An Interview with Mattias IA Eklundh

Interview by R. Scott Bolton
October 2005

When he's not cooking up some musical confection for Freak Kitchen, guitarist Mattias IA Eklundh is conceiving and writing new tunes and playing the hell out of his guitar. One listen to his new CD, "Freak Guitar: The Road Less Traveled," may not immediately grab you, but subsequent listenings will reveal a steady, courageous edge that will eventually have you nodding your head in perhaps grudging admiration ... especially when Mattias has taken one of your favorite songs and turned it into ... well, something else.

We caught up with Mattias recently and asked about his heroes, his thoughts on the art of guitar playing and some of those interesting tools he's been known to use. Of course, there's one question I forgot to ask him: What does "IA" stand for?

Rough Edge: I understand that Ace Frehley was one of the first people to inspire you to play guitar. Ace has inspired thousands of guitarists the world over. What is it about Ace that does that?

Mattias IA Eklundh: He is just cool and has a certain bite no one can imitate. I mean, he's as far from a virtuoso guitar player as one can be but I'd rather listen to Ace bend his string nice and slow than some boring warp-speed player that has nothing to say.

Rough Edge: And then you mention Frank Zappa. Zappa's brilliance is so obvious that there's no need to ask what it was about him that inspired you. However, any comments about Zappa's work?

Mattias IA Eklundh: Gee, where should I begin?! Zappa has influenced me in so many ways since I was a kid. I love all his stuff, totally subjective, from the early Mothers to the wonderful, ground-breaking Synclavier music like "Civilisation Phase III." There's a Zappa album for every day, every mood. He was the one.

Rough Edge: You cover the theme from "Fletch" on the new "Freak Guitar" CD. How did that come about?

Mattias IA Eklundh: I am big Chevy Chase fan and "Fletch" is the movie I've seen the most of all movies. I don't know how many different copies I've got lying around in the basement, very stupid, I know, but one can never own a "Fletch" DVD/laser video/VHS too many. I think it's brilliant and also love the Gregory MacDonald books. Harold Faltermeyer's lovely soundtrack had to be converted to the 21st century, freak style.

Rough Edge: What I love about the "Road Less Traveled" CD is its complete originality. It's so hard to find a guitar instrumental 
that's different. I mean, there are so many out there and so many are enjoyable but they all seem to focus solely on the guitarist and the genre he or she is best known for. You explore virtually every genre under the sun on your CD. Can you tell us a little about that refreshing variety?

Mattias IA Eklundh: Thank you, that was very kind. This sounds like cliché bull but I basically try to make the album I myself would like to listen to and since I don't enjoy eating macaroni and cheese seven days a week, neither do I want to limit my composing and recording to a certain genre. Freak Guitar can be anything. I love experimenting although make it understandable (or at least slightly) for the guy/gal in the street.

Rough Edge: As I mentioned above, you explore virtually every genre on "Road Less Traveled." Which is your favorite to play? Is one more difficult than another?

Mattias IA Eklundh: I don't think about "oh, now I should try to make something funky, or heavy, or..." I simply turn on my equipment and see what comes out. Sometimes it's turning into pure crap, but sometimes there are interesting musical ideas that have to be explored. And the guitar is an excellent instrument to use. I believe we're only scratching the surface on what can be done with the guitar. The problem is everyone is looking over their shoulders to check out what the other guy is doing instead a walking the road less traveled, so to speak, which in my book is far more interesting. But that's me and I am Swedish.

Rough Edge: How does it feel stepping out of Freak Kitchen long enough to record a solo CD? How do the two different projects differ?

Mattias IA Eklundh: My solo stuff is recorded over a long period of time, often several years, and since I own my own studio, I can take the time I need. Breaking new ground takes time. With Freak Kitchen it's the total opposite. I compose, we rehearse and then start recording and work with the album until it's done. The best of both worlds.

Rough Edge: You've been quoted as saying you don't need to use any guitar effects because the guitar itself has so many different sounds. But do you have a problem with those who use those effects? Is there a place for them?

Mattias IA Eklundh: Of course. Sometimes I wish I was more interested in effects because, needless to say, it can add a certain flavor to the music. I record completely dry without effects and in live situations I don't use anything but my Caparison guitars and Laney amps. But when I mix I add delays, plates and reverbs to not make the music sound claustrophobic. You got to create a room and vibe for every instrument so effects are not bad. It's more the way players use them and depend on them. Also I am old fashioned and like the sound of hard working, burning tubes. When you stick a lot of shit in between the guitar and the amp you loose, if you ask me, more than you gain. Focus on the playing instead of stomping on pedals. I can't do both because I will trip since I sing at the same time. I really suck, ergh, ergh.

Rough Edge: I understand you used a dildo on a previous solo CD. Any interesting artifacts involved in "Road Less Traveled"?

Mattias IA Eklundh: Well... spit, tongue, teeth (Toxic Donald, Toxic Mickey and Samba Caramba), chopsticks (Chopstick Boogie), stringless guitars (No Strings Attached), an Epson printer (Print This!) and more. I don't use these things because I feel a need to be so different for the sake of being different. I do it because it adds something to the music. It has to have a point, otherwise it's just wanking.

Rough Edge: You also cover "Smoke on the Water" on the new CD, a song that is one of my all-time favorites but also one of the most over-played songs in the history of rock radio. Yet you managed to make it interesting again. What drew you to cover that song and how did you manage to infuse new life into it?

Mattias IA Eklundh: I sat down with the printed lyrics and told myself that if it doesn't turn out fresh and Swedish-sounding enough, ergh, I wouldn't put it on the record. I know what you mean, it is the very tune one should not make a cover of and I blush a little when I look at the track listing of the album. My neighbor’s kid played it to me with a sinister look in his face and for a second there I heard it the same way I heard it a million years ago and realized how cool the tune actually is. There was no option but for me to wreck it completely. My version is very hard to play and I had to break down every sentence and find a way to use natural harmonics in the weirdest of positions to make it happening.

Rough Edge: Tell us a little about the future of Freak Kitchen, your future solo plans and any other projects you have in line.

Mattias IA Eklundh: I am super-excited about playing with maestro Jonas Hellborg whom I've been a fan of for decades. It's an honor. We're going to India to tour our brains out and the rest of planet whenever we can squeeze it in. I've been longing for something challenging like this for years, to be a side-kick to someone I respect and simply play good, rewarding music together. Along with Freak Kitchen and my Freak Guitar things this is pretty much all I've got time for. We have the fabulous Morgan Agren on drums so it's going to be a kick ass trio indeed. Hope to record together as well, most likely live, where I think I do my best playing, at times. I am a fortunate guy.

We also plan a live-DVD with Freak Kitchen, an instructional DVD with my freaky playing, keep on touring with the band in 2006 (US touring plans finally) and keep on doing what I am doing: spreading Freak Disease, ergh.

Rough Edge: Thanks for talking with us!

Mattias IA Eklundh: Thank You!

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Copyright © 2005 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 31 Jul 2018 23:38:09 -0400