Ray Of Light
(Roller Records)


Over in Northern Europe, Roller Records is releasing some interesting CDs by Norwegian guitarist Berdon Kirksaether. A guitar player on the rise, Berdon’s 2010 CD Ray Of Light is an intriguing, New Age type affair filled with relaxing instrumental sounds. Too laid back to be considered jazz, the 12 track, 37 minute CD just kind of floats along and makes a great soundtrack to some late night, imaginary type of fantasy. The other side of Berdon’s guitar styles can be heard on his late 2011 CD, simply entitled Blues. Commenting on the two sides of his guitar muse, Berdon adds, 'To me it has always been about colors and feel and how certain sounds pulls you into the music. I can relate a lot to Neil Young and Led Zeppelin in the way that they have got two separate worlds going on at the same time. One world being fragile acoustic songs with an atmosphere of open spaces and the other loud electric guitar assault. So I guess it's only two different sides of the coin, and that way as a side effect I don't get easily bored.' The 12 track, 48 minute Blues CD is a rocking affair, featuring Berdon’s electric guitar and vocals backed up by his group The Twang Bar Kings. Sounding kind of influenced by Dire Straits and even ZZ Top, Blues makes an interesting contrast especially when compared to the instrumental New Age vibe of Berdon’s 2010 Ray Of Light CD. presents an interview with
Berdon Kirksaether

mwe3: When did you start playing guitar and what were some of your music and guitar influences - both then and now?

BK: I started playing guitar when I was 15, being inspired by an older cousin who showed up one summer day in a hippie Volkswagen van, with a couple of friends, all equipped with acoustic guitars. That evening they played Dylan, Beatles, Cat Stevens and Cornelis Vreeswijk for me and my family. I guess they must have played for at least two hours and they were quite good, too! I'll never forget the impression they made; three guitars, one lead singer and two harmony vocals, almost like Crosby, Stills and Nash, although CSN were unknown to me by then. That very evening I instantly knew that I had to be a guitar player. The sound of those guitars, I was completely in awe of it all. There had been other influences as well. My mother was always singing and playing guitar and piano and my father was a Johnny Cash fanatic, so there was a lot of music around at all times. I also had another cousin who had a portable tape recorder and she always managed to get hold of new and exciting music and artists from Radio Luxembourg. Radio Luxembourg was a boat in international territory, operated by English DJ’s and it was possible to dial in if you had a good radio. At that time Norway had only one official radio channel, so those influences were crucial and made my music tastes wide and diverse. Through those channels I heard Beatles, Stones, Pink Floyd, Elton John, The Byrds, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Queen, Bob Marley, Norwegian guitar virtuoso Robert Norman, sax player Jan Garbarek and later Cream, Hendrix, Focus, Genesis, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Jethro Tull, Mike Oldfield, Purple, Led Zep and then eventually the great blues artists through name dropping in an interview with Eric Clapton. Even later I discovered Robin Trower And Rory Gallagher. My parents bought me a Suzuki nylon string guitar and it soon became a commitment for life. I remember I got blisters on my fingers but I couldn’t stop because the sound was so exciting and it felt so good , in spite of the temporary pain. So I had to pick up the guitar every day and played for hours. I have still got that Suzuki. When I was 16 I bought my first electric guitar, an old Eko guitar with strings like haywire. A Fender was too expensive and a Gibson was out of reach, at least in Norway. Then one year later my aunt bought me a real Fender Strat sunburst from the USA, although, it was not white it was the same kind of guitar that Hendrix and Blackmore played. I worked hard in my spare time to be able to pay my aunt back. Now this was the real thing; the smell when you opened the case, those curves and then the sound when you plugged it in... I guess I have never gotten over it to this day. I find that the artists that influenced me back then still are as relevant as they were before, but of course you hear new artists that make an impression from time to time.

mwe3: How do you balance the instrumental, spatial guitar sound explored on your Ray Of Light CD with your blues-rock style on your Blues album with the Twang Bar Kings?

