Interview: Jarle H. Olsen

Dan McAvinchey: Jarle, when did you first get interested in guitar, and how did you learn and progress as a player?

Jarle H. Olsen: I guess the first time I ever picked up a guitar was at the age of twelve, after my older brother brought an electric one into the house. He had an accoustic and electric guitar at the time and was also listening to a lot of music which eventually inspired me unconsciousnessly. What took me a step further was when I discovered bands such as Iron Maiden, Metallica and Testament. I spent loads of time trying to learn their music note for note and had no access to tabs or music scores at that time, which forced me to learn everything by ear.

Later I got into more technical styles of music and players such as Dream Theater, Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore, Cacophony and Greg Howe. They inspired me to dig even deeper into the music and theory, spending tons of hours each day practicing and learning.

Dan McAvinchey: Your latest CD, "Quadrasonic", was self-released. Was that your intention from the beginning, or did you try different independent labels first?

Jarle H. Olsen: I never worried too much about it to be honest. It has always been a dream for me to release the exact music I feel and think, so the importance was just to reach that goal no matter what. It doesn't matter if you're on a label if they don't do anything apart from owning the rights to your music and absorbing all of your earnings. And that's what it's all about for record companies in the end - money. Of course, they are trying to make a living out of it. But hey, so are the artists.

Dan McAvinchey: How did you write the songs for "Quadrasonic"? Was it a collaborative approach, or did you work alone?

Jarle H. Olsen: To me, writing music is a very lonely and isolated experience. I'm a very moody person and can't come up with music if the circumstances are not exactly how I feel they should be. I guess I'm not a very social or fun person to be around when I'm into the writing process. But I like taking a lot of time thinking through every possibility, chords, phrasings, melody lines, etc. I'm a perfetionist, and a bit of a control freak (hehe).

Sure I could come together with a band and write a billion standardized tunes based on three chords, a chorus and a bridge and that's it, but that's not music to my ears. Music to me is something progressive, that stands out and has it's unique wibe, feel and atmosphere. So when you listen to it, you don't get an endless deja-vu.

I believe that if you're with a group of people writing music, it's much easier to let things go through due to the schedule.. And most people are afraid to have too strong opinions in a group. It can of course have its advantages too, but I prefer composing alone.

My buddies on the album did of course contribute to the overall sound with each of their unique styles, and I'm happy to be working with some of the best musicians.

Dan McAvinchey: Which of the tracks from your album do you enjoy playing the most?

Jarle H. Olsen: I enjoy playing all of them. Because they all have a special place in my mind. Some tunes kinda makes my head boil while playing them due to their difficulties. Those depend a lot on the daym whether I feel them or not. Others are always fun to play as they come more easily to me. I guess that "Pro-10" and "Enigmatic Mind" are two tunes I really enjoy playing. Some work better live than other tunes too, in the way the audience responds and reacts. I also think "From Deep Within" is a good live tune because it calms down the audience and lets them have some thinking time in between all the notes.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you have any opportunities to showcase your instrumental music before a live audience?

Jarle H. Olsen: I've got a complete live line-up here in Norway, consisting of three very talented guys. We have done some live performances with the material and it worked out great. We're using an extra guitar live as well, so as not lose the chunk of the rhythm guitar and all the additional harmonies.

What's really cool to experience is that people talk to us after the gigs saying they didn't know such music existed, and how much they love it. I much prefer hearing that, than how cool the licks are that I play in this or that tune. It just shows me that there are lots of people out there that get a kick out of this kind of music, but they are just not aware of it, or even it's existence.

Dan McAvinchey: Are you using any social media sites to promote your CDs and music career?

Jarle H. Olsen: I use Facebook exclusively for that. That's the only reason I even use Facebook. I also use Myspace, YouTube and Reverb Nation and some other media sites. It's amazing how you can self-promote with all these sites, especially if you have no shame!

Dan McAvinchey: From a publicity and promotion standpoint, what do you find is working best for you at the moment?

Jarle H. Olsen: What I just mentioned above. The world wide web.

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Dan McAvinchey: Why do you think certain music fans prefer instrumental music over traditional vocal oriented music?

Jarle H. Olsen: Because instrumental music is pure and real music! It has all the focus on the music and not on some cheap love story. The most exquisite music does not need words to express itself. It perfectly expresses itself without words, and lets you and I make our own visions while enjoying it. Unfortunately, the general mass market needs lyrics with their music. It's obviously easier to understand words than to interpret music for the common man in the street.

I personaly think that most singers and songwriters seriously lack the capability to compose actual music. I mean, why not try the publishing industry and make a book or something instead. Maybe it's the combination of those same three chords and words that does the magic, but if you remove the words there is simply nothing catchy left of interest.

Dan McAvinchey: Other than guitar-oriented music, what kind of music do you like to listen to?

Jarle H. Olsen: I've always enjoyed listening to movie scores. Or else I have enough music in mind, which is also why I usually don't listen much to music. I don't say that the music nowdays sucks comparing to how it used to be or something, it's just that I've heard and thought so much about music that I rarely get a kick out of it. A new band that caught my attension recently is Animals As Leaders. I think they stick out and really have got something fresh going on. But that's guitar-oriented music, isn't it?

Dan McAvinchey: What's up next for you, what are some of your plans for the future?

Jarle H. Olsen: I'd love to perform my music live as much as possible and be able to share it with the people in any possible way. That's it for now.

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Coming out of Norway is guitarist Jarle H. Olsen, who has recently released an all-instrumental, progressive metal and fusion solo album, entitled "Quadrasonic". It's been said that what distinguishes "Quadrasonic" from albums within the same genre, is Olsen's focus on solid compositions, melodies and atmosphere. He pays particular attention to composing music that stands up to repeated listening.

Dan McAvinchey conducted a virtual interview with Olsen, where they discussed his formation as a guitar player, as well as his current activities.