a good strummer, but that’s as far as it goes. And of course, I sing; Singing was something I enjoyed since I was a child, but decided to expand. I can also program some synths in a manner that eases my work, and a bit of bass. That sums it all up.   

What genre of music do you consider your work to be?
JK: Well ok, let’s put it this way: it’s rock, but in a crossover practice. When composing, I enjoy mixing genres together, it makes me feel more excited. I don’t fancy straight forward genres, although I used to, to be honest. But I found it more interesting this way, even though it may sound a bit awkward to some.  

What are your influences?
JK: As a singer, I’m influenced by Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, Morrissey, Paul McCartney, Bono, Joe Cocker. In my early singing years I was influenced by Jim Morrison, but that faded away when I entered the world of alternative rock. As a songwriter, my influences range from 60’s brit rock/rock (The Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, Blind Faith), 70’s rock (Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath), 80’s rock and pop (from Talking Heads and Tears for Fears to Cindy Lauper and Prince), 90’s (from Soundgarden and Nirvana to Radiohead – loved the band Strangelove, if you haven’t listened to them, do it!), 00’s (John Mayer, Editors and stuff) – but all the while, I listen to and get influenced by funk music, soul music, as well as electro music. In other words: it’s a mess!      

Do you do covers and if so what’s your go to?
JK: Not my fav, really. I spent so much time singing covers many years ago then I realised I was withering away by not making my own music. But still, I love some songs, such as ‘White Rabbit’ by Jefferson Airplane, which I covered completely anew, on my own arrangement. There’s also a ballad-style version of ‘How you remind me’ by Nickelback. I don’t really like their music, but the song itself can be a very touching ballad. One of the things I would like the most and are in planning as we speak is to make a real cover concept with songs I really love and would really like to spend time on re-launching them, as if they were my own songs.

Do you have a process for writing your songs?
JK: Usually yes. I tangle and toggle with melodies first, then add the lyrics. Yes, I know it sounds bizarre, but there’s no recipe for that, in my opinion. I’m a songwriter, what matters to me is the song, not the way of writing it. Then comes technology; with lots of DAWs to my avail (and to anyone’s avail), it’s getting interesting and much more creative a process when working on a song. When the ‘canvas’ is ready, then I proceed to the main recording sequence by adding the instruments. When in a band, it’s the same sequence; then we add some arrangement touches, we finalise it altogether, and off to studio for a more pro feel.  

Do you have any interesting/funny stories about gigging or touring?
JK: Sure! Lots of them. I once had to perform on a boat-bar – an actual barge, with gig room big enough for a flamenco trio, yet containing a full geared 5-piece rock band. It was all shaky and noisy and smoky, but we made it through. Another hilarious one is, back when I was drumming in a band, we had to perform in an all-out degraded venue, with hookers, pimps and gypsy outcasts mixed with our friends and fans, in a hall designed to appallingly simulate a ‘Concorde’ plane passenger booth. There were even plane bucket seats and spring tables and plane window panes with embedded lousy air photos of major capitals, surrounded by emergency side exit signs and stuff. I remember the kitchen door sign prompting: ‘Pilots Only’! But the drinks were ok, nevertheless. Might as well be a Jim Jarmusch movie. I have also performed in an empty venue, due to disappointingly bad weather. I have performed solo in a closed gig space with gravel for a stage and audience floor. I have toured UK in a sleeper bus, thus reminding me the movie Das Boot, as we slept in bunk beds, all smelly and sweaty for 5 long days. In another gig, recently, a pint fell over our guitarist’s stomp gear case, spilling beer all over. We had to delay our gig time for half an hour, in order to dry out the messed-up stomp board; And although Nick has never been keen to profanity, that night he ‘let it all out’, infuriated by the near disaster. Once, I nearly escaped from being hospitalised when I glitched in a stage gap right in front of me. I have been electrocuted twice in two different venues. I have postponed a gig just a few hours before hitting the stage, due to a 40 dgs. C feverish flu, having already rehearsed with tangling 38s, just one day before. While recording our former KAMP LP during one session for the guitar dubs, riots were unleashed outside the block where the studio was situated, with police clambering and incendiary bombs swooshing and smoke bombs and clatter bombs blasting all over. By the time we’d finished the session, all roads were cleared, peace was restored and people still walked their way home or to nearby bars as if nothing ever happened, only the air was polluted with tear gas fumes.           

What song do you remember most from your childhood?
JK: Ah, I think it was ‘Love Me Do’ by the Beatles. I think it was the ‘Blue Apple’ compilation, actually. Loved every song, I even fell in love with my first girl, while listen to ‘Day Tripper’. I think I was 8. Cool.  

