METAL PULP AND PAPER: Hello Shani. So glad to be catching up with you. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for Metal Pulp And Paper. We appreciate it.
You’re from a Middle Eastern country on the Mediterranean Sea called Israel, and you just recently graduated from Berklee College Of Music, in Boston, Massachusetts? What inspired you to go to school in Boston so far away from home? Over 5000 miles to be exact away from home?
SHANI KIMELMAN: Two and a half years ago I was living in a cool apartment in the center of Israel (Tel Aviv), teaching guitar for a living, gigging sometimes, and playing a lot at home. I had a pretty OK routine, but I felt that I wasn’t going anywhere and I needed a big change. Then one day I found out that Berklee was auditioning for scholarships in Israel in a few weeks. I knew that Boston would be just the first stop on my way to L.A., so I went to audition and received a scholarship that allowed me to move with the support of my family. It took a few months to organize everything and prepare to move my life to the other side of the globe, but less than a year later I found myself in Boston starting the degree program in Music Production & Engineering. I guess that annoying feeling of being stuck in the same place pushed me to make this decision. It wasn’t easy in the beginning, but it’s the best decision I’ve made in my life so far.
MPAP: We’ll talk more about this in a bit, but in less than a month you’ll be following your dreams and moving to Los Angles, California to pursue a career in music? Pretty exciting news?
SHANI: Very exciting!
MPAP: Let’s talk about what you are doing right now, and that is playing guitar. Not only do you play the guitar, but you play it damn good! Do you think of yourself as good, or are you always learning every day and always need more practice to get even better?
SHANI: I always try to improve as a musician and a guitarist, and I practice a lot; it’s an endless pursuit. It’s always possible to improve and learn new stuff; every time I listen to one of my guitar heroes, or just really good music, I’m inspired to work harder and improve my playing.
MPAP: If you had to, how would you describe yourself as a musician, a guitarist to be more specific, in just one sentence?
SHANI: That’s a really hard question that I’d let someone who know me really well answer.
MPAP: Who influenced you? Which guitarist inspired you to pick up the instrument? Why was this guitarist an influence on you?
SHANI: Jason Becker, Dimebag, Paul Gilbert, Nuno Bettencourt, Greg Howe, Marty Friedman, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Mattias Eklundh, and many other guitarists. I used to listen to Tool, Pantera, Fear Factory, Megadeth, Children Of Boddom, Lamb of God, Machine Head, and tons of other metal bands before I started playing guitar, and they made me want to learn. But I think Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert, and Van Halen had the biggest influence on me. I remember listening to Becker’s albums for hours thinking, “it’s the most beautiful thing that anyone ever played on guitar.” Van Halen and Howe really influenced me as far as tapping and legato playing; Paul Gilbert is my all times favorite guitar player to this day. I think his playing is truly amazing and inspiring and he has the right hand from outer space.
MPAP: How long have you been playing? How old were you when you picked up the guitar?
SHANI: I picked up the guitar on September 4th 2003. I remember the date because it was the day after my 15th birthday.
MPAP: Is the guitar the only instrument you can play?
MPAP: Are you self-taught, or did you take formal lessons to learn how to shred on guitar? By any chance are you the type that can hear a song, and within minutes be playing it note for note?
SHANI: During the first 3 years of my playing I had a teacher, after that I was pretty much self-taught. Sometimes I would go to a few lessons with a guitarist I wanted to learn from, but, except for my first teacher, nothing was steady. At that time I played mostly Jazz standards (even though I didn’t listen to Jazz) and I couldn’t shred at all (it came later), but pretty much from the very beginning I knew how to learn songs by ear; the first solo I learned by ear completely by myself was Jason Becker’s "Blue". Beautiful tune. At some point a friend showed me how to play the intro to "Hot For Teacher" by Van Halen, which became my first ever guitar video. I think that opened a door for me to this world of shred and awesome guitar playing. Learning solos is probably one of my favorite things to do and I almost always do it by ear. I think I’m good at it but of course there are artists and tracks that take longer than a few minutes to learn.
MPAP: Can you tell us why is playing the guitar so important to you?
