Mattias IA Eklundh (born 1969 in Gothenburg, Sweden) is the lead guitarist and vocalist of Swedish power trio Freak Kitchen. He has received much attention from the guitar community for his skilled and highly unconventional style of guitar playing. His music is very distinct, as it is both complicated and playful at the same time.
His two Freak Guitar solo albums are released on Steve Vai’s Favored Nations label, and include drawings and other artwork by friend Anders Nyberg. In 2005, he collaborated with Swedish bass guitarist and composer Jonas Hellborg resulting in a short tour of India and release of “Art Metal” (Bardo Record, 2007), a hard packed Indo-Metal Fusion. Mattias spoke to us from Sweden, where he currently resides.
AL: “Art Metal” is the new project with you, Jonas, Selva and the Johansson Brothers. Tell me about the music?
IA: To me it’s a combination of stuff not heard of everyday, or as Jonas puts it The next wave of Indian metal jazz. It’s a bit of everything in there. What I dig most about it is that it’s very, very raw and honest. The album has little to do with today’s over-produced, trigged-and-edited-to-death-kind of metal albums that sound genuinely unnatural. What you get is basically five guys playing together. Sometimes it’s harsh and unorthodox, sometimes sweet and groovy.
AL: I remember Jonas telling me after Shawn passed way that he will never play with a guitar player again, guess you changed his mind. What do you think you are bringing to plate?
IA: I have absolutely no idea. I am just happy he changed his mind. Perhaps it is that my playing is far away from both John and Shawn’s, that I am somewhat a heavy metal bastard with distortion to spare. I don’t know. Perhaps he was looking for something different to fuse his bass playing with.
AL: Honestly, I heard you a few years ago with “Freak Guitar” release on Favored Nations. Quite an impressive recording and your humor seems to be a integral part of this alternative form of music. How did you get about developing the sound and idea?
IA: Not to think too hard about what you do, but simply do it. I have no problem with blending whatever musical styles to find my own voice (even if I have to fake stuff to left and right). Being Swedish, I believe, has got a lot to do with it as well. We got nothing to do here except spending time in our basements, inventing new ways to play and walking roads less travelled, so to speak. Zero distraction and a pinch of boredom usually are very creative if you know how to turn it around to your favour. I did spend most of my teenage years, after trying seriously stupid, immature things for a while, with my four-track machine, writing outlandish music, developing my style and having a ball while doing so.
AL: What are your trying to say musically in your playing?
IA: Hard one to answer without sounding like a pretentious bastard, really. I know it’s a cliché but I try to make stuff I don’t find out there and that I desperately need to hear. I want people to have a good time, laugh, cry, get mad, relax or become hysterical, e t c. Whenever I receive an e-mail from somebody telling me they played my tunes to whomever and it drove them absolutely nuts, I am happy because at least I get a reaction. When all is said and done, to be considered an easy-listening kind of middle-of-the-road kind of a guy would be utter and complete failure to me. On the other hand I do not feel the urge to go insane for the sake of it. That’s wanking and transparent. You see through it in no time. There has to be a musical point, no matter how “out” there it may seem.
AL: Could you tell us about your musical background?
IA: Not much to tell, actually. I quit school when I was about fifteen, never went back, sat home and learned how to write, read and record music. I am self-taught but truly believe in the power of knowledge. I just hated school and questioned things all the time. Had to do it my own way. No musical formal training whatsoever and I really think it helped in creating my own, home-grown style.
AL: I heard some of the music that you played with Jonas during the India Trip. How was it to reinterpret some of Shawn Lane’s distinctive musical concepts?
IA: There is no one that can play like Shawn did and in no way was I going to copy his amazing playing, because I would fall flat and hard. Therefore I simply did it Viking style, the only way I know, insensitive as it sometimes may be seen. I know some people out there react in a negative way how I use lots of amp distortion as the only effect, where Shawn had lots of compression, delay on his very clean sound. Still, you got to grow your own moustache and I got tons of positive feedback as well, so… Got to do what you…
AL: Could you speak about your own musical projects?
IA: Sure. I am working on the next Freak Kitchen album, where I sing and play guitar together with drummer Bjorn Fryklund and bassist Chris Ortefors. We’re also working on a live DVD with footage from all over the planet. Next year there will be a big band orchestra concert with the band and I am also writing tons of new Freak Guitar, possibly even a double CD if things work out. Recently become a Dad and happily spend time changing poop diapers in between working with Important Music.
AL: What can we expect from “Art Metal” project in the future? Any performances?
IA: It would be great to do a couple of gigs together with album line-up, but it would take some meticulous planning since all five of us are busy boys, especially with Selvaganesh living in India and all. Jens and Anders are pretty busy with their respective bands as well, but you never know. Jonas and I can put together something on the spot together with a drummer that can cut the songs. I know the maestro is making plans for next year. We’ll see.
AL: Quick musical thoughts and analysis on
IA: My all-time favourite composer. Words can’t describe the impact Frank Zappa had on my music and life. He was The One, in my book.
AL: Shawn Lane
IA: Unique to the bone. No one did what Shawn did. He created his own musical universe.
AL: John McLaughlin
IA: My all-time favourite guitar player and fabulous composer as well. I love McLaughlin’s playing. He’s got stuff to say. He says it.
AL: If you had to see Jonas Hellborg with 4 musicians, who would they be. You can include yourself as well.
IA: Glenn Gould, Tom Petty, Phil Rudd and myself, all conducted by Pierre Boulez.
AL: Thanks for the all your time Mattias. Wish you all the best with where you want to go !!