Lalle Larsson, A Man with A Vision

Lalle Larsson is a pianist/keyboardist, a composer, a workaholic and just a generally great dude. During his career he’s been involved in many different projects. Read on and find what Lalle has to say about Weaveworld, his collaborations with Jonas Reingold, Richard Hallebeek, his musical beginnings and so on.

Nick: Hello, Lalle. Thanks for agreeing to this interview, I have to say that it’s been an honor for me to have a chance to speak with one of my favorite Lalle Larssonpianists/keyboardists- composers. How’s life these days?

Lalle: Wow thanks, I appreciate the support. Life is good at the moment. I am excited about my new material for the next Weaveworld album. We have just finished recording all the drum tracks for that and it sounds really amazing! I will spend this summer finishing everything off. I will also be a part of some other creative projects that will happen later this year, so I´m not complaining.

Nick: 2009 has been very successful year for you I would say, as you have released an album called “Weaveworld”, as well as a DVD called “Seven Deadly Pieces”. And also you’ve had time to participate on another project, this time playing fusion jazz with 3rd World Electric. But it seems like all that wasn’t enough for you, haha, as you also took part in the Karmakanic & Agents of Mercy collaboration, which recently released “The Power of Two”. How do you feel after all this?

Lalle: Yeah, 2009 was a very creative year for me. It feels good. You know, ever since I quit my day job as a music teacher two years ago a lot of doors have opened. Now that I work fulltime with my music I get more things done and I can really delve deeper into my artform. I also think that the time was right for me to reach a bigger audience with my music and I am very fortunate to be able to share my vision with guys like Jonas Reingold and Reingold Records.

Nick: Is it difficult to create such music presented on Weaveworld? I see that project as a big house which has rooms filled with jazz musicians, a classical orchestra, a heavy metal band and you in the middle of that all, as a conductor.

WeaveworldLalle: It´s always difficult to create good, authentic music I think. I do write a lot of music that I reject, I am very picky when it comes to my own music, it has to feel right – have a certain atmosphere. I start out hearing the music in my head and I get a vision of the overall feeling and what I want to say with an album. Sometimes the vision comes out the way I want it to and sometimes it becomes something else. Not neccessarily worse, just different. There are a lot of parameters to get right, arrangement, performance, sound, etc…

Nick: What is it that makes a musician authentic? What musicians have the best reputation for authenticity, in your opinion?

Lalle: Everyone has their own interpretation of what authentic is I guess. I don´t know… I think anyone who can communicate who they are and what they are feeling through their music will resonate with other likeminded souls. Music, like emotions, is a very universal thing.

Nick: Let’s talk about your musical beginnings, as well as your musical education. How did it all begin? Why did you choose to play piano? I believe you also played drums for a while, right? What other instruments do you play?

Lalle: My parents were both musicians so I was practically born with a piano in front of me. I don´t really have any memories of not playing. It wasn´t really a choice, music was more like a natural part of the environment and playing with sounds was as natural as anything else. Although I didn´t really get serious about practising and all that until I was about 14 years old.

When I became a teenager I wanted to be a rock star (laughs) so I began learning the drums and not long after that I formed my own band and I also took drum lessons for a couple Lalle Larssonof years. Apart from piano and drums I have also played the guitar for many years now.

Nick: What’s your opinion on putting labels on music? I guess that we’d both agreed that music doesn’t have any limitations; everything is based on feelings, right? Also, when you play, do you try to establish some kind of connection with your “soul”?

Lalle: Yeah, a label is obviously something you need if you want to sell a product so that the consumer knows what to expect.  I´ve read that my music falls somewhere between progressive jazzrock/fusion and symphonic metal. I don´t know… I mean some of my favourite artists like John Coltrane and Allan Holdsworth fall under the jazz and fusion labels, still I think they sound very different from anything else I´ve heard in their suggested genre. But they need to be put in a genre so that us consumers can find them.

I don´t think that you can “try” to establish a connection to your soul when you play, either you are present or you are not. It´s like saying “do you breath when you talk?” Either you do it or you don´t, if you choose not to – it won´t take long before you die… while trying to talk… (laughs)

In my music improvisation is all about expressing myself and the way I feel. If I feel that I have nothing to say then the music will sound dead. Every note you play should feel important, that´s what I like in a musician, you know, if I hear a drummer for instance and I can hear that he is present and that every single hit on the drums is equally important, all played with conviction, then I usually dig it.

