I N T E R V I E W S
The concert room of The Bottom Lounge is a drafty place on a winter afternoon. Doors on three sides open to the elements, skeletal stage gear sprawls across the empty floor, and the few ceiling radiators are no match for a close-pressed sweating crowd—conspicuously absent before nightfall. It was in this dim cavern that I watched two Finns at rock-paper-scissors, best out of three to determine who would represent Wintersun in interview that night. The brainchild of Jari Mäenpää, Wintersun has become modern legend since the release of their 2004 self-titled debut; eight years would pass before its successor, 'Time', and the band's long-awaited debut on American shores.
Paper covered rock in the deciding throw, pairing me with Teemu Mäntysaari, the precocious young gun at Jari's side since shortly after the self-titled's release. Though soft-spoken and reflective, a glinting eye and cagey grin hinted at his sharply dry sense of humor. Throughout our chat I was refreshed to hear no burden of regret or disillusionment even after so many years spent toiling over 'Time'. Rather, the tenor was affirming and fluid, comfortable up in the cosmos of the band's naturalist lyrics as well as down in the details of their touring rigs and gear preferences. Our conversation—at least until we gave off recording and went for a gear tour—can be read below.
ALL INTERVIEWS FOR: WINTERSUN
ALL REVIEWS FOR: WINTERSUN
Maximum Metal: You're about halfway through the tour at this point, correct?
Teemu Mäntysaari: Yeah, eleven shows done and ten more to go.
Maximum Metal: And you had a day off yesterday, but before that were coming from…
Teemu Mäntysaari: St. Paul, Minnesota.
MM: So what's your impression of the progress thus far?
Teemu: It's been totally great. Amazing. A lot better than we could have expected.
MM: Better than expected, despite how crazy Wintersun fans can be?
Teemu: Yeah, but we only knew from Facebook and fan mails. This is the first time for us here and it's been an amazing response. Been great.
MM: Seemed kind of ironic that the first show was in Arizona, considering that it's Winter-sun.
Teemu: Yeah. [chuckles]
MM: Why was it that it started that way?
Teemu: I don't know, actually. We don't make the plan, it was management. But it was kind of nice for us to have a one-day summer holiday.
MM: [laughs] And have you been to the States before?
Teemu: Myself, no, I haven't.
MM: What are your impressions thus far? There could be many, I imagine, but any surprises in particular?
Teemu: Well, everything is of course bigger, but I knew that. I think the people are quite relaxed and it's easy to communicate. Been really good. The audiences at some places are maybe…they start a little slow but are going totally crazy in the end. Great audiences.
MM: Hm. I've noticed that about American audiences. Sometimes almost surly and they don't sing along or wave the flags as much as at European shows. Kind of a different vibe.
Teemu: Yeah, but I've also been kind of surprised that so many people in the front rows actually know the lyrics, even for the new songs.
MM: Aye. To be perfectly honest, I actually thought Wintersun was headlining this tour and only realized later on that it was Eluveitie instead. But I myself am not surprised to hear that the support has been that strong. After that brief time in Arizona, I'm interested to hear your perspective on summer and summery lands. Does the heat evoke anything comparable in you to what the winter does?
Teemu: Well, I myself enjoy the summer. I know all the guys do, especially Jari, because he's not a big fan of winter weather. Although it's inspiring, he doesn't like the cold. So wintertime is inspiring for him because he can stay home and watch the nice landscape from the window. Then during the summer he can go to the beach and actually have fun.
Teemu: Yeah, for holidays the summer is totally great. But deserts and stuff—that we haven't really seen. We were in Arizona, of course, but didn't see that part for long.
MM: I think maybe there are some similarities that can be drawn, what with the barren expanses that you'll find, but like you say, winter has a different kind of oppressive closeness. So, maybe winter to be inspired, summer to unwind after all that creativity.
Teemu: Yeah, true. [nods]
MM: To the new record, then. It seems to be charting rather well. Better than #50 in a number of European countries, #109 in the States--
Teemu: Yeah, that was surprising.
MM: Did you guys have any discussions before the album came out—any expectations for what might happen?
