Describing music is an act of pure mysticism; after all, there are semantic limits to explain what makes a sound so extraordinary. Though, sometimes the evocative language and its illusory nature are especially suitable to the artist in question; Abyss X and her debut LP Innuendo, out July 31st, is one of these occasions.
“If you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.” - Nietzsche (1886, Chapter IV).

Gazing into the abyss can mean many things. Like a lot of his writing, Nietzsche leaves the meaning of this aphorism up to the reader. To some, it means to avoid musing too deeply on a subject in order to prevent getting lost and detached from reality. For others, it is a basis for freedom. Looking into the nothingness of life allows you to empty yourself of concepts about pre-determined essence, purpose and meaning so that you can create your own meaning(s) in that same space. I prefer the latter, but for Abyss X it might even be something more literal; a reflection of herself.

With Innuendo, the reflection is both clear and murky – as the title may suggest. Evangelia Lachianina’s (real name) description of Abyss X as both a “vacuum and a doorway” is a good rundown of her debut full-length project. This door is on the latch, letting out some of Abyss’ most intimate lyrics to date – whilst retaining a sense of ambiguity –, whether having her soul set ‘on fire’ in Animosity or demanding if “this a turning point for you?” on Attraction In Doubt.

If previous records had, by her own admission, set her at a distance from her audience through more chaotic meaning making, Innuendo closes that rift. The most immediate, personal touch is the showcasing of her wide-vocal range (over four octaves!) that had previously been haunting fragments embedded into the mix. Attendees of her live shows could already attest to this wider-ranging skillset, where Abyss’ vocals, choreography and general appreciation for putting on a show have set her aside as an authentic, multi-disciplinary artist.

Excitingly, Abyss has enlisted the help of several artists including Rui Ho, SOPHIE and fellow multidisciplinarians House of Kenzo, who will present their own reworks of Innuendo via a subsequent remix album – slated for release later in the year through Deep Matters Of The Heart. This should provide the project with several more uncensored essences, as cultivated through these musician’s diverse palettes.

