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Though Chris Tsagakis' main gig as drummer for Rx Bandits was put on ice when the band went on indefinite hiatus last year, his kit hasn't collected any dust. Lately, he has been more interested in his drum-and-synth side project under his longtime nickname, C-Gak. An evolution from the work under his previous moniker, Technology, C-Gak embraces the idea of the fusion between man and machine. His dynamic live performance gets processed through loop stations as he builds songs on the spot using random sound effects and the lo-fi caress of old-school synths. Aside from getting bolder with his compositions and finding new weapons to add to his experimental electro arsenal, he says the name change makes his final product a lot more searchable.
"It's all one and the same approach," Tsagakis says. "But that name [Technology] was impossible to find on Google. Many fans already knew me from Rx Bandits as C-Gak, so it made much more sense; it really ties it together for them."
The Long Beach resident regularly shares his latest arty, aural creations via Band Camp and other social-media sites to give fans consistent snapshots of his creative process. This year already saw one of his more ambitious numbers: the 10-minute "Goodnight Air," a blend of gentle keyboards and jittery beats that pulse tensely, creating something that resembles an elegant film noir sequence's soundtrack. When Tsagakis' muscular, floor-tom pounding emerges near the conclusion, it's a spot-on blend of acoustic and electronic elements.
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Tsagakis says his introduction to working on a solo project was simply a happy accident. "It all came down to a Triton Workstation keyboard, sitting in a garage. I came in with Matt [Embree, Rx Bandits singer/guitarist], and I just started playing around with it for fun. I realized it was something I could experiment more with at home." Originally, the side project was electronic-based, but then he started added drums for live shows to make the music rumble onstage.
"I've always enjoyed synths, both the sounds and the possibilities," he says. "Then I got intrigued by using a sampler, doing things such as hitting a washing machine, shaking things, turning sounds into a beat."
Tsagakis often collaborates with singer and Sarget House label mate Lisa Papineau, who has lent her smoky vocals to acts such as Air, M83, and ME & LP (her project with Embree). "I ended up meeting her at a club and invited her to come over and jam, since we had somewhat similar tastes," Tsagakis says. Fine efforts such as "Shooting Stars" and "Out for a Swim" are among the products of their chemistry.
This spirit of collaboration spills over into Tsagakis' summer-long Monday residency at Harvelle's in Long Beach, where he jams with different local acts each week. "I'll start each night before other guests or bands I've booked take the stage, then I close the evening, and it all blends together," he says.
Even with Rx Bandits resurfacing with a brief run of shows in Brazil this month, Tsagakis continues to push the capabilities of his hybrid electronic project. "There are many different things I listen for, especially in terms of production, and different ways to get sounds," he says. "I work mainly on my own, but I've been trying to get more vocalists to work with, and I like working with bass players as well, so they can give me their own take on the music."
This column appeared in print as "Cymbals and Circuitry."