Interview

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1.Why do you play nylon string guitar now?

When I’m at home practicing or just playing, I always have a nylon string guitar around me. I think that on a nylon string guitar, you can play everything, no matter if you play jazz, blues, rock or latin. Because of this, it’s a great songwriting tool. The attack is perfect, and the timbre is so natural and balanced.
 

2.What guitars do you use? 

I use Eastman and Heritage jazz guitars right now. They are extremely well made, with a big warm sound both acoustic and electric. If I would go for a more mellow acoustic tone, I switch to my S.P. Custom Guitars and Takamine nylon string guitars, depending on the sound I’m looking for.

3. How do you get your sound, on nylon string guitars?

On stage I’m using the S.P Custom nylon string guitar, through the Digitech or Yamaha magicstomp, for some tone shaping and effects and then to the mixing board.

4. How do you get your sound on the archtop electrics?

I just use the neck pickup on jazz boxes, and my trusty Mambo or Fender amplifiers, with not so many high’s and low’s. I go for a clean, natural tone. Sometimes I use the Yamaha Magicstomp for preamp and effects.

5. What kind of strings do you use?

On the nylon string guitars, I use hard tension strings from GHS, or D’Addarrio. On the Martin and Ovation acoustics, I like medium tension Phosphor bronze and on the hollow body archtops, I use flatwound 0,12 mediums.

6. What is the guitar on the cd cover of “Flame Keeper”?

It is a Gibson Johnny Smith. A guitar with unbelievable playability.

7.What guitars do you use for recording?

Depending on the sound I’m looking for, I use all of my guitars, but mostly the big archtops, one Martin acoustic jumbo and the nylon string guitars.

8.How do you record your guitars in the studio?

It depend on the situation, the project, and the song, but in generally, I record my electrics through the  amp, and mike the speaker with an SM 57 off axis. For the acoustic guitars, I use both a condenser microphone, situated around the middle of the neck, looking to the soundhole, and the line signal from the guitar output, to the preamp, and to the mixing board.

9. What amplifiers do you use?

I’m a “Fender type” guitarist. I like this bell like tone that Fender amps can produce, without so much “hi fi” detail, that some new amps have. I prefer the Twin and the Super Reverb. For the purpose of portability, sometimes I use a Mambo 10" amplifier. It is small and lightweight, with big headroom and sound. 

10. What kind of picks do you use?

Dunlop and Fender, tortex teardrop heavy (1,14).

11. How many guitars have you owned throughout time?

I’ve owned more than a hundred guitars, but usually I play the archtops, and the nylon string acoustics. Finally you don’t need so many guitars to play or compose music.

12. What is your desert island guitar?

Deffinitely, the big 17” and 18” archtops can do it all. Because of their acoustic nature, they have a warm solo voice, with nice chords, in a very comfortable neck and body.

13. What other instruments do you play?

Except from the guitar, I play some bass, mandolin, cumbus, oud, drums, percussion, and keyboards, for recording purposes.

14. Who influenced you?

My influences are so many. I will try to put some of them in chronological order. Greek traditional music, The Beatles, Rory Gallagher, Deep Purple, Eric Clapton, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Ben Webster, Al Di Meola ,John Mc Laughlin, Paco de Lucia, J.S.Bach, W.A.Mozart, Igor Stravinsky, Anton Dvorak, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gilespie, Pat Martino, Pat Metheny, Grant Green, George Benson, Hank Garland, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Manolis Chiotis, Mimis Plessas, and many many others…….

15. What are your ten all time favorite records?

1.The Beatles “1967-1970”
2.Pink Floyd “wish you were here”
3.Deep Purple “machine head”
4.Jethro Tull “aqualung”
5. Lynyrd Skynyrd “one more from the road, live” 6.Wes Montgomery “movin’ wes”
7.Igor Stravinsky “the rite of spring”
8.Meola, Mc Laughlin, Lucia “friday night in san Francisco”
9.George Benson “tenderly”
10.Pat Metheny “the road to you, live in Europe”
11.Zakir Hussain “making music”
12.G.F.Haendel “water music”
13. J.S. Bach “almost everything”
14. Ennio Moricone “once upon a time in America”
and the list goes on ………………………..

16.What are your ten all time favorite guitar solos?

1. David Gilmour: ‘shine on you crazy diamond’(wish you were here)
2. Richie Blackmore: ‘lazy’ (machine head)
3. Ken Hensley: ‘salisbury’ (Salisbury)
4. Wes Montgomery: ‘people’ (movin’wes)
5. Joe Pass: ‘django’ (for Django)
6. Pat Martino: ‘close your eyes’ (east)
7. Joe Pass: ‘you are the sunshine of my life’ (live at Donte’s)
8. George Benson: ‘giblet gravy’ (giblet gravy)
9. Pat Metheny: ‘beat 70’ (the road to you, live)
10. George Benson: ‘at the mambo inn’ (tenderly)
And many many more…………….

17. How do you practice?

These days I usually begin practicing by improvising. Playing ideas, starting from simple melodies, and then move on to more complex phrases.
I’m trying not to overplay, and I found that playing melody with octaves,is the way to achive this. This way your phrases looks more like singing. I play a lot of bebop lines, in very fast and very slow tempo’s. Some years ago I made transcriptions from Charlie Parker, Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, John mc Laughlin, Pat Martino, George Benson, and anything that caught my ear.
In the early days I used to practice scales and speed, so now I have the time to relax and enjoy the MUSIC.
For me the most important thing, is to study what you would like to learn.

18. Do you have any warming up exercise?

I just play chromatic lines up and down the fretboard, and some heavy strumming on a muted chord, for warming up my right hand wrist.

19. What do you suggest for learning how to improvise?

Learn the major- minor scales and it’s modes, in every position, and try to play some very simple lines, in a blues tune. Try to transcribe as many songs, or parts of songs, that you like. Develop a list of your own personal ideas, phrases, patterns, and play them often, so you could use them in many different songs, keys, and tempo’s, so they became yours. Sing melodies, and try to play them on your instrument. Usually those phrases that we can sing, are closer to ourselves.

20. How important is it to be able to read music?

It is very important, as you will be able to read and play everything, even if it’s a guitar, a violin, or a sax part. It makes you, an all around musician, as you will be able also to write down your ideas and songs, and distribute them to other musicians.It definitely open you up to all different kind of music.

21. Are you planning to do an instructional guitar method?

Yes, years ago I was writing ideas and exercises, that gave to my students, to cover an instruction book, but now I feel more mature to do this. It will contain a cd, with some very important notices for the beginner, and material for the intermediate, and the advanced player. I hope soon it will be ready. Keep in touch.

22. How important is to find your own style?

Everybody goes for it. In an early stage, try to play as many songs in different styles as you can. Then choose some of them that you really like. Try to play or improvise in a “one chord” tune. Play over a pedal tone, or an ostinato line, trying to sing the lines, at the same time you play them. Do not thing about licks and technique at all. Think of what type of musician you are? Do you like fast tunes, simple, or complex melodies, or do you prefer to repeat phrases and patterns. When you have the time, travel as much as you can. After all, the greatest thing about finding your own style, is that no one will ever be better at it, than YOU.

23. What do you think about “talented” musicians and success?

The world is full of talended musicians that have not succeed. The key words here are: “work” and “passion” for the music. Of course the talent is a prerequisite.
If someone can play with good technique and in tune, it’s good. If someone has a style and charisma, it’s great.
If someone plays with just technique and speed, it’s good only for musicians. People don’t care about sixteenth note triplets. They just want to feel something from your music.