October Giveaway top

Header
more... ArtistsGuitarists

Interview: Graveyard's Jonatan Ramm - Green Grooves from Gothenburg

A A
Interview: Graveyard's Jonatan Ramm - Green Grooves from Gothenburg


Ramm playing his No. 2 Gibson SG, a 2010 Standard model with stock humbuckers.

You guys branched out a bit, stylistically, on Lights Out. What was the goal this time around?
Just to make good songs and broaden our material even more than on Hisingen Blues. We’ve never really had any plans to go in a certain direction or create something that sounds a certain way. We just try to make songs that we like as if we were the audience.

One thing that I think is big for what we do is that we jam a lot—more than any band I’ve been in before. I know a lot of bands and musicians practice and rehearse for tours and right before studio sessions, but we play and rehearse all the time just to hang out and pass the time. When one of us brings an idea for a song to the practice space, we try and jam on it for a while and take it through the collective grinder. We might end up with something completely different than where the idea started, but that’s why we embrace jamming.

If we just came together to rehearse or to bring ideas to flesh out, we wouldn’t get as diverse or eclectic with our songs—and that’s what I think you’re continuing to hear in Lights Out.

Graveyard albums have a very organic, vintage-’70s feel—down to the sorts of crackles we associate with vinyl. How do you achieve that in a world dominated by digital recording equipment?
Don [Ahlsterberg, producer] uses all-analog equipment and records onto tape—it’s been that way since we recorded the first Graveyard album in 2007. He actually hates all that digital stuff, but that’s why we choose to continue to work with him to this day—he knows what we like and we appreciate and understand his approach to recording. Plus, he pushes us to record live as a full band as much as we can. Our goal is to capture and harness the raw emotion and feeling that’s produced when we’re all playing music together as a cohesive unit. We’re not looking to be perfect— it’s not supposed to be, at least in our eyes. I mean, that’s what makes music so beautiful, natural, and special is the human element. If I completely screw something up, we’ll redo it, but we don’t worry about every snare hit or upstroke on the guitar being precise. That type of programmable logic makes music feel forced and stale.

For solos, I generally take my time and redo those after our live take. I like to plan things out and really do a service to the song and make sure it fits and it’s not just me noodling all over the song with no rhyme or reason. However, there were a few solo parts on Lights Out that were live takes, like sections of “Seven Seven” and “Endless Night.”

In the last minute of “An Industry of Murder,” you play two small solos— the first is very melodic and locked-in, and the second is a bit crazier—what were you going for there?”
In the first part, I was trying for more of an intro or build-up, with a complementary rhythm riffing that coincided with what Rikard and Axel were doing that led into the actual solo, or the second part you identified. For that part, I’m playing the song out alongside the siren-sounding theremin. I figured I’d try something new and different, so I used Don’s wah pedal. I’m no Hendrix with the wah, but I wanted to add another tone that meshed with the theremin’s funkiness. It’s the only spot I use a wah on the record and it works. With the wah, I think moderation is key, otherwise it sounds gimmicky.


“We play music we would want to hear if we were in the crowd watching us,” Ramm says.

You get some pretty amazing feedback leading into the solo in “Seven Seven.”
I was pushing the headstock into my amp head while crawling around on my knees and playing to get enough feedback because the Hiwatt has a lot of headroom. I sometimes turn on either one of MXR pedals to cheat a bit and boost the volume and push the amp even harder, but I prefer to just do it with my guitar and amp only. Feedback is spontaneous. It’s different every time you go for it, but what I always try to do is start small and controlled, because you’re able to keep things musical and in check. Incrementally increasing volume and squeal is easier than trying to put the lid back on a monster once you’ve awoken it [laughs].

“The Suits, the Law, & the Uniforms” sounds like a CCR cover done by Sabbath. How did that come about?
I just start every song looking to take a chance. For that one, we all dialed in how the song was going to be structured and the pace of Joakim’s vocals, I wanted to go for a very aggressive, bluesy-meets-punk tone. I recorded all the main parts with my SG in the neck position and used one of the MXR pedals to get that extra oomph and creaminess.

Near the end, it sounds like there are some horns making a ruckus in the background— like something you’d hear from the Stooges.
[Laughs.] That’s totally what we were going for, but no one can do it like the Stooges. Their song “Fun House” was our inspiration. We had already recorded the song and just thought during playback that all the song was missing was a saxophone—something you don’t hear in most rock bands. We had a local saxophonist come down, because we wanted to make it a bit more offbeat and different from our typical Graveyard stuff—and we’ve all been really getting into the Stooges, so we went for it.

What prompted you to play slide on “Endless Nights”?
It was one of the last songs we worked on and I was worried that my playing was becoming stale or redundant, so I figured if I played slide—even if not very good—it would be different. It worked out as a good experiment. It was out of my comfort zone and really pushed me to focus. I think you have to do that to grow as a guitarist instead of just learning scales or playing faster notes. I don’t even know exactly what open tuning I’m in— somewhere between C and G—because I had to tweak each string to get in a key that Joakim could sing over. I have some work ahead of me before we decide to play that song live. I’m just glad the guys were patient with me.

Jonatan Ramm's Gear

Guitars
1968 Gibson SG Special, 2010 Gibson SG Standard

Amps
Hiwatt Custom 100, Orange Rockerverb 50 MK II, Vox AC50 head, Hiwatt 4x12 loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s

Effects
MXR GT-OD, MXR Micro Amp

Strings, Picks, and Accessories
Jim Dunlop Tortex 1.0 mm picks, Ernie Ball Skinny Top/Heavy Bottom .010–.052 strings, Boss TU-2 Tuner

In Lights Out’s slower songs—like “Slow Motion Countdown” and “Hard Time Lovin’”—it’s impressive how your playing patiently stays out of Joakim’s way as he builds up the increasingly aggressive vocals.
I really enjoy listening to slower, more soulful songs, and that’s how I like to write, too. I like to have plenty of time to hit sustaining, edge-of-feedback notes and bend them all over.

Just like how I feel about gear—less is more. You have to pick your spots as a guitarist. I know a lot of players that want the loudest, most distorted tone, and they scramble to fill every open space with as many notes as possible so they can be heard and be No. 1. We’re guitarists, we have egos [laughs], but if you really want to work within a band and make a piece of music the best it can be sometimes you need to throttle back and wait.

A A