Monday, 24 May 2010

Per Nilsson of Scar Symmetry

First off, tell us a little bit about your musical history...

I started playing the flute when I was 9, and after half a year I switched to playing violin, and at the age of 10—after getting a copy of Kiss Alive II I started playing the guitar, and I stuck with it since. One of my first bands was called Weed, we played a lot of Beatles songs and some original songs as well.

Who were your earliest influences in terms of guitar playing?

I listened a lot to Iron Maiden, Yngwie Malmsteen, Metallica, Accept, Dio, and Europe when I was a kid. In my mid-teens I discovered the shred gods from Shrapnel Records' roster—Friedman, Becker, Howe, Gilbert, all those incredible guitar players, which inspired me to start practicing 6-12 hours a day.

What guitars are you currently employing in Scar Symmetry?

I've been playing Ibanez guitars since the early nineties and today I'm endorsed by them. We play seven strings in Scar Sym, I play a Xiphos, an Universe, and a couple of RGs. I also have an 8 string RG that we've used for a couple of songs. When recording I usually use a six string flower-pattern JEM for leads, it's the most incredible sounding guitar ever.

How about amps and effects?

We're on tour right now where we use the POD X3 floorboards, it actually sounds really awesome. It's a super practical solution for the live setting, doesn't really weigh anything, consistent sound night after night. In the studio we use real amps. For the latest album we used modified JCM900s for rhythm guitars, basically the preamp's ripped out and replaced, and it sounds incredible. We used a Rocktron Egnater amp for leads. We usually have a little bit of stereo delay and reverb on the leads, that's pretty much it.

Do you employ any altered tunings?

We use standard seven string tuning and drop-B tuning.

One of the main things people seem to comment on upon seeing videos of your playing is the apparent effortlessness and smoothness of your technique. Is this something you've deliberately cultivated over the years?

Well I would hate it if my playing sounded strained! I like players who have a smooth sound, like Eric Johnson and Yngwie Malmsteen, even when they're picking every note it's so smooth it almost sounds like legato. So I guess that's the sound I've been aiming for.

What does a typical day of practice consist of for you these days?
I rarely practice anymore, I just pick up the guitar and play every now and then. Sometimes I practice improvising over chord changes, but I never do technique exercises to a metronome, I've done that enough for a lifetime.

Are there any new techniques or approaches you're developing at the moment?
Not really... Well I just ordered myself a Ztar—a kind of guitar-shaped keyboard, a really amazing instrument.

Do you generally improvise or compose your solos?

With Scar Symmetry it's a mix between the two, but perhaps a little bit more composed than improvised. Most of the solos aren't that long so I wanna make sure I make the best use of the time, and make something memorable. I like improvising a lot, and when I get my shit together to do a solo album I will have a lot of looooong improvised solos.

How has Scar Symmetry's new dual-vocalist line-up affected the band?

We were in a pretty miserable state before kicking Christian out of the band. Basically, we couldn't agree upon anything with him, and especially the last album we did with that lineup was a real nightmare. I actually almost quit the band at that point. Having Roberth and Lars join the band has been amazing on many levels. They are incredible singers, and the easiest-going people you could ever think of. No diva bullshit there! We've had a kind of dual-vocals style since day one so when we searched for a replacement for Christian it made so much sense to get two guys instead of one. When we write songs now, we don't have to think so much about if we can pull things off vocally live, and live it sounds so much better having two guys sharing the singing duties.

How does the band's song-writing process generally work?
Jonas and I write all the music. Most often, either Jonas or I come up with a complete song—riffs, the basic drum patterns, the song structure—and then we write the vocals melodies and arrangements together. Then we have Henrik writing all the lyrics.

Any chance of a solo album in the future?
Yes. I would love to do a solo album, I just need time and a budget for it. There's a lot of things I'd like to do that don't fit the style of Scar Symmetry, and it would be nice to have an outlet for that.

