Bonnie Interviews Greek Record Store Owners & Vinyl Connoisseurs

By Bonnie

Mimis Plessas

Mimis Plessas

On Musical Odyssey, WPRB’s Greek music show, we love vinyl!

Since WPRB is celebrating “All Vinyl Week”  I thought I would find out what’s happening with the vinyl scene at some record stores in Greece.

Thankfully Ms. Elpiniki Foka of The Musical Record Shop (Patras, Greece),  Mr. George Fertakis of Sonic Boom Records and Mr. Jim Sivenas of Zulu Records (both in Athens, Greece) were kind enough to answer some of my questions and share some of their favorite album covers.

How long have you been in business?

George: I have been in the business for nearly 30 years: 7 years as an employee, 18 years in my physical store, and the rest running my online store and dealing at record fairs.

Jim:  Almost 20 years: 14 in my shop, and 6 in other ones.

Elpiniki: The Musical Record Shop has been in business since May 1970 and was started by our father, Foti Foka. He began by selling mostly 45 discs , LPs, and cassettes. Now the whole family runs the shop and the e-shop. The e-shop has been in business since 1997, actually, we were the first online music shop.

Is Vinyl still popular in Greece? Why? Is demand going up or down?

George: I would say it is popular within certain circles: the older collectors that are trying to fill the gaps in their collection, the few music enthusiasts that prefer to invest on vinyl rather than CDs, and some who find it cool as a collectible and buy a couple of records every now and then.

But this only applies to international music and “rock”-oriented Greek music.  The majority of Greek people do not actually care or even do not have the opportunity to get their Greek music favorites on vinyl for the simple reason that there are almost zero releases of the Laiko – Pop genre on vinyl.  Everything has gone digital with some exceptions on CD. So you really can’t tell about the demand, only on a hypothetical basis.

Nikos Antoniadis

Nikos Antoniadis

Jim: Just to inform you, my record store specializes only in electronic music.  Vinyl today is still very popular here (talking about electronic music only); most of them are in 12” format and are very popular with DJs.  Some others aren’t released on Vinyl and are only available on CD.  Vinyl has ups and downs also because some styles release too many, and when there are only a few [records] they are too expensive and people don’t want to spend too much due to the economic situation.

Elpiniki: Vinyl is now very popular in Greece and the demand is going up not only from the regular music lovers but from the young listeners.

Who are some of the most popular Greek artists on vinyl (both classic and contemporary)?

George: All the classic Laiko – Rebetiko recording artists of the ’50s, 60’s & 70’s like Kazantzidis, Dionysiou, and Panou are still popular with the vinyl hunting crowd. The major Greek composers like Hadjidakis, Theodorakis, Moutsis, Markopoulos and the likes.  Also Entechno artists of the 90s & 00s. But all these are on the secondhand market. If we have to talk about new releases then the thing is more label and “rock” music focused, with indie labels like Inner Ear, B-Otherside, The Lab, and Labyrinth Of Thoughts leading (the compressed) market. Bands such as Nightstalker, The Last Drive, 1000 Mods, Foivos Deloivorias, Thanasis Papakonstantinou etc are always guaranteed to sell out.

Jim: As for the popular artists, speaking only about electronical music, there are many like subheim,marsheaux, xsoz, poordream, zinovia, audioform, hi-profile, melorman, selofan, mikael delta, mobthrow…and many many more.  Some do release their music on LP, but it depends on the cost and their budgets.

Elpiniki: We believe that the most popular Greek artists for vinyl are Thanassis Papakonstandinou (Greek post rock), Tripes (classic rock), and Manos Hadjidakis (classic Greek music).

Manos Hadjidakis, To Hamogelo Tis Tzokonda

Manos Hadjidakis, To Hamogelo Tis Tzokonda

Are many musicians in Greece issuing their work on LP?

George: Unfortunately not. All pressing plants are now defunct, no major label issue releases on vinyl anymore so all the “game” is made by the indie labels like the ones I have already mentioned, or even artists themselves. All records are manufactured in pressing plants across Europe and come back in the Greek market as imports. It’s worth to mention that all releases are strictly limited from 100 copies to 500 copies maximum.

