Good vibrations. An interview with Tibor Gede from Alithia.
by Gabriel Szünder
Tibor Gede’s enthusiasm is contagious. The man has his reasons. Alithia just recorded an excellent debut album called To The Edge Of Time and the band is currently touring Eastern Europe. For the second time. But Tibor seems to be able to find joy in anything: in the vibrations of the universe, in the beautiful people he met around our part of the world, in life in general. As an introduction to Alithia’s Romanian concerts, Mr. Gede told us about how a band from Melbourne ends up in Budapest, about the differences between the East and the West and he also offered us some interesting insider information about the Australian music scene.
Well, first of all, congratulations on your debut album! I think it’s great. It sounds very good and musically it’s very rich. So, how do you feel about it?
Thanks so much for the kind words! We’re very pleased and excited with it and very proud. We recorded the album in Budapest over 4 months in 2012. It was a really special period because we were living together and breathing music everyday for 4 months either touring or recording this album. It was also a chaotic period because a lot of us were going through a lot of personal family and relationship pressures that added to the chaos of the album which pushed our whole hearts into it. We were also lucky to have beautiful guests such as Cvetan Hadzsiyski from the Bulgarian artrock band smallman, who flew to Budapest for a weekend to record the Gaida. We also have a New York MC who we met drunk one night in Budapest, and I thought at first it was a ridiculous idea, but actually he is not rapping on it (thanks God!) but does some very beautiful and poetic story telling. Undos from the band Grand Mexican Warlock also does some very dark and demonic screaming on it which sound like an exorcism, and finally Matisz Flóra a beautiful Hungarian violin player. Basically we were open towards anybody’s contribution who was willing to offer it to us and as a result we’re lucky to have a richer album!
OK, now let me be annoying. What’s with this „astral space core” thing? Wouldn’t it have been more honest – and certainly easier – to just call your music progressive rock / metal, what it actually is?
[Laughs] Yeah, everyone is asking us about it… ‘what the fuck are you talking about, it sounds ridiculous and we start laughing. But actually, there are a few things behind the meaning of astral space core. Firstly, as a band we don’t actually musically fit in any scene, we’re not post rock enough caus’ we have vocals. We’re not metal enough… we don’t have guitar solos so the prog scene also looks at us weirdly. So we thought fuck it, we’ll make up our own definition! But more importantly, the expression is not about a genre, it’s about a mindset with one important philosophical approach to life. We believe deeply in exploring beyond the boundaries, in using the mind and imagination and spirit to exceed and surprise ourselves, in taking risks and being honest with our spirit. In the West and Australia especially, we have a society that is so incredibly self-limiting… how people define themselves and the world around them. They live in a comfort zone and stay locked inside of it. So, we try not to live that way. We basically aim to live, love and play honestly and always endeavor to keep exploring!
You said in an interview that Alithia originally started in 2002 as „a grunge-punk band” and that it gradually evolved towards the “more progressive/psychedelic sound the band now has.” You’ve come a pretty long way it seems.
Yes, the band started in 2004, but it had an almost entirely different line-up. So, there’s been a lot of evolution, but I suppose the core of the band became solid in 2008, until then the band was still finding itself.
If I understood correctly, you, Tibor, represent the band’s connection to Hungary. But even so, why did you decide to record your debut album in Budapest?
Yes, it’s me and my story is unusual. I was born in Melbourne Australia, but my father is Hungarian and my mother is Spanish. My parents met in the migrant hostel in Australia and couldn’t speak the same language because neither of them could speak English. My father proposed to my mother with a Hungarian/Spanish dictionary and they married 3 months later. So I was raised mostly in Australia, but it never felt like my home. When I discovered Budapest at the age of 12, I finally felt in my heart that I was home. Anyway, I was living in Budapest from 2010 and the band asked to tour Europe, so I said ok lets fucking do it. Then I discovered this fantastic studio with all the analogue equipment and a fantastic feeling in Budapest and I said to the band, guys fuck it lets record the album here too! They said OK, so we did it.
Do you have some special love for Eastern Europe? You seem to be touring here a lot.
We love touring eastern countries and avoid the west as much as possible. We’re from Australia and everyone dreams about going there because of the fucking kangaroos and the beaches. But the big cities are really more like living in the matrix. Everyone has a half a million dollar mortgage on their house. People live their lives afraid to try anything new and it personally drives me crazy. Although it’s very sad that life conditions are much crueler and harder in eastern countries, we always find that here people are much braver and willing to experiment. We also found that people’s hearts are much more open, which I suppose we love the most. We don’t need to play London, or Los Angeles, we don’t need to become fucking stars or play on a big stage, we just want to play our music to people who are open minded and have beautiful hearts and with that we are happy!
Could you please talk a bit more about the guest musicians on the album, about how and why you choose them? I’m especially curious about the reasons why you worked with that Illspokin guy. I mean no offence, but I could have done his part.
[Laughs] Like I said before, we met Illspokinn in Budapest one night drunk. He was on tour in Europe and was a really nice guy. The keyboard player and singer saw his performance and they were really inspired. I was in doubt. But when he came in and gave his deep rich voice and very eloquent poetry we were pleasantly surprised and kept his recording. As for Cvetan, who plays the gaida, we toured with his band smallman in 2012. So we became great friends and we are very grateful for his contribution with that very beautiful ancient instrument. Undos from grand Mexican Warlock we also toured with. That guy is a total animal! And also our best friend, so we had to have him. The violin player Flóra was living in the studio where we recorded. She is a beautiful and kind person, so we just asked her to play.
