Sevenstring.org Interview: Scott Kroeker
<div align="right"><img src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/scottkroeker/sklogo.gif" alt="Scott Kroeker" />
<b>Interview: Scott Kroeker</b>
<i><font size="1">By Chris Quigley</font></i>
If you buy one album this year, make it Fata Morgana. Kroeker's musical vision, sense of melody, and songwriting and ability to tell a story using only his guitars is something you have to listen to in order to appreciate what a work of art his album is. At times moody and somber, at other times uplifting and spiritual, Fata Morgana feels like listening to a walk through the last three years of Kroeker's life. It's rare to find an instrumental album that combines solid chops and melodies with such a sense of expression and feel that never fades from beginning to end. It's simply brilliant, and there's no better way to describe it - listen to it and hear it for yourself. <span class="ivorange">- CQ / sevenstring.org</span></div>
<img style="padding:20px;" align="left" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/scottkroeker/1.jpg" alt="Scott Kroeker" /><span class="ivorange">Sevenstring.org</span>: What's your musical background in general? How long have you been playing, and where did you get your start?
<span class="ivred">Scott Kroeker</span>: I am self taught. Never took a lesson. Basically learned to play from learning my favorite bands at the time. May will mark my 18th year playing. I switched to 7 strings back in '98 and haven't looked back.
<span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Who were the players and bands that influenced you back then, compared to today?
<span class="ivred">SK</span>: Early on I was influenced by bandssuch as Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, CCR and AC/DC to name a few. Then as I progressed as a player, I got into Jason Becker, Malmsteen and Rob Johnson and bands like Paradise Lost and Trouble. More recently, the bands that have influenced me are bands like Dream Theater, Tool and Loreena McKennitt - music that can suck you in and take you to another place. It doesn't always have to be technical in my books.
<span class="ivorange">SS</span>: What first drew you to seven string (and other extended range) guitars?
<span class="ivred">SK</span>: For me it was Dream Theater's Awake album. I fell in love with that sound and was not getting it from my Jackson 6 strings and Marshall amps.
<span class="ivorange">SS</span>: What's your gear setup?
<span class="ivred">SK</span>: For amps, I'm using a Mesa TriAxis Preamp, Mesa 2:90 Stereo Power Amp, Mesa 4x12 3/4 back cab and a Marshall 10w practice amp. As for electric guitars, right now I'm using an Ibanez UV777BPK, Ibanez RG2027X, and an Ibanez RG7421BK. I've also got an Ibanez RG7420MC that's currently stripped for custom paint. Acoustic, I play an Ibanez AJ307 and a Gianinni 7 string classical, along with an Ibanez BTB 5 string bass. Effects, simply a Boss ME50 and a Crybaby 535q Wah.
<span class="ivorange">SS</span>: What do you look for in terms of tone and playing compatibility, and what do you use live as opposed to in the studio?
<span class="ivred">SK</span>: Tone is a tough question as I believe tone is 75% player and 25% gear. I like a more middy cut-through tone for rhythms and a glassy smooth sound for leads but I think a lot of my tone is in how I play the guitar. It really is hard to explain. Most experienced players know what I am talking about.<img style="padding:20px;" align="right" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/scottkroeker/2.jpg" alt="Scott Kroeker" />
<span class="ivorange">SS</span>: As a whole how have you incorporated the seven into your playing, and what do you like the most about it?
<span class="ivred">SK</span>: 7 strings are all I play now. I just love the feel of the neck. They just feel 'right' for me. For me, I love the low tones for some rhythms. I am not really into tuning lower then standard. The low B is just right for my style.
<span class="ivorange">SS</span>: What's your basic practice regimen, and just how much do you practice in a given week?
<span class="ivred">SK</span>: This is probably shocking to most. I really don't have a regimen at all. I just pick up the guitar and jam. I consider myself an improv player. I don't play all that much. On average, maybe 30 minutes to an hour a day, sometimes more, sometimes less. I've gone days with out even touching the guitar. It helps clear your mind and when you pick it up again you have a lot of fresh ideas.
<span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Fata Morgana is a mix of classical, rock and fusion elements, without really sounding like any of one in particular. How did the songwriting for the album come about?
<span class="ivred">SK</span>: This might surprise a few people. Almost all the songs for FM were written at the time of recording and almost all songs were written entirely on bass first. I had never written songs this way before. It really changed the direction of the album. To be honest, I thought I was just going to make another shred-fest guitar album like so many before me have done. I also thought I wasn't going to touch the acoustic - I'm so glad I did. Once I had a cool groovy bass line I liked, I would then program some drums and lay down some bass tracks. Then, depending on the mood I was in, I would grab the acoustic or the electric and jam along.
It really was a spur of the moment, no thinking ahead approach. Then I would let the groove inspire the guitar rhythms. This approach pushed my writing to a new direction, one that I would not have gone if I wrote the songs on guitar first. Then would come the main melody of the song. This often started out with me shredding over the rhythm tracks and then listening to it and realizing it wasn't working. Then I'd slow it up, simplify my approach to the melody and viola. I'd have a winner. Lastly would come the leads. I'd say 90% of the leads on FM are total improvs and most are one takes. I just hit record and let the music guide me.
This is why I think FM has really "emotional" feel to it. Once all was done, I hired a drummer to redo all the drums as the programmed drums had no life to them. That really completed the album.
<img style="padding:20px;" align="left" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/scottkroeker/3.jpg" alt="Scott Kroeker" /><span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Clocking at over 74 minutes, FM is quite a bit of material. Was the majority of the writing done before the recording process started, or did the album evolve as you got into it?
<span class="ivred">SK</span>: As you can tell from that last question, it just evolved into the final product. Although I did take the odd riff from the past and developed them into songs for FM, most was just spur of the moment writing. It really captured a moment in my life.
