Interview with André Hernandes for Guitar Clinic

Interview by Rafael Nery
revised by me

01- Hello Andre, how are you? Thanks a lot for the opportunity! Please start by telling us your beggining with music and who are your heroes of the instrument!

I’m the one to thank you for the invitation!
My beginning happened naturally because my father and my uncles used to play choro [a folk brazilian rhythm similar to samba] in my grandmother’s house during the weekends, there was also the band of my older cousins, the Orquestra Azul [Blue Orchestra], which unbeliavably used to play covers by the Mahavisnhu Orchestra by John Mclaughlin, and this in Brazil in 1978!!! My cousin had a Gibson SG of two necks and I used to stare at it for hours, kind of hypnotized!
So I started playing acoustic guitar, but the taste for Rock n’ roll came up with the desire of playing the guitar. At that time I was 11 and I started having some classes in the schools close to my home.
I’ve got a lot of different heroes for different times of my life. At the beginning they were: Angus Young, Brian May, Randy Rhoads, Eddie Van Halen among others… The latter are my heroes up to date!! After that there was Blues and Jazz, so… Robben Ford, Scott Henderson, Pat Metheny, and of course I had the Shred Guitar phase with  Yngwie Malmsteen, Greg Howe, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Vinnie Moore, among others.

02- Who were your music teachers?

I had lots of different teachers, after all, I took lessons of harmony, arrangement, I studied classical acoustic guitar, bass, but I gotta stand out three masters of guitar which were the most important: the guitarist Michel Perie which was my first great teacher; at that time he had just arrived from GIT in Los Angeles and brought a whole new material full of licks, transcriptions which were impossible to find here in Brazil by that time, around 1985. He was the first guy to introduce me to the concepts of modes, harmony, improvising, etc.
After that, I studied with Mozart Mello, no comments about him!!!! I was his student for like 5 years, it was the very same time when I had to make the decision about becoming a professional musician or not, and he influenced me in a very positive way. I don’t think he knows about it!!! He’s one of the smartest, most charismatic and honest people I’ve ever met. If you have the chance to meet him, you’ll notice how much he enjoys what he does and how it makes him happy regardless what it gives you back. It was pretty important for me to keep playing and he was also the one responsible for making me enjoy styles like jazz, blues, latin-jazz, brazillian instrumental music, etc.
I’ve had some classes with Alexandre Birket recently, he’s a jazz master and brazilian music master who lives in Santos, he opened my mind to a lot of different things with a very cool didactic method taken from his experience. He is a very experienced guy in the this subject. He was the guy chosen by Robertinho Silva to record his albums, besides being an amazing person.

03- You made a decision about not going to the music college. What was the reason for that?

At that time I had to make this choice between going to college or keeping my guitar studies. I was already a teacher and some of my students, like Rafael [Bittencourt], for example, who went to college and I could notice that they didn’t have enough time to study what I asked them to, because they had so much homework and other tasks due to college. My choice was pretty important because I really wanted to develop myself as an instrumentist so I thought it would be better to not share any time with other activities even if they were also related to the musical area. Of course, by making that choice I lost the opportunity of acquiring a lot of other knowledge, but the good part was that I could play guitar for nine hours a day, and that was the period when I achieved the technique which has been pretty useful up to date.

04- You were a member of Angra in the very beginning. What made you leave the band? How was it, dealing with all that the band has achieved?

I’ve been answering that question very often, even more now that I am playing with André Matos again. What people need to understand is that it’s perfectly possible to make a living and be happy playing guitar without being a rock star, a metal star or whatever.  In that moment I was at the high point of my studies with Mozart Mello, discovering a whole new universe and full of things to study and playing the guitar. So the idea of working too hard on a heavy metal band didn’t get me inspired, even though I knew that band would reach a success, once it was lead by the ex-Viper singer, a band which had already achieved recognition in Europe and Japan. Not to mention that Angra, even in the first rehearsals, seemed to be a very different, very qualified band. I was there because people told me it was a great opportunity, not because I wanted to. With the exception of Luis, who was the one who brought me to the band, I had just meet them, I couldn’t focus on the band as much as that project needed. All these things took all the members to be disappointed and it was very reasonable to leave the place to someone who could see a great professional opportunity there.  Then I decided to focus more on the instrumental music and my studies. Kiko replaced me, Rafael became my student and I used to attend the concerts when I could, I even played a song with them in Curitiba!! Of course, it was a tough decision to give up a so promising project, but this is the kind of choice you can do only when you are young, so I did it!!!