Jim:  Yes, many are releasing on vinyl nowadays as long as they have the funds to do it. Most of them release limited copies.

Elpiniki:  Actually there are not many Greek artists issuing their work on LP, but we believe is because of the Greek economic crisis.

What do you think the future is for Vinyl LPs in Greece?

George: Vinyl collecting is an expensive hobby in Greece nowadays. Since 90% of the record stores have closed during the last ten years , no pressing plants, and  a couple of potential  “record buyer” generations “lost” I really do not see any bright future. It is very easy to ruin & shut down a market, such as the one “vinyl market” we had in Greece until the late 90s but now it is almost impossible to build it again from – almost – scratch.

Jim: As for the future for Vinyl it depends on the financial situation here. As long as people have money and the demand is there they will release vinyls.  If things get worse, who knows…

Elpiniki:  We believe that in the future things will be better, but unfortunately the vinyl prices are rising very fast.

What makes a Vinyl LP rare or in demand?

George: As for the demand, I’d say first comes the “artistic quality” of it. If it’s a good record or not. As for the rarity, then I’d say that is a matter of how many were originally pressed, if it’s still in good shape and if there is a market for it.

Jim: For a vinyl to be rare it depends on the number of copies, of course, and also the quality and the design.  There are some heavy metal and rock vinyls that are expensive and difficult to find because they are not well known.

Elpiniki: Mostly when the vinyl is printed in numbered copies

Giannis Spanos, MORMOLIS

Giannis Spanos, MORMOLIS

Do you prefer the sound of LPs over CDs or other digital media?

George: I actually admit that I love the music itself over any format. Being stuck with vinyl means that you are willing to part with lots of great records that were released mostly on CD during the ’90s and ’00s, and I would never choose format over music. There are even “records” that never saw the light of day as “physical items,” only digital files that are musically great or even albums that are really expensive on vinyl but affordable on CD.  These can’t be dismissed. So even though I admire and understand the superiority of the vinyl format (mainly as artwork though – I believe that in the casual hi-fi that is most frequently used you can’t really discern the superiority of  analog sound), I prefer to listen to the music I like on any given format rather than limit myself to vinyl records.

Elpiniki: The sound from the vinyl is smoother for me, but I enjoy listening CDs too.

What is your favorite Greek Vinyl LP? Favorite crazy/ funny album cover?

George:  The majority of the Greek records I grew up with and love would have to do with the Punk, Garage Rock, and Indie Rock genres, and it is really hard to just pick one. So I am going with a record I loved as a kid– and still do– “To Panorama” by Doros Georgiadis, music composed by Mimis Plessas and lyrics by Kostas Virvos. As for a funny cover, that would be “Paratragouda” by Nikos Antoniadis.

Jim: I  have many favorites. Most of them are heavy metal, like Northwind and Varathron. The sound of the LP, if you have the right equipment, is way way better than the CD for sure.

Elpiniki: My favorite greek lp is To Xamogelo tis tsokonda by Manos Hadjidakis and my favorite lp with a funny cover is O Mormolis by Giannis Spanos , a musical for children and it’s a vinyl which I listened to every day as a child.

As for myself, my favorite album cover is Manos Hatzidakis and Voula Savvidi – Ta Perix.

Manos Hatzidakis and Voula Savvidi, Ta Perix

Manos Hatzidakis and Voula Savvidi, Ta Perix

Anything else you would like to add?

George:  Thanks for giving me the opportunity to express my “heretic-to-some-purist-ears” opinions and good luck with your “All Vinyl Week” there at WPRB.  Last but not least, love the music, support the artists and your local record stores while you can.

Jim: To finish, I hope young people will find time to appreciate music as a physical artifact, and not spend all their time on i-Phones and tablets, downloading music just to throw it away.  When I was growing up we had only the radio to listen to, and to learn about new releases. There were no CDs, just LPs. I am 41 now, and when we were kids we waited for Saturday to come so we could go to the record store and spend all the money that we had.  Now, all the young people have music on their phones and their PCs. That’s the sad truth.

Elpiniki: It’s very nice that you have this vinyl week celebration, and of course that you make a Greek music show.