Kalle Wallner toys with sound and tests the limits of his creative bounds in his new album, Liquid. Though I doubt Wallner has come within miles of reaching his potential, Liquid offers a sampling of what a creative guitarist can conjure. Wallner gave Shockwave a basis to better understand how his impressive mind works and where the album’s collaborations formed.
Shockwave Magazine: Were all the tracks smoothly done, or were there any in particular that took more work to create?
Kalle Wallner: It took more time than expected, so everything is well reflected after seven years. It was a pity that I hadn’t had more free time beside RPWL and my label, Gentle Art of Music, to work more intensively and in a shorter period on my third solo album. But, most of the tracks took a very natural development. It’s funny that just “Blackened,” which became the first single of the album, took much more time. In the beginning, the song was much longer. More than 10 minutes. That can happen if you are working alone. One day, I decided to drop all the unnecessary parts and just the simple song was left and I liked it more than ever before.
How was it decided who was involved in each track?
It was never my intention to found a real band next to RPWL. What is fun about solo-work is you can make music with lots of other great musicians. When I wrote all the songs on the first two records I had no idea about the line-up; same as on Liquid. After, I finished the song-writing I thought about the musicians. The hardest decision was to find the right singer. So, that might be the reason why you can find three singers on Liquid. I couldn’t make the final decision. J and they are all great, but in opposite to a fix band line-up, I could pick the perfect singer for his perfect song. So, I had the chance to invite Arno Menses, from Subsignal, for some songs. He has an amazing voice and especially the first single “Blackened” became maybe one of the best songs I ever wrote. Erik Ez Blomkvist, from Sweden, is a metal-head and his voice fits perfectly to the more “rockier” songs. The third singer is Aaron Brooks from the US band Simeon Soul Charger. I love his voice on the last track “Speak the Truth.” He sounds so emotional. Different bass-players like Sebastian Harnack from Sylvan, Ralf Schwager from Subsignal, and the incredible Heike Jung from Panzerballett made a perfect basis together with drummer Michael Schwager, who already plays on the last album, Numb. I’m really happy with this great line-up and I’m pretty sure the listeners will like the different colors of Liquid.
With so many artists at play, was it difficult to adapt to each other’s styles?
Yes, but this is just the interesting thing of a solo project. New musicians have different styles and ideas. This is a good chance to work differently than RPWL, where I know exactly what I can expect from the other musicians. But, I picked the musicians very carefully and I’m so happy that my expectations were exceeded. For example: on the song “Quiet Anger,” it was never planned to record a bass solo part. When we jammed about it, Heike Jung, well known from Panzerballett, played so awesomely that I decided to add this part to this song. My demo songs were sometimes a big playground for the other musicians to play with.
The collaborations are so diverse. Did any of these relationships have unique starts?
It’s totally different. I know drummer Michael Schwager for many years and we already did several projects together over the last years. Michael was already the drummer of the last record Numb, played in the live band too, and he always motivated me to finish this album. Bass player Sebastian Harnack, from Sylvan, is one of my best friends for years and I’m very happy that he is on board again. He also managed the video shooting for the first single “Blackened” and did the editing by him. The only musician I never met before personally was Erik Ez Blomkvist, from Sweden. He is a metal-head and was recommended by a friend of mine; great singer, great voice, with lots of energy. I’m really enthusiastic about his performance on the four songs he did on Liquid.
Kalle, guitar is an extension of your arm at this point. Can you tell us how that started?
You mean why I started playing guitar? When, I was a kid I always wanted to be a drummer, but it was too loud, so acoustic guitar was my second choice. When I listened to rock bands I only had this one wish: playing electric guitar, making my own songs, and playing in a rock band. Then, I started playing in my first band at the age of 11. Of course, we were not good, but we only played our own songs. There is such a difference than playing in a cover band. I always had to find my own way of playing guitar. That was, in a way, the basis to get my own style.
Sometimes it’s funny that so many guitarists talk about gear, guitar pedals, cables, amps, but the main thing happens in your fingers. The equipment doesn’t really matter. Yes, I studied modern guitar and I played in loads of different bands and songs in my life, but you always can find something new in any kind of music. It’s so important what you can add to your influences and to your own playing.
“Speak the Truth” is incredibly individual, even in such a variety-filled album. How did that track come to be?
That’s true. When I wrote this song, in just a one night session in my studio, I never thought to put it on my Blind Ego album. I felt the song is strong and when I had the idea to ask Aaron Brooks, from Simeon Soul Charger, and we did the recording session, I was totally impressed by his performance and how he put this song on a higher level. Now, I’m happy that the song is on the album because it is a very personal and emotional song and means a lot to me.
What do you want this album to portray?
All these songs have the same intentions. There are emotional snapshots, like the music itself. The lyrics often are dealing with an inner conflict. Life is neither black nor white because you often are doing things which are obviously neither good nor bad. You are often in a situation where you have to handle the fact that you watch yourself doing things which could be evaluated as wrong. Nevertheless, you have done it. “Blackened,” for example, is the situation of a dream, but all the atmosphere is like being in something between awake and sleeping. “Not Going Away” deals with loyalty; which is a very important object in my life. I’m a big fan of continuity and I’m used to surrounding myself with people I like and I want to spend my time with, doesn’t matter if privately or for business.
For me the most important aspect in music is the emotion, and so, the lyrics work in the same way. I do not feel life as black and white. For me it is more an emotional gray zone. There are also only a few constants in life. Ultimately everything is somehow in flux and sometimes very difficult to grasp. That means “liquid” for me.
How do you feel you have developed as a musician since the beginning of your career as well as in the time this album was created?
I’m able to bring my emotions and what I want to express much better into my songs. I know better what I want and what not. Liquid is much more adult than my first solo albums. You could say it’s straighter. Not only musically, but in all decisions you have to make while creating an album, there is more balance. I’m feeling this album is much closer to me as any album I did before, not only as a songwriter, but as a guitarist as well. It’s not a collection of single elements, it is one whole thing.
Liquid is a melting pot of talent. Artist diversity whisked into depth-filled cohesiveness is what makes Blind Ego a buffet of scrumptious listening. Close your eyes, go blind to the world, and just listen.