Greece has long had a very active garage/psych scene. Perhaps no one has done more to cultivate Greece’s enthusiastic garage/psych community over the years than George Markou, editor and contributor to Peace Frog and Gew-Gaw fanzines. Many notable bands have appeared on the CDs given away with these fanzines, as well as on the associated Nowhere Street label.
I corresponded recently with George Markou.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: In the time I’ve been running Turn Me On, Dead Man and collecting garage/psych, I’ve been struck by how much good music comes from Greece. Which Greek cities have the most active garage/psych scenes? Have those scenes been consistently strong over the years or have they had their ups and downs?
George Markou: Athens and Thessaloniki had and still have good scenes but some times groups come from other cities as well (like Volos, Kiato, Crete etc.). The problem is that there are not many places to gig, so garage groups play mostly in the same places, and as a result people don’t go there. The past few years, things are not that well for garage and psychedelic music. New groups like to play in the style of Wooden Shjips and that’s all. Check the CD releases from gew-gaw and peace frog zines and you’ll find some good psych/garage bands. Also check the Social End Products, a great psych/hippie/garage band, and of course Acid Baby Jesus.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: Was there a time when the scene was more open and garage/psych bands could play more venues? Or has it always been limited for garage/psych bands?
George Markou: Yes, especially ‘round ’87-’93, ’99-’02. There were a few more places for this kind of music, BUT always things were a little difficult! And of course it depends on the people who control the media, radio etc.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: Can you give me an example of what media outlets have been friendly to garage/psych? Who were the most important people in that regard?
George Markou: During the 90s there were some fanzines that dealt with garage (shake, optical sound, wake up its 66, girls in garage…-but only with one or two issues) and some which were more psych (psychagogos). Since then, apart from gew-gaw and peace frog, a few more fanzines (lost in tyme and timemazine) devoted to garage and psychedelic music have appeared.
Regarding the Greek radio, 99% of it deals with other music genres and only the 1% is playing psychedelic and garage music. As for the tv? Ha ha! Now of course things are much better with internet radio (I think!!)
Names who have helped? Petros Koutsoumpas from Pegasus records, Nick Kontogouris, Aimilios Katsouris from Hitch Hike records, Gregg Vaios from Wipe Out records, Viky-Fanis-Avesalom from Fifth Dimension rec etc, and the last years some good guys like Maria-Houana Parkou (the ghost behind Nowhere Street Music) Periklis Michos, Michalis Lagopatis, and some cool labels like sound effect, fuzz overdose, on stage, action, etc.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: How big is the audience for Gew-Gaw?
George Markou: The audience is not so big, it’s about 500-800 copies for printed issues (the last years of course we don’t have good sales) and about 100-150 each day for the web.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: So what’s your background? What led you to start Gew-Gaw?
George Markou: We’re in the mid 80’s and I’m deep in the psychedelic music from such great bands like: Elevators, The Deep, Floyd, Electric Prunes, Doors, Music Emporium and many many many more!!! Also, at that time there was an ongoing explosion with neo psych bands (The Steppes, Laughing Soup Dish, United States Of Existence, Bevis Frond, The Inn, The Things, The Dukes Of Stratosphear…). So in early 90’s there were some fanzines that referred to some psychedelic bands but failed to fill the gap in my mynd!!!!
In ‘94 me and my (ex) girlfriend (that was responsible for all the awesome psychedelic covers of gew-gaw) decided to release a fanzine called gew-gaw, focusing in neo psychedelia and garage. The first issue was in ’95 and since early 2000 came out in total 8 issues in Greek language. The first of them included cassettes or 7” and it sold very well almost 600-800 copies each. Some of them are still selling (those with cassettes I re-print them including a cdr-not tape) even though are actually photo copies. Only the last issue was included a compilation cd and sold 1000-1100 copies!
