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Mattias "IA" Eklundh is an incredibly talented guitar player from Sweden. Finding his own voice on the instrument made him go around the world, sign to Favored Nations record label (Steve Vai's label), have his own signature Caparison guitar model, run the Freak Guitar camp school and get recognized as unique and identifiable player of the 21st century. We caught up with him to ask him about his music career and his steps all the way to the road less traveled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did you get interest in the guitar? Who were your influences? How did you get your unique style developed?


Well I wasn’t really interested into guitar at first. I was interested in drooling blood and spitting fire and all that stuff. I wanted things to explode when I was 6 years old so I started playing the drums. I switched to guitar and started writing some 3 chord songs when I was 7 or 8 years old but I was much more into drums. When I was 13 I did a long drum solo in school and when I came off the stage nobody would recognize it was me so that pissed off my teenage ego and I thought “Well, I’ll switch to guitar from now on”. My interest in music started by listening to Kiss at the beginning but after I discovered Zappa everything changed forever. I quit school when I was 15 or 16 and I sat down for 10 hours every day and recorded my self a lot in just a small tape recorder, listen back to it and spot out licks that it really wasn’t who I was. I tried to get rid off them and refine my playing. So when all the other people where out partying their brains out and do all these  things that would lead them to nothing, I was sitting and practicing. I kinda tried pretty hard to become a party animal but at 10:00PM I was back home with my Flying V between my legs riffing my brains out and writing songs and so on. When I was 19 I moved to Copenhagen, I lived there for 3 years, I didn’t have a phone, I was poor as a rat and I literally sat for 3 years in my apartment and just practiced. At that time I understood how the harmonics work and how the overtones are put together in every string instrument. Life wasn’t really the same after that. I started playing all the white keys on a piano and learned the modes but then I started moving notes around and thought well those notes have another intervallic name too. I started listening a lot to Mahavishnu orchestra and John McLaughlin and read many books about exotic scales and tried to incorporate it into my playing, trying to get a different flavor out of it because I am a heavy metal boy, I like loud biffy guitars, big drums and everything but tonal wise and rhythm wise I don’t thing I belong to the heavy metal standard genre sort to speak. It’s all about attitude and walking the road less traveled and that’s what I do.

 

You have released a few albums and instructional DVD’s. Tell us some more things about it.

I haven’t really recorded any DVD’s. I recorded one in the middle of the night about 4.000.000 years ago (laughs). In May of 2011 I’m going to record a whole series of DVD’s in New York with Rock House Method and some books as well. They are going to be released at the same time with the new Freak Guitar album, which is going to be a double album. It’s funny because when everybody stop buying Cd’s I’m going to be releasing a double guitar instrumental album from Favored Nations, Steve Vai’s record label.

Freak Kitchen - Discography

 

You are hosting and teaching at the Freak Guitar camp every year. Where does it take place and what can somebody do and see there?

Freak Guitar camp is based in Sweden outside of Gothenburg. You are there for 6 days and we provide you food, accommodation, all the teaching material and you will be playing until your fingers are bleeding (Laughs). It costs 600EUR. It’s a wonderful thing! We have a lot of people coming from the UK every year. I do this for 3 weeks every year. I sit on my Guru chair, which is higher than everybody else’s chair to boost my ego a little bit (laughs) and I'm teaching the material. I make new backing tracks every year and try to challenge myself with new stuff and feel uncomfortable so I can progress. It’s always a good thing to progress and move on. I’ve been doing it for a long time now and I love it.

(Click here for more info about the Guitar Camp 2011)

 

Freak Guitar Camp 2010 - video by guitarDouchebaggery

 

You have also appeared as a guest with Soilwork and Evergrey, how did that happen?

True, I’m a very good friend with them and I’ve done a bit of guest work for them. In fact Hendrik Danhage (ex- Evergrey) was in Guitar Camp as a student and I told him “ I’ll knock you 100 Euros if you get on the Guru chair and do a bit of teaching”.

 

You are endorsing Caparison guitars, sometimes Yamaha and Laney amps. Give us some information about that.

Not so much Yamaha, just a couple of acoustic guitars but I’ve been using Caparison guitars and Laney amps since 1996 because it’s the real thing!  It really works, you plug in and you play. Nowadays I’m using True Temperament frets made by my friend Anders in Stockholm and I believe that they are the best invention since the string. Finally you can play anywhere on the neck and every note is in perfect tune.

True Temperament frets

 

What advice would you give to young guitarists who want to have a music career?

Grow your own mustache as much as possible. It’s a metaphor of course. Dig deep inside yourself and try to find out who you are and put it into your playing. If you do something original, you do something that it is true to yourself and there’s going to be an audience out there for you believe it or not things will happen. When I was 15 – 16 I sat on my ass because I had a passion in music. Not for the money, I didn’t do it to get a signature guitar or Steve Vai’s company behind me to travel around earth, I just did it because I liked music and wanted to do something on my own. I started making some money out of it when I was 19 and now I’m 41, I had a part time job for 3 and a half months and that was my only real job sort to speak. And it was poor in the beginning; I did a bit of teaching and tried to do this and that, just to survive. I never played in any cover bands, not that there is anything wrong with it but I just didn’t want to have to play any Oasis etc. Up until I was 25 it was like no money for anything. Everything started in the mid 90s when I released the first Freak Kitchen album and the royalty cheque came in. And it was some good money! I bought a house. It was an instrumental album with lots of songs and solos, nobody believed in it. It sold lots of copies especially in South East Asia. So my wife said, “Let’s invest this money“ and I’m a millionaire today just by buying my house and paying it with my guitar playing. No mortgages, nothing! I believe I’m lucky that I'm that old and it turned out like that because it’s a harsh world out there today for a 20 year old on his own. That’s why I believe you L4G guys are doing such a great job because we are all waiting for the new blood to come and kick our asses. I want my ass kicked really badly. When I’m 90 years old my fingers won’t be able to do anything and we are waiting for the new blood to take over from now and on.

 

We are very impressed with the fact that in Scandinavia Heavy Metal is very popular as a genre but everything started, more or less, from England with Hard Rock and N.W.O.B.H.M., what’s your opinion on that?

Living in Sweden, Norway or any Scandinavian country is a good thing. We work hard and it is accepted to be a musician. You are treated as something exotic. We have music schools, after day schools that you get to learn how to play a musical instrument. I think that’s one of the reasons. But there are as well bands that cannot live from it. I have friends that they are touring the world, selling a lot of merchandise and it’s really happening but they can’t pay the bills. I think it’s because it’s too cold, there are not a lot of people, we are well off from a social standing point and we have a lot of rock and metal magazines, big festivals every year so it is in a way supported. Sweden Rock Festival gets bigger and bigger every year. Really hard to give an actual answer for it but I think the above covers a lot from it.

 

Will you be joining our live4guitar online community?

Sure, I think what you guys do it’s a really great thing, I‘ll make sure I’ll annoy you every once in a while. I’ve been waiting for someone to do something like that.

Mattias playing a show in London's "Underworld" and wearing Live4Guitar t-shirt. Photo by Filipe Rocha

 

Many thanks for your time, anything else you would like to add?

Just keep on doing what you are doing and keep Freaky! Thank you very much for the approach and the interview.

George GT Stergiou and Mattias "IA" Eklundh

 

Emir Hot and Mattias "IA" Eklundh

 

Mattias doing a masterclass at "The Guitar Institute" in London

 

Thanks for reading

 

G.g.t.S.