Interview in Best magazine, November 1981
This is an interview segment from a larger article titled "One man shows", published in French magazine "Best" - November 1981, no 160. Interviewees were Stevie Wonder, Steve Windwood, Todd Rundgren, Vangelis, and Jean-Philippe Rykiel. Article by Gérard Bar-David.
Némo (Vangelis' segment)
After (interviewing) Todd (Rundgren), here comes another solo recording fanatic: Mister V has already recorded 10 solo albums and it seems he's not showing signs to back off. Since "666" and his Deux-Chevaux (a renowned French car known for its slowness) smashing into a brick's wall (which symbolizes the destruction of Aphrodite's Child's toy by its brain), Vangelis has plunged into successive stages. The Rossif period with its long musical works, the "Albedo" period and its spatial side, the "Beaubourg" one and its recuperation as a jingle machine, etc. Vangelis alone, or together with Iréne "Infinity" Papas or Jon Anderson, has always hatched in time a wide range of creations. While he does not have as much diversity as Todd has at the creative level, on the other hand, they both alternate LP solo/LP band or creative bands. A final parallel with Todd, V confesses that he cannot do without an assistant when he is recording. Is solitude is then a simple myth and nothing more? In order to know more about it, I paid a visit to Vangelis in Paris...
You're never totally alone in your studio: there is always an assistant with you?
Vangelis (not far from being mystical): I always have an assistant because it does good to have someone to aid me: a human being cannot do everything by himself. He also cannot be in two places at once. When I am performing, there must be someone to press the start button on the tape and to pay a little attention to the VU-meters.
And what about the remote control?
V: It's possible to do it, but it does not obstruct me to have an assistant. In fact, it might be even easier, especially to operate with the tapes because you lose so much time.
Your music has often been used as soundtrack for films, how is your way of working?
V: Before of all, I see the movie, then I meet the director to discuss with him. After that it's a question of feeling: that's most important. The rest, it's just speculation. The technique is important, but it's utilized to serve the 'feeling'. It is necessary to feel the thing without romanticizing (sic), without transforming it into something too cerebral to end up having it in oneself.
Does solitude permit this "feeling" to be better explored? With a band, aren't you, anyway, streaming into the personalities of
the other members?
V: I believe that indeed the best way of creating is in solitude. But there are certain creations which are collective work, as I have experimented. In fact, each one of us, each individual can be a creator.
"Everybody's a star?"
V: What does it mean "star"? It is nothing but a social value. "Star" is the phenomenon which reveals the existence of a collective insecurity and it implies the admiration of someone who slabs a "star" sticker to justify certain things, and it attracts a commercial value: we find there is to buy and to sell.
One should write "$-t-a-r!" then?
Let's talk about Némo (Vangelis' home studio). How is it doing?
V: Ah (laughs). He is doing well. Némo, its fighting the industry. Of course, Némo needs it to survive, but it's aware the industry is not the only reason for its existence. He uses business to survive. Némo is extremely faithful, but I am faithful as well.
Tell us about your short stay in Davout for your record with Jon?
V: That's another matter, that was working with someone else. We met in Paris and since we both had free time, it gave us an opportunity to do something together. All in all, we spent four days at studio Davout, but that's really exceptional. It was the very first time.
So there is not much need from Némo?
V: No, no... on the contrary since we finished the disc over there.
What does he look like, physically?
V: Physically. It's not bad: it's a beautiful animal with 24 tracks, a lot of keyboards and percussions at every corner. Némo is big enough, it's anything but a conventional studio.
What does it have more than a traditional studio?
V: What does have more? It's quiet, it has a soul, you know. And above all, it doesn't have this tenancy to make money.
Do you mean he never looks at his watch?
V: No, because he doesn't wear a watch. But it's an easy place, you can feel as easy as living in an apartment. Moreover, it's based in the center of London, in Marble Arch, just next to the Park.
Have you known him for a long time?
V: Yes, exactly since 1975, when I finally created it to be independent. My first album in Némo was "Heaven and Hell" and, since then, we are like close friends. I have recorded tracks with Jean-Philippe Rykiel there. I like what he does. He is able to cultivate such a beauty. I haven't heard his record yet. But should it not do well (commercially), it's not to be concerned of, because you cannot judge somebody from his first record. Anyway, he is a real genius and he possesses a fantastic sensibility.
And then Mister V is progressively vanishing from (blurring into) my visual field. "Back to the Egg", Paulo (Beatles) would say, I'm back on the earth or, more exactly, on one of the pieces that constitute its jigsaw. And this piece is nothing but the Ephémère studio (Jean-Philippe Rykiel's studio).
Interview by Gérard Bar-David