Sometime ago i first wrote about the event-company heralding from Greece called “Smoke the Fuzz”. I got the opportunity to talk abit to the inspiring woman in charge: Elina Kemanidi.
I asked about how it is to start a new company during one of Greece’s most severe financial crisis, how is the metal-scene in Greece and what is the story behind Smoke the Fuzz claiming the end-show for Cult of Luna’s most rare tour yet?

I present to you the interview with Elina.

 

 

Hi, thank you for taking your time to participate in this interview.

Hello, thank you so much for having me, honored !

 

Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

I’m Elina Kemanidi, founder of “Smoke the Fuzz gigs”, an independent concert production/booking/promoting enterprise/operation based in Athens, Greece, born in March, 2013.

 

Can you tell me how Smoke the Fuzz started?

It literally happened overnight ! When I had my first show (May 2013), I didn’t even have any intention of being a professional promoter or anything, didn’t even have the slightest idea of how this thing was done, that show was supposed to be a one-time kind of thing. I was drunk with a friend, listening to and talking about a band we were addicted to at the time and about how many promoters we had literally begged to have them in Greece, with no luck. So, we were like “Hey, why don’t we invite them ourselves?”. And, just like that, we texted the band directly on their facebook page. As crazy fans, nothing more, nothing less. Never even expected a reply, but there it was ! And we arranged two shows.

What happened after that first show was INSANE..!! I got unbelievably great feedback, word of mouth had bands mail me instead of the other way ‘round ! Things happened faster than fast ! Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine what was going to follow..! I mean, I had an amazing time with my first band, but I thought that was it. Instead, mails kept coming and I started booking one show after the other, so this had to be handled professionally.  And just like that, right there, right then, as cheesy as it might sound, I felt I was meant to do this.

 

Could you please introduce your latest project: Smoke the Fuzz fest

Yes !!! Damn hard to believe..!!

We managed to gather 17 huge international bands/artists of the heavy sound under one stage, thus creating the first festival ever in Greece that exclusively addresses to enthusiasts of doom/post/stoner/sludge/psychedelic/space/blues sounds! Three different editions on three different days were designed in accordance to the style of the bands included, thus rendering each day an unprecedented for Greek standards music marathon that will satisfy the wishes of the fans of each and every one of our favorite genres and subgenres :

  • “Fall of Doom edition”

Saturday 17 September 2016 @ Gagarin205 Live Music Space

Lineup : Yob, Bongzilla, Dopethrone, Sons of Otis, Black Cobra, Suma, Love Sex Machine

  • “Howler Edition”

Saturday 22 October 2016 @ Iera Odos (venue upgraded)

Lineup : All Them Witches, Earthless, Causa Sui, Electric Moon, Siena Root, Yuri Gagarin

  • “Post-mortem edition”

Saturday 5 November and Sunday 6 November 2016 @ Iera Odos

Lineup : Russian Circles (Saturday 5), Cult of Luna w/ Julie Christmas (Sunday 6)

 

Smoke The Fuzz Fest is entirely special in its conception and identity, since the line-up of each day is globally unique, it does not follow a particular and is certainly not an extension or a copy of any other pre-existing international festival. All the bands were picked one by one, many of them flying as one-offs from the other side of the Atlantic!

I personally picked each and every one of these bands, been a crazy fan of theirs since like forever..! This monster of a lineup had been just a wild fantasy of mine for the past year – still haven’t realized I made it happen..! That took a LOT of work, countless sleepless nights, tons of stress.. 

The lineup includes bands that the Greek audience had been yearning to see for many years now (Bongzilla, Sons of Otis, Causa Sui, Electric Moon), bands with whom we’ve already established an unmatched bond of love (Yob, Earthless, Dopethrone, All Them Witches, Russian Circles, Suma, Siena Root, Black Cobra), selective special appearances (Cult Of Luna feat. Julie Christmas), and bands that qualify as some of the greatest up and coming talents of the heavy underground (Yuri Gagarin, Love Sex Machine).

Above all else though, besides the artistic value of the festival itself and besides how daring such a venture is, this bewitching three-folded gathering is first and foremost a reward. Firstly, it is a reward to an audience, the Greek audience, that words such as “loyal”, “enthusiastic”, “delirious”, “supportive” fall terribly short to adequately describe the size and the ferocity of support it has provided to Smoke The Fuzz’s efforts, even from our first steps and specifically in such economically horrendous times. The love and the unparalleled response by the Greek audience was the basic factor thanks to which the dream of Smoke The Fuzz managed to transform into reality.

