“I’ve been playing guitar and making music since I was a sperm.” – Swedish Guitar Guru Mattias “IA” Eklundh would rather lose a limb than give up music.

He’s a bona fide metal guitar and Viking God, but you’ll find the horns that have become synonymous with his Scandinavian ancestors adorning the apple on his signature Caparison rather than a helmet on his head.

Mattias “IA” Eklundh is known the world over for his unique harmonics: he can make his guitar sound like a sexually frustrated insect, a trumpet, even your pissed-off mother. It isn’t only his fingers playing either; the Swedish virtuoso is also known to stroke his strings with combs, chopsticks, and yes, even a vibrator.

Eklundh visited Australia in 2011 for a series of guitar clinics where he took the time to visit important landmarks, such as AC/DC Lane in Melbourne. Our country even inspired a song on his latest solo record Freak Guitar: The Smorgasbord entitled what else but, Sexually Frustrated Fruit Fly Flamenco. The Smorgasbord, aptly taken from a Swedish word describing a feast comprised of many various dishes, was released in March by Steve Vai and Favored Nations and is comprised of 40 tracks on a double CD. It is, in a word, insane. It’s also intense, fun and groovy and comes with all the crazy sounds you would expect – it includes Eklundh’s take on the AC/DC classic Hells Bells as well as a punk version of That’s Amore.

Aside from his astounding technical ability and artistic vision, Eklundh also has an extraordinary imagination and wonderful sense of humour. He is, just like his music, a breath of freaky fresh air infused with boldness and originality. With an upcoming album with his band Freak Kitchen entitled Cooking with Pagans due out soon, his famous Freak Guitar Camp coming up in July, as well as a host of dates including Freak Kitchen gigs and Freak Guitar clinics, Eklundh is one busy man. That didn’t stop him however, from taking the time to answer a few questions for his “tiptop” Australian fans while waiting to board a plane at Stockholm airport...

Let’s begin with something I’ve seen emblazoned across one of your favourite t-shirts: Who the Fuck is Mattias Eklundh? “After small eons of time, I am still trying to find that out… slowly getting there. I am Swedish; I know that. Been playing guitar and making music since I was a sperm, pretty much. My beloved parents allowed me to quit school and sit home and practice my brains out in my teens and when I was nineteen I moved to Copenhagen and have been able to – don’t ask how – make a fine living on my freaky music.”

You did some guitar clinics here in 2011, what was your experience of Australia like and what were some of your favourite places? “I really liked the place and the fine, fine people that showed up. Even got to see some kangaroos (featured in the video to Musth). I had a crush on Melbourne for many reasons; being an AC/DC fan, I posed at the tiny AC/DC Lane, had an absolutely hilarious time together with Hack Wanger (I don’t think I have laughed so hard since), hanging out, eating good food, buying music (yes, I do that. An endangered species, I am). I had a ball throughout my entire visit and got to meet tiptop folks all over.”

Can you tell us a little about the upcoming Freak Kitchen record? “It is going to be a killer! It’s raw, in your face, to the point and very much how we sound live. We have done nothing to polish anything up; it’s played the way it should be. Speaking of AC/DC, I often go back to my record collection before going into production. Cooking with Pagans, as the new album is entitled, was really inspired by Let There Be Rock. It doesn’t sound anything like it, but the vibe! The vibe! The vibe of that record is incredible. I am just about to sing having wrapped up an album with yours truly, my dear friend Jonas Hellborg and stunning Indian drummer Ranjit Barot (two songs, +30 minutes each). Looking forward to having Cooking with Pagans released and going back on the road with my freak brothers Bjorn (Fryklund, drums) and (bassist/vocalist) Chris Ortefors.”

The Smorgasbord is really all that you described it as. It did make me feel crazy at times and make my head feel like it was spinning à la The Exorcist, but in a good way! It also made me want to dance and even cry; congratulations! I have to ask, what was the inspiration behind Sexually Frustrated Fruit Fly Flamenco? “Believe it or not this came from an Australian newspaper where scientists did research on fruit flies and found out that the sexually frustrated ones would drink themselves silly if close to alcohol. Fruit flies that did a lot of copulating, however, didn’t touch a single drop. Insanely amused by this, I pictured a sexually frustrated fruit fly trying to learn to play flamenco on top of his drunken misery…”

Where does your extraordinary imagination come from, and does being from Sweden, or growing up with four sisters, help shape your music a particular way? “Thank you for your kind words. I think being Swedish does help yes, as does upbringing, mom and dad, the sisters, values, being believed in from the start (without any pressure). I also had a number of lovely people, family and friends, that introduced me to splendid music at an early age; Django Reinhardt, Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, Mahavishnu Orchestra and much more. This together with having mom taking me to see Kiss and Iron Maiden when I was ten all played a big part of why I sound the way I do.”

