Welcome to the first edition of Interview With A Rockstar!
I have a very special guest today and I am so excited to introduce you to the very talented Elmo Karjalainen, an awesome guitarist/ musician, native to the beautiful country of Finland! Find out more about Elmo in this EXCLUSIVE interview!
Amanda: Hi Elmo! Thanks for taking the time to hang out with us today, it’s an honour! So, how long have you been playing music, and what got you into music in the first place?
Elmo: I’ve played for almost 25 years now, which means I started when I was 1. My parents were both musical. My mother sang, and my father was a professional drummer. He got a regular day job however when he came home from a longer gig and I didn’t recognize him. After trying out different instruments, I got a guitar. It was a lovely East German Lead Star with white lightning on black. And when I say lovely, I mean horrible. But it was ok to play.
Amanda: So you’re the same age as me! When did you learn to play the guitar?
Elmo: It took me a couple of years to actually start learning. I wasn’t too interested at first. The magic moment was when I got a new teacher, and he asked me the magic question: “what do you want to play”. I’d just at that time heard Gary Moore’s solo on a live version of “Shapes of Things”. I never knew you could play like that. It was great. So I told my teacher, and he got me practicing bends and vibrato (the sneaky devil).
I still haven’t learned to play the instrument though. It amazes me how much I continue to develop, even these days. I get periods where I practice a lot, and then I have periods where I hardly touch the guitar. What I’ve found is that both are beneficial to my playing. Distancing myself from my playing helps me see where I want to go. That’s not to say that taking breaks works for everyone, or that I don’t have breaks that are too long. You have to keep working at it. I still do.
Amanda: I can relate to that! You have to keep working at what you do, however good you are. What’s the best thing about living in Finland? Apart from the awesome music, of course!
Elmo: The Finnish summer is just great. But that might just be because it comes after a long and dreary winter. There are big open spaces here if you enjoy peace and quiet, like I do. There’s nothing like a bit of peace and quiet after playing in front of loud Marshalls.
Amanda: What do you love about being a musician?
Elmo: Being a musician is so much a part of me that it’s a bit difficult to answer this one. I guess the biggest thing about it is that I get to do something where I get to express myself in ways that I would do regardless. Being up on stage is just the best thing there is.
Amanda: A lot of my readers love to read (books, that is. Yeah, the kind on printed paper :p)! What book are you reading right now?
Elmo: I don’t have much time to read, which really sucks. I really like to read. I read lots of fantasy, some detective stuff and so on. I also read philosophy (I have a degree in the subject). At the moment I’m trying to read Trudi Canavan’s “Thief’s Magic”. It seems to be quite entertaining. I’ve liked her previous stuff. That’s more on the entertainment side. A more serious recent book I read was “Living in the End Times” by Slavoj Zizek.
Amanda: After the success of your solo album, Unintelligent Leftovers, I hear you’re in the process of recording your next album, that’s pretty exciting! Any news on that, or is it still very hush hush?
Elmo: It’s not hush hush at all. At the moment it looks like it should be out in the summer. That way I should have time to do the promo stuff properly (the wonders of doing that stuff yourself…). That’s also what’s held up the whole thing, me doing everything myself. I’m actually in the process of making an acoustic record, which will be mostly really calm and peaceful songs and long notes. I’m also putting together songs for what will be my third instrumental solo shred album, but that’s still very hush hush.
Amanda: What can we expect from the new album?
Elmo: Well, it’s a much more even album, and the production is better. It just sounds better. Other than that, it’s just little ol’ me doing what I like, noodling away on the guitar. How’s that for a sales pitch?
Amanda: Haha! Who would you say are your BIGGEST influences in the music world?
Elmo: Gary Moore for making me want to play in the first place, Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai, Devin Townsend, Genesis, Danny Gatton, Jeff Beck. Those would be the ones, plus my guitar teacher Sasa Opacic, and Masi Hukari of Amoral. I played with Masi ages ago in a kind of quasi-jazz band. We basically destroyed famous songs, but in a fun way. He opened up many musical doors for me, and I would be a much more one sided guitarist without him.
Amanda: What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to?
Elmo: Steve Vai has been very good all three times I’ve seen him. Yngwie was just brilliant. But I would have to go for the Strapping Young Lad gig in Provinssirock in 2006 (I think). Devin is always a blast live. An honourable mention goes to Freak Kitchen. They always put on a great and funny show.
Amanda: What was the last band/ musician you discovered that blew your mind?
Elmo: That would probably be Jolly. They’re really very good. I saw their video, called “Firewell”, on YouTube and instantly went and bought their albums. I love that while you might be tempted to classify them as a progressive metal band, they play all kinds of stuff. And it all sounds so natural, and just so much like them. It feels like they’re doing what they want to do.
Amanda: Awesome! And finally, what advice would you give to someone just starting a band?
Elmo: I honestly don’t know. Just have fun and play a lot. Also, trust your instincts, and do what comes naturally.
Thanks Elmo! There concludes our interview, don’t forget to post your views and musings in the comments, and remember, you heard it here first!