Stefan Rosqvist: the guitar diaries interview

Stefan Rosqvist, a native of Helsingborg, Sweden, has been working in the guitar scene for over 25 years. So it's not surprising that he's finally got around to releasing his first solo CD, which encompasses his guitar journey to date. I caught up with Stefan just prior to the release of his long awaited debut "The Guitar Diaries", this is the result of our on line meeting.

Laurie Monk: I'm always interested to know how you started your journey, were you a child prodigy, or did you take up guitar later in life?

Stefan Rosqvist: I started playing the guitar when I was 13. I met a new friend at school and we were both totally into Sex Pistols! I went to his parents house one day and he had a guitar with 3 strings on it. I plugged in the guitar and was blown away about how much noise you can make with a guitar and a amp, I still have the same feeling!

Laurie Monk: [laughs] I bet your parents were really happy that you found out what a great noise guitars make! There must have been a bit of wood shedding before, in 1992, you decided to leave Sweden and attend the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. Was that a challenging experience for you?

Stefan Rosqvist: Totally, I met a lot great teachers and students. Some of those are playing on my CD! I met Danny Gill, one of the teachers from MI last weekend in Gothenburg at the FUZZ Guitar Show, that was a blast!

Laurie Monk: In the early 1990's, kind of mid way through the second stage shred era, sort of post Yngwie Malmsteen, Tony Macalpine and Paul Gilbert, was there a sense that you had to be brilliant, the next top gun guitar god, or was it more "I'm going to learn to do this professionally" and take the skills and make a living our of guitar for you?

Stefan Rosqvist: Well the music scene in Sweden was and still is kind of funny, it's really hard to get gigs with your own music but it's really easy to get gigs with cover bands entertaining in pub's, at weddings, birthday parties and so on.

Laurie Monk: That seems to be a common theme, it's the same in the UK.

Stefan Rosqvist: Back in the mid 90's I did a lot of cover band gigs and I learned so many songs and different styles of music. A great learning experience for me but I didn't want to copy all of the licks and tricks in the music I was playing, I always wanted to give my own touch to the music and the solo's. I believe that if you give something personal the audience will remember you and if you have something to say, a story to tell in your playing the audience will appreciate it. It's the old story, you can't play a 5 minutes long guitar solo in a "power ballad", you can if you have a story to tell, not just licks and tricks. Listen to Shawn Lane's version of "Epilogue For Lisa" from the MI concert in 93', I see a lot of colours and pictures man! That version is so beautiful. Back to the old story: Long guitar solo's are boring, they are if you only play licks! There's gotta be a story like a good book or a movie.

Laurie Monk: I know talking with other players like Magnus Olsson and Lorenzo Venza, that they learned a lot from playing with the top players at GIT like Brett Garsed and TJ Helmerich. Which players did you learn from and how did that affect you playing?

Stefan Rosqvist: I played a lot with Nick Nolan, Ross Bolton, Danny Gill, Steve Trovato and I checked out Scott Henderson a lot! The best thing that happened that year was the Ted Greene clinic, the way he treated music and the guitar change my playing forever. His arrangement on "Send in the clowns" blew me away, the way he combined baroque music with old jazz standards was so beautiful. I still think of that clinic almost every day! Ted made me realize the importance of good chord voicing.

I have all of Ted's books and they are full of beautiful chord voicing. Another clinic that made an impact on me but at a later stage was the Shawn Lane clinic. I didn't like the clinic right away for some weird reason! Then I went to the "NammJam" down in Anaheim and they played the old Beatles song "Let it be" and Shawn Lane hit the stage and just blew me out of my sneakers! His wonderful and spiritual playing brought me to tears. I went back and listened to the Shawn clinic (yes I taped it) and I fell in love with his playing.

Laurie Monk: Wow, yes Shawn Lane had a god like stature to guitar fans like me, I couldn't wait to see or hear the next tape from Shawn... do you still have a copy of the show [laughs]?

