Theodore Kalantzakos Group Discusses New Album "Pattern Partner" And Greek Guitar Virtuosos
Athens act TKG (Theodore Kalantzakos Group) is out now with a new (mostly) instrumental metal fusion album titled "Pattern Partner," which includes guest spots from the likes of Theodore Ziras and Bob Katsionis. Along with the new album release, TKG will soon be heading out for a run of live shows and a European clinic tour.
The band's namesake and guitarist Theodore Kalantzakos is excited to share this new release with metal fans across the world, which he describes as a cross between Liquid Tension Expirment and Planet X, and recently checked in with us to discuss what went into the album and a new music video. The full interview is available below.
xFiruath: How long has Theodore Kalantzakos Group been around and how do the members know each other?
Theodore: Well, the first official TKG live performance took place in 2007 in a fusion festival in Athens, Greece. However, the band was created one year earlier, when I began auditioning musicians along with the drummer Loukas Kalantzakos. When we met Christodoulos Aspromallis (trumpet, keyboards) and George Politis (bass) we became sure that these guys were what we were looking for. They were high skilled musicians and we became good friends too! In 2008 I was invited by guitar coach and virtuoso Ioannis Anastassakis to be a member of the Greek Guitar Power team with which I begun to tour Greece giving seminars and live performances. That’s when I met SinniK, a guitar virtuoso and keyboardist, also member of the Greek Guitar Power. Last year, TKG joined forces with Sinnik to be Vinnie Moore's opening act. The show was great and it was matter of time to do the same thing for the upcoming, at this time, album Pattern Partner.
xFiruath: How would you describe the sound of TKG to someone who hadn’t heard the music before?
Theodore: Well, TKG sounds like Liquid Tension and Planet X, in terms of riffs and odd time signatures. On the other hand sounds like Allan Holdsworth band and Greg Howe, in terms of progressive fusion harmonies and improvisations. That’s why we call our style metal-fusion. In addition, we have some compositions in nu-jazz style that can be found as bonus tracks in “Pattern Partner.” I always like to combine musical textures, according to the expression needs of each composition.
xFiruath: Tell me about your new album “Pattern Partner.” Where did you record these songs and what was the process like?
Theodore: Most of the recordings were made in Sculpture Sound Studios in Athens. Nick Liberoboulos was the sound engineer and he offered also his services at TKG Live performances, last season. The process was the same more or less for the majority of the tracks. After composing the tracks, I was sending the demos to the studio. Then I was recording the basic rhythm guitars to design the map of the dynamics for every track. After that the other guys added their own valuable recordings doing excellent work. I remember that I was surprised every time I listened to a new recording. And at the end, it was the added improvisations and the guest solos from the guitar virtuoso Theodore Ziras and keyboard/guitar ace Bob Katsionis (Firewind, Outloud), as also the guest vocals by Chris Kounelis (Disharmony). I don’t know if we follow the same process for our next release, but I remember the “Pattern Partner” studio days as very exciting and creative period! You know day after day you see the project take shape and you’re looking forward to move to the next step, photo shootings for the artwork and sponsors, next step to the video clips, live etc. It is a cool thing that it is continuing after the album release actually, with the very positive feedback from the fans, the radio stations, the gigs etc.
xFiruath: When were these songs written and how do you write new material?
Theodore: In “Pattern Partner” there are compositions that were made the last year such as the Shifting Sand (Dead End), but there are also some others that were made even six or seven years before! Two of them are “Microminiaturization” and “Fragments of Time.” Regarding the approaching of writing new material, usually, when I improvise I come up with some ideas that grab my attention for further compositional process. Then I spend some weeks leaving these ideas blurred, in the sense that I don't decide the final "design" of them. I just do some "sketches." Then I write them down on the score and apply my harmony, composition etc tools on action. It's like architecture. At the end the scores should be ready to send to my band mates and I go to the studio for the first demos. Until the mastering some things can be changed, so you never know the final result. I feel lucky that in TKG there are great musicians and all these compositions can be played even better in Live performances, due to each member's musicality and improvisational skills.
xFiruath: What’s happening with the lyrics on the album?
