AN INTERVIEW WITH MARCUS JIDELL

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Marcus Jidell will be for many be known as the guitarist in Evergrey and a former member of Royal Hunt.  To others he will be known as simply a great guitarist, something his debut solo album “Pictures From A Time Traveller” is testament to.  We caught up with Marcus to discuss his new album in some detail and try and get an insight into the albums creation and what being a musician means to Marcus.

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Marcus, many thanks for agreeing to this interview.  You have your debut solo album coming out in August, after many years on the scene how come it has taken this long to make a solo album?

From the beginning it wasn’t meant to be an solo album. I started to write songs just for fun. Since I started to learn music I have always been writing music in periods and the reason I started this project was that I wanted to see if could write instrumental music and make it interesting for me to listen to.

This album has been written and recorded under a long period of time, I started to write the songs and do the demos about 8 years ago. 5 years ago I started to record drums for the songs with Andreas Johansson, right after that I worked for a month with the songs but didn’t get the feel and sound that I was looking for. I was working by myself and didn’t have the knowledge and studio equipment that I needed so I just got tired of it and stopped the process.  In between touring I continued to work with other studio productions such as Royal Hunt and Evergrey and I actually got a little better in how to record and mix music.

One year ago I found the old recordings and listened to the songs and felt that, wow this is good!! So I started to work on the songs again to finish the recordings that Andreas had played drums on. We used the drums we recorded 5 years ago on 3 of the songs but we had to re-record drums on Huldra to get the groove right. That had nothing to do with how Andreas played but how it was recorded.

While on tour with Evergrey, Hannes Van Dahl and I talked about if maybe he could play on some songs on the album to, so when we found the time we did. Hannes plays drums on two of the songs and did (of course) a great job!

 What struck me about the album is that it is very strong, not only musically but structurally as well; this isn’t your archetypical guitar album.

I don’t think so but my intention wasn’t to make a typical guitar album, I just wanted to write good music. I wanted to make an instrumental album that was more than just shred. I wanted to make compositions that were interesting to listen to even if you’re not a guitar player. I love to listen to instrumental classical music from composers like Debussy, Stravinsky,Mozart , Elgar, Beethoven amongst others and I got inspired by the way these guys arrange music. But then again you also need some Blues feel and Rock ´n Roll to make this kind of music come alive and not just be intellectual. I am very emotional when I play and listen to music, either it moves me or it doesn’t and if it moves me I like it! J

It says in the albums promo literature that you wrote each song to depict a very visual interpretation, I notice a lot of the titles refer to places, events or ideas, where these titles the initial seed for the musical ideas or did you hatch onto a visual idea from the music?

A song like “Huldra” for example started with me playing the main theme on a piano one day. I love folk music and this theme is inspired from Swedish folk music. Anyway, when I heard myself play this melody I started to think about the Huldra or “Skogsrået” as she is called in Swedish. Thinking of this old folklore figure inspired me to finish the song and everything came quite natural as I had the story in my head.

I think that most of the time when I come up with something that I like I try to feel what it sounds like to be able to build up a “story”. It’s so much more fun to write music if I am trying to tell something with it.  But it doesn’t matter if the listener hears another story because that’s what it’s about you see, I want to inspire peoples imagination and creativity with my music.

I think fans of both Evergrey and Royal Hunt will find much to enjoy here, was this important to you?

Of course I want the fans of Royal Hunt and Evergrey to enjoy my music but I have to follow my own taste and feelings when I write music. If I don’t it wouldn’t be honest I think.

Right now I just want to make another album I have a lot of music in me that wants to come out.  I just hope that I will find the time for it so it doesn’t take another 8 years and I also hope that people will like this album and buy it so I can afford to work on the next one. J

You say you began work on the album a few years ago, but put it on hold due to lack of studio experience, what specific things do you mean?

For example I didn’t have the knowledge how to mix it by myself. Another thing was that I didn’t have the equipment required – Preamps and these kinds of things. I have been doing a lot of research in “sounds” the last 5-8 years and that finally paid off for me. Now I am producing and recording all kinds of things in the Damage Done Studio so next album will be so much easier to make for me. It still takes a very long time to write good music though .