Teemu: No, not really. At least not for the U.S. For Finland we had some expectations that it was going to be quite high, since it's not so hard to chart high in Finland. Of course it depends on the week; like in the U.S., one week is totally different from another for sales figures. But we had no expectations otherwise, so everything that we got was cool.
MM: Hah. Set the bar low and be happy with every clearing?
MM: Were there any countries aside from America that you were surprised by? Any places you've been on tour where the response was a lot stronger than you'd anticipated?
Teemu: Well, during the last tour we did for Heidenfest…I think Poland had a really crazy audience. That was like, when we leaving the venue, already in the bus driving out, people were still chanting outside—
MM: Nice. Of a couple themes I've noticed on the new record, one is a much more pronounced influence of Japanese iconography and sounds. And on your guitar, there's the Japanese symbol for 'Time', right?
Teemu: [smiles] That's right.
MM: So, in doing some reading it seemed that the fascination in that influence dates back years and years. Do you know what the source of that is?
Teemu: I think from Jari's really early days, the Commodore 64 games like Labyrinth—those I think were the start.
Teemu: But then came, of course, the movies. 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon', 'Memoirs of a Geisha'. Those are a big influence. The soundtracks for those movies probably were where Jari got the idea for using oriental instruments and mixing that with a symphony orchestra. Of course the culture is fascinating and sort of mystical for us. We've never been there.
MM: For all of you as a group, you share that interest?
Teemu: Yeah. We're really looking forward to going there to witness it for ourselves and play some shows there. I guess it's fascinating because it's so different from our culture. So taking some bits and pieces here or there and putting it in with our own cultural background, our own mix of music, makes it all more unique.
MM: Seems fair. So, the Commodore 64 for Jari, but what about for you? What was your connection to it? Was it the films you mentioned…?
Teemu: Yeah, films. I think I got into those through Jari, actually. We share that, you know. If one is watching a good movie we'll say, 'Hey, you should check out this one.' So that's how I got into it. But the sign that you talked about, actually Jari had one in his guitar as well but the neck got screwed up and he had to change it. And they weren't able to make another logo in his guitar. Maybe the next one.
MM: Ahhh. Fingers crossed. I'm a sucker for the custom inlays. Yours is on the twelfth fret…? Yes, that's the way to do it. How long have you and Jari known each other?
Teemu: Not before I joined the band, so the end of 2004.
MM: So right as the self-titled was coming out.
Teemu: Yeah, the self-titled came out in September 2004 and right after that I emailed Jari that this was great music and I was really digging it. Then he said he was putting together a band and I said I would be really happy to try to come for an audition. It went well for everybody. [smiles]
MM: And did you have any idea how long it might take for the next record to come out?
Teemu: No, not at that point, of course. Then in 2006 we already started to face some problems with the studio, more and more bad luck, but still nobody could have expected that it would take eight years. But everything is good now and we're happy.
MM: Do you see any advantages to it having taken this long? New things you see in the scene now or the dynamic you have together as a band that make it a better record now than it would have been in 2006?
Teemu: Well, it's hard to say. For sales, of course CDs have gone down a lot since 2006. But on the other hand, because it's taken so long it's built up as this 'Chinese Democracy' kind of thing that's never going to come out. As a band and unit over that time everybody's done their own things, but we'd still get together and have a show here and there. We still meet up with each other and are still good friends. So it's hard to say if it's better if it had come out in 2006 or now when we've had these years to build things up and start at a higher level.
MM: And in '04, when you contacted Jari, what else were you doing?
Teemu: I had quite recently joined another Nuclear Blast band called Imperanon. They had just released an album prior to that, but their other guitarist had quit so I joined the band. I had just moved to the Helsinki area on my own—I was sixteen, seventeen—and was still studying back then, playing guitar, and practicing. Basically, I moved to Helsinki because I wanted to get into serious bands. And that's how it happened.
MM: Seems like it worked out. [laughs] With all this experience now—from studio problems to the shows you've played—are there other things that you'd like to do on your own? Or do you feel that Wintersun is a venue where you can bring forth enough of your own ideas to be satisfied?
Teemu: Touring-wise, this is great. I love touring. On tour we can share the responsibility. I'm taking care of some things—like interviews—and Jari is more in the background relaxing. Musically, I do my own stuff. Just write it, put it in a locker, and save it for later. If I do have some ideas that we can incorporate in Wintersun, then I offer them to Jari. We've done some little riffs and bits and pieces here or there, but still everything has to go through Jari's…
MM: His filter?
