KALLE VILPUU
Silver Lining
(Guitar Laboratory)

 

The country of Estonia continues to be a focal point for new guitar talent. The 2013 CD release of the Toomas Vanem CD was great and equally excellent is another 2013 rock instrumental CD, called Silver Lining from Estonian guitarist Kalle Vilpuu. Vanem’s CD was very fusion based, and in a kindred way, Kalle Vilpuu’s all instrumental album is also very rock fusion based but it's more spatial and soundtrack oriented on several tracks. Kalle’s guitars ring out the chord changes and his quite eclectic arrangementsinfluenced by both jazz-rock as well as rock soundtracksare also quite impressive. Notably, on track six, “The Aliens Have Landed”, Kalle merges fusion, hip-hop and neo space music all on the same track. A number of players support Kalle on his 11 cut CD, including the core rhythm section of Andrus Lillepea (drums) and Henno Kelp (bass). Having played in a range of bands in Estonia, Kalle is no newcomer to the Euro guitar scene and with some proper exposure, his album will surely spark interest among instrumental rock fans inside and outside of Estonia. Hard rock, jazz-rock and a spacier type of 21st century progressive / soundtrack science of sound successfully merges on Kalle Vilpuu’s Silver Lining. Estonian guitarist Kalle Vilpuu rocks out loud and clear on Silver Lining. www.KalleVilpuu.com


mwe3.com presents an interview with
KALLE VILPUU


mwe3: Where do you live in Estonia and what do you like best about Estonia? What’s the music scene like in Estonia these days? It seems as though progressive rock as it applies to electric guitar is in full flight there these days. How much is rock and other forms of progressive music respected and nurtured in Estonia?

Kalle Vilpuu: I live close to Tallinn in a small seaside village surrounded by wonderful nature. Most of all I love the pure nature and friendly people in Estonia: it’s possible to live here just as you like. Estonia is a rapidly developing society, which means all of the social sides including culture are growing. But Estonia is a small country with the population of only 1.3 million and I guess that’s why rock music, especially prog rock is on the periphery. It seems like folk and pop are more popular which is also somehow natural as it’s quite difficult to understand prog rock without some musical education. Besides, I think, prog is not for wide public unless you are some worldwide known name.

mwe3: You have said that your 2014 solo album Silver Lining is filled with so many guitar genres and so much variety might that it catch a few listeners by surprise. Was your purpose in writing and recording Silver Lining to encapsulate as many different rock instrumental genres and to cover as much sonic ground as possible and how do you compare and combine the different genres that you enjoy both as a composer / guitarist and on a personal level?

Kalle Vilpuu: I didn’t try to show off with different guitar genres on purpose. Although it’s quite rational, I also created the music through feelings, intuition, fantasy. I threw off all stylistical norms and did what felt right and what would be exciting to listen to at the same time. One of my friends made a good observation after listening to the album: that I didn’t just rush to indulge my own tastes but that I was also considering my listeners. I have always been keen on experimenting with different styles, instruments and sound effects. There is a lot of exciting synthesizing in the arts in these days: academic art is mixed with modern means – ballet with audiovisuals, symphony with soundtracks etc. It is all very inspiring.

mwe3: Why do you call your album Silver Lining? Was it because of that old expression, behind every dark cloud, there’s a silver lining? It seems funny but true right? I guess the same concept can apply to music because even after musical legends are dead and gone, they’re still worshipped on the earthly plane.

Kalle Vilpuu: I named my album, to be honest, by the last track. Last summer, working in my studio, I saw a very strange, totally silver sky with silver sunbeams. It was such a mystical unworldly view which gave me an impulse to write the last track in 15 minutes. Afterwards it seemed a proper, although widely used name for the whole album.

I have been told my music is a little bit mystical, channeled from space. So I’ll let it be this way. I love being honest in my creations. You have to be who you are, and your public will appreciate it. I have deep respect for the dead and gone musical legends - their creations live on in LPs, CDs, DVDs bringing joy for new generations and that’s really fantastic. No one of us can imagine a life without music as it just does not exist.

mwe3: Were film soundtrack composers a big influence on your composing? Some of the Silver Lining tracks have a very cinematic kind of feel. Is Silver Lining a soundtrack in search of a movie or is the movie in our minds? Who are your favorite soundtrack composers and can you mention a couple of your favorite movies that feature soundtracks?

Kalle Vilpuu: That’s a good question! Maybe Silver Lining really is a soundtrack in search of a movie. We’ll see...

