INTERVIEW: Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt

Opeth have always been a little left of centre, especially when taking the iconic sounds of death metal out of the 90s and into the naughties and infusing it with a progressive edge. But nowhere has that prog influence been more inspired – and even jarring – than on their new album, Heritage. There’s barely a hint of metal to be found on the album and absolutely no death growling anywhere. In its place there’s distorted organ, nylon string guitar, and – you’re not gonna believe this – fully authentic 1970s-style jazz fusion in the style of Mahavishnu Orchestra. Mikael Åkerfeldt explains the abrupt change in style…

There’s an obvious fusion feel to a lot of the material on Heritage. Where did that come from?

We’ve been listening to not only fusion but all sorts of music. And the fusion aspect comes from Mahavishnu Orchestra, Billy Cobham… I listened to Alphonse Mouzon, the drummer who was with Larry Coryell in The Eleventh House; some Herbie Hancock; the Headhunters, who are a mix of free-form and jazz and pop and whatever. But we listened to all styles of music. Some influences are more there than others, but I think we’ve been quite taken by the sounds of fusion for quite some time now, all of us.

How did you write it? Fusion is very ‘musician’ music.

I write everything on my own. I’m not really a good keyboard player, although I’m learning and I would love to be better. But with Opeth I can play what I want to hear, and I can play it fairly well. But I really, really rely on the other guys to make it proper for the actual recording once we go into the studio. I make demos of everything, and the demos, if I do say so myself, they’re pretty fucking good-sounding! I work a lot on the drums. Every ghost hit on the snare has got to be there. Everything’s there. So I want to have a splendid demo that I can present to the other guys so they should almost feel intimidated! I tell them, “You make it better than this and we have a real fucking thing going here!” And they always do! I think it’s inspirational for them to get that kind of level from the demos. Once they come up with something it’s gonna be fucking outrageous.

It must be great to have musicians who are professional enough to deal with that!

Yeah! I surround myself with really, really good musicians, but they are also more than metal musicians. They listen to all sorts of music, they’re interested in their own instruments and in developing their skills for those instruments. That’s been the case since the beginning. We always aimed to be fairly competent musicians because it makes experimentation so much easier. I mean, we could not have been doing this album with just a bunch of musicians who can only play metal. It’d be physically impossible.

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NEWS: News for March 26, 2009

Hammond-Suzuki G37 And G27 Guitar Leslies shipping

Hammond-Suzuki USA today shipped the first production units of their G37 and G27 Leslie speakers designed especially for the guitar. Hammond executive VP Dennis Capiga said “Today marks the fulfillment of a dream, and several years of hard work. I can’t wait to hear the music guitarists will make with our baby.”

The G37/G27 is roughly one third the size and weight of a traditional keyboard Leslie Speaker, but has many of the same components. Unlike the last Leslie designed for guitar in the late 60’s; the G37 and G27 have a ‘real’ horn spinning on the top and the traditional Leslie rotor on the bottom. A 100 watt channel-switching guitar amp with “tube pre” powers the G37 while the G27 is powered by the user’s own amp.
MAP pricing for the G37 is $1495.00, and the G27 is $1325.00.

Listen to the new Queensryche album now!

I got a copy of this to review the other day, but you can check it out for yourself now at the VH1 website! 
Source: Queensryche.

Three quarters of Soundgarden reunite

Here’s one that’s bound to put the wind up Chris Cornell and his attempts to become the next Justin Timberlake or whatever: Soundgarden with Tad Doyle on vocals and Tom Morello on second guitar, rocking Spoonman at the Seattle stop of Morello’s Axis of Justice tour.


Bruce Kulick to release limited edish EP

Former KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick will make a “BK3” limited-edition EP available at his upcoming clinics for Allans Music in Australia. The CD features guest appearances by TOTO’s Steve Lukather and John Corabi.

The songs included are:

* No Friend Of Mine (feat. John Corabi on vocals)
* And I Know (vocals by Bruce Kulick)
* Between The Lines (feat. Steve Lukather)

The EP will be available to the general public in mid-April after Kulick’s Australia trip.