BK: To me it has always been about colors and feel and how certain sounds pulls you into the music. I can relate a lot to Neil Young and Led Zeppelin in the way that they have got two separate worlds going on at the same time. One world being fragile acoustic songs with an atmosphere of open spaces and the other loud electric guitar assault. I have never been quite able to limit myself to listening only to a few chosen artists or styles. Wherever I find those intriguing colors and that special feeling, that's where I am headed. Obviously for Ray Of Light I'm sure the Nordic climate and nature blends into the stew as well. So I guess it's only two different sides of the coin, and that way as a side effect I don't get easily bored. You can find the blues in the strangest of circumstances, or you could find joy in the most unlikely place whatsoever.

mwe3: What guitars are you featuring on your solo albums and what other gear do you use in the studio and at live shows?

BK: On Ray Of Light I used a Takamine PT05 and a Dolphin acoustic/electric mandolin. They were both recorded through a Universal Audio 610 pre amp, a fantastic tube pre amp that lends a certain sheen to everything you put through it. I recorded most guitars and mandolins line, because it was closer to the sound I tried to obtain. I wanted the guitars to sound very close and intimate. I guess a hint of George Harrison's sound on "Here Comes The Sun". The theme of the album is me dealing with the fact that my mother had a stroke and gradually faded away mentally to the point that she is not here anymore, though she is still alive. So it's me looking back at who we used to be in another time, another place. I use GHS silk and bronze 012's, they are quite mellow sounding strings that I feel add warmth to the Takamine, especially on a PA system, but also in a recording situation. I addition I play a Fender jazz
bass on some of the tracks. Studio effects Ray Of Light... As for effects I use both a Boss DD-6 delay pedal and Logic's Delay Designer plug-in and Waves Lexicon reverb plug-ins, and occasionally an Electro Harmonix Holy Grail reverb pedal. For modulation I use Logic's Vintage Dimension plug-in or the Carl Martin Tremovibe pedal. I use a glass slide and I mostly pick with my fingers. Live, my setup is a little different, from the guitar; Dunlop volume pedal, Boss octave pedal, Carl Martin Tremovibe, Electro harmonix holy grail reverb, Amtech reverb, Boss DD-6 delay. I don't use the octaver as an octaver, I pull back the effect and use it more like a boost on solos and it gives me a special sustain, unlike dedicated boost pedals. Studio effects Blues... I used my Fender Strat with Lace sensor pickups and a Warmoth custom neck equipped with jumbo frets, strings were D'addario 011's. I think I used a Jay Turser 335 (emulation of Gibson 335) on maybe one or two songs. And for "Black Gal" I used the Takamine PT05. Amps were a Fender Twin Reverb, a Peavey classic and a Fender Bassman. Only effects employed were a Vox Brit Boost and an old Coloursound wah-wah and a bit of Logic delay designer on some parts as well as an old phaser pedal. "It's A Rough Ride We're On" was the Strat directly into the Universal Audio 610, the same way David Gilmore recorded some of his clean guitars. To get the diverse guitar sounds I used different pickup configurations and the tone controls. Live I use a couple more guitars; the main Strat used on Blues, a Fender Strat with Texas special pickups, a Fender Jazzmaster and the Jay Turser 335. Effects are from the guitar; Coloursound wah-wah, Boss octave, Vox Brit Boost, MXR boost, Voodoo Lab Mikro vibe, Carl Martin Tremovibe, Boss dd6. Amps right now; Blackstar 40w and an Epiphone senior valve 30w going into left and right on the delay pedal, the idea is to get a wide and full sound with smaller amps in regular clubs. Waiting in the wings; Fender twin 100w, Crate Vintage club 50w, Peavey classic blues 60w, Peavey Windsor 100w stack.

mwe3: What’s the instrumental guitar and blues-rock music scene like in Norway these days and what other players do you interact with in Norway and throughout Scandinavia and the continent?

