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TVM, 27 de Septiembre de 2016.
(((Abajo de esta página el poema Ítaca con música de Vangelis, subtitulado en español)))
Vangelis and the Journey to Ithaca (2013)
My first impression of meeting Vangelis was that it was unusual and just altogether marvellous to find a grown man so full of life.
He has the enthusiasm and the exuberance of a person who’s just beginning life, rather than a person who’s already had so much experience in so many wonderful happenings already; and that is a thing that still impresses me about this person. There is a love of life and a love of being on this planet; that’s just inspiring.
Why do we need music? Why (does) everybody, you know, speak the language of music? The globe, I mean, forget the universe, just the earth. Why? I mean, you don’t speak Chinese, you don’t speak maybe another language. You don’t speak Greek, maybe, but you do speak music. Why (do) we do that? Why (do) we know? Why (do) we whistle? Why (do) we do la la la la la… even when we’re two or three years old? Why (did) I start to do music (when I was) four years old? Who taught me this? Because it is implanted in us, in everybody. So that’s when people say “I know nothing about music”, they mean that they’ve never been to school, they’ve never learnt notes, what I never did myself, and I still don’t. But, you can’t say that you don’t know about music, because music made you. Music is the strongest thing. It is as strong as oxygen. And it speaks directly to your soul. Directly.
When I first became aware of Vangelis' link with Chariots of Fire, which is really a knockout score and plainly had a lot to do with that movie’s success. It was wonderful uplifting, spiritual, because it was a spiritual movie; the man was running for his… for God. … Vangelis gets the heaven and hell. I think music reflects the heart, the soul, it’s a poetry, there’s something between the lines, it’s not spoken, it’s felt, and it does wash the emotions and cleans it. It can be a cathartic too, inspiring. Vangelis hits all those notes for me. It’s great to have someone work like that, and it’s just love. What you want from a composer in a movie is the love that an actor or a screenwriter or anyone brings, or a D.P., anyone. If you bring love to the movie it shows and feels.
Vangelis is a deeply quiet man, he’s like a monk. I think he’s a man who lives in his mind, who lives in his head. He is in the material world to some degree, but he’s definitely found in the interior world, it is as if he hears the music of his fears, so to speak.
I think my mother listens to Alexander, his album over and over again. I do, too. I find it very inspiring. It’s a wonderful… It evokes, it brings out nobility in the person who listens, and I love that in music.
You can love them for years, feed them, nurture them, but still, they can turn on you.
The music is not our property, it’s a way to express things, and it’s a code. And it’s what makes the universe move, ships the universe. So, I don’t think we can do better. I mean, we, as a matter of speech, we can say, ah, yeah, I have an idea, or just, I imagine that, or I have an inspiration, but all that’s our words. I think that the word more accurate is to be available. And when you’re available, like a radar, then, the message comes. And then you have it.
I was invited to the perfect party of Sean Connery in Athens. I was the surprise guest, because I did know Sean before, but he didn’t know that I was coming to play. After dinner, people were sitting next to the fireplace, having coffees or whatever drinks, and I was behind this cartel, with my mum on the piano, and we were just waiting with the curtain off and I was playing, and Vangelis was among the people, amongst the invited guests. And that’s, of course, how afterwards we immediately started talking, and then he said, oh, you must come to my studio.
He called me, like he sometimes just calls, “Hi, Julian”, and we have this joke with Vangelis, he always talks to me, and I speak to him with the Scottish accent, imitating Sean Connery. I can’t do it, but, anyway, he always goes: “Hi, Julian, this is Vangelis”, and I’m standing in the rain somewhere, I think it was London or Paris, something like this, and he said: “I want to play you something”. And, OK, fine, I’m just on the street and he starts playing on his synthesizers, and he starts playing this violin concerto, the first movement of this violin concerto, and I was standing outside because he didn’t stop playing, like for fifteen minutes. And then he finishes and says: “Did you like it?” And I said, “Did you record it?”, because this was incredible. He said, “Oh, I think, yeah”. So it was recorded, and then I came to Athens, and we started putting it together, basically I started playing the violin, etc., etc.
There is so much wonderful music, which nobody knows about, wonderful, classical music, from Vangelis, and the only thing I can always do is try to inspire him, to one day release it, but the thing is, because he cannot read the right music, that he needs to find a person who writes it down the way that he hears it.
In Greece my ancestors, they had a very, very mathematical mind, and through that way of thinking and feeling they find out that they knew much, that music is the first thing in the world, what shapes and makes move the world. All that movie sounds may be a bit crazy, but today, but they’re not, and they wish more and more and more, but even scientists they really learn the universe through music, because music is the code. We are surrounded in covered base, we’re made by music; now, what we do with music is, it’s the mirror of our present state. Music can be therapeutic and it can be really a deadly weapon.
To regrow with this music industry and to be, how to be successful, you have to be successful; you have to sell records, you have to, because this is the only thing, I mean, they…, this is what they’re looking for, they’re looking for sales. And they’re looking to have people to be able to sell, and to be successful, and to become stars, whatever stars are. And that was a very difficult thing for me, all my life.
