Neumusik 6 (UK) - Interview with Vangelis, 1981

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Neumusik 6 front cover


by Wolfgang Fenchel

Ed's note: This, the second part of the Vangelis article (the first half appeared in "Neumusik 5"), proved extremely troublesome & difficult to complete.  Since Christmas the finished interview was lost twice at Nemo Studios & eventually John Martin of Nemo had to record the interview again while taking Vangelis to Heathrow Airport one day.  The answers were then relayed over the phone to Wolfgang in Germany, put onto another cassette and sent to me in England to formulate & type up.  Consequently, due to all these delays, it only just made it into this issue.  Thanks go to Vangelis & John Martin for sparing so much of their time.



Full name: Evangelos O. Papathanassiou 

Born: 3000 A.D. (!) in Greece

W: You emigrated to France is the late 60s. Why was this?

V: In May 1968 there were strikes & upheavals in Greece (the "Colonels Regime" ED) and I found it difficult to work under such conditions. France offered the basic facilities to carry on with my work.

W: You were doing music at this time?

V: Yes.

W: Did you already have contacts there?

V: No.

W: The most important question I forgot to ask you at Nemo Studios was how did you come into contact with music. Did you ever get a musical education?

V: My family played music themselves but not professionally. I srarting playing the piano at 4 years old & also used percussion and cooking utensils. And my first performance was in a Greek theater when I was 6. No I didn't have any musical education.

W: Not even piano lessons?

V: No, I'm completely self-taught.

W: Which musical style do you think is impossible for you to do? Is there really any?

V: Tyrolian yodelling!

W: Do you listen to all styles of music?

V: Yes, I enjoy listening to & playing all types: Calypso, African rhythm music, German marches etc.

W: Do you play on the Milva record or did you "only" compose & arrange this LP?

V: No I didn't play onthis album at all. I only wrote the music.

W: Why have you never played together with Niko Papathanassiou, who is, as I guess, your brother?

V: Niko is not a performer as such. He's a producer, and that's why I haven't played with him.

W: Although I think Niko once played drums in a group called Krisma...?

V: Yes, but he's regarded more as a producer.

W: May the fact that you came into contact with Francis Mandin & Jean-Philippe Rykiel suggest that you are going to work closer with artists like these of the French "first synth generation" in the future? (Oop, a very hypothetical question, sorry!)

V: I met them in Paris when I was recording the "Mr. Cairo" album with Jon Anderson, and Francis Mandin lent me a keyboard for some sessions. Jean-Philippe I have known for a long time, as a musician and as a friend.

W: So they are not directly involved with your albums...?

V: No.

W: I recently found out that you did a concert in London in 1977. I'll be geting a recording of this very soon, so I'm interested to know whether you were accompanied by other musicians, if you used tapes or computer programmings or if you did everything totally "live" (as Patrick Moraz did on his "Future Memories - Live on TV" LP). And I wonder why there aren't more Vangelis concerts?

V: To answer the first part of your question, if I'm not using an orchestra then I am accompanied by a percussionist called Vasilas, such as at the concert at the Royal Festival Hall.

W: You had no computer programming or tapes?

V: No, only sequencers & the memory of synthesizers. The Brussels concert was with the Brussels Symphony Orchestra plus choir...

W: And you played previously released material?

V: Yes.

W: When was this?

V: 1980.

W: Did you ever think about releasing it on vinyl?

V: It was broadcast on Belgian radio but never properly recorded for an album. And now to answer the second part of your question; I don't perform live very often becasue a run of concerts are not spontaneous affairs.  To play live on numerous occasions is more a business venture. I enjoy the spontaneity but if I were to play every night then this would be lost. Possibly there'll be a concert later on this year but it's not planned yet.

W: Staying with the concert in Brussels using orchestra, what sense do you see in transforming your electronic compositions into orchestral ones? Doesn't this mean that electronic compositions are only worth the half?

V: I see it as a development & not as a replacement. Nothing can replace a symphony orchestra and nothing can replace a compilation of electronic instruments. I use the orchestra as an instrument in itself & the next concert I do, whether it will be in London or elsewhere, will also most likely incorporate orchestra.

W: Are there any other medias besides films with which you like to work in collaboration (video, computer graphics, lasers etc) or is music your only interest?

V: I like to explore the scientific aspect of music. (ED: he often refers to his studio as being his "laboratory". And judging from the artist's equipment on the previous page, I think we can also add painting to his list of interests...)

W: And a few more shorter questions to finish with...Are you the only musician on "Apocalypse des Animaux" or don't you play at all as the sleeve notes suggest: "composed, arranged & directed by Vangelis"?

V: Yes, I played everything with the exception of flute, horn & guitar.

W: Why does your music for documentary films about Africa sound so absolutely non-African (except "La Fete Sauvage" side 1)?

V: Stupid question! Think about this one.

W: OK, I have never seen the films, just listened to the music. So maybe the music put into the context with the film carries the effect across. I can imagine you playing together with the Japanese synthesist Kitaro very well. Would you like to do this sometime?

V: I haven't played with Japanese musicians before, but I have collaborated with Chinese musicians, although on the LP "China" I played everything except for the Chinese voices.

W: And finally, did you help Jon Anderson with "Olias of Sunhillow" or perhaps even play on it?

V: No, I didn't play on it.

W: OK, thank you VERY much for answering all these questions!

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