in Switzerland, guitarist / composer Roland Bühlmann continues
releasing unique sounding instrumental fusion albums. Much like his
2014 album Aineo, Rolands 2017 album Bailenas features
a staggering array of intriguing music. With Roland performing all
the guitars, the five-track 50-minute album features several drummers
who add some fine powerful grooves. Roland cites King Crimson founder
Robert Fripp and Norwegian fusion guitar hero Terje Rypdal as big
influences while on Bailenas, Roland reinvents 21st century
guitar fusion but think electronic jazz-fusion with a postmodern Euro-centric
twist. Speaking with mwe3.com about the unique musical chemistry
he attains on the album, Roland explains, While I recorded
and produced my first album I have never thought about it. But now
I think its prog rock with fusion and soundscape / minimal elements.
So I like acronyms I found the following term: Prim-Rock: PRogressive-Instrumental-Minimal.
The closing track, Pange Chorda runs 18:09 and the
entire album is filled with intricate, detailed tracks that make the
most of Rolands intriguing electric guitar based fusion sound.
mwe3.com presents an interview
with Roland Bühlmann
Where are you from originally, where did you grow up and where do
you live now? What other European countries have you visited and have
you been to the US?
Roland Bühlmann: I was born 1961 in Solothurn, Switzerland
and grew up in the near this little city. Actually, I live with my
family in Oekingen, a village also in the area of Solothurn. I visited
these countries around Switzerland: Germany, Austria, where my mother
comes from, Italy, the country where one of my
grandfathers grew up and France. I was in London and one time in Malta.
I have never been to the US so far, but I hope to go there in the
mwe3: What is your background in music, what instruments did
you study and how long have you been playing guitar and recording?
How do you stay in shape musically, both as a guitarist and a composer?
Roland Bühlmann: I come from a musical family: my father
played guitar and my grandfather played mandolin, mandola, guitar,
violin, double bass and clarinet. At age eleven or twelve I briefly
studied trumpet, for a short time, but I didnt like that instrument.
At age 17, I began to learn autodidactic guitar and bass guitar while
I played in a band. During this time I also learned how to play Mandola
with my grandfather. Four years later, I sold all my electric guitar
stuff, bought a classical guitar and played a few years just on this
instrument before I bought my next electric guitar. In 2015 I learned
to play Hanottere, a Swiss traditional instrument, kind of like a
I played over the years in several bands and with different musicians.
In 2012 I was with the band Le Chaim, a Christian worship band, in
a studio to record an album. I learned a lot about recording there,
including editing and mixing. A few months later I bought gear to
record music at home. Shaping music was, from the beginning, a mix
of composing and improvisation. It's also actually when I record music.
I like to record music with different instruments, to shape the music
until I am satisfied with the result. Since I had tendonitis in my
left hand, I had a surgery, I dont play live because I must
be careful with my hand and may not play too much. In early years
I wrote most of my compositions on sheet music.
You have some great sounding guitars on your new album Bailenas.
Including a 1965 Fender Jaguar. Is there a good story behind that
guitar and / or your other guitars? Do you collect guitars, pedals,
amps and other gear?
Roland Bühlmann: I'm a big fan of Steinberger guitars,
but I don't collect guitars nor pedals or other gear. On Bailenas
I play two different Steinberger ZT-3's
by the way, two different
Jaguars too. The first was a black one. Then I sold it and bought
the Fender Jaguar American Vintage 65. After a few months I
sold the Fender Jaguar and bought another Steinberger ZT-3, blue.
I still have the ZT-3 blue, but all other guitars on the album are
sold. The Hanottere on the album I had rented from a music shop in
Lucerne. Recently I bought a Steinberger GM4S, a really great guitar!
mwe3: Tell us about the drumming and percussion on your album?
Is there a live drummer on the album or is everything programmed?
Are those programmers credited to playing on the Bailenas album?
