Prof.ManiC: Mind giving us a brief history of your musical background and how that led to the formation of Zandelle?
George Tsalikis:
I always had a fascination with music since I was a young kid. I started to teach myself guitar at the age of twelve. I then took a guitar elective in High School which was followed by private instruction at a music school. The guitar lessons were then followed by vocal lessons because I always wanted to sing even though I loved the ability to play a musical instrument. When I was Seventeen, I joined my first real band which we later became known as the Gothic Knights. At the time, the Gothic Knights were still a young band. In fact, we played more covers than we did originals back then. After about 5 or 6 years, I found myself in my third year of college along with a part-time job. It was getting too much for me to handle. Rather than trying to juggle too many things at once, I thought it best to focus. Since college was a more secure future, I left the Knights to continue my studies. Less than a year after I received my degree (in Mechanical Engineering by the way) I found the music scene left a lot to be desired. I couldn't stand the music that was being played on the radio (not that much has changed since then). So, instead of just complaining, I decided that I would write songs which I would like to hear. I called up two friends (Kirk and Amit) and after a few rehearsals of my material (most of which I wrote after my departure from the Knights, one of which I use to play with them) we hit the recording studio. It was then that Zandelle was born.
Prof.ManiC: How did you come up with the name Zandelle anyways?
George Tsalikis: While in college a friend of mine got me into playing D&D (that's Dungeon's & Dragons for any of the younger readers that may not be familiar with the fantasy type roll-playing game). I had named my character Zandelle. The reason I chose to use that name for the band was because it had first only started as a solo project. I had no idea it would turn into a full-time band, let alone gain international distribution for two CD's. Also, with the number of bands out there, I figured that using a word that was completely made up, I would eliminate the chance of using a name already in use by another band.
Prof.ManiC: How long has the current line-up been together? Do you guys all get along?
George Tsalikis: Let's start from the oldest and work out way up. I of course am the founding member (the band formed in November of 1995). Anthony was the next member of the current line-up to join when we decided to add a second guitarist. That was about six months later. Joey joined during the recording of Shadows of Reality which was in December of 1997. Bob replaced John on the drums about a year and a half ago. Which brings us to Bill who joined only a few months ago as our new bassist. We've been very fortunate to find members who are of such like minds especially when it comes to the direction of the music and the band as a whole. We are so united in that way that we consider ourselves more than just band-mates. We are Brothers of Metal, brought together by a common goal to kick the crap out of the poor excuse for music that is out there in mainstream America. Despite this, you have to see all the chop busting that goes on when we get together. Everyone gets abused...but it's all in good fun.
Prof.ManiC: Alot of people end up sounding like their Influences but you really don't sound like Michael Kiske, Geoff Tate or Halford to me at all. To me you have very unique vocals. Did you plan on this(if so why?) or is there other influences that you draw from more then the ones I know.
George Tsalikis: I wonder if that's a compliment or an insult.....just kidding. Influences should be just influence. Otherwise you become an impersonator. Kiske, Tate and Halford all have had a strong influence on me due to their amazing vocal quality and amazing technique they incorporate in their singing. I picked up quite a few tips on how to improve my voice by studying their methods. Like you stated earlier, too many people simply try to sound like the person they're influenced by. I've also been influenced recently by Tobias from Edguy. If you haven't heard them, they are an amazing band and Tobias has excellent vibrato.
Prof.ManiC: Do you think that the fact you have a unique sound will hurt you getting signed in a time where you have to sound like MAIDEN,HAMMERFALL or BLIND GUARDIAN to be considered "power metal"?
George Tsalikis: Not at all. In fact, if you really look at the bands you listed, each one has a unique sound. I would never confuse Maiden for Hammerfall or Blind Guardian. Each band is truly spectacular in their own right. The only thing working against us is the American record industry which is currently looking to sign teenage bubblegum pop bands because that's where the instant big bucks are at.
Prof.ManiC: Is it hard being a power metal band in a NYC where everyone tries to sound like "New Metal"(korn,limp Bizkit) or "Gothic"(Type O, the Gathering)? Or do you get a kick out of some of the shit other bands are doing?
George Tsalikis: Unfortunately it is rather difficult. The scene isn't anywhere near what it used to be. Ten to fifteen years ago, people went to a rock club and just hungout their the whole night, regardless of which bands were playing. Nowadays people go to see their friends' band and then they leave. Times have certainly changed. What we're trying to do is change them back. We've done shows where we played in front of only twenty or thirty people. It's a little discouraging, but even at those shows we get at least one or two people we've never met before come up to us and tell us how great it is to hear true Metal again. That's what makes it all worth while.
Prof.ManiC: Besides you guys what are some of NY's best kept secrets bandwise? Is there a rivalry between the NY and NJ metal bands?
George Tsalikis: I don't know of many Metal bands in NY (like you said, everyone is trying to be like Korn and Limp Biscuit). The ones I do know of are Gothic Knights (my first band), Esclavos (a Mexican Death Metal band), and Phoenix just to name a few. As for any rivalry between the NY and NJ bands, I haven't noticed any.In fact, I'm looking to book some shows in NJ in the fall to try and expand our following.
