Livan is a UK-based progressive alt-rock artist founded by lyricist and musical genius Livan. Greek-born UK musician Livan (aka Cosmas Livanos) is the grandson of former Greek Prime Minister Panagiotis Kanellopoulos, the last Prime Minister prior to the coup d’état of 21 April 1967. His subsequent move to the UK strongly affected his musical style.
The spirit of LIVAN’s music has been touted as “conjuring Billy Idol circa Generation X”. The band’s gothic vibe with subtle hints of electronica, mixed with booming rock guitar riffs and deafening bass lines have been rattling fans for five years and counting. They are respected for their bold and raw adrenaline-pumping style and their powerfully striking live shows. Public respect has earned them coveted opening acts for Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Peter Murphy, and more. They were hand-picked to tour with Alice Cooper and Peter Murphy in the past years.
Livan has released four albums in three years with singles like Happy Returns and Undead hitting top ratings on American radio charts, expanding their musical influence to an even larger audience scope. They’ve worked with 2x Grammy award winner Adrian Bushby (Foo Fighters, Muse) as the band composes their own music. Now the band is back in the den writing their new upcoming album to add to their collection of chart toppings singles and dynamic albums. Having established himself as the consummate showman, renowned for his mesmerizing performances, the Greek born, London-bred LIVAN is poised to become the breakout performer of the year in 2013 with the release of his heavily anticipated, thematic new record Beggars & Believers.
The band is comprised of Livan, with guitarist Will Crewdson (ex of influential UK rockers Rachel Stamp, Malcolm McLaren and Johnette Napolitano), drummer Damon Wilson (Ray Davies, Joss Stone), bass player David Ryder (Rachel Stamp and Adam & The Ants), and drummer Seven Antonopoulos (Opiate for the Masses, Atrocity, and Leave’s Eyes).
“For me, music is part of our excuse to get away from logic, to express oneself without the prejudice of logic.” – LIVAN
AMFM: There seems to be a lot of political influence in your music, where do you think that came from? What compelled you to write Faces for the Forces?
When it comes to the political stuff, you’re right, there is a lot of political influence and I think that is because of my background. I grew up in Greece and it was a heavily politically charged environment, it still is as you probably know. Then I moved on to the UK and again it was a very politically charged era with Maggie Thatcher and all the reform that was going on. So I fought within that…and it’s stayed with me. At the end of the day if you’re not involved with politics or you don’t know what politics is about it’s like basically saying “I don’t care what’s happening.” It’s our responsibility to be political, it’s our responsibility to have an opinion about what’s happening to the future of our children.
Faces For the Forces was a campaign that was issued in the UK Daily Telegraph, they permitted me to write a song for it. A lot of artists didn’t want to do that, they didn’t want to associate themselves with the Army because it wasn’t the cool thing to do at the time. To me it’s not about what’s cool or what isn’t. It’s about the kids that go out there that are putting their lives at risk for us, or for those political agendas that are put behind them. So I owe it to them to say “Thank you.”
When I toured the US, it was a very new experience for me because coming from Europe I had feelings of tension that most young people had towards Americans in the last decade, you know, the Bush era. There was an anti-American sentiment that was formed and when I first moved to the US and started touring here I was very biased and prejudiced about what America was. I found that it was exactly the opposite of what I thought. I toured Middle America and the Midwest and apart from touring with the nicest band, I met the nicest people. Those people were so warm and welcoming. One day this kid came and gave me a military patch, and it was very moving because he just came back from Afghanistan. I thought “God, now that is a big deal!”
AMFM: Touring and opening for Aerosmith, any stories you can give me about that?
To be honest with you, for a lot of people that would have been the experience of a lifetime, but for me it wasn’t the most amazing thing in the world. My thoughts and experiences about it is that you don’t get the time and opportunity to do what you really do properly because you are a support act for a band that dwarfs yourself in popularity. So I don’t think that you can get the right exposure like that, you are playing in the daylight, you don’t have your full sound and you don’t have your full show. It’s a good thing in the sense that it’s an experience of playing stadiums constantly but to be honest that wasn’t my favorite style of performing. And I was also being treated as an opening act at that time, so it wasn’t fun.
The tour with Alice Cooper was the exact opposite.
AMFM: What’s the most inspirational thing that happened on the tour with Alice Cooper?
I met American people and the American audiences were the biggest discovery of my life. American fans are the most educated and their their musical academia is just amazing. They are respectful, they know how to watch a show. It was just another league of performing. You go out there and you play to people that are educated and they know how to appreciate what you’re doing, if you’re good at what you’re doing. That is a thing we don’t have in England anymore. Unless you are the cookie cutter act that is exactly what is trendy at the time, people just don’t bother.
AMFM: For example?
I’ll go and play in Manchester in the North of England, and I am from the UK and we only sell about 50 tickets in Manchester thats where the capacity maxes out. So we sell about 500 tickets and we also sell merchandise, we will sell sort of ten t-shirts. Then we will go play for five minutes in America and open for Alice Cooper during the middle of a hire and we will sell out our merch. and we will get a thousand people on our facebook in one night. Which means that people appreciate what I do a lot more here than they do back home.
