RPWL guitarist Kalle Wallner takes on the next challenge with BLIND EGO

23. November 2016

Blind Ego RPWL

RPWL guitarist Kalle Wallner takes on the next challenge with BLIND EGO

eclipsed: Just now the soundcheck with RPWL, now the interview for Blind Ego, afterwards the RPWL concert. How do you switch back and forth?

Kalle Wallner: I'm actually used to having all the different construction sites at the same time now. At the latest, since our label Gentle Art Of Music exists, there is always a lot to do. You get used to it, too. RPWL and Blind Ego side by side is actually easy, because I'm heavily involved in both. So that's a pretty good fit.

eclipsed: Seven years have passed since the last blind ego album "Numb". When did you start working on the new album "Liquid"?

Wallner: I actually always write. If there's any time left, I'll do something. Whether it is for one project or another is then another question. But I always write or collect ideas. I find a riff great or have an interesting harmony or a text fragment or something that inspires me. But to finish a song or even a whole album takes a lot of time. Unfortunately, it has been difficult in recent years to focus on this and work longer on it. In 2010 we founded our own label. With RPWL we made some DVDs and CDs. Some songs on "Liquid" are a bit older. They are directly from the year 2010. Other ideas are relatively new. There was one song, "A Place In The Sun": When I finished the demo, I knew I had the album together. That was just my feeling, though. Of course, it wasn't all ready yet. The arrangements have changed. It's a total difference whether you work with a band or alone. It all has advantages and disadvantages. The moment you write everything yourself, you're much closer to yourself. But sometimes you get bogged down. For example on "Blackened", the first single and one of the shortest songs on the album. It was about ten minutes long at the beginning. It was too long, too expansive. I really liked the song, but there was so much unnecessary ballast. Then I just radically cut back.

eclipsed: Did you think of that yourself, or did someone tell you?

Wallner: Of course you play things for other people. But these are things I notice myself. There is often a gap between the individual parts of the creation process: you finish a demo. Then it's all over before you move on. With a little distance you then see the things you want to improve or do differently. Now that this has taken so long, the album is properly reflected in the retrospective.

eclipsed: As a person in general and as a musician in particular, you develop quite a lot in seven years. Is Blind Ego now something different than it was in 2009?

Wallner: I hope so, because hopefully I have also developed further and have not stopped. As an artist, whether as a musician or a visual artist or whatever you do, it is important that you let yourself be inspired and work on yourself. Otherwise you would record the same record over and over again. Even though not every song on the album is autobiographical, it's true that the life situation you're in is naturally reflected on the album. "Numb" was rather an aggressive album in this respect. It was very rough. At that time I was in a different phase of my life. The new album is perhaps a bit more mature in itself.

eclipsed: Did you consciously approach the new album with a different philosophy?

Wallner: No, I'm not making that conscious. Of course, you have things to do that require you to work very constructively. But when it comes to writing, I just let myself drift. I don't think about it.

eclipsed: Like on the previous albums you have musicians from other Progbands with you. What criteria do you use to select them? Especially the singers.

Wallner: I've known Arno [Note: Arno Menses, singer of Subsignal] for a long time. I was involved in the recordings for subsignals "Touchstones", we met at festivals, RPWL and Subsignal often played together. We have a very good connection to each other. I'm very happy that he sings some songs on the album. For some other songs I wanted a real rock singer with a real rock metal tube. My drummer, Michael Schwager, recommended the Erik Ez Blomkvist to me. He knew it from old Dreamscape times. I asked him if we wanted to try something. The test shots were great. On the last song, Aaron Brooks sings Simeon Soul Charger. They're on the label with us. I wasn't at all sure if the song fits to the rest of the record because it's so singer/songwriter-like. But I liked it so much, and it's a part of me, so I wanted it on the record. Aaron was then a pretty obvious choice for this song. I've been thinking about who I'd like to work with. It is not only a question of qualification, but also of sympathy. Then it was clear that I wanted Aaron with me. Drummer Michael Schwager is actually the only permanent member of Blind Ego. He has always motivated me a lot in recent years, so kick me in the buttocks. I'm supposed to finally finish this album. Michael was seeded because he is supporting the whole project, even if it is not a fixed band now. With the bassists it was also clear that Sebe [note: Sebastian Harnack, bassist of Sylvan] had to be there again. I've known Ralf Schwager on bass for several years now, of course. He recorded in our studio before sub-signal times. And for the instrumental "Quiet Anger" I simply wanted an extraordinary musician, that was Heiko Jung from Panzerballett. He played the bass solo. This wasn't actually planned. But it was so inspiring what he played and what possibilities he had. And with the instrumental solo you can also break out of the genre.