Teemu: Filter, yes. There's some of my old stuff that I might release. A solo album or something, maybe just studio stuff. But Wintersun is definitely the main thing that everybody is focusing on. And everybody's fine with that, because, you know, Jari is such a genius. Nobody has to say, "No, don't do it that way! I have a better idea."
[Laughter – Meanwhile, Jukka Koskinen enters in the background and sits on the dressing room couch.]
Teemu: But it's been good. For my own stuff, I've got some instrumental things floating around the internet and maybe…maybe someday there's going to be more.
MM: Primarily instrumental?
Teemu: Yeah. We've done a few kind of shredding things with a keyboard friend of mine. That's just fun…finger sports. [gestures arpeggio] But when I do my own stuff, I get an idea, take my phone to make a video or record it and put it aside. Maybe I'll go back to it sometime later. I've got a bunch of ideas that I just need to sit down and make some sense of. Of course, that's the hardest part.
MM: Right! Coming up with each part—fine. But putting it all together, ah, that's where the challenge comes in. My first impression in listening to the record…it's unmistakably Wintersun, there's no doubt about that. But it's developed and expanded in a number of significant ways. And aside from Wintersun, the name that kept coming to mind was Devin Townsend.
Teemu: [nods] Yep.
MM: And then I remembered after the fact how Jari was a big Devin fan, and realized how I'd read him dropping Devin's name in old interviews as someone he wanted to work with in the future. Are the rest of you fans of Devin's?
Teemu: Yeah, yeah. Sure.
MM: And in the creation of this record, were there any discussions about external influences or artists who were creating things or atmosphere that you wanted to put your own punctuation on?
Teemu: Mm, not so much that we needed 'that band's sound in 'this part', but funnily enough, we have some parts that we call ourselves, "This is the Devin part," or, "This is the Burzum part." But I don't think Jari had in mind that 'Here I need to sound a bit like Devin Townsend.' It just came naturally. Of course there's a big influence. Production-wise, definitely, there are those big layers, big sound, and vocally as well.
MM: I'm just trying to reconcile a Devin part and Burzum part in the same song. Which was the Burzum part…?
Teemu: That's the one in 'Time', you know, after the intro but before the first verse. There's the part with the really lo-fi sound—that's what we call the Burzum part.
MM: [laughs] Nice. I like that. Another interesting development that I noted was in the lyrics: the incorporation of the word "we." On the first record, do either of you know how many times that word showed up…?
Teemu: I haven't counted, but yeah… [already nodding in expectation]
MM: It happened one time in the entire record. Once. And then in 'Sons of Winter and Stars', it's now all over the place like a collective call to arms. Do you think that's because it's more of a collective 'we' instead of the individual 'I' that's going off on these lyrical journeys? What might you attribute that to?
Teemu: I suppose there might be the influence that we had already been together for two or three years when Jari was making the lyrics. So maybe there was the influence that we had grown into a real band and not just a side project. The whole package.
Jukka Koskinen: [from background, wagging eyebrows suggestively] We're starting to have a bro-mance in Wintersun.
MM: Well, that'll keep the dynamic tight.
Teemu: But I'm not sure actually sure if Jari had some ideas for the lyrics already, either on tour or elsewhere.
MM: Hm. And other themes that are discussed a lot—obviously nature is the overwhelming umbrella over everything.
MM: Within that environment, are there certain metaphors that are consistently strong? For instance, winter always representing death, or time always represents…something else. Or is it more holistic?
Teemu: Hm, well I think because Time is such a broad subject, you know, Jari wants to keep a certain kind of mystique in the lyrics. He leaves it up to the listeners to make their own conclusions about what the lyrics mean. But with 'time', I think there's the feeling of being really small in this universe. Trying to see the big picture, we're just a tiny piece and everything else is so broad and wide…I guess that's 'time'. [long pause] You maybe have this…desperate feeling that you can't really do a lot while you're here, anyway. I don't know.
MM: Do each of you have your own private perspectives on that, or is there a band-wide understanding on 'time'?
