Interview With Ariel Bellvalaire
Rockin’ Interviews-What bands made you want to be a guitarist?
Ariel Bellvalaire- “Randy Rhoads. Well, Ozzy. But It’s so funny, I started out wanting to be a pop star, well I wanted to be Avril Lavigne basically. A little Paramore, but mostly I wanted to be Avril. I played Sk8er Boi, you know all three and a half chords of it. I was like, I’m so cool, I’m so good at guitar! And then I heard Crazy Train and I was like, first of all, I suck at guitar, but second of all, I want to do that! So I did. It just took a while.”
R.I.- What current rock bands do you like?
A.B.- “Ozzy will always be my number 1 love. As far as other bands, I love Guns N’ Roses, I mean I kinda have to, even before all of that, I loved all Guns N’ Roses and Slash. I love Poison, Alice Cooper, Van Halen (he is amazing), all the big 80’s hair bands. Not only are they amazing at guitar, they also had epic hair so what’s not to love, really!”
R.I.- What was your first guitar?
A.B.- “It was a Schecter, it was the Oman 6 series, it was blue and so pretty. I played it for a little bit, but once I got my first Fender, I was sold. That was a Squier. I eventually graduated to a Strat. But I still have the Squier.”
R.I.- You grew up in Connecticut. What were some of the first venues you played?
A.B.- “Well I started taking music lessons, voice first, at a place called Summit Studios in Manchester. It is absolutely amazing, they have a program called Rock Band Jam. They take a student from each instrument and a vocalist and they put a kid band together. So at 12 years old, I was doing that and we had rehearsals there at Summit Studios. We played bars which was kind of awesome, playing bars at 10 years old. Our first place was the Main Pub in Manchester. Then by 17 I was playing all the bars all throughout Connecticut. I played Toad’s Place, pretty much all the Connecticut venues and you will too.”
R.I.- What are you top 5 favorite riffs to play and to listen to?
A.B.- “Top 5 would be Crazy Train for sure, since that made me play guitar. Beat It definitely, that riff is amazing. Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love is incredible, Welcome To The Jungle, and Sweet Child O’ Mine. Those are my favorites to play and to listen to. It’s one of those things, if I don’t like to play it, I don’t like to listen to it in a weird way. Alice Cooper’s Poison is really fun to play too.”
R.I.- Do you plan to release any metal solo tracks?
A.B.- “I do. I actually have a whole solo project going, I sing too. It’s actually produced in Nashville. It’s more pop/rock with shred solos because I love playing rock and I love shredding rock, but I have more of a pop voice. So it’s kind of Paramore meets Eddie Van Halen. I did an EP in Nashville and had it fully recorded, we’re just waiting to get the branding together and then we’ll be releasing that.”
R.I- What was it like to tour Europe and Asia with Nik West?
A.B.- “That was absolutely incredible. I was actually in a band with Nik when I was 18 years old, that’s how I met her. We were signed to this guitar hero type project and we were an all girl band with Kiss-style makeup. She was always a great performer and watching her do her solo stuff was incredible. We would do splits together and backbends together on stage and funk guitar is so much fun. She was like I know I do funk, but I want you to add the rock guitar element. So getting to go to these really amazing venues with the amazing crowds that really get into it. It’s really fun and you have a great view of an incredibly participating audience, they’re just so good and Nik is such a great performer and I learned so much from her. It was a pretty great tour.”
R.I.- What were your initial expectations of recording songs vs. what it was actually like?
A.B.- “It’s so funny. When I first started recording, well recording at a minimal level, at first you expect it to be done in one take. And you expect it to just magically come together. You think I’ll just record a guitar solo and it’ll take 5 minutes and then all of the sudden the track is mixed and done. That is not the case at all. My very first recordings were done in one take and lets just say that’s not how it’s supposed to be done and it sounded like it. When you actually record, I’ve had sessions that take all day, some that take a couple hours, it depends on the producers. But I’ve had ones that are like try riff like this, ok cool now play that same riff with this guitar, ok cool now double it, triple it. And then we have all these layers together, so we’re hours in and just watching them mix it and saying ok this needs to come down and this needs to come up, add this. It’s just kind of mind blowing and it’s not what I thought it was gonna be at all. But you get used to it.”
R.I.- How’d you get the gig with Paradise Kitty?
A.B.- “They were looking for a lead guitarist and I had heard of them a bunch of times. When I first moved to L.A., my friend and I were playing a lot in Vegas and we wanted to start an all all girl tribute band or cover band, just to book some gigs because all girl bands are awesome. So we were gonna do Guns N’ Roses and then we realized there already is one in L.A. and it was kinda funny because then I got asked to play with them. So I just got recommended by a couple people that knew both of us. So then I learned a couple songs and auditioned for them. And I did wear a mini Slash hat to audition, that’s the only reason I got the gig.”
R.I.- What do you do to make sure you stay away from being like anyone else, especially being in a tribute band?
