Melodic Soloists: Interview with Roo, Mr.Fastfinger and Magnus Olsson!
Be sure to check out each artist’s respective website via the links at the end of the interview, and if you’re interested in finding out more about the album ‘Melodic Soloists’, there is a review we did here, and a page where you can order a copy from the brand new Shredaholic shop!
Enjoy! – Richard Baines
Shredaholic: Hey guys I just want to start by saying that I loved this album, and after enjoying memorable tracks from all three of you, it’s a pleasure to be able to ask you about the album.
[Roo] Thanks, it is a pleasure as well. Congrats for your new website version and the new shop, great to see what you do for the guitar community!
[Magnus] – Thanks man! It is nice to talk to you too. It makes me, and I think I can speak for all of us, happy that you like the album. To be honest, I like it too; most of the guys on there are very inspiring players. Some of them make me feel like a complete beginner and I just want to practice until my fingers fall of.
[Mr.Fastfinger] – Uuuh, a humble thank you! Feel the same as Mr. Olsson. It’s such an honour to be surrounded by such great guitar players. Ugh!
Shredaholic: How did you guys all get involved with the project? Did you know each other before?
[Roo] From the begining I had an idea of what kind of guitar playing the compilation would be about. I didn’t had previous contact with Magnus and Mr Fastfinger, I just thought they would fit great.
[Magnus] – I got involved when being contacted by Roo and Mad Guitar Records asking if I wanted to participate with a song on a compilation project/album they were working on. I asked what the plan was and what other players they had in mind. It all sounded like a great project so I jumped in the boat directly.
I love the idea of a company working with instrumental guitar music, so I felt I wanted to support it as much as I could.
I feel ashamed to say it but I did not know about Roo or MGR before.
[Mr.Fastfinger] – My story is similar. I received this mysterious e-mail from Mr. Roo. His project sounded like something that would be perfect for Mr. Fastfinger. I’m a huge fan of instrumental guitar music, but there needs to be real music, real melodies there to really make something move inside me. Was glad he wanted to do the compilation with melody as the main focus. Speed is not everything!
Shredaholic: Were there any arguments over who came first in the tracklisting?! Haha
[Magnus] – You have no idea, it was girly cat fighting, pulling hair, scratching eyes out, bloody and messy. We even lost a couple of guys in the process, the cd was supposed to be 20 players. One got sent to a mental institution, one liked the idea of girly cat fight so much that he did a sex change and went into woman wrestling and one just disappeared (he have still not been found).
It must have been hell on earth for Roo to get something going after having 17 mails from 17 ego headed lead guitar players with the same text in all of them ”I’m number one, putt me as the first track, or I’m out of here”.
No, just joking. No fighting, no arguing, Roo was a non questionable judge about it.
I think most of us felt the same way anyway ”everybody ells are so good, put me last”.
[Roo] LOL* Yes indeed, it was a lame roosters fight at 17… Jokes appart, I have been very surprised that actually none on the CD ever even talk about this. I must raise my hat off to such a professional behaviour. I prepared an argue in case, explaining that some songs work better next to another and the artistic side leads decisions. The tracks must vary and run smoothy together.
[Mr.Fastfinger] – Roo was the father and the producer of the whole project, we all vere invited to participate. So the only right way was to let Roo decide the song order. If one has ever put together an album of music, one knows how important the song order is. It’s a matter of the overall drama. Afterwards I knew Roo did a great job when I found out my song was going to be the first track on the CD!
Shredaholic: Roo, it must have been a huge undertaking in bringing this project together. How did you manage to get an album with 17 different artists to fit together so well, not only in composition style but also have a really smooth production quality?
[Roo] Well, yes a lot of work on the CD and beside it. Creating the label, its musical orientation, its name, its visual identity, logo, websites, get partnerships, sponsors, create guitar picks, stickers, promoting, getting press contacts and copyrights stuffs for licensing everything properly.. endless list.
Glad you loved the CD, all the songs are very recent or unreleased which probably give some homogeneity. The artists share common influences. Most of them produced in similar budget recording studios. Now, ask them not to focus on shred but to bring out some strong melodic, catchy and emotional playing and you’ve got “Melodic Soloists”.