Abyss talks to METAL about her most intimate release to date, what a progressive music industry could look like and some of her more offbeat creative outlets.
Your previous releases have been quite site-specific. For instance, Nüshu focused on Greek events and immigrant life in the United States (the title being taken from a secret language spoke in Hunan, China) whilst your last release, Pleasures of the Bull, took after the Minoan legend out of Crete. Your first LP, to me, marks a change of tact from this theme, where you appear to reference more personal emotions like self-realisation and infatuation. Could you elaborate to the readers what the motivation behind this record is? What did you get out of this experience?
Yes, I felt like it was time to drop the curtain and address a more intimate need that emerged over years of producing music. I found myself yearning for a more personal connection with the listener and even though there were spikes of raw energy, rage, sadness, bliss and an overall expressive emotional charge throughout my previous work, I still consider it highly conceptual and a bit ‘distant.’ I was also struggling with my own inner demons while I wrote Innuendo. I was reassessing my purpose as a musician and I craved delivering a more tangible piece of work.
The lyrics are pretty much still poised on the poetic side. Writing helps me refine emotions as sculpting forces of expression and self-realisation; I didn’t feel like it was essential to break everything down to a more literate type of songwriting. That would limit the experience to a specific happening or situation. Writing this album was a cathartic experience that helped me construe my delivery as a performer on one level while ‘softening’ my approach as a producer on another.
This album sees your incredible voice take a more prominent role as it features on every track. Since your first EP, Echoes, it has become a rarity to have your voice on a track – or if it was there, it was more abstract and sound-designed than traditional singing. Why did you choose to bring your wide vocal range to this record in particular? Did you only feel ready to share it in this moment?
Yet, I don't feel like I have unfolded the full spectrum of my voice on this album, I always leave room for the live show experience. Often people would come up to me after a live show to talk about my voice and the overall live performance, and how they genuinely had no idea I could ‘deliver’ the way I did.
As an artist, sometimes you get caught up in a particular idea of the persona behind your work, you imagine that people can recognize all aspects of your artistic manners, that they can see beyond the enigmatic nature of the bits and pieces you slip in the work. You expect them to envision the full picture beyond the original material by combining all these bits and pieces… But what you know deep down isn't necessarily what others perceive, especially when you are genre hopping between albums and your songwriting approach involves the juxtaposition of aspects of performance, a way of creating that isn't generally the norm. In a sense, I was waiting for the right moment to be more transparent with my listeners; I needed more ‘relevant’ material on an intimate level.
One of your earliest releases as Abyss X was under the banner of the Female:Pressure network in 2015, whilst – more generally … you have been vocal in the fight for gender and LGBTQ+ equality like with your label SHXME. I recall you noting, a few years back, how you scrolled Resident Advisor’s page 150 posts down with no mention of a female artist in there whilst more recently, some major festivals have committed to 50/50 gender splits. Five years on from that Female:Pressure release – at a time when many people are in a period of self-reflection –, what are your thoughts on the progress made in the music industry?
There have definitely been steps made towards addressing several issues, but then corporations, festivals and the media are always quick to take advantage of the situation, sneakily assimilating socio-political ideas into their marketing campaigns by launching performative gestures and protests of wokeness, often completely out of context. I see boldly declaring all-female lineups, all-female stages or ‘inclusive’ events as part of the problem, primarily as low key acts of division.
Festival curators can ‘enlighten’ themselves and quietly shift their attention towards marginalized artists without the assumption of an applause after the fact. A give-and-take handling of an urgent situation that actually requires violent uprooting of the old ways won't bring change, it’s just business. But it all comes down to entitlement, and they give expecting something in return. At the end of the day, marginalized artists are scapegoats in the process of the industry's capitalist-fuelled survival system, so I am very cautious with all ‘inclusive’ efforts. Until power is fully transferred to the marginalized, progress isn't really a valid notion to be discussed.
Speaking of which, the catalyst for much of this self-reflectance, alongside Covid-19, has been the Black Lives Matter protests against systemic racism in our societies that, after so long, feels like it may reach a tipping point. Hence, it is very important to keep this conversation alive. How have you personally been reflecting during this time?
Right now, as we speak, the most important thing to be addressed is the systematic neglect and systemic oppression of certain groups of the population on a global scale. We are now finally, after decades of capitalist-led procrastination, called to violently challenge and dismantle the Western idea of global dominance.
Covid- 19 has been a trap and a blessing at the same time, a ‘break from life’ that was much needed for many, and yes, people have had more time to reflect on the world, their interpersonal relations and their personal life choices, but we are all also going through deep depression on a mass level. Desperation is a vital force for revolution, but lowered levels of survival instinct due to mental imbalance can hinter that. Conversations on the subject are very important right now but new systems need to be built from scratch no matter how small or specific to a particular group of people.
As you alluded to, for many capitalism founded and/or perpetuated many of these problems – for instance, Ibram X. Kendi views capitalism and racism as “conjoined twins”. Musicians, at least the ones I follow, have been increasingly vocal about questioning how we value art and support artists. To quote Deforest Brown, Jr. at Unsound 2019 – under today’s platform capitalism the “best slave wins”; those who market themselves for ‘per-play payment’ streaming and the industry at large, will profit financially. Considering your activism and anti-establishment ethos, and perhaps a personal understanding of capitalism’s faults given Crete and Greece’s recent insecurity, I was curious as to what you consider to be a progressive future for music?
I believe that musicians need to move away from their dependence on social media and the widely accessible forms of mass art consumption. New hubs need to be crafted, on an online and offline level, by artists for the artists and run by CEO-cum-artists with a deep understanding of the pro-artist business practice.
