Known for his guitar and keyboards skills in Firewind, Outloud, Revolution Renaissance and his own solo project, winner of the ‘Best Keyboardist’ Award for the Greek Metal Hammer, Bob Katsionis is a well-known name through the heavy or power metal fan circles. Therefore, I couldn’t be happier that he took a little of his time to tell us about his projects, his new solo album ‘Rest In Keys’ but also about what inspires him and why he decided to teach other people the art of playing music.
Alexandra: Hi Bob! You are the member of bands like Firewind, Outloud and for some time now your solo project. How do you manage to balance the work amount and the time required for each project especially since every band has their own approach on how to do music?
Bob: I just set some priorities.Firewind is my main band,even if it’s led by Gus,we all have to follow his timeline,which -being also with Ozzy- is rather difficult.Then,when there’s some “free” time, we start the engines of OUTLOUD. Me and Chandler are working hard when it comes to releasing a new album or making some tour in Greece,but unfortunately the band doesn’t have the funds needed to tour internationally and this is a very big issue which I think is holding us back a lot.My solo albums are not time-scheduled at all! I just record ideas in my studio at various periods of time and then,it just hits me like a thunder and I go like “ok,time to cut this piece of music to a CD”…And before you know it,there come my solo albums!
When did your journey with music start? When did you know this is what you want to do as a career?
I dont consider myself making a “career”..I only know that I just play the music I like and it just goes to more and more people giving me recognition and new doors opening for my music.To me,the very first day I played the keyboard back in 1988 or the guitar in 1992,it was the beginning of my “career”. There’s not such point that you say “Ok,now I go for a career,amateur mode:off”.You just play your music and if it comes straight from your heart,things are happening.
You come from Greece, a country with a lot of potential when it comes to the metal scene, yet some names don’t receive the recognition they deserve. Why would you say is that happening?
I don’t think there are metal bands in Greece that don’t get recognition.In fact I believe that the existing metal press is “pampering” the local bands WAY too much,by giving high scores on their debuts and giving them a lot of space to talk,before they even hit their very first note. No,I think that every band has got what they deserve.Maybe for some of them it’s too early. Don’t forget that bands like Firewind,Rotting Christ or Septic Flesh are on their 7th or more album of their career! Bands here expect to be Kings Of Metal from their first video clip. And I have to tell you..bands in Greece pay more attention to the video clips and image and press-releases rather than their music itself.
Your new album ‘Rest in Keys’ features some interesting collaborations with well-known names in the metal scene such as Maxi Nil, Liv Kristine and Peter Ellis. Why these people and why their voices on those specific songs?
I didnt want to hire the “standard” “hired guns”.Peter Ellis grabbed my attention from his work with “The More I See” and then from “Monument”,he is such a kind and hard working guy and he sung the demo on my song just PERFECTLY! Same goes for Maxi Nil. She’s been a friend for more than 10 years and I have always considered her the best singer in the Greek female fronted metal scene. About Liv Kristine..I can’t make any comments…we toured together with Firewind and Leaves Eyes,she listened to my song on the backstage as a 99% complete demo and she went like “I want to sing on this tune!”. And there you go! Really proud of this song actually (Rendez-Vous In The Sky)
What are the things that give you inspiration? In what setting do you feel more inspired and do you need a certain arrangement around you when you create music?
I mostly write music when I feel good.After I moved to a new place,or finished a great tour,or played a thrilling video game,or watched something great…like that guy Felix who jumped off space to Earth! Then,I only need some time and some quiet environment to complete my song.But on the other hand,a song like “On My Own” was composed LIVE on a Music Improvisation & Production clinic I did once in Athens.it was amazing:I just pushed “play+rec” ,the metronome was clicking loudly through the P.A and I just played that riff! And the song was completed shortly after!
You won the ‘Best Keyboardist’ category for the Greek Metal Hammer for quite some years now. What would you say is the main thing that brought you the votes of people?
Haha,it’s a lot of things actually,as I dont believe I’m actually better than any of the competitors there.Actually maybe there’s no competition at all! We all just play music. I just think that this vote is just another way of the fans show their love and appreciation towards me.If the prize was some thousands of euros..yes,this would really matter,haha! But now,it just makes me happy that I see my name on top of a list with people I usually admire myself.
When was the moment in time that you knew you made it, you carved your name in the international metal scene? How did it feel?
I think it was when I saw my name written for the first time on a “reader’s poll” in Burrn! Magazine,Japan.I was shocked…Didn’t expect that..And then when I started getting more and more fan mails like “your music inspires me to play” or stuff like this.But as I told you before…no,I dont think I have achieved anything special. We,musicians, are all in search of that perfect melody, that one song which will rest our soul. Actually I believe that “Rendez-Vous…” is maybe the closest music piece to describe my emotions through music to date.
I always wanted to share the things I knew. I don’t like kids being treated as living dollars when they go to a teacher or a recording studio.That’s why I do it. And of course because I want to work all day long. I can’t just sit there and post on Facebook. I need to have my recording sessions and lessons. They keep me alive in these long spaces before recording and touring.
If you could give an advice to young, amateur keyboardists or guitarists, what would it be?
Learn theory.It’s a powerful weapon. It’s the language that you need to speak when you want to express yourselves. The richest it is,the deeper it will go in your soul. It also broadens your horizons. It’s like you need to write a poem but you only know a bunch of words. You may be inspired once or twice but you will be stuck there forever wondering “how the others do it”.