Elmo Karjalainen Interview
PD. What type of artist are you?
EK. The bearded type. I’m actually known to do a whole host of stuff. I’ve made instrumental rock solo albums. I have one acoustic instrumental album. I play in various rock and metal bands. I also do the odd gig playing evergreen stuff, and on top of that I do some troubadour gigs. I’m also a bit silly on occasion, like on some of the videos I post on Facebook or YouTube. I also have some kind of strange fetish of playing stuff like “The Simpsons” theme in songs where it doesn’t really fit.
I also have some kind of strange fetish of playing stuff like “The Simpsons” theme in songs where it doesn’t really fit.
PD. Tell us the brief history of yourself.
EK. I was born in 1979, and I started playing guitar at the age of 11. It took me a couple of years to really start practicing. The biggest reason was probably I got a teacher who asked me what I want to play.
I’ve played in a band called Deathlike Silence and we even managed to have a small radio hit. Nowadays I play in the nationally quite well known band Kilpi, plus in the bands Seagrave and Helena & Kalevi. I also have a couple of projects in the works of my own, plus I’ve recently started doing troubadour gigs. Besides playing I have a degree in philosophy from Åbo Akademi university, and I teach music in elementary school.
PD. Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
EK. My first one was probably Queen and Brian May in particular. I used to sing his solos when I was just a wee bairn. Gary Moore was the one who got me started on the guitar. After that there were the usual suspects, Yngwie, Vai and Satriani. Then there were people and bands like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steve Lukather, Genesis, Devin Townsend, Danny Gatton, Pat Metheny, Meshuggah, Jeff Beck, Mattias IA Eklundh (who I managed to get to play on my last record).
PD. What are your dreams and goals?
EK. My childhood dream was to become a rock star. Nowadays my goal is just to be able to make a living playing music on my own terms. My current dream is to have a week off from everything.
Nowadays my goal is just to be able to make a living playing music on my own terms.
PD. Who writes your songs, what are they about?
EK. I do. They’re about all kinds of things. Politics, falafels, gods, discussions on social media, chicken noodles, friends, love, philosophy, belonging, longing, the futility of trying to be an instrumental shred guitarist, and all kinds of other things.
PD. How do you promote your band and shows?
EK. I mostly use Facebook. Advertising there is relatively affordable. Proper promotion costs a ton of money, and I haven’t really found that it would do me much good, considering I mostly make instrumental stuff.
PD, What do you think about downloading music online?
EK. It used to be a much bigger issue. It still happens, and it’s still a problem, but not as much anymore. The discussion has pretty much died down and moved on to streaming. What struck me was that the discussion always revolved around the financial side of it all. Is it good or bad for the industry, or a particular band? For me the moral side of it all was always more interesting. How could someone defend downloading and sharing music illegally defend it from a moral standpoint. They couldn’t of course, so what we had was a bunch of economic arguments, which were pretty much B.S. anyway.
PD. What’s your outlook on the record industry today?
EK. It depends on which part of the industry we’re looking at, or which genre. Music is consumed by more and more people. On the other hand anyone and their dog can make music now due to technology. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just a thing that is.
The state of the industry as it regards the genres I mostly play is a bit sadder. The people who listen to the kind of music I make are getting older (on average), which means that it’s harder for new artists to make a living doing this stuff. We’re not going to go back to the 80’s. On the other hand we have it better due to the internet. We can sell our music across the world without a record company to back us. For me the result has been that I don’t sell much of anything despite getting reviews saying my albums are the best since Surfin’ With the Alien, or the best instrumental stuff in 10 or 20 years. To be fair I’m probably doing something wrong as well.
PD. What’s your claim to fame?
EK. I’ve won the Finnish shred guitarist title in 2015, and finished runner up in Yngwie Malmsteen’s Guitar Gods 2016, as well as Lee Ritenour’s Six String Theories competition in 2016. I’ve stood on the same stage with Yngwie and Steve Vai. I got Derek Sherinian (ex Dream Theater, Yngwie Malmsteen, Billy Idol, Alice Cooper, and currently of Black Country Communion) to play on my last album, as well as Mattias IA Eklundh of Freak Kitchen. So not much of a claim! Haha!
PD. What are some of your pet peeves?
EK. Jose Mourinho being manager of my favourite football team, and on a more general level football teams that play boring defensive football. I also detest Finnish rap. It’s absolute shite. Especially a guy called Cheek.
PD.What are the biggest obstacles for artists?
EK. Themselves. I think that’s the same for most of humanity. We all face obstacles, but quite a few of them are imagined or exaggerated by our own minds. Some musicians over analyze their songs, thinking “will people like this?” when the only thing that’s really relevant is the musicians themselves like it.
We all face obstacles, but quite a few of them are imagined or exaggerated by our own minds.
Aside from that, there is the big problem of music not paying too well, especially in Finland. We’re a country with few inhabitants but big distances which makes it even worse.
PD. Tell us about your next shows and why we should be there
EK. My next show will be a troubadour gig and you should be there because I will be there. Also the scenery is great there and the people are really friendly (it’s in a place called Korppoo in the Turku archipelago). Edit: I already did it, so the next show will be with Kilpi, and you should be there because we’re really rather good. The rhythm section is really solid, and we have a killer singer, called Taage Laiho. On top of that we have some really good songs. Then there’s me, doing my at times shreddy stuff, and other times rather silly stuff.
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Artist location – Turku Finland
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