Biography written by Phillip D. @IndieRockCafe
”My project is called E-MUTE (Electric Mute) a name with a very allegorical meaning for me, Electric because it is rock music and Mute because as a drummer who was playing for other people while writing his own music I was feeling ‘artistically’ mute; I was having the need to communicate what I wanted to express by playing my own shit.”
Most successful musicians were not forced into piano or violin lessons as a child. Rather, something inside of them drove a need – beyond a desire – to play music. In Theo’s case, he realized his increasingly insatiable love for music as a pre-teen. By the age of 13 – a time when a boy begins his journey towards the inevitably of manhood – Theo had sticks in hand, and set out with youthful enthusiasm to become a great drummer.
Theo modeled his drumming style after well respected drummers he admired most, such as John Bonham, Billy Cobham, Stewart Copeland, Ian Paice and David Garibaldi.
Theo attended the Philip Nakas Music College in Athens, Greece, at the age of 14 when he began drumming. After school, Theo enrolled in a two-year music technology course at A.K.M.I., while studying classical harmony at the Classical Conservatorium of Athens, and taking private lessons on jazz harmony in addition to piano courses. Next Theo moved to London where he earned a Bachelor in Music Performance, with a focus on drums at Drumtech, and later earned a Masters’ degree in Music Performance and Composition at Kingston University.
His first gig was at the age of 15 playing drums with some school friends. “I was totally frozen from stage fright!” Not long after, Theo performed a number of gigs with his friends. His girlfriend at the time, the daughter of two professional musicians, was completely supportive of Theo’s musical aspirations. And her parents devoting their free time to teaching and critiquing Theo, helped advancing his musical education and experience, which served to reinforce his love for music even more.
“They were, in their own way, our first music teachers.” His girlfriend (from that period) ended up being a sound engineer. “When I was 19, I actually played with Cornelia’s parents. Her father was very strict with me, but all he was trying to do was to teach me as much as he could”.
The first album Theo fell in love with was Led Zeppelin IV.
“My sister had a big vinyl collection and I discovered it,” Theo recollects. “Until then, I was just listening to mainstream pop as kids do. The intro of rock and roll really shook my whole existence. I got more and more into my sister’s album collection: The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, and Janis Joplin. These are some names that changed my life. Then I gradually dove into all sorts of music: punk, metal, grunge, jazz, fusion, classical, and even drum n’ bass. But I never got heavily in to rap, hiphop and dance music. Oh and let’s not forget Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kasabian, Muse, Radiohead, Franz Ferdinand, I can keep going forever…”
Theo Joins Furdelux and Elixir; Makes Important Music Connections
The seeds of E-MUTE were sown when Theo was performing in cover bands while he was teaching drums. In 2013, he joined his first ‘original material’ band, called Furdelux, a seven-piece retro Mod/funk outfit from London.
The band members include scene veteran Jon-Paul Harper (ex Clique, ex Knave) on bass, Nicole Meng on vocals, and Heike Marx (hammond) from the ex-girl band Thee Cherylinas, and Uygar Sen (guitar) formely Strange Brew. Furdelux performed at various Mod venues around London, and in countries like Germany, Spain and Italy, even opening for artist P.P. Arnold at the University of London and also at the Lerida Music Festival in Spain.
In 2005, Theo met Bias Boshell, the Moody Blues’ keyboard player, while they were rehearsing at the same studios in London. That connection resulted in Theo working on a one song recording project for an ex-James Bond girl with producer Pip Williams, who had produced Uriah Heep and Dido, among others.
IN 2006 Theo met Scott James of the popular UK 80s band the Stereophonics and they put together a band that did not last more than a couple of years that “fell apart because of disagreements.”
“While in the band Elixir, I ended up quitting all other bands and got in trouble with teaching. I needed flexible work so started working for PR and marketing companies, and also did some modeling. It was a very mad period. One great thing that came out of being in the band with Scott James (guitarist with the Stereophonics) is that I learned about songwriting; he was an important teacher for me.”
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Theo moves back to Athens
‘’Right after the band split up, for a small period I was feeling totally lost and did not want to be near any of my instruments. I had no idea of what was I doing, where was I heading or what I wanted to do with my life. My whole world had collapsed. Topping it up with my dad being at the hospital dying, I was experiencing the darkest period of my life as far. Right out of nowhere life gave to me a great gift. I was suddenly working as a full time drummer until almost two years ago when I decided close that chapter and start a new one, my project E-MUTE.’’