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Can you give us a track by track breakdown of how you view the album?

Arctica  

Arctica is the more “modern” song for me with the fast double kicks and the energy in the drums.  The fast double kicks illustrate the feeling of being chased by a polar bear I guess. It started when I watched a documentary about the Arctic winter and how the animals tried to survive in that extremely hard environment.  I also got inspired by how  a place can be so beautiful and at the same time so mean, cold and harsh.
Huldra (Ruler of the Forest)

Inspired by Swedish folk music with a twist of Doom metal.  Svante Henryson is playing an amazing cello solo on this song. I wanted this song to be very suggestive and groovy at the same time.  So in short I would say: Hendrix meets an old Swedish folk musician ( with a special taste for DOOM 🙂 and starts to jam.

Tesla World System

Nicola Tesla got the reputation of being the true “mad scientist” and what can be more inspiring for writing a piece of music!? For me he is a man that deserves a little more attention then what he had. One of the visions he had with the Tesla World System was that music should be able to be spread around the world.. I listened to King Crimson the other day and kind of realized that there are some elements of them in this song.

Rei Zan

This song was supposed to be on the Japan press of the Evergrey Glorious Collision album. But we never signed a deal in Japan so it never came out. I have been in Japan a few times with Royal Hunt and this song is inspired by the landscape there. Mountains and volcanoes such as Mount Fuji for example.

El-Amarna (Ruins of Akhetaton)

I read this book about pharaoh Echnaton and the city he built.  He tried to build a place where peace should reign but of course it didn’t work out the way he planned. I still hope that there will be peace in the world some day but I guess not under my lifetime.

Space Dog

If you listen to the intro of this song you might get a feeling of how it felt for Lajka ( the first dog in space) to be thrown out in space whiteout being asked or properly informed ( it’s very hard to explain these things for a dog )..

Wedding Song

A song I composed a long time ago for my elder brother and his wife that me and my father performed at their wedding.

You have some guest musicians helping out on the album, how did they come onboard and where the specific chosen for them to perform on for a particular reason?

I know a lot of musicians of course since I have been doing this for a time now but my aim was always to find the ones that could make the music grow and do something that I wouldn’t do but still like. I learned so much from doing this album and there has been a lot of headache as well but in the end it came out as a quite decent thing.

You even have your Dad playing cello, what does he think of your music?

You have to ask him, I guess, but he tells me that it sounds nice when I play it for him. But then again he is a very nice and humble man so maybe he just don’t want to hurt my feelings. 😉 No seriously, my father has always been interested in my music since I became a pro and we talk a lot about different music when we meet. Most of the time we discuss classical music and Jazz though.

Is “Pictures From A Time Traveller” a good indicator of the kind of music you like to create?

Yes I would say so but if I had recorded it today it would have been different.  This album has opened a door for me and I want to continue this journey for a long time. I think that if I will have the opportunity to do another album that one will be more “old school” sound wise but then again you never know until you start the writing process. For me it is very important that music is emotional. The technical stuff is only relevant if it adds emotions to the music. I get very bored when I listen to musicians that just play phrases and things that they have learned by practicing.

I think that it is important to create in the moment now and then. Take the plunge you know!Sometimes it will sound bad but sometimes you will find things you never thought you could come up with and that’s what I live for I guess.

Going back to your childhood, did you have a rich musical upbringing?

There was always music around in my home. My father says that I sang before I could talk.

What were the first bands you liked?

Saxon, Iron Maiden when I was 6 years I guess and then I started to listen to Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple and so on.  I remember the first time I heard Dio, it was the Holy Diver album and I thought it was the best thing I ever heard.  Then of course Yngwie Malmsteen, he was the reason I started to practice extremely much because I read that he did that.  I have been listening to so much different music when I grew up. As a teenager I listened a lot to Metallica, Miles Davis,m Charlie Parker, Bach, Elvis, Santana, Joe Satriani, Yngwie, Johnny Winter, Muddy Waters, Folk Music from around the world and so much more different music and genres, I have always been very interested in trying to understand all kinds of music. As long as it touches my heart I like it.

