Santeri Ojala (aka StSanders) is a multimedia artist from Finland whose most acclaimed work juxtaposes classic rock video footage with his own recordings to create satirical and humorous parodies of the pretentious playing style of popular guitar heroes. This "Shred" series of videos attracted millions of viewers on YouTube before being banned due to claims of copyright infringement from artists offended by his work.
Santeri Ojala was born on February 20, 1975, in a small municipality in Finland. A student of both piano and guitar, he moved to the city of Tampere to attend TTVO, the School of Arts & Video. There he created large audio and video installations in such public areas as highway underpasses, while becoming adept with samplers and sequencers, studying music creation while recording demos and doing commercial work. One day watching a Steve Vai video without sound, he was inspired to pick up his Ibanez guitar and play along, trying to match Vai's fingering in the video while playing as poorly and comically as possible. The process intrigued him, so he took the video and began overdubbing, using his considerable skill to create a plausible soundtrack of amateur riffing and tuneless runs in amusing counterpoint to Vai's seriousness. "Steve Vai Shreds" was posted to YouTube under the name StSanders, and received a warm reception, including good humor from Vai himself: 'If I actually played like that, perhaps I could finally be on MTV and in Rolling Stone and have a real career," he said through his label Epic Records.
This sudden notoriety spurred Ojala to continue experimenting in the same vein, and he followed up with more ambitious reworkings of classic rock videos, substituting pointless arpeggios, arrhythmic chording, tuneless riffs, limp applause and lame rock references while also reworking vocals and other instrumentation. He created videos spoofing Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Paco de Lucia, Metallica, Gary Moore, and Santana, as well as an ambitious reworking of Yngwie Malmsteen with the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra. His attention to detail, deft musicianship, and spot-on timing fooled many observers -- even some professional musicians -- into thinking the videos were real, adding to his growing publicity. On The Jimmy Kimmel Show, he played his guitar synched to a Guns N' Roses video with guitarist Slash in attendance; the obviously unamused superstar interrupted Ojala's performance before it was finished. The technical veracity of his playing earned him wide recognition by guitarists and guitar fans, leading to interviews and analyses of his work in such leading gearhead publications as Guitar Player.
Unfortunately, not all of Ojala subjects were willing to let their work be parodied -- after receiving over seven million hits, YouTube pulled Ojala's videos in early 2008, citing copyright infringement claims. Wired magazine and a few other Internet sites posted the videos in stories about the YouTube ban; it remains to be seen if they will persist on the Internet. Ojala has expressed his disappointment publicly, but remains optimistic that new outlets and opportunities for his creativity will emerge from his notoriety.