BK: There are a lot of interesting players. When it comes to instrumental music there is a player named Knut Reiersrud, who is absolutely phenomenal, and like me he comes from the blues, roots scene. Bjorn Klakegg is another one with more of a jazz orientation. My old partner in CIA, Johnny Aasgaard is a fantastic player both acoustic and electric, just to name a few. I think the blues-rock scene in Norway right now is blossoming. There are many great bands and guitarists around. Vidar Busk is amazing, Erik Harstad is a very tasteful player, Amund Maarud and the aforementioned Reiersrud and Aaasgaard, Remme Brother's Band, Big Bang and Jug Rock are all great musicians. I have not been interacting that much with that scene the last four or five years because I spent some time recording and performing the music of Dutch/Swedish legend Cornelis Vreeswijk, I built a new house and finally I got my own studio. Actually I have been hanging more with drummers. Olaf Olsen, drummer of Big Bang who lives nearby and Per Eriksen who used to be and still is my drummer, and the occasional accordion player and singer Gjermund Andresen. So Ray Of Light and Blues was a sort of coming back after being off for a while.

mwe3: What other interests do you have outside the music world?

BK: Luckily I have a wife and kids, that keeps me occupied a lot of the time. I also work part time as a guitar instructor as well as a few stints as a live mixer . Of course many of my friends are musicians, but I really like to see other friends who are not connected to the music business in any way. One of my closest friend is a carpenter who builds woody cars and woody caravans. I like going over to his place, watching somebody else's obsession at play. I think it is important to have a different life that you can tap into every once in a while. Music and the music business can be very intense and all absorbing. A wise guitarist once stated that sometimes going on a fishing trip can make you a better musician. I can relate to that. Sometimes distance makes the overall picture clearer.

mwe3: When did you start releasing albums on the Roller Records label and what plans do you have for your music moving forward?

BK: We released CIA's first album Ah, Yeah on Roller Records in November 1993. The follow up album where due two year's later but because of extensive gigging and some disagreements, we only released a single in 1996. We have ten songs recorded in ‘94 that we never released, so who knows? Then the label was sleeping until 2008, when Gjermund Andresen and myself recorded and released Visan I Vinden, with a little help from Olaf Olsen on drums and percussion. Olaf also played lap steel on one song. The album contained songs by the Dutch/Swedish artist Cornelis Vreeswijk, who is a legend in Scandinavia. Then In 2009 we released Vreeswijk album number two Emigration. Both records got good reviews and we put together a band with drummer Snorre Smorgrav and bass player Erik Gabrielsen and did a lot of concerts the next two years. In 2010 I recorded Ray Of Light together with Stein Tumert who played bass and keyboards. Ray Of Light also got good reviews. We have never yet performed Ray Of Light live, but eventually we will do it. The next album in line was Blues, my comeback as a blues artist and a celebration of the guitar sounds and players that inspired me. Blues was recorded in my own BK-Studio and Per Eriksen's studio Mabel Emily's White Room. Main musicians; Per Eriksen, Stein Tumert, Erik Gabrielsen, BK. By now Blues has received good reviews in several countries in Europe and has appeared on quite a few radio stations as well. In September this year we are ready to launch the blues rock trio The Ground, with Per Eriksen on drums, Erik Gabrielsen on bass and yours truly on guitar and vocals. The Ground is a power trio playing funky blues rock with an edge and the recordings were done in Per Eriksen's Mabel Emily's White Room. The trio will have its live debut at the Veierland festival in Norway on August 11th. In September/October this year we plan to start recording "Blues 2 " at Mabel Emily's White Room. Then in the wintertime we aim to make our next instrumental album. After three electric albums it's due time to contemplate in acoustic landscapes again. We have featured the young band Groovy Company on Roller Records and I think we will feature a couple more bands and artists in the future. Our main goal is to keep on recording and issuing the music that we love in the years to stay tuned!

Thanks to Berdon Kirksaether @


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