eclipsed: Is the prog scene really like that, that you like to help out?

Wallner: Actually yes, but that's not only the case in the prog scene. Everybody wants to try something different. Of course it's clear that it's something different again when you ask: "Do you want to join the band? Arno, for example, already said at that time that he had his band subsignal. That's enough for him, too. And as a singer you are always more in focus than the other musicians. Arno said he already wanted to sing on the whole album, but he didn't want to be the face of Blind Ego either. That's why we decided he'd only sing a few songs. On the last subsignal album I also played a solo. It's something collegial.

eclipsed: "Liquid" is a very diversified album. Hard riffs, ballads, modern sounds. Do you want to show that you master different styles? Or don't you want to commit?

Wallner: I start from what I like to hear myself. I'm still a classic album listener. I like variety, suspense, unexpected twists. Under this premise I also approach my own album: that it is simply varied. That happens automatically. There are also some ideas left that I didn't use. I might be able to use it next time. To span an arc over an album, or sometimes also smaller bows, I like that very much. I didn't deliberately do it one way or the other.

eclipsed: Are you aware of the insane moment you created in "Never Escape The Storm" when after about 1:30 the sound explodes and the electric guitar starts?

Wallner: The funny thing is that I thought this song would be more of an RPWL number. On the other hand, the last RPWL albums also featured songs that were actually meant for Blind Ego. That was one of the reasons why the blind ego album continued to be delayed. The new album is already rocky, and it's going really well. That's why the acoustic guitar was important to me, to breathe a sigh of relief. A short pause to catch your breath.

eclipsed: You also did the backing vocals like on the albums before. Can you imagine singing the lead vocals?

Wallner: I already sang everything on the demos myself. None of this is embarrassing either. You can play that for others, too. But I don't have the rock voice I imagine. That's why I wouldn't think of singing myself. Maybe there's a song I'd like to sing myself. I just don't think I'm good enough myself. That's why I'd rather have someone else sing. I just like to play guitar myself and concentrate on it.

eclipsed: In "Quiet Anger" you allow a bass solo. Otherwise the guitar is always the focus, which is normal for the solo album of a guitarist. But was there no room for keyboards?

Wallner: There really aren't many keyboards on "Liquid". But there is more than on the last album "Numb" on which there were none at all. I only use keyboards where I have the feeling that I can't do it with the guitar or where I want a completely different sound. With this music I rarely get the idea myself to use a keyboard at all. I don't like playing around with it either. There are moments when I enjoy working with loops and modern electronic things. But this is only an accompanying element. Professionally I have a lot to do with it, I also program many things. But I already have this compromise with RPWL that the guitar is equal to the keyboards. I find it interesting not to work with keyboards, but to make a lot of sounds with the guitar. There are a lot of sounds that you think are a keyboard, but it's still a guitar. It is not a conscious decision for or against keyboards.

eclipsed: In our review of "Liquid" we read: "Kalle Wallner is one of Germany's best and most emotional guitarists." What do you think when you hear or read something like that?

Wallner: Of course I'm glad. I take it as a compliment. I agree with Yogi [note: Yogi Lang, singer and keyboarder of RPWL] that we actually do our thing, so primarily for ourselves. A sentence like that shows that other people also like what you do. Personally, I find comparisons difficult. Who's the fastest, the best, the most emotional?" There are so many amazing guitarists out there. Everybody do their own thing. Most musicians would say the same thing now. But a compliment is not the motivation for anything

eclipsed: Doesn't that make you feel too pressurized or too flattered?