How come you chose Thirteen Revelations as your first video? I mean, it’s practically the longest song on the album. Don’t you think that a song like On a Mountain would have worked better? Not only because it’s shorter, but in some ways it’s more intense.
That’s a great question! I suppose we didn’t want a video with a song that sounded conventional. And also we love the gaida on it. But more importantly, the lyrics of the song lend themselves to fantastic visual concepts. So, it was a great fit!
While we’re on the subject, could you talk about the video as such a bit? That old school science fiction style, who does it come from? Was it the director’s concept?
Yes, the video was the director’s artistic interpretation of the lyrics. He is a talented guy and saw us playing 3 times. He loved our music and offered to make the video. We trusted him and gave him full artistic freedom. The only thing we asked for was for him to work with the lyrical content and interpret it however he wants.
Can you now talk about your lyrics please? They seem heavy with symbols / symbolism.
The lyrics will automatically resonate with the mind space and the state of the individual. There is a heavy feeling I get when I sing them, and it seems at times that they relate to the spirit world. Each song has a message or story and the majority of the lyrics reflect the struggle of the soul to overcome this world and to prepare for the ascension from the torments of the mind and body. Basically we are either going to follow our ego and artificially program how we think we should be viewed in society or we follow our true will, going back to humbling ourselves and being in awareness of the life force that gave us consciousness and we try living our lives the best we can in connection with that pure source.
Has the name of the band something to do with this? Alithia sounds like the Greek word for truth.
The singer of the band John Rousvanis has a Greek background and he speaks Greek. He chose this special word because we all believe it’s important to pursue our own truth to the end.
In the interview I mentioned before, there is this beautiful statement: ”It often feels as though we are conduits to something greater than ourselves – that these songs already exist and we are receiving them and it is just a matter of piecing them together.” What’s the philosophy behind this?
As vibrational beings existing in the universe, we connect through thoughts, feelings and actions that take place on this earth in physical form. The music is the medium in which we choose to express this on a higher level in order to connect with other beings. When you open yourself up to the universe you can channel these higher feelings and if you allow yourself to receive and share them, they can change your level of consciousness through the vibrations you receive.
You seem to know a lot about the Hungarian music scene? How much do you know about the Romanian one?
I know a lot about the Hungarian music scene because I’ve been living in Hungary for 3 years now, so I’ve integrated into the scene quite deeply. On the other hand, I have limited knowledge of the Romanian scene. Personally I can say that one of my favorite bands ever is from Romania. They are called Tünderground and I feel that they are one of the richest and most interesting experimental progressive folk world music bands around. I love them. Of course we know Negură Bunget and are fans of them and we are friends with Roadkillsoda from Bucharest too. But we still have a lot more bands to learn about, so please send us your recommendations, we love discovering new bands all the time!!!
I’m quite impressed, actually. I know much less about the Australian music scene. The thing is, that there were and are a lot of great bands and musicians that came from there, yet somehow nobody seems to know anything about the scene as such. Can you offer an insider view?
Yeah, the Australian music scene is a real mixed bag… of authentic and rich music and also outside of that. Too many bands that try too hard to become famous and it’s at the front of their mentality in everything they do. Their main concern is getting their songs played on the radio. When you meet them, they don’t have a beer with you, instead they are focusing on asking you for contacts and measuring themselves against you. The main problem that poisons the mentality of the Australian music scene is Australia’s most influential alternative radio station. It’s called Triple J and it’s a station owned by the government. The station takes no advertising money, for example. When it started it was actually supporting great Australian alternative music, but for years now the music director has been focusing on becoming ‘hip’ and making albums like Kanye West’s album of the week and lots of other hipster shit. So what happened as a result is that in Australia if you don’t get on Triple J, then it’s almost impossible for your music career to accomplish anything because that station is the only chance you have at getting on the radio. Unlike many parts of Europe, unfortunately Australia is a trend driven country like the UK, which means if the main media isn’t behind you, then no one is open minded enough to come to your concerts and you spend your life playing for only 20 of your friends and some family members. So, bands really focus on this.
But not you, it seems.
No, we don’t give a shit about them and write 12 minute songs that they will never ever touch. But anyway, let’s focus on the good stuff, Karnivool for example who most people know and are currently Australia’s biggest prog band. O a local level we are big fans of Kalacoma, who are like Massive Attack, Portishead. There are also other crazy experimental sounds like that. Cat or Pillar for example, or Sleepmakeswaves from Sydney, who are Australia’s biggest post rock band. Meniscus are fucking incredible too. They play beautifully textured instrumental music. Melbounre, where we are from, has about 180 live music venues with live music 7 nights a week, so there are lots of opportunities to play a lot and to develop your live show.
You made me curious, I must tell you. But since you’re coming to Romania soon, let’s end it with this: please try to sell in a few words your upcoming shows to the Romanian fans.
We play with full passion from the bottom of our hearts, we explode our energy on stage, we guarantee you that. It’s very punk rock and intense live! We can’t wait to meet and party with you all. There will be no sleep on this tour!
(published – with minor modifications – on metalfan.ro.)