Nick: You are both a solo artist and an ensemble player. As a solo artist, I guess that you have many more possibilities while you play, as you can do different things. What does a musician need to have to make them a good solo artist?

Lalle: Well, I can only speak for myself. As a solo artist I am usually also the composer so the music is all my vision and I pretty much have a clear picture of how I want everyone to play that music. If I am playing in a band it is usually someone elses material and someone elses feelings that I have to try to understand and capture. I become an interpreter, that´s the biggest difference to me. As a solo artist I´m just doing my thing, playing that which comes natural to me.

Nick: Your first solo adventure was an album called “State of Mind”, and it’s interesting that this one was actually promo release, never released as a full-length. Why is that? Please tell us something more about this release.

Lalle: This is a recording I did after I had been doing a couple of solo piano gigs playing jazz-standards. I don´t even consider this a release. It´s more of a personal document. It is obviously not a typical “Lalle Larsson” album as I am playing in a more traditional jazz way.

I´m not saying it is bad but I feel that it is not 100%  me, it´s a tradition. Even though it has some highlights. My first real official solo album is the teenage recording Ominox – Contemporary Past from 1993 (Liquid Note Records). All original material. So to be correct Weaveworld is actually my second solo album.

Nick: Electrocution 250 comes next, a very nice and successful combination of avant-garde and metal, which was made in the 90’s. What have been inspired you to make this?

Lalle: When I studied at the “American Institute Of Music” in Vienna in 1992 I did some really insane demos together with guitar virtuoso Todd Duane. These demos were passed around all over the world and it became something of a cult item in the underground shred community. We were even offered a record deal by Shrapnel Records but for some reason that never happened. Then many years later Liquid Note Records wanted us to do something in the line of those demos, and that became Electrocution 250. We didn´t quite manage to capture the raw energy of the demos but it became something else. We were influenced by Todd´s early demos but also by cartoon music, Looney Tunes and that kind of thing. We just wanted it to be as insane and funny as possible, play as fast as possible and with a lot of humour. (laughs) It became an underground classic and was fairly successful in Japan etc.

Nick: Next in line was The Richard Hallebeek Project with Sebastiaan Cornelissen, Brett Garsed and great Shawn Lane, who unfortunately passed away soon after that. This was an excellent fusion project, I think.

Lalle: Thanks. Me, Richard and Sebastiaan each wrote three tunes for that album and then we called in the guests. It was a fun album to record. I lived at Sebastiaans place in Holland and we had a lot of fun hanging out. Rich and Bas are both great friends and wonderful musicians.

I dedicated my song Enigma to Shawn Lane who sadly passed away. He was a true original and one of my all time favourite musicians.

Nick: In 2005, you joined forces with Sebastiaan Cornelissen again with addition of Gary Willis, forming Timeline. Why do you think this project stayed almost unnoticed?

Lalle: The record label Munich Records didn´t know who we were and they didn´t care about the album enough to do any promotion at all, so it just got lost unfortunately. It´s probably really difficult to get a hold of that CD now. I think that album deserved more recognition.

Nick: During your career you’ve been collaborating with many musicians, including Philippe Ansari, the already mentioned Sebastiaan Cornelissen, Virgil Donati, Phi Yaan Zek, and latest one, but not the least, Zoltan Øbelisk. Would you tell us something more about these people you’ve worked with? Who was the most fun?

Lalle: I have done a lot of different sessions over the years and every one of them have been a great learning experience for me. Most of the studio work nowadays is done by sending wav-files via the internet. It´s a lot more fun to actually meet the musicians and record together live in the studio. In March I did a great studio-session with Agents Of Mercy – Roine Stolt & Nad Sylvan´s new band. That was a lot of fun, recording the oldfashion way.

Among the guys you mentioned Phi and Sebastiaan are both very close personal friends of mine so we are always having a lot of fun together. They are like brothers to me and we have been doing a lot of hanging out in London and Holland. Unfortunately we don´t get to meet too often since we live in different countries.

Nick: 2008 brought you into Karmakanic (although you joined the band in 2006 as live support, if I’m not wrong), appearing on “Who’s The Boss In The Factory”, an awesome album, which, by the way, I quickly put on my list of “top albums of 2008”. How did you get in touch with them? Also, what’s it like working with Mr. Reingold? Seems that he’s pretty busy these days.

