Music was a mainstay in our house in my Wonder Years. Sun Ra, Miles Davis, Luciano Pavorotti, Black Sabbath, Led Zepplin. Jimi Hendrix.It was all great and so diversafied.Time portal to now. Marialena Trikoglou brings her diverse, huge love of music to us here for a special conversation.
Your 1st solo album "Vanity" released in March carries a great vibe to it, something unique to you that people are looking for. Can you describe how you came to be a solo soprano and also singing symphonic Doom metal?
First of all I’d like to thank you for your kind words and for the interview. Actually music is my job, my studies and my life. I have had classic studies in music as a soprano. The reason I decided to deal with metal music is that it was a dream of mine since I was 10 years old. With Horrorgraphy we sang with some harsh vocals,while I had the clean soprano parts. I have always preferred to sing in metal music songs that allow my voice to emerge and songs that mix the classic with the metal scene so I can keep my identity .
In listening to you live (on my must do list asap) there is emotion simmering to the surface of the music, grooving to your artistic output. Do you prefer live or in studio to share your music?
Sharing your music and emotions live at the stage with the public singing with you, is something that you will never get in a studio. I believe that every artist dream (and certainly mine) is to get to the point of sharing their music live.
Having a band with one superb vocalist in it is special. 'Horrorgraphy' had 2 even 3 at times between yourself, Seek and Pain each singing differently. Was this your 1st band? Are the lyrics and music written specifically that way, this process sounds fascinating?
Yes that was my first band. Every song has it's own story to tell. We wanted it to be that way. Actually I think the difference with this album, was it is something more like a classical music arrangement with metal influences.
Your debut release this year "Vanity" was simply superb, so very atmospheric/symphonic metal laden but all your own. Was this music you had written before 'Horrorgraphy', were you at all on a mission to write "Vanity" immediately after you left the band?
No there was no rush. I just wanted to create a solo project,so I could do anything I wanted with it. Unfortunately you have to be very lucky to have a band where you can communicate completely with all members,while having a common dream and goals.So for that reason I decided to move on from "Horrography"
Marialena, tell us about your growing up in Greece, who influenced you when you were younger and then as you progressed in the scene. Did you find it hard to break into the metal scene?
I love Greece!! I am grateful to have grown up here. This country really has treasures in it's cultural heritage. I grew with Greek composers like Hatzidakis and Theodorakis and classical music. I always admired movies like "Lord of the Rings" so I started learning more about that kind of music. When I started my studies in opera I discovered a whole new world, learning from my all time favourite composer Wagner. For me his music opened a huge door in celtic music, soundtracks and metal. Then I started searching for influences of symphonic music in metal. I found masterpieces of songs and music written for videogames and then I realised the strength of the music when fantasy is used. I like that it has something to tell, and that is the meaning of the art. Unfortunately Greece is a deep country for everything like that nowadays. For me it was difficult enough to enter in the metal scene especially in my country as we don’t support that kind of music as much.For classical singers it is difficult to find musicians for a band to collaborate with.
You play the piano and sing, and are a vocal coach. Please share some of your other talents with us. Other instruments, cooking, modeling, artist maybe?
When I was younger I used to draw a lot. I love art. I was also a dance teacher in the past. As an artist dance helped me a lot to release my body and to be easier for me to dance and sing consistently at the same time when I participated in musicals for example.I make some delicious sweets and deserts.
You are a gifted vocalist as both a lyric soprano, performing in operas and also your singing in a symphonic Doom metal ban, 1st with "Horrorgraphy" and now with this superb solo album "Vanity". Which motivates you more and where do you see yourself 2 years from now?
Right now I am active in my solo project, backed by a superb band. As a singer I love doing different things and also collaborations. Each one of them (opera and metal) has its own magic. But for me sharing the stage with the band is something unique. I can express myself as I really want and the vibes we have as a team are great. I see myself touring all over the world, a dream that I have had for so many years.
You finished studying classical song in 2018, when did you decide you wanted to go solo and when did you start the writing process for "Vanity"?
When I finished my studies I went to Venice for extra studies in opera. There I realized after meeting many sopranos that I had the need to do something that was completely mine. I started playing some melodies on piano. I love opera but metal was always my dream. So after one year I decided I wanted to make my own album.
What was Vangelis Gialamas, a very good friend's contribution to the writing and making of the album? Did you have previous material written?
With Vangelis, he and I had collaborated before. He is a good friend of mine and also an excellent and very talented musician. That was the reason I trusted him with my album. To be honest I had some ideas and written melodies but he was involved in all aspects of the album. He wrote the music, played all the instruments and did the final production. I had some vocal ideas and melodies, but most important to me, what i really wanted to do was to write the lyrics.