Theo worked on, and toured with, Musicall, ‘’a punk rock musical that we made out of famous cinema songs of international and Greek repertoire.’’
Well known Greek actress Evelina Papoulia wrote the story that was inspired out of the songs, and the band created punk rock versions of them. During that time, Theo was also performing with the Artefacts Ensemble, a group of seven classical musicians performing contemporary repertoire and adjusting the size of the ensemble according to the needs of every concert.
Theo spent most of that time working as a session drummer and a music teacher, and for him, it was, he says, a dream come true to do what he loved. He was particularly enjoying live performances, performing more than he ever had previously – six to seven days per week at Architektoniki Club in Athens, and other Greek cities with well-known Greek singer/songwriter Dionysis Tsaknis and folk/rock singer/songwriter Apostolos Rizos. He also played in a power trio called Exit with two friends, Lefteri Karvela (guitar) and Niko Salta (keyboards), playing cover songs, but in a completely deranged improvisational way:
In 2010, the economy in Greece was in turmoil, as was the citizenry. The economic crisis in Greece that had been brewing under the surface for decades was becoming increasingly volatile and damaging to the economy. Riots broke out. Many people lost their jobs, hours were cut back and the unemployment rate for college graduates was over 50%. Inflation was skyrocketing, loaning dried up, investments were crashing and families were losing their homes across the country.
Theo and his girlfriend Maria who had previously met in London moved together to Athens. (Maria is Austrian and while she was earning an MBA at the American College of Athens, she was also learning Greek) were not unaffected and this was shortly before the situation in the country began to spiral out of control, and so they needed to make some serious decisions. Maria was not able to find work in Greece after graduating, so the couple decided to return to London.
“I still had a good amount of work, but it was getting less and less. This was before the actual crisis in Greece started. We decided to move back in to London. We had a house there. Maria could get a job much easier, and I was totally fed up of playing as a session drummer. I just wanted to do my own music. So we moved. Maria first; I followed shortly afterwards. I had to finish a series of gigs that were booked.”
Birth of E-MUTE Starts With A Couple of Demos
During his time in Athens, Theo was writing more than he ever had before, and he also began to discover his voice – not just as a songwriter, but as a vocalist. But he found that his teaching and work as a session drummer were leaving him no time to work on his songwriting. In order to devote his time to his new project, he decided to drop most of his paying work to focus on songwriting, and began recording demos as E-MUTE.
The first attempt to record his ideas was during the summer of 2009. He decided to fly to London and stay there for a week’s worth of recording at Koby Israelite’s home studio who he knew from before. Koby is a multi-instrumentalist so Theo’s idea was that between them they could have finished versions of his songs. Together they recorded eleven tracks which were the first ever E-MUTE demos.
The later on permanent return to London was the key to Theo’s musical aspirations finally taking form. He met his old friend from university guitarist Tolis Zavaliaris (Vanessa Mae) who is currently a teacher at the Guitar Institute in London, and also met Svetlana Vassileva (Moby), who instructed on bass. Svetlana was Theo’s teacher while he was studying at university, and Darren Ashford (The Drifters), a professor of drums.
“When I first played the demos we recorded with Koby to Toli, he loved them, and then he played my music to Svetlana and Darren. They liked the demos so much, that they decided to join the project. Theo scored a big victory when well-known guitarist and producer, John Robertson (Morcheeba, Yolanda Charles, Grace Jones), jumped on board to produce the EP after he heard the demos.
Once the EP was released, the reaction was immediate; it scored a number of great reviews in various publications including Music Week and Indie Rock Cafe, and soon found there was a demand for them to perform live. Right away, the collective of talented musicians started performing in London venues such as The Underworld, The Dublin Castle, and The Underbelly of Hoxton. E-MUTE’s sound can best be described as a mix of Franz Ferdinand meets Muse, and the Foo Fighters team up with Depeche Mode.
“After two years, we had a great time together, and they are all really talented. We had a lot of fun and some great moments, but since we were not really a band in the traditional sense, but more like a collective of musician friends. Everyone has busy lives – different schedules, individual projects, families and jobs, and because of that, it’s too difficult for all of us to get together and record a new album at the pace that I want to record and release the music that I’m writing and demo’ing.”
Theo over the last few months has morphed into mostly a solo project for Theo. “E-MUTE is at least for now primarily a solo project, or the proverbial one-man band that has exploded in popularity in the recent years. I like the idea of the one-man band – going into the studio and recording, arranging the various instrument tracks, collaborating with other musicians, and then mixing and mastering the songs.”
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