Grey Gallows say:
Dark times help us strenghten ourselves
Nick knows precisely how to reproduce the analog sounds of the 80s and 90s that we want
We consider ourselves a guitar-driven band
The Korg Minilogue is my favorite synth
Konstantin is the vocalist / keyboard player of Grey Gallows, a dark wave duo from Patra, Greece. In this interview for ‘The Electronic Corner’, we had a lovely conversation, not only about music but also about the importance of hardships in life.
Sir Joe: Please tell us about the formation of the band in 2016, and what inspired you and Dionisis to start making music together.
Grey Gallows: Indeed, as you mentioned, our lyrics delve into the experience of pain and the healing process that follows.
This is similar to exploring the dark side of the moon. As we journey through our pain, we gain wisdom and maturity, and at the end of this journey, we find light.
It’s a journey about self-understanding and it encompasses both dark and light times, symbolized by the colors black and white.
This is why we chose the name Grey Gallows for our band. The gallows represent a negative image, a time of hanging in uncertainty. The color grey is a blend of black and white, symbolizing the mix of dark and light times we all experience in life, those experiences that propel us forward.
In terms of our songwriting process, either Dionisis or I come up with a basic structure or idea. We don’t typically write songs in the studio or live. Instead, one of us will develop a basic idea and then share it with the other.
Once the main idea is fleshed out, we write the lyrics. I try to create a vocal melody for these lyrics, which I’ve found is similar to creating a melody for an instrument. The human voice is basically just another instrument.
So, our lyrics reflect this struggle with dark emotions and our name embodies this journey from darkness to light.
SJ: What you just said about the darkness and light in our life and the fact that both are needed in order to move forward makes me think of a quote from one of my favorite authors.
His name is Neale Donald Walsh, and he keeps saying that the only way for us to know what we like is when we are exposed to what we don’t like. Life as eternal happiness is an impossible condition, because you can find out what you want only when you can also see what you don’t want.
So, I was wondering if you agree with this kind of philosophy, since it seems to be aligned with the way you write your lyrics.
Grey Gallows: Well, it’s an amazing quote, and I agree 100% with it. When I heard you say those words, I thought about a situation most of us have to face in life.
As a young person, it often felt overwhelming to face difficult situations or dark emotions. I even believed that I would have never been able to handle such challenges.
However, as we grow older and accumulate more life experiences, our perspective often changes. We come to realize that those difficult times, as painful as they were, are valuable. They’re part of our unique experience and have shaped us into who we are today.
These dark times not only help us strengthen ourselves but also equip us to face potential challenges in the future.
So, in retrospect, these times are not just precious, they are needed, necessary for our lives. We cannot continue our lives without experiencing those precious moments.
SJ: Moving back to your band, how did your music evolve, since your first mini album ‘Beyond Reflections’?
Grey Gallows: Our music is constantly evolving and developing.
Our first mini album, ‘Beyond Reflections,’ was recorded in the last months of 2016. At that time, we had a few ideas and a strong desire to bring those songs to life.
As you can imagine, it wasn’t as professional as it could have been, because we were a very underground band. Even now, we’re still underground and not mainstream, but back then we didn’t even have the tools or a sound producer, and all the production was done by Dionisis in his home studio.
The instruments were primarily VSTs played by Dionisis, like the Minimoog, or the Jupiter VST, while I was playing the Roland Fantom, a fantastic digital synthesizer.
At that time, I didn’t use VSTs for arpeggios, but I was tapping the keyboard to stay on tempo, which was a tiring process. After that experience, we started using more VSTs.
Over the years, we’ve invested in various VSTs and analog synthesizers. Our aim has been to create a blend of both hardware, specifically analog synthesizers, and software digital synthesizers, which add different layers to our music.
SJ: Starting with very basic equipment was indeed a formative experience for you, wasn’t it?
I mean, perhaps if you had all the tools you have now from the start, you might not have been able to do what you do now, because some of the foundational skills you had to learn back then might be missing.
Would you agree with this analysis?
SJ: You’ve collaborated with sound designer Nick “The Mute” Chaldoupis for your third album ‘Garden of Lies’. How did this collaboration come about and what impact did it have on the album?
SJ: That’s great. Now, how do you balance the use of electronic elements with the guitar in your music?
Grey Gallows: This question could be better answered by Dionisis, because he’s the guitar master, but I will try to answer as good as I can.
We aim at striking a balance between electronic elements and traditional dark wave rhythms and sounds.
One of our defining characteristics is our use of the guitar, which features in more than half of our songs. We consider ourselves a guitar-driven band. Dionisis employs a variety of effects to achieve a unique sound with his guitar.
Our music spans a spectrum from 80s and 90s dark wave to more contemporary electronic music, and we work to harmonize these elements.
We’re not a band that sticks to creating just one type of music all the time, as we find that approach to be quite monotonous, and we believe our listeners would feel the same.
Instead, we have a spectrum or palette of musical styles that we explore. When you listen to our latest album, you’ll notice it includes electronic songs as well as more traditional goth or dark wave tracks.
We incorporate elements from goth music, creating a diverse and engaging listening experience.
SJ: Speaking of which: Any idea of when a new album will be released?
Grey Gallows: We’re about to release a new mini album that is entirely electronic and will feature three songs.
I can’t reveal much more at this point, but I can tell you that we’ve been experimenting with different elements, including a new language.
This has been an exciting and inspiring process for us, and we’re eager to share the results. The release of this album is not too far off.
SJ: Thanks a lot for this anticipation! Now, what kind of synths do you use in your music production?
Grey Gallows: I have 10 synths in my home studio. There’s a Korg Minilogue, which is my personal favorite and is the synth that I play live. Next to it I have a Korg Wavestate, which is a powerful digital sampling synth.
In the rack above it there is a Modal Argon. Then I have a Korg Monologue, a very strong, powerful, analog monophonic synthesizer, great for bass sounds and solos. I play it with a BOSS pedal synthesizer, it’s a bit crazy but it works.
Then I have an Arturia KeyStep Pro, which I use in combination with the other synths. It’s hard to do, but I’m working on it and I’m sure it will be great live.
Then there are my first two synths: the Roland S8 201, which is great for harsh EBM sounds, and the Roland Fantom, which is a great workstation. Finally, my Yamaha QS300, an old sample based synthesizer which used to be called ‘the Prodigy’s baby’, or ‘The rave’s Baby’, because Prodigy used to play it.
They didn’t have a sequencer or an arpeggiator, and according to a rumor they were putting a spoon on the keyboard to hold the notes.
SJ: Finally, let’s talk about effects. How do you use them in your music? Are there any particular effects that are crucial to your sound?
Grey Gallows: In my setup, I use a BOSS RV6, which is one of my favorite hardware effects.
When I play with my Korg Monologue, which produces a monophonic sound, I use the BOSS synthesizer pedal to add depth to the original sound.
During recording sessions, I utilize software VSTs and effects. One of my preferred effects is called Replica. It’s a software effect that can make a single bass line sound like ten.
As for Dionisis, he primarily uses his own guitar or bass effects, mainly from BOSS, along with his software pedals.
(Now I invite you to watch the following video, starting at 25:16, where we are gifted with a live performance of the song ‘Dying Light’, which is included in the album ‘Strangers’).
We say thanks to Konstantin from Grey Gallows for this in depth conversation about their music and some aspcts of life.
Don’t forget to visit Grey Gallows Bandcamp page
You are also welcome to check the other interviews for The Electronic Corner