So, I got a phone call from Vangelis. It was a rainy Tuesday afternoon, I remember, when Vangelis said, “Johnny, you’ve got to come over to the studio, we’ve got to write a hit record”. And I said, “What?” “Yeah, we’ve got to write something in the radio or alike”. So, I said, “OK, I’ll come over and he said, “I think I have something going”. So I went in and it was cug cug cug cug cug this thing going on the keyboard, and I said, “Start the tape” and he started the tape and I started singing: “You ask me where to begin”, tsi tsi tsi, you know, “am I so lost in my sin”, and I just sang it as if I had written it the day before. And we finished it around five o’clock and long behold, within two hours we’d written it, finished it down, and the following Friday we were on top of the pops. Vangelis didn’t know what it was, two weeks later, and it was a hit everywhere in the world.
When you have the misfortune to be successful, then it works both ways, and in fact, it’s very, very difficult. I can’t, due to the success, because the success is not the most important thing for me, to become a prisoner to the success and being and, and, being obliged to produce the same thing all the time. And that’s why I’m turning my back to things like that. I have to move to something and then I’ve done it, but I don’t want to be obliged to do it. It might not be one, the record does the record.
The album is number one in Germany, it sold more than one million singles, 750,000 albums…
Vangelis has achieved the unachievable in Hungary, this is, to achieve the award “Album of the year” twice, one after the other, in 1993 and 1994, which is unprecedentedly the record industry.
And representing both Spain and Portugal to present you this platinum record, which reflects de enormous success in our country.
It feels like Oscar night tonight, which presents its composer, platinum album for Switzerland; so congratulations, Vangelis, and I have so good news, you’re number one in Switzerland this week.
Through the years I have to do certain things in order to get somewhere and to have the facilities to do some more, because when you grow up as a concert pianist, or a singer, or, you know, a rock and roll guitarist or something like that, you do give much, but if you go through the, you know, the direction and the way that I’m doing things today, you need a lot of technology, you need your own studio, you need a lot of things. So, in order to obtain and do all that, you have to go through this music industry, which is not the best thing for me, and I have to play the game.
I met Vangelis with his girlfriend, who was the same size of Vangelis. She was wonderful. She was gorgeous, sensual, a French woman called Fanny, all of it. And she was fantastic, Fanny, because she also was a friend of Elgo, a friend of mine, family of a girlfriend I used to have in the sixties. So through Fanny I was introduced to Vangelis, and then through Vangelis I met Rossif, Frédéric Rossif, and I then started to work for Rossif, and making commercials and documentaries. And I used Vangelis, earning commercials, you know for, I mean, a number of French commercials. He did them, he had this naturally, you could see this is a man you have to work with, because instinctive reaction to image. Showed him the image, he immediately went straight to the keyboard and rrrrr… and it fits, always used to fit, all the time. He had this uncanny ability to understand, flows of pictures put together.
I was surprised to learn, you know, he is, he’s not a school musician, he writes nothing down, but within one wave of sound, the claim points of that could be, could be ten, fifteen different things going on to make that particular sound, and which means there are many variables and there are also many chances to mess it up. I guess if he were back in the 1700s or 1800s he would do it the way everybody did it then.
I still believe that, that the electronic sounds are particularly natural. The only thing that changes is the source. And somehow even they go further than the acoustic instruments because you can produce sounds closer to the sounds of the universe. I mean, human beings express themselves through the acoustic instruments that we know today. But these instruments, they have limitations as well. They don’t have limitations of the expression of feeling, but they have limitations of sound. And I guess that is why we produce the symphony orchestra, because it’s like the first synthesizer. It’s something that we…, we put together the different areas of sound together and then we create colours, and situations between those different families of sound. And then you have the symphony orchestra, otherwise, why having a symphony orchestra? It was a need to have that, in order to enrich, enlarge the spectrum. But with the electronic instruments you go even further than that. And why not? Why are they not natural? I mean, the whole universe is electricity. It’s, what’s the name?... it’s waves.
You can go through the correctional or traditional sounds and then you can extend to other things, which, actually, you know… the commercial is much can produce, so you have read the spectrum which is infinite…. And this, this situation is ready for everything you wish, for everything that music wishes, and if able, or capable, I will deliver, if not, bad luck.
…arrives tomorrow night. We have it taped on Saturday. We put it on, we mix it and we send it to you, so you can have it by Monday.
From a musical point of view I’m not concerned. From the essential… issue.
I was aware then… Hugh Hudson could be an …. say… company … from seven years and he would’ve gone off and done Chariots of Fire. Vangelis had moved to a glass studio in Paris somewhere. His studio was entirely in glass, in a quartier… a glass studio and that’s very fortunate to do. And he always had this twinkle. He likes the ladies.
I think I shouldn’t say, he likes really the girls, and so he had most of the ladies kicking around, and being in this world well, kind of excites, and rock and roll, but there’s a lot of musicians and rock and roll types around him.
What are you going to cap today?
