Interview with guest soloist Lasse Wellander and producer Juha Björninen

Lasse Wellander

When listening to the finished mixes of the songs on Emotional Mechanism, what is your first reaction?

- I think it sounds really good and the songs are interesting to listen to!

AbbaI am sure you are used to people wanting to know about the legendary work you did with Abba. Any musical moments with them that you value the most?

- To arrive at Sidney airport on the Australian tour of -77 and get the most overwhelming reception is something I look back on as something special. Musically, I’ve always liked ”Knowing Me, Knowing You”. ”Eagle” is also a favourite. Live we used do a long solo at the end of the song. Chordwise it’s a fun and rewarding song to improvise to.

As part of the Abba-team you made musical history. How do you look back at the time spent in the Polar Studios?

- It was a very creative, fun and wonderful environment to work in. It’s good to remember though, that many of the hits were recorded in several other studios in Stockholm, before the opening of Polar Studios in 1978.

When working with Michael B Tretow how did you approach the recording of guitars?

- Nothing out of the ordinary really. One Shure SM57 microphone in front of the speaker. Usually we overdubbed the guitars, sometimes with slight pitch shifting with the help of the Eventide Harmonizer. Sometimes we also might have recorded direct.

Is it trLasseue that the sound we could hear on so many Swedish pop records was you using a Rockman?

- That’s pretty accurate yes. A lot of the Swedish popular songs (schlagers) that were recorded at KMH Studios in the 80’s (Carola, Lena Philipsson, Kikki Danielsson, Lasse Holm) featured my -62 Strat with Schecter mics through a Rockman.

You’ve been known to rely on the JCM 900. What are the qualities in that particular model that you like?

- I’ve stuck to my Marshall and the JCM 900 100W combo suits me fine. I have an additional 1x12 cabinet that I use for extra spread. I can’t really say that I’ve tried that much else.

The material on your solo records has a certain, or should I say, strong Swedish character.

- It’s not something I’ve had in mind, there’s nothing intentional behind it. It’s probably just because I am Swedish :)

Is there anything that you feel is being overlooked when talking about guitar playing?

- How important rhythm guitar is. So much focus is put on the lead.

tweedWhat is your favourite solo of your own work?

- Quite I often when I listen I tend to focus on things I think I could do better, which can be a bit annoying. But if I have to mention something, I would say the solo in ”Full Hand” is OK, and also ”Trubbel” can get my approval.

And all time favourite guitar solo?

- Apart from various Clapton-solos with The Bluesbreakers and Cream, I would pick Larry Carlton’s solo in ”Kid Charlemagne” with Steely Dan.


Juha Björninen

JuhaAs a producer - is there a difference in working with a guitarist compared to a vocalist?

Yes. Working with a talented, motivated singer can be elevating and blissful. Soulful singers are a true joy. However, some singers don´t practice too much even if they are working on a record. Slightly out of tune singing is quite common and the use of Autotune has almost become a standard. It takes away from the initial emotional impact of vocals. Often the production of vocals becomes tweaking of tuning and timing. I'm not too exited about that.

In working with guitarists I've learned that they most often have their goal set up pretty high. Usually the work is just plain fun all the way. Part of it is that each and every player has a unique touch and sound. I've had thrilling moments while working with a guitarist recording solo tracks. Many times there are bursts of energy and creativity. It's magical when a person is able to improvise and perform a fine solo. Even good players have self doubt and it usually appears in the studio. My experience as a session player has helped in giving support and perhaps toss in a few ideas if needed. Usually humour is the best tool.

As a session veteran, which part of the recording process or working in the studio do you find most rewarding?

I like all the stages of recording - basic tracking, working the rhythm elements, song structure, arrangement, tempo, emotional expression, overdubs, mixing . . the whole lot. My first experience of working in the studio was when I was sixteen. At that time I thought "Wow, this is heaven! I really want to do this". That feeling has stayed.

Of all musical situations you have been part of, what has been the most challenging?

Once I played 12-string acoustic in an orchestra with Mikis Theodorakis at a live tv-concert. The piece was Canto General and there were odd time signatures all the way. I was sight reading and there were also passages with only vocals and my guitar. All of a sudden, the singer decided to follow his own view of the timing and I was wailing in between the conductors lead and the ad libbing singer. That was pure terror. Luckily I didn´t drop the beat....

And what has been most fun?

Maybe recording in Havana with Giraldo Piloto and his crew. An amazing experience.

JuhaI can assume you have gone through a lot of gear in your carreer. Any piece of equipment that you would not trade?

I wish I could have my first Fender Bandmaster and Gibson SG back. I was a fool to let them go. At the present I am happy with what I have. I love my acoustic guitars. Some of them are old and they will stay with me. As far as electric guitars go, I've learned to choose carefully - instruments that have sustain and fine tone even without electricity. One can save a lot of money in being careful. I would not trade any of my electric guitars. Guitars have a certain quality or soul and you become friends with that particular spirit. For amps, I would not trade my Bradshaw Custom Audio Preamp. It's brilliant.

What is your favourite solo of your own work?

That would be the whole track on Soi Vienosti Murheeni Soitto on Piirpauke record Yö Kyöpelin Vuorella. It's honest and I am playing from my heart.

And all time favourite guitar solo?

The song Blues For Mez played by Ray Gomez says it all. It has everything - heart and soul, lots of power, creativity, beauty, surprise, the love for music, all of it.