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Kaleidobolt’s Sampo Kääriäinen by Marco Menestrina

Anyone who’s seen Kaleidobolt live knows they’re a force of nature, fuelled by Nordic darkness, and we are stoked to welcome guitarist Sampo to the Orange family! Find out more about him and his love for our funny looking but great sounding amps below.

Okay, let’s get down to the very basics for our readers to get to know you – who are you?
Sampo: I’m a 25-year old fellow playing guitar in a band called Kaleidobolt. You can call me a musician nowadays, since I don’t work in gambling industry anymore, haha. One of my first music related memories is when my dad sat my brother and me down in a dark room to listen to “Shine on you Crazy Diamond” at full volume. Powerful stuff when the stuff you’d been listening so far was  The Smurfs CD’s.  I really fell for this music thingy when my mother got a guitar for her birthday, I was 11, and mesmerised by the instrument. Due to a combination of my mum’s lack of motivation to learn how to play and me being overwhelmed by how cool the guitar was, as well as having nothing better to do, it ended up being me becoming the guitarist of us.  As I got older, I went to Kuopio Senior High of Music and Dance, before I eventually left Kuopio for Helsinki, as the Kuopio music scene was rather dull. I ended up joining Kaleidobolt in Helsinki, where I still am six years later, having also just become endorsed by Orange. Woo! It all came together!

Kaleidobolt, how did you guys all meet and end up playing together?
Sampo: The original line up came alive when our bass player Marco moved to Finland and wanted to start a band. We all found each other through this Finnish website where you can put ads out to look for musicians to play with. Normally this particular website should be avoided at all costs, but we got super lucky for some reason. Marco and our previous drummer Valtteri started playing together and mastered rhythm duties while still searching for a guitarist. At the time, I was in a jazz-fusion band where the average age was about 47. It was an educational experience, but I wanted to properly start ROCKING OUT, and ended up contacting Marco. At first I thought they Kaleidobolt were looking for a guitarist and backing singer, but I somehow got tricked into singing lead. But yeah, I haven’t looked back since. After our latest tour our beloved drummer Valtteri chose to step down from the drum throne, and we heard through friends that this dude Mårten from Finnish hardcore band Foreseen could fill some major boots, and oh boy, he fills.

Your music carries elements from a lot of different genres, do you come from varied musical backgrounds?
Sampo: We have a lot of common ground but we have enough varied taste among the band to make song writing really hard and time consuming from time to time. But, the harder the work the bigger the reward, and at the end of the day it’s all hugs and high fives. At the moment, song writing feels really easy for the first time ever, which almost slightly worried me. But, I think I’m gonna enjoy it while it lasts. 

Nordic countries seem to be producing sweet heavy music like there’s no tomorrow, can you tell us a bit about the Helsinki music scene?
Sampo: In Helsinki and Finland in general there’s not enough people to have explicit scene for different genres which is really cool. You can see all these same people who attend to punk or psychedelic rock gigs at jazz gigs or whatever. I think you can hear it in music of many Helsinki bands since it’s all big beautiful mess of different genres.

You guys are a pretty damn impressive live band, how often do you rehearse, gig, jam or whatever?
Sampo: Haha, Thanks! We did our base work back in the days, rehearsing so much that while touring we can concentrate on all other kinds of activities instead. Again, harder the work the bigger the reward I guess! Of course, it’s not bullshit when people say that gigs are the  the best practice, and after this month and a half long tour we did with Radio Moscow a while back I could’ve been dead and still play a gig – NOT FAR AWAY FROM TRUTH TO BE HONEST. 

As a guitarist, who was your main influence getting started?
Sampo: It was and will always be: Pat Metheny, Alvin Lee and Jukka Tolonen. No one plays guitar as beautifully as Pat Metheny. Alvin Lee has the most badass guitar face, and Jukka Tolonen is so of a combination of the two (minus the guitar face). Pat Metheny Group’s S/T album, Ten Years After’s ‘Live at Woodstock’, and Jukka Tolonen first two solo albums is all I need to know when it comes to playing guitar.

Kaleidobolt by Mika Paananen

Orange – what’s your history and experience with the brand?
Sampo: When I was a teenager I remember referring to Orange amps as “those funny looking amps”, and I think the first time I even saw one was some Black Sabbath TV performance. Before recording our first album we had to get me a proper amp and borrowed an Orange AD-140 from a friend, and that was actually first time I tried Orange, and I immediately fell for it. I sort of held onto the amp for a bit longer than I was meant to, to my friend’s annoyance. After handing it back, I went to a music store the next day and spent an afternoon trying out different amps, and I ended up buying Rockerverb 100 MKII which surprised and still surprises me with just how gosh darn versatile it is! Nowadays I refer to them as “funny looking great sounding amps”.

