Even under tight deadlines, Soren Andersen can make memorable music. Earlier in the year, the Danish guitarist, songwriter and producer had two weeks between tours with veteran musician Glenn Hughes, singer and bassist for Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Black Country Communion. Rather than let the time go idly by, Andersen practically lived at the artist’s own Denmark Medley Studios, tapping into a vibrant creative spirit.
The results from Medley Studios produced ten energizing, guitar-driven instrumental tracks which comprise Andersen’s new solo album, Guilty Pleasures. Released Oct. 4, 2019 by Mighty Music, the collection is rooted in hard rock with several influences expressed through Andersen’s playing, including the heavy metal riffing during “The Kid,” the 1980s synth-inspired “Skybar” and the lighter, serene touches of “Satori.”
Despite the absence of singers and lyrics, Andersen’s experiences touring the world as an axe man with Hughes and as a guitar gear ambassador convey the narrative for several songs. In the first single, “City of Angels,” the artist invokes the images and excitement of California’s world famous west coast destination. On “Beirut,” sitar echoing instrumentation and a darbuka player help realize the track’s Middle Eastern rhythms. As an added treat, Guilty Pleasures features guest appearances by Hughes, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith, The Dead Daisies’ bassist Marco Mendoza, Ida Nielsen from Prince, among others.
An Interview with Soren Andersen
Musicinterviewmagazine.com spoke to Soren Andersen about Guilty Pleasures and other reflections on playing with and producing international, high-level talent.
Musicinterviewmagazine.com: What inspired you to release Guilty Pleasures in 2019?
Soren Andersen: I had this album in my system for almost 20 years. And now was the perfect time to do it. The studio was available right after New Year’s Eve, so I locked myself into the control room for two weeks and played the guitar 12 hours a day. A huge Glenn Hughes tour was just around the corner, so I had a deadline. I work really well with tight deadlines. It turned out to be perfect timing. Glenn wound up not touring with his solo band next year, so I’ll be on the road with my own stuff. The entire album means a lot to me. It’s like a musical diary. These ten tracks are the soundtrack of my career. Everything I can play on a guitar is pretty much represented on Guilty Pleasures.
What was the writing process for this album?
The music was all written in the studio and at home, in my kitchen. Sometimes I need some tools to finish a song, like a drum loop or a chord progression. Other times, I have it all in my head. Some of these tracks were written because of my ten-year relationship with TC Electronic as a demonstrator at NAMM, Messe, Guitarfest and other trade shows. I needed tracks to show the TC gear and they all turned out to be songs. “The Kid” is the oldest song on the album. I wrote that when I was 16 years old.
What are the challenges of creating an instrumental album?
Making the music interesting and smooth, not repeating yourself and trying not to shred instead of playing a nice melody. Other words of wisdom include don’t steal too much from your heroes, don’t record anything that you can’t play live, don’t overplay, kill your darlings. It was a huge challenge for me to do this, but you have to know your limitations. Don’t try to play stuff that you don’t feel or don’t know how to play properly. Those are my rules. Just believe in your own stuff and embrace it.
How difficult is it to combine heaviness and melody on an instrumental rock album?
I try to mix it up. That’s why I love bands like Alter Bridge, Sevendust and Dark New Day, who are very heavy and melodic. I think my album is more melodic than heavy, though.
Were the songs generally structured in a way that the album’s players could improvise?
Yeah, it’s all jammed up. Everything was kind of written before we started recording, except the improvisation parts. Those parts were created in the control room after the basic tracks and the melodies were done.
You mentioned an affinity for 1980s soundtracks and some songs on Guilty Pleasures absolutely give off that vibe. Did you have film sequences, perhaps training montages, in mind for songs like “Skybar?”
“Skybar” is my tribute to themes of Miami Vice, Beverly Hills Cop, Top Gun and even Stranger Things. I’m a sucker for 1980s film scores and keyboards. There’s something special about those cold and 8-bit digital sounds, like the Roland Juno 60 synth and all those classic keyboards. I know you don’t expect to hear stuff like this from a rock and roll guitarist, but I’m a massive fan of Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Tears For Fears, Howard Jones and of course, Miami Vice composer Jan Hammer.
The song “Bird Feeder” features contributions from Glenn Hughes and Chad Smith. What was the recording process like for that track?
Chad came down to my studio when we did Glenn Hughes’ 2016 album, Resonate. Smith played drums on two tracks from the album. We became friends and he texted me a year later that the Chili Peppers had two days off in Copenhagen and he would love to do some drumming if I needed anything. So we jammed for about five or six hours and those tracks ended up as the song “Bird Feeder.” Glenn did the bass afterward, so it was not a live recording where we were all in the same room. Recording for Resonate was though.
Smith seems to be comfortable in most any setting. What is it like to play with such a versatile drummer?
He’s [Chad Smith] incredible. He’s so much more than just a drummer. Chad’s all about the song, the arrangement, the sound, the track, the melody. It’s clear that he knows what it takes to create a hit song. And of course, he’s a monster behind the drum kit. Chad is a world-class drummer and really funny, too.
How tempted were you to ask Hughes to sing for just that one track?
I’m thinking of that every day. But not for this album, which was always meant to be instrumental. And let’s be clear that Glenn is one of the legends. He’s a very skilled vocalist and it would blow my mind to hear him sing one of my songs. It almost happened when we did Resonate, but maybe next time. I have a song called “Forever” that he really loves. I’ll ask him someday.
Speaking of collaborations, let’s talk about your work with Artillery, the Danish thrash band. You have produced Artillery’s studio albums since 2009 and are remastering Mighty Music’s upcoming reissues of the band’s earlier work. How has Artillery had an impact you as a player, performer and producer?
Those guys are fantastic. They are great riff-makers and really good songwriters. I learned a lot about metal while working with Artillery. The Stutzer brothers are legends and if you listen to “The Kid,” off Guilty Pleasures, you can probably hear a little bit of Artillery in the main riff. It was written differently but inspired by Michael and Morten Stutzer and I recorded it more like a metal riff.
What’s next for Soren Andersen?
I’m hitting the studio in October with Marco Mendoza to record his next album. Then I have a Russian show with Glenn, plus a UK tour coming up. 2020 looks like a lot of touring with my own stuff plus a lot of studio work as well. I work a lot, but I love it. I’m all about music and being creative. That’s my life.
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Justin Smulison is a professional content writer and producer whose first love is music. Smulison’s digital and print copywriting experience spans music, law, true crime, advertising and real estate, among other subjects. You can often find JS in Long Beach, New York, either running on the boardwalk or in the sand with his family.