Ronni Le Tekro Interview: Norwegian Steel

TNT's explosive guitarist in a rare interview discusses technique, career and the new album 'Atlantis'.

Ronni Le Tekro may be an unfamiliar name to some of you, but to those in the know he has been raved about for nigh on 25 years. Ronni hit international recognition in the mid 80's with Norwegian melodic rockers TNT. Possessing a truly unique style, he combined blazing speed and accuracy with a genuinely unique melodic approach - and this combined with some of the greatest riffs known to humanity means that any and all guitarists into rock/metal/shred who have yet to sample his delights should make it a priority to check him out post haste!

TNT were always a cut above the standard melodic rock/metal bands of the era with a fresh approach to songwriting that combined the pomp and majesty of Queen with a finely tuned pop metal sensibility, soaring vocals, ambitious arrangements and crystalline production.

1984's Kights Of The New Thunder immediately found international success, and building upon this 1987's ‘Tell No Tales' was quite simply a stupendous record: monstrous riffs, catchy and immediate melodies and simply soaring guitar playing abound on this pivotal album. Their international stature grew, and along with 1989's more ‘pop metal' approach on ‘Intuition' ensured a great few years of sold out tours, healthy record sales and critical acclaim.

Sadly, in the 90's they the same fate as many bands in this genre, when the sudden Grunge Rock explosion decimated their international fanbase. Now in 2008 Ronni and the band are back again with a new album ‘Atlantis' and it was high time to catch up with the man himself.

Early Days

TELL US ABOUT YOUR EARLY DAYS:

Iwas born in Oslo, Norway in 1963, and first started playing in the early 70's... I think I was about 10 years old. I remember testing my grandmothers acoustic for all of 5 minutes, and being shown D and A7: that was it, I was sold!

Who were your initial influences?

George Harrison, Steve Hillage, the great Tony Iommi, Bill Nelson, John Mclaughlin, Frank marino, Ian Bairnson, Peter Frampton... and Joe Walsh!
Musically, for me it was albums such as The Beatles ‘The White Album' Steve Hillage's ‘Fish Rising' and Sabbath's ‘Sabotage'.

What age did you start to get serious?

I was 14, and I got some private lessons in classical guitar, as well as studying and trying to figure out how to play some in the style of McLaughlin. The guys who taught me don't teach anymore...but check out my style on www.internationalguitaracademy.com ....IGA

When did you start concentrating on technique - can you remember any particular exercises that helped?

No exercises really. .. and I have always tried to stay away from copying other players techniques into my own playing. We learned music reading in school, and it was around 78/79 when I think I started feeling like I had something original.

Were you known as the local hot guitarist?

Yeah, around ‘77/'78 I started to get a bit of a reputation.

When did you play your first gig?

At the last day in school (6th grade)- I played and sung 'Yesterday'.

When did you first play your first ‘professional' gig - i.e got paid for it? Can you remember how much?!

In 1978 with my first band ROQUEFIRE - I think 4000 pounds.

When did you realise that you might actually be able to have a career as a guitarist?

Around 1980/81 - at the age of 18. I was lucky that I had a lot of positive support from my family.

How did you get your first real break?

That was with TNT, with a domestic hit ‘Harley Davidson'. Then it took off, and we did really well with records like ‘Seven Seas', '10,000 Lovers', ‘Intuition' and the rest.

When it happened was it all you thought it might be?

Not quite...!

How long did it take before you could make a living out of guitar playing?

I was lucky enough to make a living pretty much straight off - so no time really!

Reflections Of TNT

Looking back to your early days which songs - and why - are you the most proud of from that period?

‘Seven Seas' - it's a catchy song with a progressive solo.

The short classical guitar piece 'Klassisk Romance' from 1984's 'Knights Of The New Thunder' is beautiful. Did you not think of turning it into a fully blown ballad?

Yes,actually...but it never happened with TNT, although a band from Iceland called "Dryssil" did a great ballad-version with lyrics.

Have you ever auditioned/been connected with any ‘big' bands that didn't happen (and you can tell us about!)?

I have, several... but I cant really go into that!

