Interview: Micke Larsson of KHARVA

Micke Larsson

Kharva is a Swedish death metal band that just recently started their journey with the release of a digital demo release. Guitarist Micke Larsson spoke for Guitar Sphere about his introduction to the instrument, playing, gear, and more.

How would you describe your initial exposure to music?

I remember that my mother listened to the radio and occasionally sang along at home when I was just a small child. That may be my very first exposure to music.

Were you in the music programs in school while you were growing up?

No, I wasn’t.

How did you get into playing guitar?

When I was a teenager I had friends who played in bands and I thought ”if they can do it, so can I”. We were into punk and the general vibe among us were sort of ”Anyone can play. Just do it.” I think that I pretty soon discovered that you can be very innovative and experiment a lot with a guitar and that there are no rules to music really, and that was probably what kept me going on.

Did you start to listen to music differently once you discovered guitar?

Not initially. At least not consciously. But the more you play and practice music yourself, the more analytic your listening to music is going to be. I think that is inevitable.

Who were some of your early guitar influences?

I remember that when I started listening to Jimi Hendrix I thought that he sounded fantastic. He was like noisy and shit, but still very skilled. The same thing when I first heard Bo Diddley. He sounded rough and noisy but with his own special technique and skills. Pete Townshend also have that roughness and anger combined with skills. I think that is the sort of approach that I have tried to have when playing guitar. I want it to sound rough and angry but still played with some competence and finesse. And that is probably why I have chosen to play the music that I do. I get influenced by things I hear other guitarist play all the time. If I hear something that I like on a record I try to adapt that technique or sound to my own playing.

Tell me about your guitar technique.

I’m not an educated guitar player. I am self-taught and since I have always played in bands most of my technique has developed from learning to play different songs or composing songs myself. I have never really played acoustic guitar. I learned from playing with an amp from the start, so my playing has always had that dimension that the possibilities of an amp gives you.

What guitars are in your collection? What is your a guitar that you trust the most?

Right now I have only Ibanez guitars. They are the ones that works the best for me. I’ve got a RGIB6, which is a baritone, and that is my main guitar and the one that I use the most. I’ve also own a RGD321, which also has got a longer than standard scale length, although not as long as the RGIB6 has. I’ve also got a RGR321EX and a XP300FX, both modified with EMG-pickups.

With the advancement of the technology and amp/effect simulation, do you still use pedals?

I don’t use pedals at all that much for effects. I use a BOSS noise suppressor pedal pretty much all the time when we rehearse or play shows, but that’s it really. On recordings there are of course some effects, but I usually use plugins for those.

In your opinion, what are the three skills that every guitarist must bring to perfection?

I would say that it depends totally on what you want to play. Playing guitar in general is such a versatile thing really. So what a guitarist need to practice is dependent on what kind of music he or she is going to play.

How did you work on perfecting your rhythm and solo parts?

I rehearse and rehearse and rehearse, both with the band and at home when I can find the time for it. I just keep playing over and over until I feel certain with the song or the part or whatever.

Kharva

Back to music… You have launched a demo with your band Kharva. Lead me through its creative process.

All the songs on the demo has evolved from ideas like a single riff or a couple of riffs that we have worked with and put together to songs. The arrangements have changed several times before we came up with the versions that can be heard on the demo. Often we have recorded at least one demo version with just guitars and software drums before starting to rehearse a song. All of us have contributed to every song, so for example when Jacob (vocals) writes lyrics he may want us to re-arrange things to make it work with the vocal part of the song. We also did all recording and mixing ourselves so the whole process was very educating and developing for us.

What evolution do you feel this demo represents for you as a composer and guitarist?

I don’t know if I have the right perspective to be able to comment on that. Not yet anyway. Everything I do as a musician hopefully represents some sort of evolution for me. It’s always like you feel that the last thing you recorded or released, or the latest song you came up with is the best you’ve done. But it is not until you have a more long term perspective on things that you can really analyze if it was as good as you felt it was, if you know what I mean. But in the sense that I’ve worked hard with songs and rehearsed a lot when we were writing them, which will make me better at what I do, I believe that I have evolved both as a composer and guitarist.

What were the biggest challenges you faced as a guitarist when making the demo?

The biggest challenge for me was learning to play the parts of the songs that are written by our drummer Charlie. He is not only an excellent drummer but also a very competent guitarist. His technique is fairly different from mine so I had to sort of incorporate my style into his riffs but still adapt to the overall structure of how the songs are written. This was also an opportunity for me to develop as a musician.

How do you go about channeling inspiration into writing?

I sometimes ask myself that question. I often get inspiration from a lot of things, but I sometimes find it hard to start working with it and make something out of it. I suppose that it is a matter of self-discipline really. You just got to dig in to it. Start playing or even record something that comes to you at that moment and then working from there.

Back to tech talk, tell me about your guitar rig you used for recording this demo?

I used a Peavey 5150 and a 4×12 cab with Celestion G12T-75s, which is the same gear that I usually use when we rehearse or play shows. All guitar parts are recorded with my Ibanez RGIB6.

What are your five favourite pieces of gear in 2018, and why?

My Peavey 5150 is most certainly a favourite, so is my Ibanez RGIB6. I am very pleased with how they perform both together or with other gear. The 5150 is so loud and mean sounding and perfectly suited for the type of music that we play. It’s THE metal amp really. Also the BOSS noise suppressor pedal, because it is so useful when you have a monster like the 5150 to play through. I like all my guitars a lot but I tend to play on the RGIB6 most of the time. I loved it from the moment I first played on it. It feels like it was built for me. I also use the RGD321 a lot. It is a wonderful guitar to play on so it has to be considered a favourite. I have been thinking of purchasing a Tube Screamer pedal for some time. If I do, maybe that will be a favourite as well. One might say that the stuff I find useful and that suits my purposes are my favorite pieces of gear.

Now with the demo out, what other dragons are you looking forward to slaying?

We have also made it available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and most other downloading sites, so it is also an EP-release. Putting out an album would be great though, so that is one of our goals to achieve. Maybe work together with a label or a producer to put it out. We also like to gig as much as possible. Maybe go on a tour.

Visit Kharva on Bandcamp.