As lockdown continues across the globe, I thought it was about time to for me to catch up with one of my favourites, the Israeli born and now Vegas based guitarist, Shani Kimelman. Shani has been playing guitar for over 15 years and I picked up on her playing from here youtube channel [Shani Kimelman]. Check out the channel and subscribe and you’ll soon see Shani is heavily influenced by that school of 1980’s rock and metal players and perhaps some more unexpected influences. Players and bands like: Paul Gilbert, Nuno Bettencourt, Dimebag Darrell Abbott, Joe Perry, Misha Mansoor, Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Greg Howe, TOOL and Lady Gaga!
As a result of our online meetings, Shani was kind enough to prepare a little video blending some of those modern influences with rocking guitar for the Truth In Shredding, so check it out before diving into the interview.
[Truth In Shredding] It seems like I’ve watched you playing for at least 10 years, possibly more. I remember the Racer X video you posted. But you also cover Megadeth, Extreme, Greg Howe, Van Halen amongst others. As I follow many players, It is one of those things that I notice, The players who are willing to tackle some of the more technical players, players who give it a little extra. I particularly remember the 2011 posted Racer X cover which is nearing 500,000 views.
Racer X – Technical Difficulties (Shani Kimelman)
That was 2011, so I’m guessing you were playing a good few years before that, so what age did you start playing guitar, were you from a musical family.
[Shani Kimelman] I started playing guitar at age 15 (that’s pretty late I think).
[Truth In Shredding] Yes in the grand scheme of all things guitar, where I see the “little guys” playing as young as 4, then 15 would be defined as a late starter. But I’ve never seen that as a hindrance, it’s just the effort you put in to learn the instrument that counts in the end.
[Shani Kimelman] When I was 7 I played saxophone for a couple years. My father, who’s a Jazz musician and saxophonist, taught me 3-4 times a week and before 3rd grade I was able improvising on Charlie Parker tunes with all those chord changes and reading sheet music fluently.
[Truth In Shredding] That is cool, the best players study the sax players, you have to have a good ear for that.
[Shani Kimelman] Pretty sure I can’t do that today on guitar, but I believe my musical basis came from there and had a lot of impact later when I started playing guitar. My younger brother is a Jazz drummer, so I’m the only one in the family who got into rock and metal.
#DreamRigSoloContest – Shani Kimelman
[Truth In Shredding] Did you get any formal music training back home before venturing to the US to attend Berklee music college,
[Shani Kimelman] Everything I learned as far as music theory is from my dad, but I did attend an Israeli music school called Rimon as a part-time student for the sake of having formal training (or anything considered higher education after high school).
[Truth In Shredding] So with Berklee, was there a scholarship aspect to getting in?
[Shani Kimelman] For me Berklee was the entry ticket to the U.S on a student visa. I applied for a scholarship and got in on a full one. When I got there I tested out of almost all core music classes (harmony, ear training, counterpoint etc..) and that saved me two years of studies in the terrible Boston weather.
[Truth In Shredding] How long was the course, what modules did you take.
[Shani Kimelman] It took me two years to complete Berklee’s degree program in Music Production & Engineering, since I only had to take the major’s courses and some liberal arts that are required for any degree program. I wanted to acquire some new skills and really take everything I can learn from Berklee and it’s why I chose that major.
[Truth In Shredding] In terms of learning, who did you meet there amongst your peers, who did you get music lecturers, did you get into bands?
[Shani Kimelman] I was fortunate to take some guitar lessons with Joe Stump in my first semester, and engineering / production courses with some great teachers such as Jonathan Wyner, Jason Stokes, Sean Slade and many others. Socially it was a bit harder for me, I had a big lack of confidence regarding my musical skills and also a bit of a stage fright, so hiding behind the console was the easier thing to do rather than put myself out there. I didn’t meet many of my peers during my time there, except maybe 2 or 3 (but it’s about quality not quantity!), most significantly David Mihaljevic who’s an insanely good drummer and also mixed most of my EP Escape Velocity.
X Ambassadors – ” Gorgeous ” (Cover) featuring David Mihaljevic
[Truth In Shredding] I guess you got the impetus to write and record your debut EP whilst at college? How did you approach that aspect? Was it a steep learning curve, learning the software etc what DAW do you use.
