Interview with Argy: “Dance music is capitalistic, and the entire art industry works that way”

“I don’t think we’re seeing any light [at the end of the tunnel], to be honest…” Argyris Theofilis was born on the Greek island of Rhodes, a place where he could hardly have carved out a future as an electronic musician. Argyris –Argy, both for his friends and for all of us who know him for his career- didn’t hesitate and, as soon as he could, he moved to Berlin first and then to London. It is in the British capital that he has found his “second home”. From there, he has grown throughout the continent, collaborating with authorities of the stature of Solomun, Sven Väth, John Digweed and Steve Bug. In fact, the latter has just published, in his series of releases for the 20th anniversary of his acclaimed label Poker Flat, the remix that Argy made with Ernest & Frank of Alex Niggemann’s “Materium”. Although, for Argy, his two most important collaborations are none of the ones we have mentioned…

Argy has been performing in the best clubs in Europe for more than a decade. | Image: © Amnesia Milano

You said once that “electronic music has to be less serious”.

The word ‘ego’ was not so popular back then, but now it’s very trendy, so I guess that sums it up perfectly. I feel like a lot of artists need a long and warm hug, whatever is happening out there is soul-crushing. It’s good to be passionate but clubbing is not everything in life. Living with a single dream is a very dangerous endeavour.

I guess nowadays we need more fun music than ever… What about yours during these times?

I am working on plenty of music for commercials, soundtrack projects and real estate. I am also remixing a lot of artists lately, which is more fun for me these days than original work.

Can we see the light at the end of the tunnel?

I don’t think we are seeing any light to be honest. Things are going to be shaky for a while. I am mentally prepared to not play anywhere until the end of the year. I am using this time to do other things and work on other projects to stay sane and not be a complete pain in the ass to people around me because of the absence of my usual platform of expression.

How would you define yourself?

Contradictive, prone to self-sabotage, competitive, easily bored but very patient, anti-fashion, reactive mindset, disruptor, an ideas man. My diverse discography comes from an internal war, a clash of personalities and ideologies.

“Arguably Greece’s most successful and longstanding electronic producer ever”, some say about you.

Philosophy is common sense with big words.

How was for a young Greek producer to start building a name in the scene?

I actually left quite early from Greece. I was in London already when I hit 18, and I signed my first record at the age of 19. So, I skipped the whole ‘doing business in Greece’ challenge, as I was already working with German and British labels and promoters. Thank god because that was 2005 and the climate in Greece wasn’t that friendly.

Argy has allowed himself the luxury of performing in his native Greece, proving that his dream was possible. | Image: © Dybbuk

What was the biggest challenge in your hometown?

I grew up in Rhodes, which is an island, and the biggest challenge was to make my classmates understand what I was all about! They still can’t believe I was able to make a living out of this thing they still don’t quite understand!

Who were your biggest influences?

Vangelis, Ruiji Sakamoto, Jeff Mills, Jean Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, Keith Jarrett, Isao Tomita, ECM Records, William Basinsky, Massive Attack, Little Louie Vega, Carl Craig, Kerri Chandler, MJ Cole, Throbbing Gristle, Brian Eno, Warp Records, Maxwell, Mina & Celentano, Antonio Carlos Jobim.

So much work ahead in order to check this list. You’ve been based in Berlin for some time, while being a resident in most of the greatest clubs in Ibiza. Such a hard contrast.

Behind the marketing aesthetic and scene ideology, things are not that different. We are talking about people having fun, so at the end of the day, deep down, the psychology of the DJ and the raver are pretty much the same everywhere. However, I do understand when people are trying to support this contrast, because it’s a human characterise to be wanting to belong somewhere.

Argy is a regular on the line-ups of the best clubs in Ibiza. | Image: © DC-10

Every year, more and more people criticize Ibiza due to the direction it has taken. Commercial music is getting bigger in the island and also prices are being increased in clubs. Is this what your music is about?

Our music is commercial too. Everything that is on sale is commercial. Dance music is capitalistic, and the entire art industry works that way, so I am not bothered by all that. I saw it happening again and again: New York, Berlin, Ibiza… It’s normal and a lot of us benefit from that too. We make a living because we don’t play in front of 10 people but in front of 1,000! The increase of prices has to do with supply and demand. Would you sell your flat for a fraction of the market price?

Definitely not… What about London, where you still live today? What have you found there to make it become your home?

I love the humour, the banter, the people, the weather, the politics, current affairs, everything about the culture. Everything about being British and the London city hustle. It’s a second home for me.

In 2008, you were already working with Solomun and The Martinez Brothers, and you used to play at Panorama Bar being just 20 years old. You’ve also been resident in some of the greatest clubs in Ibiza, as we said, and your music has been released in labels such as Poker Flat, Cocoon, Objektivity, Bedrock, Desolat, Cuttin’ Headz, Play It Say It, Crosstown Rebels and Moscow Records, thus having worked also with Steve Bug, Sven Väth, Seth Troxler, Damian Lazarus, Archie Hamilton, John Digweed and more. Do you feel like you live among stars professionally speaking?

My resume has a decent amount of name dropping for an artist that is not a superstar! Maybe that’s why I am a DJ’s DJ. Or a producer’s producer! At this point, as far as dance music, I have ticked all my boxes in terms of collaborations or label affiliations.

You have also collabed with Kerri Chandler and Manuel Göttsching. Probably the two most important achievements in your career so far?

You probably mentioned my top 2 collaborations ever… even if the one with Manuel was rather unusual because it involved a bootleg collaboration. Both surreal though and very thankful. Kerri is the nicest guy in house music ever.

What can we expect from Argy in the near future?

Planning to play a seated show in London in October and feeling curious about how this is going to be. I will probably start by playing out all the tracks I have been making in the studio and haven’t had a real sound check yet!

Did you discover anything special during these months?

I listened to “Love Song” by Mardeleva about a thousand times during this lockdown.

We’ll have to check. Thanks for your time, Argy. One last message to our readers?

Use covid-19 as an excuse and change your life forever! There is never going to be a better alibi!


(Cover Image: © Additve Music)