A concert this week will present bands playing only original music. ALIX NORMAN meets the man behind the initiative
Bill is wearing a dazzling Hawaiian shirt, camouflage shorts and flip flops. He’s a six foot something bassist, a native of southern California and a man whose aim is to spark a change in music on the island. Talking a mile a minute, and punctuating his conversation with frequent belly laughs, he’s got a wicked sense of humour and a positive outlook on almost everything. “But don’t call me an optimist,” he admonishes. “I’m not an optimist and I’m not a pessimist – I’m a determinist! I get stuff done!” And what he’s doing is bringing original music back to Cyprus, with a gig that will feature three bands whose focus is on performing music they have written themselves.
“Fifteen years ago there was a huge scene of original music on the island. But it seems that the desire for money became more important,” he explains. “When I arrived in Cyprus, I was very eager to start or join a band here but I kept running into the same walls: everyone insisted that bands had to play at least 50 per cent recognisable covers. I kept hearing that bands who played their own, original music, could only perform once or twice a year because the audience wasn’t there. And I’m about to prove this wrong!”
That’s not to say he’s against cover bands – he has a huge respect for anyone in the business of live music, he even does sound for a couple of big cover bands on the island – but turning music into a commodity and ignoring the art “goes against everything I’ve ever believed in. With this gig, the focus is to reinstate original music, to get it back on an equal footing.” And with his wealth of experience on the international music scene, it looks like Bill is the man to make this happen.
“I’ve been playing bass since I was 13,” he continues. “My friends and I started my previous band to see the world; we wanted to get into clubs, have some fun, see a bit of life.” Like all of Bill’s ideas, it seems to have worked: European tours quickly followed on from 13 full tours of the States – surely that counts as seeing the world! While touring Spain, Bill met his Cypriot wife; remaining for a while in the country when the band went on indefinite hiatus, the couple then moved to the UK preceding their inevitable return to Cyprus. But no matter where he’s been based, his determinism has served him well…
“To be a musician you need to do anything and everything under the sun to support your passion,” he grins. And with the ensuing anecdotes, it’s clear Bill is a man who will try any day job to guarantee that the music plays on. “Building sets in Hollywood is not as cool as it sounds,” he laughs, “though I did enjoy working on Memento – the lead actor was a great guy!” He’s taught maths in Margate (“Music and mathematics are not as far removed from each other as you might think!” he declares with a laugh) and once spent a season as a security guard to Ken and Barbie at Mattel toys.
For the last four years he’s been giving private music lessons here in Cyprus while being Mr Mom to his two young sons, doing a bit of live sound and putting together his latest band: Die Witzelsuchts. Consisting of three male musicians and a female vocalist, he maintains that Die Witzelsuchts is “not here to entertain you – we’re here to engage you”. In fact, the first song on the band’s album New Manifesto is named for this very ambition: ‘Engage’. “We want to be the people’s band,” he continues. “We belong to a genre I’d term ‘quirky alternative’, and we’re certainly not in it for the money. What we’re hoping to do is extend the culture of original music, and this is the reason behind the upcoming gig.”
Featuring three bands – Die Witzelsuchts, The Ladderman and Rawbin Cult – the gig will be held at Diachroniki (formerly Treno) in the industrial area of Aglangia. “I’ve got to give credit to the venue,” says Bill. “They were totally willing to give this new idea a chance, even though we have no idea if we’re going to be successful. I personally hope the audience will give us their feedback as we play, we don’t want people sitting still – this is all about participating, about having a great time!”
With a mixture of hard rock, desert rock and Die Witzelsuchts’ ‘quirky alternative’, it’s certainly going to be a night with a difference. If you’ve ever hankered after music that’s fresh, inspiring and original, Diachroniki is the place to be. July 10, 8.30 – put it in your diary now. The revolution has begun…
Diachroniki on July 10. Doors open at 8.30pm, first band performs at 9.30pm. Entrance is €5, beers cost €3.50, all spirits cost €5.50. all Diachroniki on 99 783455 for info and reservations