Nikos Papazoglou: An enduring act set to return to recording in 2005

His recent series of performances at the Zygos club in Plaka brought singer-songwriter Nikos Papazoglou back to Athens – far from his home on the remote outskirts of Thessaloniki, the Agrotikon recording studio he operates in the city’s Toumba district, and his boat, the Icarus. Papazoglou has not released a new album for nearly a decade but, during a time of crisis for the local entertainment industry, the enduring performer’s following continues to fill venues whenever and wherever he plays. About 10 years have gone by without a new record. Why such silence? Mostly because I rely on lyrics sent or given to me by friends. If I read lyrics that warm me, or which I envy and would have liked to have written myself, then I immediately begin thinking relevant music and the song is ready in very little time. This hasn’t occurred for many years and I’ve been slow in accumulating new material. But there’s plenty now and my new album will be released within 2005. Do you feel nostalgia for the period when songs by Socrates Malamas, Thanassis Papaconstantinou and Melina Kana came flowing out of Agrotikon, your studio? That was an exceptional period and Agrotikon functioned like a nucleus. Lots of people were connected by a common thread. That’s gone now. Thessaloniki has emptied of musicians and singers. Venues where new groups can find their way and friends can meet, listen and comment no longer exist. Everybody’s come to Athens – for work, the poor souls, so you can’t criticize them. They realized that this is where the big things in music happen. But, then again, Athens is made up of five sheds in the east and five in the west which gather about 1,500 people each, and that’s about it, more or less. Are you referring to the new types of clubs? Yes, and that’s how we ought to describe them in order to distinguish between having fun and entertainment… The old art form of people being in the same room and sharing the emotion of songs has gone astray… These days, songs are written with the sole intention of complementing these clubs. If something’s not in line with the venue’s taste, then there’s no place for it there. This phenomenon has caused major damage to song. It’s a vicious cycle. Lyrics have lost their rhythmic element to cater to the needs of these venues. The beat of the song and its refrain, which says absolutely nothing, dominate – because you can’t upset the customer. In other words, I can’t go along to one of these places and sing about «man’s loneliness.» How would you define your following? All sorts of ages. Parents and their children; people who were around to experience the wonderful scent of «Ekdikisi Tis Gyftias» [groundbreaking debut album released in 1978]; students who are just discovering my songs. I’m certain that my fans have, at some point, felt my songs and communicated with them. These people want to come along and see these songs unfold before them. There used to be a time in music when groups of friends created the legend surrounding songs. Who takes care of that now? Is there legend in song today? The idea of musicians meeting up for the first time in a studio, each playing their part and then leaving, has led to bad results. I can’t work that way. I have a steady group of people and get advice on everything from them. We get together, work, listen and make revisions. I began playing in high school groups and can’t detach myself from team effort in music. Fragmental recording, which takes place just about everywhere, has taken all the flavor out of most recordings. Fortunately, despite all that, there still are songs which I catch on the car radio and stop on the side of the road to enjoy. They convey the liveliness of the moment and I understand that the people behind them shared something special. Have you ever followed any of the reality TV shows that are searching for new singers? No, I don’t watch them, but I do listen to a lot of conversation concerning these. TV collaborates with the sort of things we talked about earlier – songs made to fit venues. Amid the current climate of [incongruent] coexistence, in which [pop singer Natasha] Theodoridou sings [composer Evanthia] Reboutsika and [poet Michalis] Ganas, and [Giorgos] Dalaras collaborates with [Antonis] Remos, would you give one of your songs to Dalaras, for example, for one of his new CDs? If he used the whole thing… What do you mean? On one of his albums, he sang just one verse and one chorus from «Avgoustos» [a Papazoglou song]. That’s unacceptable. I don’t spoil my songs for [the requirements] of compilations. How do you spend a normal day when you’re not performing? I keep things running at the studio until three, then spend the afternoon at home and return to the office in the evening to work alone. You’ve opted to live outside the city. Yes. Even though I grew up in downtown Thessaloniki, I gradually headed for the mountains. I can’t handle the city noise. I want to have my garden, trees and vineyard. I have my own produce on my plot. Do your children play music? They cherish music but have followed their own ways. My daughter studied linguistics and my son mathematics. They’re both doing their PhDs. They’re my sternest critics. I’ve become acquainted with lots of good music thanks to my children. You’ve worn a red bandanna since your very first show. Does it mean something? Nothing special. I started wearing it when I used to ride a motorbike. It’s also a leftover from my childhood years. When I was a youngster, tissues didn’t exist and you didn’t dare leave home without the handkerchief. My mother would stop me at the doorstep and ask, «Do have your handkerchief?» As for the color, it matches the stage attire I usually wear. It functions as an ornament. Even my boat’s sails have the same color – blue and red… This interview appeared in the December 25-26 issue of «K,» Kathimerini’s Sunday supplement.

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