Bruce Kulick’s Australian Allans Music clinic schedule:

April 01 – Melbourne – 7:00pm
April 02 – Brisbane – 6:30pm
April 03 – Adelaide – 7:00pm
April 04 – Sydney – 5:00pm

FEATURE: Festival Survival Guide

Whether you’re playing a Battle of the Bands with your dad as your roadie, or playing the Big Day Out with a pro tech at your side, there are certain similarities to the kind of gear you need. The key to playing on any multi-band bill is foresight. What songs are you going to play? What tunings are they in? What effects do you need? What’s going to happen while you’re changing guitars? What happens if you bust a string?

The first thing you need to do is decide on a set list. Especially in the case of travelling festivals, you need to travel light, sometimes purely for the sake of practicality, sometimes due to the high cost of lugging gear around, so if you’re not going to use that toolbox-sized vintage Echoplex or the Leslie rotating speaker cabinet for the songs you’re going to play, it’s a good idea to rationalise your amp needs. This also applies to those guys who take a full rack and twin speaker cabinets along to a pub gig.

The same goes for stomp boxes. Think about what you really need. Is the audience really going to need to hear 5 flavours of distortion if you can’t tell the difference between 3 of them when a band is playing? Can you make things run a little more smoothly if you construct a mini-me version of your pedal board?

A good solution for this problem is, of course, a multi effects unit. When I’m not in a stompbox frame of mind, my preference is the Boss GT-8, because you can use a feature called the “4 cable method” which allows you to place your amp’s preamp anywhere in the GT-8’s signal chain. This means you can still use your amp’s own distortion, while placing gain effects like wah wah and overdrive before your preamp, and time-based effects like delay and reverb after it. The GT-8 also allows you to change your amp’s channels from within effects patches. If your set list is set in stone, you can program each song as a separate patch in chronological order, and name each patch after the song you need it for. As an added bonus you don’t need to do an elaborate tap-dance before each song. Just cue up the next patch and all your effects are ready to go, along with the appropriate amp channel and delay time.

In the late 90s David Bowie guitarist Reeves Gabrels used a Parker Fly guitar direct into a Roland VG-8 modelling system via a MIDI pickup. This allowed him to model everything from amps and pedals to guitars and pickup selections all at the touch of a button. It also meant he didn’t have to take speaker cabinets on tour at all, cutting down on haulage costs. The VG-8 even allowed him to change tunings within the unit with the tap of a foot, and it could be plugged directly into the front of house desk for a perfect reading of the programmed sounds. One final bonus of this system was that he could just copy his sounds and plug them into another VG-8 anywhere in the world if his broke down.

I find it’s best to group songs according to guitar tuning, just to reduce the amount of time spent messing around on stage swapping guitars. Make sure you have a backup for each tuning if you can, or, if that’s not possible, a non-tremolo guitar with medium gauge strings that can easily and quickly be retuned in an emergency.

One thing to remember in a festival environment is that even though you’re playing for a huge number of people, you don’t need to hit every pair of ears with your amp. A small combo with a microphone in front of it may get lost in the din, but even a 2X12 combo can be enough to fill a stadium. As with any gig situation, concentrate on getting your sound, and leave it up to the engineers to get it to the crowd via the PA system. Once again, make sure you have a backup if you can. Many players like to keep a multi effects pedal ready to go with rough approximations of their sounds programmed in, even if they regularly use a valve amp stack, so they can still play even if the worst happens and an amp explodes in a hail of sparks.
Finally, if you’re playing on a festival bill, don’t be a diva. If it’s a small gig and the back line is already provided, don’t hassle the soundman about using your own amp. One tantrum could throw the changeover time right out of whack and a lot of people will get their knickers in a knot, and besides, if you anger the person who has control of your stage and/or monitor volume, you’re probably not going to have a very good gig, either from your own or the audience’s perspective.