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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An Interview With The Metal Legend : Karl of Cromok (Part Two)

An exclusive email interview with The Metal Legend : KARL of CROMOK

What are your favourite gears, what were your firsts, and what are your dream gears?

First guitar (acoustic) when I was 15 years old – Kapuk guitar tong RM90.

First Electric Guitar – in Australia, AUD$99 Rokkoman – same design as Les Paul. Black – I was into Black Sabbath and I like the guitarist at that time.

My current gears are:

Electric Guitars:
- Charvel Jackson Model 3 Guitar of the Year in 1988.
- Hammer Sustainiac – it has this switch that can create sustain as long as the battery lasts – till next morning….

Acoustic Guitars:

- Elite steel strings semi acoustics fiberglass body with piezoelectric pickup (looked like Ovation)
- Elite nylon string semi acoustics fiberglass body with piezoelectric pickup


- Sold my whole professional rack to Hillary (Ang).
- Currently using Rocktron Voodo Valve effects: distortion, reverb, delay, chorus, compressors, etc..
- Behringer FC100 Midi footcontroller.


- 2 x Marshall MG15. I run stereo in my living hall.
- 1 x Ross 15W guitar amp – FOR SALE RM250 – hardly used, like new.

My Dream Guitar (would be) Paul Reed Smith – tested 1 in Mahogany Guitars in SS2 PJ and fell in live with it. Played there for 4 hours. Cost about RM12K! I don’t mind giving up both my electric guitar to get that guitar!

Anyone interested?

Dream Guitar Gadgets:

- Mesa Boogie TriAxis valve midi preamp.
- Mesa Boogie Abacus footswitch.
- Mesa Boogie 2 channel valve power amps – can drive 8 units of 4×12” cabinets.
- Mesa Boogie 4 x 12” speaker cabinets.
- Lexicon effects – for reverb, delays.
- TC Electronics effects – for harmonizers, chorus.
- Hush noise reduction unit.
- Drawmer compressors.
- Klark Teknik 31 band graphic equalizers.

It took me 2 years (in Australia) to find the right combination of equipment to get the guitar sound that I wanted. The equipment that I have used include:

- Charvel Jackson Model 3 Guitar of the Year in 1988.
- Mesa Boogie Simulclass 295 valve power amp.
- Mesa Boogie Studio valve preamp (non Midi).
- ADA Midi guitar preamp.
- Rocktron Pro G.A.P. midi guitar preamp.
- Roland FC100 Midi Foot controller.
- Boss Distortion.
- Boss Digital delay.
- Boss Graphic Equalizer.
- Marshall vintage 4×12” speaker cabinet.
- Marshall vintage 2×12” speaker cabinet but same cabinet size with 4×12” but with 2 speakers only. It has more bass.

The best combination was highlighted in red above.

What was your first ever guitar lesson? Did you go to formal guitar classes to learn the guitar, or did you learn in from friends?

Believe it or not I had my first guitar lesson from a girl. She was my neighbour and had a pretty girl friend. I learnt from her coz I want to be close to her girl friend and guess what? I succeeded and her friend eventually becomes my childhood sweetheart.

When I was 12 years old, I was in the school angklung club – imagine that! I played the pianica, which is a small keyboard 30-40 keys which you blow with your mouth using a pipe connected to it to produce the sound. My father wanted to send me to a proper music class but I declined coz I knew at that time that my parents didn’t have much money.

When I was 16 and 17, I was in the school Brass Band playing trumpet and also the School Band Guitarist. Learnt a little about music in the brass band but didn’t really learn much. Mostly learning through ears. I don’t know how to read music till today.

My learning methods:

70% Self taught – painstakingly rewind/forward songs to figure out the solos, chords.

20% From friends – they showed me how to play certain solo or rhythms.

10% From books & videos – bought some books with tablature.

Who were / are your influences and stimulated your interest in playing guitar?

As per the story above – the motivation to learn is to get a girlfriend.

In school, rock was THE music in that era. Sweet Charity was THE band. We played all their songs and jammed quite often in Do Re Mi jamming studio at Pertama Complex.

My friend told me that there was this guitarist that played with his teeth! I was so curious and went to see the band in a pub called RED ROOSTER in Medan Tuanku KL in 1983. We sat at the front row and saw Man Kidal on guitar and Amy on vocals. This was before Search was established with an album. Man Kidal was amazing and he played with his teeth!

Then came SEARCH and LEFTHANDED – Hillary and Man Kidal were my idols.

I was into Hard Rock likes Dio, Black Sabbath, Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Ozzy Osbourne etc and then it gets heavier into Metallica, Helloween, Megadeth etc.

A friend introduces me to Malmsteen and the rest is history.

Favorite Guitarist:

- Yngwie Malmsteen.
- Joe Satriani.
- Dio’s guitarist (cant remember his name but I remembered his face till today).
- Randy Rhoads – Ozzy Osbourne.
- Gary Moore.
- Tommy Emmanuelle - Jazz

What’s your favourite solo lick, other than CROMOK’s songs?

It has to be the song called ‘Crying’ by Malmsteen.

What techniques did you use to become the guitar player you are today? How long is your practice time a day?