What has been your biggest challenge as a performer? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so then how?
JK: It was back in 2006, actually. Driven from a past period of singing with a certain alternative rock attitude, I realised I had to move on to my own, personal style. By that time, I had re-joined an older band, and somehow I felt more free to perform my own way. So I reset everything. I worked on my lower vocal margins, and expressed more of my changing-between-moods-in-one-song inclination. It worked and that style became my signature.  Many years later, now as a mature singer, I was recording vocals for my former personal project KAMP on a song with so weird a vocal approach, I had to book three days of studio vocal recording, lock-out. The song was ‘Galileo’ You’ve heard it and reviewed it: nothing seems out of place, does it? Yet this was the peak of challenges, I guess. It was my song, my vocal line, my production, my own responsibility. And couldn’t bloody well get an outcome for nearly three days. Finally, I decided to approach the vocals on a technically different aspect: seated on an armchair, legs crossed, microphones in the distance and almost whispering the melody without moving a muscle – and that did the trick. Even now, I can’t imagine the possibility to have had to exclude the song from the LP, just because my own vocals didn’t sound as expected. It could’ve been so frustrating.   

How can fans-to-be gain access to your music?
JK: Follow me on or for more raw stuff, There is youtube, as well, tap John kampouropoulos and watch the videos. Last but not least, there is my temporary site

Have you released anything yet/if you have then how has it gone down and are you planning anything for the near future?
JK: With my former personal project KAMP, I have released two LPs (‘REAPPEAR’ and ‘CLAIRVOYANCE’). The reception here, in Greece, was mediocre. The ruling genres here are things other than this crossover rock thing, so the only ones who really enjoyed our music were a handful of fans and people from abroad. Unfortunately, we never got the chance of planning a tour in the EU, as the project was disbanded. As a solo artist, I have just released a temporary LP –a base for a future studio release- titled ‘LFE.AFTR’ aka ‘Life. After’. For the time being, I have no feedback on the latter. Regardless, I keep calm and carry on as your queen once prompted.

Where have you performed? What are your favourite and least favourite venues?
JK: As a band member and former band leader, I have performed in various venues. As a solo artist, there have been no gigs for the time being, as I just started doing it. I am planning an act, and based upon it, I will schedule some gigs later in the year. And I have no favourite venue list. A venue is good, as long as it is in a suitable location for the audience, and fits the desired sound qualifications. My least favourite venues are those where you can never monitor your performance, with bad sound installation, bad gear and bad exhaust circuit. And bad advertising, as well.  

Do you have any upcoming shows?
JK: No, for the time being I’m preparing and rehearsing my act. When I finalize it, I will let you know!

What do you think about downloading music online?
JK: Ah, that million pound question! Well, it’s a tool actually, and about how you use this tool. Record companies have reassessed their interests by exercising other platforms in the A&R area, the budgets are being cut-off, and all the effort relies on the artists. The new A&R is now Youtube: ‘show us the views, we’ll show you the way’. Bands rely on Facebook likes –which, in turn, deviate from real gig commuters- It’s the new era, has its own pros and cons. Downloading music online is fine, but on the other hand, that sense of prize-possession and individuality may vanish by just downloading. A record is something we can actually experience as a whole. Downloading is just- bytes. They come handy: they get stored in a flash disk, a mobile, a cloud profile. May be as good as any. This primitive function of keeping something valuable and hold it with our hands, and look upon it with our own eyes, cannot be altered in any way. It can only subside with retaliation tendencies. The internet is a powerful means of promoting and exposing an artist, but it can also be an endless marsh, in which anyone can be drifted apart and then be drowned in it.   

What’s your outlook on the record industry today?
JK: In one phrase: Live and let live by means of the artists. Frank Zappa once explained that, in his time, a label director was sometimes an ignorant guy with money and connections, that considered music as a product in which an investor had to trust and push it all the way. Trust, in business terms, means risk. Pushing means funding. He pointed out that, nowadays, all these young and eager entrepreneurs are more eager and willing to invest with no risk at all. In my opinion, it’s like wanting to date without meeting your partner and taking the risk of turning down or be turned down or winning an unforgettable night with passion and desire. It’s safe, no doubt, but still your bed stays empty, while being obsessed by waiting for this ‘ideal’ partner which only shows up in pre-paid fashion parades.  

And let’s end with something a little different…Which famous person, alive or dead, would you have dinner with and why?
JK: From the music universe, I’d chose David Bowie. Not because he was ‘The David Bowie’, but because he was a very diverse person, with a highly motivated intelligence and a creative sense of humour. From the movie universe, I’d like to have dinner with Dan O’Bannon, scriptwriter for Alien. He was the creator of one of the most iconic sci-fi horror adventures in the history of cinema. I’d also like to have dinner with Marie Curie, and talk about the hidden powers of nature – to me, very intriguing an idea. Amelia Earhart, too; I’d like to learn from her courage and might against all odds, and hear about flying a plane in inter-Wars era. Last but not least, I’d like to have dinner with Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher. I have read his ideas and speeches as testimonied by other ancient Greek authors and historians, but I would like to meet the man behind the legend.


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