George Bellas Interview
by Nick Hinton
Of all the instruments to take up George, why the guitar?
I compose for all instruments. But the guitar is my main performance instrument. But again, I am equally happy with a piece of paper and pencil to compose with. Having said that, I also love very much to improvise, and my abilities on the guitar give me great freedom to do so. All my life I have balanced Composition and Performance.
What age did you start and who inspired you?
I started playing guitar when I was 7. Nobody in particular inspired me at first, I just had this burning desire to play the guitar. One Sunday morning my dad took me to the store and purchased me my 1st (classical) guitar!
Did you start in bands or go straight out as a solo artist?
Both actually. Playing in group situations is a lot of fun and can be very rewarding when playing with exceptional musicians. But I also am a very intense composer as well.
How did you hook up with shrapnels Mike Varney?
I left my band, secluded myself for a year, wrote a bunch of music and called Mike and said I had something really unique sounding that I thought he would be interested in. Days later, after Mike got my music, he called and asked me to do all these records (Join UFO, John West's etc...) including my own instrumental albums. I am very thankful for Mike Varney's help and all he has done to make my music known and introduce me to some really incredibly talented individuals.
It must have raised your profile further playing on both Vitalij Kurpij and John Wests solo albums. What was that like?
Vitalij and I have a very good energy together. He is my old Shrapnel mate, we were both out at Prairie Sun Studios doing albums when we first met. We talked, kept in touch and wound up doing several records together. He's a super cool guy and I'm sure we'll cross paths again and of course create some ultra intense music.
Your solo album "Mind over Matter", was an ambitious and musical album full of great shred. What were you trying to say with this one?
The theme throughout Mind Over Matter is a much simpler and more straight ahead one than "Turn Of The Millennium."" The album is more in the style of "old school" high energy neo-classical. I love ancient classical music as well as ultra modern futuristic music (Space Rock).
The next I saw you, you had been chosen to handle guitar duties for Ring of Fire's "The Oracle". How did this all come about?
Mark Boals and Vitalil asked me to join this cool band they were putting together. I thought the music and ideas sounded good so I joined.
Did you get to contribute any musical ideas to that album -- especially as you and Vitalij had musical chemistry already?
I wrote all my own guitar parts. When Vitalij approached me to join the band he said he had all the skeleton structures of the songs and asked me to write my own parts on top of them.
Did you feel that this album introduced you to a much wider audience, beyond the instrumental market?
Not really in particular. I'm sure there were fans of Virgil's, Mark's and Philip's that might not of heard of me prior to doing the album. But that goes for most albums I've done, the ones were I've worked with other players that is.
Was your position in this band just to fill in untill Tony Macalpine returned, or was there talk of long term prospects?
It was a long term agreement but we parted ways shortly after the whole 9/11 attack due to some Passport and VISA issues. I am very happy with Tony helping out, he is a fantastic player and is working out great.
Coming on to your new album - I absolutley love it, not just the playing but the compositional skill make it a very complete solo album. Are you pleased with it?
Thanks! Yes, I am very happy with the way "Venomous Fingers" turned out. It came out truer to my original vision than my previous releases.
What made you switch from Shrapnel Records to Lion Music Records?
I like what Lasse Mattson has going on with Lion Music. All is well with Mike Varney and I. In fact we were just talking about doing something. But Lasse of Lion music and I discussed some possibilities and I thought they sounded good, simple as that.
I can hear planet x in the album in places. What led to you incorporating more progressive elements?
I haven't really incorporated "more" progressive elements. I have always used very progressive elements, just some of my releases may contain different degrees of progressive and/or classical elements. In fact my 1st release Turn Of The Millennium, might contain even more progressive elements than this one. And my second release "Mind over Matter" was more straight ahead neo-classical. I love Classical music, but I also love futuristic music very much. I have been composing in odd meters since I was a pre teen.
Is it a drum machine or live drummer?
The drums on "Venomous Fingers" is me playing the keyboard using Drum Samples, no loops what so ever were used. They are merely sounds and I use them just as I do when using a piano patch or organ patch. I am very glad that I did one album like this, were I composed every note and did everything. It is hard to retain your original musical vision sometimes when other players may compromise the part due to difficulty or different artistic interpretations.
Are there any new guitarists today that you think worth a mention?
I love guitarists with a keen sense of melody, a great emotional vibe, strong compositional skills and of course good physical technique for cutting edge performance skills.
What does the future hold for George Bellas?
More music. I have just completed the writing (15 songs) of my next album (Title Pending) and will begin recording tracks early spring. I will also have some music released on a Shawn Lane Tribute album, due out later this year on Lion Music.