Spotlight: Samuel Hällkvist

One of the joys of producing Guitar Moderne is discovering guitarists who embody the elements of music I find personally attractive: great tones, a sense of melody, and an adventurous spirit. Samuel Hällkvist covers these bases and more. Through a daunting number of solo and band projects he explores new sounds and King Crimson-like interlocking time signatures in music that ranges from aggressive, staggered rhythms to ethereal soundtracks and combinations of the two.

What kind of music were you playing when you first became proficient on the instrument?

Starting out, I really wanted to learn the language of guitar players such as Wes Montgomery, George Benson and Django Reinhardt. I transcribed lots of solos, studied books, attended music schools and later the music academy, went to jam sessions playing standards (or trying to).

What led you to create more experimental (non-mainstream) music?

I struggled with the sound of the jazz guitar. That, in combination with often having the empty feeling of only being able to barely make it through the changes when I played jazz standards, especially in jam situations, made me decide to do something else instead.

Listening to Thelonious Monk records led me quite naturally to Ornette Coleman, John Zorn, and Tim Berne’s music. Coming from a home where classical music (often modern) was being played a lot must have had an impact as well. I remember listening fascinated to the works of Ligeti, Schnittke and Pärt as a child.

Whose music inspires you? Past and Present.

Steve Reich, Terry Riley, the ones mentioned above, various metal bands, friends’ music. Traditional folk music from everywhere.

How did you get better at your current style?

It’s a never-ending process, one in which you need a healthy dose of self-criticism. I have accepted that things must take time. I know my limitations: which situations I fit into and which I do not. I have realized that I’m not an all around session musician and can’t possibly be good at playing everything. I’m always trying to keep my mind open and learning new things from others.

What are you trying convey with your music?

I try to convey mental images, and to get away from musical boundaries. To communicate ideas, both spontaneous and composed. To have open ears, to listen, respond and bring energy. I’m always trying to be sincere, and trying not to waste too many notes without purpose.

Which guitars, amps, effects, plug-ins and software do you use to create your music, and why?

I mostly use my Telecaster, which is the most reliable guitar I have. It’s a mash-up with different parts. No great monetary value, but a great guitar. I have a couple of acoustics and a bunch of electric guitars I like to play, mainly old ones.

Eventide and Pigtronix have been very kind to support me in my sound investigation. On my convenient travel board there is often one overdrive or fuzz from Swedish effect builder Tony Wärefors (KTW); two Eventide H9s; one micro sampler for stutter/glitch: either the HEXE revolver or the M.A.S.F. Possessed, and last in chain is the Infinity Looper from Pigtronix. When I don’t need to carry too much, I use my board with: from Pigtronix, the Philosopher’s Tone compressor, Disnortion distortion/fuzz, Echolution 2 Deluxe Delay, Gatekeeper noise gate, and probably the Infinity also; from Eventide their Pitch Factor, and Space pedals, a Fulltone Supa-Trem tremolo, and one of the glitchers of course.

I’m very happy with the Fender Princeton Reverb reissue model, especially with the Telecaster. With Isildurs Bane I use a late ’70s Marshall JMP 2150 combo. When possible, I prefer to play in stereo. Otherwise I’m really not picky when it comes to amps; mostly I like to play on what’s in the house.

Which do you enjoy more: recording or playing live and why?

I enjoy both. For recordings I really like being able to work with things you perhaps wouldn’t do live and really use the fact that it’s a recording and not a live show. Playing live when nothing is being documented in any way, creating something only for the very moment and not being able to go back and listen to it is very beautiful too.

How have you built up an audience for your music?

I try to focus on making creative music because that is what I do. Being a great entrepreneur at the same time is a major task and I wish I had more skills, time, and energy to do this better. The music business can be very competitive and I sometimes find this hard to deal with. I try to persuade myself that if I provide my very best the rest will follow. That being said, I do everything I can to reach out with my music, spending countless hours at the working desk like everyone else.

With whom would you like to collaborate and why?

That would be a very long list of people from various fields, and for a fruitful collaboration you need mutual respect. Also, performing (improvised music) with someone you just met is one of the best things: it can be fantastic or maybe it doesn’t work at all. I like the unpredictable.

What is your latest project? When will it be available and where can people in different parts of the world get it?

Right now I’m working on a piece called Variety of Rhythm, which is a project of mine where the focus is on the process rather than the result. The idea is a variety of rhythmic figures being explored: different rhythmic layers and the use of different tempos that relate to each other. I started this idea when I was working on this 6/4 beat at 130 BPM and wanted it to have a different feel. I divided 130 in three and took 1/3rd off, landing on 86,6666.7 BPM. Playing this 86,666 tempo in 4/4 makes it the same length as the original 6/4, and you get a quite weird 12/8 groove while blending the two recordings. I’m fascinated with these kinds of things.

Wonderful people with different backgrounds are involved in this project: David Torn, Dick Lövgren (Meshuggah), drummer/percussionists Yasuhiro Yoshigaki and Kumiko Takara, amongst others. I want to highlight the process instead of the finished product because there is so much result-oriented stuff everywhere. Exploring the path that leads to something can be much more interesting sometimes. I’m looking forward to presenting this by the end of January.

I recently released my 5th album as a bandleader, Variety of Live, with my Variety of Loud ensemble that is out both digital and physical (CD). Three of my albums are up on Bandcamp. Also, the brand new Television Pickup double album is on Bandcamp here and here.

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3 thoughts on “Spotlight: Samuel Hällkvist

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