Meanwhile we had made Nowhere Street Music as well – which at first was called Ugh and then Golbin – where we gathered mostly psychedelic groups from all continents to create the compilations that were released either with the fanzine or on their own. At that time I decided that gew-gaw had to be written in English (I had very positive reactions from abroad). In English came out 3 issues that sold well (in Greece and in the rest of the planet) All of sudden gew-gaw stopped as printed fanzine and was replaced by Peace Frog (the title I was borrowed it by my fav Doors)!! So far 3 issues came out as Peace Frog with several years in between. But that isn’t a big thing for a fanzine. Am I right?? Right! I have two issues of Peace Frog and I’m glad they exist at all.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: I’m curious to know how your own musical taste has changed over the years. What music are you most excited about now?
George Markou: My musical taste had changed (thankfully) a lot through the years. As a young child it was 70’s rock, some heavy metal bands, Greek music and punk. My favorite was always Doors, but in the beginning mostly their rock albums. But when I first heard the debut and Strange Days mine childish brain cellars switched all over and never turned back to normal! By accident, at about the same time, I heard on the radio 2 songs that blew my senses and opened eternally the door to a multicoloured world: the Ballad of The hip Death Goddess by Ultimate Spinach and kingdom of Heaven by Elevators. So, little by little i was seeking to those magical bands with great alchemist’s musicians, awesome covers, true and crystal clear sounds.
Those things were happening at start till mid 80’s, the same time that my friends ‘got scared’ by my mushroom addiction because they were in more acid and chemical drugs. Sadly, most of them left life or their minds!!!!
By the end of 90’s i added garage revival, paisley and space music also. It was expected to have greater musical taste (that came true with the release of avocado index by drug free youth for mine label nowhere street music). I would also listen to now happening musical scenes that grow up like mushrooms (stoner, drone, etc).For example i have heard thousand times the first album by Wooden Shjips but today i’m bored to death!!
Nowdays, at home, i listen all the promo albums from my mailbox for reviews, mostly usa 60’s psych (i never stopped it), 80’s and at the start of 90’s bands like those i mentioned above and sometimes i stuck badly and for a very long time with some groups like Painted Brush, Lamp of the Universe, Dolly Rocker Movement, Movements, the Shivas, George Romanos, Paperhead, Sufis, Vibravoid, the first album by Spanish Carrots, the Social End Products etc.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: Are you planning to put up more Gew-Gaw releases on Bandcamp?
George Markou: Sure, I’ll put the two remaining tapes (now cdr) of gew-gaw fanzine and maybe later the rest of the releases by nowhere street music.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: So have you gotten to know subscribers to Gew-Gaw or Peace Frog? Have you met many of them in person? Would you like to do any self-promotion for your publications (feel free to plug what you do however you would like. I’ll include any link, addresses,etc. for the good work you do).
George Markou: Years ago, when people communicated with letters (more time to wait but much more enjoyable) I had the pleasure to meet readers, labels and musicians not only from local psych-garage bands but also from abroad .In addition, in some flea markets that I took part in, I met people that weren’t aware of the fanzine. Also, I made strong friendships with people that helped me. Creating the label Nowhere Street Music brings me in contact with musician as whose music I like such as Laughing Soup Dish, Marshmallow Overcoat, Magnificent Brotherhood, Yesterday’s Thoughts, Lamp Of The Universe, Baby Woodrose, Vibravoid, Smell Of Incense, Purple Overdose, Sky Saxon, Bevis Frond and many more bands and people from all over the world.
Thank you very much Todd for digging in my fanzine and all of your interest in listening the music that came along each issue. If someone is interested in coming in touch with me, they can do so easily by sending me an e-mail, but they may have to waaait a little to receive an answer because I’m an old school guy (as if they were waiting for a letter).
This is the website www.gew-gaw-fanzine.gr where anyone can find all the issues of gew-gaw, peace frog, the releases of nowhere street music, some other releases that I had along with other people, my page in discogs, a link in myspace for Nowhere Street Music, where they can listen to some songs, and also my postal and e-mail address.
Thank you very much, love from gew-gaw crew!