I think that’s why I left most of the violence in, because I know I have to remove stuff. I have a big problem with the hand being chopped off.
I will argue, because I think it’s rather natural, it’s real, it’s not horror, it’s real. So I’m gonna argue with this.
It’s not so horrible.
No, no, no, no. And I think I’ll argue with the… they’re gonna argue about the throat being cut, so I can take that, ‘cause it’s a little excessive, right? So that could come out, but the sword to the chest is no problem, right?
What? I mean…
The strangulation, we’ll have a big problem.
You do me a rough, and he said “Over here”, and he goes this “fum”, and you go, “wham”, you get the whole thing, and, Jesus, I get it. There was a guy on the piano, going, here we’re gonna have timpani, pum, and you’re going, “wha?”, and here’s the horns… Ok, you’re playing the god dammit piano. Sorry! I’m not that much of a genius, sir.
We put a little… Bring it back, bring it back. I’d put a cube running down back the corridor…
It’s very simple… Do you want me to put it just at the end of the movie?
And I see spiders that reach to the sky.
So, you need the milestone.
So how are we going to…?
You just did it. Didn’t your record it?
Well, I think I got to the point by memory, because I always, I always said, the few times that I spoke out, but, you know, memory is (a) very important thing, and we learn more by memory than by learning if we go to school, because we learn… we think that we learn, but only we remember what we know already.
This music is the ancient musical Greece.
They mean some extraordinary reaches in different areas of Greece. Incredible music, it’s very ancient, much older than the current bouzouki music, epidemic; maybe you’d like an example from my country, but within every country it’s exactly the same thing. And it’s a treasure. Instead of copying, you know, the current fashion. That’s (a) very, very important thing, you see, you think that you learn that, I mean, yes, we can learn some details, but the important things we know, the only things that, we don’t remember those things, because the system doesn’t allow us to remember anything of those kind of things. If you remember, you’re going to find out that you know more than you think you know.
And I’m very, very concerned about, not only about my country, but about every country, to preserve the roots and this ethnic richness, and what is ours? Ours is something that lasts for, forever, I mean, forever, you know, the ever in this case, when the moment is now, the ever is the past.
He is tremendously generous, with his friends, with everybody, and on all levels, particularly on the artistic level, you see. He shares his joy in writing, in playing music with the others. He never lets himself being asked twice to play something or to sit behind this instrument, and the gives the friends some joy, you know, but also, as a human being, he is a rare guy, really, you know. Very quickly we get attached to him.
I met Vangelis in Rome, when I was planning Bitter Moon, the movie, and Emmanuelle Seigner, my wife, was doing a film in Rome as well, and we were staying in the same hotel in… I don’t know how she had it… , she was authorised, she was making it, and she told me: “I met Vangelis, and he absolutely wants to meet you”.
He loves movies. He does not try to promote himself through the music he writes for a particular film. He tries to illustrate the film and expresses the feelings that the film does to him.
And with all this, he’s extremely humble, you know, there’s no stick of megalomania, you know, he’s just…, he’s the real artist. That’s what we understand, you know, by an artist, it’s someone who loves his craft, you know. And he expresses what he feels.
She came to Greece many times, many times. This was very hard for her. She used all the people that she knew that knew him and she tried to press. She is a woman, very… with this character, very typical Spanish. She puts, like, all her blossom on what she wants to do, and she…, when she saw this, she was crazy about it, and she said, “Vangelis, I mean, I don’t know why I prefer you, I know you from your…, from before, but I think this, the world, is entitled to see. You have not to keep it inside”, so he said, “No, no, no”. And this thing was three years, she was after him. And, suddenly, she got him in a moment that he didn’t understand what he said, and when he realises, the paintings are on their way to Valencia.
Music is not personal, if you, if you approach it the way that I mentioned before it’s not personal, but painting is personal, very personal. So I didn’t want to impose anything, it’s a pleasure. I could have made it, you know, a commercial thing, a job, something, but I didn’t, and I think it was very good that I didn’t, until maybe a few years ago, that rightly or wrongly I decided to give the permission for an exhibition, that’s all.
We were in Uruguay, we were in Argentina, we were in Brazil, we were in Dominican Republic, in Cuba, in Mexico. While we were in a country, and the other museums, they were learning that this was there, they were calling, “can we have it?”.
People was coming to touch me. People was coming to ask me for autographs. And then one day I said, “No, why should I give you an autograph, I’m not Vangelis”. So, what I ask, one guy comes, and said, “Can I touch you?” I said, “Why you are asking to touch me?” And he said, “Because you are the closest person to hi, that we ever will see.
From Brasilia they were coming to Salvador. I mean, it was incredible. The same thing in Argentina. I saw people coming from Patagonia, from Ushuaia, especially to the Natural Museum in Buenos Aires to see his exhibition; and, you know, all the museums, they were national museums, because, Vangelis, he doesn’t sell, he doesn’t want to sell, even though I have tried, and Consuelo also; this is one thing, that her and me, we couldn’t push him into it. In Valencia I had a lot of requests.
But he doesn’t want that.
