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It's All About the Sound with Spyros Pan



As an expat in the UK, Spyros was climbing the corporate ladder and living large but stress & anxiety led him to a dramatic burnout. Turning his life around brought him to a remote island where he slowly recovered. That's where he first heard about the Hang. In this episode, Spyros shares 10 years of lessons playing the handpan.


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Podcast Transcription


Sylvain: Hey, it's Sylvain and this is the handpan podcast.


Sylvain: Really quick. Let me set the stage for this episode. I was incredibly fortunate to discover the Hang through my cousin David Charrier in 2005. By that time though, it was already nearly impossible to acquire this new age instrument from Switzerland. Yet in 2007 two years later I was able to acquire my own Hang and it pretty much changed my life. Here was this 17 year old French kid who had never been abroad, taking a gap year after high school to travel the world and make new international friends and play music. I moved to a new city and during that first year I went to HangOut UK. The first ever handpan gathering located in England. There were about 25 people and everyone's instrument was in D minor. That is where I met Spyros, today's guest on the podcast. The story you're about to hear, it could be out of a movie and it reminds me of how impactful this instrument can be in someone's life. Spyros is funny and whimsical, but the lessons that he's learned and that he shares on this episode are invaluable and they're going to make you rethink your relationship to the handpan. So here we go.


Sylvain: Well, Spyros us, my friend. It is a joy to have you on the handpan podcast. Welcome.


Spyros: Hello Sylvain. It's uh, it's really great to be talking to you.


Sylvain: Yeah. It's been awhile. It's been 10 years.


Spyros: Yeah, it's been pretty much 10 years I think. Yes. Uh, the last time we met September, 2009, at the third HangOut.


Sylvain: Time flies. It's crazy. Wow. Well, um, I'm so happy to reconnect with you. Um, especially because right now we're only one hour apart from each other, in terms of time zones. Um, so I'm going to jump around chronologically, but I want to start with this. What brings you to the US and can you share what you've been up to for the past five years?


Spyros: I am right now in Farmington, Missouri, and for all those who know a little bit more about the little community are, we are in a, this is where the headquarters of Pantheon Steel are. I tried to be here, uh, the last five years on a once per year on annual base. Um, as I have been tuning for Pantheon Steel since 2014. Making the halo. The Halo is, um, how can I say, change is happening constantly. So Kyle always trying to push the art form of tuning steel one step forward every day. So working in distance because my workshop is in Athens, Greece. Uh, it's very helpful for me to be visiting here and witnessing firsthand all the new things that we do.


Sylvain: Right. Because Kyle from the beginning has always been at the forefront of innovation. I think the halo more than any other handpan combines technology and engineering, not just craftsmanship, but there's a lot of, um, high tech involved. Right. Is that part of what you're learning to use or getting up to speed with?


Spyros: Well, if, if we can say that like, eh, every handpan has two stages of production. There is the manufacturing stage and there is the tuning stage. That's how I have, like in my head, I have, I'm dividing the process. So, uh, I don't have anything to do with manufacturing. Although whenever I come here, I helped with the tasks that might be needed, you know, that we need to do. Uh, but when I'm back in Athens, I solely do tuning,


Sylvain: Okay.


Spyros: I get Halo material, I get shells that are uh, uh, just have come out of the first production stage and manufacturing stage. Uh, and then I tune them exactly the same way. They are tuned here at the headquarters.


Sylvain: Like me, you were a part of the first small group of people who were just totally in love with this instrument. And we, we thought at the time that it was impossible to tune steel. Right? We, we didn't understand it.


Spyros: Yes. It was like that. We were thinking that it's impossible to make them. I think that, um, there was this specific person or a couple who have been projecting that kind of a notion. If you want to characterize it as such, that there's only two people in the whole world who can do that and no one else.


Sylvain: Okay.


Spyros: And I think that this is perhaps why we were all thinking you know that, Whoa, wow, this is impossible. It just, just cannot happen. Then all of a sudden appears one guy who, cause I think that Kyle Cox was the first person who presented, um, you know, an alternative. Yes. I mean we would call it another Hang back back then, but that very quickly changed.


Sylvain: Yeah, the terminology became sensitive, very quickly.


Spyros: Yeah, very sensitive very quickly. But you know, like the moment you saw another instrument out there immediately, all that, all that collapse, when people started realizing, hey, this can be achieved actually.


Sylvain: And it was quite something to experience because when Kyle started producing the Halo, there was just this dire need for this instrument. There was this craving for what could not be acquired.


Spyros: So the first Halos came out 2009 or late 2008 or something like that. And I think that the time that PANArt stopped doing it was a little bit later. But yeah. Anyways.


Sylvain: It's amazing how early Kyle started. Sometimes I think we forget that. It's been, it's been 10 years. It's been 10 years.


Spyros: It's been 10 years and more. I mean it's 10 years since the Halo came out, but Kyle has been working on it before like it's not that one day he sat down and he just made it, you know, like there was some, there was some R&D research and development before and don't forget that Kyle was like, uh, he had been tuning steelpans for at least a decade before he started doing the Halo.


Spyros: Before. In the very early years you could find a Hang by walking into an instrument shop. Same way like Andi who was saying that he went into a shop into a sitting by the register and that must have been like amazing to experience. When I met it. When, uh, when I was introduced to the instrument, that already was gone and, and anyone who wanted to get one had to write a letter, but let's take it a little bit, from the beginning I was a, um, I was living in London and I was working as a human resources assistant in uh, thankfully university and not a very big company. Still. We had 8 thousand people to manage and a at the same time I was living in a squat. I was trying to experience best of both worlds. What happened is like at work I wanted to excel and get promotions and stuff like that. So I was asking my line managers to throw me stuff like test me and see how well I can do. So they were just like throwing me workload with a bucket. And then when I was going in home, a home was the place that I was sharing with another 13 people, uh, between five bedrooms and a one toilet.


Sylvain: That's a stark juxtaposition.


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