Roland Bühlmann: Basically there are live drummers behind
Beta Monkey Music, Drumtracks and Loopmasters, which I use on the
album. You can buy loops there. That means you have for example 20
Loops 5/4 during 2 or 4 bars. Every loop you can place where ever
you want including breaks, etc. And every loop is played by a real
drummer, but with no credit. By the way, on my forthcoming third album,
I dont use drum loops. I play a lot of percussion on unusual
Would you say Bailenas is a progressive rock album? Its
rare to hear a revolutionary instrumental progressive rock album but
your album seems to fit into that apt description. Is your music beyond
description? Not jazz, not rock, beyond fusion?
Roland Bühlmann: While I recorded and produced my first
album I have never thought about it. But now I think its prog
rock with fusion and soundscape / minimal elements. So I like acronyms
I found the following term: Prim Rock: PRogressive-Instrumental-Minimal.
mwe3: While listening to Bailenas in some tracks I hear
a kind of a mix between Robert Fripp and Terje Rypdal. Are those two
considered guitar influences in your life and what other guitarists,
bands and composers interested you then and what artists / guitarists
are you interested in 2018?
Roland Bühlmann: Yes, the early King Crimson albums and
Robert Fripp were very influential for me. And a few years later,
also the music of Terje Rypdal. When I learned to play guitar I played
a lot of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells and Ommadawn.
Other musicians that I like are: David Torn, Ralph Towner, Jan Garbarek,
Jon Surman, Egberto Gismonti. And favorite composers include: Steve
Reich, Josquin Desprez and Arvo Pärt. I guess the most important
music for me is the one from the renaissance composer Josquin des
Prez, I like the clarity and the ethereal sound of the modal keys
in his music.
mwe3: Tell us about your website kinor.net
Its not your usual kind of website. The photo montage on the
kinor.net home page has some great pictures and a bandcamp link. Tell
us about the photography / artwork on the web site?
Bühlmann: Ive been taking pictures with pinhole cameras
since the early 1980s. The first abstract photos were taken in 1992
as I made apertures with several holes with them and I photographed
different light sources. I had discovered a technique that enabled
me to do abstract things taking pictures. I experimented further with
apertures produced with different hole size, hole shape, number of
holes, and the focal length varied combined with a bellow device or
even 2 apertures. Meanwhile, I have around 40 different pinholes I
use on a Nikon FM2. I exclusively use slide films.
mwe3: The album artwork for the Bailenas CD makes me
glad artists still press CDs. My temperature dropped 20 degrees just
looking at the Bailenas artwork. Tell us about your connection
to Igor the artist from Russia who shot the cover art? ALSO, how did
you come up with the name Bailenas for the title?
Roland Bühlmann: I'm fascinated by the Baikal lake. Years
ago I found a website
with photos from and around Baikal Lake. There was a striking photographer
named Igor Glushko, with excellent photographs, and his name was written
in Latin letters, not Cyrillic
While I like the Baikal Lake
I asked him via email to buy his Photography from the Lake Baikal
and the icy "mushrooms" for a CD cover, and he said yes.
Bailenas is a fantasy word which I created.
mwe3: You also play the Jewish tradition instrument, the Shofar
or rams horn on Bailenas. What track is the shofar on?
Did you process it somewhat?
Bühlmann: Playing is probably carry too far, I can only produce
a tone on it. (lol) I use it only in the last track "Pange Chorda"
at the end. I have just added a bit of reverb. On my forthcoming,
third album I play another traditional Jewish instrument, the Kinnor.
mwe3: Whats been the reaction to Bailenas so far
in Switzerland and in Europe? How can you, as a talented independent
artist, get the word out about your album worldwide? Clearly the Bailenas
album deserves a wider ear, so to speak
Roland Bühlmann: The album has had good reviews in Switzerland
and Europe, especially Germany, and all over the world. But my music
and instrumental music especially isn't for everyone and selling the
music isn't easy. I hope when people listen to my music that they
realize that there is more that they can see with their eyes and more
that they can hear with their ears.