Oh, he won’t even talk about it. So one day I said, “Vangelis, why this, you know, I don’t want to exhibit?”. So he said, “Honey, because this is a part of me. I feel like I’m putting myself naked in the mirror of the Central Square.
It was about fifteen, sixteen years of age, and every year was cool, because artists would show their paintings, and, of course, it was obvious that, you know, exhibits were filled by paintings of the time. And, I remember that year something extraordinary happened. I went to the room, to this place that everybody exhibits, so, all the, you know, the school, you know, people who came here, exhibitor’s own things, and mine, as well, and mine disappeared. Somebody stole them, my paintings. I never found one who, but I was devastated, and I couldn’t believe that someone is able to do such a thing.
I can never remember dates, but it was with Donald Sutherland that we went to the apartment where Vangelis was, where he lived at that time, and by the end of the evening, it was so impressive to me, and he played some stuff on that, the organ, and it’s the only one, I think it was an organ; I don’t like the organ, but I liked him playing it. I don’t like that like in a church; music is too much, I mean it’s decks and decks of, it’s like a mind processor.
Yes, you know, I think he’s a very generous person, very genuine and generous. And I said, I went to see his paintings, and he had an easel, absolutely marvellous, my God, where did you find that easel? I’m looking for an easel like that, and he said, “I’m sending one to you”. And then one day he said to me: “There’s a monster of a thing arriving for you from Vangelis”.
I didn’t know that you had asked about the easel, I thought that you just remarked on it. And the next thing was that she, well, you didn’t say, “Oh, where did you get it, that kind of thing?”. I thought you just said, “What a wonderful…” I saw the easel at the time, and it dwarfed me.
My painting book was edited in Greece, and we were thinking that it would be very nice to accompany the book and to send the book with a CD on a poem of Cavafy called Ihaka.
I’d, honestly, never heard of Cavafy before. I must say when I first read it I thought, it’s a bit like a short story, it’s not, it doesn’t seem to be a poem, but when I started to work on it, read it and understand what it was really about, then it was OK, so I, we have a studio five, ten minutes from here, and, so, I went on there and I said I’m gonna do two recordings. I’ll do one slower and one quicker, the normal. And he said, “OK”, so, I recorded it twice, and they come back and say: “I like it slower”. And I said: “Because you’re gonna go your own music”…
And all the money went to…
All of it, totally….
…. abandoned kids, that they started this task around the wife of Moses, published the books and everything. And we went inside there, but then it was so moving, marvellous kids, beautiful, and in a very happy and nice ambient. So, then he set it up, we sold them to furthers they trust, and they sold hundreds.
Oh, yeah. Yes.
When you set out on your journey to Ithaca, pray that the road is long, full of adventure, full of knowledge. The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops, the angry Poseidon, do not fear them: you will never find things like that on your way, as long as you keep your thoughts raised high, as long as a rare sensation touches your spirit and your body. Lestrygonians and Cyclops, wild Poseidon, you won't encounter them unless you bring them along inside your soul, unless your soul sets them up in front of you. Hope that your journey is a long one. May there be many summer mornings when, with what pleasure, what joy, you come into harbours seen for the first time. May you stop at Phoenician trading stations to buy fine things, mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony, sensual perfume of every kind; as many sensual perfumes as you can; and may you visit many Egyptian cities to learn and learn again from those who know. Keep Ithaca always in your mind. Arriving there is what you’re destined for. But do not hurry the journey at all, better if it lasts for years, so that you’re old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you have gained on the way, not expecting Ithaca to make you rich. Ithaca gave you the marvellous journey. Without her you would not have set out. She has nothing left to give you now. And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you, wise as you have become, with so much experience, you must already have understood what these Ithacas mean.
It’s really a pleasure. I salute him.
I salute you.
And me, I give you my big kiss, a French kiss.
A kiss a kind away.
Somehow, I started very early to ask questions. Why this, why that, about the universe, about where the music comes from, quite scientific for my age, about matter, anti-matter, about, you know, the galaxies, about a lot of things, and then my mind couldn’t stop, you know, working like this, thinking like that.
When I was president of Sony Classical, I was very eager to work with composers who were interested in connecting with the public and I felt that the classical musical field in general had suffered at that time, and had been suffering for decades under the yoke of the establishment, of critics and academics who felt that any composition that had the slightest hint of public success was artistically invalid. I had a commercial motivation, I was working for a record company that was supposed to make money. Of course most record companies are all losing money and they were losing money back then, and they are losing even more money now. At the time I was particularly interested in trying to identify composers who really had not lost the spirit of what composition was all about, which was a bond between the public and their creativity. So Vangelis was somebody who fascinated me. I had a serious meeting with him in Athens. He seems to have a limitless supply of classical compositions, which he would pull out in drawers, in classifiers, in boxes. Basically it seems that he composed a symphony every night. So I had no idea that he was this prolific.
He would play me these excerpts of pieces or sometimes entire pieces. His listening sessions would go on till late in the night and so much of what he had was amazing, you know, because, of course, he wrote it in real time.
