A stalwart singer confesses

The Metaxourgeio Theater, the artistic and domestic home base for musician Loukianos Kilaidonis and his wife Anna Vagena, sits between Chinese stores in a narrow alley in noisy downtown Athens. «The women have taken off for holidays. But I believe that the cool dudes stay in Athens even during August,» said Kilaidonis, who is alone for the summer. In the living room, his wife’s crystal glass collection is on display, as well as several black-and-white photographs. Kilaidonis is scheduled to perform a career-spanning set, from the 1970s to the present, as well as some of his favorite tracks by others, at the Herod Atticus Theater tomorrow, backed by the highly regarded State Orchestra of Greek Music (KOEM). He spoke to Kathimerini about his work, history and influences. You’ve been in the field of music for close to four decades. Do you like to evaluate your life’s work? I don’t have a problem looking back. After all – strange thing – I don’t see any mistakes among all the things I’ve done in the past. How did you first get involved in music? It began with a lie. When I was 14, family friends visited Athens from Alexandria in Egypt for holidays. The family’s son, Alkis, played us a song he had written. I liked it a lot. And when the summer went by and he left, I got my friends together and presented it as my own. It became a fall season hit. They’d request this song at all the parties. Until they got bored of it. Then they’d say: «Why don’t you write a new one?» So I was forced to begin… Until this very day, I’ve been supporting this lie. Did Alkis ever find out? No. And he’s no longer alive so I could reveal the fraud to him. What did your parents do for work?My father was a surveyor and my mother worked at the Ministry of Welfare. I was lucky. We were financially comfortable during tough times. That’s how I began taking piano lessons at the age of 5. While the others were unwinding at the game arcades, I’d study piano. What was the first record you ever bought? It must have been the Everly Brothers or Pat Boone, 45 rpm, it goes without saying. When was the last time you were thrilled by something you heard? «Barakia» [an album] by Vangelis Germanos and then «Zesta Pota» by the Katsimicha brothers. That far back? We’re talking about the 1980s. Unfortunately. I’m afraid to say that I haven’t been impressed by anything newer. So, you haven’t even been inspired enough by a particular vocalist to write songs? I’ve heard some interesting voices but none have really excited me. If I had the luck to meet Amalia Rodriguez, I’d spend my entire life writing songs just for her. Which songs do think you’ll be remembered by? There are six or seven certainties, including «Therino Cinema,» «Vouliagmeni,» «Ah Rita,» and «Sta Koritsia Leme Nai.» What kind of a fan base do you feel you have these days? People of my generation. They’re the only ones who can totally understand what I mean in each song, because of common experience and age. What’s your association with politics? Emotionally, I belong to the left, in the way that I support Olympiakos or love jazz music. I’ve never been affiliated with a political party. How many years have spent with Anna Vagena? It’s been since 1972. An entire lifetime… I take it in such [long-lasting] relationships «I» becomes «we.» That’s been our case for years. We’ve offered total support for each other’s work and have two grown-up children. What else can I say? Anna’s spared me of all practical matters. She does it all by herself. Just to let you understand what I mean, for years she’s being trying to teach me what value-added tax is, but hasn’t managed yet. I don’t want to know… Of your daughters, it is just Iasemi who has inherited your artistic nature? Yes, Maria, the younger one, chose to stay away from the spotlight. She’s studying at the Iraklion Technical College’s social studies faculty. You may someday become a grandfather. How will you deal with this role? The way I confronted my role as a father, with calmness. I’ve never given my daughters advice. I was always by their side but never pushed them toward one direction or another. What, for you, is the perfect life’s course? What can I say? I don’t know… I suppose the life of Sinatra. He had a superb voice, sang amazing songs, was handsome, lured the most attractive women, best musicians, and was in and out of the White House… And Picasso’s life, of course, because he managed to do it all. He experienced fame while he was alive. I don’t envy them, but I feel good for them. What are we going to hear at the Herod Atticus show? Loukianos, as you know him, with the sound of an exceptional and very disciplined orchestra, the State Orchestra of Greek Music. From «Mikroastika» to «Cowboy.» What do you have to say to those who consider your music to be highly recognizable and wonder why you don’t write something different? Compose what, the tragedy of Aeschylus? I believe in one of the lines in the writings of Costis Palamas: «Always sing the same song, whether you’re laughing or crying.» Once you’ve created a distinguishable style, it’s what you use. And, in that respect, I haven’t changed hairstyle, dress, or habits for decades. My barber’s been pressuring me to try something new with my hair. Why? I don’t follow fashion, I’m fashion for myself. And anyway, the fertile period for an artist usually lasts seven years. That’s how long mine lasted, between 1971 and 1978. Let’s be realistic. Power and freshness don’t last forever. Tickets are available at the Athens Festival box office (39 Panepistimiou, tel 210.327.2000). This story first appeared in the August 20 edition of K, Kathimerini’s color supplement.

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