Interview: Samuli Federley

Roo Chapus: Hi Samuli, congratulations on your new album "Quest For Remedy". You have a lot of experience as a guitarist who has played and toured many years now with a very respectable discography (six albums with Reversion and Moottorin Jyrina). How did you come up with the idea to release a solo album after all that? Not enough notes in Reversion?

Samuli Federley: Thank you! Finally it's out after a year and half of making it, and after several years of planning! Well, even though the music I'm playing with my bands is quite versatile I'm still not satisfied musically. I'm a hungry fella. Yet, I consider Reversion being kind of my band since I compose all the though. I'm not holding back or anything like that when composing those tunes, but I just like to keep it stylistically tight. And on my solo album, I was able to incorporate some of my jazzier influences, some pop stuff and even my piano playing there. Those were the songs that I had been composing during the years that never fitted Reversion or any other band. Still, they aren't left over songs, I always knew I had to use them on some record.

I also feel that I have a lot to say as a composer, guitarist and as a soloist, so a solo album was the logical next step to take. And since I've got to the point of being in such a good position artistically where I can do clinics at various expos, it's good to have your own solo material to demo the products with. Also, I always had this dream since my teen years, that it would be super cool to have a solo album like all my heroes - Steve Vai, Satriani, Cooley, etc. I also wanted to challenge myself, and prove that I am capable of doing this all by myself. And I think it turned out just fine. Now there's already some new ideas bubbling for the next album. And oh yes, there's never enough notes!

Roo Chapus: What musical direction did you want to take with this record? How is the solo album different compared to what you have done before?

Samuli Federley: Well, first and foremost I wanted to have strong songs. I didn't want to follow the typical recipe for an instrumental song where you first have the main riff, then some melody in the verse, chorus, second verse with the melody played an octave higher and the rest of the song soloing. I tried to break the routines when arranging the songs, and to avoid the basic solutions for song structures. And I wanted it to be heavy. Again, compared to Reversion, this album is at same time heavier as well as poppier. Mainly it's riff-oriented and different rhythms carry the songs forward. I also paid a lot of attention to the harmony. It has always been really important to me to avoid the basic I - IV - V chord progressions. Well of course, if the song needs that then I'll use it, but mainly I try to invent some more interesting chord loops. I'm also into some "techno" sounds and programmed stuff, so I tried to come with some cool keyboard sounds as well.

The whole process was very different from what I've done before. Now that I was able to demo the songs properly, I had a chance to arrange the songs with time. I spent a lot of time with the solos but tried not to polish them too much. Since I can't play stuff like a robot when playing live, I tried to capture the sound I'm able to produce on a gig. It was a big learning process from the studio gear point of view to the actual playing part. Usually when you're in the studio, there's the producer or somebody breathing down your neck and making you sweat. Now when I did it all by myself, it was a lot more relaxed experience. Some guys needs to be kicked in the butt but this method suited me perfectly, and I will continue making records like this at my own studio.

Roo Chapus: It is rare to hear an instrumental album with three guest vocalists and no guest guitarist.

Samuli Federley: That was a conscious decision. The answer is in the question, it's expected to have guitar guests on guitar albums so I wanted to do something different. This way, non-guitarists may find this album appealing. And the choices of singers also reflect my broad taste in music. There's some clean male singing, brutal death metal stuff and some mellow female singing. Even though there's a lot happening on the record, I think it's still a tight package musically. I had these singers in mind in the first place when I started to think of whom I may ask to work on my album. I even thought of singing something myself, but that will be on the next album. I need to rehearse a bit first!

If I were to ask an instrumentalist to be a guest on my album he/she would have to be a really "different" kind of player than me. Maybe some jazz guy, or a classical dude. Actually, my plan was to have a cello player on "Pitchblack", but I gave up on that idea. I also love the sound of flute and oboe, so I think you'll hear this kind of stuff in the future. I got lots of weird stuff in my head!

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Roo Chapus: You endorse Amfisound guitars, and have performed clinics at Finnish Metal Expo and Frankfurt Mess. Why did you choose this brand and when did you started playing 8-string guitars?

Samuli Federley: At that time, when I first got interested in extended range guitars, back in 2007 or so, there weren't too many of those kind of instruments available. I was visiting Finnish Metal Expo and suddenly my eye caught the most beautiful guitar - plus it was an 8-string! Plus, it was made in Finland by Amfisound. I tried it out and immediately fell in love with it. I talked with Tomi (the guitar builder) and soon I had my own custom made 8-string guitar. I suggested that hey, I could do some clinics with you guys, I got some cool songs to play that might be appealing to the audience. So when next year came at the next FME, I was holding a clinic there with Amfisound and everything went tip top. Since then, I have done clinics at FME three years in a row, Musik Messe in Frankfurt three times, AV-Expo, Music Exhibition in Helsinki, Guitar Gently Weeps 2009-10 and several smaller fairs all around the country.

