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Interview with Kelly Simonz
(by Ronny Elst)

In the past Japan delivered several good heavy rock/metal bands like Loudness, Earthshaker, Anthem and (more recently) Concerto Moon.But the biggest talent from these days is in my honest opinion Kelly Simonz which two albums "Sign Of The Times" and "Silent Scream" were recently re-released by Lion Music from Finland ( Kelly is one of the best new talents in the neo-classical/melodic rock/metal genre.Currently Kelly is working on his new album and he will also tour in Europe (in September) with the Hughes Turner Project. Kelly was so nice to answer some questions that I've asked him.

Please introduce yourself to our readers...

Kazuhiro Shimazu, 32 years old, living in Osaka. Though I don't have any specific hobby, I enjoy watching movies or sometimes drawing pictures to refresh myself. I am looking forward to the coming European tour, since I like traveling as well.

Please tell me in short what you've been doing since you've started playing the guitar.(in which bands/projects have you played, which were your guitar teachers at G.I.T., have you teached guitar lessons,...)

I started playing the guitar at my age of 14 and soon formed a live band playing the Loudness songs. When I became a high school student, I played mainly the songs of Yngwie. As for writing my songs, I started it at 16 and played my original songs with my band at 18. If I mentioned someone at G.I.T. those memorable to me was Paul Hanson, Joey Tafolla and Brett Garsed.

Which artists/bands have inspired/influenced you the most ?(as songwriter, musicians, vocalists, composers,...)

If I asked the most, probably Sting. He is my most favorite artist from various point of views. However, as for the guitar playing, I like Yngwie. As for singing, I like Paul Rodgers and Ray Gillan. I would believe these influences make me different from other so-called neo-classical guitarists.

You're the best Japanese vocalist that I know!Have you followed singing lessons and from who ?

Thank you so much. In Japan, unfortunately nobody was interested in my vocal since my public image was like Japanese Yngwie. Honestly speaking, pronunciation-wise English is very difficult for Japanese. I always tried to improve myself and actually took 3 years of vocal lesson in the U.S. However, the most important thing is to carefully listen to the good singers and find out what makes them so different from others.

Your 2 albums were already released some time ago in Japan.Why took it so long before they were released in Europe too ?

Telling you the truth, I signed a contract with German company 4 years ago. They, however, retired from the music industry from the business trouble. Since then, though I approached many companies, I couldn't make it successful. Even the recent contract with Lion Music, I owe Ronny so much and always appreciate kindness from the fans overseas.

Now you finally formed a real band.Which are the other members and which instrument do they play ?

They are Keisuke/Bass and Tetsuya/Drums. Even we are using Midi for the Keyboards, it works so well so far. As a trio, though the live show is always challenging, we are pretty much enjoying the current situation. We can't wait for the live show in Europe.

When will your new album be released (in Japan and Europe) ?What's the title and what kind of songs can we expect ?

It is going to be released in Japan in coming September 15th. In Europe, I don't think it will take so long. Each version contains different bonus tracks and I am planning to put some instrumental tracks in the European version. You could enjoy lots of melodies, classical feel as well as heavy sound on this album. I would believe everybody loves it. Please wait for the official announcement from Lion Music.

Later this year you'll tour with HTP and Domain.When will the tour start & end ?Do you already know how many songs that you can play ?

It will start from Sweden on September 9th and until October 5th in Spain. 20 shows in a moth. We are planning to play about 7 songs considering our time table, which is 40 minutes. Of course, we are going to change some of them based on the reaction from the audience.

Can you advice us about other good Japanese guitarists/bands in the heavy rock/metal genre ?

I am sorry to say I am not the right person to answer to this question. I usually enjoy listening to Sting, as I told you before, R&B, or classical music. Of course, I am very open to collaborate with any musician if there is a chance.

Which future plans do you have ?(musically and personally)

First of all, I would like to make my European live shows successful to go up to the next stage. In any event, I am seriously considering to move my music base to Europe or the U.S. That's my personal plan as well. Actually, the Belgium family is living my neighbor and recently Belgium is becoming my favorite country after talking to them.

Extra thanks to Lasse and Masa for helping to arrange this interview!
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