Androniki Skoula – Chaostar

Interview by Alessandra Cognetta

In this interview we get to know more about Chaostar with the help of their lovely vocalist Androniki Skoula. Trying to describe Chaostar‘s music is a demanding task, a bit like telling your friends about a really good book you’ve read without spoiling the sudden twists or surprises. When you approach their music you have to prepare for the unexpected, the wonder, the emotions and lots of talent. Their latest masterpiece is “Anomima” (which we reviewed here already, a recommended read if you want to get an idea of how it sounds), released through Season of Mist at the beginning of May. Androniki gave us an in-depth overview of the creation process behind the new album, her own path as a singer with Chaostar and as a person, Eve’s Apple (I’m always more than happy to talk about it!) and the immortal women of Greek tragedies like Medea and Antigone, but also the Greek philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria, who some of you may remember from the 2009 film “Agora”. But enough with the spoilers, scroll down and start reading!

Hello and welcome to Femme Metal, Androniki! We’re really happy to have you here with us. May is a crucial month for you and Chaostar, with your newest work “Anomima” being released worldwide right now. What were the reactions so far, and how is Chaostar doing?

Hello, dear Alessandra! It is a great pleasure talking to you. Indeed May is a very crucial month because of the release of the album, however I think that the work done the past 20 months has been more important. “Anomima” is a result of team-work with Christos Antoniou on the top controlling and directing everything. Up to the moment we are very satisfied with the response “Anomima” had from the audience. We know that a number of listeners found it a little bit more complex and hard to listen, comparing with the previous works of Christos’, but this is completely normal. The aim of the band is to get Chaostar’s music as many steps possible forward and that can only happen through experimentation and search for different sounds. Chaostar’s works tend to be more and more experimental, for listeners that are really open-minded .

“Anomima” is the first Chaostar album to feature your amazing voice, even though you’ve been part of the project since 2009 and have been working with Christos Antoniou for a long time now. How was it being involved in the creation process as a vocalist? What was the biggest challenge for you?

Working on Chaostar is a wonderful experience and I can tell that the more the time goes by the more interesting that becomes. When I first joined the band in 2009 Christos expressed his desire to start working on the new album and I was enthusiastic. I told him that I was ready to do my best for the album and here comes the interesting part. The biggest challenge has been the fact that Christos‘s prior demand was to use my voice with extreme flexibility and distortion , something that is contrary to the strict and totally controlled voices that we use in opera. I had never heard of Chaostar before joining the band so I had to perform not only respecting the previous history of the band, but also leaving my personal signature on the album. If a singer doesn’t manage to leave an identical mark on the songs then it is un-finished work. So many challenges for me in one album, flexible, vivid voice, full of emotions and highly operatic when that is demanded.

You were also entrusted with songwriting duties and I must admit I was really surprised by the variety of languages (English, French, Italian, German, Japanese…) and themes used. How did you approach the lyrics as a songwriter and as a singer? What did you want to convey?

I had this really heavy duty or writing the lyrics, that is true, but the band needed this time an orientation in inspiration. I first wrote them on Greek and then I translated with the help of teachers into the other languages. For the record I have to inform you that the lyrics on “Ma” were written by George Diamantopoulos.

The obvious question is what you just said. How did I approach the lyrics as singer and as a writer. First of all I wanted to find the right words not only to express my feelings but also to convey them to the audience. I try to have in mind that there has to be a “story “ you tell throughout the lyrics to the audience and that I tried to do. On “Anomima”, we sat down and ended up saying that we needed to find a concept for this album We truly wanted to be inspired of an idea, of a concept that would fuel the desire to express ourselves. So we decided to create a central pole of this album and it has to do with the power of the human being to defend its ideas and beliefs even with the cost of its life. Our song “Sorrow Descending “ for example is inspired by the Greek ancient tragedy of Antigone, who refused to leave unburied the body of her brother and she buried his body defying the command of the King who strictly forbade that. She paid the cost of her action with her life, but she stays loyal to the family vows that link her with her brother. For me it was hard to write something that would describe in two lines the whole tragedy, but after thinking I ended with the use of controversial nouns so “sorrow descending” is her descend to death and “my soul ascends” is the opposite action of her soul that goes up to the sky exhaled and liberated.

The limited edition of the album includes a DVD, “Anomimata”. There’s a teaser online already and I was really excited to get a glimpse at Chaostar‘s behind-the-scenes work. What are the contents of the DVD and is there any hope for those who aren’t able to buy the limited edition to get a copy, in the future?

The DVD consists of real-time moments of the recordings. Nothing is fake, everything is at the time of the recordings and that was from the beginning our demand. We wanted to give the audience a visual idea of how the recordings of the band are taking place. What are the difficulties a band has to deal with, which are the mistakes, how we communicate, how hard it is to record the traditional instruments, how we deal with the disagreements etc. I believe that this is more interesting than already pre-scheduled scenes of a band. Everybody wants to see the real thing and not the one that has several layers of “make-up” on. I wish you enjoy it. As far as the separate copy of the DVD , I really don’t know yet.

Another element I absolutely wanted to mention is the album artwork, because I’ve totally fallen in love with it (which I hope is a valid reason for bringing it up). Who is the artist behind it and how is the art linked to the music, what does it symbolize?