So why did I want an 8 string guitar? Well, I've always loved low frequencies. I mean really low! There's just this cool energy going on when you crank up the volume and hit those low notes. I used to play with a 7-string for years but I still wanted to go lower. Now I think this low F# is enough 'cause below that it starts to get muddy. I mainly use the bottom strings for riffing and for big chords. I should experiment a bit more with different tunings and other stuff but somehow I don't find time to do that.

Roo Chapus: Last month you performed in Helsinki with Reversion and played your song "Colonoscopy" from "Quest For Remedy". I was there and enjoyed it, the transition fit perfectly. When Aleksi (vocals) leaves the stage, do you have a different approach when performing alone? More pressure, more focus?

Samuli Federley: Yeah, it was cool to play with Reversion. It has been some time since our last gig. Now that our new record "Obscene" is out, we're activating again. I wanted to utilize the opportunity and perform one of my solo songs on that gig. It was the first time to play "Colonoscopy" live, so keeping that in mind I think it went pretty well. Thanks to the clinics I've done I don't stress those situations too much. I remember the first clinic I did at FME 2008 - I was soooo nervous! But of course I wanted to perform that song as well as I possibly could, so I focused a bit more and did less headbanging! When you play the song more on different occasions you get more confident with it and are able to move around a bit more.

I also tend to think about the overall structure of a gig. Since Reversion plays very technical and guitar-oriented music anyway I thought that it might be interesting to the audience to have one solo song in the middle of the set. And I know there are a lot of other guitar nerds and musicians in the audience, and I guessed they might appreciate this tune.

Also, I like to challenge myself, and playing solo material in front of lot of people makes me to practice even more. The same thing with clinics; it can be the worst place in the world when you're trying to nail those difficult songs while some serious shredders are judging your performance just few meters away from you. But when you can handle that, you can handle everything! So the more stressing the situation is, the stronger you will be afterwards.

Roo Chapus: Beside all this, you find time to play with another well known band here in Finland: Moottorin Jyrina The band describes itself as "Heavy Metal for Kids". Sounds crazy, what message do you deliver to kids and what is your approach to keep aggressive guitar tones that are softened in a way?

Samuli Federley: Yeah, I always make time to have fun with good buddies and play wacky gigs. Even though the music is for kids, we take our music seriously, and play as well as possible. Again, this is a good chance to improve my skills when you get to play a lot of shows at weird times (10AM!) while also making me better composer. When making songs for kids, you need to come up with stuff that is kinda straight to the point and very catchy. And it's not an easy task. The kids can be very merciless; if they don't like a song, they will let you know it immediately. On the contrary, if they think it's good they will party like hell. So you get direct feedback as to whether your music works or not. They also pay a lot of attention to our stage presence. If you look like bored, they won't be happy.

When it comes to aggressive guitar tones, we're not holding anything back. On our latest album, "Metallimyrsky" ("Metal Storm"), there were a few moments in the studio when I thought that the sound might be too heavy. We decided that it wasn't and afterwards I heard that the kids found it cool. So they aren't afraid of it, the sound of the vocals is a bit more important in my opinion.

One part of the message is that metal doesn't have to be too serious and it isn't just for grumpy and dirty men. Usually metal music represents aggression and other feelings that are considered to be negative feelings. I think that, for example, aggression isn't necessarily a negative thing. It's a part of basic human nature and when handled right, it can be a strength.

Roo Chapus: You make a living as a professional musician. What advice would you give to readers that are interested in making it as guitar players?

Samuli Federley: Well, you should practice a lot and be as versatile as possible. As a touring musician, it's not a good to stick with just one thing. For example I play parties, jazz gigs, pop gigs, weddings, and metal gigs - and everything in between. You can always learn something useful from them and meet new people. You need to practice live playing, and the only way to do is to play live. The other approach to this is to focus on one thing only and try to master this little segment of playing. For example Tiago Della Vega is known for playing "Flight Of The Bumblebee" at 750 bpm. To be able to do that, you have to commit your life to it and if tiy achieve it, you can be pretty sure you'll get a lot of attention. I try to combine these two approaches - of course it's impossible, but you can always die trying!

Another thing when making living as a guitarist is to be sure to make good songs. The majority of listeners doesn't care about flashy solos, they want to hear cool songs. And that's the most difficult part. All that matters is music and when you're able to compose "Final Countdown", you don't have to worry about making money anymore, and you can just focus on playing "Flight of the Bumblebee" as fast as possible.

My final advice is to educate yourself so that you can, for example, work as a guitar teacher as I do. Again, this makes you a lot stronger guitarist when you have deal with and solve the problems that the students have. You have to be versatile player if you're teaching at a music institution. In one class we might be studying jazz harmonies, the class after that might include playing "Smoke On The Water" (for the 10,000th time!), and in the next you're teaching a 10-year-old kid to play a G major chord.

Last but not least, have fun with guitar and don't forget to buy CDs! (

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Samuli Federley is a new guitarist on Finland's Mad Guitar Records label who plays an 8-string guitar in a shredding, progressive style. He makes his living at a musician, and has a lot of ideas and opinions on how to stay busy and productive in this day and age.

Roo Chapus recently spoke with Federley about his new solo album and the many other projects his has going on at the moment.