We have a vast terrain of digital ground waiting to be fertilized with new ideas of community-based uprising, yet we still find ourselves trapped in the confines of a system that clearly doesn't value our efforts and our contribution to society’s well-being, a system that convinced us that the only way to survive is to ‘demonstrate excellence,’ meaning to engage in a selfish act of survival. These, again, are old notions imposed throughout the decades by entitled men in the music industry and they urgently need to be torn apart. Again, we as artists have to carry this burden, the way we have always been expected to… We just need to discover how to shift the energy towards our benefit as a whole.
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I was curious as to your musical influences and those you admire. Your mixes can often go in a variety of stylistic directions, sometimes traversing from artists like Dean Blunt and Luna Ki to spoken passages by the likes of ecologist Terence McKenna. How do you choose the components of your mixes? Are there any past or present figures you have been drawn to recently?
My influences are vast and run deeper than genres, niches and aesthetics. I’m usually captivated by strong performance and delicate approaches to sound production even with ‘harder’ types of music. I see a mix as a journey with a story of its own; I look at it as a canvas waiting to be smudged with different colours and textures. I almost treat it like a sonic essay, which is why I always include spoken passages and collages of spoken word.
I also purposefully use tracks from the same artists over and over in my mixes, like I have done with Tricky, Velvet Acid Christ, Diamanda Galas, Lydia Lunch, Atari Teenage Riot… I want the listener to obsess with them as much as I do (lol). I feel like listeners will get to know me better through my obsessions. I struggle with the new wave of music, I love so much of it and obsess over it but it's like a fling; I feel like in a few years, I won't be revisiting a lot of the music I like now. I value timelessness, and there’s so much good music out there right now, I just don’t know how relevant it will be in the near future to me.
You have also noted your love of voice-only tracks like those from the anime Perfect Blue. Can you suggest any of your favourites for readers here?
I think that's the only track I've come across with all-vocal elements; it's extremely rare you will find voice-only tracks. Off the top of my head, Claire Hamill's Voices album is the closest I’ve found to that.
From the outside looking in, you’re a true polymath with no fixed method of expression– ranging from directing, styling, and choreography to musicianship and performance. I’ve read about some of your incredible events like a 90-minute monologue as Andy Warhol, for instance. I was especially curious as to your sold-out theatre adaptation of David Lynch's Fire Walk with Me (FWWM) you wrote, directed and starred in at an illegal venue. The original film is quite a harrowing watch but true to experiences of abuse for many, whilst your adaptation occurred prior to the Twin Peaks reboot that brought Lynch right back into the mainstream. What can you tell me about this performance? What drew you to this film, and subject matter?
We have to go back many years! It was 2009 when I staged Fire Walk With Me as a theatre adaptation; I remember it was my first long piece and my first real dive into what I called ‘cinematic theatre.’ We were six actors and three live cameramen on stage. The preparation lasted six months during which I feverishly shot and edited footage that was later mixed in real time with live footage that was being captured during the performance, like close-ups of the actors or a shot of action that took place in a corner in the space that was not visible to the audience. The show definitely had site-specific aspects to it.
For me, FWWM is a brave and beautifully crafted film, its raw nature fascinates me – the way Lynch crafts a melange of realism with scenes of deep character psyche portrayal and theatricality. I personally consider it a milestone in American cinema. I needed to flesh it out on stage in front of an audience, and what better way than having them trapped in the dirty dark basement of Rebound, the infamous discotheque, still running since the ‘80s in Athens. Rebound has mainly been the meeting place for post-punk (Greek and international), punk, no wave and enthusiasts of anything in between. A majority of the audience didn’t even know of this place, so luring them down to this unknown venue definitely added to the experience.
I played Laura Palmer – I still had my natural blonde hair and I dove deep into my research as I scripted the piece and the characters. The more I researched, the more I realized what masterful screenwriters Lynch and Egels were. Incest, sex work, multiple personality disorder and horror were all depicted with such delicacy, in a way that was never done before. We performed the show for three days in a row, and every night you could sense the heaviness in the air – people were frozen, people were appalled, people cried, but people felt Laura by the end of it and it was nice to see the catharsis in their eyes.
Similarly, whilst you originally studied performance arts, I was wondering if you feel a particular connection to any one of your mediums, or if they are more entwined with one another? Perhaps they feel like different versions of you.
I think all mediums I work with from dance to performance, to music, video and theatre, they all compensate and complement each other; they are all interconnected and equal aspects of my work. Music production and songwriting alone just don’t do it for me, I have more complex needs, and as an ‘underground’ artist I have the luxury to create a species of my own; a woman who thrives in her own novelty.
Lastly, mythology – as mentioned – has centred your previous records, while you also appear to have a deep affinity for tranquillity and the organic world. Today, however, the world is a very complex place where what is myth-making, fake news or truth is increasingly blurred whilst the tranquillity of the world is askew. Having experienced living across the world, are there any lessons you have learnt for navigating life? What are the important mantras you live by?
Moving to a different place, a place where you have to build from scratch by harking to the ways in which things move, is a life lesson on its own. One’s truth is another person’s lie, you need to be prepared to give up your comfort and ride with the new pace. It’s fascinating actually, at this point in my life, after years of being a nomad, I’m just very comfortable in my own ‘discomfort’. I pursue the change and I thrive in adjusting my everyday life to the new conditions.
Spending consecutive amounts of time in the same place will give you one side of the ‘truth’ – it's like a bubble waiting to be pierced. You can assess global events much better if you have a more rounded-up view on the things. I’ve been tormented throughout the years by questions like where is home?, or where should home be?, but it can be anywhere because you carry it with you within you.
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