Interviews are usually done during the promotional stage of an album or a tour – and then they centre around these topics. However, albums and shows wouldn’t exist if the interview partners weren’t such enthusiastic instrumentalists. In our series „Saitengespräche“ (pun: „string talks“/“side conversations“) we want to take this into account – with interviews that focus entirely on instruments, amplifiers, effects, and other tech stuff. From gear nerds for gear nerds – and for those who aspire to be.
In this part we are talking to Tuomas Saukkonen – Mastermind and multi-instrumentalist for WOLFHEART and various other projects like BEFORE THE DAWN and BLACK SUN AEON.
Hello, thanks for taking time and participating in this interview. How are you? I hope you are doing well
Times are complicated but I am trying to make the best out of the situation.
When did you start playing the guitar?
I started when I was 8 years old.
What made you want to learn guitar back then?
My neighbor was the vocalist of the only death metal band in the village. I grew up with so I got introduced to metal in very young age. I started also listening to metal myself and really soon had the urge to start playing too.
Did you already learn (or have to learn) another instrument before?
Guitar was my first instrument and I started playing piano and drums later.
Do you remember which model was your first guitar?
My first guitar was an acoustic guitar built by my grandfather who was a carpenter.
How many guitars do you own?
I own two baritone custom made electric guitars, baritone acoustic guitar, acoustic bass and pearl and Yamaha drum kits
Do the instruments have different uses for you, so do you have different ones for different bands or occasions, like studio, live gigs and holidays?
I am very practical with instruments and always have one main guitar that I play in studio, live and home and now it is my latest custom: Raato baritone explorer
What is particularly important to you from a technical point of view, which criteria must an instrument meet for you to be satisfied with it?
Main things is how it fits to my hand since more than anything it is a tool for me. Next thing is that it needs to be black…(smiles) And nowadays if it is a stringed instrument it needs to be baritone scale… and always passive pickups!
You often hear about musicians who seem to have a special connection to their instrument. Do you feel the same way? Do you have a favourite instrument?
I guess I feel the same. My old custom served me over 14 years as main instrument and only a few times used another guitar on stage because of a broken string. Now I am slowly growing into the new custom and hopefully it will last for the next decade in my hands.
Did you make special modifications to it, or is it a custom model anyway? Can you tell us the technical details here?
The body is pretty much old school Gibson Explorer but pickup is Bare Knuckle Ragnarok. The neck profile is modified and the surface of the guitar is burned with electricity to give a very unique look. The scale is 27,666” because I will use the guitar both in A and G tuning and wanted to reach both a bit lower tuning and Lucifer (smiles)
Is there a model, such as the instrument of a great role model, that you would like to play one day?
Hmm…Since I have been into custom made guitars for the past 20 years I would choose mine over anybody else’s.
Amps are often leased for tours – is that okay with you or do you have your own amp with you? Which model do you play?
I am pretty old school when it comes to amp and always prefer amp over Kemper, plugins etc. Huge portion of my sound comes from the combination of super thick strings (74-80 the thickest), baritone scale, pickup and my playing style. I can get my sounds out from most of modern high gain tube amps so I am very flexible on tour. Marshall JCM 2000, Peavey 5150 etc, Blackstar, Engl etc. all work for me well.
Besides the instrument and the amplifier, sound effects play an important role in the sound. Do you rely on single pedal mines, a multi-effect board or a combination?
Just a tuner. In WOLFHEART I play just rhythm guitar on stage while on studio I play also all melodies, cleans etc. Gigs are easy. Just two cables and a tuner.
Mind game: You are only allowed to take one single (!) effect on stage – which one do you choose? Which effect pedal makes up your sound?
If I would play melodies on stage I would not even try without good quality reverb and delay.
Finally, do you have any advice for beginning musicians?
With all possible plugins etc. available I have noticed that a lot of beginners focus a bit too much on finding/building the ideal sounds for them when they should put a lot more focus on their playing, dynamic, control, picking etc. Since that is where you build your own sound. Keep your hands more on the fretboard than on the mousepad.
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