THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF

The guitar solo is dead. Long live the guitar solo.THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF came to me by chance but there’s no reason to regret it now that I know of her existence. Anders Ekdahl ©2012

I think that asking you about role models is a boring question. What I want to know is how much you have to sacrifice to be as good at guitar playing as you have become? Is it worth it in the end?
-When I started out playing I wanted to be a songwriter in a rock band, I had NO idea that I would eventually turn into a shred guitarist. I had a difficult time during high school but the guitar was always there. When things got a bit better, I had spent so much time playing guitar it seemed foolish to abandon it, so I just kept on going. Being a serious creative person will always alienate you from your peers. I remember when I was doing visual arts I would skip my lunch break and stay after school to work on my portofolio. I was the only student doing that and gained enormous popularity with my art teacher who would give me art supplies and art-advice outside of school. Later on after high school, when I did my animation class, I would be the only student scratching on the door to the art studio as I wanted to finish my art project. My art teacher fell in love with my dedication, so she gave me a Mac so I could work on my art projects from home! I coulnd’t believe it! She would later on show my animation video to her art classes at the University of Chicago and wrote me one hell of a statement! Is it worth it? If art and music is at the epicenter of your life, it is worth it if the work you have made gets attention. I was very touched when someone covered my song ” Let it Go”, I never thought I would see that. I couldn’t believe it! If your work goes unnoticed, then it`s not.

Still I would like to know what it was that made you want to pick up a guitar to begin with?
-I was tired of visual arts and I had lots of ideas for songs. Music had always been at the epicenter of everything as I would always listen to music when I was drawing, painting or designing. I couldn`t play an instrument. I originally wanted to play drums but went for the guitar, as it was a solo-instrument that could be used for songwriting. I started to play guitar the year I turned 16, so I considered myself rather old compared to my peers who had been playing since early childhood. I had no time to waste. It was more than enough with one instrument.

I’m not one for gender generalizations but we have The Great Kat and now you as the Commander-In-Chief but we don’t see any male guitarists with ego boasting monikers. Is it still strange with a female being efficient at guitar playing?
-Nope, I think having a bit of an ego is a typical male thing. Look at the rappers, they don`t do anything else but to boast. “I`m the best rapper alive”, how many times haven`t you heard that? When it comes to big sounding artist names you got Emperor, Madonna, Queen, The King, Dio, The Boss, Prince…. I don’t think my artist name is particularly ego-centric. I wanted something that sounded, big, serious and masculine. I wanted people to think of a guy when they heard my artist name. Something that would be intimidating rather than the typical choices of sweet female artist names. There is nothing new in creative women writing or creating under a male pseudonym, it’s actually very common in literature, or at least it used to be.

How important is it to have a moniker that makes you stand out in this day and age?
-It`s your identity, your brand if you wish, so it`s very important. The hardest thing is to find one that is available. I spent a lot of time trying to come up with an artist name ever since I started playing guitar. Funny thing is, before I started to call myself The CIC, I was working on a metal version of “Hail to the Chief” the intro song used by The Commander In Chief of the US. I felt like an idiot for not coming up with my artist name before. It took the presidential election of 2008 for that particular name to pop into my mind. I was very surprised that noboby else was using it.

Lately guitar solos in metal has become a no no. Why do you think that guitar solos has been forsaken in metal?
-It was probably too much with the 80`s, so alternative put an end to it along with nu-metal. Solos are in again now thought, with bands like Avanged Sevenfold, even Disturbed started soloing.

