You have been incredibly active as a musician for the last ten years. How do you find time for all this?
– I don’t really have a lot of interests and hobbies outside of music and I have a very supportive and understanding wife which helps a lot. When I’m not on tour I spend a lot of time in my studio producing my own or other people’s music, and most often I juggle several different projects and bands around.
Among other things you are currently filling in for Fredrik Thordendal in the highly credited metal band Meshuggah, how’s that been?
– It's been supremely fun, all of it. I've been a fan of the band since the early 90s, and getting to tour with them now that they're at the peak of their career is pretty marvellous. I get to bring a little bit of my own thing to the table as well; just as Fredrik does, I improvise all of the solos.
I suppose Scar Symmetry is the band where you realize your own ideas. Can you describe the band's musical ambitions.
– Scar Symmetry is my main creative outlet and I'm the band's sole composer. We're often branded as melodic death metal, but I see it more as a sort of musical hodgepodge dressed in metal clothing. A wise man once described our sound as ”Cannibal Corpse and Toto having a love child delivered by Dream Theater” which is as apt a description as any, haha!
Which other bands are your currently a member of?
– I've been playing with Nocturnal Rites for a couple of years and with Kaipa since 2006. As much as I love leading my own band, I also really enjoy being more of a sideman which so far has been the case in these two bands, although I'll probably end up contributing to the songwriting for the next Nocturnal Rites album.
Your style as a guitarist is highly varied. You are an awesome virtuosic shredder at the same time as you can deliver lyrical solos that gives you goose bumps. How would you describe yourself as a guitarist?
– My formative years as a guitar player were during the second half of the 80s and the early 90s, when shredding was all the rage, which influenced me to practice my ass off on technique. My tastes in music were much more varied though, and I studied a lot of jazz and classical music too. As much as I can enjoy watching someone display incredibly developed motor skills on an instrument, it doesn't have any longevity to me, for me it's all about strong musical ideas, phrasing, timbre, groove, vibe, mood and so on.
You can also call yourself a producer. How do you see that role?
– I was always interested in recording music, and when I was a kid I did a lot of recordings on a 4-track portastudio. I've always had a very strong vision about how I want my music to sound and be performed, which led me to producing my own albums, and somewhere along the way I also started doing production work for other artists.
You have become synonymous with the great Swedish guitar brand Strandberg. How come?
– I got to know Ola Strandberg and his guitars in early 2013, around the time when my then-endorsement deal with Ibanez had just expired. Strandberg Guitars was still in its infancy back then but I was really impressed by Ola's vision and craftmanship and we hit it off on a personal level as well. Ola built me a prototype of what later became my signature model, and I've played Strandbergs exclusively ever since.
Strandberg manufactures models with True Temperament Fretting System, both 6-, 7- and 8-string. What is your experience of TT so far?
– The first guitar that Ola Strandberg built for me was equipped with a 27-fret True Temperament fretboard, though subsequent guitars have ”only” had 24 frets. To me, True Temperament is the best thing to happen to guitars since the invention of the guitar itself. Just like every other recording engineer ever I've always struggled with intonation and tuning when recording guitars, sometimes leading me to dramatic measures such as punching in every chord on a song and re-tuning in between, using pitch-correction plugins on single note parts and so on. True Temperament largely resolves all of those issues and I can't praise it enough!
– I don't really play a lot of amps nowadays, and I most definitely won't ever tour with a heavy tube amp ever again. My live rig is a Line6 HX Stomp, which is the tiny pedal version of their flagship modeler Helix. It sounds absolutely incredible and I can fit it in my guitar case, what a time to be alive!
– I could go on and on here, but a few off the top of my head; Allan Holdsworth, Frank Zappa, Karl Jenkins, Imogen Heap, Jacob Collier, Susanne Sundfor, Stevie Wonder, Tim Miller, Nik Kershaw, Mark Knopfler, Claus Ogerman and thousands more.
Plans right now and ahead?
– Right now I'm a stay-at-home dad, we had our first baby a few months ago, so I'm very happy to not have to tour right now. I do manage to squeeze in a bit of studio work in between diaper changes though, and next up is finishing the new Scar Symmetry album which will be released next year. We'll do a bit of touring for the album starting in the Summer, and also I'll be doing a tour or two with Meshuggah next year.
Read that you are a member of the IQ society Mensa. Wow! Any use for that in the sometimes stupid rock´n´roll business?
– It's not something that I spend a lot of time thinking about to be honest. To be invited to join Mensa you have to pass their test which consists of a number of progressive matrices that you have to solve in a limited time, so all I know for sure is that I'm really great at quickly working out those progressive matrices. Life, music and the rock'n'roll business are all multi-faceted things and you won't get far on smarts alone! Ulf Zackrisson
Photo: Mary Sweeney