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
Hallkvists 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 Jarres
late 1970s classics, theres also a valid comparison to near
forgotten Swedish composer Ragnar Grippes 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 1970s magically morph into the world of the 21st
century, complete with a futuristic welcome home sign. www.OrbitStern.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
Can you tell us where youre from originally and where you live
now and what you like best about it?
Samuel Hällkvist: I grew up in Dalarna (Dalecarlia), Sweden.
Ive 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 thats
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,
Orbit Stern was simply influenced by outer space, and
then I like titles/names that are a bit strange put together.
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.
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. Lets just say that didn't
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?
Hällkvist: Ill 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
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.
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
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? Whats 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?
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 its 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
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 Hanssons 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 youre
very big on?
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 1970s 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
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 its 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