Interview with Erik Arkö (Swedish Bass Player)

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What do you do with yourself?

You know, sometimes I ask myself that very same question. But jokes aside: I play bass most of the time when I play with other people – although I sometimes also sing/croak a few lines here and there (And I’ve recently joined a choir called ”aQuire” to help me keep my vocal chops intact).

I spend most of my time playing bass with a progressive metal/rock band called Structural Disorder (facebook.com/structuraldisorder) – a band that features four-piece vocal harmonies, odd time signatures, an electric accordion and lots of proggy shenanigans altogether. We have just finished recording our second, full-length album and we are currently mixing it. Last time we recorded an album we were kind of green, but now we have been around the block a few times (or so it feels) and we also teamed up with renowned producer/technician/awesome man Jocke Skog (Clawfinger/Feared/Åfysatan) on this one – which turned out to be a really great decision! I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun recording anything as I had when we worked with Jocke!

I also have a band called Pale Epiphany (www.facebook.com/paleepiphany) together with Kalle, the drummer from Structural Disorder and two great guitar players, Luca Delle Fave (from the band Seventh Dimension) and Joakim Leopoldo Pinto Cárdenas(from the band Filthy FingerS). That band is a bit more straightforward, albeit progressive metal and we are just about to “take off”, so to speak. We’ve got a few songs just about recorded – so we’ll see how it goes. It’s fun to play with that band, since all of us have such vast experience and knowledge (well, more than we had five years or so ago) of how the music business works, of how to write songs and such simple things as how to rehearse new material. In a way, it’s like re-playing a video game that you know from start to finish (well, almost) – we know what bumps to avoid and what things we want to try to do with that band.

And, to top things of with another bass playing-related thing I also have a YouTube account that I try to get off the ground. I tend to drift between music comedy and just playing songs and stuff. We’ll see how this account ends up – I really enjoy making and editing videos, so it’s a really fun thing for me to work with whenever I have the time.

Aside from playing bass I also teach music at an elementary school in Stockholm. My students range from age seven to twelve (first to sixth year), so it’s a real challenge sometimes. But I like my job, I have great colleagues (Some of them are also great musicians, which helps speed up the occasional breaks and gives you energy for the rest of the day.) and although I sometimes wished that I could teach JUST bass or guitar or ensemble at a more “advanced” level to students that actually want to be there the whole time, I realise that I have a great opportunity and a great responsibility when working with these young, a coming music listening/playing/consuming human beings.

Explain one experience or lesson that stands out that has shaped you to become the musician you are today.

Oh, there a quite a few to chose from. One thing that really has inspired me lately is the clinics with Billy Sheehan that I have both attended and seen on YouTube. The way that Billy, after forty years of playing still feels that he learns new things about bass and music every day pushes me to keep improving my playing and my song writing. There is so much knowledge to find in those clips, whether you like his playing or not – so check them out if You haven’t done so already!

What was one of the hardest things you have had to deal with as a musician?

I guess the occasional bumps of low self-esteem can be pretty hard to shake of sometimes. Although I know that I’m pretty good at what I do – both by myself and with my band(s), the comment from a “hater” or a negative review can sometimes shake you up. It can make you doubt you choice of music, your playing and the songs you write. But hater’s gonna hate (as the song goes) – and it’s important to remember that You CAN NOT please everybody, no matter how hard you try.

Because, at the end of the day it’s all about how YOU feel about YOUR music and not what someone else thinks about the things that you do. Yes, it’s very important to get appreciation from your fellow men/women/cats – but, at end of the day you can’t let that blind you – because once you start to think “I wonder if my fans will like this album/song? Maybe I should re-do it. Again.” instead of focusing on how the songs or playing makes you feel, I think that you are about to lose the things that made people like you at the very beginning, if you will.

What resources do you use as a musician to network?

Mostly Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WordPress – but I find YouTube to be a really useful way of communicating both with other bands and musicians as well as with fellow fans and such. I also send a lot of e-mails – and I mean A LOT of them. If you want to say something to a person/company then it’s best to do so in person.

Advice for the aspiring musician.

(Prepare for incoming clichés): Follow your heart and play the music that you want to play. If you want to play three chords or make side-chained house-songs, then I salute you!

Be consistent and make sure to put out things often and on a regular basis if you want to make it on YouTube for instance!

(This one sounds better in Swedish): “Break down and get back it again.”
I took a few lessons from Robert Sundin, who was the teacher for Henrik Linder (Dirty Loops) and about a million more musicians, when I was about 19 years old and after the first lesson I was pretty shook up since he had commented on a quite a few flaws in my playing.
He noticed that I was a bit shaken and asked: “Hey, you’re not sad are you?”
“Nah, it will just take a while to comprehend, I guess.” I replied.
“Yeah, well… It’s like with Ingmar Stenmark (the famous skier), you just have to break down and get back it again!”. And I did – and I always try to do so.

An album recommendation.

I wish that I could post a link to our new album with Structural Disorder, since I am THAT proud of it – but since I can’t do that, due to the album not being completely done I will go for the album “The Mountain” by the amazing  band HAKEN. It’s wonderful!

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