"The blues about love and passion are the most impactful, since you can overcome or buy almost everything in life except the love of a woman or other human being."
Stelios Saridakis: The Law Of Blues
Lese Majeste (aka Stelios Saridakis) was born on November 7th 1950 in Athens Greece. He picked up his first guitar at age 12. In 1965 he met Eric Clapton during his stay in Athens with the Glands. Clapton’s playing style and tone influenced his music ever since. He moved to Brighton England the summer of 1967 and then to London. He returned to Athens in 1970 and served in the army for three years. Upon discharge, he returned to London in 1973 where he played as a lead guitarist with college bands, jazz-rock groups and acoustic blues gigs at pubs.
In 1976, he returns to Athens and plays with various local bands. The bands entertained audiences at the most prominent live venues of the period. In 1983 he joins the Blues United Musicians (B.U.M.) a group formed by his brother Kostas Saridakis and considered by many to be the first real Chicago blues band in Greece. He formed his own group called Blue Rock in 2000. In 2006 together with his brother Kostas Saridakis and Andreas Gomozias they formed the band Blues Revenge that was to last one and half years. A real jam player at heart he has joined forces with many blues bands and musicians on stage playing either harmonica or guitar over the last 40 years. In early 2014 the Blues Reunited Musicians was formed for a selective number of appearances, together with brother Kostas Saridakis and his son Emmanuel Manos Saridakis on the keyboards. The show goes on!
What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?
Self control and discipline comes to mind. Blues is such a simple form of music that you can easily get carried away playing too many notes. It’s not the quantity but the quality that makes the difference. The audience decides if you are a bluesman or not and you should be proud and respect them. The blues to me is the reflection of man’s soul, his feelings, passions, worries and even the happier moments of his life. The blues about love and passion are the most impactful, since you can overcome or buy almost everything in life except the love of a woman or other human being.
How do you describe Stelios Saridakis (a.k.a. Lese Majeste) sound and characterize your music philosophy?
My tone is definitely vintage Gibson guitars played through vintage amps with a minimum of pedals if any at all. I have worked hard for this tone over the last 40 years and I strive to achieve this sound whenever I play. The main ingredient is my 1964 Gibson ES-335 TD bought second hand in 1974 from Guitar Village in Shaftesbury Avenue. Blues is the foundation of all other relevant forms of music. If you master blues phrasing then you feel more confident playing other styles of music especially the parts that require you not to play anything!
"My hope for the future is that the Blues will continue to flourish, especially among new and younger crowds. My fear is that everybody sounds like the next guy; there is little uniqueness and originality." (Photo by Eleni Saridaki: Stelios, aka Lese Majeste & his brother Kostas Saridakis)
Why did you think that the Jazz and Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?
It is tradition mostly in the family now days. Furthermore musicians have to go back to the roots especially in Jazz in order to be accomplished players. This keeps the old music alive and continues to attract an audience that discovers the values of Jazz and Blues are here to stay forever. Furthermore, once the audience embraces the essence of Jazz and Blues, it is cherished for a lifetime.
Are there any memories from gigs/ jams where you saw or shared the stage, which you’d like to share with us?
When Gary Moore played the Marquee with his band I had the chance to play with Pete Green’s Les Paul backstage just before Gary went on stage for his sound check. He had taken out the out of phase rhythm pickup and replaced it with an ordinary PAF. Gary’s well deserved popularity and the value of this Les Paul makes it worth remembering after all these years.
What's been their experience from your years in England? Which memory makes you smile?
I have seen many great musicians performing in theaters and small clubs right in front of me. There is no magic about the famous heroes of the past; they are people with talent that worked hard. Memories of playing gigs with musicians and bands that were unknown at the time were common. Some became famous later in life, yet still you could meet them in downtown London around music stores and have a conversation, shake hands or even jam with them; it was a friendly creative atmosphere. What make me smile are the black Blues musicians from the States trying to keep up with the local British Blues guitarists, sort of “what are these guys doing with our material” well…
"Blues is the foundation of all other relevant forms of music. If you master blues phrasing then you feel more confident playing other styles of music especially the parts that require you not to play anything!" (Photo: Stelios Saridakis, aka Lese Majeste, London, I975)
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
I miss the improvisational character of the past. We will jump on stage, look at each other in the eyes and will start playing music in any form or direction. My hope for the future is that the Blues will continue to flourish, especially among new and younger crowds. My fear is that everybody sounds like the next guy; there is little uniqueness and originality.
What is the best advice ever given you and what advice would you give to new generation?
The best advice I received early in life was to be a better rhythm guitarist. Everybody wants to play lead and they miss the rhythmic aspect of music that is essential if you are to grow as a musician/guitarist. I’d like to pass on the same advice to the younger generation, focus on rhythm, use your left hand little finger more and learn how to read music properly at an early stage. Play your instrument acoustically, feel the strings and the balance of the sound, then only plug into the amp with no pedals to start with. There is no such thing as straight luck. The proper definition of luck is: “Being prepared at the right place at the right time”. And only hard work enables that.
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
"Self control and discipline comes to mind. Blues is such a simple form of music that you can easily get carried away playing too many notes. It’s not the quantity but the quality that makes the difference."
Make an account of the case of the blues in Greece. Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene?
There are many talented players but many of the bands lack the “proper feel” in my ears. The 80’s stand out because local musicians had the chance to see and play together with good black musicians in Athens such as Big Time Sarah and her band.
What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues from States to UK and Greece?
It’s the typical British Blues explosion with the Animals, early Stones, Alexis Korner, John Mayall and Eric Clapton. In Athens-Greece we met Eric and his music early in the 60’s. I must say that we were introduced to the Blues from the British musicians first then we discovered the original black music together with notable exceptions such as Bloomfield and Gravenites among other white musicians of that period. It was the same more or less all over Europe although Paris was an exception with the strong presence of black musicians already.
What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the local music circuits?
I laugh when a player doesn’t bother to bring and set up his own amp to a gig and he thinks that his tone is OK with the local club’s inferior amp. I must say that I’m touched from players who work hard for the Blues; they can only become better as they grow up along with their music. It takes time, but I’m pleased that their efforts are recognized worldwide. Hats off!
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?
Woodstock every day!
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