Erik Mårtensson and Magnus Henriksson
Armageddonizing Rock N’ Roll
Kramer Guitars is thilled to sit down with Erik Mårtensson and Magnus Henriksson about their long love of Kramer Guitars, their work in Eclipse, and their search for the epic combination of a great riff and a great song.
Photo - Benitha Kallberg
Let’s begin with each of your Kramer stories. How did you discover Kramer and what music were you listening to at the time?
The first time I saw a Kramer was when I was watching a live video with Twisted Sister in ‘85. Eddie Ojeda was playing a red/black Bullseye 84. That guitar really stood out and I always remembered it. From then, I always associated that guitar with Twisted Sister.
After that, Eddie Van Halen started playing one and then it became the most famous guitar brand in the world. For a while it seemed like almost every U.S. guitarist was playing a Kramer. It was everywhere in the guitar magazines that i was reading at the time. Still, they weren't that easy to find in Swedish music stores. I guess they were too expensive here back then. Most people in Sweden were buying Japanese guitars back then. They were cheaper.
As I was way too young to remember what guitars people used back in the 80s, I saw first the Kramer guitars when I discovered all the fantastic bands much later. I'm a big fan of the hard rock bands of the 80s and you can't really talk about them without mentioning Kramer.
Why do you think metal and heavy rock took off in Sweden?
The Swedish rock scene has always been influenced by the British 70s Hard Rock and 80's U.S. metal. Yngwie Malmsteen and Europe were the first acts that showed us how it was done and they spawned a lot of aspiring young players, like ourselves. Besides that, we get free music education here, so you don't have to pay lots of money on guitar lessons. From 2000 onward, the scene has exploded with great bands from here and it's a healthy competition. Everyone has to be on their “A” game in order to stand out.
I really agree with Magnus here. There are so many great bands over here. All from melodic rock to death and black metal. The competition is fierce and that is also very inspiring and makes the scene even better.
In the U.S., there is a huge fan base for metal but now more than ever, bands are having to spend more time with the business side—running their own labels, paying for everything out of pocket. What is the scene like for you at home?
I'd say it's pretty much the same over here. There's no money to be made so you have to do most of it yourself. We get a good support from our record label, though and they're taking care of all the promotion, videos, production budget, printing etc. But the rest is our own responsibilty. We produce and record our albums at Erik’s studio and we design our own album covers and merchandise.
Erik, you got signed to a label rather quickly. Could that still happen?
Absolutely. New bands gets signed every day but the difference from back in the day is that nowadays, you got to do a lot or everything yourself. Especially in the hard rock scene. Even when we got signed, we had to record and produce our own record. But the good part is that I learned the hard way how to do it and that's how I make a living nowadays. Sometimes it's a good question to ask yourself if you actually need a record company. They don't have the control over distibution any longer and that's a huge difference to only five years ago.
How does your production and writing work outside the Eclipse influence the band?
As everything in life you learn new things every day and it's the same when it comes to song writing and productions. Everything I learn working with others I incorporate into Eclipse and of course the other way around. It's like every crafmanship. The more you do it the better and faster you get at acheiving results and it's the same with music. Especially productions. You know what to aim for and you know how to acheive it.
What kind of studio set up do you like to work in? In other words, some bands prefer recording very methodically—others prefer to work live.
I guess I'm in the second category. In the music scene I'm working in, the details are just as important as the the big picture. It's like building a house. You do it from the foundation and up. If all the details are right it will be a good house. Having that said, it's still music and I'm absolutely not into that 100% perfection. It's actually the imperfections that is the art and music. It's what going on between that gives the music the soul and that's why every musician sound different even if they play the exact same notes in a song. It's fantastic.
You guys get incredible sounds in the studio. Does that come from being gear heads? Are you into compressors, mixing boards, and amps? Or does it just come from your fingers?
Very basic. It's pretty much fingers, guitar, cord, amp, mic. I'd say that what you hear on the albums is what comes out of our amps. A good guitar and amp will do the trick. I used my Kramer Assault plus straight into a Marshall JCM 900 SL-X for all my solos and rhythm guitars.
A good song, a great guitar player straight into a good sounding amp and speaker will always do the trick. A great singer will sound good on any microphone. The best pre-amps and compressors will not turn a bad singer into a good one and it's the same with guitar sound. I always go for a simple Shure SM57 directed straight at the speaker and pointed right between the cone and the dust cap.
Usually I only do minor EQ tweaks to make it sit in the mix. It should sound great directly from the microphone. If not, go back and make the changes to guitars, amps or speakers to make it sound like an album already from the start. And don't be afraid to make sure it has a lot of midrange and top end so it will sit in a bright mix. Most people have too much bass and too little mids when I get files for mixing. Let the bass guitar handle the bass.
Erik what are you like as a producer?
I'm a very honest producer. I always say what I think and I want everyone else to do so as well. I'm not the producer that points with the whole hand saying this is how it should sound like. But at the same time, I want a clear goal so we can work together as a team and maker sure we all run in the same direction. If I'm doing something they don't like, tell me. If they bring a crap song I'll tell them. It acually makes the whole process more open minded and fun. If something ain't good enough it's better be discussed immediately. You don't do the artists any favours by sweet talking them cause as soon as the album is released, the fans and critics won't show any mercy. Good results are always the priority. And I'm my own bigget critic.
If a band or artist comes to you for production help, are you looking for someone who has already done a lot of work on the road and has experience or do you prefer to work with someone is completely new?
It really doesn't matter to be honest. If they are band or artists that's been doing this for along time it's easy as they know exactly how to do it. But it's also harder to make them try new stuff as they tend to do the same thing over and over again. But that's absolutely not true for everyone. Some are actually tired of the way they've been doing things and want to try something new. Newer artist are obviously more open in trying out new stuff.
What Kramer guitars are you using in the studio and on stage now?
I've been using my Assaults and my Nite V for all the tours and albums since I started using them. They deliver night after night. I abuse my guitars pretty hard on the road but they're still in the same shape as when I got them. I always dreamed of a guitar with the looks and sound of a Les Paul but with the intonation and twang from a strat. When I got my Assault Plus with the 25.5 neck the search was over. That's my guitar.
I'm using my Kramer Baretta 84 model and a Pacer Vintage. I love them both and they are all over my productions and I use them all the time. I used to play Gibson Les Paul Custom on everything but these guitars sound better, intonate better and stay in tune so you can actually focus on playing guitar instead of tuning all the time!
It seems like in the U.S. and the UK, Metal is moving ever closer to the mainstream. For instance, Bring Me the Horizon from England have combined a hard rock sound with synthesizers and had an almost instant #1 record. How do your colleagues look at the genre now—where is it going?
It seems to be going in all kinds of directions. For good and bad. It's always good to fuse hard rock with other ideas and genres. That's what's making it evolve and keeping it alive. We try to build our sound with the riffs from the 80s metal combined with pop melodies in a bombastic modern, ballsy production. There's a lot of crap out there but every once in a while there comes something completely new groundbreaking.
I think the hard rock and metal scene is better than it has been in a long time. So many great bands doing the music they want and it's totally open to make all kinds of combinations to form your own sound. Some bands do it better than others of course. Just as Magnus said, we try to combine the music we were listening to when we grew up and formed us as musicians with the sounds of here and now. I personally love cool guitar riffs and the combination with the very melodic vocals and the catch choruses. Just guitar riffs are boring but so are just good melodies. The combination is epic!