Interview in De Telegraaf (Dutch newspaper), June 15, 1991.
When Vangelis was about to give his free outdoor concert in the harbor of Rotterdam to promote the European "Eureka" project, a full page interview appeared in the daily "De Telegraaf" newspaper. He was interviewed by Jip Golsteijn at a hotel in Rome, Italy.
In spite of his apparent modesty, every now and then Vangelis betrays his aristocrat roots. The last breakfast of the day was cleared an hour ago and the first lunch table will be served in about an hour, but Vangelis has an appetite. You can't call it hunger if one orders an egg, some cheese and half a tomato. The staff of the ultra expensive Roman hotel doesn't protest: within a minute the order is placed on the thick oak table at which we face each other. A full minute it seems Vangelis has nothing to say except for his indications to the calm waiters, then he starts to speak after all, be it with unquestionable reluctance.
"I like working better than talking," says the devils artist who has been busy for months preparing the gigantic laser-music spectacle in Rotterdam. With the record of 500,000 Watt sound and the biggest amount of laser lights ever united he'll make the Maes-city tremble at its core, in light of the European cooperation on technological grounds: Eureka. The musical maestro ponders: "I've always had the unpleasant feeling that I have nothing to say. If my music doesn't speak for itself, what then should I add? In that case no explanation will help, will it? On top of that comes the fact that journalists always want to know when i will perform my masterpieces -- which they no doubt renounced as pompous nonsense in their newspaper -- on stage. I simply don't do that very often."
"The latest concert I did was a beneficial concert for research against cancer. You can't talk about charity, even the Roman officials who organized the concert didn't."
"A million years ago" (in reality there were 20, JG) Vangelis left Greece because he, together with Aphrodite's Child had reached the "commercial, artistic, but mainly technological limit". In his heart he had considered himself the leader of the band, without realizing that the singer, one Demis Roussos, also perused that ambition.
"A Greek with a bit of talent simply had to leave his country at that time. In the whole area of Greece I couldn't find a studio in which I could record the things I wanted. By now even the smallest tourist island in the Aegean See has studio's that can compete with New York or Los Angeles -- while the climate in Greece is at least as good as the Bahamas --, back then you had to leave if you wanted to progress. Far away."
The keyboardist, who gave his first concert at the age of six, "I didn't practice, you know" ended up in Paris. "We thought London was to high an ambition. Which turned out to be nonsense a few years later. Then we could simply choose for which movie we wanted to make music. We stayed in Paris after we had been totally surprised by the success of Rain and Tears. In our own opinion we had far from reached the level we aspired to when we left Greece. But success is addictive. To some people at least."
"Demis thought we had to explore the gold mine all the way, while i wanted to close it as soon as possible. I thought there was no creativity in endless repeats of a successful formula. I wanted to work on concepts of which Demis thought, justly by the way, the record company wasn't ready for yet. It considered me a troublemaker and tried to isolate me from the band as much as possible, while they got told that the world would be theirs if they continued with what they were doing."
"That's how gradually the diversion started, between friends who had left their native country to peruse a dream. Later when we had disattached ourselves and liked to play old men playing domino in the back rooms of Athene's Cafes, Demis and I talked a lot about it: Aphrodite's Child was the first supergroup of the European continent, far ahead of Abba. In those long, ooze influenced conversations we still couldn't believe we simply put aside stat privilege. Then again, simply... Because of short-sightendness and money lust on his side, and arrogant uncompromisability on mine."
Up till the coincidental encounter with Jon Anderson - he was asked to replace Rick Wakeman in Yes, but refused politely yet firm - Vangelis avoided after Roussos every vocalist for many years.
"It took years for me to find a voice I wanted be associated with. And naturally I made it more difficult for myself then necessary. I arrogantly rejected the royal offer by the supergroup, but opted to borrow their lead singer anyway. For an indefinite period! I should be glad it resulted in a project after all." (Jon and Vangelis, JG) "Contrary to my reputation as computer nut I love the human voice. It's just that i am reluctant of the temper I acquire with it. On top of that I happen to prefer tenors. More temper is impossible."
"I once spoke to a big opera conductor about the problems I had with 'my' singers. "Tenors?" he asked casually. I nodded, unsuspectingly. "Dumb, dumber, dumbest, tenor", he says. I wish I could give you his name, he is an authority across the whole world. It would give my judgment more authority, haha..."
Hollywood had less problems with brilliant troublemaker Vangelis than the music industry. Especially since his Oscar for the score for Chariots of Fire he could choose from dozens of offers for Soundtracks, without exception for average rewards of 200,000 dollars. Ninety-nine percent he rejected as being "more of the same". By now he views the winning score as much of an unwanted weight from the past as his days with Aphrodite's Child.
"My Name is today mostly associated with that music - that's after all the effect of such a high award. In professional environments they keep for at least ten years hoping, no believing that you can repeat that trick at your convenience - but I made music for dozens of films. It occurs very rarely that a composer thinks of his most successful work as his best. I am no exception to that rule. I think of my soundtrack for one of the numerous remakes of "Mutiny on the Bounty" as endlessly more interesting than Chariots of Fire. I mainly thought of the use of synthesizers in a film which is set in the days of "clipper" sailing vessels as original.
"I am usually asked by directors who work on big-city dramas who think my synthetic sounds contributes to the alienation they want to see, but the makers of Mutiny on the Bounty that I am talking about didn't even seem to realize that synthesizers hadn't been invented in the era of the Bounty. Even more so: they didn't care. I figured: I am amongst adventurers, and accepted the job without even seeing a single piece of exposed and developed celluloid.
His faithful-doggy appearance forms an even sadder expression than usual when I admit to him that I belong to the army of people who think of synthesizers as machines from hell, and of the music composed on them as sound porridge, with at most an occasional currant. Let alone the battery he lets loose in Rotterdam.
"Synthesizers receive more criticism than any of the weaponry that's being produced all over the world" he concludes, residing in it. "Smart bombs that enter a building through a ventilation shaft often receive a perverse kind of admiration. But synthesizers are being called dehumanizing! I got used to that inconsistency, although it doesn't mean I am not irritated by it. Machines are not dehumanizing: the people who use them wrongly are. Not synthesizers and drum computers did that, the bad musicians who operated them did. Abruptly he shoves his plate aside. Vangelis' appetite is gone.
Interview by Jip Golsteijn from "De Telegraaf" (newspaper), 1991
Translated from Dutch by Dennis Lodewijks.