Interview with Greek Guitar Virtuoso
I have lived in the same apartment building as Kostas Varras for quite some time. I knew he was a guitar player, and from Greece, but I had no idea what a guitar virtuoso he was until I saw him play at the Whisky on Wednesday, November 23rd. Honestly, they were my ‘perfect band.’ Technical, progressive rock, with a keyboard player, and a multi-octave vocalist.
Kostas describes his music as neo-classical metal, influenced by rock music. Whatever you call it, I like it. A lot…
During their performance they played a few songs as a full band, and then the singer and keyboardist left the stage to let the remaining members “take off’ instrumentally to a track called “Perpetual.” At times, the band was reminiscent of Dio or Queensryche. And at other times, I just got lost in the music, without even a comparison in mind.
At one point Kostas covered an Yngwie masterpiece titled “Black Star” and it was pretty phenomenal. I’ve never seen someone cover Yngwie before, and he did a damn good job. He let his fingers do the talking.
They closed out their set with the most Queensryche-esque song of the night, a song titled “I’ll Never Cry Again.”
This was their first performance with this line-up, but it didn’t show at all. I was so impressed with their set that I caught up with Kostas Varras to talk more about his band, the line-up, and the future.
Metal Babe Mayhem (MBM): Let’s start out by talking about your background. How did you get your training? How did you first get into playing guitar?
KV: I got my first electric guitar when I was 11, and I instantly fell in love with it. I went to a music school in Athens when I was 13. I wanted to learn as much as I could about playing guitar, music knowledge, and music in general. I studied Theory, Harmony, and Classical. When I finished with school in Athens, I came to L.A. and went to Musician’s Institute (M.I.) in Los Angeles; graduating in 2008.
MBM: Who would you say is your biggest influence as a musician?
KV: I am really influenced by Yngwie Malmsteen. I consider him to be my teacher. I have never met him, or taken a personal lesson from him, but he is my biggest influence.
MBM: You actually covered an Yngwie song at the Whisky show. “Black Star.” I’ve never seen anyone cover Yngwie before, and seeing you do that cover was awesome.
KV: Thank you. I try to play the song exactly like the recording from “The Rising Force” album in 1984, except the main solo is improvised. Yngwie nowadays plays it differently. I like to stick to the 1984 version.
MBM: It was great. I really liked your band live too. And the fact that it’s YOUR band. It was cool how you went back and forth throughout the night, where the Singer and the Keyboardist would exit the stage, and then you would perform on your own. As far as liver performances go, what’s next for you and your band?
KV: I want to go on tour. I want to play as may shows as possible. If I could play 100 shows a year, I would be extremely happy. But, to do that, I need to release an album first. And then I need support from a label. So my goal is to go on tour and then release an album and then tour again.
MBM: Tell me about your present line-up… Who is in your band, and how did you find them?
KV: The bass player, Will Wallner, is a friend of mine. He’s a guitar player, basically, but he plays the bass as well. I called him first, we met up, and he learned the songs. Then he introduced me to the drummer, John Medina. We all rehearsed. John was really good, and learned the songs in the first rehearsal. The singer I had in mind didn’t work out. But, another friend introduced me to Joseph Michael, who is the singer for Midnight Reign. I gave him the songs, and he liked them. And he introduced me to our keyboard player…David Chamberlin. We did three rehearsals. They learned the songs. They were ready. I am happy with this line-up, and am looking forward to playing more shows with them in Los Angeles.
MBM: What’s the music scene like in Athens? And how does it compare to the Scene here in the States?
KV: The Metal Scene is Underground. There is an audience. And there are bands. But it’s underground. I mean…There are no record labels signing this type of music. So bands just play clubs in Athens, that’s it. Nowhere else. There are a lot of concerts happening in Athens. Many bands play there. Firewind is the only big band that has come out of Greece. Because they have a good label… Century Media.
MBM: I love Firewind! Hopefully you will be the next big name to come from Greece! So you had mentioned that you use a different line-up when you’re recording. So where are you at in the recording process?
KV: I just re-did the guitars from a 2008 recording, and now I am working on getting the vocals re-recorded. I am doing the vocals again with another (to be announced) singer. We should be done within a couple of months. The guitars are done. And then we just have to record the Vocals. From there, it just depends on finding a record label.
MBM: Ok. I like that. Thank you. Is there anything you would like to say to our readers?
KV: My goal is just to play good quality music. Please check it out on my website.www.kostasvarras.com
MBM: Thank you so much for your time Kostas. I really look forward to your upcoming CD, and some L.A., National, and International shows from there.