Interview with multi-talented Greek musician Nikos Giousef - created an unique baritone upright musical saw

"Historically music has always been connected to social and political movements. As I said before the Pagliacci should alert the audience. The song must protect the heart from freezing. It's your friend when you are alone, it gives you power to move, it covers your back when you fight, it gives the pulse to the crowd."

Nikos Giousef: Saw... The Music

Nikos Giousef was born in 1975 in Zakynthos, Greece. At the age of 6 he started playing music in the music school of mandolins on Zakynthos and continued as a bassist in various bands ("Shock", "Nesla», «Diahisis»), while attending music theory classes. In 1996 he began studying cello and in 2000 he founded with Marinos Mouzakis the artistic team Tsiritsantsoules. In 2003, with Kostas Valatsos’ assistance, he created an unique baritone upright musical saw. He has composed music for short films: “He shouldn’t have come to Athens” direction Marinos Mouzakis, 2001; “The preparation” direction Marinos Mouzakis, 2009; “Flambé” direction Konstantinos Poulis, 2009; “To Perdiki” direction Konstantinos Mavridis, 2009; “Revanche” direction Dionisis Mataragas, 2010 And plays: “Variete”by Tsiritsantsoules, in which he participated as an actor, 2005; “Review” by Tsiritsantsoules ,in which he participated as an actor, 2011; “Operation Judith” direction Pericles Korovesis, 2010.                                        Photo © by Elias Moraitis

He has participated, as musical saw player, in the plays “Rainbow” (direction: Efi Theodorou, National Greek Theatre, 2010) and “ODC” (direction: Elli Papakonstantinou, 2010) He has recorded with the band "Ypogeia Revmata", Neon, Thanos Anestopoulos, Tsiri Band, etc. and he has composed songs for George Perris and Kalliopi Vetta. On stage he has collaborated with Savina Yannatou, Zucchero, Damo Suzuki, Thanos Anestopoulos, Nikos Platanos, Ypogeia Revmata, Blade Reininger.

In 2006 he participated in Sani International Festival in tribute to the ECM. Since September 2010 he has been working with Irini Tiniakou and has presented a series of concerts for musical saw and piano on works of classical composers in Athens and Paris. In 2015, he participated on the 1st European Musical Saw Festival placed in Vienna. In this Festival he presented a new musical saw custom handmade brand "Music Blade" made in Athens powered by himself. He is also play as an actor to several variete performances of “Tsiritsantsoules” art collectiva. He continues composing music and orchestrating to date.

Interview by Michael Limnios   Photos by Elias Moraitis © All Rights Reserved

What do you learn about yourself from the Avant-garde music and Rock counterculture?

Avant-garde helps me to understand that the artist should be exposed not just to his work but also to be on stage with the main target of bringing the audience into his musical world. Τhe artist cannot be abusive, can't play an avant-garde performance if he is ashamed. Τhe avant-garde is the artistic expression that has no boundaries so you have to know how you will dress for this journey. Rock counterculture hold me as much as possible away from the loneliness of technology that defines the shackles of our time. Rock attitude has power and romance, a mix that is able to cope with any circumstances. I keep driving my chopper, I keep rockin... away from any misery. Sometimes I feel like a super hero and the only antidote to my super power is to rest on my couch. Νone of the rockers can easily brake their journey because they will be bushwhacked by enemies and friends.

What were the reasons that you started the music saw's researches and experiments? How do you describe your sound?

All started in 2001 for a movie we tried to make with the art collective "Tsiritsantsoules". I had thought of some musical instruments made of rubbish. The musical saw covered the voice, violin, flute etc. It was the only way to fulfill my arrangement needs. I have seen it for the first time in a French movie called "Delicatessen" in 1991. The movie of "Tsiritsantsoules" never happened but the musical saw came into my life. I read incessantly and in 2007 I met Elly Deliou the soloist of this idiophone. She taught me the classical technique of the musical saw. With the help of the different musical genres I participated in, I am trying to discover all the possibilities of this musical instrument so far. Playing the saw is like singing and voice is the best musical instrument you can ever have. So, I try to sing, sometimes like Maria Callas, Diamada Galas or Om Kalthoum, sometimes like a blade.

"Music is made by sound, not an icon/image. If the icon disappeared we can hear the music's reality which is surrealistic, the imagination will rise again. So, if I could change one thing in the musical world I would choose to detach the music from the image." (Photo © by Elias Moraitis)

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What touched (emotionally) you from the 'vinyl' culture?

