Interview with Olivia Hadjiioannou (Oh.)

Greek multi-instrumentalist Olivia Hadjiioannou has been playing, producing, and releasing music for several years now. Her first album Synemotion was reviewed here on DPRP, and we publish our review of her latest album Metallia in conjunction with this interview. Wondering what makes this woman do what she does and in what direction, we decided to just ask her some questions direct.

Photo by Oh., used by kind permission

Hello Olivia! Congratulations on the release of Metallia. How's the reception been so far?

It's been wonderful, in less than a month the CD has been shipped to over 30 countries around the world. There is a page on my website with a map and some of the photos that the listeners have posted on social media or sent me. It's exciting to send out albums every day to all these countries, and to see them in the hands of listeners. This personal connection is a treasure.

Also, it has so far received over 20 reviews by progressive music critics from The Netherlands, France, UK, Germany, Italy, Russia, Poland, Sweden, Norway, United States, Canada, Australia, Cyprus and Greece.

It has also aired on more than 30 radio stations and a few of them FM stations as well. Digital sales and streams are going well, but I believe contrary to what people say about the CD being dead; I believe this release is doing so well because it is an affordable physical product.

Your Bandcamp releases show a range of styles. What makes you write in a certain style?

Music is a language. When we speak, we don't think in genres. We don't say to ourselves: "I will now compose a sentence that is drama, fiction or romance." When you speak, you express your experiences, feelings and ideas. It is the same with music. When I go into the studio and start recording, I don't say to myself: "I will make a ballad or a progressive metal album". I play what is within and around me. The work as a musican is in finding the right instrument, the perfect chord or the best beat that expresses the music, and subsequently to be able to play and arrange it.

How would you describe the musical style yourself? Prog metal is an easy one, but how did you get there?

I am not sure. Given the options that exist (and there are plenty), I do not know how to describe my style. I can make it, but I can't describe it.

But how did I enter the prog world? On one of the many music platforms online, I uploaded my first EP. While trying to figure out what genre I should put my music under, someone told me about a site, The Power Of Prog. I was told that this could be my 'family' and it has been ever since. I started getting a clearer perspective by seeing the resemblance my music had with other prog artists. So, I said yes, this is where I belong. I was more than joyful to have been accepted, not only by the Power Of Prog family but also by the Progarchives community.

You also sing. What made you decide to make this an instrumental album (well, without lyrics)?

Whether there are vocals or not depends on the song and what it wants. How best to convey the message imprinted within the composition. Just because I can sing, doesn't mean that it is a necessary 'instrument' for everything that I write.

Metallia is a mini album. Single or EP releases on Bandcamp are common. But do you have any plans for a full-length album?

I can't promise you anything, as I said before, I don't go in the studio having in mind to make a ballad or a progressive metal album, and in the same way I don't plan how long it will be.

Can you describe how your love for music originated and how you became interested in playing all different kinds of instruments yourself?

My love for music was probably there before I could even understand it. I grew up in a musical environment, and I was always surrounded by great musicians and bands rehearsing for live shows or just having fun jamming in our living room.

I was drawn to playing a collection of different instruments, when my interest in composition overcame any initial interest in simply becoming a guitarist or violinist.

As the demands of my compositions increased over the years (the songs got more complex) I had to practice those instruments while recording. I am still learning and will always be learning. That is something that doesn't stop for any kind of artist.

How is living in Greece for a female lead guitarist in heavy music? How is the music scene in your area?

Photo by Oh., used by kind permission Being a female lead guitarist in Greece is no different from being a female guitarist in any other country. Living in Greece as an artist though ... has its uniqueness. The land has this special presence that emits in the works of the artist.

Do you plan to tour and promote your music live?

One day, I would like to share those moments where energy and purpose are being exchanged with people. What better way than to share it with the people who enjoy, and see something in, your work? That is what I wish.

Touring is different and so far, I have not come to a point where I would like to do that.

Can you see yourself playing in a band? Composing music as a joint effort, but also to be able to play live with a fixed line-up?

I can see myself composing music with other artists or bands, as I have had done that in the past. I find that to be something wonderful, to see two or more souls forming a new entity — a new composition together. But, I can't see myself becoming part of a band.

Metal is of course stereotypically related to men, and men are stereo-typically drawn towards beautiful women. On your album covers, and even more so in your videos, you seem to be fully aware of that, and you make use of your personal features to make the product look, well, sexy. Was that a deliberate choice?

First, let me thank you for the compliment, for calling me a beautiful woman. Yes, it is true that metal is not only related to, but generated by men, and it might as well be powered by the gentlemen really, because it takes testosterone. It takes that male drive, urge and visceral dynamism to inflame something like metal music. As the female who I am, I have the kind of dynamism that you can hear in my compositions. I wasn't prompted with the idea to permeate the metal world as a female; let alone charm my way in. The same in any music world really, not just metal. I don't cover up my material with my naked body. My covers, or dancing as I do in my videos, are the substance of the compositions.

Now-a-days, people have seen everything, and everyone is very aware that this can be used to such an advantage. A woman consciously knowing that a man would have that suspicion, and the woman still doing it anyway, well, that would be embarrassing. In the end, it is not how you get in, it is how you stay in, and you can't stay in just by your looks.

I am aware of the conundrum and taboo that a naked body can engender, but being naked is part of my nature, and if it is part of my nature, then it is part of my work and expression. Anything else is simply a projection.

Photo by Oh., used by kind permission

What are your plans in music? Any goals, any plans, any wishes?

Though I am working on two other albums right now, my present plans are to make sure Metallia reaches the people who want to be inspired by it.

Two albums? Tell us more! Given your replies above, I won't ask what musical direction you want these albums to go, so I'll ask in what musical direction do you feel the albums are going?

Yes, I am working on Prog Unshaven which is nearing completion. It is an album that is more similar to my debut album, Sleeping World, in that it is very melodic and has lyrics. It is going to be very progressive, I believe more so than Sleeping World, which was considered cross-over prog, even though it has avant-garde elements, the songs are lyrical, cinematic and epic. The idea of the songs is to endeavor to transmit a dose of magic and uplifting energy in contrast to my metal albums, whose purpose is to challenge the mind and psyche.

The second album is not named yet, but it is the final album of the prog metal trilogy of Synemotion and Metallia. I can't tell you more than that right now.

Photo by Oh., used by kind permission


Review of Synemotion

Review of Metallia

Oh.'s official website

Oh. on Bandcamp

Oh. on Discogs