Katerina Duska is one of the most beloved Greek singers in the English-speaking music scene, a fact that quickly helped her expand her fanbase beyond the Greek borders. Her participation in the Eurovision Song Contest 2019, with the song “Better Love” certainly played a decisive role in her becoming one of the most recognizable faces of that year.
The sudden brake due to the pandemic a couple of years ago, forced her -like all the other artists all over the globe- to put her professional plans on “pause”, however, she did not feel that she had said her last word. Her discographical comeback with her English EP “Call Me Nyx” as well as her collaborations with Leon of Athens on the songs “Anemos”, “Kymata” and “Communication”, paved the way for some joint appearances on some of the America’s biggest festivals during the summer. But the highlight of this collaboration came not long ago when the two artists joined forces once again on one of their most beautiful songs, “Babel” which was first presented through the Global Spin platform of Grammy Awards!
However, now Katerina is coming back taking with a completely different role in her career, as an actress, participating for the first time, alongside Minos Theocharis, in the classic Broadway musical, “Hedwig and The Angry Inch” where she embodies the role of Yitzhak. Through this role, Katerina manages not only to show off another talent of hers, but to make us think, to be moved and above all, to admire her once again!
Read everything in the exclusive interview they gave to SounDarts.gr
Good evening Katerina! Welcome to SounDarts.gr and thank you in advance for our conversation!
Thank you very much!
First of all, I would like to personally congratulate you for your unique performance in the theatrical musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”, where you collaborate on stage with Minos Theoharis. It is, in fact, your first time participating in a theatrical production. How’s this experience for you on stage as an actor this time?
It is truly a magical experience. Very different obviously, unprecedented. The atmosphere in this show is so nice, the relationship between me and Minos, but also with all the contributors. I think this is always decisive. It has helped me a lot to manage my anxiety. I feel that the role of Yitzhak is like a gift to me. That’s how I experience it. So, I think without having the experience of being an actor, when you really love the character you’re playing and you feel it, it helps make it all easier, the connection with the character. This is all very unique.
The protagonist of the show, is a gender queer persona. Speaking of the LGBTQ+ community in general, do you think that as a society we have made progress in accepting all people without labels and discrimination?
Progress has certainly been made, but there is still a long way to go in order to reach a point where we can talk about such things freely as a society. For me, that was why I wanted to do this show so much. I think that we are also trying to contribute a bit to this direction and this is something very important to me. Although it’s a 25-year-old show – and you’d expect it to be less relevant, it’s still very relevant.
With Minos, we both see it as a mission. That is, for people to come to this show and feel that they are less alone. It’s unbelievable that people actually leave crying, because they are moved. The truth is that it took me a lot of rehearsals not to cry. The story of both these characters, Hedwig and Yitzhak move me deeply.
For the record, Hedwig was the first gender queer persona in the theater 25 years ago, when this show was staged off Broadway in U.S.A. For this reason, he is an iconic and historical figure in the theater and has acquired a fanatical cult following. I am very happy that thanks to Minos and his persistence in staging this work, the Greek public is finally aware of it.
Is there anything that Katerina has in common with Yitzhak?
Yitzhak is a very downtrodden man. He’s a drag queen who isn’t allowed to be a drag queen and has been forced to express himself in a way that doesn’t express him. He is trapped in an image.
Of course, I can’t identify on the same level, but I’ve definitely experienced the sense of oppression about the way I wanted to express myself as a child or the way I wanted to express myself artistically.
It was not an easy journey. So by playing this role, my own issues or repressed issues come to the surface. That’s why I think there’s this extra connection to that role and I think there are a lot of people that can identify with it.
Does it feel like redemption?
Yes! Certainly in many moments. There are also some relief scenes, which are very important for the character, and for me as well. I can easily fit into that mold of what it means to not be able to express yourself. To feel that you are not accepted at the level you want to be accepted. But in no way can I compare myself to a man who has struggled terribly with his identity and his sexuality, which we socially know can be brutal for many people.
Speaking of music, we recently heard your new collaboration with Leon Of Athens for the song “BABEL”. Iconic music with very beautiful lyrics. Since this is not your first collaboration, what are the important elements of an artist that will lead you to work with them?
First of all, there must be identification and chemistry in our tastes, in other words to be able to appreciate and perceive music (its sound and language) in a similar way, in how it makes us feel above all.
If we feel that we can communicate on such a level, why not collaborate?!
Who came up with the concept for the song “Babel”?