About the cinematography... sometimes the soundtracks really fit the bill. It is really amazing when a composer hits the target while reading a script or scenario. Soundtrack composers possess exceptional talent and I think there are a lot of examples of that: the soundtrack to Kieslowski’s Three Colours trilogy: Decoding the blue, white and red, Das Boot, Dead Man, Godfather, Goldfinger etc...etc. It is unique when a soundtrack starts to live a life of its own no matter what it has been written for.

I have been lucky to write music for David Lee Coburn’s Gin Game, a tragic comedy performed at the Rakvere theater. It was an exceptionally exciting challenge.

mwe3: Would you say Silver Lining has a musical influence from Estonia? Is there an Estonian rock sound? I was speaking with another great Estonian guitarist, Toomas Vanem about his latest album and he said he was influenced by Finland’s now late great rock composer Pekka Pohjola. Would you list Pekka Pohjola as in influence on your composing style too? Also, being that Finland is so close to Estonia, is there a Finnish / Estonian connection there?

Kalle Vilpuu: I think of myself as a cosmopolitan composer without any special influences of Estonian music. Silver Lining is more a question of my personal writing, which has been generally the same for 30 years. I have become more powerful over the years, not the other way round. The layering of guitar lots is based on certain techniques. The main idea is constant change, dynamics. I do not like to repeat the same elements as verse-chorus-verse-chorus. That means playing in bands I compose my parts thoroughly and leave the solos free for imagination. Of course some solos are exceptionally important and have to be performed note by note for the listeners, who know them by heart.

The creations of Pekka Pohjola were and are extremely significant. I used to listen him a lot in earlier years. He was a real northern music composer, restless searcher, experimenter, phenomenal bass guitar player, inspired by local Scandinavian nature. My contacts with Pekka Pohjola's music are from the times of my guitar studies at G.Ots music school. I could listen the albums I got my hands on: Urban Tango, Flight of the Angel, Symphony No.1. I have a deep respect for Finnish music, there is an extraordinary high artistic level. I have lots of good friends among Finnish musicians. They have a unique world view and high understanding of aesthetics. We Estonians should use this as a positive example. I love the sound of Finnish rock music. I like Alexi Laiho, Jukka Tolonen, the late Albert Järvinen, Markku Heiskanen. And bands I. Karjalainen, Havana Black, Hurriganes, HIM and Children of Boddom.

mwe3: How was early training in classical music and classical guitar important to you, both as a composer and a guitarist? Your album is very Neoclassical sounding in places with its very sophisticated compositional styles. How important is classical training to a young guitarist and a composer?

Kalle Vilpuu: Going through at least some classic course is very important, it gives guitarists and composers a lot of important experience. You need to make big efforts to gain a fine sound with classic guitar. Playing polyphonic music makes you listen to the movement of voices. If you break the technical barriers, learn to play all the right hand arpeggios with mediator and take the chords with the left hand, then the electric guitar will come a lot easier. Learning classical guitar has given me so much that I don’t even notice any more. I’d say I definitely have some advantages being a rock guitarist with a classical background.

mwe3: Tell us about the bands you played with in Estonia including the band Ultima Thule. Are you still playing with that group and what other artists and guitarists from Estonia and elsewhere around the world, interest you on a personal and professional level?

Kalle Vilpuu: I joined my first band as a drummer in school in the town where I was born, Kohtla-Järve. But I swapped the drums for guitar right after I heard Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd, as well as YES, Camel, Free, King Crimson, Genesis, Kiss, Slade, Nazareth, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. The things they were doing with guitars were very exciting.

All the bands that I have played in have all been very good and interesting. It’s been my honour to play with Ultima Thule since 1991 up to today, although the band’s history goes back to the mid-1980’s.

Everyone in Ultima Thule is a highly professional musician. It has also helped me work on my professional skills. Making music together for such a long time has its own emotional charm. Besides, Thule has extremely good lyrics, which I count as very important. Music with pointless, empty lyrics really annoys me. The lyrics have to pass a message on to the listeners. I tend to quickly switch off radio stations that are playing some hoodley-doodley.

Then there is Seitsmes Meel (The Seventh Sense), which was my first serious band. I started playing there during the second year of my studies in Tallinn’s Georg Ots Music School. Seitsmes Meel became one of Estonia’s top bands at the end of the 1980s. We had a lot of work and the public loved us. The band broke up during the early 90’s, but now, 23 years later, we’re together again and it is really lovely.

