It is an enormous honor for me to have an interview with Daemonia Nymphe, ethereal World Music ensemble with reproductions of ancient Greek instruments and powerful echoes of the old greek myths. Born in Greece and based now in London, this unique band is formed by Spyros Giasafakis and Evi Stergiou. Since I discovered them, their music has been a recurring inspiration for my art. I first knew about this wonderful project when I was watching a tribal dance video in Youtube choreographed with Dance of the Satyrs song. Immediately, I wanted to know what I was listening to and I found out Daemonia Nymphe, which appeared to me as a profound view of the ancient greek music and mysticism, but not in a religious way. For me, it has to do more with the drama inside the spiritual fact: the catharsis which reconciles us with the shadows and lights and let us dominate the violence by turning destruction into creation.
Your music seems to me not entirely bright and ethereal and not entirely dark and attached to the Earth, but a harmonic mixture of these two sides. You bring the ancient greek myths back through orphic and homeric hymns and even Sappho poems, all of them reinterpreted and turned into a bridge between past and modern times. What do you think that make these millennial hymns modern enough to get to people’s heart nowadays? What do you try to transmit with your music? There is an energy in your music that joins male and female energy. As a team of two, how do you create this interesting sinergy? Which are your main influences to compose?
Firstly please allow us to thank you for your beautiful words about our work.
These hymns are actually hymns to life, hymns to the beauty of life.
Active engagement with the every day, whether it is today or thousands of years ago, it doesn’t really matter. Beauty is always relevant and there is beauty in every thing, even in ugliness. With our music we don’t try to transmit anything, we just interpret the everyday, the ceremony of the everyday, the ritualistic aspect of our mundane lives, even though nothing is totally mundane. The male and the female elements are everywhere, they are part of the same universe and they form (complete) it .We are inspired by the everyday life, there is so much history in it, as it is consisted by the shadows of the past.
Nikolaos Brass, the Greek master, has provided you with several instruments created from a thorough study of how the ancient greek instruments were. You have used for your songs instruments like varvitos, krotala, pandoura, double flute, sistrum... How this fact has determined the course and soul of you music?
Since Nikolaos Brass gave us his amazing instruments, we managed to approach different sounds and include them to our new works. These instruments may originate from a distant past, but their sounds are not familiar, we could even say that they create a new sound to our contemporary era. So, we had to discover the new sounds and blend them with everything we already had. Initially this wasn’t easy as we were very cautious of the way that the instruments should be performed.
We made a lot of research for years to find out how they might be performed, we studied the ancient vases, sculptures, paintings and reliefs to gather information. After some years we realised that the instruments should be used the same way as any other instrument, because that is their purpose, to integrate into the contemporary world.
The whole experience of Daemonia Nymphe is more than how it sounds. The visual concept and the performance are essential to experience what this band offers to the public. This mixture, music and performance, produces the effect of being part of a ritual. It makes me think about Eleusinian Mysteries and how they could have been. How do you connect the visual part with your music? Could you tell me something about the creation process?
We always wanted to include a theatrical aspect to our music as it wasn’t only about music itself, although the main artistic creation is of course the music. Our goal since we started was to create a theatrical spectacle just like our ancestors did, in ancient times; the writer was the composer, the arranger, the set designer and the performer all together. As I said before, when we talk about ceremonies and rituals, we shouldn’t look further than our own every day life. Life is ceremonial and should be celebrated as such. We pay attention to the visual aspect of our work as much as the sound of our creations; I am a visual artist so the visual aspect is very important for me to be able to complete the work.
Let us talk about Macbeth CD launch now. This album was released last year to online platforms and we can listen to
it in bandcamp, Spotify, Youtube. Since 1 september we can get hold of the physical CD. We will find there the original music composed by Daemonia Nymphe for the Macbeth theatrical production commissioned by the National Theatre of Northern Greece, two additional short pieces as bonus tracks and features original artwork by Spyridon created especially for this release. I have heard it many times and I can say that, despite all the new elements (brass instrumentation, orchestral percussion, Scottish bagpipes...), there is an unmistakable touch of Daemonia Nymphe in all these themes. Though the context of Macbeth is pretty different from the context of the ancient myths, in the Shakespeare’s play we can find greek echoes: the three witches, Hecate and the omnipresent concept of Fate. You have composed original music for short films, documentaries and DVD productions, and collaborated with many internationally well-known musicians, but how was the experience of composing original music for nothing less than a Shakespeare’s play? Was it a challenge for you? What was your main inspiration for the composition? How was the creation process?
It is not the first time that we compose music for theatre; we have worked on many theatre productions in the last eight years, since we moved to London. The fact that we recorded the whole score in the studio and worked on it like it was a soundtrack for a film rather than music for a play is what was actually really new for us. Fortunately the director had the same vision as we did and we worked as a team the whole way through, we inspired her and she inspired us. We also met with all the other artists who were working on it and the fact that we have all worked together before, made it a lot easier for us to accomplish the work.
Your Macbeth album has many nuances that includes delicateness, madness, suffering, sadness, blame, cruelty. It transmits a really complex variety of feelings and concepts and has many contrasts that enriches the whole. My favorites ones are “Never shall that morrow see”, because of its dark and seductive progression, “Witches’ lullaby”, “Lady MacDuff’s lament”, bright, pure and full of sorrow. Also I love how the opening theme is connected with the last one, both of them joint by a kind of circularity. It makes me feel that Macbeth and his corruption have been defeated and erased, but everything starts again, and, thus, the horror can happen again, since Macbeth was one of the most loyal men of the king at the beginning. Within the beauty and hope of the last song, there is something bittersweet. What are your favorite songs from this work?
Glad to hear that our music was clearly received. The first and last piece are exactly as you describe them. Your notes are very interesting, thank you for sharing them with us. Obviously we don’t have favourite pieces; we see the work as an individual piece and worked on it as such.
Could you tell me something about your short term projects? Where do you want to evolve towards with your music?
Art and music are a big part of my life; they make me forget our mortality.
All my projects are more or less about this. All projects that we are working on can be tracked on our social medial websites:
Projects and side-projects can be tracked there.
You have travelled all around the world spreading your music and your show: Austria, England, France, Belgium, Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, Italy, USA, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Greece… and it seems that you are going to keep doing it. Have you planned to go back to Spain someday?
Unfortunately there is nothing for Spain at the moment, but we definitely want to perform in Spain again.
Thank you for the interview.
Thanks to you for your beautiful words. And, of course, I hope to see you soon around Spain... (Let's trust the Fate!).
Photos by Spyridon