He would sit down in his spaceship-like recording studio and start making music, that he would explain to me was coming from special sources.
I’m being careful with my words because I don’t want to misconstrue what he said to me, but, you know, he really felt that he was a vessel of some greater creative force, or being, that was communicating, I think to the world, to him, and, actually I was not in disagreement with him about that, for I know maybe it’s true.
It was an event that we staged not in a publicly available venue, but, actually, in the Temple of Zeus, in Athens, which had never been used for any type of a large scale public event. And I now know more about the bureaucracy of the antiquities in Greece that I would ever need to know or want to know. I actually had to go and meet with the Minister of Culture and deputy ministers of culture and the people in charge of archaeological treasures and, apparently in Athens, not just in Athens, but in all over Greece, you can’t even build a home in Greece, because everything literally is ruins, you know, underneath the surface, a few inches down, in any street or backyard in Greece there is some antiquity waiting to be damaged if a builder were to plunge a shovel the wrong way. And I helped in bringing Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman to him, which I had worked with over the years, and, you know, they were kind of an interesting pair to bring in to this project, because they themselves had been considered by the public to be professional rivals.
I consider the music of Vangelis as simply a gift. I don’t like designations as popular music, or classical music. What is that supposed to mean? In the 18th century, when Haydn or Mozart were sort of writing what they were writing, that was simply what one would have had to have called the popular music of the day, because that was what there was. And I think that having these designations that we put on to music much later after their compositions, I think we make a big mistake. And when one listens to Mythodea or other wonderful compositions of Vangelis, to call it one or the other, I think it’s simply wrong. It’s music, and it’s music that’s come from the place that sort of makes sure that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West.
This man, Vangelis, composed at the system he’s sits at. I thought he was playing something that he already had composed, and the just memorised it and he was just rehashing it, or maybe even revising it on the spot. No, no, no, no. He was composing in the moment. Can you imagine how difficult that is? What kind of mind has to remember where you started? I can’t even remember where I left the keys. But to remember, in a piece of music, at the outset and then to come back to that same theme ten minutes later, ten minutes later, and close the piece, having developed it in all wondrous ways in between.
When I first met Vangelis he was very interested in NASA and space science, and exploration, and what it really meant. I mean, not just going to the moon. Of course, that’s intriguing to us all, but also, just the idea of learning about ourselves. And we started to look at one of the NASA research and compare it back to how the ancient Greeks thought and how did they derive certain things, and often we would settle on fundamental questions of, you know, where did we all come from? What is the real origin of the universe? What is the origin of Earth? What was the big bang like? How did Physics? You know, often when we go to explore the universe, cosmologists have mapped out various kinds of equations and ideas that actually use math and music; and the idea of harmony and harmonics is exactly how we describe the universe itself.
And he would introduce me to a lot of different kinds of experts, people that knew ancient Greek, people that studied music. And we started to put together almost a team of people with different expert keys, and alike into the way the ancient Greeks actually did it, the advances were made by people coming together from different disciplines. The idea of a philosopher, a mathematician, a scientist, an artist and a musician, all meeting and discussing important topics, really allows you to make connections that otherwise are very difficult to make inside your own field. And, in fact, this was really the idea of the university, you know, it was to bring this kind of academic environment together, where you have different disciplines. So we started to help each other on different projects. He helped me on some of mine, I helped him on some of his, and eventually that led to Mythodea.
With NASA, I had been working on a mission called Galileo, which was a spacecraft which was orbiting Jupiter and eventually dropped a probe into the atmosphere of Jupiter to measure its composition. And NASA, because of their government agency, they cannot advertise, and they can’t market themselves, but they can educate and they can reach out and do things that help the public to understand, and that’s what this really was about. It was helping the public realise the excitement of the space, and how it might connect the music, so NASA was pushing things on their website, Vangelis was looking at things that he could do and, eventually, the collaboration was such a success that NASA even recognised Vangelis with a NASA medal.
Vangelis is a huge fan base amongst the astronomy community. They adore him. They even named some asteroid after him.
I remember Vangelis explaining to me that various astronomers had felt that there was some real connection between these extrasensory sounds that were being picked up, because, of course, sounds are always being picked up in out of space and there was some relation to what they were hearing out of space and some of the music of Vangelis.
Vangelis is like a child and a genius all mixed together. His interest in the world and the universe and nature is unbounded, I mean, he is constantly thinking about stuff and, but at the same time he’s like a child in the sense, you know, of being amused at almost everything. In many ways, you know, the idea of space science, the fundamental questions, we all had as children, the fact that we don’t know the answer of where we became from or how we got here. And he’s still thinking all the time, constantly.
I think we met at two for a couple of days a week and I used to go back there at nine on the way home, I stopped on the way to the studio, he usually had something like a sauce with some curry or Chinese food landing all over the place, and some beers, and he’d be smoking cigars and beers, and all things fantastic, loved it all. It’s all cleaned up and it wasn’t worth a penny, all right? And also bloodily politically correct, and so healthy. And he said, he was always, it was like being in the cave of a magician. And he would say: “Look at this”. And he would play to it. He would play and pull knobs and push tees, knobs, and things, and I didn’t even know what the hell he was doing. But one day another it was truly magical.
