Interview of George Bellas

George Bellas Interview

Guitar Month

by Lion Music Records

Please tell us about your music:

The music I compose is heavily based on baroque, classical, romantic and modern concepts within a progressive rock context. In a generalized sense, it is of the neoclassical and progressive genres. The progressive side of my music contains extremely complex rhythms, exotic scales, and unusual harmonic underpinnings. All of my music is composed note for note on paper, or a score editor, before ever picking up a guitar. It is not until after everything is written that I begin the process of learning the parts and distributing the scores to the players, which for the recordings is me on the guitar, bass, and keyboards, and Marco Minnemann on drums.

When I was originally signed I had sent the record label hundreds of pages of sheet music for the musicians to learn. The label was like..."What's this? We've never done it this way before." Or something to that effect anyway. But, I am meticulous with my composing, were every single note has a place, every chord a function, and all with detailed performance notes. Composing is an extreme passion of mine that has not dwindled since I first started writing. The musicians that appear on my albums are of the world's highest caliber players, of which I am very grateful to have worked with. On several of my most recent releases I have recorded with world class drummer Marco Minnemann. And throughout my career I have also recorded and/or played live with: Dean Castronova, Virgil Donati, Ansley Dunbar, Mike Terrana, Vitalij Kuprij, Matt Guillory, Mistheria, Trent Gardner, Phil Mogg, John West, Mark Boals, Michael Batio, Uli Jon Roth, Joe Stump, and many others.

Your aims as a musician/guitarist:

To be highly creative while composing unique music that utilizes classical compositional elements as well as modern elements. The progressive side of me really enjoys writing music that I haven't heard before. And the classical side of me enjoys composing rich contrapuntal textures, romantic harmonic and thematic schemes, simple and elaborate forms, and creatively detailed instrumentation. Aside from composing, I also very much love to improvise. All the solos on every album I have done have been improvised; some were first takes, and other times it took more than one pass until I was happy with the expressionism, performance, and melodic sensibilities of the track.

Since I was very young I have always strived to learn more while developing my performance and composing skills to the nth degree and beyond. I am never satisfied with rehashing the same old forms, methods, and techniques. I constantly yearn for new ideas and composing techniques that I haven't used recently, or at all for that matter.

As a guitar player I have always strived with the utmost discipline to be as proficient as I could possibly be. As an example, when I was very young I practiced excessively for 10 - 18 hours per day on a Fender acoustic that had .013 - .058 gauge strings. And I mean intense workouts with minimal or no breaks. I was very hard on myself and constantly pushed my physical abilities. During that period my finger tips on my fretboard hand were black and green, yes, thats right, black and green.

Another aim as a composer has been to musically project my inquisitiveness for the grand scheme of things; by using inspiration from my fascination of science, in particular, astrophysics. Scientists that have fueled my imagination include: Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Amy Mainzer, Brian Greene, and several others. Another keen interest of mine is mathematics, which is profoundly evident in my fondness for intricate rhythm writing. I began studying composition when I was very young and feel quite fortunate to have discovered some of the best books ever written on the subject. I completely immersed myself in the study and development of harmony, counterpoint, orchestration and form, as well as intensely focusing on my performance skills as a guitarist. It has always been a fine balancing act for me to juggle between performance and composition, but I can't imagine it any other way.

A few words on your Lion Music discography (please talk a little about each album you have released on LM in terms of making, aims, ideas etc):

Venomous Fingers

Coming from Shrapnel Records, this was my first release on Lion Music. The album is a combination of neoclassical and progressive instrumental styles. Some of the tracks on here are very progressive which contain odd-meters, an abundance of modal concepts, rich guitar orchestration, and a plethora of improvised solos. Other tracks are more straight ahead rhythmically and include counterpoint, classical based progressions, lyrical melodies, as well as virtuosic instrumental melodies. A few of the pieces on this album are short contrapuntal songs that have an improvisational character.

