Interview with Kings Of Modesty’s Samuel Hjelt

Hammering melodic metal – in the vein of Queensryche, Dream Theater, and Kamelot – is the style that Finland’s Kings of Modesty specialize in, as evidenced their full-length debut, “Hell or Highwater,” which will see its US release on May 4th (the album was released earlier in other parts of the world). Comprised of members Jason Flinck (vocals), Samuel Hjelt (guitar), Mikael Hjelt (keyboards), Henrik Tuura (bass), and Raino Simoinen (drums), the group is planning on touring the world once the album drops, and have already supported some top metal names, including dates alongside Michael Schenker last year in Europe. KoM’s guitarist Samuel Hjelt recently talked guitar with Guitarsite.

How and when did you start playing guitar?

I was 6 years old when I became strongly inspired with Stray Cats and Brian Setzer, that got me excited about playing a guitar and hence I went to a conservatory for classical guitar music lessons (there were no rock guitar lessons back then). I really appreciate that time in my life and I still gain influences from there.

Who were your early influences?

Okay, I think I did partly answer to that question already in above but after a few years with classical guitar lessons, heavy music came along to my life and I listened very much bands such as Dio, Kiss, Iron Maiden and many, many other bands in that genre; from there you can find my early influences!

How about some background info on the band?

I´ve had all kinds of line-ups since my very childhood; already in the sandbox I tempted my mates to join in to my bands. But Kings of Modesty was formed in 1994; back then our band´s name was Face of Modesty. In 2005 Jason joined in and hence we decided to change our name to Kings of Modesty.

Let’s talk about the new album, ‘Hell or Highwater.’

We did our first EP in 2005, which we promoted by gigging in Switzerland and Finland. Between 2006 and 2008 we all had different projects and hence we had some recess, heh, but at the end of 2008 I sat in my little studio and I started to compose songs and grab and store riffs, and thought what the hell, this sounds exactly like Modesty´s stuff. Well, here we are now, album ready and ready to rock´n´rumble!

Please describe your guitar set-up.

Well, I play a Jarno Salo guitar at the moment. Jarno builds guitars here in my hometown Jarvenpaa. So my guitar is hand made along with mics, too! As second guitars, I use a Shecter Hellraiser. As my other stuff I use Mesa Boogie, TriAxis and Fifty. 2 vacuum power tube and TC Electronics M One with Cry Baby and Wah Wah. That´s about it!

Do you follow a practice routine?

I´m not practicing so much playing every day, but I play guitar all the time, as I compose new songs and I´m more focused on composing than practicing scales daily. But along with creating new songs, I often notice something new and interesting and get wrapped up in many hours every now and then to practice some new idea. I see that this fits me much better than to practice scales many hours a day.

What do you think of modern day rock guitar, and who are some of your favorite guitarists?

Well yeah! I tend to think that at least in some genres the value of guitar playing is not so great anymore than it was back in the 80´s, for instance. What I mean to say is, that in many genres there are no guitar solos any more and guitar is merely a rhythm instrument in the middle of full stuffed and crowded things. Maybe that´s the reason why I am – as a guitarist – not familiar with certain genres and bands. But maybe it´s just me! I do very much appreciate guitarists such as Michael Romeo, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Zakk Wylde,Yngwie…and many, many others!

What advice would you give to other guitarists?

Don´t EVER give up, ´cause you´ll never know! Even though you would want to throw your guitar to the wall, still do not stop practicing, playing, and writing new songs, because I do believe that playing gives lot of content to many peoples´ lives, good moments and above all, good memories. And once you´ve started, you can´t completely quit, can you?

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