Many of you have enjoyed Eikona’s musically advanced take on Dungeon Synth and perhaps find yourselves wanting to know more about this enigmatic act. Thankfully, the musician behind Eikona made time available to answer a few questions.
Who is behind Eikona, and what is your background in music education and art?
My name is Alexios Kakoulidis. I am a Greek musician and I have been involved in music since I was five years old. I have studied the flute, which is my main instrument, music theory/history and musicology, as well as philosophy. Apart from the flute I have also studied and played a variety of instruments through the years like piano/synth, guitars, bass, saxophone, various ethnic flutes and recorders, and some percussion instruments.
Nowadays I am a professional music teacher, and make music as a side project. Apart from Eikona, which is my latest release, I have also released music with Kenosis, a woodwind-only Medieval/Dungeon Synth project, Mystagogia, a noise/experimental project, and Castle-Monastery, an 8-bit Dungeon Synth project.
I have been involved in the (Greek) rock and metal scene playing keyboards and woodwinds, as well as participating in metal projects through the internet (particularly in the underground Christian black metal band “Exalted Savior”, and an Islamic-themed doom/black metal project called “Salat”).
What prompted you to start Eikona, and what is the concept behind the band?
The material that comprises the first Eikona album was written between 2013-2018. Although I was never much into seriously composing music (loved performing, improvising and academic work much more), back in 2013 the composer’s bug stung me and I set up a small home studio and started recording and composing. During these years I recorded a lot of diverse material, using different musical styles and instrumentation, and when the time came I decided to create many different projects, releasing the music under different names. Eikona is one of them, my, let’s say, more “straightforward” Dungeon Synth project.
What were your influences — music, literature, philosophy, art, experiences — when starting, and are you influenced by different things now?
My influences remain the same really through all these years. I was always fascinated by the mythical, the supernatural. Being mostly an introverted person, I’ve spent a lot of time reading since my childhood years, especially fantasy and sword and sorcery and horror novels…basically I grew up with the classics that many metal fans will come to recognize: LOTR, Earthsea, Forgotten Realms, Robert Howard, H.P. Lovecraft and many more. In my twenties I started to develop an interest in philosophy and theology, and started reading voraciously on both disciplines. Love philosophy and literature with a religious and existential dimension to it (Kierkegaard, Pascal, Berdyaev and Dostoyevsky for example).
Back in 1997 I got into metal, and I was surprised to find a musical genre that put into musical soundworlds the worlds of fiction I came to love. Since I was playing only woodwinds and keyboards back then, I was naturally drawn towards bands and genres that used them the most (power/epic and black metal). I loved bands like Emperor, Burzum, Dissection, COF, Arcturus, Dimmu Borgir, as well as Kamelot, Rhapsody (back then), Haggard, Therion, symphonic/ orchestral/ fantasy stuff. I loved particularly the usual black/epic metal intros/outros/interludes, and soon found out about bands that produced whole albums with just synths and/or acoustic instruments (like Burzum, Neptune Towers, Pazuzu, Lord Wind and Mortiis)…I also grew up playing video and board games, particularly fantasy ones, watching fantasy and sci-fi movies and listening to their soundtracks. So naturally all these influences, along with later ones like classical, baroque and romantic music, New Age music and some more experimental stuff came to musically define me up to this day. I really didn’t transition from metal to synth music, I just try to keep doing both of them.
What does the name “Eikona” mean, and how does it relate to the concept of the band?
As with all my projects, there are strong religious and fantasy connotations in this one as well. The name “Eikona” means “Icon” in Greek and I stumbled upon Mysterium Tremendum et Fascinans for the first time reading Rudolf Otto’s book Das Heilige. I decided upon the name thinking about the concept of Man as an Icon of God in Christian Orthodoxy, as well as the concept of the Icon itself in Byzantine Art. The Byzantine Icon is not only something to be gazed upon, but also something that really responds back with its own gaze, transforming the one who focuses on it. I was fascinated by the theology and philosophy of the Fathers behind the Icon, and decided to use it to speak about music in the same way, as something that gazes you back, transforming your whole existence, and as something that might reverse the equation: Music as an Icon of God, within us.
How do you create this music? What inspires you and do you start with an idea, a melody, or a rhythm? What production equipment do you use?
I always start with a musical idea, usually a sound. I improvise a lot; I love improvising. So I choose a sound and I play around a lot, until I find something that clicks, something interesting, that suits the particular sound. Then, I start to build up on this idea…I never really think beforehand about structure, I just go with the flow. Being a woodwind player, I am mostly a melody guy, I always try to incorporate melodies and produce tuneful music.
My stuff is pretty basic: I use a computer with a DAW, a mixer, studio monitors, guitar effects and PODs, mics for recording acoustic instruments…I use my old trustworthy KORG Triton Classic synth from the late 90s a lot, mainly as a sound generator source, apart from some VSTs and softsynths. Most of them pretty basic, as well. Also my other acoustic/electric instruments (woodwinds/guitars).
What are your plans for the future and your long-term goals with Eikona?
I plan to keep recording and releasing new material, but I have no idea when. Being kinda weird and obsessive, I might spend three months recording a lot of new stuff followed by five months of not even stepping foot in my studio. Not methodical at all! My greatest pleasure though is when my music touches the heart and soul of other people. That is my biggest ambition and future plan, and if it happens even once, I know I succeeded.
Do you view your music as art, entertainment, or both, and what are each of those things, in your view?
Difficult question! I’d say both. To me, art and especially music is an interaction with matter: a spirit comes and shapes the matter, giving it back to the world as something more than the material stuff it physically is. The same could be said about the philosophical or the theological gaze upon the world, I’d say…the prophet, the poet and the musician receive the world and they give it back enriched. They are very similar to my eyes. This might sound deep and spiritual, but at the same time it has a very earthy, practical and technical dimension, like working with your hands.
Entertainment…in the dusty, cobwebbed halls of Dungeon Synth, entertainment takes more the form of dreamy ecstasis or katharsis I would say. It certainly is not light, extroverted stuff. It is meant to be listened in isolation, in quiet spaces and walks…if that is a form of entertainment, I’ll go with it!
What do you intend for the listener to experience when listening to Eikona?
I would like to transform his everyday experience, to transport him to past Ages and Realms and Fantasy Worlds. Apart from that, I don’t have any preconceptions about specific images, feelings etc. that I want to express. I even choose the titles of the musical pieces after I’m done with them, while listening them and trying to figure out what do they evoke… In any case, music is the most difficult art to be put into words, so I will leave it broad. Though I would love people to try to explain themselves what did they experience, or even come up with stories about a certain piece!
How can people stay on top of what you personally and you as Eikona are doing, news and new releases included?
I haven’t set up any webpages or anything in social media, so all my musical material and activities will be posted on the respected Bandcamp pages. Mysterium Tremendum et Fascinans has also been released by Danny Kreutzfeld and Gondolin records in July 2019 in a limited edition tape that has unfortunately sold out. A sincere thank you to Gondolin records and Danny for his interest in Eikona, as well as Kenosis, my other project that was released by him and is up for a second edition soon. A sincere thank you also to you and DMU for the interview and your interest in Eikona. Greetings and good wishes to everyone who has heard or acquired the album, it’s an honor and a pleasure. Take care!
Follow developments with Eikona on the Eikona bandcamp page.