We were having two lads sometimes, I think three in one occasion, lying there, smoking, you know, drinking and watching him just mock about. He said, “Oh, OK, well, I want you just sit, I’ve got an idea”. He said, “Watch” Bum. The screen would run and you rush and bring in people into a universe that they hadn’t seen before.
I don’t dislike working on films, but it has very, very painful situations, and it’s painful because of all the pressures, because everybody is under pressure, and the film is a very, very, very difficult business, because, first of all it costs a lot of money, and many things are a mistake. So, already, the people that are working for the film, they are really under great pressure. No, you know, it’s easy, you know, Alexander costed me a few kilos, my engineer had a heart attack, you know, things like that.
Nothing was set forth, from the beginning we shot with some varied staff, which automatically put us virtually, everybody from the staff. But the worst thing that happened was that, the day after we finished shooting, X and I received a note, a letter from the lawyers of the partial financiers, the branch in New York, dismissing us from the picture, on the grounds that, contractually, we had gone over the budget, they could, and, we went over the budget, which is not at all uncommon. So they, lose the patience, they just say: “You’re fired”.
You can’t sit there thinking on anything like it. You can’t when you’ve finished a mix, so every phase that you finish you’re looking at the emerging process, then you’re gonna add to the scoring process, and then you’re gonna hand to the mixing process. Then you can look at it finished. And the danger is your tester.
This is all some jerk who would say: “You know, I think…” And I think: “Shut the fuck up”, you know.
There was a debate, because the picture didn’t have a good ending. And one point which we actually borrowed was a piece from Stanley Kubrick. It was shining. Straight that on the end. He was so generous to do it, to think it was the happy ending, we had a happy ending at this point. After that, the news that we heard were evil, about a dreadful film was written in many different ways. It was just dreadful, dreadful for several good reasons in their mind. I mean, first of all, the worst of Vangelis’ music, well, we’d see what they yet, we’ve done for Brave Heart. Every news was too cheeky on that, falling remarks, one great one, the same note, etc., etc. This movie gets worse every screening. That’s pretty good.
I’m not sitting down and say, well, OK, what I’m going to do with this? And try to be, underline something, but it’s the first, of course I can underline it. We all do. I do it as well if I want. But I’m try not to, and I try to be as much as instinctive as possible. I mean, when I say something, immediately do react, and my first reaction I put it down on the tape and this is it. And maybe that’s why, maybe I say, or not, maybe that’s why you have this reaction.
We had to finish it that day, because we had to finish. We had to take back some lines. We had to rush in. I see what it was really to get down the office, can’t reflect the former discussing lines, but, anyway, I wanted to do it. And then, really I said, “Thank you, yes, OK, do it”. So that was never written in the script, only unwritten. Let me say these lines went pretty good.
(I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain. Time to die.)
At the highest level, music is at the final and the last dialogue that was into the movie, ‘cause I gradually realised that music is almost dialogue, it’s telling you something, and it’s telling you emotionally, I don’t mean sentimentally, emotionally is telling you something, it’s telling whether to be frightening, whether to be afraid, or whether to be, you know, it pushes buttons, it pushes emotional buttons. A good composer don’t like to hear that, but it’s true. Somebody said to me, “God, it wants you so many partitives in the films you make. I said, “What? Isn’t that what theatre is? That’s what we do.
Vangelis is maybe the most successful and innovative of these guys. That’s why he’s the best.
My parents left Athens during the war, because during the Second World War people in Athens died from hunger. It was a terrible situation, and many people, I mean, in order to survive left Athens and they, you know, they went to villages, to places that they could find a little food. And my grandfather used to earn a lot of land, and the had a lot of bread, foods, oil, olives, things that we could survive, I mean, that’s why my family survived. Although I didn’t understand at the time, later I understood that they’d been through, you know, through hell, and there had been a war and a civil war. But they met it such a way that maybe none of those things touched anybody of us, my brother and myself. Yeah.
I was born in a village, actually, near Volos. Volos is in the middle of Greece, about, maybe, almost 200 miles from Athens, North, by the sea, marvellous at the time, beautiful town, a lot of gardens and flowers, because this place is at Pelion, near Pelion. Pelion is a mountain, the mythological mountain of the Centaurs, and this mountain is known because of the vegetation, it’s lot of green, and this is which is incredible, because this area, I mean, you can feel, you can feel the seasons, you can feel the winter very heavy, very heavy winter, with snow on the top. You can feel the autumn, which is extraordinary colours, pastel colours. You can feel the summer, of course. And the spring, which is, I mean, you can faint from the aroma, all the flowers, extraordinary.
This is the house where I grew up. That was my first piano. And my first friend, real friend. The funny thing about that is that I don’t remember, I just found myself, I remember myself sitting on the piano, but I never remember how I started, which means that I had to start very, very early. I never, I never, you know, because most of the times people say: “Oh, yes, we had a piano” in, at the age of, I don’t know, five, or six or ten, you know, and do some lessons, and, you know, start playing the piano, but I don’t remember that. I remember sitting there.