Shredaholic: Magnus, I noticed that ‘Power Lane’ was noted as being unreleased prior to this album ? did you record it specifically for Melodic Soloists, or did this collaborative album give you an opportunity to release something that you didn’t feel fit with your other work etc?
[Magnus] – Yes, you are right, my track are a bit different from what most people have heard from me before. But I do write many types of music all the time, I just don’t put it out there, so only people who really know me hear it.
It was recorded specifically for Melodic Soloist but it was not written with the album in mind (but it is a tune I would never record otherwise). I wrote the song pretty long ago during a period when I was really into Shawn Lane (well, I’m into Shawn all the time). But I didn’t do anything with it except saving it up in my”idea bank” in my head (that’s where most songs I do stay).
Anyway, I felt I needed something a bit different that could stand out as a breathing space when I do my Ibanez and DiMarzio clinics. It tends to be a bit too many notes on happenings like that so I needed something melodic with very few notes.
I played the tune at a clinic, someone filmed it and put it on Youtube.
Roo liked that song and asked if I could do it for the album.
I felt that the song did fit the name of the album well, melodic and no fast ”shred” stuff, so it was cool with me. Just like Mr FastFinger said before, I was happy that it was an album focused on melody.
There are some horrible stories about this song and it appearing on this album, I’m pretty sure that God was against it somehow. I just cry when I think about it so to make a long story short(er) and to save myself some tears. It basically came to the point that I gave up and contacted Roo and explained it all and said ”I’m sorry, I can’t make it, you have to drop me from the album”. He didn’t want that and talked me into re-record it all with programmed drums and bass (it was real players the first time). I had about 2-3 days to redo the entire song (and getting it mixed and mastered), the only thing I had left from the original recording was Per Ulfhielms piano track (and I also had my old clinic BT), so I built the song up from there. I only had a couple of hours to record all the guitar parts and to get some type of acceptable sound going with the amp standing in my hallway. It was stressful, and I really missed the real drums, but I think it came out okay in the end.
Shredaholic: Mr.Fastfinger, I’ve gotta say I was blown away by the composition for Epic ? in particular the strange exotic sounds you manage to make from the guitar. Many shred guitarists have learnt unusual scales but struggle to compose something that sounds catchy, cool or creative ? how did you learn to do it so well?
[Mr.Fastfinger] – Uuu, thank you for the kindest words. I feel so very fortunate that this song came out of me and that I’ve been able to share it will you and all who have heard it. This track was originally composed for the Mr. Fastfinger Album. For this compilation I gave a slightly different edition of this track.
I have been listening and gotten inpsired by so many types of music during the years. Guitar instrumentals are inspiring to me ofcourse, but many times I get even more excited of something complitely different. On this composition you can perhaps hear some of my influences from traditional folk music from various countries (hey I think there’s even some Finnish tonality there) and film scores and those hard rocking guitar instrumentals!
I usually try to compose with some kind of theme or story on my head. I really helps me to get to the right direction. If I just go in front of Cubase with a guitar on my hand, I usually end up waisting a lot of time before I get anything happening. It’s better for me to compose with visual themes and ideas on my head, right scales, chords, licks and techniques will follow automatically.
With this track it all started when these simple yet very powerful chords came to me, I mean the one you hear during the verses. Just a few chords and it seemed there is so great stories they are telling. Few weeks afterwards I woke up one morning and there was this strong rhythm on my head. After this simple start everything was all work. And struggle. I was able to get fine intro and rhythm guitar parts for the verses. That’s it. Seemed impossible to go forward. No melody!!! After many many days spent, I decided to give up and forget the whole song. Then half a year later the same chord progression came back haunting me and decided to give it a one more try. Quickly everything went forward, all the melodies and b-parts and rest fell in place. Sometimes things need time and space to develop. And things don’t always come free. You need to work!
I know exactly what this song is all about and at the same time I know nothing about it. I let each listener decide what’s it telling them. That’s something you can do with instrumental music.
