With so many cool bands out there to check out I offer you some minor guidance by introducing you to LESLIE RIPP. Anders Ekdahl ©2020
Do you feel that is has gone the way you intended when you formed back in the days?
-Honestly, back in the days of the eighties and nineties, I never thought of becoming an instrumental solo artist. I always wanted to be in a normal five piece band that included a vocalist. However, that all changed when I put together my digital home recording studio. This made it easy for me to experiment and record original ideas myself in just a few hours. Back in the day, I was lucky to have learned to play piano and drums, which gave me the capability to record all the background tracks myself. The one thing I was never any good at no matter how much I tried was vocals. Rather than looking for a vocalist to work with, I decided to try my hand at doing an instrumental piece, which worked out pretty good. I’ve been continuing along that path ever since with no regrets.
How do you feel about your latest recording? Did it come out the way you expected it to?
-It’s always a challenge to create an instrumental guitar showcase type album that is interesting and engaging from start to finish. Most times this type of album would only appeal to guitar enthusiasts or other musicians, while the average listener would probably find it boring after the first few tracks. On the other hand, jazz, blues and classical instrumental albums don’t seem to have that problem. Everybody seems to like a good jazz or blues instrumental album regardless of being a musician or not. If you can figure out what that common element is you can try and apply it in some shape or form to your own project. I my opinion, variety, movement/anticipation, and dynamics, seem to be the common factors. That said, for this album, I made it a point to incorporate some of these elements within each song and use more variety in the track list ranging from metal (Fallen Angel), to hard rock (Thunder Alley Jam), to R&B (Some Like it Hot), to jazz blues (Leslie Plays the Blues). I think the album turned out with a good balance of elements that will appeal to both musicians and the average listener.
Do you feel that you by now has found a sound that is the band and that you can build on it?
-After countless recordings over the years, I think I’ve stumbled upon that unique sound that I can say is my own, which can be heard in both the instruments, and the final mastering. I always try to mix and master my recordings to have a more live sound rather than a studio processed sound. Over processing takes away the natural sound and ambience of an instrument and can make it sound flat and lifeless. On the other hand, you do need to add effects sometimes to clean up a muddy sounding mix, but you need to find that happy medium before you start over doing it and make it sound worse than it was. I’m always experimenting with new sounds, however, have not yet found anything that would make me change from the staple sound I’ve been using over the recent years
Is having a message in the lyrics important to you? What kind of topics do you deal with?
-Although my songs are strictly instrumental, I do feel it is important to express some form of message to the listener. I always try to incorporate a theme into my compositions that is reflective of the title. For example, the song “Shanghai” has an Asian flavor to it, and the title song “Circle of Fifths” is actually based on a music chart known to most musicians. Also, having different moods are very important, especially for an instrumental, which most times is all you have to work with.
How important is the cover art work for you? Can a really cool cover still sell an album in this day and age of digital download?
-After spending months and countless hours recording a great album, I think it should have a great cover to compliment the work. I always try to design the cover to reflect the theme of the album rather than something that looks cool but has nothing in common with the album. I honestly don’t think the art alone will sell an album these days, but an interesting cover may get someone to at least check it out, and then the music has to sell itself.
Why is it so hard for bands that come from places not the US or UK/Sweden/Scandinavia to break big? What is success to you and is it something you’d like to achieve
-I think for touring bands, the US and UK may offer more venues and opportunity to get that exposure which could lead to that big record deal. As for me, being more of a solo studio musician, I won’t have the success that a touring band may achieve, but success comes in the form of being able to record and publish my music from the comfort my home, and the satisfaction that my works may have been an inspiration to someone else. Also if there’s a buck to be made along the way, I’ll gladly take it.
Today the competition is harder. You got plenty of digital platforms for new talent to display their music. How do you do to really stand out in a world where everything but the music is blind to the listener?
-I try to offer a different style and sound compared to what others are doing. Although my songs are strictly instrumental, I will actually compose them as if they were going to have vocals, with a verse, chorus, and bridge type structure. Then I just replace the vocals with guitar leads. I think it makes for an interesting and unique overall sound that stands out among the others.
What is your local scene like? How important is a national scene for a band to be able to break out and make it international?
-Here in the US, rock and metal bands are slowly fading away in the shadows of rap and hip hop acts. If you are a new rock/metal band in the US, you have to reach out internationally where this type of music still seems to be going strong, to have the best chance of success these days.
Rock and metal has come a long way since the early 70s but still some people’s attitudes towards it seem to be left in the stone age. How accepted is metal in your area? Is it like in Finland where it seems to come with the mother’s milk?
-Although popularity of metal in the US, has been in decline over the years, there are still a handful of dedicated fans to keep it from disappearing completely. There really needs to be some kind of spark to generate the interest of metal with the new millennial generation, who will be the ones to decide if metal stays or gets swept under the carpet.
What does the future hold for you?
-Although I do see the future as blank canvas right now, I will probably continue as a solo artist for a few more albums, however I do want to eventually form a full band that includes a vocalist, and be able to play live on stage again. And there’s always the possibility of re-forming my old band Rat Attack. But only time will tell!