ORBIT STERN
Ude I Skoven, Inde I Byen
(Boogie Post Recordings)

 

Sweden has such a rich history of progressive rock and especially instrumental fusion music. One of the rising Swedish guitarists making waves in the music world is Samuel Hällkvist, who joins forces with Danish drummer Frederik Hauch for the debut album of the band Orbit Stern, entitled Ude I Skoven, Inde I Byen. The end result of the first Orbit Stern album is a big change from Hallkvist’s 2013 CD, entitled Return To Center, which was more like Trey Gunn meets Ornette Coleman. Although some might compare this first Orbit Stern album to Jean-Michel Jarre’s late 1970s classics, there’s also a valid comparison to near forgotten Swedish composer Ragnar Grippe’s fabled 1981 album Lost Secrets. Very melodic and richly atmospheric music that is also tastefully polar and scientifically methodical, this first Orbit Stern album will transport you to a transcendent musical space, where the late 1970’s magically morph into the world of the 21st century, complete with a futuristic welcome home sign. www.OrbitStern.com / www.SamuelHallkvist.com / www.boogiepost.com


mwe3.com presents an interview with

SAMUEL HÄLLKVIST



mwe3
: Can you tell us where you’re from originally and where you live now and what you like best about it?

Samuel Hällkvist: I grew up in Dalarna (Dalecarlia), Sweden. I’ve lived in Copenhagen since 2008. I moved to Denmark after living in the south of Sweden for several years studying music. Compared to Malmö, where I lived before, Copenhagen is obviously bigger and has naturally a wider music scene which is good.

mwe3: This first Orbit Stern album is much different from your solo album from last year called Return To Center. How would you describe these two different sides of your musical personality and can you fill us in on how you came up with the names for both Return To Center and also Orbit Stern?

Samuel Hällkvist: That's true. Orbit Stern is the first band/project I've been co-writing the music for, so I guess that’s why it sounds a bit different than my solo albums/bands/projects.

The title Return To Center originated with my 2010 CD Samuel Hällkvist Center, and “Center” is a quartet that I put together when I got the Jazz In Sweden award which was a true privilege, no question about it. I was able to do that album on Caprice label and did plenty of concerts in both Europe and North America, including Greenland.

“Orbit Stern” was simply influenced by outer space, and then I like titles/names that are a bit strange put together.

mwe3: The title of the new Orbit Stern album Ude I Skoven, Inde I Byen might be a little strange for non Danish speakers. What does it translate to in English and how did you come up with the Orbit Stern song titles which are also in Danish?

Samuel Hällkvist: It means “out in the woods, in the city”. For Orbit Stern, it's Frederik who comes up with the most titles. He's Danish, and when we started we felt like Danish titles sounded nice in this band. Its worth to mention that I speak Danish terribly, bad.

mwe3: Compare the process of creating the Return To Center album with this first Orbit Stern album. Also can you say something about what it was like working with Danish drummer Frederik Hauch and how did you meet him? What are your concerts like with both Return To Center and Orbit Stern?

Samuel Hällkvist: For the Return To Center album, I was completely in charge of everything from compositions, putting the logistics together and making it happen. I worked pretty fast for that album which came out exactly one year after my previous album Variety Of Loud. On Return To Center there are lots of different lineups for different tracks. It started in Berlin, where the Center quartet rented a house and recorded for a week. Then I did a bunch of duo tracks with some fantastic musicians I've worked with the last couple of years such as drummers Pat Mastelotto (US), Morgan Ågren (SE), violinist/vocalist Elena Setien (ESP) and trumpet player Yazz Ahmed (UK). And a couple of solo tracks as well.

Orbit Stern on the other hand, co-wrote everything and recorded on and off over a three year period here in Copenhagen. When we started, our plan was to record some simple, as acoustic as possible, guitar/drum sketches with plenty of room for improvisation. Let’s just say that didn't happen...

It's also very different things for live situations; with Return To Center, the lineup can change depending on the situation. Recently I did a tour with the material from RTC and the previous Variety Of Loud album with Pat Mastelotto, Guy Pratt, Danish drummer Stefan Pasborg and Swedish vocalist Qarin Wikström. A five piece band with musicians from 4 different countries means hard work on logistics, especially when you don't have a tour manager helping out. I learned a lot and it was great fun, at least the playing and hanging out part. Orbit Stern is as easy as it gets logistically, since there are only two of us, living in the same town.

mwe3: Why did you release the first Orbit Stern album only on vinyl and download? I agree that the album will sound great on vinyl but why no CD? What will it take to bring it out on CD?

Samuel Hällkvist: We really wanted to have it on LP. I never released a vinyl LP before, so it was quite tempting. It's released, and therefore financed by ourselves. I realize it's a good idea to have it on CD format as well, but then we need someone else wanting to release it for us: anyone?

mwe3: You get a lot of very unusual sounds from your guitars on both your Return To Center album and the Orbit Stern album. What guitars are you using on the Orbit Stern album and can you compare your guitar setup on Orbit Stern with the Return To Center album?

