"It's a sad fact that when you think of shred guitarists, the majority of them will be men. Enter The Commander-In-Chief", a seven-string-wielding uber-shredding female who's ready to melt faces and shatter stereotypes! Make way for the Norwegian Queen of Shred!". ~ Total Guitar Magazine
Guitarist The Commander-In-Chief Interview:
Scott > Hi Commander, How are you doing these days?
The Commander-In-Chief > Very good indeed! My latest single the "Zigeunerweisen" has been very well received. It was featured in Guitar World, Guitar Afficionado, I got my second newspaper front page in my home country this year and also got myself on BBC, where they aired the "Zigeunerweisen". People really seem to dig it! The article on Guitar World got like 20.000 shares in 48 hours and is one of the most commented articles on their website! This last month has been pretty awesome!
Scott > What’s the genesis for your Debut EP "Evolution"?
The Commander-In-Chief > My manager (Elisabeth) and producer (Sterling Winfield) picked the songs they thought were best. I write everything, but I never pick what gets recorded. I think it's best that way, as it's hard for a songwriter to see things from the outside. I was very determined that I wanted an organic recording, which resonated well with Sterling, as this was a vision we shared. There is no auto-tune on the EP and no pro-tools wizardry. Sterling even made a statement about the recording experience, since he was so impressed with the performances on the recording.
Scott > Give us a run down of the musicians that are playing on the CD.
The Commander-In-Chief > On the Evolution EP, you got Andy Saxton on bass, a session guy that was recommended from somebody I had previously worked with. I was the one who directed him, as he recorded, so he wouldn't overplay. It's important how the musicians fit together on the recording, it has to sound like a band, it has to build. Ultimately, it's all about the song. Jason Bowl, played drums on the record. He is a well respected session guy in the UK. We worked on the drums together, as I always arrange the drums. We spoke on the phone several times before we hit the studio, and sent emails back and forth. Session guys always try their best to wrap their head around the ideas of the songwriter, they are there to make your vision come alive.
Scott > How do you come up with your songs?
The Commander-In-Chief > It usually starts with a riff. The sound of the riff determines the mood of the song, which in turn defines the title and eventually the lyrics. I always hum a vocal line on top of the chords. I always write different melody lines simultaneously. I never sit down with scales and rules, all my songs are improvised on the spot. That's how songs are invented. Working on guitar technique is completely different.
Scott > Tell me what it is that spoke to you about this project.
The Commander-In-Chief > Which one? With "Evolution" I was just eager to get my songs recorded. I think any songwriter likes the feeling of "ticking-things-off-your-to-do-list". When a song has been recorded you are done with it, you can finally get your peace of mind and move on! I also always visualize my music videos, as images and music is something I see/feel as one. Meaning that if I make a picture. I'll hear a song that goes with it. If I make a song I see the images that goes along with that. I will not be done with the "Evolution" EP, until all the songs have a music video. All my songs have an identity of their own. With the "Zigeunerweisen", I just loved the idea of doing something different. It was my first collaboration and I wanted it to come as a total shock. I grew up listening to classical music as my mother was an opera singer. Itzhak Perlman's version of the "Zigeunerweisen", was a childhood favorite. His recording were always being played in our home.
"Bow down mortals, meet the new Queen of Shred. The Norwegian guitar supremo is one hell of a player. This one-woman Metal Hurricane is smashing her way through the underground with her mix of great songwriting, face-ripping shredding and a refusal to listen to the few cynical wallies out there who judge her on image and not talent." ~ Metal Hammer
Scott > Are there plans to tour?
The Commander-In-Chief > It would be great to tour, if the tour is good. I need to pay my session guys, so I cannot, and will not do anymore free gigs.
Scott > Are you a schooled guitar player or a self-taught guitar player?
The Commander-In-Chief > Self-taught, until I met my guitar mentor, Ramon Ortiz in 2010. He gave me faith that I could become a great lead guitarist. Thanks to his exercises and advice, and my own work ethic, I have become the guitarist I am today. Until I met Ramon, I considered myself mainly a songwriter. I could already shred, I just didn't realize it.
Scott > Did You develop your style by ear or by messing around on the neck playing what sounded cool to you?
The Commander-In-Chief > Both. I started to play because I wanted to be a songwriter, so I spent most of my time working on songs. At a certain point I decided to spend sometime learning other peoples music, as your skills as a guitarist are judged by how well you can play other peoples music. I would stand with two pair of earphones on, one from my practice amp and one from my CD walkman, listening and trying to play what I heard. I would also read guitar magazines, but I depended on a dictionary to understand the explanations, and a lot of the music I loved, was never tabbed.
Scott > I was wondering if you ever hear music in your dreams and turn them into songs?
The Commander-In-Chief > My dreams are weird. But I don't think I dream songs. I dream about houses quite a lot. Usually the same ones, they literally haunt me. The details of the landscapes in my dreams are quite something to see. I like to draw them, once I'm awake. I get concept ideas from dreams. Sometimes I come up with brilliant concepts, but then loose them just when I'm about to wake up, then I spend the rest of the day trying to grasp what I missed. Songs, and ideas just appear out of nowhere. If they are good, they will reappear, then it's up to you to catch them.
Scott > How often when you start an idea for song, does it actually get finished?
The Commander-In-Chief > Nothing is finished until it is recorded properly. That's why it feels like such a relief when you are done in a studio. The song is complete, and is ready to go. All you need to do then is to launch it out into the world, and hope that it does well.
Scott > So Commander, tell me a little bit of what you’ve learned about human nature during this new production.
