In Search Of Tone: Yanni Georgiou Of Butcher In The Fog
As Yanni Georgiou states later on, roughly 4,000 miles separate the two of us. If it wasn’t for this incredibly tight knit community of doom metal loving fans and artists, we would have never met. Which is sad to think because we immediately hit it off. Yanni Georgiou is the lead singer/guitarist of the outstanding band Butcher In The Fog. I really enjoyed their latest album Exonerate Me, Baby, I’ve also enjoyed digging through some of the back catalogue as well and was looking forward to his perspectives on music.
As we talked, I discovered Yanni approaches his band as if he were a fan. He thought ‘what would I want from a band that I’m a fan of?’ Well, he went the extra (few) miles on that by hand drawing unique and detailed artwork on each vinyl insert. It was exciting following it as he posted each new insert. It’s really nice to see people creating outstanding music because they love it and that’s why this community is an amazing one to be a part of.
Thanks for taking the time to talk all things music with me. Let’s start with gear and tell me a little about the amps your using?
Everything I play is around convenience because I don’t drive. I live in London, so you don’t need to and it’s expensive. I play through an Orange Tiny Terror a lot of the time at home. I have an Orange OR 20, I think it’s from the 70s, I bought it from my drummer’s brother because he moved to America, but it’s just too loud to play at home. I did use that for one of the guitar tracks on Exonerate Me, Baby. It doesn’t have any gain, so I used an EVH 5150. I used to use a Tube Screamer,but I use the 5150 a bit more now and a Line 6 Helix. What sold me was the salesman said I can just throw it in the back of the car and go play gigs which would be perfect for me. I really liked it. A lot of the purists might not, but it gets the job done. Having said that I’ve started to go back to using amps at great expense of trying different things [laughs].
I also often have nightmares of things going wrong, so three pedals max for me. That includes a guitar tuner and that’s just there to make sure the rest of the band doesn’t get too anxious [laughs]. My go to pedals would be distortion and delay with an occasional phaser or a wah.
This leads perfectly into pedals. What is on your board?
For delay, I use the Boss DD-3, I just upgraded from a different model from Boss that doesn’t work anymore. For phaser I use the EVH Phase 90 and a basic Jim Dunlop Wah, which I need to upgrade as well, it’s time [laughs].
And you mention EVH 5150 for distortion is that all you use?
That was with the OR 20 because it didn’t have a gain setting. If I can, a lot of times I use the amp gain. Do you know the band Verdun?
No, haven’t heard of them.
Great band if you like this stuff, definitely check them out. I was told by them that they just use the gain from the amp and it clicked with me. I’ve heard that 1 million times before, but for some reason when he told me, it clicked and then it’s just one less pedal. I’m not the smartest about amps but I know a lot of people that are, so I ask them for advice. That’s how I get by in life, asking questions [laughs].
That’s best way to learn, I’m always asking questions. Which is a perfect segue in the wiring process. It’s something I struggle with so let me ask you, what is your writing process like?
It’s all over the place. For the most recent album with Butcher In The Fog, the riffs I would come up with are either in the room as we play, or at home. It’s usually a recent idea. If come up with an idea that day, then it’s fresh in my mind and at practice I’ll just start playing it without talking and they’ll start jamming along with it. I can tell if they’re into it or not there and then. It’s all about what I write and if there’s interest from the other two, Alex [De La Cour – Drums] and Allen [Skjönsberg – Bass]. Then there’s a song on the album called 3rd strike (Fool’s Errand), we wrote it where it all came together in the room. I started playing a riff and this song came together as we were playing it. I don’t know why I start playing that, but it just came out and they jumped in. We wrote it right there. There’s a guitar solo in it and recently I watched a Steve Vai video where he does this technique where he bends every note, I heard that my head and I played it. Nothing was planned, just that there is music in your head and you have a guitar in your hand and that’s what’s coming out at that moment.
Thats really interesting. For the most part of writing, you just let the music flow vs sitting down to write a song?
Definitely, I pick up and play. I wish I was more disciplined and could finish what I started writing as they came to me, but mostly, I record them and nothing happens from the ideas. They go in the air but, when it comes to writing, all the stuff you think is in the air, is all in there. The good ideas will come out again. My motto I guess would be ‘not to get too attached to ideas’. I probably lost a lot of good songs that way, but I’m kind of always thinking that when it’s time for Butcher And The Fog, that’s when I’ll start collecting ideas with intent to show to the guys.
Cool, do you have a practice routine you try to do every day?
Recently, I’ve been focusing on drawing so I haven’t really picked up a guitar, but before that, I played about 60 days straight of guitar. Frank Gambale, have you ever done his work out?
