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I'm ready to take on the world again; ARTS WITH JOE RILEY: The Kaftan King of Pop tells Arts Editor Joe Riley why he's touring Britain for the first time in 20 years.

Byline: Joe Riley

THERE are many faces to me, " muses Demis Roussos, talking about his new courtship of world music.

But hang on. Let's just stick with the face itself for a fleeting moment.

Gone is the unruly curtain of jet-black hair that framed the piercing eyes of the once gargantuan shaggy-bearded Greek singer.

A grey-flecked, close crop and tamed facial hair have turned Roussos into someone resembling Alexei Sayle's musical brother.

The self-styled Kaftan King of the 70s, who topped the UK charts with hits like For Ever And Ever, has abdicated in favour of more conventional attire.

But in his 66th year, Roussos can claim musical roots going back 40 years ? to the time the Beatles were playing Cavern lunchtime sessions. Greece was more resistant to Anglo-US pop than anywhere else in Europe, and Demis and two pals had their own style of band, Aphrodite's Child.

The trio included a chap called Evangelos ? later to become Vangelis ? and found fame teaming up with Jon Anderson from Yes.

On their way to London in 1968, Aphrodite's Child stopped off in Paris, recorded a 17th century German song in English, and got their first taste of pan-European fame.

Rain And Tears sped to number three in Britain, and proved there was a market place beyond Athens.

Recalls Demis: "I knew from the very beginning that this was a way to get us out of Greece. That my voice would lift the music of Vangelis and vice-versa.

We are still very good friends." Demis Roussos went global, once filling a 150,000seater stadium in Brazil.

His fans in high places included the Shah of Iran, who, in 1975, paid him pounds 10,000 an hour (plus six pounds of the best caviar) to sing at a party.

Roussos proved he could fight off the worst excesses of heavy metal's heyday.

"Back then, middle of the road music was even more important, " says Demis.

"There is so much rubbish around now. There is hardly time to see where the good talent is, because everything goes so fast.

"The best acts now often have no time to develop themselves." Never-say-diet Demis ? "I am not a model, I am an artist" ? has matured slowly: "I used to play trumpet in a jazz band. That was a long time ago. Now I just sing. I am very involved in the production of my records and with the arrangements for stage. But I don't do the instruments any more. I have good musicians who can do it better than me." "However, I talk to my audience, even though I am not a real speaker. I make the connection through the music, and I am aiming for a new sound.

Demis Roussos says he has continued to progress:

"My voice has matured, but that is the same with every singer.

"I have been doing a different kind of music recently. I am very involved with world music and new age music.

"And while the basis of my latest concerts will be the well-known songs (which also include Velvet Mornings and My Friend The Wind), I also want to introduce more of this new work." Some of it finds its way onto his latest CD ? The Definitive Collection:

"There are some original tracks, some re-recordings and some songs I have done in the past 10 years which have never been released in England, " he says.

He has not toured here for 20 years.

The last time I interviewed Demis, he was living outside Paris, with three racehorses at the bottom of the garden.

TODAY he still has a place in France, and another in Greece, but adds: "I don't really have homes. I travel and I live in hotels."

By all accounts though, life is as good as ever: "I still enjoy working, " he enthuses.

"I have got to the point where I have the luxury of choice in what I want to do, and I do not have to make concessions." What concessions? You don't mean on ticket prices?

Demis fixes me with a stare: "No. I mean I do anything I like, only if I like it, and when I like it.

"And I am glad to be back here in England. It has nothing but good memories for me."

Demis Roussos is at Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, on April 21.

CAPTION(S):

GRECIAN 2002: Demis Roussos ? appearing at the Phil later this month
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 12, 2002
Words:737
Previous Article:VIDEOS; MOVIES WITH JOE RILEY.
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