Interview: Roo Chapus

Isa D.: Hello Roo, let's begin this interview by getting to know you better. Tell us a bit more.

Roo Chapus: Well, is a nutshell, I'm a French native and I live currently in Helsinki, Finland. I graduated from the music school MAI France in 1995. Among the great guitar instructors we met regularly were Joey Tafolla and Shawn Lane - some of my heroes. This made my time there a dream. After that, I became an active musician, performing, recording and teaching. It was rough times honestly and i gradually lost the grip. I took a needed break with music for four years. I did other things and met other challenges. I restarted my life in Finland in 2003, learned the life here and returned to serious guitar playing in 2004-2005. Today I'm a full time professional guitarist, producer, entrepreneur and the happiest man!

Isa D.: How would you describe your first EP "Guitar Without A Cause"?

Roo Chapus: An instrumental rock virtuoso selection of songs. Each tune is a spritely mosaic of riffs and tones from metal to jazz, and funk to country. The song's atmospheres unpredictably evolve as the tracks go. Guitar speaking, it is filled with sweeping and tapping arpeggios and fast catchy phrases.

Isa D.: How would you describe your second EP?

Roo Chapus: Something like: Instrumental rock metal band delivering breathing and compact songs inspired by Marty Friedman and Joe Satriani.

From my first album "Guitar Without A Cause", friends and followers liked the most the melodic songs. I took this into account to deliver more catchy licks that get you to the point. The songs relate more to each others and chain with some ambient interludes. I dropped off the odd funky riffs from "G.W.A.C" that did not appeal much to audiences. I included a mellow fusion ballad with a guest guitar solo from Mr. Fastfinger.

We spent a lot of time on the production with co producer Timo "Tipi" Aula to give the album the tone I wanted. Timo did a serious job, we made the most of the facilities and budget we had. Not to mention the RooBand, Jaakko Nikko (bass) and Juke Erakangas (drums) who have performed with me since 2010. They leave their print on the material for sure!

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Isa D.: Your music is only instrumental, do you find it to be an advantage or a disadvantage?

Roo Chapus: I see it clearly as an advantage because I'm happy doing it and I feel fulfilled. I entertain with my guitar and I receive support and enthusiasm for it. Sure, I also encounter rejection and temporary defeat but that is just the way things go for everybody.

You know, there are good and downsides in any style. I always performed in bands with vocalists. I played some gigs in virtually empty venues, with no audience at all, hehe. I asked myself, "Then, would it be worse to play my own stuff?"

However, it is true that instrumental rock appeals to a specialized audience compared to classic rock. Last year, I formed the band Reign Over Obscurity, which is progressive metal. There are vocals in this project so it will probably reach a wider audience. Anyway, nothing is never granted, it could be that some people will tell me they liked more the instrumental songs, hehe.

Isa D.: For your first EP you were working alone, now you have a band. Was it a long time wish of yours, or just something that came about naturally?

Roo Chapus: You are right. For the 1st EP, once Toni Paananen, (drummer) recorded his parts, I spent five days alone locked in with the sound engineers. I did try to form a band before "G.W.A.C" but eventually the safest way was hiring a session drummer and play the other instruments myself. You know, musicians can be unreliable, so it is the best to keep in control of what you do. You get things done!

Obviously, having a band, an album, it was my dream since I saw Elias Viljanen performing live with his band, in a local venue. That gig kicked me off. Performing instrumental rock became a reality I could relate to. Once "G.W.A.C" was released, it was easier to find serious band mates as they knew what to expect with the project.

The RooBand has been together for four years now. Jaakko Nikko (bass), Juke Erakangas (drums) and Timo Aula (guitars) are the best bandmates I could ever wish for.

Isa D.: Talking about hiring a professional drummer - Tonmi Lillman, considered one of the best Finnish metal drummers, mixed your album "G.W.A.C". You told us that a year ago you formed a metal band. Would you say that he has had an influence on that decision?

Roo Chapus: Lillman was a multi-instrument monster and a sound engineer at D-Studio where we recorded. I didn't know him much at that time and had no idea he became Lordi's drummer. Back in 2010 it crossed my mind to ask him to play drums on my next instrumental album but my project evolved and he sadly passed two years ago. He was a respected figure within the Finnish metal landscape.

Reign Over Obscurity was formed simply because I had very solid musicians with me, and some of the new material was
better suited to vocals.

Isa D.: You have your own label for a while now (Mad Guitar Records), tell us more about it.

Roo Chapus: After releasing my first album, I was looking for a way to promote it. I found that a guitar compilation would be cool so we released the album "Melodic Soloists" and created a brand: Mad Guitar Records. Soon after, I received many requests from artists offering to sign on the label. I was quite embarrassed. I started to read a lot about the music industry. I found out that what I was doing was pretty OK, so I kept going and learn a step at a time. Since the music industry was totally collapsing, I think there were no good or bad ways to try to make it.

Running a label gives me the privilege to work with artists I am personally a fan of, such as Mr. Fastfinger, and help out very talented others. I'm quite happy with Mad Guitar Records - it is healthy and independent, yet time consuming. The long term goal is to become a brand of melodic rock guitar with which people can identify.

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Helsinki, Finland-based guitarist/producer Roo Chapus has recently released a new instrumental EP, "Plectrum Spectrum", where you'll hear fast melodic songs, electric flying licks, ambient interludes, and a touch of fusion. This darker episode, that sheds the bluesy phrasing of his first album "Guitar Without A Cause", pays tribute to influences such as Joe Satriani and Marty Friedman.

Writer Isa D. caught up with Chapus to discuss his label, working as an instrumental artist, and playing with a band.