Do you generally prefer recording or touring?
I prefer writing and recording! It's just such a fun, creative process. Touring is a completely different beast, I mean I love performing on stage, meeting fans, having a few drinks with my boys, but there's so many backsides to it... Airports, dirty buses, waiting, no showers, bad food, waiting, crappy backline (sometimes), bad sound on stage, waiting, being away from home...
What's next for the band?
We've started writing for the next album, though we haven't decided when we're going to start recording it. We'll be having time off most of the summer, and in November-December we will tour North America again, in support for our Nuclear Blast labelmates Epica.

Thanks very much to Per for taking part in this interview, and a two-horned salute to Scar Symmetry!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

French eight-finger guru Daniel Peroine

First off, tell us a little about yourself and your music...

I'm 43 years old, I'm living in Nancy (France) and I’ve been teaching guitar for twenty years now.

I'm a graduate of CMCN (musical school in France) and of Los Angeles GIT.

I played in many rock, heavy or top 40 bands in the east of France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Deutschland and Switzerland.

In February 2007, I created my own band which is instrumental progressive rock.

Actually, it's a solo project. I recorded in May 2009 at 'Mon Studio' with Yann Klimezick as sound engineer, Olivier Baldissera on drums and Philippe Chevallot on bass guitar.

It's an instrumental album with nine original songs.

Who were your earliest musical influences?

When I was a teenager my first influence was the heavy metal bands of the 80s. When I started to take some guitar lessons, I began to be interested in the fusion guitar players like Allan Holdsworth or Scott Henderson. The Allan Holdsworth sound was like a revelation to me, especially with the Metal Fatigue album, and I was very interested in the legato technique too.

At what point were you introduced to the eight-finger tapping style?

One day I found the tapping book of Jennifer Batten. I listened to it and I thought it sounded like Allan Holdsworth. But when I was looking at the exercises, I couldn’t understand how to manage with all the fingers on the neck. Finally, I’ve practiced a lot and my sound began to be legato which was very motivating.

How long did it take for you to develop the technique to the point where you felt comfortable with it?

After two years (practicing with two hands tapping), I met T.J Helmerich at the M.I. of Los Angeles. He corrected all my bad habits. For example, I used to play with my right hand all the "pull-off" downs. He recommended me to play "pull-off" inside the hand. It's easier and the sound is definitely better.

He helped me a lot and after six months, I could improvise with major scales.

How do you approach visualizing the fretboard when employing the eight-finger style?

Actually I visualize the right hand. The left one is well trained enough, and I’m practicing with the right hand only which is a good exercise.

Do you tend to compose or improvise your solos?

Fifty-fifty. I like following a melody way and then improvising the end, for example. But before recording a solo, I prefer improvising on rehearsal or on a gig, to find some new ideas on the same solo.

Do you have to modify your guitar setup to accommodate the technique (with super-low action and/or light strings for instance)?

I use low action; I feel comfortable with the right hand.

Six months ago, I used to play with light strings 008-038. Now, I play with 009-042 strings; it's better for the rhythm part. In the future, I would like to play with 010-046 strings, to get a brighter sound.

What initially attracted you to Steinberger guitars?

Because Allan Holdsworth and T.J Helmerich are playing with it and I like their sound.

And a great thing with Steinberger Guitars is that the graphite neck doesn't move. That's why I can play with low action.

What other guitars and gear are you currently using?

I use Steinberger guitars only. I have a MESA/Boogie amp, the Mark IV. I use a Roland VG 88 in effect loop for the reverb, delay and chorus. I have a little box called the Axess, which drives the channel switch of the Mesa with the VG 88.

What musical projects are you currently involved in?

Actually, I do the promotion of my album and I try to find gigs or clinics. I begin to think of the second album too.

How do you feel about the current state of progressive music? Are there any new bands or artists you feel have promise?

I am listening to famous bands like Planet X, Dream Theater, Opeth or early Genesis, and a lot of instrumental guitar players too...and I'm always happy to hear a new band. The last musician I've heard who was exceptional was Alex Machacek. He's just amazing; I saw some videos when he plays with Planet X, and his sound is like Allan Holdsworth’s.

What can we expect from you in the future?

Another album, an instructional DVD...

Daniel, thank you for your time!

Thank you Tom for this interview.