Karmakanic Lalle: Jonas called me in 2006 because he needed a a keyboard player for an upcoming Karmakanic tour and I accepted. I ended up playing on their third album “Who´s The Boss…” and I´ve been a part of the band ever since. We have done several tours and albums together now me and Jonas. He is great to work with, a true professional. Bass-player, composer, producer, record label guy, studio engineer, you name it… Jonas has become a great friend of mine and he is a musical kindred spirit. He is also very funny! We have a lot of fun together. I really can´t say enough good things about him :)

Nick: In the recent interview with Nad Sylvan of Agents of Mercy, he told that Karmakanic is in the process of making a new album. Would you tell us something more about that? What can we expect this time?

Lalle: Yeah, Jonas is in the middle of working on the next album. He is sending me demos of new songs that he is working on and some of the stuff is already my favourite Karmakanic material. It will be released sometime early next year I believe.

Nick: Speaking of Karmakanic, what’s your favorite album? Few days ago, I was talking with my friend concerning the same question and we’ve agreed that every of three albums is way different in comparison to its predecessor and that’s what we like. How difficult is it to create something different, but at the same time to keep all of those basic “Karmakanic” elements?

Lalle: Yeah, all three albums are different. If I had to pick a favourite I would say “Who´s The Boss” and the live album.

Karmakanic is Jonas vision and the first two albums feels to me more like his solo projects done with a lot of studio/guest musicians, “Who´s The Boss” was beginning to sound more like a band I think, and the live album is definitely unique. The new album will also have more of a band feel to it. By now Jonas knows our strengths so when he writes he can for instance write with Göran´s voice and my keyboard playing in mind.

Nick: Why did it take so long for you to release “Seven Deadly Pieces”? I remember I was looking forward to it several times, but it seemed like it was never going to be released! In the end, it was worth waiting for, surely.

Lalle: Mostly because we didn´t have a budget. I paid for it all myself  and when people are working for free things take time. Plus we had some technical problems in the end.

But it was amazing that we managed to pull it of after all. It just shows that you can create something like that with hardly no budget. it took me ten years to realize that project.

Nick: What bands/artists do you listen to the most these days?

Lalle: Lately I have actually listened mostly to my own music since I´ve been working several hours every day with the new Weaveworld. When I listen to other music for inspiration I tend to always go back to my old favourite artists and recordings. Now when Ronnie James Dio so sadly passed away I have listened a lot to Rainbow, Sabbath and Dio.  I also always come back to the old Shawn Lane demos/bootlegs and Holdsworth live bootlegs. Early Yngwie stuff and some Coltrane live stuff. Apart from that I listen to classical music and filmmusic a lot.

I dig Ennio Morricone, John Barry, that sort of stuff. Now that I think of it I guess the latest “current ” album I listened to was Jeff Beck´s latest CD.

Nick: Do you have a clear image/vision of your musical career? Can you see that far or simply you will make album based on your feelings of the moment?

Lalle: Yes I have a pretty clear vision of where I´m going with my music. My plan is to release one solo album every year, this fall the second Weaveworld will come out and the third album will come out next year. I have only planned for a Weaveworld trilogy then I´ll see where the music leads me, but I will continue to build my catalogue with my own sound, I have only just started.

Nick: Do you have any hobbies or are you fully devoted to music?

Lalle: I guess that music is both my work and hobby. I do very little else than practise, compose and record. That´s my life. I do enjoy reading and watching good films for relaxation and I work out sometimes to stay fit, but that´s about it.

Nick: As I think that I’m done with questions, is there anything what you’d like to say to our visitors?

Lalle: Yeah, thanks for your interest and for taking time to read this interview. Don´t forget to check out my solo album Weaveworld and my DVD Seven Deadly Pieces if you haven´t already, ha,ha, promotion, promotion…. I have a second album coming out this fall so look out! Don´t forget to check out the new Agents Of Mercy that will also come out this fall! Some inspired music for you I promise!

Nick: Thank you very much for the interview, Lalle. I hope you enjoyed in giving answers to my pretty standard questions. All the best!

Lalle: Thank you! I enjoyed your questions :)

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.
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