In Search Of Tone: Sven & Niklas Of Altareth
Back in the day, I would listen to the same songs/bands for months before finding something new. I wasn’t very good at searching for new bands I guess, but these days, rarely a day goes by I don’t listen to a new band, new album, or a new song and Altareth’s new album Blood has taken the forefront of my listening.
Speaking with Sven and Niklas was a fantastic experience as these interviews usually are. I’m continually amazed at how many people love discussing gear! We even discussed a little bit of forging metals! My big take away from this interview will be Niklas advice for getting through off days is to buy a new guitar. If that’s not the best advice, then I don’t know what is! Better start clearing space now!
Let’s jump right in with gear, can you tell me a little about the amps and cabs each of you use?
Niklas: Well first of all, thank you very much for having us and paying attention to our new album Blood that was recently released through the label Magnetic Eye Records. It is a pleasure!
We discovered early on that smaller combo amps are really working out nicely for us…
Sven: Well, the last couple of years I’ve used a 70s Music Man HD-130 combo. It’s a good amp and works just perfect live and when we rehearse, but we haven’t used it on the record. It just lacks some of that necessary low end and presence compared to Niklas’s Fender amps. Recently it also started to give up on me so I’m thinking about replacing it. The never-ending quest for finding the right gear!
Niklas: My standard amp is a Fender Bassman ´59 re-issue tweed combo amp. We discovered early on that smaller combo amps are really working out nicely for us in order to bring out the sound that we are looking for.
I really like your heavily distorted tones throughout Blood. I also noticed some really clean tones peppered throughout like in the middle of Moon and Empty. Do you get both the distorted and clean tones from your amp or pedals? And following on from that, what is currently on both of your pedalboards?
Sven: Glad to hear you like the guitar tones! We think it turned out really great. The distorted tones are a combination of different guitars, amps and pedals that are layered together. We recorded everything together with my brother Freddie, mostly over at his place or our rehearsal place. The guitar sound that you hear on the record is something that we have spent a lot of time experimenting with in order to achieve what we were looking for
For the clean tones, and also most of the guitar melodies I borrowed a fancy Ibanez Strat-type model that Freddie had. It was tuned to E-standard and everything else is tuned down to C, so I think that allowed the melodies to really stand out from the rest.
a fuzz pedal from EarthQuaker Devices called Erupter. It’s just one knob – genius! Sounds really good too…
My pedal setup is quite sparse: a fuzz pedal from EarthQuaker Devices called Erupter. It’s just one knob – genius! Sounds really good too. Beside that one I use a cheap phaser pedal from Behringer and an MXR M300 Reverb and that’s it. With fuzz you can control a lot of the tone using your guitar’s volume so when we play live, I usually use the neck pickup for distorted tones and the bridge with the volume rolled down to around 3-4 for cleaner sounds.
Niklas: My pedal board consists of a Fender Tuner pedalthat goes into a Basic Audio Spooky Tooth fuzz pedal. To sparkle some parts up a little a use a Speaker Cranker pedal from EarthQuaker Devices. And for some spooky 60s vibes here and there I use a Dunlop Zakk Wylde Rotovibe pedal. On the record I also used a Behringer SF300 Super Fuzz pedal (Boss clone) for some parts that we thought needed that extra push of grain and fuzz.
Now on to guitars! Do you both have a 1-2 go to guitars or a wide variety to choose from? Do you keep guitars in different tunings?
Sven: My main guitar is a Gibson SG Deluxe from 72 that I used for all my rhythm guitar parts. I also have a Greco EG 650 Les Paul from 84 that was used on some of the solos, for example on Satan Hole and Downward Mobile. They are both tuned to standard C.
Niklas: My main guitars have up until now been a TV yellow Burny Les Paul Jr from the 80s and a white Edwards Les Paul Jr from the 90s. They are both tuned in C-standard.
Niklas is our main riffmeister and he records a lot of stuff at home that he either brings to the rehearsal place or distribute through e-mail…
Your debut album Blood is filled with dark heavy riffs. Is this something you guys come up with on your own or do you typically write songs in a practice setting, jamming out ideas?
Sven: No, not really. Niklas is our main riffmeister and he records a lot of stuff at home that he either brings to the rehearsal place or distribute through e-mail. We then collectively put everything together and every member of the band are involved in the creative process of adding their own unique contribution to the songs. We tend to work on songs for quite some time. We found out that it’s ideal for a song to mature for a couple of years actually.
I’ve listened to Blood a few times and really enjoy it. Personally, I love the intro to Eternal Sleep. The clean riff backed by the wall of fuzz ringing out is amazing. Is there a song or part of a song either of you are proud of?
Sven: Personally, I love the ending on Empty. I think Freddie did a really amazing job there. The whole mix just opens up at the perfect place. Gives me goosebumps!