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What made you take up guitar?

The sound of distortion!! The first time I heard a distorted guitar I knew that I had to learn to make these sounds.

When do you realise you had enough skill to make a living from the instrument?

For me it never was a choice I just had to play music.

What guitars, amps and effects did you use on the album?

Marshall Amps. JVM 210H, 900 Modified by Tommy Folkesson and a Marshall Plexi.
Pedals like: Ibanez Tube Screamer DLX, EP Booster, Bigg Muff, Hot Cake, MXR phase 90, YJM308, Cry Baby and a lot more.
Caparison guitars, Gibson, Fender, W.Carter guitars.

What do you personally look for in a guitar and amp?

I want the amp and guitar to have dynamics and warmth.

Do you have a preferred mic’ing technique?

No, I try different things a every time. I try to find the sound when I record so I don’t have to do so much in the mix later. For me it’s about “playing in the music” while recording. If I manage to do that it usually works out good. It’s more about the performance then about the things you use actually.

Looking ahead, what do you have planned for the rest of 2013 and beyond?

If I can make a wish I really hope that this album will sell good so that I can do some live gigs with the material!!!

Anything else you’d like to add?

I want to thank Lion Music for releasing this album and please check out my Facebook if you want more info:

https://www.facebook.com/marcusjidellofficial

Marcus, many thanks for your time.

Thank YOU very much!!

/ Marcus

 

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MARCUS JIDELL – PICTURES FROM A TIME TRAVELLER

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Released 16 August 2013 on Lion Music

Marcus Jidell to many will be better known as a current guitarist in Evrgrey and a previous employee of Royal Hunt.  Yet “Pictures From A Time Traveller” is the guitarists debut solo album and sees a work in the instrumental mould yet one that will come as a pleasant surprise to many.

Now before you fear a million notes per second type release prepare to think again.  Granted whilst Marcus can melt frets with the best out there, he also is a masterful composer and so this album works more as a collection of “songs” as opposed to mundane musical backings servicing as a backdrop for even more tasteless shredding.

Fans of Evergrey will appreciate the dark undertones to the music and the album in many ways is a conceptual work in so much as the music delivers rich imagery to the listener and takes you on your own journey.

Opener ‘Artica’ offers up different strands of light and shade with Jidell’s impassioned guitar work working its way through different moods over an inventive musical back from drummer Andreas Johansson and Evergrey/ Therion/Mind’s Eye bassist Johan Niemann and even Marcus’ own father on cello!  Other musicians featured on the album include Evergrey drummer Hannes Van Dahl on 2 tracks and former Yngwie Malmsteen bassist, Svante Henryson on Cello.

“Pictures From A Time Traveller” boasts a strong textural backdrop of keyboard and piano which help create more depth throughout the album.

“Huldra (Ruler Of The Forest)” is built around a jaunty almost folk like melody whilst “Tesla World System” is a 70’s prog influenced meets gothic metal type affair with a organ solo from Royal Hunt’s mastermind Andre’ Andersen as well.

“Rei-Zan” is built around an emotional melodic theme which allows Marcus the chance to really show what he can do with soulful string bends and note choice.

The six minute “El-Amarna (Ruins of Akhetaton)” has, as its title suggest, an almost Egyptian theme to the melody and the track is a definite highlight building as it goes along, and there is some truly fine fretwork here.

“Space Dog” fuses metal riffs and even more quality leads with a Pink Floyd type ambient backdrop before the album closes with the delicate “Wedding Song”.

With a running time of just under 34 minutes for the 7 songs on “Pictures From A Time Traveller” this album certainly won’t outstay its welcome, indeed you will find yourself longing for more.  This is also an album that I can see staying with the listener for a long time, there is a lot of discover contained within, yet also enough from the first listen to get you interested in the first place.

Marcus Jidell has delivered a first class album with “Pictures From A Time Traveller” sporting excellent song craft, superb performances from all involved and a very strong production to boot.  Budding instrumental guitarists of the world grab this when released (digital only) on 16 August and give yourself a master class in how good the genre can be.

