EUROVISION 2016 - STOCKHOLM - SWEDEN

INTERVIEW - CYPRUS - Minus One

 

 

 

 

 

MINUS ONE

 

ALTER EGO

 

With thanks to Minus One and Evi Papamichael at CyBC

 

Interview by Douwe Reveler for Sechuk.com

Published by Gary Speirs for Sechuk.com

 

In November 2015 it was announced that the group Minus One would represent Cyprus in the 2016 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest. Their song 'Alter Ego' becomes the 33rd entry for the Island . We spoke with the group shortly after the release of the song about how they came to be selected internally by CyBC, where the name Minus One comes from, the cooperation with Thomas G:son and the meaning of 'Alter Ego'.
 
Minus One, how are the plans for
Stockholm progressing?
We are at the staging and styling decisions now. So far so good. We are planning every step forward carefully but firmly, getting advice and coming up with ideas to make everything better.

 
Before we talk about 'Alter Ego' in more detail can you briefly introduce yourselves and explain your roles in the band ?

Francois is the singer, Constantinos Amerikanos and Harrys Pari are on guitars, Antonis Loizides on bass and finally Chris J  on the drums.

 
How long have you been performing together ?

The four of us are together since 2009. Harry joined us last September. We did of course meet and have worked with one another as part of various other projects before 2009.

 

Who are your main musical influences ?

Each of us has various influences that range from blues, some country and even Greek music , hard rock  and metal, and of course pop gems from all decades. I think the rock genre in general is what brought us together though. What we play as Minus One is really versatile though and as Alter Ego title suggests we have alter egos as a band too.

 

Do any of you have a musical education and do any of you come from musical families ?

We are mostly self-taught with maybe a couple of lessons at very young age. Only one of us has taken official musical education and has a degree.

 

Where are you from and are you still living there ?

We are all from Cyprus , but Francois is half French from his dad and Chris is half Canadian from his mom. We all live in Cyprus at the moment.

 

Can you tell us about the name of the band, Minus One ? Who came up with it and what is the idea behind it ?

Before we were called Minus One, we had a different name and used to have an extra person with us who sang some Greek songs on our Nicosia weekly performances. One day Antonis got a call from a venue in Limassol asking us to go perform there but they didn’t want any Greek music. So obviously the extra singer was going to sit that gig out. 

 

The venue asked for a name so they could advertise the event. We couldn’t use the name we were using for the other Nicosia gigs obviously, as we were a different act without the Greek part. So the name just “wrote it self” in Antonis head in the pressure of the moment. Funny story… Antonis had to call and inform us that if we hear about a gig of a band called Minus One in Limassol, to be aware that the band is us!

 

Last year you attempted to represent Cyprus with the song 'Shine'. You won the jury vote but ended in 3rd place overall after the televotes had been counted. Was 'Shine' composed by yourselves and can you tell us more about the song ?

Shine was composed by Minus One. As it was our first attempt,  this year we felt more ready for this,  and had time to come up with a better idea, which produced a more energetic song, Alter Ego.      

 
What did participating in the Eurovision Song Project teach you ?

It was the second time we were participating in a contest as we are mostly a band that plays live,( first time was Hard Rock Rising, where we won the country part, thus represented Cyprus in the international one, where we finished 8th among 12000 acts). Contests always teach you a lot and the most important is where you stand among others and that you should believe in yourself, giving it your best and hoping people will recognize and appreciate it.


This year CyBC did not organize a national selection but chose you internally. When were you first approached by them and what was your initial reaction ? Was it difficult keeping it a secret ?

We had a feeling that CYBC might want to “use” us at some point as we did feel that we impressed them in our first encounter. It still came as a great surprise when they did announce it to us, as soon as next year’s ESC came in play.

 

It was hard keeping it a secret but we managed as we knew it was the professional thing to do however excited we were, and we are known to be one of the most professional acting bands in Cyprus .

 
The song you are taking to Stockholm 'Alter Ego' has been co-written and composed by a man with a impressive Eurovision pedigree, Thomas G:son. Can you tell us how you came into contact with him and was the song written specifically with the Eurovision Song Contest in mind ?

Thomas was a suggestion by CYBC, as they had some kind of friendly connection from the previous years.  We are known to like trying new approaches in everything all the time, so this collaboration was another thing we could try. Of course it was done for Eurovision. Thomas travelled to Cyprus we met and it was instant. We had the same ideas same vision and talked the same “language” from the get go. After that everything flowed naturally, sending ideas back and forth from Cyprus to Sweden and vice versa till the song came into a shape we could travel to Sweden and record it.

 
Why did you reach out to a Swede for assistance ?

We didn’t. It was suggested and as we said in the previous question, we liked it and it happened. We like collaborations anyway and this one worked perfectly.