So, this festival is a reward, a vindication if you’d like, for the people of Smoke The Fuzz as well; it is the first “medal” in a seemingly doomed, almost outside of reason race that started in May 2013. Three years ago, Smoke The Fuzz was created as a pure DIY impulse and now, after more risks than we can count and courses of action that could only be characterized as “utopian” a few years back, we’ve written our own story. It’s a story written through days and nights of endless work, of going beyond the limits for a show in a country trapped in a situation that most of the times prevents someone from even doing the basics; it’s written through the eyes of a fan most of all, and the immeasurable love and respect for this scene and the people that are part of it. The vision of one and only person – a fanatic of this scene- and the hard work against all odds found fertile ground in the hearts of the Greek crowd which day by day embraced this effort even more, assisting with their love on the evolution and continuous growth of what we will now experience as Smoke The Fuzz Fest.

Without changing anything since day 1, with the passion, the preferences and the wishes of the Greek fans and our satisfaction mainly as fans of this music as compasses on this crazy journey, Smoke The Fuzz managed to turn the greatest dream into a reality, during a suffocating economic situation for our country. The people’s response so far can only be described as emotionally touching, or just purely frenzied. This time, though, responses for this one of a kind line up were extended on a global scale, both in the media world and the fans of this sound themselves. With the announcement of the line-ups, people from all over the world obtained airplane and festival tickets so they can be a part of the triple ceremony of Smoke The Fuzz Fest. Since it is already receiving the practical interest of fans from abroad, it is obvious that this is a gigantic effort, a musical initiative that drags Greece away from the background and places it the center of the maps of European festivals. We can now be proud of having our own festival of international standards. It is time to sow the seeds from an unprecedented trip, with an equally unprecedented -for our country- line up.

No words could ever describe my feelings. I’m utterly blown away.

 

I recently found out about Smoke the fuzz and Smoke the fuzz fest due to Cult of Luna’s Mariner tour. Is it correct that Smoke the Fuzz festival 2016 is the first “big scale event” held by you since the start?

Depends on what one considers as “big scale event”. We are really proud and honored to have organized a number of shows for some of the greatest and most important bands of the scene throughout these 3 years of our existence, but this is the first festival held by Smoke the Fuzz. And the lineup is HUGE, especially for Greece.

 

Of all the gigs you have booked, which ones is the one you are the most proud of?

As cliché as it may sound, I’m proud of each and every single one of them. Each one had its own supererogation, its own risks, its own superhuman effort. None of them happened easily or overnight, none of them were on the safe side. Each one was something literally built from scratch, a bet won and an experience that was deeply loved and remained engraved in the memory and in the hearts of people. This is why each one has its own special, unique and great value, and is filled with its own unique magic moments and memories and dressed with special feelings. Each one has taught me something important. And all of them together have gotten Smoke the Fuzz where it is now.

 

Greece is internationally known for the economic crisis of which the country has underwent for a few years now. What was the largest problem starting a company during this financial breakdown?

Apart from the obvious thing, which is the very limited financial resources combined with the great financial risk, we received a great deal of skepticism and distrust from abroad at the beginning. Greece’s reliability was called into question, which greatly affected all types of business activities.

However, things seemed to have sorted themselves out pretty soon since then. I have now learned to handle such situations. I think the “résumé” and the feedback of Smoke the Fuzz consist now to a great extent the “assurances” and “guarantees” an agency needs, in order to trust us. They play an important role in “negotiations”. In any case, the only difficulty now is to establish the first-time cooperation with someone. After that, seeing our work, there has been not a single partner so far that has not become permanent. The next respective show is literally booked within minutes. I am very proud of this, it was really hard to conquer. I’m really proud. 

Besides, cultural events in general are known to proliferate in times of economic crisis, especially in Greece. Apart from the “cliche” that “In times of crisis, Arts flourish, I think that, especially the audience of this scene, considers the concert ticket to be of top priority. In addition, most bands have now adjusted their demands to the existing financial situation.

So, despite the initial difficulties, everything now seems to be rolling just fine, considering the given situation.

 

Greece is not really famous for a huge metal/rock community and yet you succeeded in booking these huge acts. What was the largest difficulty in preparing for Smoke the Fuzz Fest?

As mentioned above, Smoke the Fuzz Fest’s lineup is globally unique, built literally from scratch, not following any tour or pre-existing similar festival abroad. I personally picked each and every single one of the bands, many of which are performing as one-offs, even from the other side of the Atlantic. This was a huge challenge, not only financially. It was a very complicated procedure to set up, coordinate and gather all those huge acts on one stage.