Teemu: Well, of course everybody has a little bit of their own perspectives, but still I think we agree on the wider level and our view of the world is pretty much similar. And we discuss these things and I think we can relate to each other on this. But lyric-wise, sometimes it's hard to say because Jari wants to keep some things that he doesn't tell anybody about.
MM: When you describe time has having this desperate quality, is that more defeating or inspiring to you?
Teemu: I think it's both. Personally, I think when you see the big, big picture, maybe you can start to really focus on what you're doing and not worry so much about things that don't really matter. At least for myself, it's that kind of feeling.
MM: As if there's just too much, why worry about what you can't really handle?
Teemu: Yeah. Like when you realize that it's just such a short time that we're here, we should just make the most out of it the best way we can.
MM: So putting a positive spin on something that could be…crushingly depressing.
Teemu: [grins] Yeah.
MM: Seems like a healthy worldview.
Teemu: Yeah. Writing about that desperate feeling in the lyrics—that can be a really healing power for some people who are feeling badly. They can relate to the lyrics and get power back from the music. That's always great when we hear that from fans, that they've been having hard times and that our music has really helped them through.
MM: Obviously everyone has their down time, but does the making of or listening to music help you more for your own perseverance?
Teemu: Depends. For myself, both. Of course, making music is really therapeutic. You can really dive into it and you don't have to think about the surrounding world outside. But also getting inspired from other people's music… I think I draw good energy from both.
MM: A brief return to those natural themes. They are there almost to the exclusion of anything modern: technology, urban environment, things like that. But you said you'd moved to Helsinki to seek out serious bands. So do you see things worth cherishing or valuing or even draw any inspiration from our modern environment?
Teemu: Well, I have to say that of course the modern environment is helping in a lot of ways. Like for making music. Computers are evolving all the time, getting better and better, and making it easier for us to make music. So it's a must-have, and not many are going to make music these days without a computer. In modern technology, everything has good and bad sides. You can get too much into Facebook and spend all your time there, but on the other hand if you have a lot of friends around the world it's really easy to connect through Skype or whatever. But for myself I also like to every once in a while get out of the modern thing, go out to the countryside, turn my phone off, and relax.
MM: So you see it as a convenience, but not necessarily as an inspiration.
Teemu: The modern society I don't think is such an inspiration for the music. But on the other hand there's cool stuff like sci-fi and so forth that's inspiring as well. The Space Age…
MM: Hm. I'm not too learned in Japanese cinema in general, but I can't think of much that is married to sci-fi. A lot seems to be urban contemporary or historical—Kurosawa, of course.
Teemu: Yeah, yeah.
MM: Are there any Japanese sci-fi pictures that you know of?
Teemu: No, I don't know, I'm not an expert. But I would guess there's everything over there.
MM: [laughs] Somewhere, at least. Aside from the word and record 'Time' itself, having taken such an amount of time to create is there any single perspective you can have on the album? Often in looking back someone can say, 'Oh, this record was during good times,' or, 'That was a tough year.' But after how long this album took is there any one attitude you can have towards it?
Teemu: Hm, that's a good question. It's hard to say. At least for me, it was a totally different experience from the first album, because then I went to the store and bought it—
MM: As a fan, right.
Teemu: I really got into the music like that, listening to it many times a day. And now with 'Time I' and 'Time II', I've heard the demos from their very scratch beginning and built them up. Already back then when Jari had made the first demos, they already sounded really great and we were excited for how it was going to end up. And it exceeded our expectations. But it's hard to say anymore because we've grown up with it. It's such a close and personal thing that it's hard to say how outside people are going to feel when they listen to the album. I hope it's something similar to what I myself had when I got into the first album. There's just something magical about it.
MM: Are you able to listen to either 'Time' or the first record as a fan now, or do you feel like you can't approach either in the same way?
Teemu: The first one still, definitely. Every once in a while I just put it on, take the lyrics booklet, and listen through. And that still feels the same. But the new one is feeling a little different. To be honest, I really haven't done that yet with the album—that I actually take the booklet and sit through it. But I'm going to do it after this tour when we'll have some time off. Because as of now I've been doing something with the album all the time, anyway: a little guitar thing here or there, we did that live version for the DVD—
MM: Ah, the rehearsal video? Kai with all of his stick twirls…
Teemu: Yeah. [laughs]
MM: I had a similar circumstance, though by no means near the same scale. I joined a band after hearing their first demos and the first album, and it's so interesting to have that conception—looking up at the band as a fan—and then gaining access and participating through the whole process. Having done that, seeing how things were built up behind the scenes, did it change your connection to the first record?