When I was a kid in Zakinthos Islands of Greece we had a punk group called "Shock". Akis Ladikos (rock producer) proposed that we open the concert of "Last Drive". We were very happy then, because this opportunity was rare to happen on the island we were staying. I remember going to the club with a tiny chopper I had and on the way, they arrested me for some reason. At the police station I got so crazy and I claimed to return with the patrol to the club. Eventually the cops turned me back to the concert and the we finally played. The concert didn't pick up a lot of people because no one believed that the real "Last Drive" appeared that night on the island. With Alex K. of "Last Drive" we are still good friends until now. Later on, I met some of the legends I had known from my vinyls such as Blaine Reininger of "Tuxedomoon", Damo Suzuki of "Can" and the great maestro George Hadjinikos and I had the honor of joining them on stage. All my life I've been looking for artists from the previous generation so I made a lot of acquaintances. This time I have finally found Kyriakos Sfetsas, a composer I admired his contribution to Fusion Greek Jazz, contemporary and orchestral music.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Many are the moments that I remember from the rock concerts, some of them are hard to tell. Two years ago, we were playing at "Chania Rock Festival" with the group Ypogeia Reymata. After the concert we sat back stage and talked to some friends. Then sudden air blew and the whole scene fell on us. A 10-meter giant screen passed almost over our heads and broke down behind us. Fortunately, we had no victims. But the concerts that I will not forget are the last two with Thanos Anestopoulos at Pallas and the Lazariston Monastery in 2016. None of the participants and viewers will ever forget these concerts. None. With my friend's loss, Greek Rock lost his Glam.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss the lower sound resolution. Nowadays producers and musicians try to achieve recordings in very high standards. The listener receives frequencies that are not friendly to his ear. I feel that the music sounds aggressive in such a frequency range. I also miss major personalities, front men and musicians who inspire me find the difference, the new kind of classic. I hope we will see in the future more artists expressing themselves freely and without taboo. We have to live extremely difficult circumstances with fear, hate and intolerance. The economic crisis born the fascism, not a friendly world for an artist. So, the musician must be extrovert, sharp and magnetic like a Pagliacci in the old days.  He should attract the crowd and he will have just a moment to contact with them before they return their look to their screen eyes. I'm afraid that love will be lost if the music can't find it...

"Avant-garde helps me to understand that the artist should be exposed not just to his work but also to be on stage with the main target of bringing the audience into his musical world. Τhe artist cannot be abusive, can't play an avant-garde performance if he is ashamed. Τhe avant-garde is the artistic expression that has no boundaries so you have to know how you will dress for this journey."

How has the avant-garde and rock music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I have always been jamming around rock and avant-garde. One day I finally found the music group "Tsiri Band". The "Tsiritsantsoules" knowledge in theatre and acting accompanied by my persistency and passion for many different musical genres were the reasons behind the start of the tsiri journey to a phantasmagorical world. Without avant-garde we could not have even existed. Without Rock we could not shoutout to anyone.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Music is made by sound, not an icon/image. If the icon disappeared we can hear the music's reality which is surrealistic, the imagination will rise again. So, if I could change one thing in the musical world I would choose to detach the music from the image.

What is the impact of music to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

Historically music has always been connected to social and political movements. As I said before the Pagliacci should alert the audience. The song must protect the heart from freezing. It's your friend when you are alone, it gives you power to move, it covers your back when you fight, it gives the pulse to the crowd.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

If I could go back in time I would choose to be attending the Eberhard Schoener's Classic Rock Night Munich 1982. Klaus Nomi performed his last concert before his death near the place where he was born. He chose to sing the Aria of the "Cold Genius" from Henry Purcell's 1691 opera "King Arthur or The British Worthy." This performance is certainly one of the most memorable in operatic history. An avant -garde performer, a new wave and pop rock idol managed to interpret better than anyone else this aria of Henry Purcel. It's the song I hear all the time when I want to reach another level with my musical saw. If I could meet Klaus Nomi I could just give him a hug for all that he offered to us. His will power is the base I have in my life when people start to laugh at me because I play the saw. When they trolled me with jokes as "can you cut a wood etc.." I always remembered the "cold song" of Klaus and the speechless and highly appreciative audience of this concert.

Nikos Giousef - Official website

Photo © by Elias Moraitis

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