The artwork was done by a very talented French artist, Valnoir, from Metastazis. From the very first moment that Christos decided to create the new album, he made clear to all of us that he was thinking of a new, fresh air over the atmosphere of Chaostar. So the artwork shows exactly that, the “enlightened” human being that approaches the Truth and the other cover shows “Wisdom” protected by snakes who tend to be sacred animals in ancient Greece and not only. Colour, rebirth, wisdom, enlightenment, truth, knowledge, renaissance atmosphere with art-deco elements given in such a magnificent way only Valnoir can give, all the visual ambience talks about the “Rennaissance man”. The man who believes in experiment, in science, in education, knowledge, to the right of defending our beliefs and goes against superstitions and imposed ideas.

Let’s talk a bit about you now, Androniki. You’ve always been interested in studying music, but you’re also fluent in various languages and have studied Architecture at university. How does a single person manage to successfully keep up with so many different and demanding activities?

Sometimes I wonder myself , if what I am doing is right or wrong. However I cannot do differently because I don’t believe in separation of activities in life. We are born free, able to get in touch with all the aspects of music, art, science, nature, relationships, whatever. Why should we divide the fields and impose to ourselves to decide what we are? Every knowledge, every trip taken through our lives gives us important assets that we use in the future. If I hadn’t been for example an architect I wouldn’t have learnt to organize my thoughts and I wouldn’t have experienced the process of becoming an architect. That would have meant that I would be a completely different person, who might have been not that able to sing the way I do today. Universities and the structure of societies demand that strict division between professions, but we have numerous examples of people who overcame those prejudiced ideas and used all the assets of their life productively. Of course combining many different things demanded from me extra energy. It is the hardest task I have ever done in my life. Trying to be with the one foot on the one sector and with the other in a completely different one.

Languages are another huge part. While studying music since 7 years old I also expressed my desire to learn fluently English and French and that has been another period of stress for me. In the end it is worth it, but during the process it is very hard to be good in multi-tasking. Right know I am working hard on German and I believe that I will become better and better through the years. Practicing languages is not an easy thing to do, first of all because you rarely find people to talk with. My French 10 years before were perfect, right know they are in a kind of decline and I have to revision myself at home in order to be “in shape”.

You are also a member of the Eve’s Apple community, a remarkable initiative and gathering of female artists that I’m always glad to mention during interviews. How did you get involved with the other ladies? What is your most cherished experience as part of the “orchard”?

Yes, Eve’s Apple! Eve’s Apple is a great community and it consists of female artists! We are a group of women who support each others’ works and we strive for showing people that music unites! We feel proud and happy for every step taken by the female artists on Eve’s Apple. Personally I had been proposed to be admitted by another member and friend, Iliana Tsakiraki, and I was approved. I cannot tell about a specific experience I recall, but several times I cherish all the positive feedbacks an Apple can get when something exciting happens! It is like a chain reaction and that is really remarkable.

Speaking of remarkable women, there are a lot of female characters, mainly borrowed from classical Greek masterpieces, in your career. One is Medea and the homonymous song in Chaostar‘s latest release, and the other is Antigone, who inspired a whole piece concert by Christos where you played a very important role. Can you tell us what do legendary female characters like these mean to you?

That is a wonderful question that can actually take 2 hours for me to answer it. However we don’t have that much space in the interview 🙂 We need also to add one more lady in “Anomima” and that is Hypatia in the Greek song “Fair Maiden”. The three of them have a mutual connection and that is exactly what gives me chills and makes them so important to me. They defy certain condemnation. Medea, Antigone and Hypatia follow the path of their hearts, morals and vows without taking into consideration the “outer world”. Their ability to keep a vast distance from the “prevailing notions” of their times makes them Titanic figures for me. All those ladies know the truth, or allow me to rephrase their truth. The truth that makes death look feeble in front of them. Medea slaughters her children, without having any consideration of the general judgment and that is because she knows the truth. The truth of Jason‘s infidelity who led her there. Antigone will not allow for her brother’s body to rot unburied (ultimate disgrace and dishonor for Greeks) under no circumstances. Her inner truth orders her to bury him even if that means death for her. Hypatia knew that living without knowing is not worth at all. Her quest for scientific truth led her to death. To me those women are symbols of freedom. The kind of freedom that makes death look unable to prevent them from performing their actions.

What was the path you and the band chose, especially for “Medea”, to bring and adapt such an iconic work into (modern) music?

A creepy and emblematic masterpiece such as “Medea” was the very best thing to work on. Chaostar always loves and embraces ideas that open the door in the darkest side of ourselves. For that song we tried to create a continuously “disturbing” and horrific ambience. The song starts with the narration of the legendary David Vincent and works as a warning. Then Medea starts to express her vicious thoughts and the reasons why those thoughts emerged inside of her. By that time the music is neurotic, with avant-garde elements, various rhythmic patterns and dark sounds. After that then comes the “waltz” movement, when Medea has already taken the decision to kill her children getting revenge for her husband’s infidelity. She holds the listener’s hand and she drags him into a deadly dance… Finally the worst part comes where whistles imitate the screams of the dying children and the frenzy rhythms underline the unspeakable of the crime. That was the way we created “Medea” and I truly believe that it is close to the modern rules because we worked on multiple layers of subtraction.

You have provided guest vocals for a lot of bands in the past (Rotting Christ, just to name one). Are you working on other projects right now (or planning something for the upcoming future)?

For the moment no I am not working on other projects.

We have unfortunately reached the end of our interview. Thank you for taking the time to answer to our questions, Androniki, and I wish you and Chaostar all the best on behalf of the ‘zine! If you want to leave a message to fans and readers, this is the right place.

Thank you for the interest, it was a wonderful interview! I want to promise all the fans and readers that the Chaostar live shows are going to be fantastic! The feeling that we are going to give is going to be a new experience for all of you. Thank you for your support and thank you for your unconditional love! I wait patiently to perform with Chaostar for you! Cheers!

 

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