Friday 20 January 2017
Interview with Nikolas Anadolis in Linto
Editor: Gogo Dimopoulou
When he was 23 years old he was distinguished by Berklee Music College in Boston, where he studied under scholarship and was awarded in the international jazz piano contest “Martial Solal” in Paris. He appeared in the legendary Blue Note in New York and in festivals like London Jazz Festival and the Enjoy Jazz Festival. At the moment, he is teaching in Greece and is completing his PhD. He is composing for orchestras and is appearing solo or with his trio both in Greece and abroad. Rightfully then he is considered a phenomenal pianist. We had the pleasure of discussing with him following his appearance with Nikolas Anadolis Trio on Linto stage.
G.D.: You have studied at Berklee Music College with a scholarship; one of the most renowned colleges in the world. Please tell us about that experience.
Nikolas Anadolis: I don’t know where to start from… I went to Berklee when I was 16 years old for the summer week programme. Then I was granted the presidential scholarship which covered tuition, accommodation and meals so I was lucky to be independent in my seventeen and I was only left with supporting my scholarship. While I was there I worked on music from day to night, because that is why I went there on the first place. I did nothing but play music. I composed a lot. I composed a piece daily. It was a very creative time for me. Whatever I say about Berklee won’t be enough. I was given the chance to do what I love most from day to night. I met many talented fellow students who were very open in playing with me. There was a strong insistence in everyone projecting their own personality and explore how we could combine all this.
Top musicians from around the U.S. came to teach at the particular college. I could mention a lot and for hours. The important thing is there were many programmes we were being recorded in. I was lucky enough to play with Justin Faulkner, Alex Hahn, Four Freshmen, David Holland and each had their own story to tell. Listening to things that happened in the 60s and later formed the jazz scene by jazz legends themselves is truly amazing.
I performed in string quartets, septets and nonets, I recorded approximately 10 albums but without releasing any of them by personal choice. My final Berklee project was a 19-member big band which I conducted and I formed with the most talented musicians. It was a time when I only slept for 3-4 hours a day, I composed all the time and I booked rehearsal halls. I am very proud for that band. Some of its members are now leading great careers and I am very proud I included them in my band.
G.D.: From a very young age you have managed to be distinguished, to be awarded several times and to work with great musicians. Have these experiences created a feeling of responsibility?
Nikolas Anadolis: None whatsoever. On the contrary, they have given me a sense of energy and strength for the future. It is like the Americans say, “if you make it in New York you can make it anywhere”. That is when you have already performed with the best, you know how to handle various situations. Although to be honest I don’t believe there are better and worse musicians. There are times you play with some musician who is considered a phenomenon but you are unable to produce good music whether because they are very selfish or you are very tense. I used to be a stricter leader for my trio but now I allow the musicians to express themselves bringing out their own personality.
Having performed with several musicians and having been given the opportunity to present my work in some very important halls, I can only have been filled with self-confidence. I remember after having played in my first festival in Morocco I was filled with enthusiasm for six months! I wanted to study constantly. I was thinking about improvisations and I couldn’t sleep. I could tell that that was the beginning of a course I had dreamt of as a child. I had the dream of performing my music to the people. I have travelled a lot and I feel a great sense of tranquility. I have performed with musicians that I used to listen to and I have never thought that I would meet and play with them, or that they would spend their time doing so. Good musicians that have evolved are not prejudiced and always give the chance for someone to be heard and see what they can do. And this is happening because all of them are music lovers, or rather music freaks.
G.D.: How did you meet Vasilis Podaras and Kostas Konstantinou?
Nikolas Anadolis: I met Vasilis while playing at the Rhodes Jazz Festival with Dimitris Vasilakis. I told him I wanted to form a trio and without much thinking that same day I asked him to join me because I thought the two of us had a lot to say on music. Vasilis accepted right away. Then we were looking for a bassist. The truth is I was very shy and could not easily talk to people I didn’t know. I had a particular concept about the trio in my mind and I really wanted to try playing with Kostas. But I didn’t know how to ask him as I knew he had a lot on his plate. I was surprised with our first session as I did not expect Kostas showing such an enthusiasm with my music.
