Diamanda Galás saved me from grunge. Back in the 90s, when everyone was jumping up-and-down about guitar tone/flannel/ misery (circle one or more) and most of popular culture seemed violently dull and satanically boring, shining out of this morass was a brilliant light of limitless voice and singular vision. Her voice worked like a death ray, annihilating all that was inconsequential and tacky. She has two new albums out—All The Way, a collection of her interpretations of jazz and standards, and At Saint Thomas The Apostle Harlem, a recording of her May 2016 live action at the shuttered St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Harlem. “Death songs,” she calls them. So I called her. She performs tonight, Apr. 3, and Wed., Apr. 5, at Vibiana. This interview by David Cotner." /> L.A. Record


April 3rd, 2017 | Interviews

Diamanda Galás: Only two days ago!
What happened?
Diamanda Galás: Well, I was singing something I thought I would never be able to sing. It was monstrous. It was fantastic. If I didn’t have that ability, I wouldn’t continue singing. It always has to be fresh; it has to be new. It has to take me by surprise. It has to go to Mars! It has to go to a place I never thought I’d go. Otherwise, why bother?
What were you singing?
Diamanda Galás: I was singing a song by Bobby Bradford, and the name of the song is ‘She’ (Nb. also known as ‘Woman,’ off Bradford’s 1975 Emanem album Love’s Dream) and he is a terrific cornet player, but he’s also a composer. He lives in Pasadena. He’s worked with many musicians—John Carter, Ornette Coleman—but he is one of my first teachers, and a truly great musicians. So I was working on that in the studio the other day, and was very, very surprised.
That’s encouraging—that you, of all people, would be surprised.
Diamanda Galás: Good God, why wouldn’t I—of all people—still be surprised?!
You just seem so worldly!
Diamanda Galás: [laughs] Ha! You think a person could be worldly without being surprised? Talk to me. What is it that you’re thinking about ‘worldly’? We have a different definition of the word.
I think—in this moment—that ‘worldly’ means ‘somewhat jaundiced.’
Diamanda Galás: Oh, no! Oh, if that’s what you mean … ‘jaundiced’ is a different word. It’s a different word. ‘Jaundiced’ is a word I would know nothing about because, when I decided to do art, I decided not to subject myself to the receptacles of smaller people; smaller minds. To idiots and ‘jaundiced’ people. People who think they’ve seen it all, know it all, have been everywhere, and have done everything. Anybody like that is a bloody imbecile. An idiot! Just an idiot! I don’t spend time with people like that. I don’t know anything about them. One thing that happens, whenever I go to L.A., is I see billboards advertising people like that—and it makes me immediately leave. I hang out in certain parts of Hollywood with friends of mine, and I try to stay away from the central L.A. area. If you see that, it’s kind of seedy. I can’t stand the more upscale parts of it. That kind of thing is kind of repulsive to me. Actually, the truth is, if you’re there, you stop seeing it.
There comes a point at which you either let it wash over you—or you stop looking in that direction. Two different things.
Diamanda Galás: I suppose you’re right. I haven’t been there very much. When I go there, I go there exclusively to work—and get out.
What do you remember about making your cassette on the Ionizations label?
Diamanda Galás: The same one with ‘Eyes Without Blood’ on it? I heard it again a few years ago, and I thought, ‘Hmmm.’ Well, I was beginning to work with certain types of modulations —square wave modulations—that I would do much better now, and other things. Some of it’s interesting to me. Other parts of it, I feel, I would develop much better now. Again, I don’t listen to my own music, either. When I listen to it, I become very, very critical. The first time I listen to it, I’ll be very proud of it … and then the second time I listen to it, I’ll say, ‘Why the fuck did you do that?!’
Is that all part of the process, though?
Diamanda Galás: Well, yes but what kind of process is that! It’s very punishing. It’s very, very punishing. Really, the truth is that I feel very much more comfortable listening to bluegrass music—a lot of bluegrass gospel music, which is music I know nothing about. And then, I feel very comfortable because I can’t judge myself; I’m not pretending to be them. We’re not common folk. They’re different folk than me—they’re people that know things that I don’t know anything about. I find them fascinating.
How do you take care of your voice?
Diamanda Galás: The best way to take care of your voice is to use it. To use it the right way.
What’s the right way?
Diamanda Galás: The right way is the way that only good singers are going to tell you—and you’re not going to hear that for me in ten seconds or less.
I’ve got more than ten seconds!
Diamanda Galás: I know! You’ve probably got 35! If you want a voice lesson, I’ll send you to my voice teacher. She’ll tell you the best way to use your voice.
I’m going to take you up on that at some point in the future. Hey, you’re Greek—what do you think of that new Wonder Woman movie?
Diamanda Galás: I have no idea. I don’t even know what you’re talking about. May I say something? Any time there’s a movie and they say it’s a movie about Greeks I go in the opposite direction.
Even if it’s just mythology?
Diamanda Galás: Well, they don’t make movies very much about Greek mythology—if they do, they’re generally really stupid. The ones are made that have been any good were made many, many years ago—and even they aren’t very good. There’s maybe a couple. If you want to see great films that deal with a lot of the mythology, you should see the films of Pier Paolo Pasolini. You know him?
Absolutely! I sat and watched the Willem Dafoe biography, where he played Pasolini—and he was sensational! Holy cow.
Diamanda Galás: Are you telling me that Willem Dafoe played Pasolini?
He did. It was a movie that came out in 2014. He was sensational.
Diamanda Galás: I’m delighted to hear it. Where were you born?
I was born in deepest darkest Redondo Beach.
Diamanda Galás: You were not!
Yeah, I was.
Diamanda Galás: You’ve got a fucking weird way of talking sometimes. When you’re talking, you sound like you’re trying to pull my leg!
I would never!
Diamanda Galás: I’m just telling you—and then other times, when you’re talking, it sounds like you’re being very, very serious.
Because I am! But if you are making observations about my voice, I will take that.
Diamanda Galás: [laughs] You’re making me laugh!
That’s a good thing! This is a good interview, huh!
Diamanda Galás: Yes, it’s a good interview because I need to laugh. It’s a very difficult day. Thank you.
Because you’ve got to laugh. Which things are you happy that you don’t have to suffer through that you used to, but don’t have to anymore?
Diamanda Galás: I can tell you very easily. I don’t have to suffer through idiots at record companies anymore. I have my own record company now [Intravenal Sound Operations] that I’m starting right now.
So you’re done with Mute.
Diamanda Galás: Oh, yes. I have no disregard for Mute. No bad words to say from me. It was a very important part of my life. I’m very, very happy that I work for myself now. I like to work for myself.
What’s a good sore throat remedy?
Diamanda Galás: [laughs] I don’t know why you’re making me laugh so much! Hot water, lemon and honey—that’s the first one I can tell you. It’s the oldest one. And then: to be quiet.
I feel like I should ask you some questions about your new albums—because I’ve heard them and they’re just plain balls-out amazing…
Diamanda Galás: … no, I don’t want you to ask me those stupid questions. I like your questions better!


Page: 1 2