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Selofan04 Marilia FotopoulouInterview with

Joanna Pavlidou (vocals) from Selofan

The Greek duo SELOFAN, consisting of Joanna Pavlidou and Dimitris Pavlidis, have been making music together for ten years. Their sixth album ‘Partners in Hell’ came out in October 2020, so they couldn’t present their new music live for a long time because of the pandemic. Now the duo has been back on international tour for a few months. I had the opportunity to talk to singer Joanna before their show in Oberhausen. In the interview she reveals, among other things, how SELOFAN was founded, how they have developed musically - and they also have a new project together!

Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: You are touring a lot at the moment - how does it feel to be back on stage and being on the road again after the long time of the pandemic?
Joanna: It feels great, of course - we missed it a lot. It's so nice to be able to do it again. I would say we are privileged. We are from Greece, and actually there are not so many bands from Greece who have this opportunity. So, from that point of view, it’s great. It’s also a part of our life, we’ve been doing this for the past ten years, and we missed it a lot during the pandemic.

RoD: Do you appreciate it more after such a hard time?
Joanna: Yes, for sure! But that doesn’t only refer to touring, the whole attitude towards life has changed. We not only appreciate it more, but we also enjoy it more. But it’s not only us, it's also the audience. Fans also appreciate the concerts more now. And even though a tour can be physically very exhausting for us and we are sometimes annoyed - it is still important when you make music to feel it live. The feedback from the fans, the atmosphere at a concert - for me, a show is always a dialogue between artists and fans. If it was just a monologue, I wouldn’t do it at all. Nobody wants to listen to that (laughs).

RoD: You said that the whole attitude to life has changed. In what way?
Joanna: Things that were taken for granted before are more appreciated. Now we are aware of them and we know that everything has a value, a greater weighting. Now nothing is taken for granted anymore. The war also influences everything, it wasn’t just the pandemic.

RoD: Were you able to use the time during the lockdown creatively?
Joanna: Yes, we did. We even created a new project during that time. We will release it on our own record label, Fabrika Records. The record is already finished, we have already shot a video, we have also taken photos, now it just has to be released.

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RoD: What can you reveal about it already?
Joanna: The lyrics are only in Greek. The music is also a bit different from SELOFAN, still melancholic, that’s part of our personality - but more synth-pop, less dark wave. And it’s more focused on me. I sing and write the lyrics. Dimitris does the music too, but I’m more in the centre. The project is called GIOVANNA.

Joanna: We wanted to go a bit Italo-disco. In the end, it didn’t turn out to be so “Italo”, but the name stayed (laughs).

RoD: How do you both divide yourselves artistically in SELOFAN? Who brings in which influences?
Joanna: Dimitris makes the music and I sing, but we sit together in the studio and I also put in my ideas. Musically, Dimitris then implements my ideas, because I don’t play an instrument. So, we both work together. We belong to the same generation, are almost the same age and have the same musical background. We spent a lot of time in goth clubs in Athens, we have the same taste in music - so you can already say that we complement each other well.

RoD: ‘Partners in Hell’ is your sixth album, you’ve been making music together for ten years. How have you evolved musically and personally from the first album to this one?
Joanna: Within a decade you change, of course. In the beginning we weren’t so professional, we did a lot of things by ear. Maybe we should have paid more attention to the production, that could have been better. We had to learn that over time, and we’re still at it. For ‘Partners in Hell’ we took a lot of time, we worked with a producer for the first time, that also made a difference. We have developed in every sense. Also, my voice. If you compare it today with my voice on older songs - it sounds like a different person to me. I’m still developing here as well.

RoD: We are doing this interview in German, and some of your songs are in German. How come you speak German that well?
Joanna: First of all, I love the language and I studied German. I also lived in Germany for a few years, in Saarbrücken. My parents also lived here in the 60s, they came from Greece as guest workers. I still have relatives here today, I always had a connection to Germany, the culture was never foreign to me. As a teenager I also listened to German music in the goth clubs, EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN, DAF etc. That also inspired and influenced me. I think my voice sounds better when I sing in German than in English. So, I like that better. I also want to do more in German with SELOFAN. I can express myself better in this language than in English. Interestingly enough, when I was writing lyrics at the beginning, I didn’t write much in Greek, although that’s my mother tongue. German is the best language for me to express myself.