How were the reactions when the song was presented ?

It was crazy, everybody loved the song and we were all sitting on our computers replying to positive messages and support all night nonstop till the next day. Still goes on a more non crazy pace now. We loved it!

 

Can you talk us through the song and the meaning of the lyrics ?

The song is about the inner “fight” a person can have with himself when on a crossroad, or caught in a middle of something that decisions have to be made, in order to move on. It can be about a relationship or about anything that can tear your decisions in half. In the end we let the listener decide and make up his own story or interpretation.

 

In your opinion what is it about this composition that hopefully will make people around Europe and Australia want to vote for it ?

We wanted to bring an upbeat song to Eurovision, but not the usual contest pop but a pop-rock feel that would make people want to get up and dance or jump to it. A catchy radio friendly tune that could stand as a song and be played on the radio even outside the contest. Did we nail that? We think we did and that’s all people need to vote for it.  


Can you tell us something about the plans for the staging of the song ?

We are in the process of setting it up with the help of some professionals on the matter, but what we have for now is still in the making so can’t say much on it. We are a live band though so expect that vibe to be part of it. 

 
What are you hoping to convey to the juries and public during your performances in
Sweden ?

The people who see us live at gigs are always impressed and praise us on our chemistry and energy as a band on stage, the way we capture the audience with our passion and the way we enjoy what we do. That is something we will also bring with us in Stockholm and hopefully capture everyone there too.  

 

Have you followed the Eurovision Song Contest closely over the years ?

All of us at points in our lives did. Sometimes closely and sometimes more as distant spectators.


Do you have a favourite winning entry and perhaps a favourite Cypriot song from the contest ?

Each one of us has some favorites but we all agree on the bands favorite, which we also perform at our live gigs. Wig Wam – In my Dreams, Norway 2005


How important is the contest in
Cyprus ?

ESC was always somewhat important in Cyprus , especially once our country started participating. Besides being a great televised musical event that anyone can watch live at home, and that was a huge thing in the older years with not as many channels and internet. It gave a step and an incentive to new talent to emerge and try its powers in Cyprus and outside to the one who was chosen to represent the country.  

 

 

Can you describe the Cypriot music scene ? 

Cyprus music scene. An interesting story with many “plot twists”. 

Although the country has an amazing number of talent, singers, musicians and bands ranging from Greek folk and modern, rock, metal, Jazz and even blues, as it never had a record industry, apart from a few indie labels and that in the latest years, the scene was not super vibrant continuously

 

Things got better in the last maybe 15-20 years. Cyprus feeds Greece with singers, where they move to seek a career.  Top names in Greece are mostly Cypriots, and many of them you probably already know, as many represented Greece in ESC in the past. In the last few years many studios and rehearsing spaces emerged, the internet helped with the “outside world” connection and bands started forming with more potential for professional work and getting gigs abroad. There was also a booming of live music, venues and bands in the last two decades, mostly Greek and namely Greek rock in the first years, that dominated the venues especially on weekends, when everybody goes out.


English music gigs were not regular, mostly events some weeks apart on “quiet” weekdays.

When we started as Minus One we actually changed the scene with our “risk” of  insisting on doing our thing on Saturdays. Apparently a lot of people were looking for exactly that. The idea proved successful. Since then many bands followed our steps and now English pop-rock is the most popular live entertainment.  

  
François, you have recently auditioned on
France 's The Voice : la plus belle voix. Can you tell us more about that experience ?

It was a fantastic experience. I had the chance to meet very interesting people, made new friends and got to spend time with huge artists. Traveling was very tiring but that was the idea! get a full taste out of this whole experience. I’m not sad I lost, I would have been sad if I hadn't participated at all.

 
Do you all have projects outside of the group ? Can you tell us more about them ?

We all worked other projects in the past and some side projects while in this band, but at the moment we are focused on Minus One. The only one still having an active side project now is Harry when he has time.

 

Can you talk us through the video clip ? When and where was it filmed ?

The video clip was filmed on a suburb just outside Nicosia around the beginning of February. It was a brainstorming of ideas from the band and the director Emilios Avraam, based on the lyrics of the song, which were nicely visualized and put together by the director and his team.

 

A promotional tour in the weeks leading up to the contest has become popular. Do you have any plans to promote 'Alter Ego' internationally and if so where will you travel to ?

Our promo tour is already planned. We are only visiting Moscow , Amsterdam and London to perform and promote Alter Ego and maybe some more songs if we get the chance to.

 

Do you have any different versions of the song planned for promotional purposes ? Perhaps a Greek language version ?

No other versions, at least not before ESC in May. We only have a slightly different live version as it is performed at our gigs. It was recorded and filmed one night and will probably be released as soon as the editing of the video is done.