Stefan Rosqvist: I went down to the Guitar Center in Hollywood one day to check out a Paul Gilbert clinic and Rob Halford (Judas Priest singer) went up on stage and sang "Helter Skelter" and the Priest song "bloodstone", very, very inspiring! I saw Rob Halford with Black Sabbath!

Laurie Monk: I think I might have seen a video of that on YouTube.

Laurie Monk: So after a few years you returned from GIT and you joined a Gothic band Dawn of Oblivion. The band released an album Mephisto’s Appealing. Obviously a Gothic band is not synonymous with guitar playing, so can you tell me more about that period.

Stefan Rosqvist: I played earlier with the drummer from DOO, Andreas Båge. He gave me a call one evening and asked me if I wanted to try out something kinky, play the guitar in a Goth band, I said yes! I met the other guys, singer Victor Fradera and bass player Jonas Nilsson and they become close friends and we still are!

I wasn't into the Goth scene, I was more into hard rock stuff so we created a cool mix between Goth and hard rock. I wrote a lot of songs together with Victor and Jonas. I think it's really hard to write music with other people but it was always easy with those guys. We tried to write about dark things like serial killers, world war 2 stuff and weird dreams and so on. Peter Wildoer came in at a later stage and played the drums on one demo song "Zodiac Mind" and we did a couple of gigs together. We have some demos lying around and the old record company asked us if we want to release it on a CD! We are thinking about it, Dawn Of Oblivion doesn't exist but were not really dead, you can't kill Dawn Of Oblivion!

Laurie Monk: [laughs] there's still life in the old dog yet! Moving on in time, to 2001 you appeared with master keyboard player Lalle Larsson and his rock fusion band Ominox. Having met Lalle, I know just what an amazing musician he is, plus I really enjoyed the Contemporary Past the Ominox CD. Originally I had it on tape. From your point of view this must have been a great time to bring your guitar skills to the fore, can you tell me some more about this?

Stefan Rosqvist: I have to thank Lalle for a lot of things, great music, friendship, weird phone calls, inspiring jam sessions and wasting my time!

Laurie Monk: [laughs]... not sure what that refers too, but I'll let sleeping dogs lie...

Stefan Rosqvist: He is always there and enjoys Laphroaig [a fine malt Whiskey] as much as I do! We did some rehearsals but we didn't do anything with it, we recorded a new arrangement on the song "Experiment". It was a big challenge to try to learn those Ominox songs, but fun!

Laurie Monk: Does that mean, you didn't get to play the Ominox material live then?

Stefan Rosqvist: I think we played one gig at a school concert at a local rock club, The Tivoli!

Laurie Monk: How do you feel about invites to play on others material, is this something you relish, a chance to play over something different perhaps? Is there any sort of music you would draw the line with?

Stefan Rosqvist: I love to play with other musicians and play their material! I think like this, if somebody likes my playing and think that I can add another colour to their music I´ll give it a shot, but I really have to like the music. I don't care what style it is but I have to like it, otherwise I can't be honest with my playing and that is really important to me. I don't play just to get paid, I don't work that way. I've been doing a lot of backup playing for other musicians in Sweden like, Mats Ronander, Mickael Rickfors, Gladys De Pilar, Jan Johansen, Jill Johnsson and Roger Pontare. Those gigs were great learning experiences and a lot of fun but it's really a lot of hard work!

Matt Williams

Laurie Monk:So your a man of principal, not just being paid to play. On to more recent music, You contributed two songs to Liquid Note Records’ compilations, The Alchemists and The Alchemists II - ‘Neverland and the affecting 'At Last' with Bo Ericsson. How did you hook up with guitar acolyte Matt William's and Liquid Note records?

Samples of the songs:

Stefan Rosqvist: I really don't remember but it's Lalle's fault again! Lalle introduced me to Matt Williams and he liked my music and the way I played the guitar. He told me that someday he wanted to start a record company and he wanted to release some of my stuff and 500 years later he did! Matt kept his word, that is very rare these days, keeping a promise.

