There’s not much Stathis Lazarides hasn’t done over the course of his career in electronic music. He’s taken on the role of artist booker, vinyl distributor, journalist and many more besides. He also happens to be an incredibly talented producer and DJ in his own right. So when someone like Stathis says there’s something rotten with the scene and it’s time for a change, then it’s time to pay attention. We caught up with him recently to talk about his new project, TerraFerma, an innovative new concept that looks to shake things up.
What would you say was TerraFerma’s ethos?
The concept of reaching a higher state of consciousness by dancing together under one rhythm has been a part of humanity since before we invented civilisation. What should bring people together in a club is the quest for a heighten experience through dance and not the worship of the DJ; DJ superstardom is a non-concept.
Worshiping a DJ as soon as he comes on stage for instance, is as moronic as congratulating a university professor before he begins his lecture! I think it is much more rewarding to leave our smart phones in the cloakroom, stop looking towards the stage, close our eyes and rediscover the power of dance!
You’ve set out to be “an organisation focused on ideas such as grassroots development of quality underground art, whether it is in music, film and/or documentary production, illustration, installation or any other forms of free expression.” Can you tell us a little more about how you’re going to do this?
We believe that there’s great talent out there, ready to be discovered. But contrary to popular belief and the concept of “cream always rises to the top”, we have created an environment were it is nearly impossible for this to happen. Just look at the yearly festivals all around the world and you see the same DJs on the line up, time and time again…. It is evident that being hungry for new innovative ideas has been replaced with “let’s just sell the existing tried and tested ideas as efficiently as possible”.
We are adamant that this kind of mentality will sentence the scene to certain death if we do not act. Nurturing young and / or undiscovered talent should be a privilege and not a “risky” investment. Yes, it is a hard thing to achieve, but it is also a great opportunity as not many people are looking towards this direction!
We want to use electronic music as the base for making new connections with other art disciplines. But at the same time, we are very interested in producing documentaries and have an educational character, highlighting issues that affect the scene and acting upon those issues.
And whatever we have to say, we will do it by showcasing as many undiscovered talent and real artists as possible!
Was this a project you’d always wanted to undertake, or was it an idea born out of the projects you were already involved in?
I have been involved in this scene for some time now and I have experienced the changes that technology brought first hand. I have seen the disintegration of the quality of music recordings in the name of convenience and download speed limitations (MP3) and the rise of simple, button pushing technology.
When I started going out in the early 90’s, you had to have the sync button inside of you in order to be a dj. Although beat matching and operating turntables is not rocket science, not everyone was cut out for it.
Jump forward 20 years and because of the sync button, half of the world’s population claims to be one! Although everyone has the right to do so, the fact of the matter is that these technological perks have created an environment where people think by having a laptop and a few pre recorded loops they can take on the world.
The CEO of Beatport recently claimed that there’s nothing wrong with wanting fame and money and everyone has the right to make it big. But, as we look at the festivals around the world, it becomes apparent that, yes, everyone might have the right to do so but there are not that many superstar DJ positions to go around for everybody. Which means that the industry is deliberately selling false hopes to millions of people who keep coming back to buy their products, such as DJ software and pre arranged generic loops, in order to chase the impossible dream. This has created a sea of mediocre music and art, which makes it difficult for real artists to stand out from the cacophony. The concept of anybody can make it sounds too familiar with the concept of lottery in my opinion!
Finally, a famous DJ said in a recent interview that having social skills is everything if one wants to succeed. In a star system industry, this should be the case, but the Electronic Dance Music scene shouldn’t fall into this category; we are not just another copy of the pop industry. We aren’t even related!
TerraFerma will be extravagant on spending money and it’s profits! But, instead of spending on things to consume on a personal level, we will splash out on artists involved with our projects.
Here’s a great example of this mind-set: We live in an age where it is so easy to do things on the cheap: social networks; easy operating software; lots of people who will do your graphic design; video clips; marketing and so on; and all within a really small budget.
This is the route we could have taken ourselves when we decided to do the promo video for our launch, but we didn’t. We invested a serious amount of money by employing professional dancers, a film director, make up artists, photographers, graphic and costume designers…
Why did we do this? Two reasons. First of all, Terraferma is about supporting as many artists as possible with a decent wage so they can continue being artists and not producers of pre determined formulas. Secondly, because we’d rather create something visual that shows our identity and our production capabilities in order to promote ourselves, rather than spend 10 grand on DJs and then spend £300 on projecting who we are through the usual channels that everybody else is using.
If we did that, we wouldn’t be a new concept but admin guys for popular DJs!
You’ve stated that, “The stark reality is that we are experiencing a dog eat dog corporate business environment, where decisions are based on commercial viability rather than artistic integrity.” Is this something you’ve encountered yourself in the past? Was this one of the driving forces for creating TerraFerma?
I speak with young aspiring artists every single day. I understand and share their frustrations, as I am a producer of music myself and I get inundated with offers to do my work for free. Making a living from this scene has become a privilege for the ones that have the resources and the connections to tour constantly. Music production brings in no income if you don’t sell by the millions, which means that if we continue like that, there will be only formulaic music being made by people who choose profit instead of quality or art.
Do you think that the ease with which people can get their art out there has led to popularity superseding quality in some way?
I am not sure if it’s easy to get real art out there, yes the actual process might be easy and cheap because of social networks etc but the world seems to be only interested in (as you mention before), headline grabbing, instant gratification. And yes, popularity most definitely supersedes quality but this is not a mantra that belongs to our scene but to the mentality of the industrialised pop world!
Attending a Dance Music event should be an exciting journey into the musical unknown instead of the predictable formulas of tension and release by generic delay and reverb effects…
What’s upcoming for TerraFerma in the near future then?
We are not in a hurry, neither we are here to make a quick buck. The most important process for the first few months of operation is to raise awareness about our philosophy. Although fighting for ideals and morality in the art world is not a new concept, I am a strong believer that the way we will apply those principles is not something that you see very often in our scene.
Are the possibilities endless?
Indeed! Ever since I started talking to people in the industry about what I am setting out to do, I got more or less the same response: “It’s a noble cause but it is really hard at the moment”.
The more I hear about this, the more I believe the possibilities are endless…why? Because no one is looking towards the direction and I am choosing to take, which as far as I am concerned, it is a head start for something better than the existing models!!
Innovation has never looked more attractive as a concept and it is what this movement needs to go forward.
Finally, we believe that the welfare of the community will always outweigh the goals of the individual and as soon as we realise this fact, the faster this scene will become again healthy and free of influences of mainstream industries!