 

Have you heard from any previous Cypriot representatives and if yes did they offer you some words of advice ?

Many of them are personal friends of ours. As you know Cyprus is small and we are in the same profession circles so we all know each other a bit, more or less. They all knew and respected our work before we even got involved in ESC.
We were not offered advice as anyone we talked to was already happy and impressed with what we’ve done so far,  all of them are supportive and love our entry.

 

The contest this year will be held in Stockholm . Will it be your first time there or do you already know the city ?

It’s our first time in Stockholm . We’ve been to Sweden once before but only passed through Gothenburg and stayed in Skara, where the recording of Alter Ego was done.

 

What are you most looking forward to and what are you hoping to gain from taking part in the contest ?

We’ve heard the stories about the vibe and the experience ESC can be from past contestants and participants and we can’t wait to live it. Besides getting to know people and artists from all over Europe and not only, of course exposure of such size can only do good to a band like us.

 

Have you listened to any of the other competing songs this year and if so do you have any favourites ?

We have heard many of the songs. Well, some of us at least did. There are a lot of good songs this year, many that are not your “typical Eurovision songs” but songs you would hear on a radio any day. No favorites yet. Not easy to choose anyway. 

 

Australia recently joined the contest. What is your reaction to this development ?

Why not? Australia is great. The more the merrier. Let other countries join, make it an international song contest it’s already huge, make it the biggest party in the world!


Can you tell us more about your naked concerts ?

Those were charity events and we were not naked live. The venue was filled with naked photos though, nothing that could be considered obscene as we were strategically covered, but artistic. Not that we are shy or anything. We did what we had to for a good cause. It’s an annual thing in Cyprus . Well known people from the arts and not only, tv presenters, athletes and others, get nude for a photo each, creating an album sold for a good cause. 

 

You will be the ambassadors for Cyprus in Stockholm . Can you tell us some things you feel people really should know about your country ?

Where do we start and what do we leave behind that is not already known.


Great weather, sunny more than 300 days a year, with great beaches, (actually number 1 and 3 top beaches in Europe, voted this year are in Cyprus), great food, people are friendly and hospitable, great nightlife but also excellent relaxing locations, everything you could look for in short distances, amazing history, although dramatic and worth learning about. Oh and Halloumi. We got Halloumi, one of the best cheeses in the world than you can grill, fry, eat cold, grate and sprinkle on pasta, put in soups and… have we gone too far?

 

Can you tell us about your favourite Cypriot food ?

Halloumi! Oh we said that already. Apart from that we got a lot of delicious food, traditional and local recipes that are mostly healthy but so delicious make you over eat and if you are not careful can gain weight. We all love “Shieftalia” a traditional sausage/meatball like grill plate, of course in Cyprus pita (similar to Arabic pitta but a bit more thick and fluffier) filled with salad too.

 

Do you have time for hobbies and if so, what do you enjoy doing ?

We all have various hobbies we enjoy during the little free time we have. From martial arts, water sports like windsurfing and SUP, football, photography, culinary arts, DIY fixing and building. Harry is also a Civil engineer. Well ok that’s not a hobby but a degree. Still worth mentioning. 

 

If you were not musicians are there any other professions that interest you ?

Obviously something out of the previously mentioned list of hobbies. 


If you could sing with any artist or artists (dead or alive) who would it be with and why ?

That is a very difficult question to answer as we will probably leave someone behind and then remember and want to change our answer but this will be already published and there’s no way to change… Ah..decisions decisions.

 

Let’s stick to the living to make it a bit easier and more realistic. Each of us would probably say someone different anyway, and as we did share stages in the past with some let’s leave those out too. So as a band we would say Metallica. Or U2. Or Muse. Or…


Do you perform any rituals before you go on stage ?

We wouldn’t call them rituals, but routines that sometimes happen, sometimes don’t. Like one stretches while the others warm up their voice or fingers on the instrument. Other times some hung around the bar having a drink and talking to people of the crowd, while one might be taking a power nap in the dressing room.


Let us fast forward to May and the contest is over. What are your plans for the rest of the year ?

Our plans are not based on the results we get from ESC but they can surely change some for the better. We already have some new songs waiting to be released as soon as the contest is over, and we take it from there, doing what we always did. Playing live and enjoying it, along with the crowd. Only maybe in bigger crowds from then on.

 
Do you have a message for the readers of this interview ?

We hope you liked our song Alter Ego and we’ve won your vote. If you think a friend of you will like it, let them hear it. We can’t wait to meet you all in Stockholm or any place we visit and perform. Come say hello, we won’t bite. Unless you ask of course!  


Minus One, efcharisto poli ! Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us. Every success in
Stockholm and enjoy the contest !

 

You are also invited to view the Alter Ego promo and the back stage images

 

Photos Credit : Demetris Vattis