As most of my misanthropic miscreants already know, I have a "thing" about music and have since I was a small child growing up in Ireland with a family of traditional Irish musicians. Music has always been a huge part of my life and has always had a profound influence on me, especially as an angsty, anarchistic, 80s teenager. Not just from the listening aspect, but also to the preforming aspect (writing and singing and playing synth). Music is an important part of my life, and I can be very picky about what I listen to.
I should also not have been surprised when I found out that the man behind Alien Skin, George Pappas, was a long time member of the band Real Life, whose song "Send Me an Angel" was a hit in the 80s - and was (and still is) in my top 10 favourite songs of all time. Lucky for me and the rest of us, after leaving Real Life in 2008, George continued his passion for music in the creation of Alien Skin and with his debut album, Don't Open Till Doomsday, and subsequent albums, The Unquiet Grave and Ghost In The Rain.
My personal favourite Alien Skin song is the beautiful masterpiece "For Always (Morgue of Silence)," with the elctronica whirlwind of "Burning In My Hands" and the deeply haunting "The Unquiet Grave" being tied for a close second. But don't just take my word for it, my minions. You can check out Alien Skin to your little black hearts' content at George's website. There are even free downloads.I'm sure you'll all fall in love with his entrancing music as I did, and make Alien Skin part of your daily music retinue.
Time for the interview, after which be sure to watch the video of "The Unquiet Grave" that George has so graciously given me permission to post. Also be sure to check out his website and "LIKE" his FaceBook Page, OR ELSE, because not only is George an incredibly talented musician, but he is also an incredibly nice guy!
Lili's Lair: When did you first begin playing music, and what was the first instrument you played?
George: My earliest recollection of wishing to play music is from around the age of 12, way back in the early 70s. I was attracted to the electric guitar, it was such a sensual prop to wave around in front of you. I understood the only way my parents would consider buying one for me was if I knew how to actually play, so I started learning on an old acoustic of my dad's. That initial wide eyed, superficial excitement rapidly transformed into something far more substantial when I discovered I really did love creating music, especially writing songs.
Lili's Lair: Were you classically trained or did you teach yourself?
George: I taught myself everything I know, although most of what I have learned over the years has been accumulated by studying the recorded works of great artists. I persisted in trying to learn how they did what they did, applying what I learnt, to the extent that I was able to, to my own music. Basically, I made it up as I went along with some fine artists, acting as my alter egos, prodding me along.
Lili's Lair: How did you get involved with the band Real Life?
George: I wasn't an original member of Real Life, but joined as keyboardist and co-writer in the 90s. A mutual friend introduced me to drummer Danny Simcic who subsequently invited me to a band interview in 1993. Real Life at the time was seeking to resume their career after some disasterous episodes with record company and management, a situation that for all intents and purposes had a serious impact on their 80s run of success. It was to be another couple of years before we began work on the album Happy. I co-wrote half of it with singer David Sterry and then toured America, Germany and Australia in support of it.
Lili's Lair: What was the experience like for you being in such a popular band?
George: I joined Real Life in the years after their initial success so I missed out on the original excitement and buzz of that period, but the 10 or so years that I did work and play within the band are very memorable ones. Favourite memories and experiences will always be the live shows, especially as we travelled across the US on three separate tours. Songs like 'Send Me An Angel' and 'Catch Me I'm Falling' never failed to electrify the audiences everywhere we played. I must say the American fans have been the most supportive and fanatical and being genuinely appreciated and treated well is always something pleasing.
Lili's Lair: Who have been your major musical influences over the years? Did you or do you have any mentors?
George: I haven't had any mentors, but I've definitely had very strong influences that shaped my artistic development since the early 70s. The thread that runs through my whole music life is the love of songs and songwriting and my most important influence, then and now, would be The Beatles and much of what exploded with an invigorating, eclectic bang in the 60s. As for more direct influences that shaped my contemporary music outlook, especially with all things electronic, I'd name Depeche Mode from the 80s as playing a major part; Kraftwerk, David Sylvian, David Bowie, The Cure, New Order and a combination of others along the way.
Lili's Lair: As far as your music goes, what is the song and/or albulm that has the most meaning for you that you have written, and why?
George: A question like this is always difficult for me to answer, almost tantamount to choosing a favourite child. Usually though, the newest songs are the freshest and therefore most interesting to me as they're 'straight out of the oven', so to speak. Not that children should be handled in this way. :) Because a song, let alone an album, can be the work of a protracted period: from writing it, arranging, performing, programming, producing and mixing it to finally mastering it, the brilliance and excitement of its spark at birth is eventually lost to me. The listener is often in a better position to appreciate it than its creator; I think most artists probably feel the same way.
I do have a special fondness for 'Razor Arms' from Don't Open Till Doomsday (2008). I'm personally proud of its strong melody, lyrical imagery and overall melancholic aesthetic. It also happens to be a favourite with many Alien Skin fans. 'The Secret Garden', the title song from my soon to be released album, is also another one that's dear to me. I actually wrote it in 1985 but have never had the appropriate avenue for it till now. Again I think it is strongly melodic and very personal to me as it transports me to the frame of mind I inhabited in the mid 80s.
Lili's Lair: In your opinion, what has been your biggest success in your career?
George : Well, the opportunity to have been a principle writer/member in the band Real Life, doing so many memorable gigs around the world, playing to and meeting so many warmly supportive people, takes some beating I think. :)
Lili's Lair: George, you have told me that you are currently in the studio working on a your fourth album. How would you describe this album as compared to the other three you have made?
George: The Secret Garden will be my forth Alien Skin album in five years. It's a further extension of the total sum of my influences over the decades and I'm spreading myself out a little more this time. Although Alien Skin is known for dark, cinematic atmosphere, usually quite sombre, with The Secret Garden I'm allowing a little more blue sky and fresh breeze to enter, albeit through half closed windows. It will be out in April and will be fully previewable on my website www.alienskinmusic.com when released.
Lili's Lair: What would you like to see happening in the next few years with regards to your musical career?
George: Frankly, at the age I'm at and other personal issues considered, I'll be happy to continue writing and producing music without restraints, i.e. unlike the past where the only way to reach a wide audience was through a large label which imposed limitations as to what an artist could do, these days one can do it, to a certain extent, by oneself. So I will continue writing and recording, allowing my work to evolve instinctively. I no longer pay too much attention to what else and who else is going on musically, as it's all rather moot for me now. Performing is another kettle of fish. As I live in Australia and most of my audience is in another hemisphere, the financial logisitics of putting together a touring show is unachievable at present.
Lili's Lair: Are there any little secret tidbits regarding your new album or any future projects you can share with my readers?
George: It's no real secret but The Secret Garden, my new Alien Skin album, will be released in April and all related information will be found on my website, very very soon. Importantly, if people wish to show support by joining my VIP guestlist they will be treated to a number of free song downloads progressively, as well. They can check it all out by visiting www.alienskinmusic.net/free. 'Razor Arms' and 'Cold', both fan favourites from the beginning, are two songs that they will immediately receive with more to come.
Finally, I'll be giving away CD copies of The Secret Garden plus the rest of the Alien Skin discography as part of my promotion for the album's release. Only guestlist members are eligible to be part of this opportunity as a thank you for their support.
Thank you Lili for affording me the opportunity to discuss my past and present work for your readers.