Teemu: Well, in some ways, like technically knowing how things were done. But on the other hand it was done in a very different way than this album, so it's not very comparable. I think it's been pretty much what I expected it to be from when I joined the band. Of course the guys are great players and when I joined I realized that they are also great people. We get along very well. But I'm kind of sad that there's no media material of the recordings of the first album. It wasn't documented very well and it would have been nice to see how the guys actually did it. Now there are just the stories.
MM: That's maybe what keeps it a little magical, as you say. For this record, if it's been such a close part of your musical process for all these years now, do you feel that you're ready to let it go?
Teemu: I guess that was a bit hard, too, to finish the master and say, 'Now it's done. Let's release it.' That was a little hard. And I know for Jari personally he had a little time down after he had completed it. But a week or two later he realized that it was actually quite good. But I'm glad that we don't have to let it go entirely and that we can cherish the songs now, playing them live. And for some time to come, also.
MM: Does playing it live and getting out of the studio, what with all its multi-tracking and things like that, reveal new facets or change your experience of the songs?
Teemu: [ponders] Of course it's a different feeling when you're playing on stage. And for the fans, too, the band is in the front, live, and on the album the orchestra is more there with the band, maybe equal or whatever. Playing live, the orchestra is more back and also the backing vocals are just three guys singing live. So that's different. Basically it's just Jari singing on the album, with Jukka doing some growls here and there. And sure, we had to drop out some guitar things where there's like, eight guitar tracks on the album. Can't do that live. But I do also really like the band version of the album. If you listen to the rehearsal DVD, the band is a little more there, you get a little punchier drums because there's more space. More guitars, so you can hear more the riffs…
MM: That segues into the last topic I was interested in. I've read that Jari was interested in exploring more different kind of tunings, and that drop-Bb was something he talked about. And that's great—I love that tuning and use it a lot. Looking forward a bit, is that already being incorporated? Or are there other pieces of gear, techniques…what things are you really excited to dig into when you start working on the next album?
Teemu: There's always so much guitar gear…
MM: More than you could ever have.
Teemu: Yeah. But tuning-wise, we already now have four tunings. One the first album there's standard E, then D, drop-C, and now with 'Land of Snow and Sorrow' there's drop-Bb. So four tunings, but nowadays live we're doing the E standard songs also in D, just to save one guitar, and the drop-Bb we are actually pitch shifting with Axe-Fx. It's just two half-steps down and it's working really great, at least for such a slow song because there's always a little bit of latency. But because there isn't any shredding or anything, it's quite good. And we have our in-ear monitoring system so it's close to a zero-millisecond latency anyway. It's ok.
MM: And gear-wise, Axe-Fx just seems so effective and efficient, but for your own uses—if you were to go home and turn on your rig, would you choose Axe-Fx?
Teemu: I have a bunch of different amps at home, but I'm sure if we would have a limitless budget on tour we would bring real amps and big gear. But because Axe is so lightweight and easy to fly with, it makes the job easier for everybody. And still the sound is 95% there. It's ok-sounding. Nobody ever complains, at least from our live feedback. But in the future, we're looking to develop that side as well, maybe incorporating Axe with some real amps. Now the computer's running Cubase and that's changing the presets in Axe-Fx, which makes it really easy for us.
MM: Ahh, don't have to do any dancing on the pedalboards…? But what amps do you use on your own? Outside of the touring circumstance.
Teemu: We are Mesa-Boogie endorsed and that's what we used on the album as well. We tried a bunch of different things. We tried the Mark V, had three different cabinets, and ended up with the 4x12 Rectifier. We had actually two of the same models—one used, one brand new—and we went with the used one.
MM: Little more worn in? Are those Vintage 30s in there?