It’s also a very well organized in America. There is a very good circuit, the venues are good, the whole system works. It is inviting for the performer to go out there and do their show. And I think that for that particular tour (Alice Cooper) we really got along well with other crew and the team and they respected me and what it is I do in a way that Aerosmith didn’t so it gave me the chance to be much happier and to perform better and to be a much better support act for the main act. The supporting act is a role and the role is to open up the show and to warm up the crowds and to receive the exposure. When I have opening acts when I tour, and they are opening acts for me I pick them because I want to help them, because I want them to do well. I don’t pick them because I want them to do bad so that I look good.
My best tour in America was with Peter Murphy who is friend and we toured together before and we were touring to an audience that knows me already. It was a much cooler thing and a lot easier to do because I didn’t have to try as hard.
AMFM: The whole music scene must have changed for you and that is why you tour more in the US now?
We had a release four years ago of a song called Happy Returns and it did reasonably well. It got played a lot on the alternative radios and the specialty shows and that is why we starting coming and playing here because it was something I always wanted to do, to see how my work would go down in America. That is how it all started for me because we did that and it went quite well.
AMFM: Give me your thoughts on the bands genre of industrial post punk rock and how this genre influences the current generation.
I think that it’s quite an interesting question because I think that the genre that I’m in definetly has a splash of darkness, a lot of times darker a lot of other times lighter, is a genre that has existed way longer than pop music. Way back in the 17th century when the first romantics started writing poetry and what have you, and then it developed in a way that brought theater into music. But I think that the whole genre from the UK from The Cure, to the Bandhouse to Nisereb, all the sort of gothic, darker bands have influenced tremendously what is happening today. And I believe that if we looked at even Lady Gaga, her whole outlook is based on that dark mysterious edgy image, although the music is quite different. So I think it tremendously influences music today. In every shape and form. Even bands like Depeche Mode, all those UK bands I grew up listening to, they formed a movement that was in a sense a fantasy movement which is very much alive today in different ways whether they call it Emo or whatever it has developed into. It is ultimately a continuation of what was happening then.
AMFM: There is usually a deeper meaning in Punk Music.
My favorite band and my musical mentor is a guy called Justin Sullivan, he was in a band called New Model Army, which was one of the most aggressive punk bands in the UK 80s. Talking about deeply intellectual, deeply deeply intellectual. For me, this guy is probably one of the most underplayed writer in the genre. And there are many many others, and I agree that lyrically and the content of the bands, even American bands like the Dead Kennedys that had the tongue and cheek and the way or provoking were quite deeply thinking artists.
AMFM: What are you trying to provoke in people with your music?
I would love to be able to say what I think on every level but unfortunately we are experiencing a tremendous moral decay in the last five to ten years, which has distorted everything because there is absolutely no way that one can come up and say what they believe without them being distorted by the very element of the media. It is very very difficult for one to do what they did back in the 80s nowadays because everybody follows the trends of today. So I have started giving up to be honest with you and I started just rising and trying to inspire just with a song because as lovely as it would be to express direct opinion, you have to be of certain caliber to be able to do that today. Unless you’re Bono or someone who is big enough to be able to have the podium to say something that people will listen to then you’re wasting your time. So you might as well try to talk to people directly and talk to people who really want to listen to what it is you have to saying.
What I feel is happening to our music is a mirror of what is happening to our society and our community. I see my kids and my godson and they spend all day in front of the computer with no stimulation and receiving tons and tons of information that creates an opinion and they don’t go out and search for themselves “What is it that means something to us.” That is not how we grew up.
I’m not saying we haven’t made giant leaps ahead and that the world is not a good place because I genuinely think that it is a good place. But I also think that it is a changing place and that we need to make a statement. I don’t believe in the whole concept of rebellion for rebellion, that’s not who I am. I really think that people should open up and speak and say whatever it is that they believe. Yes, I am heavily political and it’s not about being a ‘Republican’ or a ‘Democrat,’ or left wing or right wing. I feel like to me it is about ‘Us’ and ‘Them’.
My big problem and the issue that I am faced with is the media to be honest with you. Because it is incredible the misinformation that comes through television and the amount of wrongs that is created. I think that all those killings and everything that has happened is because the ‘Media’ is responsible. That is my opinion. Not that the ‘Media’ is everybody, or ‘Them.’ But when there is no control and when everything is uncensored and when everything isn’t about money, and I think that capitalism is the source of that, we have reached this place today because of nothing being controlled. Therefore everything is about money and beauty and that is not what matters. It’s difficult for me to say that in an interview but it is where I come from anyway. I try to do my best I can with a clear conscience.
AMFM: So what’s coming up, what is this new one that you’re writing?
It is basically a collection, and a project that is very strange and unusual but the whole thing is basically a concept album that is still being formulated and is not finished, and that’s the general idea about it.