[Shani Kimelman] Actually, all the tracks on my EP were written super long time ago (some of them were written on Guitar Pro 3 when the struggle was real) and for my final project at Berklee I took them to make an EP. A couple years earlier I already recorded Beta Particles and shaped it into a finished track under a different name, so for the Berklee project I re-produced it with a better recording. I wasn’t happy with the result of my final project and there was actually a different track instead of Space Cats that I ditched because I thought I could have made more out of it (I’ve been working on a new version for that one lately). After graduating I decided to finish the EP without having to be graded for it or on a time crunch of a last semester.
Shani Kimelman – The Album – Escape Velocity
Get the EP Escape Velocity
Van Halen – Jump Guitar Solo (Cover by Shani Kimelman)
[Truth In Shredding] Now you’ve recorded an EP, and with live shows stopped, are you taking the opportunity to write and record new music, during the lockdown?
[Shani Kimelman] For about 2 years I just focused on performing and being on stage as much as possible, so I wrote way less, but recently with Covid and no shows I got back to it. I use Pro-Tools and Logic, which I learned at Berklee. Before that I used Cubase back at home. But honestly at that time I just knew how to press Record or Stop and that’s it pretty much. Had no idea what I’m doing.
[Truth In Shredding] Tell me a little about your recording gear, and do you have different live gear. I guess you have a pedal board, tell us what’s on it? Did you get any endorsements for all the live work you were doing?
[Shani Kimelman] I currently don’t have any endorsements. On my pedalboard (Nano Pedaltrain) I got a TC Electronic Polytune (obviously) going into Horizon Devices’ Precision Drive, going into Blackstar HT-Dual (2 channel valve distortion) and into MXR MC401 Boost, and while I was touring, I also had a first edition Holy Grail(!!) but it was borrowed and I returned it.
At home I record “direct” and use software emulators (mostly Peavey Revalver and Poulin LeCab), and often using the Precision Drive before the interface or the Blackstar emulated output. Before moving to Vegas I found myself having to relocate way too often and leave lots of gear behind each time. So I travel light and only keep what I truly need (and that can go on a plane with me).
Gear: Ibanez Guitars, Pickups By 4 Seasons Pickups And DiMarzio, Pedals By H.B.E, Suhr, BlackStar, TC Electronics, Ibanez, Horizon Devices And More. ErnieBall Strings And Cables.
Satellite Empire – Aubade (Exclusion Remix) Guitar Cover by Shani Kimelman
[Truth In Shredding] You have obviously had a lot of live experience with the Cirque Du Soleil gig. Tell us how you went about getting that prestigious gig?
[Shani Kimelman] One of the many great things I got from Cirque is the stage time I needed to really feel comfortable and at home while performing, especially large scale shows. This is the kind of experience I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. After I auditioned for one of their other shows, they offered me this gig and asked for an online audition video, and later brought me to do a frontal audition in Vegas and I got it.
[Truth In Shredding] So we know a little about some of the music you like by the cover versions you have posted, like Paul Gilbert RacerX, Megadeth, Extreme and more. What is the type of music you prefer to listen to, what inspires you, what helps you to become more creative.
Extreme – Cupid’s Dead Guitar Solo Cover by Shani Kimelman
[Shani Kimelman] Mostly rock and metal (and Paul Gilbert). I started with bands like Megadeth, Pantera, Children Of Bodom, TOOL, Fear Factory, Lamb Of God, Machine Head, In Flames, Wintersun, stuff like that.
Then later I got into bands such as Mr. BIG, EXTREME, Aerosmith, Van Halen, and also started exploring the whole shred scene and listening a lot to guitarists like Greg Howe, Jason Becker, Shawn Lane, Planet X, and there’s a lot more.
In the past few years I’ve been listening to a lot of electronic music, Dubstep and Glitch-hop and also some pop (love Lady Gaga, X Ambassadors, The Weeknd..), and revisiting lots of my favorite metal bands and albums. Mixing a bunch of different genres and sounds definitely helps creativity for me.
