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    Articles Home » Music Talk » Interview with Canadian Prog Guitarist Kevin Estrella of Pyramids on Mars By Thomas Amoriello Jr.
    Interview with Canadian Prog Guitarist Kevin Estrella of Pyramids on Mars By Thomas Amoriello Jr.

    Red Planet Man

    Interview with Canadian Prog Guitarist Kevin Estrella of Pyramids on Mars

    By Thomas Amoriello Jr.

    Boston Rock Radio

            

               Photo Credit: Mark Maryanovich

    If you are a fan of progressive rock instrumental recordings and if Joe Satriani, Metallica, Meshuggah, Iron Maiden, Rush, Yngwie J Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Megadeth, and Pink Floyd are a part of your playlist then you are in for an early holiday treat on December 21st.  Pyramids on Mars will offer a third LP release called Edge of the Black. Today we hear from "POM" mastermind Kevin Estrella who shares his thoughts on the latest artistic statement to come out of Hamilton, Ontario and in Kevin's words, “I honestly think Edge of the Black will do for this decade what Joe Satriani’s Surfing With The Alien did for instrumental rock back in the ’80s.  It captures the same passion, energy, and melodic hooks, yet it has an updated sound. It is no secret I am heavily influenced by the band Rush. They are a part of my circuitry.”  Boston Rock Radio would like to thank Kevin Estrella for granting this exclusive interview.  

    You can check out the first single F 22 Raptor:   YouTube


    The new album from Pyramids on Mars will be released on December 21, 2019, entitled Edge of the Black.  How long did it take you to compose the music for this and did you have a "blueprint" of what you wanted to be or did you wait to see what would happen as the tracks were coming together, meaning just let it happen?

    It took about three years to complete all the music for the album.  Could it have been done in a shorter time?  Possibly.  But there was a lot of major uplifts in my life during this period of time as I am and continue to be going through a divorce for the last 2 ½ years.  But moving out on my own gave me an opportunity to dive deep without distraction and the negative environment that has been encapsulating me for decades.  I dove deep, really deep on Edge of the Black.

    I did have a ‘blueprint’ for the album, as I knew it was going to be a concept album.  About what the Edge of the Black is.  But I also have a blueprint for the songs I write.  I keep a diary of song ideas.  They are often concepts inspired by other songs.  For example Blood Moon is a complete homage to Iron Maiden.  I wanted to write a song that had an introduction as powerful as Moonchild (Seventh Son of a Seventh Son), but the drive of the song sounding like the song "Somewhere In Time."  If you listen to those two songs you will hear how ‘Blood Moon’ came to be.  But there were a few surprises in this album that changed direction from what I thought it was going.  Songs like "The Ambassador" and "Arcturian Rain" were completely spontaneous.  I purchased an Aurora Signature Guitar earlier this year. The model was designed by Alex Lifeson of Rush back in 1987, was what he played on the album Hold Your Fire.  The guitar is a collector's item and has a very unique tone due to the three active single coils.  It was designed to be the ultimate "Superstrat,”  which it is.  It was that guitar that wrote those two songs.  I didn’t write them!  To be honest, my Rush influence was so predominant in the making of the album, and what I was hearing, I let it shine.  

     

    On this recording you worked with SYNTHESIZERS and DRUM PROGRAMMING.  You even perform with the pre-recorded parts via laptop in a live setting.    Are you a fan of electronic music in the vain of Nine Inch Nails and other industrial "one man show" type artists and if so what kind of influence were they upon you?

    I am a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails and Trent Reznor.  In fact I have said in other radio interviews if I could collaborate with one artist, it would be Trent Reznor.  I also see my identity as a solo artist like him.  Nine Inch Nails is the band.  But Trent Reznor writes all the music.  He could have just called his band Trent Reznor. But no, he wanted an identity.  It’s the same with the concept of Pyramids on Mars.  But that being said, there is a certain kind of art that goes into the sound of the music when it is just one person.  Because I cannot physically play drums, nor do I think Trent can too.  So our interpretation of what goes on rhythmically comes from outside of that first-hand experience.  So as close as I may get to sounding like a real drummer, it will never be that.  But this is what creates a new artistic perspective to be appreciated for what it is because I have written some drum lines that I have never heard a drummer play before and it excites me.  When Pyramids on Mars hits playing live in 2020 I will have a drummer along with my brother on bass.  There will still be triggered sections through the laptop to fill out the audio spectrum to make it sound right.  Very similar to how Rush used Saved by Technology to add all the triggers for their music in a live venue

    Though you handle the bass guitar parts on the recording, your brother Craig is there for the live gigs.  What is that like working with a family member in the same group as you?