The Commander-In-Chief > I learned a lot about human nature during my childhood, as I was always moving and switched schools a lot. I learned to listen to others, and be flexible early on, when I was a teenager, working on my demos. There were no surprises for me when I recorded "Evolution", Sterling was a cool guy, it was great to work with him. The second engineer, James Mottershead was awesome too, Sterling praised him, literally. That's why I've worked with James on my two latest releases.
Scott > What are your personal highlights on "Evolution" ?
The Commander-In-Chief > All four songs, were highlights in their own right. The title track "Evolution" was a highlight, because the music and the theme, worked together perfectly. I think my vocal performance was great on that one. "Famous" was great because it is a well crafted song, that I hope I will be able to hear played on the radio one day. The solo has a lot of funk in it, the solo sounds playful and fun. "Thou" was quite a highlight as it is such a complex song to play. I was very happy with how the bridge ended up sounding like, it sounds like a soundtrack, and it was good that I was able to just let go and just improvise some crazy guitar soloing, instead of always planning my solos ahead. "Let it go" was the hardest vocal track to track, as it was so emotional and intimate. I had to step away from having attitude, and get personal, which doesn't come natural to me. It was a personal song, I wrote to my own brother, I wrote it in 2009 and never played it for anyone until late 2011.
Scott > How did you first get into the music business?
The Commander-In-Chief > I started to play the guitar in 2005, I was extremely serious, as I saw it as a career commitment. I was an overly serious teenager with great ambitions. I signed a management contract with my mother when I was 19. She was already active in the industry as a manger in the jazz scene, and had previously been active as a performer, in classical music, as an opera singer. I had my first studio experience when I was 18, when I recorded my first two demo songs. A year later, in 2008, my manager and I started promoting me on myspace. By the time I was 21, my sound and image was complete, a year later in 2011, I got my first endorsements and major press.
"She certainly is in command when it comes to her instruments, both her classically trained four-octave vocal range and her seven-string prototype Ibanez ax!" Featured as the Hottest Chick in Hard Rock in the July/August issue 2012 Jason Le Miere ~ Revolver Magazine
Scott > What is your real name?
The Commander-In-Chief > The Commander-In-Chief.
Scott > Who have been your main influences on your career to date?
The Commander-In-Chief > Hmmm...too many to mention. I think it's best if people take the time to check my music out, then they can guess who influenced me the most. I listen to everything. There is only two kinds of music, good or bad.
Scott > Do You have any new music in the works?
The Commander-In-Chief > Always. I'm like Samara, I never rest :P
Scott > How has your guitar playing evolved over the years?
The Commander-In-Chief > I started out wanting to be a songwriter, that was the motivation. I started to play leads and solos, because I didn't want someone else to do it, since I had invested so many hours into my songs. The lead guitarist is always the one people see. You can work your ass off playing rhythm guitar without anyone noticing, play some lead and anyone think you are amazing. I think my initial tries at soloing was more like Kurt Cobain, really, I was not a shredder and had no interest in being so. I had a master class with Steve Smyth in 2008, but I threw away his exercises as I did not play 7 string guitars. I had no intentions at the time of becoming a virtuoso. My playing style became more advanced , since I always write music that is too difficult to master at the time it is written. I have to spend an awful lot of time practicing my songs to get them tight. Then I will write something more complicated again, once I've mastered what I've been working on. This means I'm always developing. I like to write my own exercises as I hate playing scales. You can might as well write a cool melody, in order to practice, instead of just playing a scale up and down. Ramon Ortiz, had a tremendous influence on my lead guitar playing. I also went back and some lessons with Steve Smyth right before I entered the studio to record "Evolution". By then, I was both a 7string guitarist and on my way to become a guitar virtuoso.
Scott > What are you listening to these days?
The Commander-In-Chief > Movie soundtracks, and hippie music from the 70's.
Scott > What musical gear and endorsements do you have and why?
The Commander-In-Chief > Man, I could spend hours talking about gear...I endorse Ibanez, as I love their guitars. Slim neck, 7 string shred machines that sound fantastic! I love Laney Amps too, as they have a great rich tone in them. I'm always looking for a round tone, but it still needs to cut thru, the sound cannot get too mushy. I love my EMG pickups, I think the tone coming from them are great. Especially, the neck pick up, with a clean sound. No distortion can work wonders, really. I use one pedal, a delay pedal for my solos. I got Ernie Ball strings(9-11-16-28-38-48-58), Jim Dunlop jazz 3 picks, I use Audix microphones, the om7 for my voice and i5 for my guitar. I got an endorsement with PreSonus as well, which comes in very handy! I use StudioOne, with the Firestudio. I also got the Eureka for my voice. Besides from these things, which are are all products I endorse, I also have a metronome and a tuner from Boss, and thats it.
Scott > Here's a non music question... Do You have a dream car?
The Commander-In-Chief > Rolls Royce Ghost would be great. A car needs to be bad-ass!
Scott > I also don't want to forget this... Tell us about any other things you may be in involved in or any special interest besides music that is close to your heart?
The Commander-In-Chief > I'm obsessed with science. It would be great if I could clone myself, so I could pursue many careers simultaneously! My dream as a kid was to be an archeologist or an explorer. I like to create artwork and I read all the time. I have many interests. I also wrote a children's book this year.
Scott > Lastly, please give our readers one last parting shot across the bow... What is The Commander-In-Chief going to be doing in 5 years?
The Commander-In-Chief > Hopefully, I'm doing what I'm doing now. My dream is to spend my whole life creating, if I can do that, and lead a peaceful life, I'm all good!
Scott > I would like to thank you for your time and candor with our loyal readers and keep on fighting the good fight to bring us some awesome music.
The Commander-In-Chief > Thank you very much!!!! I'm grateful for the interview, hope you like my answers!