The revealing Interview Thomais de Fois gave to Chris Iliopoulos for "Your E-Articles"

Interview with Thomais de Fois: Freedom, Creation, Respect.

She was born in Athens but her origins are shared between France and Britain. From an early age she was involved in sports, painting, construction and music. In her teens, dance and photography took over while she began to dive even deeper into the ocean of music. She is an accomplished alternative-progressive rock persona who has made her own mark through her recordings. On the occasion of her appearance together with Stavros Karidas (guitar-harmonica-vocals) and Wil Bow (drums), on Friday, February 4th live at the Rockwood Athens stage for a powerful power acoustic alternative rock performance, with covers and songs from her discography, I host in “your e-articles” the singer-songwriter Thomais De Fois.

-You were born in Athens. How do you remember your childhood?

The truth is that I don't look back on such memories. I don't "travel" with old photos. I had a rough childhood. I experienced rejection from my biological mother at pre-school age and the imbalance in the wider environment. The complete absence of a mother, in the form of choice-rejection, causes serious difficulties in a child's psyche and personality development. There had to be the process of reviewing data and rebuilding my inner world on a healthier basis. Some things had to be left in the past. And they did.

-The most powerful memory that has been recorded within you?

Four years ago, the loss of my good friend, Jim, who "passed away" due to a medical mistake. I was traumatized for 4 years by this event, which was followed by the loss of my grandfather, whom I was helping regarding his health, and when I broke down from the loss of my friend we lost him. Then the man we had been together for a long time developed a nervous system condition, which causes gradual paralysis, until the patient ends up... This period cannot be forgotten...

-Your origins are divided, from France and Britain. How did these two cultures work in shaping you?

I grew up in Athens, so I was shaped by this environment in the first years of my life. When my grandfather told me our history, I became very interested in those cultures. I studied about it, and continue to do so. I became very familiar with the English language, to the point that I taught it alongside music from a young age. This led to natural interaction with relatives and people from Britain, America and Western-Northern Europe, which I particularly enjoy. This is probably responsible for the attraction I’ve been feeling to those regions and their culture, since ancient times. I certainly appreciate the ancient Greek source of knowledge, arts, beauty, philosophy... I find it difficult in Greece, perhaps due to the fact that I find Greek society immature, for the most part. The existing education system contributes a lot to this. I chose England for some of my studies. Higher level of research, more stable characters, and professionals, clearer and more efficient systems. I’ve liveded in the Netherlands and would not have been in Greece if current circumstances had not forced me.... I would have been enjoying the cold climate in Europe. To mention the expected, the music I write is appreciated abroad. In Greece it is hardly appreciated. So I was planning to go to Scotland but Brexit has ruined it for us... We’ll see. So I guess because of the origin I was a bit more open-minded about moving abroad.

-What does music mean to you?

I am music... I can't perceive music as something separate from me... My family saw when I was very young that I 'had an ear', as they said, and they decided that I should be a musician, instead of something else. With degrees in music and English as my only qualifications, I took up my life at the age of 19. I am involved and also express myself with other kinds of art. But with music, I give what is deepest in me. The lyrics help with that too. But what I express with words to one or two very close people is probably not enough to convey the weight of the feelings. The music invests the words with all the charge of the experience. Whether it is pleasant or tragic. I write experientially... I don't speak very easily, but I say quite a lot with music.

-The importance of music in your daily life?

I remember me as a little kid isolating myself for hours, being in my "bubble", as I usually say, so that I could step out of every day’s reality and create a world of my own, in which I could always express my feelings freely, without inhibitions and without being influenced by human criticism. I felt safe with music... With the sounds that surrounded me. It's the same to this day. Because of my dyslexia, socialization has always been difficult for me. I feel bombarded when people talk to me a lot, or loudly, or quickly. I get booed, how to express it..? Music gives rhythm to communication, so I adapt to such environments, without feeling too much stress or panic. I heard opinions urging me to give up twenty years of trying.... I am in no position to give up music and I won't. I recently started writing the album again, which had been frozen for two years due to the crisis and my bad psychological state. All my adult life, I have invested most of my income in musical equipment, training and education, recording studios and my own mini studio, so that I could be independent. And I wasn't born with high income or successful businesses... Being an artist was never easy. We don't have holidays, birthdays, celebrations, nor are we allowed to show personal problems, nor is there any free time left... Considering that in the evenings, if you're not working, you have to move around the venues you work with to book gigs, spend long hours in the studio to create your material. Hours of rehearsal, a lot of gear carrying. We experience proper collaborations, but also too many who deny us insurance or want to cut our payments… because they can. Yes, the crisis is hitting us too. We've got chores too! Professions related to the restaurant and entertainment industry are being hit the hardest. But I was doing pretty well even though I’ve been trying hard all the time, without help. I worked hard and my work was appreciated. I was well because I was working in my own capacity! So you understand, Christo, that it is unthinkable for me to give up what I was doing to get to the point where some people listen to my work... I would rather starve to death. Music is an integral part of my everyday life.

