(This interview for Korea Guitar was conducted and written by Karl Mischler)
Soilwork grabbed the heavy guitar world with the now-classic Steelbath Suicide nearly 20 years ago. Heavy melodic riff-driven songs, filled with hooks and ripping guitar solos became their trademark. While the group has undergone a few changes in the guitar line-up over the years, many fans feel that this new era for the band is the strongest and best yet. The masterpiece double album The Living Infinite (2013) truly is one of the most impressive heavy metal guitar albums in recent times, nearly overflowing with creatively inspired and powerful guitar playing. Guitarists Sylvain Coudret and David Andersson have maintained this level of excellence for 2015’s The Ride Majestic. Recently the band made a stop in the R.O.K. as part of their Asian tour and agreed to talk with Korea Guitar. We reached out to Sylvain to try to learn more about his unique approach to music and guitar playing, and his role in Soilwork.
- What was it like growing up and living in Nancy, France? It seems like a lovely place (and not where you might expect heavy metal music).
Yes it’s a very nice city. I moved there in 1992, a lot of musicians here and lot of metal heads too.
- What got you interested in music and playing the guitar?
I grew up surrounded by music. Music was everywhere, all the time. My dad was a jazz music freak. He told me (that) when I was 5 years old, he took me to see John Mclaughlin live and that I was completely into it, fascinated by the guitar. As I remember I always wanted to play guitar I guess that day was the beginning of my passion for it.
- What was your first good guitar?
My first electric guitar was an Ibanez RG something, I don’t remember, but the real first good one was an Ibanez JS1, the first production Joe Satriani model that was available, back in 1989 . That guitar got stolen in 93. That was a great guitar, with a lot of customization from my part.
- Did you go to a music school, or are you self-taught?
I’m self-taught , from when I got my first guitar at the age of 9 until I was 20, then I went to a music school in Nancy.
- Do you remember any big breakthroughs in your gear or playing in the early days?
Yes, back in 89, the first time I could buy a real good amp and that was a Carvin 60W tube amp combo. What a great amp and what a sound!
- I think you’ve been playing with drummer Dirk Verbeuren for around 20 years. How did you guys meet up?
Yes, it’s been 23 years now that we’ve been playing together. We met at that music school in Nancy back in 1993.
- Your band Scarve with Dirk made several albums. What would you say were some of the high points playing with that band?
Yes, and that was when we did that tour in Europe with Meshuggah , back in 2005. Fredrick Thordendal (lead-guitarist of Meshuggah) did a guitar solo in one of our songs on the Irradiant album and they became really fond of our music so they wanted us on that run.
- Do you have any favorite Scarve songs?
Mirthless Perspectives is one of the songs I like the most to play.
- Since you’ve joined the band, there seems to be a new element of melodic touches and ideas. Some of it seems almost classical, or jazzy. Are you inspired by much non-rock music?
I’m inspired by everything that sounds good to me. It can be anything, any kind of music.
- The band rented a house to record in for both The Panic Broadcast and The Living Infinite. Why the return to a studio for The Ride Majestic?
We did rent a house in North Carolina just for the recording of The Panic Broadcast. We went to a studio in Sweden for both the Living Infinite and The Ride Majestic because Jens Bogren had his studio here.
- Peter was still in the band for The Panic Broadcast. Did he ever give you any guidance about playing guitar with Soilwork?
No , I wrote 4 songs for that album and was completely free about it. I remember that Peter wanted some of Scarve’s vibes on that album, too.
- What’s it been like playing guitar alongside David? Are you guys more similar or different in your approaches?
We share the same background about guitar and music so everything is easy and fun when we’re playing together.
- One of my favorite solos of yours on The Ride Majestic is in the song Shining Lights. Do you prefer to work out your solos, or improvise?
I improvise a lot to find the ideas, then when I think I got it, I work on it and record it.
- I’ve seen you playing a number of different kinds of guitars, from Gibson to Mayones to ESP. What do you look for when choosing a guitar?
I like to play on different kinds of guitars, it feels different so is my playing.
I also love the guitar for the beauty of it. I can buy a guitar just for the way it looks and I will adapt my playing on it.
Esp is really a fantastic guitar company , great people and awesome guitars !!
- Do you still prefer using the Blackstar amps onstage?
Yes, the Blackstar amps are really good, very efficient, every night, and they can stand long road trip. Also, those people at Blackstar are really nice people.
16. What’s your opinion on the new modeling stuff like AxeFx?
I had a Fractal Axe Fx years ago in my studio. This is really a great piece of gear and it sounds really, really good but there is too much inside, at least for me. You spend more time tweaking it than playing it.
Since (then) I have a Kemper Amp at home, it’s also really good. It’s more guitar player oriented, more like an amp with pedals.
And you can make an image of your sound in a studio so you have it at home , it’s great.
17. Do you think you’ll ever use any 7 or 8 string guitars in Soilwork?
18. With so much knowledge and so many chops, how do you keep yourself inspired or fresh?
Just by writing music and finding the best way to play it.
19. I’ve heard that the band contains a number of good cooks. What’s your specialty?
Yes , but I’m not, even if I’m the French guy of the band. That sounds strange in people ‘s minds… that a French guy is not a good cook.
20. In nearly every concert footage I’ve ever seen of you playing with Soilwork, from Live in the Heart of Helsinki to Youtube fan clips, you always look really pleased and happy. What’s your secret to being joyful?
There is no secret about it; I just love what I’m doing and I want people to enjoy it as much as I enjoy doing it.
Official Site: http://www.soilwork.org
(* – features Sylvain Coudret)
- Steelbath Suicide (1998)
- The Chainheart Machine (2000)
- A Predator’s Portrait (2001)
- Natural Born Chaos (2002)
- Figure Number Five (2003)
- Stabbing the Drama (2005)
- Sworn to a Great Divide (2007)
- The Panic Broadcast (2010)*
- The Living Infinite (2013)*
- The Ride Majestic (2015)*
- Six Tears Of Sorrow (1996)
- Translucence (2000)
- Luminiferous (2002)
- Irradiant (2004)
- The Undercurrent (2007)
Nice interview! I have tickets to see Soilwork this coming Sunday in Denver! Rock on, Sylvain!