<span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Can you give us some detail as to the recording process?
<span class="ivred">SK</span>: This is where most experienced engineers will cringe. I used my Mbox (ProTools) and my Boss ME50. I tracked all the guitars direct into the Mbox and the bass was tracked direct through my SansAmp Bass Driver Preamp. Due to the fact that I had no mic preamps (other then the Mbox) and no mics, this was the only option. It took some tweaking and mixing to get the tones I wanted, but in the end the results I got were more then I expected.
<span class="ivorange">SS</span>: All of Fata Morgana has a very subtle flow to it that makes it listenable as one complete composition as well as individual songs. Was that something that you planned, or did it just come out that way?
<span class="ivred">SK</span>: It just sorta happened. I guess that's because all the songs were written in the same process and time which gave them some similarities. I like to think of my album as a guitar concept album, If that makes sense. Once the songs were all done, I spent a lot of time listening to them to determine the song order.
<span class="ivorange">SS</span>: You use both a piezo-equipped 2027 and a sevenstring acoustic. What are the pros and cons of each, and how did you decide which to use on particular parts of the album?
<span class="ivred">SK</span>: I didn't get my 2027 until almost all the songs were tracked. There are only 3 songs on FM that use the 2027. Disillusion, Out Of The Blue, and Crystal Clear. I really liked the sound of going direct with piezo, both acoustic and the 2027. I've received feedback from others saying I should have mic'd up my acoustic but in all fairness, I don't care what they say. This album was written for me and the fact that others like is an added bonus. The cons being you have a very direct sounds with no ambiance. So you have to work hard in the mixing stage to create space in the mix. For my next album I will be micing up the guitars as I have picked up some high end mics and preamps for recording.<img style="padding:20px;" align="right" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/scottkroeker/4.jpg" alt="Scott Kroeker" />
<span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Do you use any altered tunings? If so, where are they found on Fata Morgana?
<span class="ivred">SK</span>: I am not a big alternate tuning player. I did use a drop D tuning for Endless Road. Actually, Endless Road can be played on a 6 string. I tuned it as follows. DDEADGBE. I tuned the low B up to a D. With the E as a D as well, it gave the acoustic an almost chorus effect since I didn't tune the 2 D's perfectly the same.
<span class="ivorange">SS</span>: The overall feel of Fata Morgana has been described as "organic", and it's a great description. You match a variety of great grooves with a very natural sound and feel. Has that always been your playing and writing style, or is it something you worked and progress towards?
<span class="ivred">SK</span>: You know, its something that just happened. All my influences have helped me develop my playing style. The fact that I am a play by ear kinda player may have something to do with it as well. I never studied music theory. At this stage in the game, I don't know if music theory would improve my playing or take away my style.
<span class="ivorange">SS</span>: With an instrumental, how do you know when you are finished?
<span class="ivred">SK</span>: That is a tough one. When I write songs, I usually like to have a basic structure to them. IE: intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, chorus, outro. That is a very basic, layout which I often expand on. Some of the songs don't even follow that. Really, there are no rules for when I write, as long as it sounds good to me and I like it, I am happy.
<span class="ivorange">SS</span>:Any pleasant (or unpleasant) surprises come up while writing/recording the album?
<span class="ivred">SK</span>: Yes. One was with the way I wrote some progressions, pushing my lead playing into a new direction I was not used to going. For example, Endless Road, the lead passages were very odd for me to play and took some figuring out to get the 'feel' for it. The chord changes underneath the leads were the kind I had never solo'd over before. This same thing happened a few times throughout the writing of FM. I'd often do a lead pass. Listen to it and HATE it. Then I'd came back to it the next day and love it. That was a strange experience for me.
<img style="padding:20px;" align="left" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/scottkroeker/6.jpg" alt="Scott Kroeker" /><span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Any final advice for people hoping to record their own instrumental albums, as far as songwriting, recording, etc?
<span class="ivred">SK</span>: Good question. If you're a shredder type player, don't be afraid to slow things down at times. What I have found, based on thousands of feedback I have received, is that people really get hooked on melody/hook style playing. Shredding is great, can make your jaw drop, but you'll find you get tired of it quickly. It sorta wears off. I have people that say my CD hasn't left their player since they bought it and I don't think it's because is stuck in there (hah). Really, best advice I can give is do it for yourself. Don't do it to try and impress someone. You'll just be unhappy with the final product.
<span class="ivorange">SS</span>: What's in your CD player currently, and what newer artists are you listening to? What would it suprise people to know that you're into?
<span class="ivred">SK</span>: The latest Tool CD is in regular rotation as well as the last Loreena McKennitt CD. As far as what I listen to, probably not that big of a surprise really. Bands like Paradise Lost and Trouble are fairly unknown. I like to check out indie bands as well. Most of the stuff on the radio now a days does NOTHING for me. Zero originality and they all sound too "programmed" or "processed" by the industry. I really hope that changes sometime soon.
<span class="ivorange">SS</span>: What's next for you, and when can we expect a follow up?
<span class="ivred">SK</span>: Life seems to get so busy at times. I really want to approach my next album in the same way I did FM. Although I want to put out an all acoustic album next in the vein of "Angel In Ice". I still need to finish sound treating my home studio this summer. Then any time after that, once I feel inspired, I will begin work on a follow up. It's looking like it would be a 2008 release if anything.
<a style="text-decoration:none" href="http://www.scottkroeker.com" target="_BLANK"><span class="ivred">Scott Kroeker - Official Website</span></a> - <a style="text-decoration:none" href="http://www.myspace.com/scottkroekermusic" target="_BLANK"><span class="ivred">Scott Kroeker on MySpace</span></a>