-What was the stimulus for you to turn to music?

There happened to be an electric piano in the house when I was little, which we became stickers with. The development was rather inevitable.

-Your musical studies?

I started with classical piano, then continued with Advanced Classical Music Theory, Classical and Contemporary Singing, Orchestration-Instrumentation, and Counterpoint.

-What did you get out of studying Music Therapy and Psychology?

That’s a long chapter... A troubled child, with dyslexia, stress, history of teenage depression, and low self-esteem. I didn't talk at all, didn't feel good about being crowded, and too much talking. I spent years having panic attacks, there were periods when I couldn't get out on my own... To deal with these, I’d been analysing human psychology for many years. Especially after a road accident I had with a severe head-neck injury, which exacerbated the symptoms of dyslexia. I noticed that I could not cope in environments where there was no musical element. Although, for example, I cannot be around a lot of people, or in an environment with tensions, when the activity involves music, I tune in, decompress and eventually cope. This is where Music Therapy comes in. For your information, it first appeared in America when physicians hired musicians to assist in the psychological and physical rehabilitation of WWII Veterans who could not be treated by traditional methods. Music is the only element on the planet that activates both hemispheres of the brain simultaneously. Through this process, it was proven that the sufferer gained control of his body, being drawn into the rhythm with which we unconsciously synchronise. Music has a calming effect, stress levels are effectively reduced, which helps in dealing with post-traumatic stress, stress in general and panic, as well as depression.

Music can bring back memories that have been stored in our minds from where we cannot retrieve them, which means that it works therapeutically in cases of amnesia caused by an accident or dementia in old age, etc. So in studying Music Therapy, it was like confirming my own relevant experiences. This school explained to me, essentially, why I can be a more normal person (so to speak) by being involved in music, while without it my life is difficult. I was also taught wonderful new ways of dealing with the problems I face in the present. This is how I recovered after 4 years of suffering... Imagine that due to the stress of the stressful situations in my teenage years, the exams I was taking at the time for my Music-English degrees were a traumatic experience. I struggled to find peace to study. After that, I didn't even want to hear about a driver's license exam. Eventually, however, both of these subjects (Music Therapy, Psychology) worked therapeutically again, and combined with the English teaching system, I succeeded. Then I combined the studies in nutrition, as our psychology depends on our food and vice versa. I find solutions for various problems in our everyday life, and I am happy to help. I also learned the usefulness of talking about our problems, becoming familiar with them, not being ashamed of experiencing them, accepting help when we need it, getting rid of the burden by sharing them with our own people, and I will add my own conclusion, which is to love our imperfections. Because of them each of us is a completely special-unique being, and they are what make us humans! The age of prozac (I take pills and all is well) is over, and the age of robots (I feel nothing) is near but not here yet.

-The sounds that influenced you?

Definitely classical music, which I studied for so many years, and then, when I was a kid I discovered the use of the pickup. I had some very high quality vinyl records, a legacy of family friends, and when I first heard the “Poor Man's Moody Blues” by Barclay James Harvest I was blown away by the sound. I couldn't believe my ears, and realized that this is what I am! And I am to this day, thanks to them!

-Artists who have been reference points in your journey?

Mostly my fellow musicians. From my first band, at the age of 16, with whom we started giving rock concerts, and recording, to today, when - apart from the almost 3 years of exclusion - we are still performing and recording.

-You've dabbled in photography and dance. Are they two different worlds?

Not very much... Dance is also images. Photography is also movement. Dance with its kinesiology can express emotions, create complete images, even present sensations such as smells and tastes... Photography as well. Finally, expressiveness, technique and aesthetics are the common foundations of all creative arts.

-How do you write your songs?

Some songs start to be "set up" on a sequence of chords on the guitar, others along with the lyrics when I already have something specific to say. Others start from a melody on the piano, others are a whole piano piece that is orchestrated and then I struggle to find the lyrics, and others start from a rhythm (drums), then the bass, and finally the rest of the instruments-voices-lyrics are added.

-Do you create when you are in heat or when the emotions in you have calmed down?

Because I need calmness to write, I usually write with my emotions subdued, so that the aftertaste of a situation is included in the piece. Poem, however, was recorded in a highly depressed state, with the problems of post-traumatic shock from losing my best friend.