You sacrificed your mid-to-late teens to solitude and learning how to play guitar and described yourself as being very poor in your early 20s. What drove you to carry on despite those hard times and did you ever consider quitting the guitar and doing something else? “I wouldn’t call it a sacrifice. It was what I wanted to do and still is. I tried real hard to hang out at clubs, have a few beers, play some pinball, fumble around with the opposite sex, but before you knew it I was back home in my room, writing music, recording on my crappy four track machine, shaping my freaky style. When it came to girls I have never taken the real initiative, everyone had to come to me. Same with buddies when I was a kid: Wanna play? Get over to my place. Being a pretty monogamous guy, I can proudly state I have been with my wife nineteen years and counting. Don’t have time to screw around. So I have basically done what I do my entire life; building something out of nothing and this is the true thrill after all these years. And nope: quitting was never an option. Music is essential, it’s who I am and quitting would be the same as cutting off a leg or an arm. I never got into this to make quick bucks (I wouldn’t have lasted very long if I did) but to shape my life and frame it with something I find interesting, important and that gives it all meaning. As things got better and better financially in the late nineties, it was kind of a relief, but I would have continued regardless. Nowadays, the family and myself live a tremendous country life outside the city of Gothenburg in Sweden. Things are splendid and I am very grateful about it.”

Recently I interviewed Olof Mörck of Amaranthe/Dragonland who called you “one of the world’s absolutely greatest players” and described his recent experience of shredding in the same room with you as being as rewarding as it was challenging. How does it feel knowing you are inspiring young guitarists to play better? “Oh, that was sweet. Happy to be an inspiration. Yesterday I played at a Freak Guitar Camper’s birthday party as the surprise of the evening. His wife told me the camp changed his life, opened so many doors and genuinely made him a merrier chap. That is an insanely rewarding thing for me. You do what you do and if someone gets influenced and inspired, it’s splendid and flattering.”

Freak Guitar Camp is coming up soon. What’s the furthest someone has travelled to attend and do you get many female guitarists attending? “We have people from all corners of the world: Australia, India, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, the US, Indonesia – you name it. I am getting quite an expert at dealing with embassies, writing invitation letters, sending bank account statements and whatnot. Yes, we have females, but too few, unfortunately. The ones coming are great though and generally kick the boys’ butts! We have a German girl coming for the second year this summer and she has lovely timing and her riffs are super groovy. We need more girls. Come to Sweden!”

I asked Freak Guitar fans on social media if there was anything they would like to ask you and the most popular questions were all related to your guitars:

–What made you choose Caparison Guitars? “I fell in love with the guitars back in 1996 during my first visit to Japan. This was also when I first met Itaru Kanno, genius designer and overall great guy. We met in my hotel lobby and ten minutes later I was a happy owner of a Horus model. There was no going back after that. I love everything about my Caparisons. They are simply adorable instruments."

–How many guitars do you have and do they differ? “I am not a guitar collector. I use the instruments until they fall apart after which they retire in the studio. I have a pile of Apple Horns but don’t play the first three models I have anymore; they’re enjoying a comfortable retirement after many years of service. One is also hanging at the Hard Rock Café in Gothenburg next to Elvis Presley’s jacket, I think. Then I got the Apple Horn Aurora, a couple of Apple Horn HGS models, the Apple Horn Orange, the Apple Horn Jazz, the Apple Horn Sand Stone, a fretless one, one with Tremologic bridge, the Apple Horn Yellow, and more!" 

–Why does the apple on your guitar have horns? “Regarding the apple with horns, I am not sure why I came up with this. I think Itaru asked me what I wanted to call the first signature model and… you do things for no reason at all. Sometimes it turns into a pile of crap, sometimes, brilliant things happen. Sometimes you can’t find your left shoe. It’s life!"