An interview with Constantine

Lady Godiva chats with Chicago-based psych folk maestro Constantine Hastalis

How old were you when you started playing music and do you remember the first record you bought?

I was but a wee lad but I didn’t become obsessed with it until my mid-late teens.

Your music is very evocative of nature and folklore. Were you inspired by any specific books, besides Alice in Wonderland? Do you go to the wilderness as a spiritual and creative retreat?

There’s a conspicuous Lewis Carroll influence on the latest album – I went through a phase of reading everything about him and found myself dreaming of Victorian life filled with lush English gardens and halcyon riverbanks. I also enjoy romantic and pre-Raphaelite era poets such as Blake and Yeats. Being in nature is one of the few things that makes me happy – it never ceases to amaze.

What is your usual creative process and what has been your routine in lockdown?

There’s not much of a process – I just hope for a little inspiration to hit from time to time. I wrote an entire album within the first month of quarantine but haven’t picked up a guitar since. I enjoy waking up early, having tea or coffee and plotting ways to avoid the human race at all costs (my routine in general, not just during lockdown).

How many records do you think you own and how do you organize your collection? Do you have one or several most prized records?

Funny you should ask as I began selling my collection last year. I used to think that filling a thousand Ikea Expedit shelves with records would allow me to conquer the world. At some point I decided I only need a modest collection of records I enjoy listening to regularly. A lot of folk psych such as C.O.B., Shirley Collins, Bridget St. John, Jimmy Campbell etc. I listen to quite a bit of jazz as well.

As a record collector, I particularly enjoyed the design and artwork of In Memory of a Summer Day as it’s an instant doorway into your music and universe. Knowing your interest in all things medieval, did you visit many castles while you toured the UK or the Old Continent? Was there a more memorable one?
Album artwork: In Memory Of A Summer Day

The artwork and illustrations were done by my friend Stephen Titra, a very special and talented artist, songwriter and human being. There was no time for castles on tour, but the medieval architecture in Chester UK was stunning. I made it to Oxford and Edinburgh Castle a couple years ago and both places filled my head with wonder seeing all those buildings from the 14th century and earlier. I’d like to see Eltz Castle in western Germany someday, but the Sears Tower will have to suffice for now.

As an American of Greek descent, do you see a difference between stateside crowds and European ones? Do you have a favorite place to perform? When touring will be possible again, is there any specific place you’d like to go to play?

There’s no crowd for this music in America. And really, there’s not much of an audience for acoustic music anywhere, particularly folk psych. However, Spain, Denmark, Netherlands and England seemed to be the most receptive. In general, European people seem to have a greater respect for this kind of thing. Keeping a band together and/or touring is difficult but I’d love to play in Paris and Greece.

There’s a very picturesque and cinematic feel to your music. Have you ever written a score or would you like to? If so, which directors would you like to collaborate with?

I’ve never had the opportunity to write a score but I’d love the challenge. I can’t ‘compose’ music, but writing songs and layering sounds to coincide with different scenes sounds like fun. I’m not well-versed with names of directors but I’d love to do something either in or well outside of my particular niche.

You have met the Founder of acid folk aka Donovan. As a mentor, what is the most important thing you learned from him? What were your conversations about?

Donovan is full of life and great stories. Hanging out with him reaffirmed my belief that curiosity and sense of humor are important avenues to happiness, and that learning and respecting the art you are attempting to make is imperative.

Who were the other artists who stimulated you to make music?

There are so many – I’m constantly overwhelmed by others’ musical talents. So much so that it’s often discouraging. I think most musicians/artists feel this way.

Are there any bands in Chicago you would recommend for our readers?

Gosh, I’m kind of an out of touch hermit. A friend of mine just recently released an album called ‘Gentle Meadows’ under the moniker J.M. Hagaman. I’m both impressed by/envious of his thoughtful songwriting and musicianship. My pal Ryan Simpson did a wonderful job with the artwork along with engineering and mixing the album. MOOF readers with an interest in pastoral folk should listen.

What’s next for you?

Hopefully a vacation. Musically though, I may release an EP this year. It’s folkier with an emphasis on simplicity as compared to elaborate production and artwork. I’ll likely be releasing a 7” this summer as well. Thank you sincerely for taking interest in my music.

With thanks to Constantine for his participation.

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