Teemu: Yeah, and I think they're Vintage 30s. Amp-wise, the Triaxis and Simul-Class was still the way to go, like on the first album. It just seems to have the best attack and is really tight. I never liked the Rectifiers as much. They're great for low tunings and a chugging kind of thing, but not as much for tight rhythms. Personally I also like the Crate Blue Voodoo and I also have a Cornford Hellcat. It's really cool, I really like the lead tone in that one. UK-made. And some other digital stuff—ToneLab, also the Kemper modeling thing from Germany. A little in the same category as Axe-Fx, where you can steal any sound and put it in the box. But, yeah, we're still trying different things. It'd just be great to just have, like Axe-Fx, one real amp that could just do everything, of course. But also with Axe we have different presets for different amps, I think almost 30.
MM: And you use all of them because they're time-based throughout the set, or…?
Teemu: Yeah, because we're playing to a click-track anyway. So it's MIDI and is changing everything. It's 30 because you've got the rhythm sound in one part of the song, Jari's here and I'm over there, and it splits left and right. But when Jari's playing a solo, my guitar is stereo spread with the delay on the other channel while Jari has the mono channel with a stereo delay. And then there are different volume levels for different parts.
MM: Hm. I guess on the one hand I miss seeing people dealing with all their pedals, but it is so much easier. Especially when you have such a complex studio project that you're trying to bring in a relatively full way to the stage.
Teemu: Yeah, yeah. Sure it makes it easier. But I, too, also like big pedalboards. They look cool and it's nice to step on it every once in a while. But on the other hand it's nice to be able to walk freely on the stage.
MM: And for guitars, you're both Ibanez players. Have you always been one?
Teemu: Mm-hmm. Actually my first guitar was an Ibanez, back when I started, and then I had some Jacksons in between, but Ibanez has always been there. When I joined the band I introduced Ibanez to Jari, who was still playing Jackson and a Tokai Telecaster.
MM: Ahh, that's the one in the picture...? [Gestures the arms-spread, frost-edged promo shot long used for Jari and Wintersun before 'Time' came out] I didn't know that was a Tokai.
Teemu: Yeah. So then we first got a distributor deal, locally in Finland, and then we got the actual connection with the company and got customs from there. It's been good. Especially the RGD prototypes that we got now. That's what we used for recording the 'Time I' and 'Time II' rhythm guitars. We got two of them with the 26.5" scale. Those were really good for both drop-C and drop-Bb tuning. But of course, with the shredding stuff there's that little extra stretch there, so we don't bring them on tour yet. You asked about the future tunings: 'Time II' is going to be the same with D and drop-C. 'Land…' is the only drop-Bb song in the whole 'Time' cycle, but after that I think Jari has a huge pile of riffs already written in drop-Bb. So I think there's going to be a lot more of that.
MM: Nice. I like it because you can get into the decidedly low register, lower than all those C standard death metal bands, but it's not so low that it's indecipherable. You can still have pretty tight riffing and pick out everything that's happening. It's amazing that one half a step can make so much difference.
Teemu: [nodding all the while] Yeah, yeah.
MM: So what kind of strings are you preferring to use in that kind of register?
Teemu: We both prefer .56 for the low string in drop-C. That's what we have now for the live guitars, but they are obviously 25.5" scale. For studio and drop-Bb, we have a 26.5" scale and I think we had .60 or .62 as the low string. Otherwise Jari likes to use a little bit lighter on the top end—he uses 10s, and I've got 11s. Jari's playing DR and I'm playing D'Addario.
MM: Have you ever tried any fanned-fret guitars?
Teemu: Not fanned-fret, but I have one in true-temperament.
MM: Really. Is it maybe Steve Vai-inspired, as an Ibanez player?
Teemu: Ahh, yes.
MM: I saw you guys went to the Ibanez factory out there [in California]. How was that?
Teemu: Yeah, we did. That was really cool to see how it was actually done. I had only seen some pictures on message boards about the place and it was actually a little bigger than I thought. Overall it's not too big and there are just a few people working there, but it's still a really cool place. They had Steve Vai's personal guitars, Paul Gilbert's guitars… a really cool place and nice to be there.
MM: The true-temperament guitar that you have—is that also an Ibanez or a custom job that you had done?
Teemu: It's an Ibanez. We got a blank neck and just sent it to Sweden and the guy did it there. Got it back and had some problems with the frets staying it, so you can't get extremely low action with that one, but with a little bit higher action and the right string gauge you can really make those triad chords sound perfect.
