Ikaros Records/Vinyl Monster

Lefteris Fytas may have started out as the lonely record store owner of Vinyl Monster in Chalandri, Athens, but now he is also the prestigious manager of Ikaros Records, a record label whose musical sound ranges from surf sound of Dirty Fuse and Telestons, or the blues of The Jumpin’ Bones up to the post-rock of Made By Grey and the hardcore metal of Beyond Perception. I found myself in Vinyl Monster with Lefteris among hundreds of vinyls and CDs and we had a chat about himself, his work, music in general, and the music industry.
Ikaros Records logo

Hi Lefteris... How did the store start?
 
L: The shop opened its doors in 2001. It was run by me and my brother who has also owned Ikaros Music since 1992. It was very different back then, we only had computer supplies and, of course, vinyl accessories. In 2006 we divided the tasks, I run the retail store and my brother is in charge of the wholesale.
 
 
How did you decide to start a record store?
 
L: I didn’t really want to… it just happened. In 2008 I created an online shop for some second hand records somebody had brought to the shop and that slowly got the ball rolling. In the beginning, I only sold old releases. It took a while for me to start bringing in new ones. More or less, that’s how we got here, nothing too exiting.
 
 
How did you decide to start your own record label?
 
L: I got jealous of my brother (laughs); I’m joking. It was always there, I was just looking for something special to get me started. A good release I could get and feel proud of. This was until 2012 when Dirty Fuse found me. They approached me, we talked, and we reached an understanding and began together.
 
 
How do you choose artists for Ikaros Records?
 
L: I don’t choose them... they choose me! And they temporarily give me their material.
 
 
What does “temporarily” mean?
 
L: Temporarily (laughs). We agree on a number of vinyls to be cut, whatever that number may be… 100... 200... 300... 1.000 (laughs). The records are cut and shipped here. When those copies are sold we either cut more or we don’t. Ikaros records has no claim on the album as an album, the material belongs to the artists and they decide what to do after the exhaustion of that stock.
 
 
How is a vinyl cut?
 
L: You pray to the God of vinyl, slaughter a goat and wait (laughs). Seriously, now what are you asking for? A detailed analysis? You can find it on YouTube. I’m not kidding; there are some very good videos that can answer all questions.
 
 
I heard that a vinyl press has come to Greece. Is that true?
 
L: The press you are speaking of exists in Greece (laughs). I’m sure sooner or later we will start producing discs and we will definitely learn from the people behind it. The rest are just empty words by some people who want to promote something that is not theirs.
 
 
How do you promote a new release by Ikaros Records?
 
L: I have my own distribution company. (pause) I see that the next question will be what exactly that means (laughs)… Well, a distribution company is tasked to do all the necessary moves to get the disk from the press to the shelves of the record stores, the internet and consequently to the houses and the ears of the people around the world.
 
 
In general, how many people are involved for an average release of a record?
 
L: It takes a village (laughs). Let’s begin with the almost self-explanatory stuff. We, of course, start with the artist(s) composing the music. Then, the music is recorded mixed and mastered. Then, we come to me. If the graphics are not already there, by graphics I mean the covers, the inside sleeve, the booklets and generally everything the band may want, my graphic designer takes over. Many times, even if it’s all there, it may need some conversion. The same graphics look one way on a CD and completely different on a vinyl. Then, we send the material to the factory. The vinyls are cut and shipped. Here, we first say a little prayer (laughs) and then I take over the distribution which means all the things I mentioned earlier. Of course, artists also get a number of copies to do whatever they want with them. Things are quite simple.
 
 
Why should an artist release a vinyl and not a CD?
 
L: I always think that both should be out there. 40% of the people still listen to CDs. The vinyl is simply something you will almost certainly be able to promote better. Naturally, the most important thing is that the music is good and secondly that you promote and market it correctly.
 
 
How are sales going at the shop?
 
L: It’s difficult. As in all professions, it takes patience, good prices and of course you also need to respect the consumer.
 
 
Does retail or wholesale bring you more business?
 
L: Both. Sometimes retail is better, other times it’s wholesale. Other times, because of the Greek economic crisis, they’re both down! (laughs)
 
 
Have record sales been affected by the crisis?
 
L: What do you think? The way wages have dropped, it may take a whole day’s pay check to buy a new release on vinyl. So, someone considering to make a purchase will think about it twice. This does not of course mean that they won’t buy it if they really want it. Music is a non-curable sickness (laughs). On the other hand, it’s possible that instead of three records, that the customer originally wanted to buy, he or she will only buy two or just one.
 
 
Do you have any comment on the limited edition trend of new and old albums in vinyl? Or about vinyl collectors?
 
L: You are referring to a conversation we had the other day, right? Now, that is a long talk! (laughs) It is true we are flooded by “collectors” or “clusters” if you prefer. Most of these people buy a limited edition for the sole purpose of reselling it the next day online on a higher price to make a profit. I can’t say that I blame them. If there are enough suckers out there to keep this thing going, why not? People must stop looking for the “Holy Grail” of records and just buy records at normal prices. The consumers and only them have the power to stop all this from happening.
 
 
What else do you sell in the shop?
 
L: Besides vinyls, CDs and disk accessories, we also sell coverings, inside covers, vinyl and CD cleaning products as well as nylon covers. Apart from all these, there’s also several handmade jewelry made by my wife.
 
 
Is the rise of vinyl a fashion trend or is vinyl here to stay?
 
L: The vinyl never left; it has always been there, and it will certainly stay for many years to come.
 
 
Ikaros Records/Vinyl Monster is located at Karaoli and Dimitriou 14, in Halandri, Athens – Tel: 2106848294

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