Theodore: “Pattern Partner” is an instrumental metal-fusion album. There is only one non instrumental composition, the “Shifting Sand (Dead End)”, at which guest vocals are recorded by Chris Kounelis, singer of Disharmony, a metal band from Greece. “Shifting Sand” deals with how our ego can estrange ourselves from our fellow men or even ourselves. This is why the whole atmosphere is dark and the track is based on the Locrian mode, maybe the darkest mode in the modal system.
xFiruath: Where did you shoot the video for “Shifting Sand (Dead End)” and how was that whole process?
Theodore: “Shifting Sand (Dead End)” was shot in three different places all in the same city, Athens, Greece. Bob Katsionis directed the whole thing. It is the second time that Bob directs a video Clip for TKG and I really trust him because I think he understands we're TKG "is going," in terms of sound, branding, aesthetic etc. We have a great time each time we get together and for me this is very important. It would be an omission though, if I don't mention Athina Toussia, which shot all singer’s shoots. I will definitely collaborate again with her in the near future.
xFiruath: What’s happening in your local metal scene and have you seen any great shows lately?
Theodore: Well, I don't follow the metal scene with the straight sense, I follow mostly the guitar scene. In Greece, if we exclude Gus G, which his career is worldwide due to his performances with Ozzy Osbourne, I believe that most active guitarists are Ioannis Anastassakis, Theodore Ziras and SinniK. I am very grateful that with all of them I have very friendly relationship. TKG and Theodore Ziras were the opening acts for Vinnie Moore's show in Greece last year and he also played a guest solo in "Pattern Partner," Ioannis Anastassakis was my guitar coach for 6 years at Elite Guitar Coaching program, I definitely recommend to check this out if you play guitar, and RGT studies and then he became one of my best friends and finally SinniK is my bandmate in TKG and he also performs with many other great bands. Also with the last two and Jim Nassios, an amazing “underground” Greek Guitar virtuoso, we tour around Greece during the last four years with the Greek Guitar Power team and we organize festivals, guitar competitions, we give Seminars and Live Performances. As for the shows, there were many great of them last years but I highlight again from the guitar scene Vinnie Moore's, Tony Macalpine's and Bireli Lagrene's.
xFiruath: Do you have any upcoming tour dates planned?
Theodore: In my opinion this is one of the group's strongest weapons due to the improvisational parts. Someone said that improvisation is not only like speaking a language. It is like composing poems instantly. I find this process very exciting and it keeps always our compositions fresh and alive. So every TKG show is unique, either for the audience and group, in that point of view. You can see TKG in various set ups, from duet, power trio or full line up. We have already arranged the dates for a Greek Tour and a Greek clinic Tour, with some cities in Europe to be in our plans as two of our members are already located in European cities. But we’ll see. We believe that a small step at a time is the more efficient way to reach your goals. On one hand we have our dreams and on the other we need to have a concentrated mind to achieve them. So, tour dates to be announced soon!
xFiruath: What music are you listening to lately or what are you looking forward to in the near future?
Theodore: Generally I like to listen to progressive fusion groups like Allan Holdsworth Band and Planet X, progressive metal groups, such as Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment, and some jazz and jazz-fusion guitarists, such as Pat Martino and Mike Stern. Nowadays I listen to Byzantine music, progressive metal and electronic jazz. I like to be influenced for various styles of music and then to create tools for my own compositions. I'm really looking forward for the next Dream Theater and Symphony X albums because I found their last albums really amazing and great, as also everything from the guitarist Guthrie Govan.
xFiruath: Anything else you’d like to discuss?
Theodore: I would like to thank you for this discussion, I strongly believe that Metal Underground really supports the metal scene and does great job in this field, as also we are all grateful for showing interest for TKG “Pattern Partner” release from the very first time. So, glad to speak with you and thanks to the friends for reading this interview!
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