MM: Is it weird to play at all, what with barre chords and so forth?
Teemu: Personally I think it's really naturally, even with bends and everything. Because it's really such a small difference. Maybe when you're sliding it feels a little different, but I like it. Not sure if it would work so well if one of us had those frets and the other one didn't when we're playing harmonies or the same chord. Then you'd get some dissonance. But maybe we're looking into that more later. And also Peavey came up with an auto-tune thing—(AT-200 guitar, which can customize and modulate output signals before they leave the guitar)
MM: Have you tried that yet?
Teemu: Not yet.
MM: I had a chance to try one last week.
Teemu: How was it?
MM: Interesting. Actually pretty intuitive how it works and in certain settings it works really well. If you want to change to an open tuning—open D or something—and if you're playing just rock and roll it works really well. If you want, you can fret at the 12th fret of the A and E, send those down an entire octave, and use it like a bass to comp along on the treble side. But if you tune the entire thing down really low it begins to get a little fuzzy at the edges. And it didn't seem to respond too well to palm-muting. So I don't know how well it'd work for Wintersun, which has a lot of racing palm-muted parts. But it was fascinating. The weirdest part for me was hearing a low register but not feeling that corresponding string tension at all. If you're tuned to drop-Bb but you're still playing a 10-46—that threw me off considerably.
Teemu: Yeah. I tried a similar kind of thing with the Line 6 Variax. That has one, too, and I had the acoustic for a while. But, yeah, the Peavey sounded really interesting, so I thought we could maybe get one, get the electronics out, and put it in an Ibanez.
MM: Don't tell them that. Worth a try, though. I'm looking forward to seeing your own guitar on stage. Haven't seen many pictures, but it looks quite good. Based off of an RGA model…?
Teemu: Yeah, an RGA. It has an arch top, though it's just a slight one. The sculpted horns are a custom thing, and also on the back side where you can reach a little bit.
MM: Better access?
Teemu: Yes, to the high frets. Also the last four frets are scalloped, Steve Vai style. Yeah, basically that was something that I had had in my mind for a while. Reverse headstock and everything. The blue color didn't quite come out like I would have wished, but still it is quite ok.
MM: It is, after all, a custom guitar from Ibanez, so that's not so bad.
Teemu: [smiling] yes.
MM: Have you tried the Xiphos with, I think, 27 frets? Muhammed from Necrophagist was playing something like that for a while.
Teemu: Yeah, I think I tried something like that at the Finnish distributor. But it was 30, the really strange looking RG…
MM: Oh, almost like an Uli-Jon Roth kind of thing with the massive cutaway?
Teemu: Yeah, that was something. It was really easy. We would probably not use more than the 27th fret or whatever, but when you have access to the 30th fret it is really easy to get to the 24th. But I think it looks too strange.
MM: Yes, a little much. I'm not much of a shredder anyway, so getting up to the 24th fret, much less past it, is tricky. You know the band Týr from the Faroe Islands…?
Teemu: Sure. We toured with them in 2006.
MM: Hm, that would have been a good show to see. Did Heri have his custom yet?
Teemu: Not yet. He did have some other custom that had something extra, though.
MM: The one I've seen was a gorgeous guitar.
Teemu: I think that is based on a limited edition model or the limited edition is based on Heri's custom. Either way, they look similar. Except that Heri has the 7th string, which is the only one that exists, I think.
MM: Do you play 7-string at all?
Teemu: I have a couple at home but I never got into that. I have small hands, you know, and it feels so different. I guess if I spent more time with it, it would feel and look more natural. But with the chords and arpeggios, you have to think a little bit differently.
MM: Right. I like using it for huge 7-string barres. I use it for doom, mostly, and you can generate a massive wall of sound. Pretty gratifying. Who was the luthier that you sent your guitar to in Sweden?
Teemu: That was the guy that came up with the thing, he's called Anders Thidell. The other is Paul Guy, I think. He's also the one who did the guitars for Steve Vai.
MM: Well, I think that about covers whatever I had. Very informative and I'm glad to see you finally here.
Teemu: My pleasure... Want to check out some gear?
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