Paul Leonidou

Paul Leonidou

Update: 2021-12-13


‘What have you got to be depressed about?’ is like saying, ‘What have you got to have a cold about?’

In this episode, Paul discusses his Greek Cypriot roots, his battles with depression and suicidal thoughts, and his own journey into authenticity.

Useful links:

  • Support the pod at Patreon and gain access to exclusive interviews with every guest.
  • Let’s chat about #QueerMusic on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
  • Paul’s homepage can be found here.
  • Alumni Andy Pisanu is mentioned, and his episode can be found here.
  • Click here for help with suicidal thoughts.

Coming next Quesday is the second of our two-part specials in which previous guests return to deliver exclusive audio gifts to our listeners!


Dan 00:00

Hello and welcome to the first in two Christmas special episodes of In the Key of Q, the guest in this week's episode is, well, one of the family, really. He composed our theme tune and has been a brilliant supporter of the podcast.

Please be aware, though, that there was extensive discussion of depression and including some references to suicide. So listener discretion is advised. As ever, there will be support links provided in the show notes.

Paul 00:27

Well. I remember the first time I was depressed, seven years old. And my answer to me? What's wrong with you? I said, I'm depressed and she goes, Oh, seven, how can you be depressed? I was. It was this sense of someone dims the screen and your lens of perception, and everything feels heavy.

Dan 00:52

This is In the Key of Q featuring musicians from around the world who inspire my queer identity. Everybody is welcome to the conversation, whatever beautiful identity pleases you. Music helps us feel connected and know that we are not alone.

This program is made possible thanks to the financial support of listeners like you over at hatred on dot com slash in the key of queue, and remember to join the conversation across socials using the hashtag queer music. I'm Dan Hall.

Come on in, sit down and be heard. You've been hearing this week's guests since episode one. He composes and sound designs for advertising and short films and studied music technology at the University of West London, as well as a composer.

He's also a singer performing and releasing under the name to D Loono. So a big, big welcome to the horribly talented and very, very lovely Paul Leonidou.

Paul 01:45

Hello. Hello, Daniel San.

I was born in North London, which is a bit of a cliche if you're Greek Cypriot. I remember my mum telling me that at about a year and a half old, the first sign that she saw that I loved music was that I was watching Bugsy Malone with my milk bottle.

I was lying on my back with my legs crossed, swinging my leg and kind of learning every single word that musical. And I remember being so small that I didn't get that they were kids. They were like grown ups to me, you know, in terms of context.

So and then I started singing a bit of Tallulah, and then she got a bit worried was going to be warning signs.

Dan 03:02

You should be singing The Boxer!

Paul 03:05

Yeah, exactly. I sang that to a saying all of them. Yes, the thing I embrace, the more indiscriminately.

Dan 03:10

What was your upbringing like?

Paul 03:13

I had a very vivid imagination, and you know, I would talk to things and beings that weren't there. And I was so in my own world and kind of music being this intangible thing that's just surrounding you, I just get swept up into music.

I remember. I remember my mum playing Phantom of the Opera on vinyl, playing a really loud, and I remember hearing that that main piece of music and I could visualize the note, you know, I could see it. It was kind of like this symphony unravelling like an animation in front of me.

So yeah, I was very much, very, very much in my own world. My mum said when she's used to pick me up from school, actually, she could. She could touch her eyes. That was quite bad, but she could tell it was me because all the other kids are walking kind of very, you know, you uniformly, very slowly. And I'll be the one jumping up and down and spinning and deviating from the line, she goes, I just summed you up, you're always singing and you know, it's a real, joyful. Joyful child, you know, I. I remember laughing or smiling a lot.

But I also remember there was there's that tipping point where you kind of realize other kids aren't quite so expressive and then and then you start getting singled out for it and from quite a young age. I remember thinking, Oh, I'm getting picked on for this.

I'm getting singled out for this. And you start to see that. There's a message that that you're being fed, which is, you know. What you are in your natural. Form is not OK or not accepted or is a point of ridicule, and I think sadly, that's when I kind of started to retract into my shell.

You know, so…

Dan 05:04

A lot of the time we get asked as great people, when did you realize you were gay? And my stock answer to that is always been. I didn't realize I was gay. What I did is realize that other people thought I was wrong.

Paul 05:17

Yeah, that's a really good way of looking at it. A grammar school, you know, career about age 13, 14. Everyone was calling me gay, I had long hair. I remember I was quite expressive. I moved my hands a lot, which I just thought was a Mediterranean thing or just being gay.

But it was very I realized there were I was being called gay in all these different words, and I didn't even know what it meant. And I kind of thought, you know, whether they thought I was or not, I was just slightly different and a bit creative.

I don't know what it was, but it also came a point where. I did get bullied quite a lot, but I also played into it, so as in, there was one point where somebody says, Oh, you're queer, you're gay, whatever, and I said, Yeah, I am, what are you going to do about it?

Yes, if he's not the guy, then I'll be like, Yeah, yeah, and I'd I thought I'd play into it to kind of defuse the situation, but actually it made it worse. I went to an all boys school, which I don't recommend, by the way, but I remember I was sobbing.

In classroom and all the other kids have, all the other kids had left sorry and. Our image saying to the teacher, everyone hates me, no one likes me, and I think he kind of caught on to the fact that it was gay related issue and he was a former priest and obviously very religious, and he just turned to me goes, Well, I can't make people like you. Charming, I thought. That's nice.

Dan 07:18

So, Paul, you talked about you going from this outgoing, bubbly kid and then I guess. Witnessing the gradual disapproval of the world around you, the sort of suburban mode around you of your outgoing us, and you gradually retreated into yourself.

What did that feel like retreating into yourself and what did it look like, what was your behaviour like? What was your what were your thoughts like?

Paul 07:46

Haven't really thought about it in these terms, so I'm just kind of. Mulling it over, because I think actually. Kind of putting on an act or pretending or at least holding certain parts of my personality back became second nature.

Greek Cypriot grandparents. They loved me dearly, but, you know, devoutly religious and from a different world. So, you know, they always just thought gay equals evil. And I kind of had that level of understanding where I thought, would that from a world that can't comprehend it?

So I don't kind of I don't judge him for it. But then you fall into the the habit of apologizing for who you are and apologizing for your existence, albeit under your breath and internally. I think I found myself becoming quite exhausted quite quickly, and, you know, a sense of imposter syndrome and what if I get found out? And there's that constant feeling of looking over your back. And I remember people used to say to my mum, Of course, too soft, you need to toughen them up. You'll be a sissy when he grows up.

And so those things ring they stay in your mind, you know? And to some extent as well, I kind of agreed with the wider opinion or, you know, I did believe that there was something wrong with me as well. So just pretend, hopefully no one will find out and everything will be OK.

But obviously that takes its toll well for a while and especially when your identity still forming and you figuring out who you are.

Dan 09:15

You've spoken a bit about your Greek Cypriot identity. What does that mean to you?

Paul 09:21

It means something different to me now than









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Paul Leonidou

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