Interview: Savasan Yurtsever

Dan McAvinchey: Savasan, when did you first discover music, and eventually led to your interest in the guitar?

Savasan Yurtsever: I started out real early, when I was in the elementary school, with mandolin. In junior and high school I was totally blown away by the energy and the image of rock music and rock musicians. I probably still am the best "air guitar" player in the world. Van Halen's first album "Van Halen" and Eddie's classic solo "Eruption" was the first and the final slap on my face that made me buy my first electric guitar. If I had to explain it all with just one word, it would have to be "rebellion".

Dan McAvinchey: What guitars, amps, and effects do you find key to getting your sound?

Savasan Yurtsever: I own four electric, one acoustic, one classical and one 12 string guitars. The non-electrics are all Yamaha, except the 12 string which is Takamine. My main electric is the Kramer Proaxe which I love very much. The other three electric guitars I own are all Fender Strats, all stock and all made in the Far East.

In the studio I run my guitar directly to the Ensoniq DP/4+. It gives
me the best rhythm and lead tones in the recording environment. On
stage, I run my guitar through an Ibanez multi-effects unit (all tube), an Orange amp and finally a Marshall cabinet powered with 4x12
Celestions. The real "kick" to anybody's sound, I believe, is not his or
her equipment, but the way we attack, pick and release notes--
especially with the right hand.

Dan McAvinchey: What are your top priorities, musically speaking?

Savasan Yurtsever: Songs! Songs which people can remember, associate and even sing! Music is too profound to be just "entertainment". Then again, music by itself like the instrumental music, fails to convey a strong message--if any at all. I don't want my music to be listened to. I would rather have it heard. And to achieve that, lyrics must be involved. I would rather have "killer" lyrics and "OK" music than to have "OK" lyrics and "killer" music. In simple terms, songwriting is priority number one on my list.

Dan McAvinchey: What's been happening for you recently and what are you currently working on?

Savasan Yurtsever: Here are a few highlights:

  • I've recently signed by the Amethyst Group Inc., a management company.
  • They are releasing my "Runaway Train" album on their "Antithesis" label.
  • They are also including two of my songs, "Mary" and "Rebel Rebel" both from the "Runaway Train" album, on two consecutive compilations entitled "AIR TRAX #9" and "AIR TRAX #10". The CDs are being manufactured at the moment.
  • Hipnautical Records (Mission Hills, CA) is releasing a CD (with
    sailing as its main theme) with my song "Sailing Away" on it. The CD
    will be sold in record stores and on the all-mighty Internet. The CDs are due to be out anytime now.
  • Prevention Records (Essex, UK) would like to include "one or more" of my songs in their upcoming compilations.
  • I've completed the production of my follow-up to the "Runaway Train" album with a beta title of "Down & Chained".
  • I completed my second book on the guitar. It's titled "Chords! Once and For All!" The first one titled "Guitar Pro Manual Volume I". I'm getting in touch with the publishers to see what happens. And I already have put an ad in the classifieds section of the Guitar Nine web site to further market them.
  • I've licensed three songs to Hollywood Artists Records (Hollywood CA) in the past two years. The first two, "The Tale Of My Heart" and "One Last Chance", have already been published in two consecutive albums both titled "Music Of America". The third song "Heavens" is to be included in an album titled "America Sings". I'm looking forward to hear the last one.
Dan McAvinchey: How do you generally compose your music?

Savasan Yurtsever: I compose my songs on the guitar. Usually it's the riff that triggers the song. And the main riff almost always ends up being the chorus. Then the song virtually writes itself. When I get the "traffic" of the song down, I go ahead and record the rhythm tracks. Then I improvise the solo. Whatever I feel and play at that moment ends up as the final take.

I write the lyrics and the vocal melody together. I believe there is
only one "right" lyric and only one "right" solo for any song. I capture
the former at writing and the latter at recording stages.

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Dan McAvinchey: Didn't you decide to build a home studio rather than record at a commercial facility?

Savasan Yurtsever: Yes! I record at home in my 16 track (analog) studio. It took me lots of time, energy and money but I'm glad that I've got one. Nothing can beat a home studio. You can go there anytime you want and not be bothered by anyone other than yourself. You don't have to book time, and pay by the hour. Unless you're a lunatic, that is.

Dan McAvinchey: What went into the decision to form your own record label and release an independent record?

Savasan Yurtsever: Simple! I had no choice! Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. When you're living in a non-English speaking nation, no local record company wants to hear your stuff unless they've got native lyrics. I never thought of writing lyrics in any language other than English. Personally, I believe English is the language of rock. It just fits right in.

Dan McAvinchey: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent musician?

Savasan Yurtsever: Advantages:

  • You don't have to report to anyone and run by deadlines. You create your own pace and calendar.
  • You are free to do anything musically. There is no one looking over your shoulder to remind you that "the next song you record better be a hit."
  • You can get in contact with anyone in the industry and never feel
    "guilty" about what your record company would think about that.

Disadvantages:

  • You run your label on your own resources which are almost always scarce.
  • No legal or professional help is available on even the most basic
    issues.
  • The independent road is the longest distance between an artist and his or her ultimate destination--the public.
Dan McAvinchey: Not if you sell directly to the public--then it's the shortest distance! Got any hot marketing or promotion tips for musicians about to release their first independent record?

Savasan Yurtsever: Sure! Here are some facts I've learned the hard way that I would love to pass along:

  • The indie road is a lonesome one with no help from anyone other than GOD.
  • Production without marketing means nothing. Send your tapes/CDs to as many labels as possible. Out of 100 submissions, you will probably receive 10 replies.
  • Send everything via regular mail. Record companies hate registered mail. If you mail them anything via Express mail, they think you have all the money in the world and don't need them. Hell, they might even ask you to lend them some money!
  • The people who run the music business have overcome many hardships themselves. They don't want to hear your personal problems, problems in the band etc. Be positive and act positive. Trust yourself. If you won't, they won't.
  • Start with a manager. Have one of your closest friends and/or family member manage you or your act. An outside ear and brain will bring objectivity and some credibility to your project.
  • Make sure you look good in print. Your stationery must be reflecting the professionalism you are out for. If you suck on paper, you probably don't give it a %100 and chances are you suck anyway. You'll have only one chance to make the first impression. The second time, you are classified and categorized.
  • People with great talent always excel. Well, at least that's what the industry people say to the pushy young talents in movies. Ask yourself this simple question: Would you go out there and pay 10 bucks for your own CD? Why do you expect people to knock down record store doors just to own your music? You don't expect anything like that? No? Go get a life!
  • Get your songs copyrighted before you mail them to anyone. Try the Copyright Office or mail your songs to yourself. Don't open the envelope unless a need arises for you to prove legally that you have written that song as of the postmark date. The Copyright Office copyrights songs from any musician who belongs to the countries that signed the Berne Convention.

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Savasan Yurtsever is a twenty-nine year-old guitarist and composer from Ankara, Turkey, who has recently released the album "Runaway Train" featuring his band, Savasan. After graduating from the Guitar Institute in Hollywood and writing more than one hundred songs in his own 16-track studio, Yurtsever is poised to take his music to the next level. Bringing a progressive approach to hard rock, Yurtsever values the energy that improvisation adds to his recorded works. He's also learned a lot about life in the independent fast lane

Dan McAvinchey asked Yurtsever to talk about his experience and share his thoughts on life as an independent musician in Turkey.