I remember playing a particular song- I gave them the most difficult one first- and we were working on it for four hours! Never before had I experienced something like that in Greece. While making the groove we kept smiling! And that’s the most important thing; music making people happy. It’s an art that confers emotions. Following this we wanted to play every week. Vasilis and I had the idea of creating the suite which Kostas embraced it and so now we have come up with a 70-minute song. In the second set we play something completely improvisational, that comes out as a second improvisational suite. Now, the particular trio has no taboos, meaning we can incorporate traditional elements or whatever we like in our music. It comes naturally.
G.D.: What is the most important advice you have received as a musician and you still follow?
Nikolas Anadolis: There is much advice I follow after I contemplate it and detect the particular risks I need to take in order to follow it. I am not remote-controlled and I always do what I consider best. I am quite selfish in that way. I take seriously the opinions of people that I respect. One of them is my professor at the New England Conservatory where I did my post graduate studies, Fred Hersch. He gave me this advice: “Every time you sit at the piano, experiment. Start with an idea and take notice of where it will lead.” I follow this advice in my life generally, telling myself “Go out there and improvise”.
G.D.: You follow Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans’ technique. Do you think you have found your own identity or will you continue experimenting on other techniques?
Nikolas Anadolis: I believe that even the greatest musicians experiment. Neither Bill Evans nor Keith Jarrett have remained the same if you compare their former recordings to the new ones. Everyone has had a certain progress. I don’t believe this ever stops. It’s your “voice” that you develop. Every person has a certain “voice”, it is just that some bring it out more than others. As musicians, our goal is to be as sincere to ourselves as possible- with our voice that is- and that comes through time, our experience and work. You have to love what you represent in music. You should neither underestimate nor overestimate it. You have to find the right balance. I have seen many talents in the US that didn’t evolve because they had a huge self esteem and some others that did not believe it ever could happen actually making it. You cannot achieve a goal unless you work for it. It takes hard work.
I believe it’s the sounds and the emotions you wish to bring out that create the technique. Based on this I created my own technique. When I was young, urged by my father, I performed some exercises that on one hand strengthen my fingers but on the other had I not done them I might have been in a better place now as I find that was a waste of time. People who only studied the technique have not managed to gain their own style and they sound mechanic in several occasions. I feel that when you get obsessed with something, first you try to imitate it and then you start isolating it, slowly bringing out your own personality. This whole process creates the technique. When teaching I try to bring out my students’ technique based on the idea of sound. I try not to make them prejudiced about a certain music style. It’s a shame for someone to be "trapped" despite all the information around us.
G.D.: What is the lesson the U.S. has taught you?
Nikolas Anadolis: I have learned a great lesson. Based on the assumption that man has five senses and you only work with one- I’m referring to the sense of music- at some point you will come to a hurdle which you will not be able to overcome if the rest of your senses are weak. Even if you work for 12 hours a day you will reach your limits. I reached my limit in the land called America. I knew that I definitely had to go! I had to live differently.
I had a goal- that of doing whatever possible while studying and then come back. And that is because unfortunately I did not find the quality of life that I was looking for. I appreciate the people who have vision but to my mind the whole system was very controlled despite having been manned within it. I have always had a plan, I knew where I was going, it is just that now I have greater confidence than ever about the things I can achieve in this world. I very well know that my mind bares great energy. I consider talent the will power every man has in order to achieve their goal. If you own that power you can achieve the unachievable! I don’t know how far this can take you but I believe it can because I have seen it with myself. I would like however, some time in the future to take a break and lead a quiet life.
If we were talking three years ago I would not speak like this. I have changed as a person. I have open ears, I highly respect other people’s opinions, and to be more specific I am concerned by them, I have began to appreciate my every breath. The secret is to enjoy every second of your life. Not to let a second slip away. Whatever you take up has something for you to gain. For example every time I read literature it contributes to my music. Even when I were in the army, the fact that there was this teamwork with the rest of the soldiers when working and carrying sacks, taught me how to work with people; even in something so simple that demands more effort than brain. However funny this may sound, this gave me the strength to be more creative in music. I can continue giving you more examples but it all comes to that I have found myself in various situations that all have offered me more “words” to say when sitting at the piano. My vocabulary has expanded.
G.D.: Thank you for the interview Nikolas.
Nikolas Anadolis: Thank you too!