‘Authenticity can’t be hidden from the audience’: Filippos Pliatsikas from Pyx Lax

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By Kathy Karageorgiou.

One of the most popular and successful Greek rock groups with three gold and five platinum albums, with ensuing acclaim internationally, including sold out shows in the UK and packed venues in the USA – Pyx Lax, are coming to Australia!

They formed in 1989 in Athens, Greece and went on to become a huge success in the ’90s and 2000s (with a break in between). Today’s (since 2018) line up, includes the two original founding members, Mr Filippos Pliatsikas and Mr Babis Stokas; as well as the talented musicians: Alekos Kourtis – drums, Nikos Saltas – keyboards, Vaggelis Markantonis – bass guitar and mandolin, Harris Mihaelidis – guitar, and Eleftheria Nathanael – accordion.

I spoke to Filippos Pliatsikas a few days ago. From the perspective of a Greek Australian though, the group’s Australian tour led me into a bit of a personal retrospective ‘tour’ related to Pyx Lax, during my time in Greece as a teenager from 1984 -1987 and onward.

There was a vibrant music scene in the working class, western Athenian suburb of Agioi Anargiri where I lived. At our small local square, teenagers with their own bands, payed homage to their music heroes who they related to through themes including social injustice, romantic love (lived, sought and/or lost). They were inspired by bands such as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, but also by Greek rockers such as Vasilis Papakonstantinou and the Brothers Katsimiha. This music scene pulled at my own working class, Greek Australian migrant girl sensibilities.

It was from this inspired scene that Pyx Lax formed. In fact, quite a few of my teenage friends were friends and even early members of Pyx Lax, as the band hail from Agioi Anargiri and neighbouring Menidi. From here too hails Manos Xydous, their now deceased (2010), extremely influential, initial promoter and then-member.

Pyx Lax’s popularity was peaking around 1994 and while on a then-trip to Greece, I heard a few of their songs and felt a jolt. I remember being impressed and thinking “this band is special.”

In 2001, after having moved to Greece, a few cousins and friends told me that we should go see Pyx Lax as they were performing in our local ‘hood. It was at a dark, smoky club with table seating. The voices of Filippos Pliatsikas and Babis Stokas were to me, on par with that of my rock god David Coverdale – whose voice has been described as dark, chocolatey velvet! Their singing against the backdrop of the musicians playing sublimely, seemed to connect with our souls. Our eyes watered over ‘I Palies Agapes Pane sto Paradeiso’ (Old Loves Go to Heaven). We still talk about this show today!

Pyx Lax performing.

Pyx Lax are a permanent icon now in Greece. Their name produces smiles at its mere mention by my generation (I’m 55), but also by many older than me, and by my youngest 23 year old son’s generation – and beyond.

Filippos notes smiling, “We have 4 generations of fans. It always amazes me when the youngest ones enthusiastically mouth our songs off by heart, almost conspiratorially, like they’re part of a krifo scholio (an underground school)!”

Their ballads (as my son noted), are especially superb – haunting, moving, otherworldly but also visceral. Their entire repertoire has always been original, daring and successful even in its more experimental forms, attracting respect for and subsequent collaboration with big names in music like Haris Alexiou, Dallaras, Karras, etc in Greece, to names like Sting, Eric Burdon, etc.

In spite of Pyx Lax’s busy schedule, Filippos Pliatsikas graciously agreed on behalf of, and in consultation with the rest of the band, to speak with me.

Included in my discussion with him, I intended to refer to whether he knows about the Greek Australian migration experience of our parents generation, and if he understands that we, 2nd (and 3rd) generation Greek Australians love our Greece – although usually mainly for holidays; yet for its ‘warmth’ in all respects.

I wanted to tell him how many of us feel we consecutively belong and don’t belong in both Greece and Australia, and how Pyx Lax coming makes us feel elated, proud and even united. A piece of our Greece, our generation’s Greece – great musicians with music influences, we Greek Australians also relate to. I intended on thanking Pyx Lax – for soothing my soul- for helping me to connect; to not feel alone through their blissful music.

Unsurprisingly, in our discussion, Filippos related to all these things!

Manos and Fillipos.

“We grew up as you know, in working class suburbs…” he starts to explain.

I interject, adding that I’m aware that his best friend since he was 8 years old, and subsequent other founding member Babis Stokas, was born in Germany as a child of migrant Greek parents working there, and didn’t come to Greece until he was 11.

Filippos nods and continues: “We embody and express our upbringing and life from our working class environment. We weren’t outside observers, like political commentators. Our songs come from the heart and gut, as a parea, a group of friends, playing music.”

I ask about Pyx Lax’s relationship with Greek music.

“We grew up absorbing, perhaps subconsciously, Greek music in our homes; our parent’s laika (popular music of that era). Tsitsanis, Dionisiou etc. so it’s inevitable that our music always contains elements of Greek music.”

It’s this “innate” intertwining of Greek and Anglo, of old and new music, that makes Pyx Lax so popular, apart from an integral heartfelt interpretation of their music. This is the Pyx Lax magic. Being true to themselves first, which translates outwards weaving itself into the souls of their audiences.

Pyx Lax on stage.

“The audience get it. They feel it. They pick up on the genuineness, unaffected by much of the toxicity of this era – where the real, the beautiful is often distorted,” Filippos philosophically adds, with a sparkle in his eye.

“Authenticity, the truth, can’t be hidden from the audience. Musicians including singers, who are only in it for commercial success, don’t last very long. People know. That’s why we have a special relationship with people who listen to our music.”

And a message for the young, as Babis Stokas has expressed, and Filippos voices: “Life’s difficulties are part of standing on your own two feet. Don’t expect help. Our ‘weapon’ and balm, was music.”

Pyx Lax are sure to ‘blow us away’ as well as soothe, with their Australian shows. AUSTRALIA AWAITS!

Find out more about Pyx Lax’s Australia tour here: https://www.giantentertainment.com.au/pyxlax.

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