No, I haven’t
It’s a cool one and worth checking out. I only do about the first ten minutes of it. It’s about an hour long and I’ve been working on sweep picking which I’m not good at. I try and work on stuff I’m not good at and that helps keep me busy, especially if I’m not in a creative zone. I sort of feel as if ideas are a burden to me, I then feel I have to finish them [laughs]. Sometimes I just like to practice. I’ve also been working on modes, and dabble into music theory. Our bass player, Allen, knows a lot about music theory and if we need to take our song to the next level, he can almost mathematically get us there. Do you know anything about guitar theory?
**insert long tangent when listening back I’m not sure who is being interviewed because I talk a lot**
I’ve been trying to write my own stuff, its difficult [laughs].
[laughs] This is my practice book I’ve had since 2017. I write down what I’m doing and then check it off, because I need to check things off as I complete them. It’s just the way my brain works.
Going back to music theory a little. I have trouble picking chords that go well together and often play by ear, which doesn’t turn out good. When writing do you play by ear, or pick a set of chords to play with?
More by ear. To go back to what we were saying before, I’m usually playing in a certain mood and even though the riffs are the same, I’m playing in the style of whatever mood I’m in, that’ll be the next Butcher In The Fog song. If the moods are too similar, then I’ll try moving further and further away, but that’s the cool thing because when things start to sound the same, then you know that’s your style.
Well, I didn’t think of it that way. I guess I’m developing a style a little! Thank you. Now, as I play, I also have many off days and will even stop playing for a while. What do you do if you’re having an off day?
That’s cool if you don’t play, especially during lockdown I didn’t play much. I took probably three months off before I picked up my guitar again. I wasn’t really drawn to it. I started playing computer games and now I’m drawing. It’s OK to take time off, and off days are just a part of life. We have off days with everything, that’s why practicing is important because if you’re having an off day, you can at least have something to work on and keep you in it. Cool thing about recording yourself is that you’re almost documenting that you do have good days. I got burnt out on guitar, but I just got some old guitar magazines and I’m back to what made me fall in love with guitar in the first place. That’s important to have, to remember why you fell in love with the guitar and that connects all of us. Which part of the US are you in?
I’m in western North Carolina.
See I’m in the UK and you’re out in North Carolina. We can have a conversation for a couple hours about the guitar and we’re really lucky like that because a lot of people don’t experience life in this way. For some people it’s just work, and whatever is popular on Netflix. It doesn’t go beyond that. What we’re into can go way down the rabbit hole and you can find cool things to get involved in, try to always keep that in mind. Especially now with the world being the way it is, being removed from it for a long time, I just feel super lucky to be a guitar player.
Awesome perspective and it’s true. Are there any songs you’re proud of?
All of them, I love my music and I’m proud of it. That might not be the cool thing to say but if a Butcher In The Fog T-shirt is being made, it’s being made so I can wear it too. I got a different one for every day of the week [laughs]. I love it. To me that’s what Butcher In The Fog is, all different parts of music that I love in one. It has the punk influences, slow stuff, and I’m really into Prince and pop music. There’s nothing really complicated about Butcher In The Fog, it’s how I write pop music I guess. I get to put all these things together and I get to see what I’m feeling basically. It’s my therapy and that’s how I deal with being me.
We’ll make an album, and I will listen to it for months [laughs]. Then it’s time to make another one so I can listen to that. I make them for myself as much as I’m making them for other people. I get sad sometimes because the music hasn’t taken off. I feel like it’s personal, like the world has a problem with me, but luckily now we’ve stuck with it long enough and it may take another ten years to get another fifty fans, but I’m proud of each one of them.
It’s hard to get people to listen to music these days.
I understand, I’m a music fan myself and I see all your records behind you. I have stacks and stacks of CDs myself. When I approach Butcher Of The Fog, I think to myself ‘what would fifteen-year-old Yanni want bands to be like’ and ‘how would I want their merch to be’. I’m a huge fan of music and apply that to Butcher In The Fog.
As a music fan, what are you listening to?
Oh wow, what did I listen to today, I took a picture of it actually because I’m drawing all the time and I listen a lot more music when I’m drawing. Today I had Smashing Pumpkins on and Tom Waits.
Oh I love Tom Waits.
Yeah, he’s good, also AC/DC, Sheryl Crow, The Sadies and Cluster. Yesterday I was listening to H2O, David Bowie, Funkadelic, Judas Priest. I have so many CDs and I’m finally getting to listen to them again. I see your records behind you, which are some of your favorites?
**Oh, Yanni I know we’ve only just met but you should know by now I could talk forever about music. Insert another, this time, thirty-minute tangent**
Joking aside Yanni Georgiou of Butcher In The Fog is one of the nicest guys I’ve met. We talked for a long time, and I hope to stay in touch for years to come. He’s as humble as they come and one listen to Butcher In The Fog you can truly hear his musical genius seeping through the speakers. Thank you Yanni.
Label: Sleight Of Hand Music
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram
Interviewed by: Josh Schneider