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RoD: How did you and Dimitris meet and how did it come that you make music together?
Joanna: We met ten years ago. I was a DJ in a cool club in Athens, spinning minimal synth, dark wave and post-punk. Dimitris was a sound engineer. A band once played in that club, and Dimitris did the sound for them. And that was love at first sight! Dimitris already had a record label at that time. We then organised festivals from time to time, booked bands, we always had something to do with music. The formation of the band was actually Dimitris’ idea. With him I discovered a side of me that I might never have discovered otherwise.

RoD: Did you have a lot to do with music in the past? Did you grow up with it, did you go to concerts a lot?
Joanna: Yes, I always went to concerts, travelled around, even abroad. I saw almost all the bands I wanted to see. I was a music collector, a party animal, then, as I said, a DJ. I was also a promoter in Athens, so music was always in my life. Concerning live shows by the way: I like it theatrical. I don’t like guys in jeans playing guitar and looking at the floor. THE RESIDENTS, for example - I like them very much and they were very good live. Or COIL - I saw them once at the WGT, I can still remember that well.

RoD What inspires your music personally? Are there any musicians who inspire you?
Joanna: I don’t find this decade musically very exciting, to be honest. I’m rather old-fashioned (laughs). If I were to mention a few names here, it would be MALARIA!, X-MAL-DEUTSCHLAND, ABWÄRTS, NINA HAGEN, SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES and X-RAY-SPEX. All power women with beautiful, deep voices. When we make music ourselves, it comes from ourselves, it’s just inside us – it’s hard to describe. There is no particular inspiration. It comes or it doesn’t. It can happen that we sit in the studio for hours and nothing happens, and then we make five songs in one weekend.

RoD: You have your own record label, Fabrika Records. How do you combine your own work as artists with looking after the bands you have signed?
Joanna: It works perfectly because we are all on the same wavelength and we work together. It’s been like that from the beginning. It’s also all bands that support us, we help each other. We play on each other’s records, actually we work like in the 80s, in a very cooperative climate. We also have a synthesizer shop, and it’s all connected. We have our own studio at home, LEBANON HANOVER for example record their records with us, they can use everything. Some of our artists we choose ourselves, some of them come through recommendations. It’s like a family.

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RoD: You also release the albums on vinyl. Nowadays, however, a lot of the music industry is online, via streaming services, where people no longer download entire albums, but often only individual songs. What do you think about this development?
Joanna: You can’t avoid it; we have to come to terms with our era. Whether you like it or not, you can’t turn back time. But there are still indie labels that sell records by underground bands. Interestingly, I’ve also seen very young audiences at our concerts lately. Some of the fans come with their children. They then also get to know the vinyl culture, which fortunately has survived despite everything. It still exists. I myself am a big vinyl fan, I collect records. I like to have a piece of the artist really in my hand. It’s like a book, I don’t like digital either.

RoD: Can you remember the first record you bought?
Joanna: Not exactly. But one of the first was definitely ‘Disintegration’ by THE CURE.

RoD: What does music mean to you?
Joanna: For me personally? Psychotherapy. Through music I can let everything out. It’s great when I have a song that says something to me, that means something. As I said, it is simply our way of life. Our own music is also very personal. I can’t imagine a life without music. It’s nice that it turned out this way!

RoD: Is there a place where you have never played, but where you definitely want to go? A dream destination for a show or a tour?
Joanna: I would love to go to Asia, especially Japan. Or to the USA, but we have a travel ban there. At the beginning of our career, we went there with LEBANON HANOVER and we didn’t know that you need special visas to do concerts. We just did that and then crossed the border into Canada. We were stopped, probably because of my hairstyle (laughs), they found merch and instruments of course, and we got busted without a proper visa. Since then, we have been banned from there! (laughs). It wasn’t our intention, but we just didn’t know. And now, unfortunately, it doesn’t work out any more. What a pity!

RoD: Thank you very much for the interview!
Pictures Polar Noire, Intro Picture by Marilia Fotopoulou

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