Greek producer George Vougioukas aka Tokkoi made his production debut on Baroque Records in September of 2012. His appearance on the labels ‘Chilled Structures 2′ collection lead to a second outing on Volume 4 of the popular series in July of 2013. Both releases were incredibly successful breaking into the Beatport Top 20 and the Top 10 of the Billboard charts. As the second quarter of 2014 is now upon us George is prepared to unveil his debut album ‘Custom Made World’ which fittingly comes courtesy of Baroque Records once again. We had a chance to chat with the Greek producer just prior to its release. A transcription of the interview is below and we hope you enjoy it.
1. Hi George, thanks very much for joining us here, let’s start with some background info first. How old are you and how long have you been producing?
Tokkoi: Hello there! I’ve been writing songs since I was in high school. However, I started composing music in 2000.
2. How did you discover electronic music? Where do your musical roots lie?
Tokkoi: My mother had a passion for classical music and I remember myself as a child listening to all the classical composers (Mozart, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky etc). One day back in the 80s I was playing a computer game which used samples from a song called “Popcorn” and a few days later I watched a Jean Michel Jarre concert on TV. I was hooked onwards…
3. Have you lived in the Greece your whole life? What is the club and party scene like there, are there places you can go to hear good electronic music?
Tokkoi: I was born in Greece and grew up there. I moved to the UK in 1996 to study in the University of Manchester and after I graduated I stayed a bit longer to study Electronic Music Production and work. In the winter there are some good places you can go and listen to good electronic music but there aren’t any big clubs like those in the UK. However, in the summer you can find amazing nighclubs in the islands that host both famous Djs and up-and-coming talented artists.
4. It sounds like you DJed a fair bit during your time spent in the UK. Are you still DJing now and what sort of music were you playing back then as opposed to now?
Tokkoi: I was Djing until 2010. In the beginning I was playing commercial stuff as this was what most of the club owners wanted to, but as more and more people started coming to the events I was Djing at, I started infusing downtempo, ethnic, chill out and other tracks that I really liked. I took a break from Djing in 2010 to focus on production, clear my head and make some changes. I’ve recently started working on my new sets which I believe include more cinematic and classical elements. They are better directed and aim to take you on a journey of emotions through quality and nicely crafted music.
5. Your debut album ‘Custom Made World’ is out this week on Baroque Records, it must be a great feeling to finally have it in the shops. There are a wide array of amazing collaborations and the result is a beautiful collection of emotion filled tracks. Tell us a bit about it if you can. When did you begin working on it? How did all these amazing vocalists get involved in the project? How did you get hooked up with a great label like Baroque and which tracks are the most special to you?
Tokkoi: I really can’t believe that the production stage is over and we’re now talking about it. Ok, let’s see… I’d sent a demo of a track called Koi-961 to Baroque Records and Keith, the director of the company, really believed in it and decided to release it. It did really well on the charts so we released another one, Exit-82 (feat. AthinaNiki) which did really well too.
To be honest with you, before releasing these two tracks I had been working on various projects here and there but I couldn’t complete them as I dreaded the thought of releasing an artist album. Then something strange happened, I had a dream that I’d release “Custom Made World”. I saw the cover and everything, so when Baroque contacted me about releasing the album I immediately said yes.
Most of the vocalists on the album are people that I personally know and we’ve previously discussed the possibility of them performing on my tracks. There are also vocalists that I’ve met online and as we appreciate each other’s work we’ve decided to collaborate.
6. ‘Custom Made World’ sounds impeccably produced, did you study production or sound design at some point and if not did anyone help you out along the way?
Tokkoi: Yes, I studied Electronic Music Production in Manchester, I did numerous seminars on sound engineering and design, plus an online Music production course in Berklee College of Music. I like micromanaging things so I knew that if I wanted to get the result I had in mind, I’d have to study and get proper training on all the stages involved in producing an album. Along the way, I co-operated with experienced sound engineers and producers like Dimitris Delis who helped me improve my productions and taught me the tricks of the trade.
7. Now that the album is out what are your plans for the rest of the year?
Tokkoi: One thing is for sure; I won’t be able to rest at all. I’ll be preparing a number of new Dj sets for both nightclubs and radio stations. I’ve also got a number of collaborations lined up and I’ve started setting up and rehearsing for a live performance of the album.
8. How has your studio setup changed since you started producing and have you always produced downtempo music?
Tokkoi: It has changed a lot. I’ve started building it in 1999 and I always try to add and experiment with new things. I did piano for 7 years so it’s easier for me to play everything on a keyboard than try to program instruments on the piano roll of a DAW. I like recording real instruments so I have some acoustic, classical and electronic guitars, a piano and various percussion instruments. The last piece of equipment I bought is a Nord Rack 2x and I’m very happy with it. I like downtempo music a lot, however it’s not the only genre I’m into. “Custom Made Word” includes other genres as well.
9. Do things always come easy for you in the studio? What parts of the production process do you find the most difficult and what gets you through a period of writers block or lack of inspiration?
Tokkoi: I think I’m pretty confident in the studio now. I know how to record, edit and get what I want really fast. I know how to use a couple of DAWs really well and know my way round a couple more, which makes things easier when collaborating with other artists. When I get stuck, I always stop working and the next day everything just falls into place.
10. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?
Tokkoi: For the past three years, I’ve been building a social network to help animals all over the world and should be ready really soon.
11. Who are some of the best undiscovered producers in your eyes?
Tokkoi: I’m not telling this just because they participate in my album but Owsey, Sahpe and Alex Villanueva are really great producers. I’ve always liked their music and I’m really glad that these talented artists appear on my album.
12. Which producers consistently inspire you?
Tokkoi: Film composers really motivate me. They compose extremely complicated pieces of music in a very short period of time. John Williams, James Horner, Ludovico Einaudi and Yann Tiersen are my favourite. I also a big fan of Moby and Paul Van Dyke too. Generally speaking, I admire artists that play a lot of musical instruments and produce their work single handedly, sort of speaking.
13. What artist or track would you love to remix and who would you love to be remixed by?
Tokkoi: That’s an easy one! Moby.
14. Record labels are a dime a dozen these days and the majority of people feel most of them are mediocre music factories. Which ones if any standout for you?
Tokkoi: First of all, Baroque Records. They really support their artists, hand-pick and release tracks that have been produced carefully. I hate it when labels release tracks that seem to have been “produced” in a day or so. I really like Little Idiot, Plastic City and Mute records.
15. What would you say is the best mix compilation of all time?
Tokkoi: I like Antoine Clamaran’s Mix compilations. I love all these different elements he combines flawlessly.
16. Current Favourites (you can list more than one per category if you like)
Food: Homemade pasta and fresh salads.
Drink: Rakomemelo (hot raki with honey).
Drug: Composing music and spending time with my family and loved ones.
Animal: Cats and dogs but right now I’m in love with my Labrador, Pancho!
TV Show: Breaking Bad, Lost and Friends.
Movie: Hands down, the Shawshank Redemption.
Video Game: I’m playing Assassin’s Creed IV these days. I also like the Monkey Island Series.
Album: Moby-Play, A Beautiful Mind (OST), The xx- XX, Alt-J – An Awesome Wave.
Track / Song: Alt J –Taro.
Producer / Band: Paul Van Dyke, Moby, Alt J.
Record Label: Baroque Records, Little Idiot, Plastic City.
Nightclub: The Hacienda.
DJ: Paul Van Dyke, Antoine Clamaran
17. What advice would you give new producers just starting out?
Tokkoi: Open your eyes and ears and listen. You can learn from the people you least expect to in places you would have not thought to be particularly inspirational.