Sounds (UK) - Interview with Vangelis, October 5, 1974

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Geoff Barton pays a second visit to Vangelis Papathanassiou now that all the rumours of him joing Yes are dead and buried.

Now that Vangelis Papathanassiou has been in this country for a month or so, he's finally beginning to find his feet. When he first arrived in Britain from France he was greeted with a bewildering storm of rumours about how he was going to/not going to join the, then depleted, ranks of Yes

That was hardly the most pleasant of welcomes, and I guess at that time he was wondering whether he should have come over here at all.

But now, thankfully, it's all over, and Vangelis has had time to gether his thoughts. I met him for the second time at his new-found flat in Holland Park, and although he struck me as still being the same old lumbering Greek, he had acquired an air of quiet confidence that he lacked before, and this time he felt quite at home.

He's moved all his keyboards out from a studio into his front room. He prefers to have his keyboards on hand, all the time: "If I want to play something, I want to play it right away and not wait. So I build up this er....industry of keyboards so I can make my own sounds as I feel them. If I feel like a symphony orchestra I can play symphony orchestra. Or a simple folk thing - I can play that."


When I asked him to give me the lowdown on his equipment, he replied: "I think it's better if we go there." So, over we went to his keyboard set-up. Vangelis sat on his swivel chair in the middle of the vast array of instruments and fingered some keys, knowingly.

"It's the only way to play, you understand," he said. "The way you use things, because a sound is a sound. You can for example play the usual Hammond organ sound that everybody use. Everywhere you can get that. So..."

He switched on the Hammond and played it almost abstractly, but with amazing dexterity. When he'd finished he said: "That is usual for a Hammond organ. I don't use it because it's too common. I tell you what. I turn up a little louder and play for you some more sounds."

He switched on the rest of his equipment, and played some more. Vangelis is an artist of immense talent and great versatility - he played echoey church organ sounds; a very classical piece on piano; then an almost medieval sounding thing when he adjusted his equipment accordingly, and got an authentic harpsicord sound.

When he'd finished, I managed to pin him down - and he talked about his set-up. Well, for a while at least.

"You see this thing?" he said, pointing at a small organ. "It's very, very cheap. I mean it's for babies. But I have some modifications - secret modifications - and you see it sounds incredible because it's the way to use things, you know."

What is it?

"A 'Tornado 4', I think."

Who makes it?

"Oh, I don't know."

Vangelis wasn't being too specific. Still, I perservered.

"Most musicians buy by fashion. They go into a shop and say: 'okay, what is in fashion?' It's not the right way. Many times I have bought things that nobody buy, like this Italian thing. The shops say to me: 'you are crazy to buy this' and I say: 'okay, it's my choice.'

"I bought this in a child department, and the assistant said: 'you are a professional musician, I can't sell it to you.' I said: 'don't worry, I want it."

Vangelis has a Hammond B3 organ; a Fender 88 ("the sound is beautiful"); a compact piano; a Hohner Clavinet D6; a rhythm box; a mixing panel; and something called a Selmer Clavioline.

He talked about the Clavioline a while. "It's a very old thing. Maybe 25 years old, very easy 20 years old. They don't make it anymore because nobody buy it. But it's beautiful. But the way you use this it can give you many, many things. It's up to you."

Do you envision expanding on your existing equipment?

"Oh yes. I still have lots more in France. I'm going to have at least five keyboards more, and some percussion instruments. But I will need a special construction because I must have it high, I must have room to move. I want more different sounds, so I have more keyboards."

What is the most important aspect of keyboard playing?

"Stress. Yes, and the way you play the colours between everything. How much you put in, like in cooking. How can I say it? In French it is dose. Let us say dose. It is important that you put dose in between playing notes."

Have you had any musical training?

"No, I don't want that. I don't know why I play these things to you. I must feel it."

How did you start getting involved in music?

"Oh, that's going back very, very far. I think it was when I was four years old and I start to play the piano, and begin to paint as well. I had an attraction for the rhythms and I start playing percussion things as well. After it just developed. Of course, I am in the music business now, but I've never felt a professional. I need music. I can't see myself out of music. It takes up all my life, and I have to use it as a job. That's why I have all these keyboards here in this room, because I don't like to wait. If I have to wait, well that makes me crazy."

"If I don't play every day, I feel bad. If I play, I'm happy."

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