By Ilias Karagiannis
Their improvisational sonic journey, an intense dialogue between piano, percussion and double bass, is recognisable in Australia, where for more than three decades the world-renowned The Necks have enchanted audiences with their compositions.
The trio from Australia, who have won numerous awards at the international level, will make a stop in Athens, Greece as part of their pan-European tour, for one night only on December 9 at the Athens Conservatoire. The event is being supported by the Australian Embassy in Greece.
Since 1989, when they were introduced to the public with their debut album Sex, The Necks continue their undefined, still uncharted and improbable journey to this day.
With nineteen albums to their credit, most recently Travel (2023), The Necks have a global following.
They grew up in Sydney with Hellenism forming their identity – Greek friends and Greek food were everywhere. This fact lends an extra eagerness to their concert on December 9.
- The Necks have a distinctive style that combines elements of jazz and improvisation. Can you tell us about your creative process and how you maintain such a unique musical identity over the years?
I think The Necks’ way of working came into being very quickly at the time we formed the group some 30 years ago. As individuals we are all interested in a lot of different types of music. We all maintain a strong interest in finding and hearing new things and somehow, these influences are constantly finding their way into things we do as a group together, despite the fact that what we do together, is very defined and clear for us.
I think the music of the Necks is steered more by process than any specific style, so while these many and varied influences seep into our playing, they are adopted in a kind of abstract way, more than any overt stylistic fusion.
- Your latest album, Travel, has received acclaim from international press. Could you share some of the inspirations behind this album and what you hope listeners take away from it?
We recorded the tracks for TRAVEL while working on a more complex recording over a week or so in 2022. We wanted to recorder shorter tracks, performed live in the studio and leave the tracks, more or less untouched in terms of post-production, overdubbing and editing. We wanted to have four pieces that were suitable to take up four sides of a double vinyl LP. I think we found the idea to have a record that represented the sound of the live, improvising band – how we were playing in concert at the time – very appealing. Most of our studio recordings involve a lot of overdubbing and sculpting and mixing, and for TRAVEL we wanted to offer listeners a chance to hear us in a more pure, unadulterated form.
- Performing in Athens is a significant event. What are your expectations and emotions as you prepare to bring your music to a Greek audience for the first time?
I think we are all very excited to be coming to Greece, as a group, together for the first time. We have, in the past, received much positive feedback from listeners in Greece but this is the first time we get the chance to come to Athens and present our music in person. It seems like it’s been a long time coming so that is in itself very exciting.
Having said that, we always try and present concerts in the utmost positive way, hoping to find a situation that is inclusive to close, depending listening on the part of the audience and ourselves, so, in that sense, we hope the concert in Greece will be like a concert anywhere – positive, focused and open. The venue we will play does indeed look very special, so we expect the conditions will be perfect for us (which isn’t always the case of course), so this concert at the Athens Conservatoire promises us the very best conditions in which to present what we do.
It’s very exciting.
- Given your Australian origins, can you share any connections or experiences that have shaped your relationship with Greece and Greek culture?
It’s funny but Greek people and culture was so present in our lives growing up in Sydney that, in many ways, the culture doesn’t seem all that removed from our own. We all went to school with Greek friends, Greek food was always around us. It is also part of our roots in many ways.
In fact, speaking personally, my very first experiences of playing with friends in an early garage rock band, were with a couple of Greek boys I went to school with. One of this group of friends I still see occasionally and is in fact, one of the world’s leading mastering sound engineers, Leon Zervos.
- What message or experience do you hope to convey to the audience during your live show in Athens on December 9?
I like to think The Necks offer an audience a respite from the hectic pace of modern life. We take our time to focus on the unfolding of the music in an organic, natural pace. In this time impoverished era in which we all have to operate, taking an hour or two out of one’s everyday life and put that time aside to let music envelope you we think is a worthwhile and valuable thing.