Laurie Monk:[laughs out loud]...yes Matt and I go back a long way, that man has been totally dedicated to guitar for as long as I have!! I have the utmost respect for the guy for assembling some of the best guitar CD's of recent times. I know I used to look forward to the tapes from Matt Williams, brim full new exciting guitar players!. Were you part of the guitar collector scene too?

Stefan Rosqvist: I don't know, I have always recorded demos and rehearsals but I never promoted myself, that's something I have to work on because I'm really bad at promoting myself. I only gave my demos to friends.

Laurie Monk: [Laughs]... which probably means Matt sent them on to me! So after those two tracks for the Alchemists, you got signed up for your own full solo release... admittedly 500 years later than originally planned. The new CD, The Guitar Diaries. is the last from Matt Williams Liquid Note Records. It's a shame that this is the case, because Matt has done a lot for the guitar scene, I for one will miss new CD's from Liquid Note. But, as you say at least, he released your CD!

Back on track again, The Guitar Diaries is described as reuniting you with respected Swedish guitarist, Bo Ericsson (Ominox), and with solid rocking support from powerhouse drummer, Peter Wildoer (Darkane/Electrocution 250) and bassist Joakim Attoff and you have moulded an incredible debut CD full of strong melodies and heartfelt compositions. I've heard the CD and it's a great volume of work, very musical and highly enjoyable! Can you give us some more details on the lengthy process of the production of that CD, because it's taken a couple of years right?

Stefan Rosqvist: Thanks Laurie, getting feedback from people on my music is really important to me, isn't that the reason for recording your music and releasing it? It took some years to get it done, a lot of delays and a lot of waiting. It was long, hard, frustrating, great, fun, challenging and painful process, all those emotions at the same time! But I'm really pleased and proud of the final result. One day I woke up and I thought for myself "I have a title for this CD, it's'Eländet'" Misery in English!

Laurie Monk: [Laughs] I heard from Matt that the original plan was to pair you with Magnus Olsson this the album?

Stefan Rosqvist: Yes, the original idea was a CD with Magnus Olsson and me, but it didn't work out so I contacted Bo instead. Bo didn't have any songs so we ended up with my compositions! I think all the musicians did a wonderful job on the CD, they really made this CD good and put my dreams to reality.

Laurie Monk: It's a shame that Magnus Olsson could not make it. In my discussions with Magnus he's always says you have been very influential to his playing. But I guess it was not to be. With Bo Ericsson on board, can you tell me something about the recording process?

Stefan Rosqvist: First I had some "half bad" demos and Peter Wildoer would record drums parts and then we would rerecord everything to Peter's drum parts. We did two drum sessions one year apart!

Short clip of Peter performing the end of Stefan Rosqvist's track Decisions. Filmed at Peter's drum clinic at The Tivoli, Helsingborg, Sweden in February 2006

Laurie Monk: Was that because Peter had RSI?

Stefan Rosqvist: Yes and no! There were other things too, I was waiting for phone calls from musicians that never came and decisions if they wanted to play on my CD or not!

Stefan Rosqvist: I also rewrote and rearranged some of the songs after I heard Peter's drum parts. We recorded the drums in Darkane's studio, plus Not Quite Studio in Helsingborg and we did everything else except guest soloists at my studio, The Mustasch Studio located in Helsingborg too!

Laurie Monk: Your recent music indicates that your a musician first and not a shredder by nature, you have a real melodic quality to your music, I guess Neverland springs to mind when I say that. Was that a conscious decision to avoid shred or is that your way of playing now?

Stefan Rosqvist: I don't hear music like shred or not shred, I really don't listen to music that way. Good music is good music and I don't care about the tempo of the notes!

Laurie Monk: I agree, I always say music is in the ear of the beholder, if it sounds good to you, then it is good!

Stefan Rosqvist: Yngwie Malmsteen is another big influence of mine, a lot of people don't like him because he is shredding all the time but listen to the Alcatrazz album or the first three Rising Force albums, what a passion! His vibrato, bends, energy and tone, pure magic in my book, there's no one like Yngwie.