He lives everything to the full, I think. When he smokes cigars, wonderful cigars, he smokes and he loves them. He eats in the most totally enjoyable way. He enjoys everything. I mean, I’m sure he’s had numerous depressions, in fact I’ve been through a big depression with him. Loyalty is vital for him, and loyalty is totally vital for Vangelis. Absolutely.
My mother used to play the piano and sing, classical stuff, and she used to accompany herself. And, because I had a good ear, I just remember those things, and I played with her, and even with a little accordion sometimes, because I couldn’t carry the piano outside in the garden, and then I had this little accordion my uncle bought for me, and I used to accompany my mother when she used to sing, you know, nice, beautiful songs, some ballads and things like that. I remember those moments.
I never used to go out and play with my friends of the same age, but spent my time with the piano, that was a different conversation. I still have this piano, because I had in front of me the sound, although it was not the only sound, because I used to produce sounds with all the objects of the house, especially the kitchen stuff. Great. I mean, I used the glasses and water and changed the pitch and all the pans of my mother, and I would go all the time in there. I think that, you know, my mother, she was quite, quite good, I mean, she never really been angry or something, because I used to break something.
I used to open the piano and do things that, I added things between the strings and things like that, metal things, or other things in order to create sounds and to obtain things that a normal piano doesn’t do. By creating the sounds which actually for my mother it was quite extraordinary and quite strange, for me it was a wonder, because I used to obtain incredible things out of the piano. And then, another thing that I used to do, I used to go under the piano, especially when my mother used to play, and then I, you know, I was so impressed to hear this sound coming from above and hit my head, bup, bup, bup, like that, and under the piano, it was my little, my little house, with some toys. And that was really a very safe place to be.
When you are successful I think it’s very important for your mother and for yourself. And when we had the first success, big success in France, exactly at that time, I’d been waiting for her to visit me in Cannes, in France, South of France, and, suddenly, she died. And that was, you know, a terrible thing, because I know that parents die some, somehow, sometime, but I think she died the wrong time, wrong moment. It was very, it was a really terrible blow for me.
I’m used to dealing with artists with fragile personalities, I mean, I think he’s a very warm, expansive individual, one of the most generous human beings I’ve ever met, but, you know, one thing I’ve learned with great artists, Vangelis included, is that you should never take for granted that one aspect of their personality are immediately extended to other parts of it and, certainly, he explained to me, in the course of my working with him, that he had been burned or betrayed a few times by people whom he had trusted, and that obviously had, that he wore the scars of those betrayals. And, so it was understandable, although contradictable, on the one hand, he’s full of warmth and friendship, and on the other hand, he’s deeply suspicious. It took me a while to earn his trust, you know, he made me feel that I wanted to earn his trust, and I would use, you know, he and I didn’t want to let him down, either.
I think he’s very protective of the relationships he forges. I get the sense that he’s always been hurt a great number of times, and he, he lives in a cocoon, and he was just very careful about who was allowed into that cocoon.
For years people, they’ve be saying that they don’t like to fly, for example, you know, it’s been in every paper. And I have so many bits of fears, myself, in a plane, in a cockpit, you know, laughing and, you know, and joking and all that, so. I mean, if you want to know anything, you just ask me, you don’t believe what people say, right?
He’s a person who loves time, at the same time, who loves to take a lot of time, who doesn’t play the stressful game of some, of our world, in a way. And on the other hand, when you visit his home, the time stops.
I was feeling very inspired by his way to open windows in the heaven, so we wanted to do, first thing at all, sort of, I cannot say an audition, but to met and to find out how he compose his work and how maybe I can fit in, inside his music, I mean. And, then, so, I went there with my daughter and, first of all, a great admiration, but a great emotion to know how he is, how he look, if he look like the pictures, or whatever. And to me the first impression, to tell you the truth, it was like, you know Moses? Excuse me, but no, I’m not joking. His white beard and his way, very “imposant” and very kind, very, very kind.
We were singing for a while and then, suddenly, he says: “Your daughter sing too”. And I says: “No she just begin to learn, a little”. And I thought, “Oh, my God. This will be a catastrophe”. Because I thought Montse was not prepared for these things. She was singing for the first time one aria for his mother, no? And everyone was happy, but she has never done anything. And she was beginning drrr, drrr, so we were doing that for twenty-two minutes. Twenty-two minutes is a long time, but, for some reason, I don’t realise it was that long, and my daughter, for the first time, for the first time in his life, was feeling something, and it was like we were doing a duet of feeling.
But I needed something for the next record, something very special, so, it was a moment of great emotion, because the wall of Berlin fall down, and then he just then “March with Me” for this occasion, and once I sang that in Berlin with all the Prime Ministers around.
Then he works to win the Champs de l’Esprit, that works for the Brides of Peace in Paris, and we have sung it, there, in the UNESCO.