Prof.ManiC: Are there any newly signed bands out there that given the chance Zandelle could blow them off the stage!? Are there any that put you in awe?
George Tsalikis:
That depends on what you consider "newly signed." I honestly have to give credit to any true Power Metal band. Just the fact that they play Power Metal I would have to give them respect because they, like us, are trying to bring good music into the scene. Now would not be a good time to fight over who is the better Power Metal band. This is why the Rap industry is so powerful. Rappers and their followers all stick together and support one another. Power Metal bands should do the same. Now if we were go venture forth outside of the the genre, Zandelle has already blown away Zebra, Enuff Z'nuff, and Anvil when we opened for them. On the other hand, bands that put me in awe include Stratovarius, Iced Earth and Gamma Ray. These are truly amazing musicians.
Prof.ManiC: What labels have you sent your Cd's to? Are any of them courting you guys right now?
George Tsalikis: Right now we're working out a deal with a local fast-growing independent label out of Jersey. We should be releasing our upcoming CD under that label and with any luck Zandelle should take off shortly thereafter. We've tried sending press kits to other major labels but so far have not received any luck. As I mentioned, if you're not a carbon copy of the Backstreet Boys or Britney Spears, you're not getting signed by a major label in the States. There are some decent Metal labels we still haven't sent CD's to, but now we're just going to wait for the new one which we feel is going to blow away the previous two releases.
Prof.ManiC: Whats in the future of Zandelle? What hopes and goals do you have for yourself and the band? what is the new cd gonna sound like? When will it be done?
George Tsalikis: As I mentioned, Zandelle should be putting out our upcoming CD soon under a fast-growing independent label out of NJ. The CD will feature about an hour's worth of material which is heavier, faster, yet more melodic and with a more complex writing structure than the previous two. I think you'll hear more of the European style Power Metal influence in this next one also. We're very anxious to get this album out. This will be the first time we'll be working with a label so we aren't going to have as much control over the time schedule but we hope to have the CD out before the winter.
Prof.ManiC: Whats its like playing at the Metalfest with all those crappy Relapse bands? Is there anyone this year your looking foward to being on the same stage with?
George Tsalikis: I have to say that the Metalfest was a lot of fun to play. The best part of playing a show where you're one of the few bands that play Power Metal is thatyou get a great reaction from the crowd who is craving for that style. This year I hear that King Diamond will be playing the Metalfest so I'm really looking foward to sharing the "stage" (there are actually four stages) with his band.
Prof.ManiC: Since my page is devoted to metal and using it to help people control or at least understand their emotions, mind telling us what you like to do when your feeling down or pissed off to take you mind off it?
George Tsalikis: My two greatest loves are Metal and Martial Arts. Whenever I'm feeling down or pissed off, I turn to one of these two to take my mind off of it. There's nothing like loud in-your-face kick-ass Metal or a strong workout to make me feel better.
Prof.ManiC: How has learning the martial art "Okinawan Seito Goju Ryu" and being in a band helped you grow as a person? Has there ever been a time were you thought you might fail in one, if not for a lesson learned by the other?
George Tsalikis: My martial arts training has helped developed me into the person I am. Through it I have developed confidence and discipline along with drive and determination. I think that has helped me the most when it comes to the band. Being that the "popular" genre is far from Power Metal, it can be quite discouraging being in a Power Metal band. Through my training I've learned to say, "Fuck it!" I like Powr Metal. I like listening to it as well as playing it. If anyone has a problem with that, they can kiss my ass. I'm not compramizing my beliefs and likes just to please the general public. As for thinking about failing...the only time you fail is when you quit. I don't see what I do as an attempt to achieve a goal. I already have achieved my goal by doing what I love and I will never let anyone or anything stop me. In that sense, there is no failure.
Prof.ManiC: Since your a fantasy buff what are some of your favorite stories,movies and other fantasy oriented metal bands?
George Tsalikis: As far as stories, I read a lot of fantasy novels, primarily TSR Forgotten Realms books. I really love reading R.A. Salvatore novels. He is an amazing author. Not only does he have the ability to draw in the reader and make you feel as if you know the characters, but he is very descriptive with his fighting scenes which being a martial artist, I'm quite critical of. As far as movies, I of course love the Star Wars series, Braveheart, 13th Warrior, all the Bruce Lee films and many of the Jackie Chan movies (hey you can't always be serious). Fantasy oriented Metal bands which I like include Rhapsody, Hammerfall, Gamma Ray, and Iced Earth.
Prof.ManiC: Any Final Comments?
George Tsalikis: I'd like to close out by saying that we are one band dedicated to Metal in it's pure form. We will never mix in Rap, Dance, or anything else that just doesn't belong in the Metal genre. And for those bands that do (like Limp Biscuit, Kid Rock, and Korn), I have to say one thing....STOP CALLING IT METAL. GET YOUR OWN NAME FOR THE GENRE. LEAVE THE METAL TO THE REAL METAL BANDS. METAL FOREVER!!!!!!