Alcatrazz - Suffer Me (Metallic Live '84)

Laurie Monk: I guess your referring to tracks like Kree Nakoorie, Black Star, Icarus Dream Suite Opus 4, Little Savage, Marching Out etc.. Yes that's something that Yngwie detractors often overlook, Yngwie can play with a great deal of feel and emotion.

Yngwie Malmsteen - black star double track

He's certainly in my list of top inspirational guitarists. What other music is inspirational to you?

Stefan Rosqvist: I love listening to movie sound tracks, classical music, jazz, hard rock, heavy metal, bluegrass, blues... Music is like a great movie to me but way cooler because good music doesn't need words or pictures, it stands on it's own and creates it's own pictures. That's what I really like with Pat Metheny, he composes music with a lot of colours and it creates a lot of pictures in my mind.

Pat Metheny - Bright Size Life

Laurie Monk: What do you think the Internet has done for guitar players in general?

Stefan Rosqvist: Homeless!!! I think it's great for me and my kind, struggling musicians trying to survive. We can use the Internet to promote our selves, we don't need big ass company's behind us. The downloading part is complex, you want people to hear your music but you can't feed your dog with it if you let people download your music for free! I know a lot of musicians having trouble surviving because they don't sell any CD's. I teach music at a local school in Helsingborg so I get my pay check every month so I'm lucky I have that teaching job.

Laurie Monk: The Internet is a two edged sword. On the one hand there is the ability to get your name out and show people what you can do. But on the other the whole downloading thing has destroyed the market. I know many younger people don't really think about the consequences of the act of downloading, or the fact they may be in the same position in the future... I pretty much believe that people should pay for their art, I know I would not like it if I didn't get paid for the work I do. Is that the way you feel?

Stefan Rosqvist: Yes, you are right on the money mate! You should pay for art.

Laurie Monk: I guess another income stream comes from being an in demand producer, I've enjoyed the production on your recent tracks. Is production something you have gravitated to by chance or something that you've focused on?

Stefan Rosqvist: Thanks, I always been into sound, how do I get a great sounding guitar and how do I get it on tape? It's not only the guitar sound it's every instrument, how do you get a great band sound? Great sounding instruments are a 100% turn on for me! A lot of guitarists ask me: How do I get a good electric guitar sound? It always starts with you and your guitar not plugged in, just listen to how you sound unplugged, work on it and improve your tone. I think it's 60-70% of your tone, where do I put my left hand fingers on the fretboard and how do I hit the strings with my pick. Then at a later stage you bring in the equipment to shape your tone and perfect your sound.

Laurie Monk: You've some sensible ideas, hopefully readers who are dialling in their Line 6 POD's are reading this.

In terms of the creative process, would you say when you are producing the material you have total creative control? What does this mean for you? Plus are you using home studio tools or do you prefer using professional studio equipment?

Stefan Rosqvist: It means a lot to me, if I have a vision and a clear picture of how my production should sound, but if I don't have a clear picture then I use anybody that wants to help! Like The Guitar Diaries, I did produce it but with a lot of help from Peter Wildoer, Joakim Attoff, Lalle, and a couple of teachers and students at school. I use Protools Digi 002 on a PC computer with a lot of plugins! I prefer to record "the old way" with an amp and a microphone. I used a Mesa/Boogie Nomad 55 head with a Mesa/Boogie 1x12" speaker cabinet throughout the CD except on some parts like the slide part on the song "Through Their Eyes". On that song I used a plugin, I think it's called guitar combos, I used the amp that looks like a Vox amp. I use anything as long as I get a great tone out of it, "I do anything to anything " (quote from the Black Adder episode Money)!!

Laurie Monk: [Laughs], Lalle warned me your a British comedy fan... You've had a good relationship with Lalle Larsson, can you tell me a little about the live DVD for Lalle's Seven Deadly Pieces concert. I understand you may have had a little trouble with your guitar amp?

