We are really honoured to have an Interview with Irene Ketikidi, a young talented greek guitar player, based in London area and much more..
(italian version here)
Q. Tell us a bit about your Music career, I read many important mentions about you!
I started playing guitar around 15, took some lessons from a local teacher back home and then in a few years I enrolled in a Berklee partnership music college in Athens. I was also doing private lessons with Theodore Ziras, a Guitar Institute graduate and leading guitarist in Greece. In 2007, I relocated to London which is definitely the most major decision I made in my life. I was studying for a degree in popular music performance at the ICMP and at the same time touring with artists/bands like Cherry Lee Mewis, AKS, J the X, Toli Nameless, Femones, Back:N:Black, Ruchelle Scott, Gravil, Red N Pink and playing some of the biggest venues in the UK (including HMV forum, Jazz Café and the Underworld) and Europe (including Rock oz Arenes Open Air Festival in 2012 with Back:N:Back as one of the support bands for ZZ Top). After graduating, I continued to do session work for different types of shows – most recently I did a tour in Scotland with a collective of Nashville country artists (Colm Kirwan, Heidi Feek, Victoria Shaw) and was also the lead guitarist and guest actor at London’s West End play Julius Caesar. The play was so successful that it is being transferred to New York this October, so really looking forward to performing over at the States! As for my solo work, I have been writing and recording my debut album “Martial Arts & Magic Tricks” for the last couple of years, which was released a few months ago. My tune “Rambler” (3rd track in the record) had already got me into Guitar Idol III Top 100 in 2011, which a major worldwide competition for guitarists. And even before that, the same tune earned me a place to perform it at Steve Vai’s Guitar Nation masterclass in London in 2010!
Q. Tell a bit about your first really impressive album “Martial Arts & Magic Tricks” (why this CD Title?)
Haha.. the title is a reflection of my childhood years. I used to watch a lot of action films with fighting scenes and they really got me excited. Karate Kid was the first one when I was like 9 or something, I remember my brother and I were so into it! Then it was Jackie Chan, Jean Claude Van Damme, guys that really made me want to get into martial arts. However, this never materialised as I was too much of a guitar geek to risk my hands being injured. And I also used to love card tricks, hence the title. “Martial Arts & Magic Tricks” is a blend of all my early influences: Satch, Jimi, Eddie Van Halen, Paul Gilbert, Greg Howe, Steve Vai, Steve Morse, SRV to name a few. I love writing nice melodies and themes that people can relate to when listening to an instrumental tune, so that’s what got me going and I ended up with an album’s worth of material. Stylistically, most of the songs are modern rock (whether it’s blues/rock, fast boogie or metal), but there is a couple of ballads and a funky/blues number as a little tribute to Jeff Beck. I had the pleasure of working with a bunch of phenomenal players and professionals for the making of the album – Dave Marks on bass, keys, additional guitars and arrangements, Darby Todd on drums, James Richmond on the production/mixing and Andy Baldwin on the mastering. Plus I’m honoured to have David Kilminster (Roger Waters), Phil Hilborne (Brian May, Nicko McBrain) and Justin Sandercoe (Katie Melua) performing mind-blowing guest solos on the last album track! The artwork was entirely my concept, and Marc Griggs with Rich Dansie really brought it to life with their amazing photography and graphic design. In fact, you’ll get to read my personal little jokes in the album liner notes! I’ve been getting tons of awesome reviews so far, including great compliments from Greg Howe and Jennifer Batten. What can I say, I’m humbled and all these comments make me even prouder of my work and motivate me to work even harder. The plan now is to start touring the album with the guys, so we’re welcoming any promoters that are up for having us – we’ve got a killer live show packed with catchy tunes and a highly energetic band performance!
Q. I’ve seen you have worked with some artist with several music approaches. Whats the Differences between “session man” vs. “solo artist” role?
As a solo artist I have more control over my compositions and songwriting. I’m very close to my songs emotionally as they always remind me of that initial spark, that first melody or riff I had in my head that led me to write each and every one of them. I do make more use of my technical abilities to create excitement during solos and I also go crazier on stage during gigs! It’s really more about being myself and sharing that with the audience so that they can relate to my music. As a session player, my main concern is keeping the artist happy and making sure that what I’m playing or recording is beneficial for the tune. Working on other people’s music means that their music is a priority and this often means there is a lot less space for soloing. That’s a great thing for me, as I really enjoy playing in the pocket, laying back with the groove and taking the solos when required by the artist or MD. I’ve had the pleasure of working with many different artists ranging from pop and country to rap and afrobeat – so had the chance to learn tons of stuff from all these guys.
Q. Your root influences
Guitar-wise Satch is my top influence, but also players like Eddie Van Halen, Steve Morse, Vinnie Moore, Paul Gilbert, Greg Howe, Jennifer Batten, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix of course! However, I used to listen to a lot of different pop/rock bands during my teens – Prodigy, Skunk Anansie, Texas, Oasis, Garbage, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, you name it – so my songwriting has definitely been influenced by them too.
Q. Three young guitar players you would indicate to us
George Marios is such a talented player and top improviser. Jess Lewis is also a real jazz/funk prodigy, shockingly good for her age! And from the metal world definitely Ben Tovey, this guy has monster chops and great rock feel
Q. Three Women Guitarist which have impressed you?
Jennifer Batten and Carina Alfie have really inspired me during my early guitar years, and most recently I’d say Ana Popovic – she’s such an incredible singer-songwriter and blues soloist.
D.Q. What type of lead sound do you prefer? High Gain Distortion or overdrived? Tell us about your main gears and your tone building
It’s a combination of the two actually! I’m using a Suhr Riot distortion pedal with the gain settings quite low followed by an Ibanez TS808 with the overdrive settings relatively high. This way I have a powerful overdrive lead sound, warmer and a lot more rock rather than heavy metal. I also use Whammy 4, an Analogman Standard Stereo Chorus pedal, an MXR custom phaser 90, a Boss DD-2 Delay and a Boss NS-2 to get rid of the hiss generated by the TS808.
Q. 3 things to do to get a serious improvement in guitar playing
1)listen to different styles of music and apply them to your guitar playing 2)practise your rhythm every day 3)sing as much as you can of what you play when soloing
Q. You have a teaching experience also. Tell us about you as teacher
I’ve been teaching privately for over 5 years now professionally. Among others, I wrote a complete rock course for the International Guitar Foundation summer rock camps back in 2010-11 and have also worked in various schools and music colleges in London. For the past 2 years, I have been contributing video lessons as an online instructor for live4guitar.com and also currently offering webcam lessons to students all over the world. I love teaching as it’s a really rewarding process, it’s just great to see my students progress and go on to form their own bands and write original music. I can never forget all the teachers that inspired and helped me when I started out, so passing on the love for guitar and music is the least I can do.
Q. You’ve played in front of Steve Vai. How do you feel in that situation?
It was just incredible. I got the chills all over my body and my heart was pumping with excitement, was so itching to go and play next to him that when I walked on stage I felt I owned it – same with everyone in the room! I performed “Rambler” and Steve gave me amazing feedback saying he really liked my tune, chops and melodic playing – I mean hey, what else can you ask for?
Q. Do you perhaps come in Italy?
We’re now looking to start gigging with my band, so hopefully we’ll get some gigs there! I’ve got quite a lot of loyal Italian fans that have been supporting me throughout the years plus you’ve got so many amazing players in this country – Marco Sfogli, Fabrizio Leo and Daniele Gottardo to name a few.
Seriously, Italy rocks!