Mattias “IA” Eklundh
Freak guitarist, vocalist, writer, band leader, producer, guitar teacher and all around good guy, Mattias IA Eklundh sits down with us to talk technique, harmonics, tuning and freedom of speech.
June 3, 2005
Guitarhoo!: Hello Mattias and welcome to Guitarhoo! Who inspired you to pick up guitar?
Mattias Eklundh: It all started out with Ace Frehley and KISS before I heard Frank Zappa, whose music and playing changed my life forever.
G!: On “Organic” the songs are very melodic, with loads of humor. You even tackle some big issues ie : racism (Becky), and being controlled by corporate media (Guilt Trip). Have you ever had people take these ideas the wrong way?
ME: Well, I think we have a pretty liberal audience with liberal ears. Of course some people don’t get it or beg to differ and it’s cool. I just feel the need to bring up topics that I find disturbing, funny, stupid or difficult.
G!: “Speak When Spoken To” features Bumblefoot. How did this come about? Did he have a hand in writing any of that track and do you have any funny Bumblefoot stories you can share?
ME: Bumblefoot is one of the funniest dudes on the planet and a splendid human being. He’s truly one of a kind and we’re all damn happy to have him on the album. I wrote the track but of course he put his unique “fingerprints” on the track.
G!: The DVD included with “Organic” features live footage and videos. The live footage of Freak Kitchen is insane! Do you have any special warm ups that you do pre-show and if so what are they?
ME: No warm up for me, no. Chris warms up his throat but I simply go for it and let the first part of the show be a warm up. We like to do long gigs. We always have a band hug before going on stage, that we never forget. Good vibes all around.
G!: “Taste My Chopstick” is bananas! The fact that you do it live scares me! How did that song (Chopstick Boogie) come to be?
ME: I believe when using whatever non-guitar stuff to play with it has to have a musical point. Bouncing chopsticks over the strings creates a special sound impossible to do with a pick or tapping or whatever. It is really not hard, you just have to find a groovy tempo that will work depending on the weight and length of the stick.
G!: Freak Guitar – The Road Less Traveled, it’s a great guitar record! Your approach to instrumental music is a bit different and quirky. How did you develope your style?
ME: Thanks, glad you like it. I try to have an open mind and do whatever springs to mind. The keyword, I believe, for breaking new ground, is to give yourself time. Time to think, feel and let things breathe a bit. I loose it completely when being forced to do things, it turns into shit basically. Time is the thing. Something few people have or are willing to give themselves these days.
G!: Did you ever really get any negative comments about the songs you cover, Detroit Rock City, Minor Swing, or Smoke on the Water? If so, were they funny?
ME: Nah, people are cool although some of the songs I cover, well… borders on blasphemy, hehe. I can’t help it, I simply have to do it, for the fun of it.
G!: I really love the acoustic songs on your records. Any plan on releasing a full on acoustic project?
ME: Yes, indeed. My next guitar album will most likely be acoustic, freak style of course. I think there is so much that can be done in that area as well and I love playing acoustic guitar. Hopefully there will be a release in 2006 or 2007. Stay tuned.
G!: Its pretty well known now that it’s not a “whammy pedal” but “harmonics”. I drove myself nuts for a year trying to figure out “Apparatus”. Any suggestions on how to do them easier? (other than buy a whammy pedal?)
ME: Make sure you know where the harmonics are located otherwise you might sit around for days and try to smack the strings on the wrong positions. It’s ugly enough as it is in the beginning with a lot of nasty sounds as “bi-product”. It’s certainly not impossible although it may take a while to gain full control of it. Don’t give up.
G!: “Caffeine” – I love that sorta staccato melody part. How do you come up with stuff like that?
ME: I get off on cheesy melodies, and if there’s a way I can play it to make it even more cheesy I will. Caffeine is fingerpicked for maximum staccato feel.
