GUITARS AND AMPS EXPO 2014: Since joining symphonic metallers Within Temptation in 2001, lead guitarist Ruud Jolie's fortunes have shot skyward.
During the past 13 years, Ruud has been adorning his walls with a slew of gold discs. When we spoke to him recently for Guitars & Amps Expo, he was still coming down from the high of headlining the cavernous Wembley Arena with the band a few nights previously.
Talking gear, technique and Metallica, we chart Ruud's evolution from bedroom guitarist to arena-filling artist.
Who were your biggest inspirations and influences when starting out?
"The reason for me to pick up the guitar was Iron Maiden. Both Dave Murray and Adrian Smith are huge influences on my playing, even though they are totally different guitar players. After that I got into Metallica and tried to play all of the Kirk Hammett solos. I then had a huge Dream Theater period where I loved John Petrucci and the shred kind of stuff."
What was your end game, what did you set out to achieve as a guitarist?
"I wanted to become a professional and wanted to study music so I went to The Conservatory music school and studied jazz music and jazz guitar, mainly bebop. There I got into guitarists like Bill Frisell, Pat Metheny, Barney Kessel and all that stuff. Even now when I listen to some Marty Friedman I want to be Marty Friedman and then when I listen to Pat Metheny I want to be him. I try to take influence from all kinds of guitarists. Now I hope I have my own style, but it's always good to keep your eyes open for other influences."
Is it a case that the more you write material the more your style develops?
"That was the case with me. It's important for any musician to listen to all kinds of different stuff. I'm not someone that will say Charlie Parker is a big influence on me, but you should listen to that stuff even if you're just into metal."
"If you learn more, you play more, you get better and it becomes more fun"
How important was your grounding in theory in shaping the guitarist you have become?
"I used to play keyboard when I was 11 or 12 but I didn't practise because I wanted to play guitar. My parents thought the guitar would just gather dust in my room but they caved in on the condition that I would take lessons. If you learn more you play more. You get better and it becomes more fun. I can say guitar isn't for everyone because I teach a lot of people to play and some of them don't practise. Maybe I'm doing something wrong!"
Were there any techniques that you struggled to get to grips with?
"There was a lot that I struggled with. As a teenager I just played for hours straight, all I did during school vacation was practice. Techniques like sweep picking I still cannot do. I just find it hard and don't have much use for it so I stopped trying. I can do a little but I'm no Yngwie Malmsteen."
Within Temptation - The Whole World Is Watching official video:
Are you someone that still practises every day?
"I try to practise a little when I'm on tour and at home. But sometimes I'll have weeks when I don't touch my guitar, or I'll pick it up just to write or record. Then I'll have months of really practising my chops. At the minute I'm not touching my guitar much while we're not on stage."
Do you think you've matured as a writer down the years?
"Maybe. When you're growing up pretty much every riff you come up with that sounds a little bit original you think is cool. Now I'm older I'm not as easily satisfied anymore with the stuff that I write. Sometimes there are days when I come up with riffs and think, 'Hmmm, I've heard this one before.' Maybe that's a sign of maturing."
"It usually takes at least one day to record a solo"
Do you have a set process for writing solos?
"Nowadays everybody has their own studio at home so I record my guitar parts at home. I can make myself a cup of tea and just fool around. It usually takes at least one day to record a solo. First I do a little warming up then I a lot of improvisation. After a while you start to filter out cool things and chord progressions."
Is that how you prefer to work, being able to take your time and not have the stress of the studio red light being on?
"Definitely with solos because there are so many options. I really want to get the best one. But then on previous albums I've had solos that took me an hour to come up with and record. It's all about the vibe and what the song needs. But sometimes I can play and just feel like it isn't my day and then it's best to quit and come back to it the next day."
What was the first guitar and amp you owned?
"I had a [Fender] Cyclone guitar and a Tiger amp, I think it was. I got the amp for my 14th birthday."
Since then you've become a musician that plays arenas, has that had a major impact on the sound you go for and the gear you need?
"No, [playing] bigger venues hasn't changed my gear that much. But, we have played a lot of different gear. In 2001 when I joined I was using the Mesa Boogie Rectifier and over the years we have changed to the Bogner Uberschall, the Diezel VH4, sometimes you just want something different. We used the VH4 in Europe and then went to the States and had the Rectifier again and me and Robert [Westerholt, guitar] were like, 'This sounds so great,' so we used those again. Now we use the Kemper profiling amp. Our engineer made a profile of the Diezel VH4 studio set-up and that sounds amazing."
Did it take much adjustment to switch to the Profiler?
"On our first tour we supported Paradise Lost and on some shows we couldn't fit our amps on stage so we had to put them behind the stage. It was so great for our front of house guy because he didn't have any direct sound of the amps so he was more in control of the band's sound. Since then we've always had our amps next to the stage so I've never had a direct amp sound while playing, so I've always been used to having it coming from my in-ears. So it's not that much different."
How else has your rig changed?
"I'm also using the Fractal Axe FX II and that is great for recording. To be honest, when I bought the Fractal it sounded so great that I've sold some amps because I know I won't use them."
"Some guitarists are always searching for the next amp, but I think a lot of the sound just comes from the way you play."
Are you still looking for the next sound? Do you have gear companies constantly putting amps under your nose?
"Companies are always contacting us, which is cool. In the end there is so much stuff and I remember 12 or 13 years ago when I bought the Rectifier, I thought it was the end of my search. Some guitarists are always searching for the next amp, the next stomp box, or whatever. I'm not that type. I think a lot of the sound comes from the way you play."
How about your guitar, where did you go after moving on from the Cyclone?
"That took a long time as well. I started on the Cyclone then I got an Ibanez RG570, then a Jackson Randy Rhoads, I had a Charvel and then I had my eyes set on Paul Reed Smith and I bought one in 2001 for a lot of money and I used that until I got contacted my Mayones from Poland and I've been endorsed by them for six or seven years. Those guitars are great: craftsmanship, finish, details, they sound and play great."
Is the Mayones and the Kemper the ultimate combo for you?
"I think so. I also use Bare Knuckle pickups and that combination with the guitar and the profilers, it is perfect for this style of music. But as soon as you play something new that sounds better because it's fresh and your mind plays tricks on you. That's why the search for the perfect guitar sound takes so long. It can make you crazy."
Is there a part of your playing you'd like to improve?
"I suck at playing finger style, I just can't do it. So if I get a call to do finger picking I tell them to call someone else. When I was growing up I thought I needed to play every style and technique, but I now don't think that is necessary. It's better to have your own sound."
Is there anything left for you to achieve as a guitarist?
"Not particularly. My dream was always doing what I'm doing right now. I studied to become a professional but always knew it was very difficult to become a touring musician, but you can with a lot of hard work and luck. Anything is possible. I remember the first gig we did in the UK was at the Scala in London and we've just played Wembley Arena. It's amazing. I just like playing with different people. Sometimes the downside of being in a successful band is that people don't call you because they think you're too busy or too expensive. If I like the music I'll even do it for free. Music is still a passion for me more than a job."
Words: Rich Chamberlain