We'd like to thank maestro and guitar virtuoso Henri Aalto for this interview, and for sharing his insights on honing your talent as a musician and a songwriter.
Music was never created by man - it's already been here long before man even came about. Every sound and melody that touches a human heart, I believe, has already been determined before time. And our task as musicians has always been to listen, and to play it in a way everyone can hear. The magic of being a musician is in hearing music, seeing the music, where people think there's none. Being a musician is a gift and a rarity, and to dedicate one's life to it is a noble choice.
Can you tell us more about you? I understand you started playing guitar at 9? How have you studied guitar and honed your skills - can you site any specific commitment or thing you did to improve your skills in playing? What would you advice to young guitarists on how to better their craft?
At age 9 I started out on acoustic guitar. I started to take guitar lessons at a local music school, mainly learning basic chords and how to strum simple songs. At age 12 I got my first electric. From the age 20 onwards for many years I studied Jazz guitar and music theory at music institute here in my hometown Vasa. That’s probably when I really started to find my own style. I started to blend the rock-oriented guitar compositions and solos with things from the jazz studies! I really dove deep into the guitar. I wanted to learn and understand as much as possible, and I still have that desire. I practiced everyday for many years. I think I still do, but nowadays I play more off the songs I need to able to perform at gigs.
If I had to give one specific commitment that has helped me it would be: regular every day practice regime or ‘ to become such a good friend with your instrument’ that you want to spend as much time as possible with it. The more you learn on it the more time you will spend with it. It’s a bit like realizing there’s a treasure within it! The more you’ll understand the more off the musical language the guitar and everything will open up for you.
What inspired you to be as a musician, to make music?
I think around the age of 12 when I got my first electric, I had this emotionally strong positive experience of learning how to play Smoke on the water (Deep Purple) with a distorted guitar sound.
I just remember how great that made me feel. I Connected with that, it instantly felt right for me. I think these emotional connections to the guitar and the music made me become a musician. After that there never was a serious other choice than music in one or another form. I mean I was a serious guitar teacher for 25 years. Now I am focusing much more on different types of gigs.
The music writing thing is a creative process that can start from anything I hear around me or experience. It’s like a rebus that needs to be solved. Here’s an example: One day an ambulance passed our house with the sirens on! I thought: Why don’t I write a fictive instrumental story where I am using the sounds off the siren played on the guitar as one motif. It had plenty of other things in it too! The finished song and video for it is: The Phantom Zone- Henri Aalto.
So actually anything can trigger the creative processes within me! But times of Stillness is needed! Being busy and stressed at times is no good for ones creativity. I remember I came up with my first songs at the age of 12. I was just a kid ‘playing my creative musical’ mind games trying to ape my idols. That’s how it started out.
How do you and your band go about writing songs? How long does it take you to usually complete one song? Are there any techniques or guidelines you follow?
We jam on a musical idea we have. Then we film/ record that jam. We go home, We get back another time and work more on that idea, we all bring some variations and we might have a new song, Sometimes I have a fully written song that I present to the musicians. So it depends from song to song.
Some songs come really quick together others need time. Thinking of the song in different parts helps: A/ B / A / C etc. Or writing on another instruments is a great technique!
What are your musical influences?
My musical influences are from different genres: Jimi Hendrix, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Al Di Meola, Deep Purple, Rush, Jean Sibelius, J.S Bach, Psalms, Joe Pass, Mattias Eklundh, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Allan Holdsworth, Pat Metheny etc.
What kind of music do you love listening to, or get inspiration from?
Lately I have been listening to classical violinists like Anne Sophie Mutter or The great jazz fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth.
What do you think of the music industry today?
I think it’s a tough competition! There’s so many artsist and groups out there trying to make it! I think it’s tough to be seen and heard today! But I think the greatest I can do is to play and write the kind of music that I like and enjoy! To try to be original and not to stick with fashion is important.
What is your favorite song among all your songs, and why?
It’s hard to pick one but I think it might be Sad Day or I Wanna play!
They both have musical themnes, but also flashy sections too! They also work out well live!
Music-wise, what are your plans in the future?
I’d / We’d like to finish writing material for a new album in the future. I’d like to try to try to write some really different music that I haven’t tried to write before! Maybe for some totally different instruments or something.
Can you describe the Henri Aalto Band? Your backgrounds as musicians?
We are 4 musicians that have a professional musician background. All 4 of us have also worked as music or instrument teachers.
What's the best thing about music?
The best thing about music it that it takes me to a different world. it makes me forget about time, problems or anything that harms my mind or even the body! It’s a totally another world!
What's the best thing about playing live?
It’s the feeling you get from the people, the event or the other musicians! Sometimes it is similar to an euphoric experience. That’s whe it is at its best
Who would be your dream collaboration?
To play with Steve Vai, John Bonham, Freddie Mercury and Billy Sheehan
Just for fun: If each one of you were a fruit, what would you be and why?
I’d be an orange. Slightly stingy but still tasty! Cause that how people sometimes might experience me. Heheeh No just kidding!