He has done wonders, all over his life, ready to help people, ready to do things for people, because the first time, for example, that the bells of Kremlin sound in that big place after 72 years these were forbidden, it was with his music, because it was a concert, a benefit concert for, to help children, handicapped children, and the emotion was all over the big place. And, you know, to sing that and hear his music together with the bells, that was incredible.
The Pope was crying, and, of course, we have to thank him, that he has done this for the children, handicapped children.
My mother, she was a mezzosoprano. She never, of course, became a professional, because at the time it was not seen very well to be an artist, you know, that’s society, rules, right? But my parents, never, never stopped me by doing things that I would like to do, partly because I started so early and I never gave them a chance for something else. So that was obvious, when they see, you know, a child, that, you know, starts to play its own compositions, at the age of three to four, I can’t remember, it was, you know, it was very difficult to say to this child: “Don’t do that”.
My father was not an artist, but my father loved, you know, the music, and we used to go to concerts and things like that together.
Vangelis’ father was an Olympic athlete, he had an amazing understanding, and nostalgia, or love for athletics. His way of working was really that he just had to see the film and perform to the film. So you got a completely instinctive emotional gut reaction.
I knew that the defining thing of my career, that if this film didn’t work, I probably shouldn’t be in the business, but I knew it was good. But on the other hand, I didn’t have any kind of absolute validation. For example, I screened it one evening to a large group of people from the Sunday Times, and the screening just went bad. I don’t know what went wrong, the same movie that you saw, just went badly and they walked out. I knew they hated the film, and I just sat there on my own, at the front of the screen and I was devastated, that, you know, that if these people didn’t like it, who was gonna like it?
The winner is Chariots of Fire.
For taking what is absolutely a Cinderella picture and awarding it this, and come to see it in droves, is absolutely extraordinary.
This is a film that was made despite every single obstacle which was thrown up in its way, including being turned down by the BBC, being turned down by 20th Century Fox.
And we run it for the XX exhibition, which came to see the film; half way through the film he felt he needed just to run up the loo and he never ever came back, and we never saw him again.
The greatest piece of art was, the film was run for one of the spots, one of the networks, and an offer to him was made for a TV sports movie. And he run it quite early one morning, I remember it vividly, and turned it down flat, the money by, at any price. So we were safe from going, we were safe from going to television because the film wasn’t regarded as good enough.
My father, he lived through the Paris years, and through the London years, until the Chariots of Fire. And then he died, you know, just a little bit before I got the Oscar. It would have been great for my father, of course. You know, everything has been calculated like this. There’s nothing I can do about it.
Hugh Hudson, when he asked me to do the music of the movie, to score the movie, he said: “You do the rest and we keep yours anyway, we keep this thing for the beginning”. And I said, “But maybe I can do something else”. He said to me: “No, you can’t beat this one. This is really great”.
At the very last minute, I mean, I can’t remember how late in the day it was, we would put it late in the day, I got a call from a restaurant in London, I got a call from him saying, “Where are you, tprrrr?” He said, “Stay right there. Don’t move”. We’re gonna move anyway, but, “Don’t move”. And come and see, 15 minutes later he drove back in his Rolls-Royce and came in the restaurant, got straight, came out, sat in the back of the road and he said: “I want to hear something”. And he put the theme on, and we sat there and I think we both, not tell, it was very, very impressive, a big bass at the back of the car, you know. And then I looked at him and I realised he was crying. And I said, “What is it?” And he said, “Did you know my dad was Olympian?”, which I hadn’t known. He never mentioned it before, was in the 1936 Olympics, he said, it’s a requiem for him. He said: “This is the key. I realised actually I’m writing it for my dad”.
On the night of the Oscars, of course, Vangelis wasn’t there. I didn’t think he was really interested in it, you know. Now he knows what it means that he really won an Oscar, quite good, I suppose, to win an Oscar from music score. He’d change it for music, change in age of, for music in the normal sense. It was all done by one person. And he wasn’t there, and he had to be run up. I don’t know why myself, I don’t know, but he wasn’t there.
The music is not a joke. It’s a very serious thing. Serious thing doesn’t mean serious in a way, you know, serious. You can laugh, I mean, you can, but you have to be always there, you have to be ready. You have to, I mean, I spend hours, and hours and hours with all this system, my system, all that I create around. It needs a lot of practice. I play hours. These fingers, they’ve done, you know, miles and miles every day, prrr, prrr. And it’s not only that, it’s the connection between my brain, my fingers, my all body. It’s, I work like and athlete.
I know many people that say that when they are with other people they are more lonely than when they’re alone. When you’re with music you’re not alone. I mean, I’ve never been alone with music. But loneliness can come for other things. Society can create a lot of loneliness. More and more. And we have to be prepared for that how to deal, to have little psychological devices, you know, to prevent, or to accept the loneliness.
What else? Try me.
Cristina Sánchez Moralejo, por encargo de Tomás Vega Moralejo; para Vangelis.com.es
Septiembre de 2016
El bello poema "Ítaca", de C. P. Cavafis, metáfora de la vida misma, narrado por Sean Connery y con música de Vangelis (Con subtítulos en español):