Yiannis Papadopoulos

Grande Rock had a chance to sit down with Yiannis Papadopoulos lead guitarist for Scott Stapp. We talked about how he got into music, how he became a successful guitarist, and how he became Scott Stapp guitarist. Read below on his journey from being a young guitarist dreaming of becoming a rock star to how he achieved his dream.
Yiannis Papadopoulos pic
Hi Yiannis. So, tell us, as a young boy in Greece, how’d you start off in guitar? Do you have like a musical family?
Y: Yes. So, my father is a guitar player. His brother is a guitar player. Long story short, quite a few of the members of our family are musicians. So, I’ve always had that inspiration from that direction, you know, and I was always intrigued watching my father play and I wanted to follow his steps, you know? He started teaching me a few guitar basics at the age of four and then after a while he enrolled me in a music conservatory where I did my official training and I got my degrees in classical guitar, harmony and counterpoint. And I started my electric guitar training. Let’s see. And yeah, that was the original first step.
How did your parents feel when you started to really excel. You know, when you started going towards the electrical stuff?
Y: My parents were always a cool with me going the musical direction. But they just wanted it to be like a hobby. They wanted me to go to university and study, getting my degrees outside of music in another profession. So, I did that for quite some time just to keep them happy. And so, they will allow me to continue with my music studies and stuff. I got my degree in accounting and finance and another degree in financial economics. But at some point, it got to a limit where I didn’t have much time for both. So, I decided to stop with anything, not music related and focus solely on my career. And here we are.
So, you’re kind of like a Zach Wylde, you know, every waking breath that he had, he practiced.
Y: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll tell you that. Every waking breath and I don’t know good night breath and any breath. It’s all about the music. My passion has always been the guitar. I always wanted to do this. I wanted to play rock. I wanted to be in a band. I wanted to hit the stages and perform and play riffs and play solos. And I’m feeling very blessed that I have the opportunity to do this. Especially in the side of such a great great rock voice as Scott Stapp.
Indeed, you did hook up with a great one. I’ve been reading about you and you’ve won competitions and you’ve done all these things. How did all that come about that you found and entered these things.
Y: So usually, I mean, in the past few years they were, it’s a great way of, let’s say the gear companies to promote their instruments or the pedals or anything. So, here and there they organize competitions, you know, so they have like, let’s say grand prize might be a guitar or something. So, usually these things happen online. There are a few which don’t, but usually, it’s online. And so, you are given a track and you have to compose your own solo on top of it or improvise or compose, it doesn’t matter. And I think it was 2013 that I won. The biggest one of the biggest ones that I have ever won, and it was between 500 people or something. Yeah, I wanted the first place. And that to me, opened a lot of doors. The next year, I won another big one with around the same number of contestants. And I was the only winner actually in that one. There was just one winner and I was blessed enough to be that guy. And that opens multiple doors also. And here we are.
So, is that how you got involved with John Lord to be the lead guitarist?
Y: Ah, actually, I didn’t get involved with John Lord; I was involved with an orchestra and we played a musical piece that John Lord composed. So one day, I got an email from a conductor saying, “Hey, man, I’m working with this orchestra and we want to perform this musical piece that John Lord wrote for Deep Purple and an orchestra, and we want you to be to play the lead guitar parts” and I’m like, “are you kidding me, man?”! Of course, I want to do it. You know, and one led to the other, and within a month, we started the rehearsals with the orchestra. Actually, that was one of the most magical moments of my life, man, I still remember it… it was a very big place full of people, you know. And the orchestra was around the band and it was such a magical night.
What are you doing it with some acoustic? Or was it all electric?
Y: It was electric. It was for an electric band in an orchestra and that combination usually inspires me even more because it’s two opposite things, the classical way and the rock way combined together. I think it has a very special touch. And it intrigues me when I participate in these concepts.
That had been great!
Y: Yeah, it’s a great night. Our thinking was to repeat it and maybe take it outside of Greece. But after that specific date, our touring with Scott started to be very busy, and I didn’t have time and then the conductor of the orchestra was busy too. So, we didn’t have dates that we could work. Together, but this is definitely one of the things that we’re going to reproduce in the future.
But you look forward to doing this again, right?