In boarding school – I only had 30 minutes from 10.30pm – 11pm till lights out on weekday.
In university – 4hrs/day.


With Cromok – 8hrs/session, 3 times a week.
With Ella – 8hrs/session, 5 times a week.
Individually – 2-4 hrs daily.


Weekdays – 15 to 30minutes daily.
Weekends – 1-2 hours.


- Use this gadget that has springs for your 4 fingers to press. I don’t know what it is called but it helps to strengthen your finger muscle.
- Practice exercise – 1 finger 1 fret, sidewards, upwards, downwards.
- Practise, practice, practice…..

What’s your favourite scale? Melodic Descending E Minor? You played that a lot in CROMOK’s songs.

The only scale that I know is Harmonic minor which Malmsteen uses a lot. I don’t know anything about other scales but what you hear in Cromok album is what I like. Didn’t know it was Melodic Descending E Minor.

What are the elements of a great guitar solo like you have been producing, particularly in Forever in Time?

The key to great solo are:

First of, IT HAS TO COMPLEMENT THE SONG – Each song has a story and the solo is a part of the story. A lot of guitarists tend to ‘show off’ what they can do during the solo. In the end the song suffers because the solo does not compliment the song.

Second of, CONTINUITY – solo intro and outro must have smooth transition. Combination of choices of notes, mood and feel is important so that the story continues smoothly.

Third of, FEEL – each note played must have a feel. Feel is what differentiate good guitarist and a talented one. One can be very good technically but if it lacks feel, the solo wouldn’t sound great. To create a great solo, feel is 70%, technique is 30%. Guitarists like Malmsteen and Joe Satriani have mastered the technique and because they have great feel, they became megastars.

Speaking of Forever in Time, Could you please tell us a little bit about the history of “I don’t Belong Here” and “Another You”. I mean, what were the songs all about and how did you come up with the ideas for the songs?

I Don’t Belong Here:

We were in Australia from 1985 – 1992. We mixed with the locals and after a while I realized that the mat salleh lifestyle was not for me. Typically, Mat Salleh will work during the weekdays and then have a good time on weekends by going to the pubs, clubs, bbq etc. 7 years in Australia was a bloody long time and I was home sick. I long for the “Malaysian” culture. The last time I went back home was in 1986. In addition to that, Asians like us will never be truly accepted as the citizens of Australia no matter how hard we try. Therefore, I don’t belong here …… In Australia.

Another You:

There is no lyric in this song. There is a reason for it. It is up to your own interpretation whatever story that suits you.

My stories:

HEARTBROKEN – this song is dedicated to a girl that I really loved. I can’t find another girl like her. How and where can I find another girl like her?

HOME SICK – Malaysia, tanah tumpah darah ku. Hujan emas di negeri orang, hujan batu di negeri sendiri, lebih baik negeri sendiri. I had a tough life to survive in Australia. I had to work very hard and no one cares about you there. Your student friends are all in the same position as you. They cant help you. Your mat salleh friend are superficial. They wont help you when you are in trouble compared to your relatives or even other Malaysian. Here in Malaysia, you will never be starved. If you asked for food, I am sure anyone regardless of race will buy you a meal. In Australia, you are on your own! There is no other country like your very own. I love Malaysia!

If you could do a once-off album project with any guitarist in the world, who would it be?

(1) Malmsteen – dare not, too big of an idol for me. I’ll froze!
(2) Lita Ford – will do it 15 years ago, now she might be a grandmother right?
(3) Randy Rhoads – if he is still alive.
(4) Prince – good for marketing, capturing new audience.
(5) Vixen – if the band is still around, they are gorgeous.
(6) Joe Satriani – yes.
(7) Santana – yes.

..and finally, what is your advice to the readers of the blog, especially to those who wants to keep improving their skills?

Study music coz it gives you the knowledge that you need to be a professional. You can play any type of music once you know how to read music. All megastars have formal music education.

Learn the proper techniques. I am stuck with what I have now and cant go further coz my technique was not right. I can’t play faster due to wrong fingering and picking technique and the way I hold my guitar.

Don’t focus on speed alone, feel what you play. A few notes with feel are much nicer to listen to than hundreds of notes without feel. One of the key ingredients to feel is vibrato. Listen to other guitarists and practice the vibrato feel.

Techniques to create feel:

(1) Hard and soft picking between notes creates mood – angry, calm.
(2) Harmonics – excited, energetic.
(3) Hammering – mellow/sad.
(4) Sliding – mellow/sad.
(5) Slow licks – sad, mellow.
(6) Fast licks – angry, energetic.
(7) Acoustics – mellow.
(8) Distortion - angry, energetic, sofet and mellow depends on choices of notes.
(9) Strum near the bridge – harder sound, strum further away from bridge – mellow sound.
(10) Use bridge pickup (near the end) to have more mid and high sound. It gives you a more harder sound.
(11) Use pickup near the neck to have a mellow sound (merdu).

Try combinations of the above. You will be surprise!

Practice. Practice. Practice. Practice makes perfect

THE END..................

*This interview originally published in Gelanggang Gitar - Revolusi Gitaris Malaysia

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