It also was the first time I had to deal with such a “large-scale event”, a Festival that is. I had to step up my game, work tirelessly 24/7, be 100% focused. But that was a challenge I welcomed and was ready for. That’s the way I work anyway. I constantly watch and learn and always try to get better and better at what I do. It takes endless time and energy, patience and persistence. it’s really stressful and exhausting but absolutely rewarding and liberating when you love it as much as I do. It’s all worth it at the end of the day.

 

How is the overall Metal-scene in Greece? How is it perceived by the mainstream?

It’s strong, alive and kicking ! We are proud to have a very strong fanbase that supports the live shows every time, as well as great Greek bands to present ! The whole thing is getting bigger and bigger, as a result of which more and more respective events are organized ! The Greek audience is one of the most supportive, dedicated, loyal and enthusiastic ones around the globe, so they more than deserve all that is happening !

As for the “mainstream”, I’m not really fond of distinguishing the “underground” from the “mainstream”. I respectfully believe that this discrimination is getting obsolete, and that it’s really positive and encouraging that the so-called “underground” now resonates and appeals to an audience wider and wider. It was high time that was achieved, especially in Greece !

 

Has your company attracted some local attention? Not only due to the fact that you singlehandedly are bringing fans from (literally) around the world. Greece has at least to me had the image of being a attractive travel destination for summer vacations. And now you are bringing in travelers from around the world, all of this during a winter month.

Thank you so much for the amazing words, deeply honored ! 

Proud to say that yes, the Smoke the Fuzz Fest announcement was welcomed with a crazy response, both in Greece and all around the world, even places not in my wildest dreams could I imagine ! Greece is an amazing travel destination indeed, a beautiful country with countless places to discover ! The sun, the sea, the music, the people… It’s an idyllic combination and that plays its part, as well !
But I’m also really proud and honored to say that Smoke the Fuzz has been embraced with a touching love and support by the audience since the very first minute of its existence ! I’m eternally grateful to all the amazing Fuzzsmokers out there, each and every one of them, who are always present, actively supporting this every single time. Nothing would be possible without them ! And to my bands, as well, for choosing me, for trusting me every time, for filling me with their love and unbelievable words and for spreading the word and an incredible feedback on Smoke the Fuzz ! Humbled.


There are a few of the bands that will play in the festival that are new to me, the one’s I’m the most familiar with is Cult of Luna and Russian Circles. Cult of Luna have built up a large fanbase during their active years and this year they will perform a very short, Europe-only, tour. A tour where they are going to perform their latest album “Mariner” along with Julie Christmas. One of the most prominent humans ever to play post-metal or (for that matter) any kind of deviation of the metal-genre. I am really interested in knowing how you managed to book one of the most rare Cult of Luna events ever.

It’s a great honor to have been chosen to set up one of the most rare Cult of Luna appearances ever, especially with Julie Christmas, who is one of the most emblematic female figures of the scene ! There are only 5 European dates and I managed that Athens be one of them, this is a great achievement I’m immensely proud of.

I don’t feel I did anything special to make that happen, I did what I always do. I guess the Smoke the Fuzz’s feedback played its part, as well. It’s a huge honor to be trusted by so many prominent bands and agencies all around the globe. I feel it’s a reward, a vindication if you’d like, for my tireless work and the immense love I have for what I do. Deeply grateful.

 

For those interested in knowing more about Smoke the fuzz, where is the best place to know some more?

We have a website (http://smokethefuzz.com/ || http://smokethefuzz.gr/) including all Smoke the Fuzz’s past and upcoming gigs, as well as a Smoke the Fuzz gigs Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SmokeTheFuzzGigs/) and a Smoke the Fuzz Fest Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SmokeTheFuzzFestAthens/). A Smoke the Fuzz Fest website, as well as a Smoke the Fuzz merch online store, are in the works. We are also now proud to have our own Smoke the Fuzz headquarters (99 Ippokratous str, Athens). Our offices, where one can find tickets for all our upcoming shows, T-shirts and posters, but above all a place where we are always happy to meet up with people and have a heartfelt talk about our common love for the music, our hopes and dreams in this scene. That’s the most important part for me. The personal contact and communication. The shared love. The people, the talks, the moments…

Thank you for your time and I am really looking forward to attending Smoke the Fuzz: Post-Mortem.

Thank you too, for the great questions, your interest in Smoke the Fuzz and the chance you gave me to talk about what I love most. It was my honor and pleasure. See you there !

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