Samuel Hällkvist: I’ll do my best... I guess it all started when I attended music schools being taught playing jazz music. I never really liked the sound of jazz guitar. I like playing jazz music a lot, but for me it's a problem being the only one in the ensemble playing an electrified instrument. Therefore I started exploring other sounds using effects and also trying to integrate other styles like the chicken pickin' technique in the more open improvised field. Don't know if I succeeded with that though.

The guitar setup is basically the same: my collection includes Fender Telecaster, Gibson Explorer, old Vox Phantom (Special VI) and a special guitar, put together with old parts from Hagström, Fender and Gibson.

But now when I think of it, I mostly just picked up what was in the studio at the time for the Orbit Stern album. For the Return To Center album I used my Gibson acoustics a lot as well (LG-0 and L48). I also like the lapsteel, banjo and mandolin.

mwe3: How about amps and other weird sonic devices? You seem like a techno kind of guy! Do you have a preference for certain amps and mics and do you scour the sound places to find even more unusual sounds? What is your take on the limit on the 21st century “Twilight Zone” of technology?

Samuel Hällkvist: I have to admit I'm a pedal freak. I love the Pigtronix stuff. For me, the Philosopher's Tone (compressor) in combination with the Gatekeeper (gate) works really well along with various fuzz boxes. I also use a couple of Eventide stomp boxes and I do like to have two delays running at the same time.

When it comes to amps I'm the lazy kind that often is happy with what's in the house as long as it got tubes. Princeton Reverb is definitely the amp for my Telecaster though.

mwe3: How would you describe your guitar technique? Do you still practice guitar and / or do you spend most of that time writing music? What’s your music writing process like and is there a process by which you decide what tracks will work best for Return To Center and/or Orbit Stern?

Samuel Hällkvist: When I have the opportunity I do practice. I'd say most of my work time goes to administration, after that writing and practice gets the least time unfortunately.

When I write, I always start with deciding who I am going to write for before I get any musical ideas. I use to arrange every part in detail including the drums and it’s always very time consuming but when it gets to the musicians, I just want them to use the score more as a guideline and put their personality into it since I did write it for these particular guys in the first place.

I like to work with MIDI, and for the Return To Center album there are plenty of solos generated by MIDI data, that interacts with improvising musicians.

mwe3: How long have you been playing guitar and what other bands do you have affiliations with in Sweden? I heard you worked with Isildurs Bane for a while? Are you a student of legendary Swedish progressive instrumental bands, especially the early bands like Ragnarök, Samla Mammas Manna and Bo Hansson’s works with Kenny Håkansson? Would you agree that Sweden has one of the richest musical histories in Europe today? What other artists, then and now made the biggest impact on your musical taste. Are there some artists today you’re very big on?

Samuel Hällkvist: I started taking piano lessons as a kid, but switched to the guitar when I was in my teens. I ran over the basic stuff, which I desperately tried to catch up later, and started immediately trying to play 1970’s fusion things but also transcribed lots of Django Reinhardt and Wes Montgomery.

I was invited to play a show with Isildurs Bane along with Stick Men in 2009, and since then I've been working with them on their annual IB Expos which has included wonderful musicians like Trey Gunn, Jakko Jakszyk, Phil Manzanera, David Torn, Julie Slick, Steve Hogarth, Richard Barbieri... the list goes on, and everybody involved is the best. A great honor to be a part of it.

Besides IB, I play in various projects and bands in Sweden and Denmark, mainly in the experimental jazz/improv/artrock field, but also as a session musician in different pop/rock contexts.

I really do appreciate the bands and artists that you mention, but I can't say I've been a true student to their work unfortunately. Well not entirely true, Lars Hollmer's solo albums have made quite a big impression on me lately and the Orbit Stern album was mentioned as sounding like a today's version of Bo Hansson's Sagan Om Ringen (Lord Of The Rings) in a Swedish review recently.

mwe3: How are you planning to spread the news of your albums to the world wide music community? What do you see for 2014 and 2015 as far as Orbit Stern, other new music, writing and recording and possible concerts?

Samuel Hällkvist: I'll keep on being stubborn and continue sending my stuff to people I believe might enjoy it. And so far I definitely believe it’s worth all the countless hours of unpaid work.

Orbit Stern recently did a tour in Japan, and we have some interesting upcoming things on its way. I have a couple of solo performances in Denmark and Portugal soon and The Liberty Balance, a band I'm playing in as a sideman has a new album coming up real soon. And oh, I'm starting writing music for a new solo album right...now!


Thanks to Samuel Hällkvist of Orbit Stern and Return To Center

 

 
   
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