Once he was Yanni Chryssomallis, but try and pronounce that. Now he’s simply Yanni, New Age music’s long-locked sex symbol who gets no respect-from critics anyway. Fans are clearly entranced: The 39-year-old has sold 5.8 million albums since his first, 1986’s Keys to Imagination. And his just-released Live at the Acropolis, recorded in his native Greece, leapt into Billboard‘s top 10 in just four weeks. A video of the live concerts, coproduced by girlfriend Linda Evans, is also selling briskly. Respect is overrated anyway.
1. What was the first instrument you played?
I rarely admit it, but the accordion. My parents bought a piano and an accordion, and my brother got the piano.
2. What was your first concert?
Deep Purple. I was at the University of Minnesota, and it was the best.
3. Did you ever want to be a rock star?
I played in a rock band in college. It was mostly progressive, some heavy metal and acid — hard for people to visualize, I know. But I lost my passion for rock. It stopped evolving.
4. What do you listen to in your car?
Peter Gabriel or U2.
5. Have fans ever tried to rip your clothes off?
My fans tend to be mature. There is no ripping of clothes.
6. Are you romantic?
Definitely. But not typically. Nothing is romantic unless it is spontaneous. And I don’t do Valentine’s Day — it’s manipulative.
7. Have you ever called the Psychic Friends Network?
Never. There have been rumors that Linda and I regularly consult psychics, but that stuff is not true.
8. Does it bother you when critics dislike your work?
Critics are always right. I really believe that. If I read a review written by someone intelligent who listened to my music honestly and hated it, I’m not upset. I just didn’t connect with this person, and I’m not obligated to connect with everyone.
9. What would surprise people about you?
That I was a swimmer and broke the Greek national record in freestyle when I was 14. That I majored in psychology and love to read Plato and Freud. That I play a mean ”Stairway to Heaven.”
10. What was the last CD you bought?
I don’t listen to music when I’m not playing it — I prefer silence. I have a CD player, but I never use it.