What do you look for in an amp, and what’s your current set up?
Sampo: Versatility. I like playing jazz, I like playing heavier stuff, I like bright clean sounds, I like all kinds of different stuff. With Kaleidobolt we’ve got a variety of different sounding shenanigans going on, so it’s pretty important that the gear can handle that. I’ve been playing Rockerverb 100 MKII for six years now and it has been just magnificent. When I joined Kaleidobolt and wanted a muddy guitar sound, it was there for me, and when I wanted to do ripping solos, it was there for me. When we started doing songs which needed a twangier sound, it was somehow still there for me. It still amazes me how simple it is to use and manages to adapt in any situation, which is so great as I’m not any kind of gear head, and honestly a bit lazy when it comes to these things, so I’ve been lucky to have this kind of loyal companion with me all these years. No matter if we’re in studio or tour I can always trust that little buddy. Never had any problems with it whatsoever, maintenance or sound wise. So so, summa summarum: I use Orange Rockerverb 100 MKII with Orange PPC412 and Hiwatt cabinets (looking for another PPC412 by the way, in Finland it’s pretty hard to find those, WINK WINK…)

You recently released a single ‘Dropout’, can you tell us a bit about it?
Adult Swim approached us about doing a song for their singles series, and since we are all longtime fans of AS, we couldn’t really say no. Historically, Pallbearer has mostly been an album focused band, but this gave us an opportunity to work on something that didn’t have to fit within the context of a full album, which was liberating in a way. Dropout was written, recorded, and mixed rather quickly in comparison to much of our other work, and we’re really happy with the results.

You did a live recording of it at Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago, how was that whole experience, and how did it come about?
Though it was initially tracked at Fellowship  Hall Sound in Little Rock, Audiotree hit us up about wanting to collaborate on something after our then upcoming show in Chicago. As per usual, we’d celebrated rather heavily the night before with some old friends, so when we rolled up to this old Polish cemetery at 10 am with the task of recording two live tracks, there was a definite heavy feeling in the air. Ultimately, with the help of coffee and whatever else was floating around the cemetery that morning, we pulled it off. It’s easily one of the more interesting places we’ve ever played, and I’m stoked that they reached out to us.

What’s your own musical background, earlier and current influences?
The first band I ever fell in love with was Nirvana. I remember reading about Kurt early on, and discovered that he’d loved both the Beatles and Black Sabbath. So I checked them out, and ended up sharing his admiration for both. It was around this time that I first picked up a guitar, and it’s been a wild ride since then. In the last few years, I find myself spending most of my time listening to jazz and country records from the 60’s and 70’s. There’s a lot of prog from that era in the mix, as well. I’m not stuck in the past or anything, and I believe there is a ton of great current music out there, but at the same time, it’s virtually impossible to beat an old Coltrane or Miles record.

What’s your history and experience with Orange?
I wanted an Orange amp the first time I saw one. I remember watching Tony Iommi playing a stack in this old Sabbath video, and I was immediately drawn to it. Years later, when I was finally able to actually try one out, I fell in love. I’ve played about every kind of amp that’s out there, and as the years have passed, I’ve come to realize that there really is nothing that scratches the itch like a cranked Orange. I’m a big fan of the cleans too, especially on the Rockerverb MKIII. In the studio, or a live setting, as long as I’ve got an Orange around, I know I have the best tonal foundation imaginable for what I’m looking for in an amp. I’m an unabashed fanboy.

What’s your current set up?
Currently I run both a MKII and a MKIII Rockerverb simultaneously through a ppc412 and a ppc212. This allows me blend two different amp tones, which to my ears is the best way to achieve a full, interesting sound. It has all the volume I ever really need, and I have used this setup for some time now. Oranges are built like tanks, and they are absolute workhorses, which is an absolute must when you tour as much as we do.

Photo by Johnny Hubbard via ESP guitars.

 

Each Christmas we have a competition called ‘Wish Granted’ where Orange fans could wish for the gear of their dreams – if you could pick any Orange gear, what would it be, and why?I’ve never had the opportunity to play any of Orange’s hand wired/custom shop stuff, and I’m sure they are amazing, so I’d have to go with one of those. Maybe the OR50, or something based off the old OR80’s.

