Irene Ketikidi – Interview
Irene Ketikidi – The Interview
Irene is a solo guitarist that recently made her second step in discography. Her self-released album ‘A Sky For All’ is out there and it’s definitely worth your attention. We took the chance to ‘interrogate’ Irene and talk about her new album and everything else that came to our mind! Enjoy!
1. Hello Irene! Welcome to Box Of Tunes! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your band…Why electric guitar? Do you come from a family of musicians?
Hi guys, really great to be on your blog! I’ve been playing guitar since I was 15, have two solo albums out and have worked with a lot of different bands and projects over the years. I love rock, blues, funk and metal so I have been fortunate to perform all these styles with talented musicians around the world. Why electric guitar.. because it’s so damn cool! I don’t come from a family of musicians at all, but I remember I was really good at picking up melodies and songs by ear when I was really young on my harmonica. When I got to high school, MTV was huge and the whole 90s scene was just so inspiring. I really wanted to play a band instrument, so I chose the guitar.
My current band members in the studio are Michael Kapilidis on drums, Kostis Vihos on bass and Makis Tsamkosoglou on keys. I have to mention Nick Michalodimitrakis as the 5th band member, because he did such a great job on the album tracking and mixing.
2. You’re out promoting your 2nd studio release, A Sky For All, how’s everything going? Give us some info about the album.
It’s going really well so far. I was very happy and touched to receive quite a large number of preorders, so I already have a lot of great feedback from my fans directly. A Sky For All been a real journey for me and some big changes happened in my life between this and my last record, which came out in 2013. I changed my sound quite drastically and approached this second album more as a songwriter and less as a solo guitarist. Most people know me as a shredder, and this is still part of my playing, but this record is really not about flashy super fast runs. I have been drawing a lot of inspiration by artists like Steven Wilson and Devin Townsend for the past few years. It is amazing how they constantly evolve and challenge themselves and their audience, so this is something that I aim to achieve as a solo artist. I’m also exploring the post rock scene lately, which is a completely new territory for me but definitely very rewarding musically.
3. Why ‘A Sky For All’? Where is the title inspired from?
A Sky For All stands for my belief that everyone should be able to live free without being labelled or discriminated against. It is clearly unrealistic as conflict is part of our daily lives as humans, but if you think about it on a larger scale, this huge sky above us actually has space for everyone.
4. How different was the creation process of ‘A Sky For All’ in comparison to your first album ‘Martial Arts & Magic Tricks’?
It was very different in so many respects. Martial Arts & Magic Tricks was a fun record, with a playful, cheeky vibe and was my first ever experiment at composing. I took a lot of influence from Joe Satriani, who is such a brilliant guitar songwriter. I always believed that an instrumental song will sound great if it tells a story like a vocal song, therefore repetition and clear sections were a big part of my writing early on. The songs on Martials Arts & Magic Tricks are highly technical, and only a couple of them are more laid back and moody. Also, my lead tone was quite raw back then, so I used re‐amping for all my guitar parts on it.
On A Sky For All, all songs are either about a personal story or related to my life experiences and memories. As a result, I wrote a lot more melodies and lead lines and not so many solos. The recording process was very organic. I tracked all guitars directly through my pedals into my amp like I would do on a live gig. This was a huge step for me and my growing as a player ‐ I spent the last 5 years experimenting and constantly searching for my own voice on the guitar, in order to be confident enough to step into the studio and capture it.
5. Do you have any special approach to the songwriting process?
I have a couple of approaches. I focus a lot on the melody of the main sections, like verse or chorus, which I usually base on a vocal melody with or without lyrics. So I actually sing melodies and then turn them into guitar lines. Repetition is so powerful as well. As a listener, I love it when the same part of a tune comes back in, like a chorus for example, maybe played with a different dynamic or phrasing. It helps me follow the story, and that’s what I hope to achieve with my listeners.
6. I noticed that your guitar sound is plain and simple on this album, not many effects are used and no acoustic guitars. Is there a specific reason for that? Don’t you think that this is kind of restrictive to your composition process and to the sound variety of the album?
You think so? I actually used a lot more effects this time you know! The main tool was my Timeline delay, which is super expressive and versatile, but also tremolo, chorus, octaver and phaser. It might sound like what you say because the tone on Martial Arts & Magic Tricks was a lot more saturated and all effects were digital plugins, so this can make them sound more present in the mix than the real analog ones. There is a lot less compression on the final mix of A Sky For All as well, so the effects are less prominent but in my opinion, a lot more organic. It’s funny you’re mentioning acoustic guitars, because I recorded an acoustic part for A Church For All, but it really didn’t compliment the song at all so ended up dropping it. I don’t know if using fewer effects can be restrictive if you have a very powerful melody for example. But I definitely want to keep experimenting with new sounds.
