Interviews with Paul Voudouris

Metaxourgeio In Action

1. What was the catalyst leading to your decision to pursue your chosen professional path?

My love for music, combined with my innate need to express myself. It wasn't really such a concrete decision to choose music. I wasn't sure which path to take. I loved literature, have been a teacher in schools (adult, middle and high schools) and was drawn to acting, karate, and writing. But I knew that I wanted to express my own unique vision and, as I was always singing, to be a songwriter stood out as a path to follow. I was in college in the United States and my friend from childhood, Chris Spheeris, began to send me lyrics that he would write and to which I would compose music, sing and record, and return to him in Wisconsin. After two years of this, Chris suggested that we begin a professional music career, which we did in the summer of 1976.

2. What was the greatest challenge you had to overcome to achieve your goals? What was your source of strength and guidance during this period?

My self-criticism and impatience. My other, less critical, more patient self.

3. How does it feel to be considered as an artist in society? What do you feel your contributions to society as a whole have been in your professional capacity?

I’ve never really thought about how I feel about how others consider me...but I have found that to survive as an artist it\'s probably best to not care too much whether people like or dislike one\'s creations. Otherwise one becomes victim to every whim and thought that others have and makes it more difficult to be unique. In the end, art is like the ink blots psychiatrists use, and people\'s thoughts about the ink blots say more about them than it does about the ink blot.

4. What serves to energize and to inspire you to continue to create something new, to explore new boundaries, and to push the limits of your skills through your work?

The inspiration to create has usually been love, in its many formats. Also, the incessant hunger to create and express myself while exploring new boundaries has always been one of my pursuits and passions. I’ve never understood why some "artists would plagiarize, as the only possible return would be money, and that has never been the guiding force of most the artists I know. I mean, if one wants money i don't think the arts is the path to follow.

5. What has proven to be your greatest source of satisfaction with your work thus far? Why?

I find most of the process to give me great satisfaction, not just one facet. But the moment of creation is pretty hard to beat. That instant where the melody "comes" has to rank as one of the most rewarding highs. After that, begins the work. ( I’ve been known to say that for me art is 2% inspiration, 78% perspiration, and 20% obsession.) I approach my work with meticulous attention to detail. I like nice things and I like things well done. I appreciate and pursue aesthetics. So I place a huge amount of attention to the lyrics, the melodies, the arrangements and the musicians who will participate, the recording (what microphones, reverbs, guitar sounds, instruments, spaces, etc. to use) and mixing, the artwork and graphic arts, the mastering, and the printing and manufacturing. In other words, though it is a laborious process, I get satisfaction with every detail of every step; especially when the result is of the high calibre that I pursue.

6. What role do you feel that the arts have to play in the lives of people and in society?

To hold a mirror up to society so that in seeing ourselves reflected (as individuals and as a society) we can (hopefully) change. To have the courage and humanity to speak the truth when others would remain silent, to transform the trials and tribulations of the individual/mankind into works that represent possible interpretations and/or solutions to these sometimes very difficult life lessons.

7. How might wider participation in the arts and the creative process by the average person serve to bring more joy and satisfaction into people's lives? How might society encourage more involvement in the arts?

Well, I’m of the belief that any involvement in the arts is good for the average person as it encourages thinking "outside of the box" and activates the right hemisphere of the brain as opposed to the alternative of sitting hypnotized in front of a television or computer screen. Societies and governments could foster this "awakening" by providing more endowments for artists of all types, and making all instruments and supplies used by artists tax-free. Artists and organic farmers could well be the teachers and physicians of the future. 

8. What figure from Greece's Golden Age has served to inspire you the most? Why?

Well, there are so many brilliant individuals from this period it's difficult to reduce it to one...but, let's say Socrates/Plato, as the Socratic philosophy and method are so very focused on our existence and the questions which he/they posed are still relevant today.