What is the relationship with heavy metal and guitar solos? Where does the idea that a metal song has to have a guitar solo come from?
-I don`t know, aren`t most metal guitarist influenced by blues?? You should ask Black Sabbath that question, or Deep Purple or Led Zeppelin. I know the Chicago jazz scene had a big impact on me in that field. My mother used to manage Jazz acts and all these Jazz cats solo forever. The first demo I did was with producer/guitarist/bassist Paul Richmond, a true Jazz/R&B legend in Chicago. My mom would drive me throught the gang infested “hoods” of the southside to get to his place. I remeber telling him ” hey, get out your 6 string bass and jam up a solo!”. He was giving me weird looks, as solos, especially from the ryhthm section ,it’s not that common in rock songs. Eventually we went over to James Knowles’ house, a great R&B drum legend in Chicago who played with Toni Braxton and R. Kelley. He did some takes for my songs and I looked over at him and went; ” Dude! That’s soooo boring, give me a solo and show off your chops dude!”. These guys would just be laughing and be like “Duuude, it’s all about simplefying in popular music! It’s all about keeping the groove and keeping it simple!”. I didn’t care much, I was like “I know you guys can play!!Let it show in the song!!”. This is very typical for how I deal with session guys, I will always push them, always. My philosophy was always that it’s better to have too much, than to have to little. But after recording with producer Sterling Winfield some months ago, I got a lesson in simplifying…lol…so now I am trying to find the balance between letting everybody shin without compromising the flow of the song. Eventually when I put my first live band together and did my first demo EP, I abandoned my idea of letting the other musicians solo. Reason why? Because most hired guns don’t really care about what music they play or who they work with. When hired guns start making all sorts of demands I get VERY annoyed. I’m the songwriter and I’m the artist, who will pay me to show up at my own rehearsals? Nobody! So it pisses me off when other musicians start behaving like divas, complaining about the venue or the rehearsal space or the gear or the money…Once I had two guys in my band who wanted my manager to pay their rent so they could “stay in my band”. I have encountered so much weird behavior from my fellow musicians I honestly can’t believe it. I have been very lucky to have the same drummer for almost 3 years now and he has been part of the entire artist development stage.

Why does a conventional guitar only have six strings? Who decided that and who decided what tones the strings should have?
-Hmm……I know that the 7 string comes from Jazz originally. Now we are moving into acoustic guitar territory and I honestly don`t know much about the general history of the guitar, lol.

Can you in lay man terms explain the benefit of a seventh string?
-More depth. You can transcribe your songs an octave lower, I`m intrigued by the 8 string, would like to try that out as well. Then all my songs could be super deep and uber heavy.

When you write songs do you have what do you focus on primarily? Is the melody second to the solos? How important is the song context for the solos?
-It`s all about the song, the solos and the lyrics come last. Always. The solos have their place but the most important thing is the song itself. It usually start with the riff and that gives me the idea for the overall theme of the song. The first part I wrote in “Famous” was the riff and instantly I was just singing ” gives us more blood more blood”. I visualized an angry crowd with their fists in the air shouting at fallen stars. I visuallized the headlines caused by Britney Spears breakdown and Amy Winehouse. How the gossip press and the readers just wanted more and more and more. It was a critique against the audience, no doubt. Then, I read an article in the L.A. Weekly. It talked about how the Hollywood Walk of Fame didn’t want to give stars to Reality Show Celebreties like Kim Kardashian and The Situation. They were offended apparently as they felt like they deserved to have one…… I just wrote down one sentence in my notebook….”Less you know the more likely it is you will be famous…”. Some months passed and I was singing on top of the Famous riff, adding a verse that was a total critique towards reality shows like: Big Brother, the Kardashians, Jersey Shore…..One day I was doing something else, absent minded as always, when the chorus for Famous literally just dropped in my head. The lyrics and everything was just there, and I run over to my H4, recording the idea. Eventually, I took out the Famous riff from the chorus and replaced it with “plain” chords instead, as this din’t obstruct the vocal melody. Instantly the song became more ” commercial” sounding, but this was necessary for the vocal line to “breathe”.When I was preparing myself to go into the recording studio, I sat back and listen to the song over and over again. I always had an empty space in the song, reserved for a future solo. I sat there singing various melodies for myself, until I finally came up with a melody that sounded cool for a solo. Then the trick was to actually PLAY the idea I had. This took me many hours and late nights with intensive guitar playing before heading into the studio. I knew what I wanted. I played my fingers sore to get there and I did. This is a typical songwriting process that I go through…I always saw “Famous” as symphatizing with the star. It was ment as a critique towards the audience as there would be no reality shows without the audience who sits at home and vote. There were three seperate influences for the songs. Peoples morbid obsession with stars that are falling apart. Cynical reality shows that are made to push people and test their limits. And finally, retarded statements from Kim Kardashian and the Situation. How these “NO-bodies” in term of skills and tallent feel entiteled to fame.
The vision always come first. Skills come later and have to expand and adapt accordingly. Thats’ how I have always worked and that’s how my soloing and guitar playing has evolved. I will sing a guitar solo a lot of times. Then the challenge is to actually write it on the guitar;);)

Is there a future for guitar oriented metal acts today?
-There has to be if not the Djent genre and the Prog genre of today wouldn`t thrive.

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