This page has been in the making for a long time – perhaps longer than any other featured player page of ours. I wanted to do it years ago, but Saalas kept saying with an adamant tone of voice: “Not yet”. He was as strict about making this page as he has been about his guitar playing and his band since long ago.
As some of you already guessed due to his last name – yes, Saalas is my son – and I remember crystal clear how he discovered the spark of joy in playing the guitar. After beating the shit out of the Guitar Hero -game in his Nintendo Wii, Saalas came to me, self-assured as a 12-year-old can be: “Since the Guitar Hero is so easy, it can’t be that difficult to play real guitar either. Teach me!”.
I ended up showing him two things: 1) How to tune up a guitar, and 2) the chords to Smoke On The Water – which he then went on practising with a 1/2 size electric guitar that had been collecting dust in the corner of his room for years. After many days of continuous frustration and angry cries from his room, Saalas finally managed to waver through the legendary Purple riff with bleeding fingers… and he felt he was ready to face the next challenge: I Was Made For Loving You by Kiss, his favourite band! I also told him about another cool band called Cream and showed the riff of their song Sunshine Of Your Love…
Yup, that’s how it begun! A few blinks of an eye later I was listening to Saalas practise in his room riffs like Peace Sells… by Megadeth, and I recall thinking to myself: “Ok, my guitar teaching days seem to be over…”.
The years went by, and I followed Saalas’s development as a guitar player through his teenage years, admiring the relentless decisiveness that drove him forward. Now, as I’m writing this, Saalas and his band Blackment are recording their first album, and judged by the bits and pieces that have leaked to my ears from their sessions, the album will be absolutely fantastic. Can’t wait!
Oh – the guitar you see in the photos and videos… I gave it to him as a present when he was 15 years old. It’s not one of our official guitar models, but we’ve made quite a few of those V-shaped custom pieces over the years.
In one regard the tables have turned. Nowadays, when I want to learn to play a song, guess who’s the teacher..?
Sami Korpikoski: Vocals ⏐ Saalas Ruokangas: Guitar ⏐ Allan Välimaa: Guitar
Väinö Huhtanen: Bass ⏐ Sebastian Nyandoto: Synth ⏐ Akseli Aalto: Drums
"My sister, Juno, says it well in a poem she once wrote: "As if it were a creature, the sound stretches up and down - everywhere - even the directions that were not there before. Is the guitar playing him or is he playing the guitar?" - that's exactly how I feel about my guitar!"
- Saalas Ruokangas