9. How would you respond to the quote by Pablo Picasso? All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.

I know this quote and agree completely, not just for the artists; but for all mankind. As children, we have a healthy dose of innocence and exploration and are open to making repeated mistakes until we find the right way of doing something. And we don\'t judge ourselves for the mistakes we have made because they have led us to the correct ways. As we age and adopt habits and "proven ways of doing things" we are reduced to more automatic thinking and responses and are less apt to take chances. The more we seek ways to make our lives more secure and predictable, the less probable it will be that we will take chances or explore paths most leave untrod.

10. What type(s) of art do you like best? Who is your favorite artist of any medium? Why?

I like almost all art forms, but have been most influenced and love literature. Shakespeare, Joyce, Cortazar, Cavafy and hundreds of other great writers have served to fill me with a passionate love for writing. And, for me, my art form is writing, even though it is songs that I write. I love films and watch everything from the most basic comedy to the most complicated and avant garde productions. When i was younger, I was very much attracted to modern art (Kandinsky, Klee, Dali, Rothko, etc.) and with age I’ve come to love the great masters of light and shadow (Rembrandt, Da Vinci, etc.). I listen to the most basic, catchy songs with infantile lyrics to the most abstract, experimental "music" with an almost equal gusto. 

11. What do you feel are the best ways for each person to tap into his or her own personal creative muse?

Our habits are our death. Though many repeated behaviors help, in one way, to make our lives efficient, they reduce our spontaneity and force us to act reflexively/automatically, without exploring new (and often better) avenues of action. Our behavior is a result of our mind and its “ideas” as to what is and, is not, possible. My recipe for all humans is to make them break as many habits as possible (something as "simple" as changing the wrist on which one wears one's watch). What's most important about this is that changing one's behavior and exploring new avenues actually creates new neural connections and new possible responses to 0ld stimuli. A human with more possibilities has more choices in one's behavior and dignifies and liberates oneself from the minimizing and constricting patterns that define most of us.

12. In what ways might art and artistic expression change the world for the better?

It would serve to help celebrate the beauty and originality of expression and not glorify the mundane. The more unique a work is the more it promotes others to be exactly who they are and to celebrate their uniqueness without resorting to becoming a carbon copy of what is deemed "socially acceptable". And I believe that the more unique and microcosmic we become in our lives, the closer we approach the universal. My approach to the world's problems has always been "heal myself”…in other words, heal who you are and you've healed one small part of the world.

13. Which of your projects are you the most proud of and why?

Projects are like children and I love and am proud of them all. It’s easy for one to judge what one has done in the past and think that one is now more refined, has better technique, and has learned to express oneself better. But, the truth is that I’ve given 100% of myself to each and every project in which I’ve participated and feel they're all worthy of my love, admiration, and praise.

Special Question Relating to Metaxourgeio

Meta-Action seeks to transform Metaxourgeio into a world-class enclave for art and artists. What would recommend we do to accomplish this aim?

Well, to speak of money, considering where the global economies have come, is probably not the best approach. But I feel there has to be governmental/societal economic support. John Spheeris, a close friend of mine, was quoted on one of my "spoken word audio art" compositions, titled "We're All Soul Travelers", saying: "I don't believe in copyright law, because creation is from above, and not a commodity with which to trade. I think artists are like saints or gods so, hey, if you like an artist, send him or her a couple bucks in the mail." Bjork, in an interview, was quoted in "Wired" magazine saying that as the probability of a musician making millions is pretty slim, perhaps the artists that presently choose to create will be doing so out of passion for art and not for money. My ONE recommendation would be to have workshops or master classes at the Metaxourgeio which feature prominent artists in diverse fields. Once a month (or more, if your funds allow) have an artist give a free (or very inexpensive) workshop in how the artist works in his/her medium and in a way which includes the participation of the attendees in a very real and practical way. When I taught at a high school the project for my literature students was to create a recording of one song...that meant they had to write the lyrics, write the music, design the cover art, and record and sing the song...the final result was recorded in my studio and given to each student...this was highly educational to all involved and included many different disciplines. Words can not adequately describe the joy and satisfaction of the students having completed this "exercise"...