Guilty As Charged

By Patrick Watson

Advertiser Adelaide, Australia
Oct 3 2005

AN INTERVIEW with Diamanda Galas is a bit like meeting St Peter. It
could go either way. “I’ve had eight or 10 interviews this morning.

Some journalists ask the most stupid f…ing questions. I might go
hang myself in the bathroom,” she says.

It’s the kind of threat that, perhaps, holds just a hint of truth.

After all, this is the same woman who wrote The S… of God, walked
the streets as a prostitute in Oakland, California, and has dedicated
four albums to the AIDS epidemic.

A classically trained pianist with an opera singer’s voice of four
octaves, Diamanda Galas has been performing her frighteningly haunting
ballads since 1978.

On her upcoming tour, Guilty Guilty Guilty, she promises a program
of homicidal love songs, including Johnny Cash’s Long Black Veil,
Edith Piaf’s Heaven Have Mercy, and Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome
I Could Cry.

They’re not exactly the kind of genres you’d associate with the gaunt
Galas, but at least the subject matter rings true. “Morbidity and
depression aren’t fascinating. It just happens to exist in everything,
like everything else. I’ve my share of the s… that life is composed
of,” she says.

“The stoics said if you expect from life only happiness, you’re a
fool. They had it figured out. I don’t make it up. I’m not fascinated
about going through morbid states, but when I talk about it, I talk
about it in an undiluted way.”

The LA Weekly called her “the original badass musician”.

It seems to make sense, particularly for the blatantly nonconformist
artist who has previously written works such as Plague Mass, Concert
for the Damned and something called Defixiones, a meditation on the
Armenian genocide and the politically co-operative denial of it. She
is, she confesses, a ratbag of the worst kind and rejects most of
what society has to offer.

“It’s just a different way of doing it. People think that’s so
depressing and so desperate and it’s so this and that. In fact,
there’s no more to it than Greek women who mourn the dead saying
hello to those below,” she explains.

“It’s not scary music. What is scary to me is not to be able to
express myself. Not expressing myself, now that’s really scary.”

Asked what she thinks about being labelled the “princess of darkness”
and she is outraged: “I’m not the princess, I’m the queen of
darkness. I don’t address these things at all.”

She also hates the term “Goth”: “In America, you’re either black,
white or Hispanic. They look at my white skin and black hair and say
Gothic. They don’t see that I’m Greek.

“Lots of people come up with different opinions. I just do what I do.”

Which includes, of course, her legendary fascination with AIDS:
“When I become involved with an issue like that, it’s not going to
last just two months. It’s a lot of work. It takes years to get to it.

“You have to look at opportunistic infections, medicines, suicide.

Most artists exhaust a subject in five minutes and tomorrow will be
in Hawaii.”

But despite the jutting bones, the black clothes, the skin pallor
and the pagan poetry, Diamanda Gala says she’s just a musician. And,
like many, she feels she’s often misunderstood. Not that she cares.

“I think I’m the most lovable individual in the f…ing world,”
she says.

“And, in case you’re wondering, I’m not going to go hang myself in
the toilet after this interview.”

Diamanda Galas performs Guilty, Guilty, Guilty at the Adelaide Town
Hall on October 16 at 8pm. Bookings at BASS.

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