7. Do you think there is still an audience for instrumental ‘guitar’ albums? Would you be able to adapt into a more creative way to approach a bigger audience? Maybe have some songs with vocals or combine electric guitar with a more mainstream sound? Like Orianthi’s second album ‘Believe’ for example.
There is an audience still, although it will always be a lot smaller than a band audience. Having said that, there are a lot more successful solo guitarists with big fanbases nowadays than in the past, believe it or not. Social media has helped a lot towards this, and me personally of course.
I love the power of lyrics and a strong voice, and I will definitely write some vocal songs in the future when it feels right and when I actually have something to say. I honestly don’t think I could reach a bigger audience if I wrote a vocal album right now, because it just wouldn’t ring true at this moment.
Orianthi is a rock/pop singer songwriter who happens to play killer guitar! So that’s really natural to her and she’s a great talent. To me the voice is the lead guitar, and I love the fact that I don’t have to use words because a song can be open to so many interpretations, also can work great with a film or animation to create really strong emotions.
8. Tell me a male and a female guitarist who you feel to have similar sound’ with. Who’s your favorite guitarist and your favorite band?
This question is not easy at all you know! You’d have to ask someone other than me, because I just sound like me to me. I think my tone is a blend of all my influences to this day, both solo guitarists and bands. Favourite guitarist is Joe Satriani, favourite band is Porcupine Tree.
9. Do you write lyrics?
I do occasionally. They are more like deep thoughts, or short stories, so they have a rhythm to them but not rhymes or anything like that. 3 of the songs in A Sky For All have lead melodies taken from lyrical lines I composed.
10. How do you seek out opportunities? For example, new gigs or artists to work with.
Through word of mouth and social media. I think all independent musicians work this way pretty much. My albums are a way to showcase my playing, and making videos online is a really great tool that has helped artists and MDs reach me. I do a lot of dep work for sessions as well, and have a good work ethic so people will recommend me for that type of thing. The nicer and more hard working you are, the more people will speak positively about you and offer you a job.
11. You can spend an hour with a musical icon living or dead, who would you pick, why and what would you speak about?
Jimi Hendrix! He was such a spiritual and charismatic man. I would have loved to hear him talk about what was in his head when he wrote all this magical music.
12. You are a woman playing electric guitar, a field that is populated by male guitarists. Have you ever felt discriminated against or in favour of male musicians?
It’s a huge bet getting into a male dominated field and making it, and getting respect from your fellow players. I feel that I have achieved this to a very good extent, although it has been a difficult journey.
I can’t say with certainty if I’ve been discriminated against because I don’t know for a fact that I have lost a gig or a job for that reason. But I have had people doubt me and not trust that I will do a good job. Discrimination definitely exists, as in every other field, I mean even today there is still the stereotype that if you’re a girl guitarist, you’re probably not that good and only getting attention because you’re female. I have had to go through this like every other girl in the business, but in the end all I could do is stay focused and trust my gut. And this is the only way to win.
13. Do you have any advice you’d like to give to younger girls starting out playing guitar?
To not take everything too seriously. To practise hard and learn from others, to be ambitious and to love yourself.
14. Why do you create music and how do you feel when a piece is done?
Because I need to. I get better as a person by writing music. I am not very good at understanding or expressing my feelings and composing helps me with that. To me music is like a universal glue, it just makes everything make sense.
When a piece is done, the feeling is unique. I feel complete and fulfilled. I feel more real somehow, like I have captured the moment and made it count.
15. If your last album was an animal. Which one would it be?
16. If you were a song, which one would you be?
Woodstock by Joni Mitchell.
17. What’s your future plans? What’s after the album release?
To make some films that will back up my live presentation of the album. To get the album reviewed and heard by as many people in the world as possible. To also make some playthrough videos featuring products from my wonderful gear sponsors.
I will also be holding the next Guitar Experience festival in Athens, where me and 2 other guitarists present our solo work in one live event. I will probably also be at Namm show 2019 again this year with my trusted Tsakalis Audioworks endorser.
18. Last but not least, are you gonna meet with Nik and eat some Greek feta while playing guitar? 😀
Hell yeah!! We’ll be drooling and spilling feta all over the 6‐string, we’ll have a blast!