    It is fantastic.  Because Craig and I have been in previous bands all our lives with Shatter Instinct and Firestorm.  So we think alike when it comes to music.  We are both heavily influenced by Rush and Tool.  So there is a certain working mechanism of how the drums, bass and guitar should function.  Pyramids on Mars music is no different in how important all instruments are to the creation of the song.  It is not all about the lead guitar melody.

    It is no secret that you are a fan of the guitar heroes such as Malmsteen and Satriani.  Besides guitar techniques and note choices and such, what else have you learned from that that has aided you in your career thus far?

    Many people would think being an instrumental guitarist that I must listen to a lot of guitar players. On the contrary, I do not. In fact I hate listening to guitar players.  Guitar players, if they want to start creating new things, need to start listening to the approach on other instruments.  I am in love with the violin, so I try and make my guitar sound like a violin...particularly the melodic violin melodies of Vivaldi and Bach.  That is my true inspiration!  Just like how Alan Holdsworth wanted to make his guitar sound like a saxophone.  Because he originally wanted to play sax.  Yes I was originally influenced by guitar players like Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen, and spent many years learning their style. But, my own sense of identity has come from the music I am most passionate about, which is Baroque Classical Music. I am a huge Yngwie Malmsteen fan. I spent two years in fact listening to nothing but Malmsteen and studied his style. But I did not want to become another Malmsteen clone. I realized that in order to play like him, I needed to go back and listen to his influences which were Bach, Vivaldi and Paganini. My life changed when I started listening to them. It was like hearing music for the very first time. I listen to predominantly classical music these days for musical inspiration.

    Since you composed, produced, mixed and mastered your forthcoming recording do you have any advice to other "guitar instrumentalists" looking to do the same?

    It can be done.  Everything can be done in a home studio.  The technology we have today, anyone can make a professional record with professional recording software, VST plugins.  It is a lifelong art.  I am still learning.  Do I know everything, no!  I am not tech savvy.  But I know what it is I hear in my head, and I produce it.  But I will be honest, the majority of my time in songwriting is in mixing because I will go back and go back and continuously tweak things until every instrument is coming through in the mix.  That is the hard part.  Because there is such a small audio spectrum you are working with, every instrument needs to sit in a particular frequency box to cut through the mix without drowning out another instrument.  Hats off to music producers.  It is a tedious job.

    In Canada as well as virtually, you are a guitar educator, what is something that you feel sets you apart as an instructor?

    When I create a lesson, I explain the theory behind what is going on.  So that you are not just learning a lick but learning how it applies in a musical situation and how it applies to the key signature.  So you can take it and incorporate it into your playing.  I taught myself theory at an early age.  So I am teaching from my own perspective and understanding of music theory.  I can’t tell you how many sharps or flats are in a particular key signature.  But I can tell you I can recognize a major/minor 3rd, dominant 7th, 9th, or major 7th note in a scale.  I have perfect pitch.  So I hear the notes as colors and understand how they work together.  I know the modes and their application.  I know Melodic Minor, Harmonic Minor, Japanese scales, Enigmatic and whole tone scales.  I studied Baroque compositional music theory so I understand some of the rules Bach and Vivaldi follow.  I try and apply these to my lessons.  You can find my lessons at https://pyramidsonmarsguitarlessons.pivotshare.com/ andhttp://www.pyramidsonmars.com/lessons.html 

    Thank you Boston Rock Radio for the interview!

    Bandcamp

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    Order at:: https://pyramids-on-mars.myshopify.com/

     

    Boston Rock Radio Guest Contributor Thomas Amoriello Jr. is a heavy metal guitarist, children's picture book author, educator and recording artist who resides in Lambertville, New Jersey, USA. You can learn more about Tom at:  https://thomasamoriello.com

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