Y: Oh definitely! The original plan was to make something like a small tour around Europe at first, but no dates were found after that magical night. No other dates, unfortunately, but we’ll see.
Do tell me about Scott Stapp; you got a Skype interview with him?
Y: Actually, that’s a fine story. One day, I decided that I wanted to go outside of Greece and play for, let’s say, an international act. And I was listening to Creed and I’m like okay, man, I’m gonna send them a message, you know, and I sent a message to the Facebook Creed page. I’m like, “Hey, man, I’m this guy”. I’ve put everything that I thought was worth mentioning in my message. And I said, I want to come and play for you. If you like, what you see, I’ll be happy to talk with you. And yeah, let me know if you’re interested. The next day I got a response. “Hey, man, I like what I see. I’m heading out on tour. Let’s be in touch”. I”m like, “What”?! Is this a joke, you know? And yeah, one thing led to the other. And then we arranged a Skype interview just to see each other and how is our energy, you know, if we hit it off immediately, and he asked me to do a video audition to play four Creed songs. I did the audition and that sealed the deal. I mean, he was very happy with the result and we made the arrangements and yeah, I’m talking to you right now.
Hence, that all happened online, huh?
Y: Yeah, man. It’s very amazing what the internet can do, how many doors it can open. It just needs, obviously, the individual’s initiative and quite a bit of luck and faith. You know, because these things don’t happen overnight. You need to do the work. It’s not like, I have the internet I can go and do anything. For example, if I wasn’t ready enough playing wise, I may be able to meet Scott, I wouldn’t get the gig if I wasn’t ready enough. So, that required me to be ready. So, to be sure, that I know might have good jobs, that I can play the songs, that I was careful with my presence online with my social media. That I was careful with how I express myself on stage, how is my performance, how I dress up. To have my endorsements to support this kind of gig and everything else. So, it’s not only about having the means to meet somebody, it’s what do you do when your moment is there, you know, you have to be ready for it. Some people tend to forget that part. They just go for what they want to have, but they’re not ready for it. You can’t skip that part, you have to follow all the steps.
Thus, up to that point with this, that was your big shot, right?
Y: Yeah, yeah, definitely man. I mean, all the other acts that I’ve played were mainly from Greece, which I was based in. I’m still based in Greece and like I said, I just decided that I want to step outside. It’s not that I wasn’t busy working there, and I’m still busy. I mean teaching and doing session work. And that moment, I was playing for other national acts, but I wanted to go outside the borders, you know? Yeah…
Therefore, it’s been a heck of a ride since 2015.
Y: Oh, yeah, man. Yeah. We’ve been to so many places around the world and all over the states almost. And we are the same team. The band has been the same since day one. We’re having such a great time on the road. And off the stage, which makes it even more special, you know, you will see the smiles will have on stage, the same smiles we have backstage in the dressing room on the days off with each other we have with each other. We’re like brothers after all this time, and it’s fantastic.
OK, so how do you think that technology has changed the music business? And do you think it’s done better or for the worse?
Y: You mean to social media and the internet in general?
Every aspect, whether it’s social media, or tech, any level of technology like Skype.
Y: Man, technology has made things more approachable. And the technology opens many, many, many doors. So, let’s say first in the communication level sure, you can hire anybody from around the world to work with you. You can have your guy living in, I don’t know, in Greece to do your merch and make all the designs you’re going to hire somebody from the United States to come and play the bass. You can hire somebody in anywhere, you know. And that’s easy. You can communicate; you can find all the necessary paperwork. It’s online, you can read about it,. So, this thing is number one. Thing number two is, with all the advanced technology nowadays, touring has become easier, for example, with all these guitar modelers that are out there, for example, I’m working with fractal audio. And I used to carry so much stuff, the amps, the pedals, the pedal boards, and this creates many obstacles if you’re touring internationally, because obviously these things cost and the more the cost, the less the opportunities to go outside the borders of the stage or anywhere else. So, this made us more compact in general, not just us, every touring band uses more or less some kind of modeler. So, again, this helped a lot. The only thing that I would say makes it a little bit more difficult is the fact that it’s the competition has risen so much. And it isn’t just that, you don’t always you have to be on top of your game. By the way, one hand, you need to be sure that you’re current and like it or not, you need to be very active, especially with the social media, because people can get find somebody else to like, which is not a bad thing, but you have to win them over day by day. I mean, even if you have proven yourself throughout the years, I’m talking about anybody right now, right? Any artists, you have your fan base, but it’s always people want more they want to, they want to be fed with music and art and passion from the artists they like, and that’s what we’re trying to do, man.