Stefan Rosqvist: The Seven Deadly Pieces amp thing is funny and my type of luck! A couple of bars before my "big" guitar solo my guitar rig went dead! I started to check my guitar cable, followed it to my pedal board, checked all the pedals, followed the instrument cable to my amp and noticed my amp was dead, panic! I checked the fuse in my amp and it was totally wasted so I left the stage and got my tool kit briefcase and I found a couple of old fuses in a Tupperware box! It turned out that they was still good to go and they saved my life and the rest of the gig! My solo part went to hell but I did the rest of the gig. I think there's a short clip of the guitar solo from the rehearsal on the bonus DVD!

Laurie Monk: [Laughs] That must have been scary, only having one shot at the solo in a live setting! Getting back to more recent production duties, I understand you are in the studio as engineer for drums for Lalle Larssons Weaveworld, can you tell us a little more about this project, will you be providing guitars too?

Stefan Rosqvist: That is another great project, Lalle's music is so wonderful and inspiring. The Weaveworld project is something really special, pure great compositions. We are going to record the acoustic bass at my studio, we did some drum parts at the Mega Musik Studio. Lalle is going to record with the quartet at the Gula Studion in Malmoe and were going to do the final mix at my studio and If Lalle wants any guitar parts I´m ready! [laughs] If he can afford me!!!

Laurie Monk: Lalle Larsson got me into listening to piano music, I particularly like players like Keith Jarrett and Michael Camilo. Do you think guitar players would benefit from listening to more keyboard music or writing for or playing with a keyboard player?

Stefan Rosqvist: Oh yes! Listen to other instruments are really important, different instruments phrase different and it's great to transcribe. Orchestrated music is great because you can listen to all the different parts and figure out how it works together.

Laurie Monk: Well I hope it's going well, say hi to Lalle for me! I know it's very important for musicians to broaden their horizons in order to extend their playing ability, I've heard in your case you've studied the life and works of Monty Python and incorporated themes and ideas from classics like "the lumberjack song"... care to expand?

Stefan Rosqvist: I love English black humour like Monty Python, Bottom and The Black Adder, I think nothing is sacred it's the only way to survive in this world! Peter Jackson's Bad taste isn't bad either, pure comedy. You can hear, I think you can hear the Lumber Jack song on every track on The Guitar Diaries...or not?

Laurie Monk: Most players have key guitar influences, As you have said your a big fan of Yngwie Malmsteen and Ted Greene. Plus players like Michael Schenker, Shawn Lane, how have they influences your playing?

Stefan Rosqvist: My first guitar influences was Michael Schenker and Gary Moore.

Laurie Monk: Yes I loved Gary Moore in his Coliseum II days, "The Inquisition"! but I digress...

Coliseum II days, "The Inquisition"

Stefan Rosqvist: Michael Schenker's beautiful tone blew me away and the way he played melodies. I didn't like UFO, it was MSG I fell in love with, especially The Assault Attack with Graham Bonnet on vocals. Gary Moore had a really cool angry Strat sound, a Marshall amp and a Boss DS-1 distortion pedal. Corridors Of Power, Dirty Fingers, Victims Of The Future, Wild Frontier and of course Live in Japan!

Gary Moore "I can't wait until tomorrow" 1983

Laurie Monk: yes, Live in Japan, great lead guitar playing!

Stefan Rosqvist: Gary's melody playing is great too!

I heard Van Halen and listened to them a lot, but then back in 1984' Yngwie came along and played stuff I was dreaming of, combining classical music with rock! Yngwie helped me a lot with my tone and bending. I started to scallop some Strat necks and that helped me out with my vibrato.

Joe Satriani's melodic playing is also really inspiring. Jeff Beck is another one that blows me away, his slide playing is great and speaking of slide how about Sonny Landreth! Out of this world!!! Derek Trucks is another great one and Jerry Douglas.

Shawn Lane's tone and passion, sometimes it feels like he is crying when he played the guitar. I met Shawn Lane a couple of times and he was a wonderful person, pure inspiration!