G!: On TRLT you seem to be experimenting with weirder sounds ie: video game sounds, mouth drumming, crazy samba stuff. What leads to the experimentation?
ME: For me, breaking new ground is what it is all about. I want to see what’s hiding around the corner. However, I don’t like to be unorthodox/different/weird for the sake of it. Again, every new technique has to provide the songs something groovy.
G!: “Asteroid 3834” is total Zappa fest. What is your favorite Frank Zappa tune and why?
ME: It’s different every day. My favorite album is Overnite Sensation but there’s so much wonderful music out there, it’s impossible to say. The Black Page drove me insane in my late teens so I will always have a crush for that one, for sure. And basically every other FZ song too…
G!: I noticed awhile ago you got to play a show with Mike Keneally. Did you get to do any jamming with Mike Keneally? If so, what did you jam on?
ME: Mike is the coolest guy on Earth. He was in France as we were touring there and jumped on stage with us in Bordeaux to jam on the Freak Kitchen tunes Lisa and Taste my Fist. It was stunning! We met again in LA recently and got to play Zappa stuff together live on NoneRadio. Great stuff!
G!: Freak Guitar Camp – it seems like a good idea to round up all of the freaks. What kind of things happen at the Camp? Any good Camp stories you care to share?
ME: Too many wonderful stories over the years. Fabulous guitar players from all over the world come to the Swedish woods where I teach my brains out for six days in a row, three weeks in total. I’d say there is about, at least, 14 hours of playing every day. Last year a guy from France by the name of Julien actually had bleeding fingers. Hard core? You bet! But also very good for your playing. Sometimes you need to tear yourself apart to progress.
G!: You use a few different tunings on freak guitar. Did you use any alternate tunings on “TRLT” or “Organic”? Can you share the tuning with us?
ME: Organic has several different tunings: C tuning (same intervals as regular, but everything tuned a major third down), Bbm13-tuning, Dbsus4-tuning and Eb. TRLT has mostly Dadgad (White Trash Hyper Blues, Battle of Bob) and regular.
G!: The Caparison Apple Horn IA Signature Guitar looks amazing (I live in Canada, so I have never seen one up close. How did you develop this guitar?
ME: To me, it’s the best instrument on the planet. The Caparison guys are just amazing. The Apple Horn models are designed by my good friend Itaru Kanno from Japan. I don’t know much about guitars, I just play them, but Itaru is a master and I am totally confident and agree on everything he says. Caparison rules!
Mattias’s Caparison Apple Horn IA Signature Guitar
G!: I noticed you don’t use many effects, perhaps a bit of wah? Did you ever have rack fever?
ME: No rack fever here, no.
G!: Do you have any plans on bringing Freak Kitchen or yourself on tour in North America (or Canada)?
ME: We must! Soon. Stay tuned, it will happen. One way or the other we are going to be there.
G!: You are credited with all production credits on TRLT. What kinda recording gear do you use? (it’s a tech q, I am a gear nerd… lol)
ME: I use a nowadays “dead” system called Paris by Ensoniq/EMU. The stuff sounds so good and I own a bunch of systems and feel no need to change to ProTools until it breaks down. I love recording, miking, editing and jerking around with notes. To produce yourself can be hard but again, if you take the time, you can do it. I also own my own studio in my basement and don’t have to worry about costs. Music should be recorded when the vibe is right, you can’t fool the listener. He or she will feel the mood, if things are forced and stale.
G!: I Put Bumblefoot, Buckethead and Yourself at the forefront of creative Guitar experiments and insane playing. Are there any up an coming guys we should know about?
ME: I am big gypsy jazz fan and believe guys like Bireli Lagrene rule. He’s been around for a long time but boy, can he kick any heavy metal player’s butt. I am also really like Sylvain Luc, another stunning French guy.
G!: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Anything you would like to add?
ME: Well, stay freaky, remember to grow your own moustache! Take care. Thank you.
Interview © 2004 Guitarhoo!
Mattias on the web