Rating – 95%

ROYAL HUNT – SHOW ME HOW TO LIVE

Out now on Frontiers Records

Wow. Bombastic. First thing that went through my head when hearing the opening track to Royal Hunt’s new album. “One More Day” almost matches latter day Savatage for pomposity. And it does set the tone for the rest of the album. Intricate, one might say overblown, arrangements make the sonic palette rather fatiguing. There’s keyboards everywhere. No points for guessing which member founded the band… “Half Past Loneliness” is a stand out track. Very well balanced with plenty of hooks. Nice.

Everything is flawlessly executed, but I just find myself thinking “c’mon guys, chill a little”.  DC Cooper’s slightly nasal voice is an acquired taste. Production is average. Keyboard heavy, to the detriment of the guitars.

For fans of the genre there’s probably plenty to enjoy. It’s not my cup of tea though.

I felt tired after listening to this album. Hard to give a score, but I’ll try to base it on objective criteria.

Rating – 75%*
Review by Sancho

* Add 10 points if you like your metal bombastic and crammed with notes. Subtract 20 if you think AC/DC have gone pompous on their last album.

SEVEN THE HARDWAY – S/T (REVIEW)

Out Now on Mascot Records

Seven the Hardway is a 5-piece progressive rock/metal band formed in 2009 by guitar virtuoso Tony MacAlpine (Steve Vai, Planet X, CAB), legendary drummer Virgil Donati (Planet X) and renowned vocalist Mark Boals (Uli Jon Roth, Royal Hunt, Yngwie Malmsteen).  Joining MacAlpine, Donati and Boals are bass player Doug Shreeve and 21 year old Argentinian newcomer Stefanía Daniel on guitar though this pair according to the complete lack of their names in any capacity on the inlay booklet suggest they have joined after completion of the album for live work as Macalpine is also credited with bass on the album in addition to Guitar and keyboards.

This 10 track debut album has been mixed by Roy Z and is a completely different kettle of fish to when the core trio last collaborated in the neo-classical band Ring Of Fire.  Musically this is being marketed as progressive yet alternative metal might well be a better genre to go with.  Vocally this is far away from anything I have really heard from Boals.  Gone is the trademark operatic wail to be replaced by a much darker timbre and in the case of opener “Liar” a bit of an need to be Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell rolled into one with Alice In Chains style vocal harmonies.  Not what was expected at all. 

The vocal weirdness is prevalent pretty much throughout the album yet hits its nadir with the mock rapping of “Guilt” – yes really.  The AIC ism’s return for “Solitary Man” over a nice odd time signature dirge of a riff from T-Mac which does fare a little better.    The dark acoustic tone of “Where I’m Going” is better, yet “All I Had” is trying to be modern metal and is a complete write-off to these ears and I have to ask, Is Boals singing off key on purpose?   “Blame” plays around a riff the likes of Soundgarden might get away with yet lacks any staying power.  “The Wall” offers up hope with a faster tempo and is as progressive as the album gets in its musicality and even Boals appears to be trying a little harder here, yet we are treated (cough) to some vocal fx just in-case we might get a hint of the Boals of old, or so it feels like.  And so the album progresses until closure, and nothing manages to raise the quality level.

When I first received this album I was rather excited.  3 of my favourite musicians over the years, who have made excellent music both collectively and individually in the past, this should have been good.  That excitement quickly disappeared.  Vocally its dated already, perhaps more so than Boals operatic wailings from the Yngwie days, musically there is the odd peak but not anywhere near enough to maintain any real interest.  Progressive fans will find this samey and dare I say it bland, modern alternative metal fans will most likely look at the personnel and dismiss it straight away and the grunge boat sailed 15 years ago so it’s hard to see what audience this will appeal to?  Perhaps I am missing the point completely? All I know is that is a huge disappointment from start to finish and is topped off by poor artwork, which coincidentally bears no resemblance to the look being portrayed on the bands new website!

 A major major letdown.

Rating – 30%