Julia Kosterova: Lâg Guitars and Hughes & Kettner artist talks about guitar and her new album

 Julia Kosterova at NAMM 2013 - Jim Belmont
Julia Kosterova is a Russian born musician who is gradually gaining worldwide recognition. In 2012 Julia has become the first guitarist from Russia to get worldwide endorsements for Lâg Guitars and Hughes & Kettner amps. Also in 2012 Julia was featured in Guitar World and Music Legends magazines. Julia performed at the 2013 NAMM show on the Main Stage. Julia’s debut EP Julia Kosterova: Springs of Time was released on 22 April 2013 and features super keyboard player Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater, Planet X, Black Country Communion, Billy Idol) as a special guest on keyboards, Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats, Paul Gilbert, Steven Wilson) and Brian Tichy (ex-Whitesnake, S.U.N.) on drums and Chris Buck, Michael Devin (Whitesnake, S.U.N.) and Rufus Philpot on bass.  We caught up with Julia to ask her ten guitar questions.

[Shreddelicious] When did you start playing guitar?

[Julia Kosterova]
From the first days I've been surrounded by music - my dad had assembled an impressive record collection and also rebuilt a standard russian audio from that time, into a great sounding audio system. There is even a picture of me somewhere in huge stereo headphones. Dad played guitar - acoustic, just for fun and I have wonderful memories of him playing and singing for me or family friends. So that's how I was first introduced to guitar. But what really hypnotized me - huge sounding records from his great vinyl collection played through a very good audio system (with correctly placed speakers, etc. - he's a great engineer). Now think for a moment that it was in the USSR, behind the iron curtain when US or British records were under the ban, but he managed to build a great jazz and classical collection and even some of the rock LPs. So the first rock memory that really hit me (also around 3 years old) is The Beatles and that was it: mom and dad, I'll play guitar. Also around that time I happened to attend my first rock concert at the local arts center - it was a band from Czechoslovakia (they would only allow bands from Eastern europe in the USSR at that time).

Another great memory - (I guess starting much earlier than I remember) every weekend Dad would take me to the local records store and next to the record department was the one selling musical instruments. I remember myself staring at the shiny, glittering electric guitars while dad was busy digging through LPs, and it was always a problem to drag me from there - I was asking for one and would not go! I liked them much more than acoustic guitars which did not look and sound cool enough - even back then, when I was 3!

However, it was not before I was 8 years old before I was finally allowed to take classes at the local guitar club - being at least twice as small as all other students. After a year in the club, I was taking private lessons - basic guitar, singing and music theory, and switched to learning The Beatles songs - transcribing from audio cassettes - no videos, no CDs or original guitar transcription books yet at that time in Russia (as no computers, internet, youtube and imported american guitars back then)! Also about the same time I started learning English, so it was twice as fun.

Springs Of Time - New Single by guitarist Julia Kosterova

[Shreddelicious] What made you decide to take guitar seriously?

[Julia Kosterova]
It's been in me as long as I can remember, it's been a matter of letting it grow and the feeling growing over everything else…

Being from a non-musician family, with parents successful professionals in their spheres of expertise, there has always been an expectation on me to be the best in everything… I was studying a lot of other things - foreign languages being the top priority, an excellent diploma at school, than one of the best business schools in Moscow (Foreign Trade Academy), an internship in London. There had been serious fights about it starting from 12 years old, I was not allowed to go to Moscow and study music full time. I have to admit I could not get over it, I've always been good for my parents and it also made perfect sense to get a solid well rounded business education first.

My very first electric guitar was a Russian guitar (made in a furniture factory by the way) which I would plug into a cassette recorder input instead of the amp - no amp, no stompboxes. But all the time I was transcribing and learning whatever I could on my own, writing songs, experimenting with recording, later - slightly better gear and playing in bands. I was spending days after school transcribing records - The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, a lot of blues and rhythm 'n' blues players of that time, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Gary Moore, later - Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin.

My first big trip to London and meeting Jeff Beck in 2001 was a big pivotal point. When I returned, I was lucky to get a job at the Pro Audio department of the largest MI & Pro Audio distributor in Russia. That was a great learning experience and in addition I could finally afford good guitars, gear and guitar lessons, so after a couple of years of private lessons at some point I realized I also wanted to take my composition/writing skills to a next level - not just guitar, that's when I went to the Jazz and Contemporary Music college in Moscow.
Julia Kosterova
[Shreddelicious] What are your favourite albums?

[Julia Kosterova] The list is very long! And it's not only about guitar. Although this is my main gig and there are great guitar instrumentals are in the top of my all time favorites, initially I've been more into 'bands' than solo instrumental records, and that's what I want my music to be. Also, even before I could play I had been fascinated with the sound, listening and trying to figure out how the records I liked had been made to sound as they did.

Below is a list of those who had the most influence on me. The albums list would be too long. Being in isolation from the rest of the world for a long time had something good in it - I've never followed fashion and was happy to have my own pace of discovery - as I was developing my playing skills more music has been coming into my life.

Starting from the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Santana when I first picked guitar as a kid I went further through blues, jazz, classical on one side and from classic rock to metal fusion on the other. Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Whitesnake, Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Steve Lukather, Paul Gilbert, Frank Gambale, Greg Howe, Andy Timmons, Tony MacAlpine, Dream Theater, Planet X, Derek Sherinian's solo albums - apart from being unique as they are, always feature some of the best guitar players.

Also, on the jazz side - Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Lee Ritenour, Allan Holdsworth, Scott Henderson and many many more. I've been listening to a lot of jazz and classical legacy - not only guitarists.

