YANNI

The Man, The Myth And The Moustache

  By George Tsioutsioulas


G: I'm sitting here with a man who needs no introduction....a man who really
needs no last name either. Yanni, you're up there with Madonna, Cher and
Jewel.

Y: I'm thrilled. (laughs)

G: You know what I noticed? There's not that many male musicians out there
who go by one name.

Y: Well you know this was not intentional. When I first came to America,
people would ask me what my name was and I would say Yianni Chryssomalis
and they would go 'huh'?. So I had I had to spell my first name out and then
my last name...eventually I realized that there's not that many Yianni's in
America so I could get away with a single name because as you know Yianni
is not that original a name in Greece. I eventually dropped one of the 'i's
and started going with Yanni.

G: You're on the road now. Tell me what happens when you're getting ready to
go out on a big tour because I imagine that that's when your normal life
stops and something else begins.

Y: Yes. High energy, tremendous demands, a lot of stress and a lot of
pleasure. It's an all or nothing proposition. In my case because I work with
so many different musicians and because most of them are virtuoso
performers, they are also very sensitive, extremely intelligent and they
have a lot of personality. A room filled with them is not exactly an easy
task. I have to somehow control them, plus give them a platform to express
themselves while at the same time being true to my music. Rehearsals run ten
to twelve hours each day. Basically it's all consuming.

G: So what happens when the tour is done? How hard is it to decompress and
come back to reality?

Y: There's something that I've known for twenty years now since I've been
touring. It's called the 'post tour blues' and that is unavoidable. Pretty
well everybody experiences that from the road crew to everybody on stage and
it takes two or three weeks to really come down. I get a little depressed
but I go and hang out by the ocean and try to slow it all down.

G: I've seen a few of your shows and nothing seems to happen on a small
scale. When you're dealing with such a big production and you have so much
happening around you, do you ever stop and look around at all the people who
are helping to make this possible and think 'how did this get so big'?

Y: Quite often. I started out playing in rock 'n' roll bands. Eventually
when I went solo I was playing only with keyboards as a one man show. Then I
played with a drummer, then it was an eight piece band, then a forty-five
piece band and it kept growing. Now I've
reduced the size of the orchestra somewhat but I've opted for virtuosity.
Over the past five years I've been looking all over the world and I've found
some incredible musicians and I can't wait to unleash them on the public.
One of them doesn't even speak English.
He's Armenian and he's an incredible violinist.

G: I guess that proves the point that music is an international language.

Y: Exactly.

G. Tell me what went through your head in the minutes leading up to you
stepping out on stage when you performed at the Acropolis.

Y: That was probably the probably the most important concert in my life. Not
only because of the location but also because it was the first time I had
performed in Greece. My mom and dad, all my relatives...it was the first
time they had seen me do what I do. It was not an easy concert to organize.
It looks effortless on the screen and that was the intention of course but
it wasn't a simple thing to have done. I don't want to sit here and talk
about all the problems we had but up until ten minutes before I walked out
on stage I was dealing with problems and fixing things because I was
producing the show as well; every aspect of it, from camera angles to
lights. But I managed to concentrate and once you look at the Parthenon, it
tends to snap you right into whatever you're doing.

G: You're from Kalamata. For anyone who has not been there how would you
describe it to them?

Y: I really don't want to advertise the place too much.

G: You want to keep it yourself.

Y: Yeah but I think it's inevitable. It's begun being discovered. It's one
of the most beautiful places in Europe. The ocean is clean and clear, the
terrain is rugged and the mountains go straight into the ocean. The water
there is very friendly, no sharks. I live in Florida now and it's nice but
it's not the same.

G: Would you say you're a private person?

Y: That's one thing I discovered recently. I'm shy. I didn't know that. I
used to think it would be great to be on stage and be famous but I tend to
shy away from people and noise. I don't go shopping anymore which really
bothers me. I guess I have a problem when people stare.

G: Seeing as you're a private and shy person, was it difficult letting it
all out in your autobiography?

Y: Very, very difficult. That took awhile. I also discovered something else
in trying to write the book. When the time came to sit down with David, the
writer, he would say 'you broke Greece's National swimming record and you
were a 50 meter freestyle swimming champion when you were fourteen' and I
would say, 'yeah' and he would then ask 'okay, what else?...did you go by
bus, by plane'? So slowly he had to drag out all the details and I was
surprised by how little I remembered because I just tend to let go of the
past, move forward and live in the now.

G: I want to read an excerpt from your book. You said 'the less you want,
the richer you are. The richer you are, the more you need in order to be
happy and the more miserable you'll be'.

Y: That's an ancient saying. As ancient as the Greek philosophers.

G: How difficult was it embrace that Philosophy and to believe it.?

Y: That is a good question. I was taught that ever since I was a kid and I
constantly struggle and strive to get there as my life has become more and
more complicated. In 1998 after the China and India expeditions at the Taj
Mahal and the Forbidden City, I completely fried out. I had a hard time
slowing down and I just couldn't enjoy anything. I couldn't enjoy being with
friends, I couldn't go to a movie or a restaurant and I didn't enjoy
having dinner and talking to people. That's really scary. When the simple
things in life don't please you you're lost.

G: So how did you get out of that dark period?

Y: I just went to Greece and did the same thing that any brave man does- I
ran home to mom. (laughs) I went there and life as you know is so simple so
I climbed the walls. there's nothing to do, other than enjoy the ocean, good
food, talking...TV. not so much, maybe two or three channels. The good
thing is it forces you to be with yourself. After a couple of months, the
pain began diminishing so I knew I was on the right track.

G: Even though you're famous, people don't know a lot about you. I mean,
it's known that you've sold millions or records and that you've put on some
spectacular events like the show at the Acropolis and people know about your
relationship with Linda Evans but that's about it.

Y: That was the reason I decided to do the book. As you know, most times
when you do an interview, you get filtered and edited and really how much
can you say in fifteen minutes? This was my chance to speak the way that I
wanted to speak and to tell my story in my own words.

G: You're new cd is called 'ethnicity'. How influenced are you by your own
Greek culture.

Y: Very much so. A lot of the chord structures, the rhythms and the fact
that I grew up in Greece- it goes into your soul.
There's a real appreciation for beauty and it's all very inspiring.

G: So how annoyed do you get when your music is called 'New Age'?

Y: It's not annoying anymore. You know what's funny? When I was starting out
I was an electronic musician because I was using synthesizers. Vangelis,
Kraftwerk, we were all considered electronic musicians. Eventually somehow
the name changed and we were new age. In a way I understand society's need
to give labels to things so we can find them but it was an unfortunate
choice of words because it's not a musical term. It doesn't say anything
about music other than it implies that maybe I wear white and sit on top of
the mountain and burn incense which is not the case.

G: One of the problems with becoming famous is that people are going to
come to their own conclusions as to who you are as a person. What would you
say is the biggest misconception that people have about you?

Y: People who have never heard my music or seen any of my concerts, I'm sure
they have images of something very laid back and relaxed but that is not so.
Anybody who has seen any of my shows will tell you that I have incredible
musicians who may be based in classical and jazz music but as a whole we
have a rock mentality because that's where I came from. I'm happy how things
are going. I'm doing what I want and I'm fortunate enough that there's
people around the world who actually like what I do.

G: That's a good thing. Getting paid to have fun and do what you love. A
good job if you can get it.

Y: Absolutely!