Wheel’s James Lascelles and Jussi Turunen on their unique brand of guitar harmonies and the meaning of prog

(Image credit: Miikka Skaffari/Redferns)

When Finnish/English prog-metal rockers Wheel got together in 2015, celebrity wasn’t on their radar. “The goal was never about making us as famous as possible,” says vocalist/guitarist/songwriter James Lascelles. “It was just an artistic outlet, and at least so far, I’m amazed we’ve gotten this far with that mindset, because it seems it’s not that normal.”

Lascelles, bassist Aki Virta, drummer Santeri Saksala and lead guitarist Jussi Turunen, who joined in 2020, recently signed a deal with InsideOut Music in advance of their new EP, Rumination. Their fifth release, it follows EPs The Path (2017) and The Divide (2018) and full-length albums Moving Backwards (2019) and Resident Human (2021).

Wheel’s definition of prog is that there is no definition, making it the ideal genre for tracks like Blood Drinker, the first single from Rumination.

“I think it’s an accurate term for what we’re doing,” Lascelles says. “It can be a bit nebulous in some respects. Prog metal, particularly, has stylistic traits that many bands use or emulate. And then there are bands that pioneer new things – like Meshuggah, for example, who have come up with their own rhythmic identity. Prog, to me, always meant freedom to try things that wouldn’t work in a more traditional contemporary setting. So it still feels very prog to us.”

“As guitarists, of course we have some stuff in unison, but mostly we have two-part harmonies and two-part rhythms, but not in the traditional way used in bands like Iron Maiden,” Turunen says. “We’re playing against each other rhythmically, and that has become our sound.”

Wheel will spend the remainder of this year and the beginning of 2023 on tour. Upon completing the itinerary, they’ll return to Finland to begin work on their third full-length album. While only in the planning stages, the band promises that fans can expect the unexpected, as they continue experimenting and pushing boundaries.

“I don’t want to make the same album over and over again,” Lascelles says. “There are so many things we want to try, and I don’t want to set limits on what that might be. The priority has always been the song, the right parts and the right sounds. In the future, that might be acoustic guitar, 12-string, synthesizer or piano. We don’t know yet, and that’s the fun bit.”

“Prog is a natural environment to experiment with different instruments and ideas,” Turunen adds. “I love playing acoustic guitar. I also play mandolin and a bit of steel guitar. That may not be where we’re going, but you never know. We’re not counting anything out.”

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Alison Richter is a seasoned journalist who interviews musicians, producers, engineers, and other industry professionals, and covers mental health issues for GuitarWorld.com. Writing credits include a wide range of publications, including GuitarWorld.com, MusicRadar.com, Bass Player, TNAG Connoisseur, Reverb, Music Industry News, Acoustic, Drummer, Guitar.com, Gearphoria, She Shreds, Guitar Girl, and Collectible Guitar.