A.B.- “Well for me personally, I like to play everything right and I like to put my own spin on it if I can, but for tribute stuff I try to play everything note for note. The biggest thing I try to do is bring my own personality to stage performances no matter who I’m trying to play whether it’s Slash or just a hired gun gig. I will go over the top with guitar tricks to put on a show but also play the notes right so that sets it apart a little bit. I’ll also throw in a split every once in a while, ok all the time. But you know, I’m all about the show aspect of that as well.”
R.I.- You got back from touring Australia with Paradise Kitty a few weeks ago, what was that crowd like compared to crowds of other countries you’ve played?
A.B.- “They were really good. They were really into it, and really rowdy too, so it was really fun. They were screaming along all the songs with us and we had some people try to climb into the photography pit, we had people thrown out. That’s how you know it’s a really high energy show and the crowds were just so incredible and pretty much everywhere I’ve been outside the states, the crowds have been fantastic. They’re great in the states too, but they just love music over there, they will get up and scream it with you if they can. But Australia was great.”
R.I.- What is your favorite Guns N’ Roses tune to play live?
A.B.- “That’s a tricky one. First of all, Sweet Child O Mine is my go to song for both guitar and karaoke before I started playing with Paradise Kitty, just because I love singing E flat and it’s fun with the riffs. But if I’m just the guitar player, and not singing, I think Mr. Brownstone is my favorite to play cause that solo’s really fun and you get to really work the Wah pedal, but I cannot sing that one to save my life, it’s way to low, Jenna is amazing.”
R.I.- What is your favorite Van Halen album and why?
A.B.- “I think my favorite one that I have is the Greatest Hits one because it has all the guitar solos, all the fast ones. I think for my 14th birthday I got Best Of Van Halen and I was so excited. I just wanted something that had Jamie’s Cryin’ on it.”
R.I- What is your songwriting process?
A.B.- “It’s weird, you talk to writers and they all have a specific formula, but for me it changes every time. But if I have a writing session, I’ll use a formula. But usually a riff or a melody will just pop into my head and I can hear what key it is and I’ll just start playing around on the guitar and figure out the riff and the melody and what key the song is gonna be. Even if a line comes to me I’ll say, Cool, I have a song theme but I have to get the music done first. So sometimes I’ll have an intro, verse, pre chorus, chorus, second verse, chorus, chorus-out and sometimes I’ll have a bridge but usually for me I’ll have a guitar solo instead. Yeah, just first get the music together, then the melody and the lyrics last.”
R.I.- Tell me about the start of Shrednastics.
A.B.- “I’m always doing crazy flippy tricks on stage. That’s always been my thing, I was a gymnast growing up. When I moved to L.A. I started doing more of that on stage. I also then started doing fitness workouts on silks and the aerial hoop (lyra) because I was a gymnast at first. I was hanging upside-down and I was like, how cool would this be on stage with a guitar, no one’s ever done it before. So I started talking to people about it and people we like, I’ll sign that. So I found a strap that would go around my waist to hook my guitar to. I tried really basic tricks, just upside-down and it worked and it was really cool. After that I started getting actual gigs and auditions doing that, which was terrifying and really cool at the same time. But I ended up having to hire a Cirque Du Soleil acrobat to help me choreograph moves that would work with a guitar and not kill me and or hit me in the head. There were some moves that were great for poses and pictures and others that you could actually play in. A couple TV shows reached out to me to perform it live on TV. So I ended up doing The Gong Show and that’s when I named it Shrednastics cause they wanted a fancy name. So that was the first time I had to put together a whole routine and with TV stuff you’ll have it planned a week before the show and the day before they’re like hey, can you completely change your routine to do this, this, and this and all you can do is say ok and go with it. It was a good show and after that I was like ok, I get it”
R.I.- Was being on The Gong Show something you wanted to accomplish as a kid?
A.B.- “Actually no, I was trying so hard not to do live talent shows because I just like to be my rocker-self on stage and not compete. I think there’s room for everybody, no matter what you’re doing. So I was trying to avoid talent shows. I just wanted to be a touring musician. I actually said no the first time they asked me. Then they asked again and I was like, fine, it’ll be a good experience. But I never expected to do a TV show like that and it was fun and terrifying and challenging.”
R.I.- What’s your next goal in the music industry?
A.B.- “My next goal is to do a solo tour. I would love to tour around doing my own solo stuff. You know shredding to my own stuff and having my own band touring the U.S. and Europe in addition to Paradise Kitty and MJ cause they are just so much fun!”
R.I.- What do you have in the works for the next couple months?
A.B.- “I’m going back and forth a lot to Nashville to work on my solo stuff. It’s not really metal, but still rock enough because I’m a total rocker so we’re just working on finding a cohesive brand. Probably recording more songs, although we already have a 6 song EP. Hopefully doing a music video, a lot of shows with Paradise Kitty, and one of my other gigs I play with a Michael Jackson tribute too.”