Eleven years ago, Peter Triantis was a regular, short-haired man, making a living as a computer engineer. Then he went to see Mark Andrew perform his very successful Elvis Presley act.
“He was Australia’s leading Elvis impersonator,” he recalls. “He gave me the microphone, I started singing The Wonder of You with him and the rest is history.”
‘The rest’ is that someone in the audience came up and asked him if he was a professional singer. When Peter said no, the man replied: “Well, you sang better than him, and he’s Australia’s best.” Peter has now been persistently claiming that title for a decade after he gave it all up, donned the famous Elvis quiff and the shiny, bell-bottomed, gigantic-collared jumpsuits and started performing as the King of rock’n’roll. “Within six months I was booked a year ahead,” he says.
Last weekend Peter Triantis performed in the annual Parkes Elvis Festival in NSW, an event that drew more than 25,000 visitors.
What is it about Elvis Presley, that still has that impact on people? “Elvis changed the whole world,” he says. “Before Elvis there was nothing. Elvis made rock’n’roll, he changed the whole way of music. And he was a good man, a decent man respected by everybody.”
Before setting up to become a full-time Elvis impersonator, Peter was not really a fan. “I liked him, I thought he was a good singer and that was it,” he says. “Now it is growing to the point where I could tell you anything about him.”
The main thing he discovered was “the religious side of Elvis, his beliefs and family values that were always there.”
This helped Peter relate to the icon.
“I am religious, I believe in God, but I’m not like the Greek people who go to church and pray and a minute later are gossiping about each other,” he says before making sure to clarify that he’s proud of his Greek heritage.
“Although I was born and bred here, I speak Greek, I understand it, and I follow the ethics and morals of the Greek way; of course I’ve also embraced the Australian way,” he says.
As for his favourite Elvis song, it is Suspicious Minds. “I like the meaning of the song and it also signals Elvis’ change, when he went into that style of singing with the jumpsuits. He owned 192 of them,” he says, proving that he knows a lot about the King.
As for his own jumpsuits, they’re custom-made, by the B & K costume company, licensed by Elvis Presley Enterprises to recreate the original costumes, with the supervision of the original designers.
Each costume costs about $3,000-$5,000 and that is just the start of the investment.
“The boots and belt cost about $500 a piece and then you need the jewellery, the make-up, you need a good $50,000 just to set up,” he explains.
“It’s an expensive occupation to be in.”
He doesn’t seem to be complaining or missing his old job. “Does it pay off? It pays its way,” he laughs.
Nowadays, Peter mostly plays at large-scale productions, bringing over international talent from the UK – and he’s about to start a TV show, King TV which is scheduled to start broadcasting this month on C31 and Seven Two.
Apart from being a lucrative business, for Peter, it is much more than that.
“What do I get out of it? Seeing people’s enjoyment on their face,” he says.
“They continue to love Elvis, they adore him and we bring this dream back to them, we create an illusion. That’s why I prefer the smaller events, that are more intimate.”
As for his own highlight through this journey, it is a tie: winning the Australia-New Zealand Elvis Down Under competition two years in a row in 2012 and 2013; and getting to open for Kaiti Garbi when she visited Melbourne.
“She is a very warm person and even asked me to go to Greece and perform with her, but at the time I couldn’t,” he says.
For more information and bookings, go to elvistothet.com.au