Marialena, who were your musical influences that brought you where you are today soprano and metal wise?
Well that’s a very interesting question. Of the many different composers the one that influenced me in the way I see music now was Richard Wagner. I always admired the epic and celtic music. I found them both in his operas. As an opera singer I sang many of his arias, the atmosphere of the music and all his thematology that had to do with Scandinavian mythology was something that really touched my soul. Searching more for his music, a whole world opened for me. I found great composers such as Howard Sor, who wrote the music for “Lord of the Rings” with a huge influence from Wagner`s music. Bach and Wagner opened the ways for the metal scene something that you can notice in Blind Guardian`s music and thematology too. I also love medieval game`s music that has a touch of epic and fantasy style. Loreena Mackennitt is an artist who also influenced me a lot with all her Celtic and dreamy compositions. Nightwish has some epic, atmosphere symphonic music with more of an aggressive style but with a soprano voice who can keep a balance in both. That`s the reason I think that there is a connection with classical and metal music. I also love Haggard and Therion who can also play metal music with orchestras.
There is a great amount of emotion in the lyrics for the title song in "Vanity". Did you write the music also?
Yes I wrote the lyrics. That song means a lot to me because I was passing through a difficult situation in my life. I used that for my inspiration. Except for some ideas in the choruses, Vangelis wrote the music. For those reasons the song is the title track of my album and is also going to be the official video clip of the album.
It must be hard to have a personal life when the goal of all musicians is to share the music with live audiences, traveling everywhere. Does it cause a rift in your social life, with your friends, a boyfriend or family?
Going on a tour is a big goal, but is something I am really planning and have in mind. Being a vocalist is something I chose knowing the consequences. I am trying to have a balance in my personal life and my “ job” and if you have chosen people around you who can understand that, I think that everything is possible. The difficult part the most of the times can be a boyfriend but luckily I dated musicians so they understood me better. For now I am single so my main focus is my career.
Symphonic Metal has a big following across the ocean. It's not as big in Greece. Now music and pandemic are sadly intertwined and does not allow for live shows. Did you have thoughts of holding the album back?
I know that Greece is not so supportive of symphonic metal music although we have some superb bands who have made great careers and that gives me strength. I had thoughts yes, and I delayed my solo album release one month, but we had no idea how much time all of this situation would last so I couldn`t wait for something which maybe would have ended in one month, maybe in one year.
This fantastic path you have made for yourself, is there anything that going back you would change?
I believe that everything in life happens for a reason. Going back in time maybe I couldn`t have the chances I had, I couldn`t make the same mistakes so I`ll learn from them to become who I am today. I wouldn`t change a thing although I do have some regrets. But I am happy I made them. I was to study in a music school and although it hurts me now and doesn`t make sense, the choices wouldn`t be just my decision alone, but someone else`s for me. I don't regret beginning my studies in music at the age of 20 while totally supporting myself, because that was completely my decision. So with all the good and the bad I am proud of what I have accomplished so far, something that would have been different if I had made other decisions.
The digital age in music is here to stay but vinyl is still very popular. Which do you prefer and why?
I can`t say that I am just a vintage lover but I really adore vinyl. I think that it’s a little treasure to have your own albums populating one wall in your house and to be able to see and listen to them anytime you like. I always preferred to touch my memories. For example the photo albums I have, for me have a huge meaning and it is very touching to have your past life experiences to see again but inside your home.
Being a lyric soprano is a special talent. Lots of practice and talent bring you here. Tell me exactly what is a lyric soprano versus a vocalist?
As a classical singer and also a teacher I have to be sure that no matter what kind of music one sings, the safe and correct beginning for every voice is the classical training. That has nothing to do with opera singers and what kind of vocalist you want to become. It is more for you to learn how to use your voice and body. I respect every vocalist who knows many techniques and are classically trained, it`s easier for someone to do anything they want with their voice. As for opera singers it is only classic training, which is something more difficult and demanding because if you train on only one thing, then you have to be perfect at it. Opera singers and especially sopranos use their head voice so their voice is more sensitive because of the high notes, meaning they have to always be careful. So each one, soprano and vocalist has it`s difficulties and you have to train hard if you want to be good at whichever one you`re doing.
You can follow her profesional page on fb
and also my instagram page marialena_official
You can find the full album in my bandcamp
From the 2020 solo release "Vanity"
photography credits first 3 pictures: Alexandra Airloth. The last one: Eirini Giorgi