Interview, Priit Hõbemägi

Kalle Vilpuu: „Boredom in music is one of the worst things!“

Guitarist Kalle Vilpuu has released his first solo album „Silver Lining“ and is planning to give concerts sporting audiovisual backgrounds. Interview by Priit Hõbemägi.

Vilpuu has played in several top Estonian bands over the past thirty years. Ultima Thule’s “Soovi tagahoov”, “Ahasveerus” and “Viiv” as well as Seitsmes Meel hits “Kõrbes” ja “Pärl” are songs tens of thousands of people know well while almost none of them know that they are tracks by Kalle Vilpuu. It doesn’t bother him though: “Thinking up, composing guitar segments is a challenge for me, I want to do it as well as possible, in whichever band.

Solo album “Silver Lining” opens Vilpuu in a new and special light. We are dealing with a rarity in Estonian context – a heavier conceptual instrumental rock music album with a single and developing musical theme.

The music we can find on your album is not exactly widespread in Estonia. How did you come to walk that path?
KV: During the great grunge boom of the 80s – Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Nirvana – and in love with the Seattle school I set about developing for myself a stronger more forceful (guitar) hand. I’ve always tried to go along with currents and trends in music. Pantera, Slayer and other so-called old school metal bands, as well as Havana Black and Him also served as examples.

Kalle Vilpuu’s greatest experiences on stage are also not from Estonia and remain unknown to the general public: “There have been extraordinarily exciting periods in my life. All that touring – Newcastle Academy, Manchester City and London’s Astoria! Unbelievable! When I was in House of Games we toured Europe and England with W.A.S.P (US heavy metal band – ed.) in 2006-2007. We were on radio stations’ play lists, in weekly and monthly charts, Metal Hammer and Classic Rock magazines. House of Games was a greenhouse for me, where I nurtured my sound, my hand and my sound aesthetics. After that I became independent in music.

“Silver Lining” is filled with the massive rumble of the universe being created, rhythms and harmonies the idea of which could be a single light particle’s (melody) journey through the macrocosm. Every listener creates their own story, but what is the story you’re telling?
KV: I will remain an artist and old-fashioned when I say that they are reflections, emotions, experiences – things life brings. And there is also something you cannot nor want to put into words.

Where did you start?
KV: I started working on an integral composition right away. Next I made demo versions of the tracks and shuffled them around until I was satisfied, I realized the material was there. The recording and fine-tuning of the tracks wasn’t all that time-consuming actually. What took time was analyzing the album’s completeness and the form of the tracks. I set the goal of having not a single boring rhythm. Boredom in music is one of the worst things I know.

The album evolves from mechanical to human, spirited music by its final tracks, where the way is shown by ephemeral, floating melodies. What are your favorite tracks on the album?
KV: It is a whole. Tracks are ordered based on rational and dynamic considerations so it is quite impossible to name favorites. Rather these tracks are alien to listen to out of context.

The parallels I drew were with Steve Vai’s “Story of Light” and Jeff Beck’s “You Had It Coming”. Those albums carry a vibration similar to yours.
KV: Indeed. It is a separate topic really – solo albums demonstrating technical skill are musically boring for me as a guitar player – sorry… I don’t have the patience for fast fingers or overly melodic and daydreaming guitar music records. I very much liked a track on guitarist Terje Rypdal’s album “Skywards” where the maestro didn’t play the guitar at all. I suppose it wasn’t necessary, the important thing is how the track works in context. Listening to Jeff Beck’s albums, he also controls his music in addition to his instrument. He is in charge of the whole process so perfectly that he grabs hold of the listener and doesn’t let go before the album is concluded.

The album begins with cosmic static and ends in one long tone, like a station that’s done broadcasting. Is that irony intentional?
KV: Yes, it is.

Who make up the audience of your solo album?
KV: I believe people who watch good moves, read good books and listen to good music. Good things you do have the potential to stay fresh for years.

What kind of a future do you have planned for your album?
KV: This project comes with 11 audiovisual sets. When we presented the album on my 50th birthday last summer at the Von Krahl theater black box, we showed them for the first time. The visuals are handcrafted computer graphics by young artists Hannes Aasamets and Mihkel Maripuu. Henno Kelp and Andrus Lillepea are extraordinarily good musicians, good friends, playing with whom is enjoyable and without whom my solo album would be inconceivable. I would like to thank Angela Aak for kindliness in sound production. And an especially big thank you goes out to Peeter Metsik!

In 2014 we will try to perform live with those visuals on the background. That is something not really practiced in Estonia. We are trying to sell the record outside Estonia. We plan to perform a few lives in Finland and perhaps even further away. “Silver Lining” is a multifunctional project and we don’t really know what might come of it in the end ourselves.

Is it concert music?
KV: Basically it is, yes. Because the emotion there is genuine. It is executed through the prism of rock music but as long as it is of high quality, that doesn’t matter.

The record currently lasts for 48 minutes; however, we need to have an hour and twenty minutes for a concert. I’m already working on things for a new album. Once I release that one we will have enough material for a concert format.