Wallner: No, that's just a tribute to me.

eclipsed: Where do you see your strengths in? Playing guitar or songwriting? Is one more important to you than the other?

Wallner: When I started making music, I was about 12 and had my first band. But we already did our own songs back then. The others were a little older. I was the youngest, and I was a bit of a guitarist. But for me it was very clear that playing in a band also means writing your own songs. For me, the guitar is a means to an end. A song also works without a guitar solo. I put myself entirely at the service of the song. I also find a beautiful melody 1000 times more interesting than a totally fast sloppiness. Sure, sometimes it goes well with songs. That's what I have on the album a little bit. But then it must be good again sometime with it. There should also be joy of playing, but in the end it's all about the song for me. The guitar is, as I said, rather a means to an end. It doesn't work the other way around. Then the song lacks substance. Unless you do it like tank ballet. That's a different style. If you play at such a world level, then it has another dimension. But slow solos touch me more. One is just for the circus and the other for the emotions.

eclipsed: Also on the new album are some fast solos. How narrow is the ridge between self-indulgent frizzle and song-serving guitar playing?

Wallner: Ultimately, that's the joy of playing. One has also spent many, many hours mastering one's instrument. Of course, you also want to show something. Even herself. Both belong together, but it must not go beyond the scope. It shouldn't be a pointless frizzle. It can destroy a song. The border is different for everyone. Others still perceive something as musical, which has long been too much for me. Or the other way around. Music ultimately works according to a very simple principle: it touches you, or it doesn't touch you! You like it or you don't like it. There are so many categories and pigeonholes you can try, in the end music is so simple.

eclipsed: What is blind ego to you? A project? A band? A valve next to RPWL? A welcome change? A pastime?

Wallner: It's certainly not a pastime, because I'm anything but bored. It's a challenge for me. Singing or not singing is such a question. Completely finishing songs, i.e. with all the lyrics - even though I asked for help with the lyrics for the new album - and composing all the melodies myself is the real personal challenge for me. That's why I don't have to finish producing it. For me, the most important thing happened when I pre-produced the song as a demo in the studio and could listen to it in my car. I'm still singing myself, it's not finished yet, it's partly still played sloppily because it had to go fast. Then comes a relatively large amount of craftsmanship. RPWL also gets a lot of input from me. But of course Yogi makes his decisions as a singer. Even if we give each other suggestions or develop something together. So for me it's something special to prove to myself that I can make such an album. There are many people who talk all their musical lives about making a solo record. Few of them even make it. It just takes an incredible amount of time and energy. It's not easy to do something like this alone. And I like it a little harder sometimes. I have to admit that. Yogi knows that too. I'd rather come from another direction. My formative years as a child belonged to hard rock and metal. All that was in the '80s. It won't let you go. I like a lot of different music styles, but I came to Pink Floyd much later. I came via Rush to Pink Floyd and not vice versa. I also like many modern rock bands very much and can live it out a bit with Blind Ego. Working without compromise is really something beautiful. There really is something liberating about it. With a released blind ego disc, I'm sure I'll be much more relaxed when I go into the next RPWL production. Then you're more willing to compromise. If you don't have this valve, you might also be tempted to enforce your own things in the band regardless of losses. You gotta be careful about that. You should always make the best decision in the band and not the most personal one.

eclipsed: In January you will play live. What can we expect?

Wallner: Michael Schwager (drums) and Sebastian Harnack (bass) are there. Sebe can't be praised enough: He made the Blackened video shoot possible. Second guitar played by Julian Kellner of Dante. An extremely talented guitarist. He's a great guitar player. He's very stylish, has a great tone. Dante's record also came out on our label. I'll tour with subsignal. Therefore it would be obvious if Arno would sing with me too. But I was looking for a live singer and met Scott Balaban from Munich. He just re-released his old records with Amon Ra. I'd say searched and found. We get along extraordinarily well. Scott and I recently played some unplugged songs at our RPWL home game in Freising. Great singer, great guy. I'm looking forward to it. But I am sure that there will also be a small rendezvous with Arno on the tour.