The third important band for me was hard rock group House of Games. It was the band that brought great change to my sound esthetic as I was at times given a hard time for my sound being too hoarse here or lacking power there. Playing with high gain is esthetically beautiful to me. In this context, I like the sound of Finnish group HIM. The guitar sound there forms a powerful wall, the music is thoroughly
composed, melodic, sporting northern melancholy, and what is important, strong poetry. I remember from somewhere the saying that guitar sound needs to be irritating... I like that metaphor.

We succeeded to record a good album with HoG, which was mainly arranged by me. This band gave me the skills of studio-work. With HoG I was lucky to play at the London Astoria, Manchester Academy, and in NYC's CBGB club. We really did 3 shows in New York, and before that we recorded a single in New Jersey with legendary producer Kevin Shirley. The album of HoG was called Rise and Shine, this was recorded in Helsinki. We were on tour in the UK and continental Europe as support-band for W.A.S.P. from the US. We were on the playlists of radio-stations, in magazines like Classic Rock and Metal Hammer. I’m thankful to have directly experienced big time “show business”: life on a tour bus and playing in venues in several world cities.

I would like to mention also Gunnar Graps’ Magnetic Band, Saxappeal Band, Tõnis Mägi & 777 and so on. My favorite international guitarists are Jeff Beck, David Gilmour, Jimmy Page, Allan Holdsworth, Paul Kossoff, Eddie Van Halen, Doug Aldrich and Eric Johnson.

Speaking about the younger generation, there is an Estonian guitar wrangler Laur Joamets right now on a tour with American country band Sturgill Simpson. I think this young guy has a great future ahead.

mwe3: Some may say your solo CD Silver Lining is very influenced by hard rock guitar but there’s quite a progressive and experimental edge to your playing and composing. Who would you say are the most experimental rock guitarists you’ve heard and is there a way to make the guitar more experimental yet more harmonically pleasing at the same time? Also would you consider pairing your guitars with other types of instruments in the future including strings and other types of electronica?

Kalle Vilpuu: I love everything about Jeff Beck. The venerable maestro is called a guitar stuntman, taking risks, especially at live shows, and this is really true. No one can deny that Jeff Beck keeps constantly surprising the whole world.

Allan Holdsworth is very mystical, modern and technically high level guitarist, most of all I like his albums from the late 1980s.

But to deliberately dislocate guitars just to stand out isn't right either, I guess. It has to carry some certain idea. The Steve Vai Passion And Warfare album is very relevant in this context. Mattias Ia Eklundh is very exciting and modern as well.

I started to listen music at the age of 11 and the very first album I heard was The Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd... not too bad! So the first guitarists I started to listen and adore were Steve Howe, Andy Latimer (Camel), Jimmy Page. So I missed the early guitarists, I started to listen them much later.

I can also tell you my career as a musician has had certain influences: listening a lot of prog-rock while I was a kid in the 1970s, Van Halen after that, the ardor of Seattle grunge-boom in mid-1980s and then old-school metal - Slayer, Pantera, Sepultura. In the beginning of '90s I adored the Finnish band Havana Black and around 2005 I found HIM for myself for their specific sound. Classical background and love of different styles has brought me to understanding music. Now I can listen either Paul Hindemith's organ concert, Sepultura Roots or Miles Davies and fully enjoy it. The styles have no more meaning for me. I love good music. Maybe this explains my eclecticism.

Coming back to my own creations, I guess I’ll continue mixing different instruments with rock music as it is such a fantastic world. Rock music is, by nature, an open canvas where a composer can use strings, wind instruments, modern electronic sounds within the music. If you see and feel clearly within your creative space the need to add color, then you should absolutely do it.

mwe3: How about The Shadows and Hank Marvin? Were they an influence and were they popular in Estonia back in the 1960s?

Kalle Vilpuu: Of course they were known and popular in Estonia as well and they inspired several Estonian guitar bands in these times. Nowadays, young guitarists tend go to a shop, plug in and start playing straight with high gain without understanding the real meaning of electric guitar... the reason why it was invented in the 1950's. Hank Marvin is legendary in this context. He brings out the best sides of electric guitar on the Shadows' albums from the '60s... The Shadows, Out Of The Shadows, Dance With The Shadows etc... You need to get to high gain on your way, not to start with it... this is how I think.


mwe3: Who is playing with you on the Silver Lining CD? What’s the chemistry like between you and your band members and what do you look for in musical collaborators and band members?

Kalle Vilpuu: I’ll use this opportunity to thank all the people who helped to make Silver Lining real as this album’s sound-aesthetics is technically quite complicated.

A long bow to my good friend and my companion Peeter Metsik, with whom we have analyzed the questions of the world countless times and who has so generously supported all my deeds.