SHANI: I can’t explain why, but I remember the minute my first guitar lesson ended I ran home and practiced for 3 hours on a chromatic scale (it’s a bit of a weird thing to practice for 3 hours I know). During my second year in high school I stopped going to school and stayed home to play guitar instead (but I still did all the exams and graduated with good grades so stay in school), and from the very first second, I knew playing guitar was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I’ve had the chance to teach many kids and I know not everyone has this kind of drive and passion, but some do. I think it’s something inner and it’s like that for every musician.
MPAP: Is it impossible for you to put the guitar down? Do you eat, breathe, and live guitar 24/7?
SHANI: Yup. If a day goes by and I don’t get to pick up the guitar for at least a couple hours I get moody and I feel guilty. My goals, my hobbies, and most of what I do revolve around music and guitar. In the last month, I had some extra free time so I found myself playing over 12 hours a day. It feels great!
MPAP: Have you always wanted to be a musician? Did your family and friends support your decision to become a guitar player?
SHANI: I always knew I would be a musician and never imagined anything else. When I was 8 I played the saxophone for a few years and I was actually really good. My family always supported me and pushed me in that direction. My father is a saxophone player and my brother is a drummer, so there weren’t really any expectations for me becoming a lawyer or anything like that. Obviously, my friends were also supportive and some of them introduced me to great music that influenced me a lot. Almost all of my friends are musicians.
MPAP: Back to what we talked about earlier in the interview, your dream. If Los Angeles were to put a welcoming billboard on the side of the road that people would see as they left the LAX airport, what would you want it to say about you?
SHANI: That’s a really tough one. Just put me there with a bunch of my favorite guitarists and everything is good.
MPAP: Who or what stands between you and your dream?
SHANI: I don’t think there’s anything standing between me and my dreams, that I can’t overcome with time and hard work.
MPAP: When you get to LA, what do you plan on achieving right away?
SHANI: Since it’s a fresh start and I already rented an apartment I guess the first thing would be a job and a car. From there it’s just to keep doing what I was doing before, just in a new place, and see if it fits me. I’m moving in two weeks, and right now I really have no idea what to expect. But I have a good feeling.
MPAP: Will you start a band, join someone else’s band, or will you just do solo work only as soon as you settle in, settle down?
SHANI: Besides releasing my EP and working on my solo album, I’d like to play as much as I can with as many people as I can. For now, I’d rather join someone else’s band and concentrate on writing for my own project, but in the future, I plan to start a band and play my own stuff as well.
MPAP: Are you open to playing any genre on the guitar, or are specific at what style you want to play?
SHANI: I play mostly rock, metal, blues and some shred. Stuff like Mr. Big, Extreme, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Lamb of God, Pantera, Paul Gilbert, Greg Howe, Periphery, Stevie Ray Vaughan etc. are my favorites. These are the genres I want to play. In the last year, I also started taking all kind of Dubstep and Glitch-Hop tunes I like and find a way to play them on guitar. Some really interesting phrases came out of it. Some styles I don’t play like jazz, flamenco, and black metal, because I don’t listen to it and I don’t have the phrasing and technique. I think you need to love listening to a certain genre of music and be excited by it before you can play it really well.
MPAP: Playing guitar, do you aim for the never-ending pursuit of perfection or is it better to strive for completion?
SHANI: I think it depends. I’ll always pursue perfection and give the best I can for each project and everything I play; if I have strict deadlines, throwing away a really good take because I can always do better might not be the smartest thing to do.
MPAP: What do you find the most challenging thing about playing guitar?
SHANI: Alternate picking. I’m a lefty.
MPAP: Are you proud of what you have accomplished so far as a guitar player? What’s next for you? What can your fans expect?
SHANI: I’m always focused on my next thing so I usually forget to look back on the things I’ve already done and take a second to be proud of myself, which is sometimes a little bit too bad. After the release of my EP this year I’ll be releasing a full album by the end of 2018, and besides that they can expect lots of YouTube videos. That’s all I know for sure right now.
MPAP: Last question. What advice would you want to give to other aspiring guitarists out there? Is it a dog eat dog world, is it worth it?
SHANI: Just play guitar because you love it, not for money or fame or to show off. Not only guitar, any instrument.
MPAP: On behalf of myself and Metal Pulp And Paper, I’d like to thank you, Shani, for spending some time with us to get to know you. Look forward to what you do to finish out the rest of 2017 and beyond. Any last words for the readers and all your fans out there?
SHANI: Just thank you so much!
Shani Kimelman / September 30th, 2017/ Interview #72