As far as current music goes, not many bands, most likely none, can compare to Earthless. Their musical craftsmanship is out of this world, and they’ve created an explosion of emerging psych bands coming out of San Diego and the surrounding areas. But then again, when Isaiah Mitchell used to be the local Encinitas guitar teacher, what else can you expect? Having obsessed over Earthless since I first came across them years ago in my bedroom back at my mum’s in Norway, they’ve always seemed like these unattainable gods from sunny California, so when I recently was told Isaiah would be playing Orange during their next UK and European tour… Ahh, yes, I was so stoked. About freakin’ time, he’s only the Hendrix of our generation.

You’ve been pretty busy touring lately as well as just releasing your latest record ‘Black Heaven’ on Nuclear Blast Records, which is an amazing record, but also pretty different from your earlier stuff.
Isaiah: It’s super different, we didn’t expect it to be exactly the way it was when it came out, but we’re all happy with the end result. We knew we were gonna do at least one song with vocals, but we didn’t expect it to be four songs, that kind of just happened. Those were the strongest songs, so by natural selection they ended up on the album.

You’ve obviously been singing in Golden Void for years, and I also heard rumours about a band from way back called ‘Juan Peso’ where you also used to sing?
Isaiah: Oh wow, yeah that’s from when I was about 19, and you have to do a lot of digging to find any of that online. You might get lucky on youtube but that’ll be it. I’ve always sung in bands, but for Earthless we just didn’t want to do it, it wasn’t our thing. It’s been fun not doing it, but it’s also been fun throwing it in there, do something different.

Last time I saw you guys in California you were using an old Orange cab, and tonight you’ve got a full Orange backline! Care to run us through the two?
Isaiah: I got that 4×12 cab when I was 17 or 18 from a music shop in Encinitas called ‘Moonlight Music’, I used to work at this shop and my boss Russell had two brand new Orange 4×12, I think both early 90s, maybe even late 80s cabs in the garage of his house. We didn’t have any other 4×12’s in the shop, so he told me I should get one of them, and I was just shocked when I saw them, they were so – Orange! At that point in my life I’d never seen an Orange in the flesh before, I was just a kid and they weren’t very common in the US at the time, my only ever encounter at that point was this old Black Sabbath video with Paul Shaffer in the background, and Sabbath playing ‘Iron Man’. Sabbath were using Orange amps there instead of their usual Laney amps, and they just stuck right out due to the bright colour!

I ended up taking the cab of his hands, and putting it up against any other cabs like old Marshalls or whatever, my Orange would just always sound better. Maybe it’s because the walls on the Orange are so thick compared to others, especially Marshalls’ who’s really thin, I don’t know, but there’s just no competition in any other amps, the Orange would just always do it better. For this UK and European tour, I’ve also got two Orange heads, a Rockerverb MK II and a Rockerverb MK II and they’ve been treating me well. Our sound guy’s really into Orange as well so he’s happy – we’re all happy!

There’s a lot of emerging psych bands coming out of San Diego at the moment with you guys being one of the first ones on the scene more than a decade ago, and Radio Moscow and Sacri Monti bassist Anthony Meier even described you as ‘the godfathers of San Diego’ last time I spoke to him, singing your praises, as most people do – it must be crazy though to have had that sort of effect on your hometown and the place you’re from, leading the way for all these other bands and artists. Obviously, they’ve all had Earthless to look up to, who was it that stood out to you when you guys first got together and formed Earthless?
Isaiah: First of all, I love Dukke (Anthony), he’s just great! We’ve toured with Radio Moscow and it’s always a good time with those guys. To answer your question; Definitely Jimi Hendrix, Cream and all the other great British blues guys who played loud amps. Blue Cheer, a bunch of German kraut bands as well as Japanese bands. When I was a kid growing up I didn’t know of any current bands that were doing that whole Cream style of playing where you’ve got half stacks or full stacks, I had never seen that before in my time. Then I met Mike and we started playing together in Lions of Judah which kinda made my dream come true as he was into all of those things as well. Then one day, someone sat me down and made me check out Nebula’s ‘To the Center’ album and I saw the picture on the back where they were just using all this old, rad gear, and I just had no idea that kinda stuff still existed. All that stuff was influential to me, and still is. I’m also really stoked about the whole emerging San Diego psych thing, it’s a really cool thing to be a part of, especially when you have all these rad bands citing us as influences, it’s an honour.


As I finish typing, I schedule this post for posting 19th of April at 2pm, knowing very well that mere two hours later I’ll be attending the first of three Earthless shows at this years Roadburn festival, and my endorphin level is through the roof just thinking about it.