Do you think that’s more stressful for you having to keep coming up with new stuff all the time? Instead of like it used to be; you put out an album, you tour for that cycle, and then you get a break then you tour and so on?
Y: I mean, more or less is the same thing nowadays in that sense. The only thing that’s a little bit more demanding is the social media; I mean, most of the bands tour with professional photographers, videographers, so they can provide professional material for the social media, which is something new, that wasn’t a necessity, obviously 10 or 20 years ago. So, that is something that’s more like, okay, picture time more that for everybody for our own personal pages and for the band. But apart from that, I don’t think that anything major changed, apart from the fact that obviously, the industry is declining in the sense that not so many CDs are sold, it’s more about streaming and about that thing. So, it’s shifted more. The focus is different. The procedures are the same. I mean, if somebody wants to be active and should be active, putting out a record every year, every two years, he should do that, then it’s a good thing and a good thing for him and for his brand, you know and for the people, you increase your following it’s math.
You got your business degree. You think that’s helped you out in the industry?
Y: You know what, it’s it, the University in general; I think anything you study helps you shape your mind. This is what you get, it doesn’t matter what you studied. The fact that you’re taking the time and devote your time to learn something, it saves your mind and your way of thinking. So, specifically for me, since both of my degrees outside of music have to do with economics and math, it’s helped me see more, let’s say, more sides to business deal and to be able to filter out which are the things that I want or not want. It’s definitely helped me to, to set my goals and how methodically and the methodology to achieve them and go from one to the other and how to find the resources that I need to go get what I want. Because I came here, not by luck, but by hard work. And every year, I still set my goals. And I say, that’s what I want to do in five years or in a year. And I’m trying to do it, you know. And this way of thinking definitely comes from my degrees.
So, you’re glad that your parent’s kind of pushed you into that?
Y: Yes. There are many ways that you can have this way of thinking without having to spend all this time doing something and having to go through exams to get your degrees. And, you know, when I do something, I do it with all my heart. So, I wanted to have a good degree. So, when I went to give my exams, I didn’t want to have a low, you know, just to pass I wanted to be as good as possible. So, it requires so much time that you know, sometimes I just think that maybe it was a little bit over the top, you know.
Hence, you’re pretty driven at everything that you do you want to excel it everything.
Y: Yes, that’s very true. Actually, I’m a hard working perfectionist, that’s how I feel about myself. And especially when I was seven or 10 years younger, so that was in such a big extent I couldn’t sleep at night. For example, if I didn’t practice. I used to stay up late and practice every day just because I felt the need to do so. You know, as the years evolve as the years pass, we mature more we can filter out if it’s such a big necessity to do it every day. You know, you can relax for a day and allow yourself to take a breath sometimes you don’t have to work every day for 20 million hours. It’s okay. There are other things in life more important than work but still you get your priorities right. And for me my priorities are first of all my family and then music.
So now that you’re successful, you’re doing great. You’ve got all these wonderful things going. You’re touring with an international star and you’re the lead guitar player. You’ve got books out. You’ve done a lot of things. Have your parents backed off about music?
Y: You know what’s funny? They didn’t tell me. Because they, they always seen the flame in me and the passion that I have for music. When I told them guys, I’m done, that’s it. We didn’t have any kind of conversation. We were like, okay, we’re with you. And that’s what I always liked about my parents were supportive no matter what. And that’s what I want to try to do with my child. That’s what I say to the parents of my students when I teach; I tell them if you see your child that wants something, and it’s truly passionate about it and wants to devoted time, let it go. I mean, it’s hard. It’s something that feeds the soul. It’s not something that distracts you or corrupts you. On the other hand, it makes you brand new. It makes your life and your soul fuller. It elevates you. So, I’m always like, go for it support your children in any way you can, especially if it’s something that has to do with art. I’m always in favor of that. I have always been in favor of that.
If you’re not involved in the arts, you just shortchanging yourself.
