George Bellas Interview
Metal Express Radio
by Sean Meloy
Thank you George for taking the time to talk to us about your latest solo album The Dawn Of Time, and let me say congratulations on such a masterpiece. For those guitar players and fans out there that aren’t familiar with your work, how would you describe your music in your own words?
Thank you for the compliment. I had a lot of fun making "The Dawn Of Time" and am very happy with how the writing, performances and production turned out. I write a diverse amount of music and only some of which is released to the public, and of the music that has been released, it has mainly been a combination of progressive and neoclassical styles. The progressive elements I use include: odd-meters, poly-meters, interval sets, quartal and quintel harmony, poly-chords, serialism, along with a plethora of exotic scales and unusual harmonizations to name but a few. Some of the common practice techniques that I use include: counterpoint, form, as well as aspects that are unique to each era, such as harmony and their relationships, melodic elements, texture and instrumentation. I really enjoy the style of the romantic era, it was highly expressive and the height of tonal music. It had also brought about an increased dynamic range, the resurgence of counterpoint, new and expanded forms, very colorful orchestration, and beautiful, lyrical themes.
Your style of playing is so clear and precise; would you say that you are a “perfectionist” when it comes to performing?
Absolutely. I have always been, and continue to be, very focused and disciplined in my studies, composing and practicing. In my youth I practiced an excessive amount of hours, up to 18 hours on some days. During that time I spent a lot of time practicing on an acoustic guitar with heavy gauge strings (.013-.058), which subsequently turned my finger tips black and green. It was an extremely intense developmental period for me. What was challenging during that period, besides pushing my abilities to the nth degree, was dividing my time between studying, exploring, practicing and writing. And the balancing of all those aspects plus more, continues to this day.
You played every instrument (except the drums) on this album. How difficult is it to record an album being the sole performer, and how much preparation goes into it?
Creating an album contains several stages, the first is the writing... I begin with an intense, highly focused period were I compose note by note for every instrument, including the drums, bass, guitar, piano, french horns, oboes, etc. Stage 2 is further orchestrating and distributing the parts. Stage 3 is sending the players, including myself, the scores for the parts to be learned. And finally in the next stage, everything is recorded. For the most part I don't find the process difficult, although there are indeed some challenging parts that I compose and later when learning them think: "What was I thinking?". But with practice it all comes together and has continued to push my abilities. It's always exciting for me to see each idea come into fruition and is what motivates more than anything else.
What are the challenges that come with writing an instrumental song vs. a song with lyrics? Do you find it easier or more difficult?
For me, neither one is more difficult to compose than the other. Each piece of music is like a puzzle waiting to be put together, and it's just a matter of finding the right piece for the right place.
Where are some of your main sources of inspiration when it comes to composing a song?
The science of astrophysics, along with Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern music elements and techniques. The greatest sources of inspiration throughout my life have been from some of the most brilliant minds in science, of which include: Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Amy Mainzer and Briane Greene, to name a few. Their thought provoking work and deep insights into the grand scheme of things have fueled my imagination ever since I was very young.
What are some of your favorite tracks from The Dawn Of Time, and which ones do you enjoy playing live?
While there are unique aspects to every song that I enjoy, "Let There Be Light", "Genesis Of Life", and "We Are Not Alone" are presently a few favorites of mine, and they are all a lot of fun to play. I really enjoy the counterpoint between the piano, guitar and bass in "We Are Not alone". I also especially like the counterpoint on "Let There Be Light" as well as the tone of the guitar solo. For the solo on that song I used a strat and a '76 Marshall MKII head. That amp just screams uber tone.
How does this album compare to your previous solo albums, and how has your music evolved and matured over the years?
Compared to my previous two albums, which were ultra-modern and atonal in nature, "The Dawn Of Time" is tonal and has shorter more accessible, consonant songs. On this new release I also mixed up the two styles that I am widely known for; neoclassical and progressive.
Throughout the years I have refined what I have laid forth in previous releases, I have also utilized new composing techniques and elements throughout the years. I find it very gratifying to search, discover, and explore new composing elements that I have not used. But as I said, I also still enjoy refining what I have already used, but perhaps within new fameworks and assembled differently; new melodies, new harmonic schemes, new rhythms and new instrumentation. My balancing between old common practice era techniques and new ultra-modern techniques has enabled me to forge ahead with a fresh and exciting outlook year after year.
This may seem like a silly question, but I’ve often wondered, how do you come up with titles for the instrumental songs?
I will usually have a topic or concept that underpins each song, and whatever that may be, I think of a title that best depicts what I am trying to portray, which in instrumental music can be highly visual and unique for each listener.
I have read your music is self described as “futuristic” or having “futurism”; can you describe for your fans what that means specifically?
It's not that I am 'self describing it', that descriptor is factual which is based on the modern aspects within some of the progressive material I write. Many composition techniques and elements that I have used on my albums are what is considered ultra-modern, atypical, and highly unexplored by many, opposed to older techniques found in the common practice era. The musically uneducated listener will of course be unaware of the specifics that I am referring to, but will tend to comparatively describe the music based on how they view it. Just like with most things in life – the more you are educated about something, the more you can truly appreciate what and how something is being used. Although being musically educated isn't essential to simply enjoy listening to music. It is an expressive art form that can stir emotions and be intellectually stimulating, both in the process of creation and listening.
Speaking of “futurism”, what can we expect from George Bellas in the future? Can you enlighten us on your upcoming projects?
More music! I have recently composed a new album and am almost finished writing another one as well. Once I am finished with the composing for the 2nd of the two, I will begin recording drums, guitar, etc. for both. I don't want to reveal too much at this point, but there are indeed some new exciting aspects to both of these albums.
Thank you very much for taking time out from your busy schedule to answer these questions for your fans. I wish you the best of luck and continued success of The Dawn Of Time and all your future endeavors!
Thank you and you're quite welcome. I would also like to extend a huge thanks to my family, fans, friends, students and the media for all their enthusiastic support throughout my career... Thank you!