by Panagiotis Kompotis, September 2001 (Athens, Greece)

1) Has the city of Lisbon influenced your music? In what way? Is the ocean (the moves and sounds of the sea) a source of inspiration to you?

There’s an attribute of water streams that is an inspiring model for me, to create structures. The way a river is always changing and is, at the same time, always the same is something that i try to achieve in some of my music. Lisbon has a very intimate relationship with the Tejo river, perhaps i get some of its serenity…

Do you refer to climates and topography in your solo material?

I always chose to make non-descriptive, non-referential music. That’s why i never made music for film, theatre or any other thing but for the music’s own sake. My first inclination is to reply “no” to your question, but thinking a bit deeper i suppose there’s an element of my environment that may find some way into the music, which is the weather, and possibly also the quality of the light here in Lisboa. I suppose the weather in Greece is generally similar, the latitude is nearly the same… I say this because i find myself with a preference for warm sounds. This became very clear once that i played a concert with my friend the Icelandic guitarist Hilmar Jensson. We have very similar artistic and technical concerns, but it was interesting to observe the contrast between his “cold” sound and mine.

2) How do you choose the titles of your albums and your music pieces? To what extent do these titles refer to the music? Does naming pieces of music restrict somehow the receiver’s ability to create his own scenarios and meanings when he listens to the music?

No, i think the name of a piece can boost the receiver’s reading of the music, especially if the title is in some way puzzling, absurd or mysterious. Titles are sometimes hard to arrive to and involve lost of trials and work, some other times they just click instantly into place. They do refer to the music, in a more or less oblique or remote way. Sometimes they’re more poetic, some others more technical. I try to get titles that are phonetically and poetically interesting, that have several possible meanings and that reflect the music in some way. This doesn’t happen always, however, i have horrible titles like “AER 7 E”, or, in the case of the recent “Violence of Discovery…”, the titles existed before the music and they have absolutely no connection to it…

3) When you use visuals and video footage during your show don’t you, in a way, make it difficult for the audience to create their own visuals?

I like to keep all the possibilities open, so i add the videos as a visual alternative to my own visual presence. It’s true that for people who like to create mental images the videos don’t help, but such people also usually close their eyes when they imagine their own visuals…

How important are these visuals to your music? How do you use them and how would
you like to use them in the future? Would you say that your music has a cinematic aspect?

The video always comes after the music, and most often the way they come together is just a match. I don’t make video “for” the music, i just follow an idea that may be interesting, then i see which music goes better with it. Mostly, i play these videotapes in concerts, although it has happened to have installations with them. I will continue to make video in the future, perhaps using it in the same way, unless there’s some inspiring change in technology. Someone has already told me this music has some cinematic potential, but frankly i try hard to make it as abstract as possible.

4) I read that each track of “Violence of Discovery…” album took months to complete. Why did it take so long? Could you describe us, with a few words, the way you work? Would you characterise yourself as perfectionist?

I work very slow, it’s difficult to find moments when everything is in flux and coming toghether. When it happens, i can have two hours of work which are worth more than two weeks of it. Usually i start a piece by discovering an interesting sound. I lay it down with some basic structure or form and add several layers of complementary sounds. From then on it’s a slow process of removing everything that doesn’t belong there. It’s a bit like an archaeologist, carefully removing the sand around a precious object, except in my case i have to decide the shape of that object as i remove what’s around it – the object is sand too. I decide that a piece is complete is at a moment when i can no longer find any aspect of it that i can improve, which is to say that i find it perfect.

5) I ‘d say that your music is very nicely integrated with the sounds of our every-day life. Do you try to find sounds that are similar to those of our non-musical environment?

It’s a complex question… No, i don’t try to find sounds that refer to other sounds, i try to find new and abstract sounds. But right at the start, i like to keep a connection to the original guitar tone. Then, very often i guess something happens at a subconscious level — i find that the sounds i feel most comfortable with are ones that in some way connect in my mind to an abstract idea of some environment sounds, like the distant roar of the city, traffic in the highways, sounds of water, birds and strange animals. I don’t really look for that, but it seems my brain checks my sounds against environment sounds that i like. This brings us to the other side of this issue, which is the way we listen to what you call “non-musical” environment. It can be quite musical, if we listen musically. I enjoy a lot of “music” in environment sounds, and i’m not really aware of how it happens, but i’m convinced that such listening ends up getting reflected in the music…

Would you say that your recordings are your contribution to our sonic background?

Hopefully… i try to make music that in some way is open to the environment. I feel very honored that people actually buy recordings of my music and use it in their lives. When i hear about listening experiences of this music blending with the environment, i’m very happy, it’s the best that can happen.

6) Can you tell us a few things about this “recording of silence during a space shuttle mission real time webcast”?

I was navigating NASA’s website and there was a mission with a realtime audio webcast, so i checked it but no one was talking, instead there was this wonderfully textured noise.

Is silence the most minimal sounds nature can produce or just a sonic gap that waits to be filled with sounds?

In my opinion, the most important thing that John Cage left to us is the awareness that there is no such thing as silence. He discovered this when he went to an anechoic chamber and heard his blood circulating and his nervous system working. So silence is impossible. The boundaries of the word “silence” are measured by our perception of sound and our expectations about it. See the example above, the Space Shuttle “silence”: Since this was a line of communication, with the purpose of transmitting spoken words of astronauts, if no one is talking we call it “silence”, but that is not to say there was no sound, this “silence” was full of a beautiful noise.
“Silence” and “noise” are both things that exist only in our head. They have no connection to reality.

How can a musician use this silence in his recordings and his live performances?

A musician’s “silence” would then be the absence of sound emission, playing nothing. This silence is extremely important. Everytime a musician plays silence he’s opening a space, in which anything can happen. The more open a musician is to the environment, the richer his silence can be. If playing in a group, the sounds of other musicians can also breathe better within such an open space. Back to Cage, he arrived to an extreme use of silence. His piece 4’33” consists of having a musician producing no sound for that duration. *Everything* that is heard during that time is the music. This means, to me, simply that “Silence = Infinity of sound”.

7) What are you plans for the future? Can you tell us a few things about your project with the bridges?

I have no plans, i will have to discover what to do next. There is a couple of CD-single releases soon, like a live solo guitar set in Chicago and a set of “early works”, my first pieces recorded on 4 track cassette. I might start work on the bridge project, i don’t know. This project is about making music having as source material recordings of structure vibrations on large metallic bridges, like the Golden Gate. Each piece will have sounds from a single bridge.