1987's 'Tell No Tales' was a near perfect album but quite short (just over half an hour) like many classic albums - would you agree that the trend of trying to fill up a 70 minute CD has led to a lack of quality and too many 'fillers'?

I agree totally; it`s gotta be progressive music, Miles Davies or other stuff to be interesting for 70 minutes.

The song writing quality of 1989's 'Intuition' was exceptional, it sounds like it all came so easily at that time?

It didn't!!! It was a lot of work composing, pre-producing demos, and the actual recording took a whole year - with 8 months of guitar-work!

2004's 'My Religion' was a great album and truly recaptured the magic - would you agree that 'Live Today' is as 'TNT' a riff and solo as there has ever been?

Have no idea... I'm probably not the best person to comment on that: that's for the fans!

What are the proudest moments of your career to date? And why?

Looking back, there are loads... musically I guess being able to work with top-notch jazz people like Terje Rypdal for instance...

What's the biggest audience you've ever played to?

60,000

If there was one album that readers should buy to best reflect your playing which would it be - and why?

I think my first solo album ‘Extra Strong String' - it's a very versatile record.

PLAYERS, Technique & Gear

When do you think your physical playing technique was at it's highest?

I'd say now - it feels like I have a second coming!

What band would you most like to join?

Easy - Black Sabbath!

Which five guitarists who, over the course of your career have influenced you the most - or simply five players who you particularly admire (and why?)

Steve Hillage: he's a strongly underrated player, he really refreshed guitar playing. Ian Bairnson - the sound of the century! Tony Iommi - simply the coolest dude! Bill Nelson for his crazy compositions and daring musical adventures...and as for George Harrison - well, no explanation necessary!

Are there any newer players who you really rate?

Oh yes - Zakk Wylde.

In your style of music when do you think was the golden period? Do you think the current musical climate is favourable to your particular style?

I try never to really think about that sort of stuff - but melodic rock peaked in 1989.

Without necessarily going into specifics, but what is your primary source of income: CD/Download sales? Touring? Clinics/Teaching/Other?

Nowadays a combination of all of the above!

Where is your strongest market?

I think I'm still fairly well known in most I think markets.

If you could go out with a couple of other artists on a dream tour who would they be?

Sabbath - or the Oscar Peterson Trio

Has the internet helped your career or hindered it?

I wouldn`t really know...

What would you like to have been if you hadn't made it as a musician?

Something with nature in it - maybe a fisherman or a hunter

How's things shaping up with TNT and Tony Mills?

Great...I think we've got a great live-act going!

Are you still friends with Tony Harnell?

We're getting there, yes...he's a nice intellectual person and a true brother of mine.

What are your plans for the new album?

The same as it's always been - touring and more touring! We've got pretty much constant touring in Scandinavia before Christmas 2008, and then we're off for a full European tour.

Talking playing for a while how proficient are you at music reading nowadys?

Pretty good - I read and write.

Ronni your fast picked muting runs are truly unique, how did you develop those?

My first guitar had an extreme, really high action due to a default on the neck - and so it was basically impossible to play legato on that! To deal with this, I developed other techniques to master speed runs...and it gives a real distinct tone. I've never looked back since - and I've still the highest action on the planet!

A lot of us can hear Brian May in your playing, would you agree?

Yeah, I guess... I can hear similarities in the way I orchestrate multiple guitar parts so there is that connection.

Do you play any other instruments, and if so to what level?

Piano, and of course I sing.

How much do you actually practise nowadays?

Every day without fail - at least 1 to 2 hours.

Do you still/have you ever used a metronome?

Of course!

What is your ability like at playing over ‘jazz' changes?

Pretty good I think

Could you handle a country gig?

I don`t think so!

What picks do you use?

Dunlop - the purple pointed jazz picks.

What gauge strings do you use?

Fender Superbullets 009-040

What are your main guitars?

1983 ESP modded Strat as well as a ‘72 Fender Strat

What effects/pedals do you use?

Boss all the way!

What about amps?

Marshalls 2203

What advice would you give to the next generation/readers of this interview?

That's easy: try to develop your own style - don`t look too much at the others

Finally have you ever played Guitar Hero?!!!!

Yes...and it sucks!

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