Melbourne has a huge Greek community with a passion for music. What kept you away from this audience?
It's my first time to visit your country. I've traveled to Europe, Asia, America and Africa but never been to Australia. I'm very excited. I have many Greek and Cypriot friends living there and a respect for the Aboriginal civilization. I don't understand why I never had a concert there before. Maybe, Australia was some kind of a fairy-tale land in my mind. I've seen lots of documentaries, read books, heard lots of stories, but never thought of visiting the place. It's the same with music. I studied and loved it, but never believed I would ever be a musician. The nicest things in life come when you don't expect them.
You've been described as a modern troubadour. Is that accurate?
I love the songs of the troubadours, their way of life, the way they wandered, transforming the news of their time into music and poetry, in a much more artistic and human way than the way news are presented on the TV today. I think describing me as a modern troubadour is too flattering for me to be true.
Growing up in Cyprus, I understand you wanted to be a drummer. Could you talk about that? It would also be good to know what you listened to as a younger guy and how that fed into your own sound.
It's true; I wanted to be a drummer when I was a kid. I destroyed all my mother's furniture, hitting them with chopsticks. There was no drum teacher in Cyprus though, so my parents sent me to a guitar teacher, convincing me that guitar and drums are pretty much the same. I grew up listening to different kinds of music. I first listened to my father's albums, Classical and Greek music mostly. And, of course, rock music, since girls didn't like you if you played Bach at the parties. Finally, Mahler and Stravinsky, Hajidakis and Theodorakis, AC/DC and Iron Maiden, became part of my everyday life. And, since my music is a mirror of my experiences, thoughts and feelings, all these influences became part of it. I learned to accept music without the labels that record companies use to divide the audience in target-groups, in order to sell records. As a music-lover, I'm in a constant creative confusion, I suppose. I ended up giving rock concerts, while studying classical composition at the St. Petersburg Conservatory!
Songwriting: do you follow a pattern or does inspiration hit at different times?
There's no pattern, I'm afraid. I wish there was one. It would be much easier for me. And I would come up every year with a new album, instead of gathering twelve or fourteen songs every three or four years. The only pattern I know is sitting alone in my room, with no telephones ringing, with a guitar in my hands. Sometimes this procedure leads me to writing a song, sometimes not. Either way, I have a great time.
Was it hard turning your back on a career in acting or were you destined to play music?
The truth is I never wanted to be an actor. I studied theater because I got this scholarship and I thought that it would help me continue in studying cinema. The idea was to become a cinema director. After the drama school I started acting in theater, the movies and the TV, gathering money for my future studies. Some months before leaving Greece for London, my first album was released, making me a professional musician, and leaving the movie industry with one promising-but-poor young director less.
Can you describe the instruments you will be bringing to Melbourne? How many musicians will be joining you on stage?
We got two violins, cello, double bass, percussion, drums and keyboards. They are all great musicians and I admire them a lot. Myself, I will be playing the guitars. I'm not much of a guitarist, but I'm the star, so my fellow musicians don't complain about my playing very often.
Live performance: when you are on stage, how aware are you of the audience? Do you adjust your repertoire to suit the mood or do you prefer to follow a set playlist?
A concert is an interactive kind of thing. Being on stage, or being part of the audience, doesn't really make much difference, in a way. We're all sailing on the same boat. The music is the boat we use, to visit new places. On this journey, we meet each other and come closer to our own selves. If the boat has problems from time to time, we have two options: either to fix the problem by changing the boat, making it more suitable for the kind of sea we're sailing on, or to learn quickly how to sail this same boat in different conditions. I feel free on stage to decide which method I will follow. But I don't do this alone. There's a secret dialog between the musician and the audience, a silent conversation that takes place under the notes and the applause. All you need to do is have the ability to listen to it. Get the energy of the gathering and transform it into music.
How do you prepare for a gig? Any backstage rituals?
I usually tune my guitar, talk a little with my fellow musicians, hope that an old friend that I haven't seen for years will not appear suddenly wanting to share childhood memories and tell me his news. I also try to make everybody backstage not to talk very loudly (Cypriots and Greeks usually shout instead of talking).
Greek fans know what to expect of an Alkinoos concert. But will people of non-Greek background also be able to relate to your songs?
This is a question I ask myself before every concert abroad. The truth is that I never felt that the foreign audience was not related to the music we play. It's not that exotic, after all... On the contrary, even though they miss the lyrics, they get the feeling and the atmosphere that's hidden behind the lines. If there's power in a song, it's transmitted regardless of language. The great thing is that people come open to listen to what we will present to them. And this is why they come. If they wanted to listen to something they already know, they would go to a Madonna's concert. Being "unknown" has a few advantages, you see. (ok, ok, and less money).
What do you think of fellow Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis and the way he's powering his way through the Australian Open?
I think it's amazing what this guy achieved! He came from an island with no tradition in tennis and led himself to the second position at the Australia Open. It's almost like coming from the Sahara desert and winning a silver medal at the Olympic games at ski! I admire him very much, not just as an athlete, but also as a guy who fights his way to the top, remaining humble and joyful. It's not easy, you know.
Finally, what is your impression of Australia?
My impression is that it's big and too far away!