Interview: Plankton

Dan McAvinchey: How did you all get started in music, and what led to your selecting guitar as your primary instrument?

Christian Neppenstrom: My dad had shown me a couple of chords on his guitar, but it didn¥t really take off until my best friend got a drum kit for his
birthday and needed someone to jam with. When my parents noticed that I was
totally focused on the guitar they got me a Telecaster copy and a 10w Roland

Then about a year later when I was 14 I met Mats Lindfors (who helped
us with the mix and mastering on the disc), and started taking sporadic
lessons. In a time when everyone was listening to Iron Maiden, including
myself, he turned me on to bands like Cream, Mountain and Grand Funk
Railroad. He also got me my first Marshall half stack; a JTM 45 from -65
and a 4x12 pinstripe cab with 20w celestions from -66 (slightly taller cab),
a great sounding combination which we also used quite a lot on the album.

Emil Fredholm: A friend of mine had a bunch of '60s records that we used to listen
to when I was a kid, we were spinning "Purple Haze" and "Hey Joe" quite a
lot, but I wasn¥t aware of the fact that we were actually listening to
Jimi Hendrix or that the strange sounds we heard had something to do with
guitars. However, that¥s when I first got interested in music. I picked
up the guitar a couple of years later when I was about 10 and I got my
first electric guitar at the age of 12.

I spent the first year or so playing along with records, trying to figure things out. I was mainly into Hendrix (whom I, at this point, knew was a guitar player), Deep
Purple and early Scorpions with Ulrich Roth. I formed my first band with
a couple of friends from school when I was 13; we played a mix of
original material and cover songs. The band lasted for a couple of years
and we did quite a few gigs. Around 1985 I was fortunate enough to gain
access to a primitive studio at the local radio station. I used to go
there and make strange sound-on-sound recordings, mainly with my electric
guitar and my acoustic 12-string. It was great fun and a good way to
learn about how to write and record music.

Dan McAvinchey: When did you first realize you had the ability to write original music?

Christian Neppenstrom: I think it must have been when I got my first band together. We started out copying stuff from records and then moved on to our own
little musical ideas.

Emil Fredholm: Just like Christian, I realized it when I first was in a band and
we tried to get our own material together. I think that anyone who picks
up an instrument has the ability to write music to some extent, but it¥s
really helpful to have a forum or a purpose for the music - like a band.

Dan McAvinchey: Your music has a heavy rock/blues feel. Who are your biggest influences in this style of music?

Plankton: The first name that comes to mind is Jimi Hendrix, but there
are so many of them: Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Mountain, Mahogany
Rush, Electric Sun, the Beatles and Jeff Beck.

Dan McAvinchey: What gear did you use to record your CD, and how important a role do you think the selection of recording equipment and
instruments plays in the final quality of the album?

Plankton: The gear we use is a major part of the Plankton sound. We¥re
resting on a solid foundation of the classic sounds from the 60¥s and
70¥s, made famous by Hendrix, Cream and Led Zeppelin among others. It¥s
basically Strats into various vintage Marshall amps and cabinets. We also have a
nice collection of old pedals and tape echoes, so we used quite a lot of
those. To record, we used both analog and digital equipment. On the majority of
the tracks we recorded the drums and the bass on an old Ampex 24-track
machine to get a warm analog sound, and we then bounced those tracks to a Mac
and recorded all the guitars. Thanks to digital technology it¥s possible
to make quality recordings without spending too much money nowadays,
at least if you compare it to what the same number of hours spent
would cost you in a "real" studio. Also the digital format makes it easy
to work with different sounds like backward guitars and pannings etc.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you get a chance to perform the material from your albums live?

Plankton: We take any chance we get to perform! The music scene in Sweden isn¥t what it used to be, unfortunately. Many places have gone into bankruptcy, and a majority of the clubs here in Sweden are looking for
Top Forty cover bands these days.

Dan McAvinchey: How do you feel about the national press in the United States and how they are currently covering guitar-oriented music?

Plankton: They focus mainly on well known guitar players, or players
that are in bands that sell a lot of records naturally, and since instrumental, guitar-oriented music isn¥t as big as it used to be it doesn¥t get the
same attention anymore. To some extent there is definitely a bias against
instrumental artists. Since everyone has a home studio nowadays, there
are hundreds of records being released every month all over the world, and
most of them won¥t make it into the "Greatest Guitar Albums Ever"-books. It¥s
not just instrumental guitar-oriented music though, it¥s the same with all
kinds of music. Also, in today's society, we get tons of information about new
music, movies, toasters, cars, computers, etc. People simply aren¥t that
excited anymore when something new hits the market, sad but true. It¥s tough to get your voice heard these days, no matter which market you¥re in!

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Dan McAvinchey: What do you think the future holds for digitally distributed music such as mp3s or other forms of digital music?

Plankton: It¥s here to stay for sure. The quality will be improved and
it will take less and less time to download music, movies etc. Maybe virtual stores where you walk around in a shop, like a computer game, and meet the artists who will throw themselves at your feet and perhaps play you a song you want to hear or... the sky is the limit!

Dan McAvinchey: What do you have planned for the next year or two?

Plankton: We intend to spread the Plankton message across the universe
and do as many live gigs as possible. We would love to come to America and
play sometime. We¥ll also be working on new material and make another record.

Dan McAvinchey: What do you think has been the biggest help so far in getting the word out about your CD to the fans of heavy guitar music?

Plankton: Besides Joe Romagnola and Grooveyard Records who have given us 100% support, it¥s the Internet in all its shapes and forms. Forums and message boards are a great way to let people know you exist. Of course the Guitar9 website is one of the best places since you have guitar players from all over the world visiting, listening and ordering the music that they¥re into. Thanks for helping out!

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Guitarists Christian Neppenstrom and Emil Fredholm are the centerpiece of Plankton, a new instrumental group out of Sweden who favor heavy guitar work influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Robin Trower and Uli Jon Roth. Their retro-blues approach is finding favor with guitar fans and devotees of the blues-rock style.

Dan McAvinchey had a few questions for the twin guitar team concering their influences and their approach to recording.