Flying Through Infinity

This is a vocal album in the neoclassical and progressive styles. The album continues what what has been exemplified in my previous releases, only this time with vocals. Contrapuntal vocal lines, colorful orchestration, recurring themes, and rhythms ranging from simple to the complex are all characteristic of what is presented in these songs. As usual with other instruments on my releases, all music was written before any vocals and guitars were recorded. I normally write an album within a 3 - 4 week period, have the drums recorded within a week or so, and all the other instruments done relatively quickly too, but this album took longer to complete than what I had anticipated, which is evident by the gap between this and my previous album.

Planetary Alignment

This is an extremely modern and highly unique progressive album that contains a myriad of exotic scales, complex rhythms, unconventional harmonic schemes, and outlandish melodies. Composing this album began with writing rhythmic motives, which were then used to write the drum parts for every song. After all the drum parts for each song were written, I then decided on scales, melodies and chords. This approach aided in the uniqueness of the final product. The album is very unique in the sense that it uses many elements that a lot of people do not incorporate or have even heard for that matter.

Step Into The Future

This is a progressive album containing a single 75 min song. It is not several songs that were segued together after the fact, but it was indeed written as one continuous piece. It was not my intention to write such a lengthy song, it just came out that way naturally. The album is atonal in nature and has a plethora of modern compositional elements that include: quartal and quintel harmony, 12-tone serialism, odd-meters, poly-meters, all displayed throughout various textures of this colossal piece.

The Dawn Of Time

This is a neoclassical and progressive instrumental album that contains a CD packed with 19 songs. The aim for this album was to compose a collection of songs that was more accessible than my previous release. So, I strived for shorter approachable songs that were tonal in nature and at the same time exploratory. I actually had more music than is possible to fit on a CD, so I had to cut some of the notes, which was a challenge all unto itself. Since the title of the album is"The Dawn Of Time, I suppose one can consider the missing notes the 'dark matter' of the disc.

Shawn Lane Remembered

On this compilation release I composed a fusion style song entitle "Always Remembered" for the late guitarist Shawn Lane. The piece is played in a slow tempo while traversing through jazzy chords and progressions. The melody on top is mostly lyrical, with the exception of a few radical outbursts of intervalic based lines. The arrangement, orchestration, rhythm, and orchestration are all relatively simple, it is the expressive melodic content that really carries this piece along.

Messenger Of The Gods

As a guest artist I collaborated with keyboard wizard Mistheria on several songs on this album. There are some insane sections were he and I trade of some over-the-top improvised solos.

Forward And Beyond

As a guest artist I collaborated with keyboardist extraordinaire Vitalij Kuprij on this release. I have worked and recorded with Vitalij many times in the past, but this was our first time together on a Lion Music release. As always, Vitalij and I captured some raging solos over some intensely driving material.

Hanging Gardens

As a guest artist I collaborated with guitarist and composer Marco Ferrigno on this release, of which I performed several solos and melodies. The music is progressive with a very nice open sounding production.

Dragon Fire

As a guest artist I once again collaborated with keyboardist Mistheria on several tracks for this release. I won't reveal to much as this album has yet to be released (tentatively slated for late 2010), but I will say it contains some insane improvisation interplay between us!

Other projects currently working on (these can be on other labels):

A few months ago I completed the writing for another album and will begin the recording in the next few weeks. This album is heavily immersed in Romanticism and uses some highly advanced forms that I have not used on any of my previous releases. More details regarding this newly written album will be revealed after "The Dawn Of Time" is released.

Message to the fans:

I would like to thank all of my fans, students, and the press for all their enthusiastic support and encouragement since the beginning of my career. I am at a loss of words that can truly describe my gratitude. It is not only for myself, but for each and every one of you too, that I will eagerly continue to write, record, and release new material, all the while striving to improv my skills and utilize new ideas. Thanks a googolplex times over!