Andrus Lillepea is an extraordinary drummer, who knows the context of rock music and loves prog rock. He is very well-known and in demand in Estonia. I let him shine on my solo album and you can hear it clearly. In some parts I gave him a blank slate and he came up with an excellent performance. I love Lucas Biela’s expression “ threatening guitar-drum assaults” in this context.

Henno Kelp is an extremely talented, musical, technical bass guitarist with very good tone, who never comes to studio just to see how it goes. Henno is also well-known and in demand here. He’s a very friendly and forthcoming person. Both these gentlemen, by the way, are also playing on the Toomas Vanem album. We are long-term friends from the times of HoG and I call them brothers.

Mari Pokinen is a young Estonian folk singer, an actress and a poet. She’s extremely talented. Everything went quick and easy with her in studio.

Also Tarvi Jaago on flute, Eduard Akulin on trombone, Tiit Kikas and Martti Mägi on violins, Imre Eenma on bass and viola da gamba, Indrek Kruusimaa on flamenco guitar. They are all well-known and highly appreciated musicians here. Many big thanks to all of them.

The chemistry of a band is a very delicate matter, I’d rather not dig on it but it does exist and it bridges members to a common creative spirit. The premise is being tolerant with each other. After a longer partnership it can become sentimental.

What I do I look for in a band? If everything is right, then every member of the band manages his own matters: it’s like roles in theatrical or cinematic production – the director lets actors play. That’s how I operate.

mwe3: Can you tell us about the guitars you play on the Silver Lining CD? I read the Gold Top Les Paul is your instrument of choice. Is the Gold Top a vintage instrument? Do you have other guitars in your collection and what do you look for in a guitar that you’re interested in? How about favorite amps, strings, picks and other sonic devices like pedals and computer apps that were involved in the making of the Silver Lining CD?

Kalle Vilpuu: I love Gibson guitars, especially the vintage models. I have some of them and they’re pretty old. I have also Gibson ES-335.

My first concern is the neck: I like the 1950’s neck, which is neither too thick or thin. I think Gibson is a great gift for mankind in general. I love the hollow, smoky and creamy sound of Gibson. I also like T-tops as they are very dynamic and sensitive. I have a Jeff Beck signature Strat from 1993, which I got as a present for my 50th birthday.

I have 3 Heads: Ampeg V2 1971; Marshall JMP 1983 and a Carvin V3, a very successful model, which I use in studios to play solos straight with amp distortion and without stomp boxes but I don’t use at live sessions. I like Hughes & Kettner stompboxes, Rotosound yellow 10-46 strings, Dunlop plecs.

Virtual guitar rig is a great thing as well. Generally I like to use quite simple and tested sonic devices.

mwe3: What studio did you record Silver Lining in and who else was involved in helping you get the right sound in the studio? Also can you tell us about the Silver Lining CD cover art?

Kalle Vilpuu: I recorded the guitars and keyboards and samples in my small home studio. Drums, bass and everything else were recorded in the studio of a good old friend and band mate Angela Aak, who is a great guitarist as well.

Angela Aak has to be specially mentioned for her hospitality as I was practically a guest at her home every day for half a year.

Silver Lining is quite a complicated album, we had to do a lot of detailed work and it is clear I would have run out of finances in some bigger studio.

I can now say that I redid the album as the initial version that I issued for my 50th birthday came out in a hurry. After a short rest I decided to make some corrections and I am really happy I did it, because now Silver Lining has its own life. The feedback is mainly positive and I would not, could not add anything to this work.

A lucky coincidence crossed my way with two multitalented young artists Hannes Aasamets and Mihkel Maripuu, who designed not just the cover graphics, but also background visuals for all the tracks to be used on live shows. You can see their work through my YouTube links.

mwe3: Are you planning to perform live shows, promoting the Silver Lining CD inside and outside Estonia in 2014 and what other plans do you have as far as writing, recording, producing, concerts and other plans for the coming year? Will there be a DVD at some point in your career and what kind of album and music would you like to make next?

Kalle Vilpuu: I have been involved with different projects and have been in studios for the last ten years. So after I got Silver Lining ready, I decided to take a year off and look around a bit. Right now I have rehearsals with Seitsmes Meel, we are going to record new material for a CD. I would like to commit to Silver Lining live shows along with the visuals. It’s such an exciting, multimedia project, which might even suit a cinema or theater black box, old warehouses or elsewhere. I’m not excluding anything and I’m open to any suggestions. I also think my writing is well established and I’m planning to record my next solo album with the same approach, or who knows... Thank you for your kind attention!

Thanks to Kalle Vilpuu @ www.KalleVilpuu.com

 

 
   
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