Now when I write and record my music I have much less time to listen, often having to put myself on the 'diet' from listening, otherwise I end up playing what I've just heard :)

Julia Kosterova
[Shreddelicious] What do you think of the use of social media for promoting your work?

[Julia Kosterova] It is great for introducing your creations to your audience. You hear the music, you like it and decide if you want to buy / support more music like this to be made.

[Shreddelicious] If you had a chance to play with anyone who would you pick?

[Julia Kosterova] My current EP lineup, the list above and… it's a secret:)

 Julia Kosterova at NAMM 2013 - Jim Belmont

[Shreddelicious] Have you ever had any live show disasters?

[Julia Kosterova] The funniest was a long time ago when we played a local festival on the rooftop of a garage block near Moscow. I was lead guitarist for one of the local pop-rock bands. Everything was cool, nice crowd and even most of the garage owners were happy to listen, until somebody noticed the police coming and we all had to make an escape by way of a wooden handmade staircase - with guitars etc. ) Not a 'stairway to heaven', but after that gig I was invited to join Led Zeppelin cover band.
Julia Kosterova

[Shreddelicious] How do record your guitar videos?

[Julia Kosterova] At first I used to do it straight capturing both video and audio with the camera as it provides the best honest live vibe. But camera mic gets easily overloaded, so now I also record Red Box out of my TubeMeister 18 Head into Pro Tools.

Julia Kosterova: photographing Laurie Monk at NAMM 2013
[Shreddelicious] What do you think of illegal music downloading?

[Julia Kosterova] Sometimes I receive requests for free downloads or even sending merch for free to another part of the world too…

Well, I guess many of those who do it, do not realize what it takes (and costs) to make a hi-quality record and the fact that somebody is doing it for living can seem as far and unreal as another planet for them. If you ask people far from music biz, for most it is fun, entertainment, something they do after their day job, and I guess they just don't realize how things really work. This is one thing.

Also it's not just about those who 'download'. For ages people have been taught to share what they have. Those who created the first P2P sites, and who posted stuff as torrent files seem to think they are doing good for society, sharing what they have - missing out on the fact that they are ripping off their favorite artists, not just record labels - well many artists are not even signed to record labels nowadays.

The business has changed and first of all it is up to the distribution companies/record labels to figure out legitimate and efficient ways of music / videos delivery benefiting the artists and easy for fans everywhere (also outside the US) - iTunes has made a quantum leap in this, but there is still a lot to work on.

Second, education and social awareness - something we all can join our efforts at…

If people know what it takes, the real cost, and can support - they will support the artist in this or another way.

 Julia Kosterova at NAMM 2013 - Jim Belmont

[Shreddelicious] Can you tell us a bit about your Guitars and Amps?

[Julia Kosterova] I love gear, testing, experimenting etc. However, making music and working on my playing technique is on the first place. For a long time good instruments and gear had been a dream and that was holding me back, putting certain limits on my learning more technically advanced stuff, but it was great for developing an ability to make it all sound OK no matter what. I also had time to play / test some great guitars and gear and experiment with the sound. At this point I prefer keeping it as simple and straightforward as possible both live and recording. It may change if it is required by the music and I let the hi-tech part of me go wild, but in any case, a good instrument and a good tube head are the core.

My main instrument is 7-string Lâg Guitars from France (mahogany body, maple neck with ebony fingerboard, 27 frets, reversed headstock, Floyd Rose). It's great both on hi-gain and clean - with a coil splitting switch for sparkling clean tone.

I use a little monster Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 18 Head in the studio and TM18 or TM36 live. Great amps, both on hi-gain and clean. Red Box (speaker emulation) output is a great feature in the home studio so I can record any time of day and night directly into Pro Tools, and is often helpful live. Power attenuator is also very handy for practicing and recording, providing great tone from the cab at a reasonable volume. TM18 Head is perfect 'cabin luggage' size and easy to carry around.

I use a few pedals. El Musico Loco Blisterlily - a great sounding Overdrive with tone control, a Vox Wah (birthday present from colleagues many years ago:) and when it comes to FX - in the TM18 FX loop I have an Eventide ModFactor and a TimeFactor.

Julia Kosterova and the Magic Kitty www.MoreLucas.com
[Shreddelicious]  Finally, can you tell us about your latest recording?

[Julia Kosterova] My first EP, Springs Of Time, is now available worldwide and features Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater, Planet X, Black Country Communion, Billy Idol) as a special guest on keyboards. Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats, Paul Gilbert, Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani) and Brian Tichy (ex-Whitesnake, S.U.N.) on drums and Chris Buck (3 Crows), Michael Devin (Whitesnake) and Rufus Philpot on bass. Mixed and mastered by Derek Sherinian and Alex Todorov.

I wanted to make a record that would be more than a typical guitar instrumental, I also wanted the mix to have that warm, nicely vintage sound and feel. I had a lot of fun making it, I did my best, and I'm grateful to have been able to work with some of the best musicians in the world.

Video fun - see what happened? The Wave Of Luck Guitar Solo by Julia Kosterova - Teaser

So here it is: 4 track EP for a start, and there are more songs waiting to be recorded.
Julia Kosterova: Springs of Time
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/springs-time-feat.-derek-sherinian/id628560511
CD Baby: http://cdbaby.com/cd/juliakosterova2
CDs - Digipack Limited Edition (and other exclusive treats) can still be ordered http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/juliakosterova. There are also full tracks to listen.

Important Web Links

Full EP streaming link: https://soundcloud.com/juliakosterova-guitar/sets/springs-of-time-ep