Shawn Lane "Death Theme"

Laurie Monk: Yes, Matt Williams and I were lucky to meet Shawn Lane, a gentle genius of a man.

Stefan Rosqvist: Of course musicians like Pat Metheny, John Mclaughlin and John Scofield are very inspiring too! Ted Greene made a deep impact on me, I got all the DVDs from Barbara Franklin (thanks Barbara). I love his Telecaster sound through a Fender amp. The way he improvised with chord's and melodies was beautiful and his playing always reminds me of Christmas! I can go on for days because there are so many players, not just guitar players that have inspired me and helped me through the years.

Stefan Rosqvist: What about Allan Holdsworth?

Stefan Rosqvist: Well... Allan is one of the great heroes that change the guitar forever! I remember when I heard the Road Games on vinyl, it blew me away! Great playing from Allan but I fell in love with Jeff Berlin's playing and his moustache! (sorry Allan) Then I heard Metal Fatigue LP and Allan made me drool! Allan's clean sound is so beautiful.

Allan Holdsworth: Road Games

I almost forgot Steve Morse, Paul Gilbert and Eric Johnson. Dixie Dregs with Steve Morse is really cool and Steve's picking technique is great! Eric Johnson's tone and sound is amazing, all the different styles he Incorporated in his playing, his amp set-up is cool too! Paul Gilbert's technique is amazing! The way Paul play riffs are brutal!

Lyle Workman's album "Tabula Rasa" blew me away! Beautiful guitar tones and great songs and production.

I love Billy Gibbons dirty, fuzzy sound and his wonderful tone.

Laurie Monk: I know how you feel mate, so many great guitarists, so little time!!.. Apart from regular practice, is there anything you can recommend struggling guitar players who get stuck in a rut?

Stefan Rosqvist: Don't forget what turned you onto playing the guitar, good music and good guitar players, listen to music that inspires you. I never listen to music that doesn't do anything for me. So Music is number 1 and guitar players are number 2.

Another thing that seems to help me is surrounding myself with inspiring things, friends, family, pets, Whisky or a season or two of Bottom! If that doesn't inspire you your dead!!! Don't forget that sometimes the best thing is just not to play the guitar, timeout!

Laurie Monk: Any key albums you would recommend that made a difference to you and your playing?

Stefan Rosqvist: Wow, how much space do you got? Kiss - Alive, Alcatrazz - No Parole From R 'n' Roll, Gary Moore - Rockin' Every Night, Van Halen - Fair Warning, MSG - Assault Attack, Uli Jon Roth - Beyond The Astral Skies, Ozzy (Jake E Lee)- Bark At The Moon, Eric Johnson - Tones, Sonny Landreth - Anything! Steve Morse - The Introduction, Dixie Dregs - Unsung Heroes, Shawn Lane Powers Of Ten, Pat Metheny Group - Imaginary Day, Jeff Beck - There And Back, Racer X - Street Lethal, Tony Macalpine - Maximum Security, Vinnie Moore - Time Odyssey, Dokken - Under Look And Key, Ratt - Invasion Of Your Privacy, Al DiMeola - Casino, ZZ Top -Mescalero, Joe Satriani - Surfing With The Alien, Steve Vai - Passion And Warfare, Deep Purple - Machine Head, Rainbow - Rising, AC/DC - Back In Black and Stiff Upper Lip, Niccolo Paganini - The Complete Violin Concertos with Salvatore Accardo, J.S.Bach - Anything! Henryk Górecki -Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs, Ennio Morricone - Anything! King's X - Everything!

Laurie: That's good news for me, as I have many of those albums already! It's good to see mention albums like Al DiMeola - Casino, what a cracking album that is!

Well I suppose I better wrap things up. Thanks very much for the time doing this interview it's been really great. When your over my way I'll be sure to buy you a nice single malt whisky, like Laphroaig! Cheers!!!

Stefan Rosqvist: Thanks mate, Laphroaig is my kind of shit !!!

Stefan Rosqvist is on MySpace:

Where to buy The Guitar Diaries:
Sound sample
guitar 9
liquid note