I first spotted Hedvig Mollestad on YouTube in 2011, playing grooving rhythm guitar and singing in Jarle Bernhoft’s funk band. With her platinum hair and limited edition white 335 she was hard to miss. At first I didn’t make the connection when her 2013 trio record, All of Them Witches, came across my desk—the mix of metal, jazz, and Scandinavian ambience was a far cry from Bernhoft’s blue-eyed soul, but in videos of the band that hair and guitar was unmistakable. Two releases later, on Black Stabat Mater [Rune Grammofon], Mollestad’s trio music has coalesced into a harder-edged sound that still leaves room for atmospherics. I have been trying to get an interview since that first record and am happy to announce it is here.
What kind of music were you playing when you first became proficient on the instrument?
That depends on how you define proficient. I feel I have so much left to learn. I have always loved to play over jazz ballad chords that demand truly strong melodic lines, like “In a Sentimental Mood” or “I Remember Clifford.” I still do.
What led you to create more experimental (non-mainstream) music?
When I started to get into jazz, there was a festival in my hometown that focused on music made by the young performers, many of them still at the conservatory. Despite the term “conservatory,” they were very progressive—experimenting a lot with both sounds and noise. I was most interested in the sounds, and I got to hear and see a lot of music that was using parameters other than the harmony and melody I was used to. That made an impact.
Whose music inspires you? Past and Present.
In no particular order: Miles Davis, Don Cherry, John Coltrane, Jim Hall, Joe Pass, Jimi Hendrix, Arvo Pärt, Hilde Marie Kjersem, Jon Eberson, Motorpsycho, Rush, Megadeth, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Grand General, Ricki Lee Jones, Sidsel Endresen, Tim Miller, Bushman’s Revenge, Elephant 9, Terje Rypdal, Pat Metheny, Rose Kemp, The Decemberists, Ryan Adams, Curtis Mayfield, The Beatles, Ontz, Alexis Korner, Mose Allison, Paal Nilssen-Love, Mats Gustafsson, Atomic, Per Texas Johansson, Bill Evans, Tom Waits, Sleep, Earth, McCoy Tyner, Wes Montgomery, Doug Rainey, Allman Brothers, Neil Young, Pearl Jam, Jeff Beck, Prince, Ani DiFranco, Dewey Redman, Canonball Adderly, Tal Farlow, Jan Garbarek, Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, ZZ Top, Bob Dylan, Cadillac, The Clark Sisters, Dinosaur Jr., Earthless, Fire!, Oliver Nelson, Ornette Coleman, Freddie Hubbard, Art Farmer, Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, Derek Trucks, High on Fire, The Melvins, Karma To Burn, Mahavishnu Orchestra, John McLaughlin, Mimi Fox, Ralph Towner, Thåstrøm, Jayhawks, King Crimson, and more.
How did you get better at your current style?
By practicing, checking out new music, being curious, and playing concerts. I am still working on it.
What are you trying convey with your music?
First and foremost good music. What comes after that I leave to the listener.
Which guitars, amps, effects, plug-ins and software do you use to create your music, and why?
I am so much more into music than into gear; I rarely change guitars, amps, or pedalboards. If there is something I am not happy with, I try to make the things I have work differently, whether it is an amp, a pedal, or my playing. I stick with my Fender Vibro King 3×10 with a 2×12 cabinet, my white and gold Marshall Bluesbreaker, and my Fender Bassman with a 2×15 cab. My guitar is a Gibson ES-335 SC Showcase Edition from 1988 a very limited run (200-250 for the US and 50 for the rest of the world), I changed the hardware, had a Bigsby put on, installed different humbuckers, and had the neck fixed. I also have a Gibson SG Les Paul Custom I bought from my teacher and favorite guitarist, Jon Eberson. I own an ES 345 (tuned down to C#), an ES 135, and a Martin D28 from 1970. On the last recording I used a Fender Super Reverb, a Fender Bassman, a Fender Vibro King, and a Leslie rotating speaker. They were all cranked. For additional distortion, I use a modified Ibanez Tube Screamer, an MXR compressor, an Electro-Harmonix Multiplexer sub octave generator, and a crazy Japanese oscillating fuzz.
Which do you enjoy more: recording or playing live and why?
That would be like asking what I like best: sleeping or being awake. I love both, but they need to alternate one another. The studio makes you work in a very different way than the stage: there you can go deep into the material play it over and over, do different versions each time, listen to what you just did, reflect, and work from there. On stage is a whole other level, you have no second chance and there is no looking back. I need them both to develop my music.
How have you built up an audience for your music?
By making music, recording it, playing it live, releasing it on Rune Grammofon. And by being on Facebook. (Laughs).
With whom would you like to collaborate and why?
Darren Aronofsky, Werner Herzog, or Lars Von Trier. I’d like to try the format of a movie combined with composing.
What is your latest project? When will it be available and where can people in different parts of the world get it?
A new studio album Black Stabat Mater and double live album EVIL in Oslo (vinyl only), both released worldwide June 24th, and a collaboration between my Hedvig Mollestad Trio and Mats Gustafsson at the Molde International Jazz festival to be released July 20th.