Krista Papista confronts and ridicules Greek nationalistic political parties with her new single ‘Aman ‘Aman’ by reinventing her roots and culture with a red national flag symbolising her self-tailored version of modern Greek culture. We spoke to the purveyor of sordid pop to find out more about her escape from Cyprus, day-to-day creative process and exactly what the video to ‘Aman Aman’ is all about.
The song is a manifesto, a hedonistic protest, a Greek punk prayer; it directly confronts and ridicules nationalistic political parties such as the ‘Golden Dawn’.
Tell us bit about yourself - how long have you been living in London? What led you to moving to the city?
I escaped Cyprus. I moved to London when I was 18 to study performance art and digital media. I also came here because I wanted to get lost in a modern city of music and art, though it feels like it’s time to go now. I have a few projects I need finish before I go… so god knows.
You’ve previously described yourself as a ‘Sordid Pop Artist’. What does that involve on a day-to-day basis?
I came up with the term ‘sordid pop’ because I always had a deep appreciation for provocation. I don’t deliberately try to provoke, but somehow my aesthetic upsets people with conservative ideologies. An example is my current music video of ‘Aman Aman’, the video went viral because all the nationalists are going mad with my red Greek flag. It’s ridiculous really, though not surprising at all.
Day-to-day basis: follow around town people with intelligent eyes, the problems that occur while making a project will make the piece stronger or ruin your month, you give it all while unconscious of your effect on others, you will never be in tune with your fantasy on a day-to-day basis – you just have flashes and glimpses of it, 24 hour hedonistic behavior, too much caffeine, don’t blame anyone for your misadventures, Michelangelo hands, help out kids with kind hearts or visions, work on your projects until you feel sick.
What was the first style or genre of music you really got into? Was their a particular song or artist that inspired you?
Punk music, though I think the first album I bought was Nevermind by Nirvana. I went crazy when I saw footage of Elvis and Jim Morrison, I looked up to them and thought they were magic.
How do you set about writing songs? Is there a common starting point?
There’s a few: I wake up with a melody stuck in my head, I lay down beats and play around with sounds/guitars/piano/you-name-it until I start feeling the song is taking an attractive shape. This can take from a few hours to days, depends what mood I’m in and what’s going on those days. Sometimes I have a deadline and I force myself to work, but I’m quite hedonistic when it comes to making music also, I need to feel what I am producing is giving me pleasure, if it’s not I just leave it and leave the house.
I know when I am in good musical shape I tend to get a lot of ideas: after a vocal lesson where I sing an opera song, after a full-on music night or after watching a music documentary on someone I admire.
Tell us about your single ‘Aman Aman’. It’s been described as the story of a neurotic, power-obsessed, chic and dodgy girl gang whose journey begins in Afghanistan, Greece and Cyprus, and carries through to present-day London. When did you start to form the theme for this song? Was there a specific starting point?
I was reading a lot of Greek poetry last year, especially Kavafis who is one of my favorite poets; at the same time I was watching documentaries on Greek artists I loved (Melina Merkouri, Maria Callas, Manos Hatzidakis, Giannis Ritsos, etc.). The videographic footage/scenery and content had this overwhelming effect on me. Of course these feelings were filtered with a sense of nostalgia and appreciation of a culture that seems lost and kind of far away from me now.
Without realising it I produced ‘Aman Aman’ and felt a fresh/familiar Mediterranean euphoria when writing the lyrics in Greek - a different atmosphere got created as I’ve been away from the Cypriot and Greek culture long enough to be able to recreate my own version of it. I wrote the song, then I went on holiday in Mykonos; I kept having these visions of a red greek flag. I came back to London, and when I wrote the script for the music video, I realised exactly what I wanted to do.
‘Aman Aman’ documents the workings of a gang of girls who migrated from Greece, Cyprus and Afghanistan to London. They are a fictional, modern, sexually-liberated, neo-nationalistic group with this song being their national anthem and the Red Greek flag as their banner. The girls like to think of themselves as heroines, others could say they are delusional. The song is a manifesto, a hedonistic protest, a Greek punk prayer; it directly confronts and ridicules nationalistic political parties such as the ‘Golden Dawn’.
I predicted this song will piss off a lot of nationalists, and this is what is happening now. It’s funny how obsessed and proud people are about things that have nothing to do with them. It’s like, why are you so proud of where you’re from? You have nothing to do with the history of your country or the actual flag. Why do you think the flag is holly? This is pure Paganism, it’s pure stupidity.
If you were the President of Greece, what would be your first three actions?
With more and more Greek residents descending into poverty - children now over 50 percent - I would, firstly, increase Government payments to support low-income families and pensioners.
Secondly, I would charge airlines and hotels a higher tax for each passenger and occupant, respectively, so as to help finance the higher Government payments for family support and pensions; airlines and hotels would not suffer as tourism is booming.
Thirdly, I would take measures to improve treatment of refugees entering Greece - for example better education for refugee children - and press for more resources from the European Union for this work.
The video for ‘Aman Aman’ was directed and produced by yourself. What challenges did that present?
Well it is just a huge responsibility and a lot of work to cover by yourself but that’s ok, I’m happy to work until I see what I envision.
How did you find working with Steven Noble for the costume work? How did he influence the style of the video?
I adore and admire Steven. I met him through a close friend and Steven has always been helping and guiding me for the past few years. He has an iconic aesthetic, if you look at his work you’ll understand (Trainspotting, 24 Hour Party People). I brought the girls and the idea to Steven and he loved it, he understood each character of the girls and dressed them up, illuminating their personas. He is a visionary, and has been a very kind and influential friend.
‘Aman ‘Aman’ has been remixed by JD Samson (Le Tigre), Berlin off-pop duo Easter and NTS’ Lokier. How do their styles build on the original?
I just love that they were playing around with this Greek song, it’s just so special and humorous to me hearing their take on it. JD made it super dancey, her take makes me want to shake my head, and roll around and think of her glorious existence. Easter’s take makes me feel like I’m in a convertible cruising, watching the sun set on a Mediterranean island, ending with a beautiful orgasm on the beach. Lokier’s remix makes me feel like I’m looking for my friends in a huge club in Berlin, only to find out they all moved to Spain.
What’s coming up for you this year? Will we see you on tour?
An album is coming. A new video, and then I guess a tour will follow after they are out. But to be honest I need a manager first.
What would make 2017 a successful year in your eyes?
A cathartic completion of the album, after that work with two or three people I admire and produce something interesting with them, find a good manager, feel things I never felt.
If you could jam with one artist alive or dead, who would it be?
Someone is making a film of your life, who will play you?
Finally, if you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, when would you go back to and what would you say?
I think every year I trip out on something, so even if I gave myself advice, I would forget about it and trip out anyway.
Images by Dakis Panayiotou (thumb and bottom) and Jessica Gwyneth (top).