Along with Leon of Athens, we were offered to release a song through Global Spin -the Grammys series- which was a big highlight and honor for us (for obvious reasons!). The concept of this channel is to host artists from all over the world and we were the artists they chose from Greece, after they saw us at a festival in U.S.A., and that’s how this proposal came about.
We were thinking together with Leon that while we basically do English-language verses, we really wanted the Greek element to be included since it is a multicultural platform.
We thought about making a bilingual song but we didn’t want it to be “alienating”. The “Tower of Babel” came to mind. For those who don’t know the myth, it basically says that God created languages to divide people because they were trying to build a tower, tall enough to reach him.
We transferred this whole allegory to a relationship that is lost in translation and it is a relationship that is essentially sinking or seems to be “on its last legs” and the two people are trying to hang on “tooth and nail” to save it and communicate. While they speak the same languages, they do not understand each other.
Greece, England, America: your music know no borders in any way. How does it feel to be able to share your music with a global audience?
I feel it is a huge blessing. I really try to embrace whatever this musical journey brings me and be as present as possible, because nothing is taken for granted.
In this work, the percentage of artists worldwide who can be in the discography, tour, and travel with their music is minimal. It’s a very tough profession and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t remind myself of that. The previous year, 2022, musically for me was the best year of my life, because finally after a two-year-pandemic, the borders “opened” somehow and things took place. Some of them were planned to happen in 2020, but were all interrupted due to the pandemic. I was wondering if these opportunities would arise again. Finally I was able to appear and play at very big festivals in U.S.A. It was a lifelong dream for me. It happened while Leon of Athens had also planned such a tour. We were in some joint festivals, we were able to do all this together. It was fantastic! I had my brother with me on the drums. We saw half of U.S.A. and in the summer I worked in Los Angeles for my album. It was an idyllic situation, an experience of a lifetime. I don’t know if there will be something like this again, that is, everything happening together again. It was absolutely surreal.
In general, from what I understand, you like concepts in your projects. Is there anything new in the works? Are you preparing anything new discographically?
I’m preparing a concept album again, but it’s different. It’s me, but a little different this time. It is an evolution of myself in more dance ways. “Call Me Nyx” had a darkness in its subject matter, it was an ode to the night as I am a nocturnal creature in general, so I created an alter ego. This was Nyx.
Now, in my next work there will still be a dark theme, but there is more euphoria in the sound. It’s a mix, a continuation of Nyx in a way, but in a more pleasant and brighter way sonically.
Is there a plan to release a record from the play, like a cast?
Unfortunately there is no such plan, but I’m glad you say so, because we have been told (to do so) so many times by several people who have come to see the show. It’s generally not something easy because of copyright issues. But you never know…
They say that the hardest thing is for everyone to talk about themselves. However, I would like to ask you, over the years, how has Katerina changed professionally?
I have definitely gained a much greater awareness around my every step, around how this mechanism we call music industry works. As long as you stay in this job and persevere you become much more resilient. It’s like a proof to yourself that you love it more than you think, since it’s a job that comes with a lot of every-day-criticism.
You need to have a very strong character to be able to overlook this and focus on how you want to be seen or what you think about yourself. This is not an easy path at all. It is a struggle, a constant battle for which side will win.
Of course, I have received a lot of love and that is a driving force but yes, I think I have matured on all levels. In how I accept criticism, in how much I embrace failure and deal with a success, in how present I am to every opportunity that is given to me. All these are very important. Of course, also the maturation in my sound, in my sound identity, in how I think I have evolved as a singer and I have explored my voice much more than I knew it when I started 8-9 years ago.
Perseverance is very crucial, it will always bring you something. You may never reach an ideal scenario that you have in your mind, but persistence will always bring you things and you have to believe that. There were so many moments when I questioned whether or not to continue and I looked back and saw that if I had stopped last year I wouldn’t have experienced that whole year which was the best (of my career so far).
Did Eurovision play a role in all this? Did something change in your later everyday life and career?
Eurovision helped me a lot to toughen up, to mature and to learn a lot of things. Much of what I mentioned in the previous question I feel was gained through this experience, without exaggeration. It is something that you experience in the superlative degree, warts and all. It’s a serious endurance test. As soon as I came back from Eurovision, I immediately realized how big my thirst was for my next step, so I passed the hardest test. It is very nice and important to feel this way after such an experience.
What is your motto in life?
Interview: Thodoris Kolliopoulos