Niklas: I agree with Sven that the end of Empty really is a perfect fit for a song that sort of puts an end to the album. I really enjoy playing all of them, so it is hard to pick a favourite. Moon took a while to piece together and has a nice feel to it so I would go with that one. It is also quite dynamic with different parts and Vigfus’s drumming is a really important part of it as well as the bass lines and Paddy’s amazing vocals.
The best thing for me is either to buy a new electric guitar and start with a new instrument in order to get inspired, or to listen to any of the all-time favorite albums…
I have many off days as a guitar player, what do you guys do if you’re having an off day and how do you get inspired to play again?
Sven: I’ve been studying some music theory lately, basic stuff, but It’s been quite inspiring! Sometimes you need something like that to see the instrument in a different light.
Niklas: The best thing for me is either to buy a new electric guitar and start with a new instrument in order to get inspired, or to listen to any of the all-time favorite albums. I just recently added a Telecaster to my guitar collection and it’s a whole new world to discover from playing it. Previously we experimented a lot with pedals, but I tend to think that it’s the instrument in itself that really moves me into trying out new stuff on the guitar. And there are so much amazing, high-quality songs out there, so there is really no reason to fall into off days. Just tune into something that moves you and play along and you will get back into it.
I’ve read that you guys have a very wide range of influences. What are you both listening to for enjoyment these days?
Sven: Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of instrumental stuff, especially Swedish organ players like Bo Hansson and Eric Malmberg. The latter’s album Verklighet & Beat from 2007 is something I keep returning to. I also love listening to jazz pianist Keith Jarrett. His live piano improvisations are like meditation. Truly otherworldly stuff.
Niklas: I’m a die-hard fan of Norwegian black metal so I tend to listen to a lot of that stuff. The new release from Whoredom Rife is killer! Apart from that I listen a lot to neo-classical and neo-folkish music like for example Mortiis, Nordein, Leidungr and Arditi. Nordein’s debut album Nordariket is probably the best album I’ve heard in a number of years.
the response has been really good so far, exceeding our expectations, one could say if we had any…
What’s the response to Blood been like and how did you hook up with Magnetic Eye Records to release it?
Sven: The response has been really positive so far!
Niklas: Yes, the response has been really good so far, exceeding our expectations, one could say if we had any. Regarding hooking up with Magnetic Eye, I initially had some contact with my very dear friend Anders who is the drummer in Domkraft (a band that is also signed to Magnetic Eye), and he suggested that we should contact Jadd and Magnetic Eye and send over some of our songs. And so, we did and luckily, they responded in a positive way. It’s a killer label and we are of course really proud to be signed to this label that has put out some amazing albums.
Now that live music is starting again, do you have any plans to gig and tour in support of Blood?
Sven: We hope to play some more shows to support the album and are currently checking out some venues here in Sweden. We are also very eager to work on some new material!
Niklas: Yes, we are currently looking into the possibilities to set up some gigs in Sweden in the close future, hopefully together with some friends and bands that we would love to share stages with. I think we will look for opportunities to go for shorter ‘tours’ to promote the album and show that Altareth is a really good live band as well as a recording band. We will start here in Sweden and then hopefully travel abroad and play live for new audiences.
I think we will look for opportunities to go for shorter ‘tours’ to promote the album and show that Altareth is a really good live band as well as a recording band…
Random question for Niklas, I read that you create things out of metal in your The Obelisk questionnaire. How did you get into forging and what are you interested in making?
Niklas: My interest in metals and other kinds of materials used for creating stuff started when I was really young. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a carpenter and my grandfather on my father’s side was a shoemaker so there was a lot of inspiration coming from them. Things got more ‘concrete’ when my best friend and I started to melt down soldiers made out of tin and turn them into various kinds of necklaces when we were young and visited my grandfather. We carved our own melting devices. Back then, on the one hand, we were deeply engaged in the then flowering death metal and black metal scene, and on the other, on the personal level, we were inspired by our explorations of the occult and ritualistic practices; both of these ‘movements’ were often equipped with metals in different ways.
Right now, I’m interested in forging unique pieces of jewellery, either necklaces or maybe bracelets. My main inspiration for this would be the old Northern artists like for example John Bauer and Theodor Kittelsen, as well as some amazing Finnish jewellery designers from the 70s like Hannu Ikonen. I would advise everyone to check out some of the bronze and silver designs these Finnish dudes and dudettes made in the 70s. I would try to develop my own take on a combination of these artists.
Thank you both for shedding a little light on the creating of this fantastic album. I look forward to learning from you guys and please use this space for any final words…Sven &Niklas:
As stated above; thanks for having us. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you. Hopefully we will have a lot of reasons for catching up in the future!
Label: Magnetic Eye Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram
Interviewed by: Josh Schneider