Aerion – Into The night (Guitar cover by Shani Kimelman)
[Truth In Shredding] I feel lucky to have met many of my favourite players, and when I met you at NAMM it was great to finally say hello, having a little fanboy moment too. So who are your favourite musicians, are there many that you have not met? Who would give you a fangirl moment?
[Shani Kimelman] Yes it was super awesome to finally meet! It only took a little less than a decade and I really hope the next time will be sooner than that! Also wanting to mention that it was YOU who got me my NAMM pass so thank you!
[Truth In Shredding] No problem, it was great to see you performing to.
Doctor Vox – Heatstroke Guitar cover
[Shani Kimelman] I can’t name all of my favorite musicians because there are so many this will go on forever, but to make it short my top 3 favorite guitarists are Paul Gilbert, Van Halen, and Nuno Bettencourt.
I met Paul Gilbert once when he came to perform and do a masterclass in Israel in 2013 and I was completely paralyzed, I just couldn’t believe it.
Gilbert Blues – Cover by Shani Kimelman
A couple years ago, I saw Nuno at NAMM for half a second. Again I had such a fangirl moment I was unable to even speak and just took a pic of Nuno with one of my best friends who had his fanboy moment and that was it. So many of my favorite musicians I haven’t had the chance to meet yet and I’m sure I’ll be fan-girling when / if that happens. Lucky for me (I think) I’m an introverted kinda fan girl so I just get super shy (and awkward).
☆E✘treme☆ – ★He Man Woman Hater★ Guitar Solo Cover by Shani Kimelman
[Truth In Shredding] I know that feeling. I see you have had to deal with so much pyrotechnics with the Cirque live show, was that a little scary. Did you have any disasters live, that you’ve had to overcome?
[Shani Kimelman] That’s a funny one. Because of the way I tilt my guitar while playing, I accidentally aimed the pyro towards their show decor a couple times so I needed more time and practice until they felt safe enough to grant me the pyro permissions again.
[Truth In Shredding] LOL, that could have ended badly!
[Shani Kimelman] The hard part for me was having to walk backwards to a certain spot on stage during the fastest lick in the solo, and at the same time aim correctly, and of course not mess up the solo, so everything really has to be on auto-pilot in order for all of this to work together and it took me a minute to get used to it.
[Truth In Shredding] with all the lock down, you might want to get some virtual lessons. Do you have an online tutor, or are you giving lessons yourself?
[Shani Kimelman] Unfortunately I’m not taking lessons on a regular basis at the moment but I watch a lot of videos and lessons of guitarists I want to learn from, whatever is available online and I transcribe a lot by ear.
Nailing new techniques is not my top priority right now but rather stretching and improving what I’ve already got. That being said I would love to take some online lessons or a course with the master shredder Tosin Abasi because his style of playing is just so beyond my understanding and he is a truly unique player and composer.
Megadeth – Train Of Consequences Guitar Solo Cover by Shani Kimelman
As far as teaching online I’m becoming more open to the idea due to this whole ongoing Covid situation, I have a lot of in-person teaching experience from back home but I didn’t do any teaching since I moved to the U.S.
[Truth In Shredding] If you could play with any guitar players who would you pick to play with?
[Shani Kimelman] B.B. King!
[Truth In Shredding] Yes the master blues man, great touch, tone and feel. You can learn a lot from watching that guy play.
So as we all are hoping that this covid goes away sooner rather than later. I know here it’s felt a little like a prison at certain times, but you have to stay safe. With all that’s been going on what’s it been like for you being locked down? Has it made you more productive, I know you worked on a video for the Truth In Shredding channel, for which I will ever be truly grateful.
[Shani Kimelman] It’s definitely been an interesting experience, probably more personally rather than musically. I think overall it did make me more productive, although some months were better than others by far. I worked on some solos and YouTube covers just for fun, writing some music here and there, and also recorded a little solo for David Ellefson’s next release No Cover, alongside super amazing musicians such as Andy Martongelli and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal.
[Truth In Shredding] Well good luck with the upcoming projects, I would just like to thank you so much for your precious time. The very best of luck with your guitar studies, your musical progress, and with any music projects you are working on. My best wishes to you and your family and stay safe.
[Shani Kimelman] Thank you so much Laurie!