Shredaholic: What equipment did you each use to record your track on Melodic Soloists, and was there anything unusual thrown in there?
[Roo] Well I wasn’t endorsing StanHinesley Pickups and Mayones Guitars at the time I recorded “Heat”. I remember that I plugged directly in an Engl PowerBall on a matching vintage cabinet picked up by an SM58 Shure to get a smooth tone.
[Magnus] – Noting unusual for me, my Ibanez MO1 guitar with DiMarzio Breed pickups for most parts (I don’t remember if I used any other guitar too) plugged directly into a cheap Peavey Prowler amp. It was recorded dry with a Shure SM-57 in front of it, no pedals was used. Effects were added later, delay and some reverb, with plug-ins in the computer. The clean tones were the guitar strait into the board. I always tries to record with as few punch ins and outs as possible and use the computer as a tape recorder (no cut, paste and fixing things).
I just think things sounds so much more alive then (even if it might mean less on a track with programmed backings).
[Mr.Fastfinger] – I used my Ben Reuters Custom Qian for all the electric guitar parts. The amp I used was Hughes & Kettner Triamp together with 4 x 12 cabinet. The basic tones really comes from this simple setup. I have my G-system always hooked for possible effects and amp control. At times I might use an overdrive pedal to boost the signal before preamp. For micing the cabinet I used Octava Mk-012 and Shure Sm-57 together. These mics together give me a lot of possibilites for shaping the tone afterwards during the mix.
During the verses there are the nice exotic japanese koto sounding clean tones. I got the tone by picking the strings very near the bridge. That alone was perhaps a bit too much, so I doubled the whole part with another guitar track picked in a more normal manner. End result is the combination of these two tracks.
Then there is a secret I could reveal. I used my old cheesy acoustic guitar during the recordings and though it was okay. Then afterwards during the mix I realized I couln’t get the tone I really wanted by using Eq or such. SO! I did a very cheap trick. I doubled the original guitar part with Midi sample I found from Sample Tank VST workstation. The tone in the final mix is the combination of the real acoustic of me playing together with the Midi guitar sample. Sorry! I promise you that this will not happen again. Got a fine Yamaha acoustic steel string now in the studio.
Shredaholic: What advice would you each give to visitors of Shredaholic.com looking to get ahead in the shred genre, playing wise or career wise?
[Roo] Playing amazing as became common nowdays. All in all it demands so much dedication. Well, pick up the right woman guys!
Hehe, you will need a great one!
[Magnus] – Now that is contradiction in terms, are there such a thing as a career in the shred genre? My advice, if you want a career in music, drop the shred *LoL*
Sorry, just joking.
(This is a short and heavily edited version of Magnus’ answer; click here if you want to read it all)
A more serious answer, how much space do we have?
Before I start, it is important to have in mind that all this stuff is just opinions and that if you ask 1000 players will you get 1000 different answers.
Playing wise do I believe in the ”playing guitar really helps your guitar playing” way of thinking, that spending focused quality time with your instrument is what makes you a better player. Ask yourself what it is that you want to do and where you want to go with it, basically, why you are spending all your time with that guitar in your knee.
When you figured that one out, then set realistic short and long time goals for yourself and make sure you do everything in you power to achieve them. I mean goals playing wise, not career wise (even if they often go hand in hand, your career choice can for sure affect what you need to be able to do playing wise).
I personally think that the best advice any player could get is to stay away from tabs and learn everything you want to learn by figuring it out by ear. Your most powerful tool as a player and musician is your ears, all the other stuff don’t mean anything and won’t help you with anything, without your ears.
Don’t forget about working on your tone shaping, intonation and vibrato too.
I don’t know, the music business is all upside down right now and no one really knows how it will look in the future. There really are no good advices to give since everything is constantly changing. Something that worked and was valid a year ago is totally dated now.