Y: Yeah, I agree. It is another thing… some people, they have always wanted to play but they didn’t have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument or anything like that. But they support music, for example, just by listening to support the bands or they go, and they have radio stations, and they interview people or anything. Again that’s your passion. And that’s your way of expressing it. You know, not everybody needs to play a musical instrument to express his feelings about art.
Art comes in many different ways, huh?
Y: Exactly! And there are many different ways that you can support it and that’s fine.
Guitarists get endorsed by companies all the time and talk about how good their products are. But when you get to your level of ability, does it really matter what the guitar is?
Y: That’s a great question. The answer is more or less no. In one sense, it doesn't matter. Because it will not help you play any better. I mean, if you can play, you can play no matter if it’s that brand or the other brand. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how it sounds, and there are many different guitar companies out there and they don’t sound the same. So, there is high end stuff, lower end stuff, garbage, you can find everything. So, then you can find for example, in the higher end, if you’re a professional, you’re going towards the higher end instruments. So, in this scenario, you will I find that a company more or less has its own unique sound color and characteristics. And like everything you have a match or you don’t have a match with some companies; and again, it you might like how a guitar might look on stage, the shape of the guitar, you know, or how it feels when you play it, not every guitar feels the same. So, you might be able to perform in any given scenario with any given instrument, but obviously, there’s different things sound differently, you need to find the one that resonates with you and your playing style.
Okay, in addition to playing with Scott, you also do Skype lessons. And you’ve actually written some books on technique.
Y: Yeah, for me to building my technique didn’t come easy, because I had such a bad technique originally, and I didn’t have a teacher that could tell me this is wrong. This is wrong, do it this way, do it that way. So, I had to learn it totally myself. And that was a process of trial and error. So, after I did it, and I was able to play what I wanted to play in how I wanted to play, I’m like, okay, man, you know, there are many people out there that struggle with the same things that you are used to struggle. So, I took the time and I put all the exercises that have worked on, all the procedures and the steps that I followed to build my technique. And that led me to my first book, “The Electric Guitar Technique Workout”, which is all about technique, you know, how to put it from how to position your hands to exercises, licks, how to combine with different techniques with words, you know, explaining how to do it, what to be careful of. It’s a very good book, well presented and easy to follow. And as the years went by, then I started focusing more on teaching not how you can play now but what do you play. Do your notes touch you or the listener? How you can express yourself better and what are the different ways that you can use your skills, what to do again, process trial and error again I’m like somebody else might need this information. So, that led me to the second book, which came out this year called “Fretboard Concepts” and it’s all about not technique related to it has to do with skills chords, arpeggios, theory, harmony, anything improvisation, you know, and again, explained in detail with beautiful charts that people can follow and understand. And both of these books are available on Amazon. If you just go to Amazon and search my name they will pop up… they are great books.
I know techniques sometimes has to be very hands on when you’re teaching somebody, How can you pull that off with Skype as it’s such a two dimensional thing.
Y: When usually people approached me for Skype lessons, they have seen me online somewhere or they have seen me play a gig so they know what I can do and they approached me because they want to learn what I do and how I do it, or they feel inspired by how I’m playing and they want to play a similar way. So, I don’t have to gain them, you know what I mean?
They understand they’re already at a certain level. Not like someone’s coming in at a lower level.
Y: Exactly, even at the lower level, sometimes, you know what, I think that it’s important for the teacher to inspire the students, and the people that come to me, they have seen me, and they feel inspired in a way. So, this helps. Especially nowadays the internet connections are, very fast and all these HD cameras, you can zoom in and you can zoom out, people can see clearly, and I have students from all over the world. I mean, in the States all over, all over different countries.
So, you find that teaching inspires you?
Y: Definitely man. And, you know, I’ve been teaching since I was allowed to teach legally. So, after I turned 18, I started teaching immediately in the musical territory that I was studying. And so, I’m 35 now, and it’s quite a few years of teaching officially. Almost half of my life. And I’ve seen all kind of students, in a sense that some people need less time or more time to learn something; there are people that are more technique oriented, there are people that more improvisation oriented and you have to guide them and show them how to find their balance and how to express themselves through the instrument because at the end of the day, it’s not teaching them how to duplicate you. You have to teach them how to express themselves. That’s the job of a good teacher in my opinion.