An Interview with: Daemonia Nymphe
Krista – Thank you for your time and for speaking to us at Wyldwood Radio. I have listened to you for many years and your music genuinely transports me back to the past. I remember playing Invoking Pan, closing my eyes and seeing myself in a candle lit woodland circle with a bright shining moon lighting my skin as I danced. It’s great that your music can give you these visualizations and a sense of being in that moment. Daemonia Nymphe has a beautiful theatrical style when you all perform, where did this idea come from? Where do you get your instruments from and how do you learn to use them?
Spyros – Please allow me to give you a few details of how it all started. Daemonia Nymphe were formed back in 1994 by Spyros and Pantelis Giasafakis in Athens/Greece. After a period of four years researching ancient Greek music and art (especially of Archaic and Classical Times) we released our first vinyl album “The Bacchic Dance of the Nymphs” in 1998 by German label Solistitium. After the release we met Nikolaos Brass, a brilliant instrument manufacturer gaining many awards throughout his career. Nikolaos loved our music and actually thought that we recorded reproductions of ancient Greek instruments. At the time he was one of the very few luthiers in Greece who were researching and creating reproductions of ancient Greek instruments. He immediately trusted us with a plethora of his collection, including, lyra, barbitos and pandoura. From that day on our music was greatly influenced by the sound of these instruments, a research and exploration of the ‘ancient’ Greek instruments begun.
These ‘ancient’ instruments were actually new instruments as they haven’t been performed (and constructed) in Greece for thousands of years (the ancient Greek instruments were connected with the ancient religion, with ancient Greek Gods and deities and the new religion couldn’t tolerate that).
There is a misunderstanding regarding these instruments as many people think that traditional instruments and ancient instruments are the same, but this is not the case. Traditional instruments are still being used today, as traditional music is still vibrant in Greece; traditional instruments were created many centuries after the ancient ones (except for the very few ancient ones that survived). Ancient Greek instruments were lost. Today there are more musicians who are interested in ancient Greek music, still not so many, but when we started there were very few and maybe there were none professional ones in this field. So, these ‘new’ ancient Greek instruments were leading us the way to our journey into music. Our main goal with the band though was always to create new music and not to work as musicologists on recreating ancient Greek music.
Before the release of our second work, I met Evi Stergiou a great musician and musicologist who joined the band and with whom I have worked on everything else that we have released since, including theatre work, music for movies, documentaries and all our discography from “Tyrvasia” until today.
The theatrical aspect of our work was something that we always wanted to include in our live shows. Theatre was actually born in Greece and in ancient times the writer of the play was also the composer of the music, the prop maker the singer and the actor himself. We see an artwork as a combination of many different artforms and we believe that only then it is absolutely complete.
Krista – Where did the name of the band come from?
Spyros – Daemonia Nymphe means Divine Nymph, as Daemon (ΔΑΙΜΩΝ) in ancient Greek means God and Nymph with an “e” in the end, is actually the Greek pronunciation of the word Nymph. It is actually a mythological being, inspired by the force of nature and Greek mythology.
Krista – Who designs and creates your clothes and masks?
Spyros – It’s a group effort, we all contribute to the work but we have also collaborated from time to time with artists who specialize in making costumes, masks and props. I am a fine artist so some of the creations are actually mine.
Krista – What artists do you feel inspires your music?
Spyros – We listen to a lot of soundtracks; I love the work of Wojciech Kilar and Vaggelis Papathanassiou. We also listen to traditional music; we have some specific favourites that we listen to. For example, I like the polyphonic singing from Sardinia especially ‘Tenores di Bitti’, and also songs from Epirus and Crete (my father’s birthplace). One musician that has influenced me a lot in the past is Yiannis Kaimakis. He formed “Mousiko Polytropo” some years ago for which he used many traditional instruments that actually have roots in ancient times. This project inspired and motivated me to learn even more unusual instruments ; mainly percussion and aerophones.
Of course, inspiration doesn’t come from music only. Most of the times inspiration comes from an indescribable place; we cannot define it, but when the moment is successful it leaves it’s fruit in the right place.
Krista – Using instruments of the past certainly gives that ancient sound but how do you feel like you create your own style and where do your ideas come from? How do you all agree on a particular idea?
Spyros – It certainly does! Actually when we started, during our very first years of exploration of the ancient sound, we used acoustic instruments trying to catch that sound or at least what we thought it would be. Today these instruments still define our sound but as our goal was always to bring them into contemporary music, most of the times we combine them with traditional and contemporary instruments. We love to have variety in our music; so many tracks are based on different instruments, such as “Dance of the Satyrs” where askaulos (bag-pipes) is the main instrument, “Nature’s Metamorphosis” where pandoura is the dominant sound, or “Hypnos” where the ‘ancient’ Greek Kitharis defines the sound of that particular piece.
Krista – What books are you all reading at the moment?
Spyros – I am reading a lot about ancient Greek music at the moment as I am preparing for my next solo album “Improvisations in ancient Greek music II”. If you are not aware of my solo work, you may visit https://www.youtube.com/AncientGreekInstrumentsmusic, https://www.instagram.com/spyros_giasafakis/ and https://www.facebook.com/AncientGreekinstruments/
Krista – What was your favourite place that you all performed at and why?
Spyros – One of the most beautiful places we have ever performed was the castle of Leiria in Portugal; the audience was very enthusiastic and the setting inside the castle was amazing. I would also pick the show in Graz/Austria at the Psalm/Styriarte festival as it was one of the very few concerts that we performed without microphones due to the unique acoustic of the venue. Finally, I would also mention the performance ‘’Psychostasia II The Ritual” at the Asylum Chapel in Peckham where we united dancers, fire artists, actors and musicians in the unique (bombarded) old chapel, creating an immersive cinematic experience.
Krista – Your music is based around the Greek Gods and Goddesses, how would you describe your spirituality as it’s sewn into your music. Do you feel that you connect to them when you perform (like in a ritualistic way)?
Spyros – We prefer not to interpret our music. We would like to leave that to the audience.
Krista – I’m so excited for the ethereal Witches Lullaby to be released at the end of March. Where did the ideas come from for this song?
Spyros – In 2016 we were asked to compose the music for the play “Macbeth” for the National Theatre of Northern Greece. Although the band is ancient Greek themed and this project would not follow this path, the director thought that our music would be ideal as a soundscape for the Scottish fields of Macbeth. Since we like to experiment with different sounds and since Macbeth is a great play (not to mention Shakespeare’s Greek influences) we accepted the offer. After the great success of the play, we noticed that many people were intrigued by the whole soundtrack and especially by the sounds of “Witches’ Lullaby”, as they were using it to meditate or were playing it to their children to help them sleep. We found this really fascinating and it gave us the idea to invite female singers from around the world to improvise on the tune of the lullaby and create their own version. This is how the journey of “Witches’ Lullaby” begun. So, we invited Japanese Hatis Noit, Spanish Priscilla Hernandez, British Victoria Couper and Rey Yusuf. Evi Stergiou of Daemonia Nymphe also created her own version. Although this is mainly a side-project between our main albums, we do think that it is as powerful as our main work.
Krista – Coronavirus permitting, have you got any gigs coming up or any projects that you would like to tell us about?
Spyros – All of our concerts have been cancelled, except one in Sweden and Estonia but we still don’t know if it will occur.
Please Check out Daemonia Nymphe on:
Links for the “Witches’ Lullaby” EP