To cut it short, I think that musicians (including all of us, but especially people playing non commercial music like we do) need to find other ways than record sale to make money. We need to find new ways of offer more than just music so people are willing to pay for the experience. Basically, I think we need to be a lot more business oriented in our thinking, better at selling ourselves than ever before. Be more like entrepreneurs than musicians (or better yet, a good mix of both) and try our best to find new ways of getting paid.
[Mr.Fastfinger] – Ahhaa, Mr. Olsson said it all!
I think most important is to be honest to yourself, listen to you heart. Learn to respect and enjoy every moment spent with your guitar. It doesn’t matter wether you’re practicing at home, jamming at your local pub, doing a concert at rock club, playing at huge arena, or meditating at beach. Each time spent with the instrument should be equally important.
Like in everything in life, you must seek for the right balance of things. Of course guitar is most the important and you must dedicate yourself to it to be the best. But in the end it’s only guitar playing and there are far more important things in life. If all you ever do is practice guitar playing. What are the emotions and stories you are going to tell your audience about? Guitar good + Balance good = Life very good!
And finally: use your whole body or you are going nowhere. And BREATH!
Shredaholic: What’s next? Do you guys have any plans for any future projects with each other?
[Roo] Well, yes Mad Guitar Records has already sent an invite card to those two. It is a bit early though to make any official announcement. I have met Mika (Mr Fastfinger) several times since “Melodic Soloists” was released. That would be cool to arrange a gig evening together with the Roo Band or to have some sushis, hehe, yeah that last one wouldn’t demand huge amount of work. I would really like to meet Magnus and maybe get myself a private guitar lesson hehe. Im a huge fan of his legato licks!
Beside this I have been invited on two albums projects from other Melodic Soloists artists. One of them is a guest solo on Guitarsnake’s upcoming 2nd album!
There are always many projects in my mind, this year again it seems it is gonna be “career wise”. I really need to get back on serious guitar practice though…
[Magnus] – Yeah, I do have some plans for future projects, some have come longer than others, but I don’t really like to talk too much about it. It is so often things in the music business don’t happen as they were intended, or don’t happen at all, so it is better to just be quiet until its happening (so you won’t come out as someone talking too much).
But I will continue doing what I do now; play loads of live shows in all kinds of situations (I do between 180-200 shows a year, not including clinics, and have done so for many years) and a little studio job here and there , and then just see what of my other projects that come out well in the end.
I will also continuing doing clinics for Ibanez and DiMarzio.
Projects with these guys? I would love too!!!
Like Roo say, I would also love to meet all these guys and just do guitar nerd things, watch old guitar videos, jam all night, talk about gear nerd things and eat greasy pizza *LoL*. Giving lessons to Roo would not be one of the guitar nerd things we would do, there are noting I can show him that he wouldn’t already know.
I play in Finland every now and then, so a meeting might happen, there or in France, wherever they have good sushi and I’m there!
I would love to sit and meditate with Mr Fastfinger, I think we could do that well.
[Roo] Magnus, show me those legato licks or prepare for another girly fight!!
[Magnus] – Yeah, bring it on! Let’s rub ourselves in Vaseline and wrestle “d’homme à homme”!
[Mr.Fastfinger] – Recently had a grand gig in Finland with Mr.Fastfinger band. We practiced and worked on new compositions as a band. This was something refreshing. I’m so excited about the new songs and how they got developed with the help from my mates, Lasse, Thomas and Kalle. There is a plan to do an album in the future. Not sure about any schedules yet, haven’t set it yet. But I feel we are definetly going to the next level.
We shall do at least a few more gigs by the end of year. But the main focus will be on creating new material.
This summer I’m also going to France to do a little workshop. Never been to France before. I’ll be guesting at the Cartoon Guitar camp in july, hosted by master Christophe Godin himself.
There’s way too many secret projects that may happen or not. My lips are sealed.
Waiting for the day to meet Mr. Olsson in real life. Who knows where that would lead? Shredding?
With Roo we shall most definelty do more stuff together. I’ve already requested to get a private lesson from him. With or without sushi.
[Roo] *LoL* almost dropped my coffee when he asked that…
Thank you Richard for the interview, many thanks to all the fans who purchased the “Melodic Soloists” CD!