05- How is your teacher side like?

Teaching is one of the things I enjoy the most, for me it’s like an essential part of all the musical and artistic side I develop. I have been doing this for 20 years and I intend to keep it, even with tours I always find someway to fit some classes in between. Besides that, for a long period of my life, it was the main source of money to support my family. Because of that, teaching for me is a very serious thing and I’ve been trying to improve it during these past 20 years. I also believe in the responsibility of this profession as well as any kind of educator. Unfortanely, there are lot of people who are not prepared to teach taking money from innocent people who can’t realize this. There should be a professional governmental organ to take care of it, to make sure it’s done right! I hate it when someone comes to me and says “I’m a professional musician, what I really like to do is play, but I also teach to get some money”. What the hell is this kind of mentality?? If that’s the case, quit teaching and leave room for the ones who like it and know how to do that properly!!

06-How is to make a living only with music in Brazil?

Making a living in Brazil is difficult for everyone who does something related to art. By the way, it’s not just here, I have seen this all over the world, since we are living in the age of globalization.
In Brazil we still have the fact of having a third world economy, managed by politicians who, if we call them corrupted, it would be kind of compliment! But we can’t blame it all only on them, because the biggest part of the population is much more concerned in knowing who is going to be on Big Brother [reality TV show] than the horrible, but real, news from the prime-time national journalism programs.
So here is my advice: making a live with music should be exclusively out of love for music, and you have to work hard to get at least the minimum, economically speaking, to support you and you family without depending on the “help” of our government, because if we do, we are screwed up!

07- You have your instrumental project which is focused on rock/fusion. How do you see the market for this genre of music? What are your influences in that style?

Well, the market is not good even for pop bands, so try to imagine for fusion!!! But if you do instrumental musical in Brazil expecting something from the market, you will get disappointed. Do it for your personal desire and accompishment. And you’ll end up by getting students, support from some companies besides a small fan base, it’s worthy!
My influences are everything I’ve listened to and studied during all these years.
I think it’s a little pretentious to say that my influences are those guys who I admire, I wish!!

08- How does work the process of writing for this style?

During the process you can feel disappointed because the greatest guys in that genre are really incredibly talented and really know about electric guitar. So everytime I finish a song I get to the conclusion that I need to do a bigger effort next time, because they are years of experience ahead me, but this is the challenge!! That’s the thing which makes me wake up everyday!!! It’s not that different from writing any other kind of music, in other words, it’s the saying: “music is 10% inspiration and 90% transpiring”.

09-In the year 2006 you joined André Matos’ band. How did the invitation come up?

It was funny, because some weeks before the invitation happened, I was talking to my wife and I mentioned that this life of instrumental musician and teacher was starting to become too “correct”, and a little bit of fun and noise would be great! So I was at home and Hugo gave me a call, telling me that André was forming a solo band and he was looking for another guitarist. He invited me to record the solos of a demo and after a few days the official invitation came, I accepted it without blinking! After all, back in the days, I did a choice which gave me the opportunity to live the most different situations a musician can live, but with that choice I wasn’t able to be in a band with friends traveling around the world, and now I’m having that chance again. So I feel very blessed!!

10- What is this experience like?   

Fun, although it is a great responsibility. After all, André is worldly recognized as one of the biggest icons of this style, I could see this during the international trips we’ve done. It has also been a great musical experience, because I didn’t totally get away from heavy metal since I had a lot of students from that style which I recorded to and produced some of their bands, but the stage presence was lost in the past! So I needed to research and get ready to face the difference of posture, mixing, tone at the stage. Things that they had not been done for such a long time.

11- What is it like to be a fusion guitar player in a heavy metal band?

To be a fusion guitar player was a choice based on my wish and for professional reasons, what I mean is that to make a living by music I needed to become a guitar player of all styles you can imagine. So, going back to heavy metal was just a challenge which I needed to face in my musician life, a challenge which took hours of research and dedication like all the other ones. The difference was that there was much more pleasure involved, making it much easier! Technically there weren’t huge problems, I just needed some time to get updated and that way help on the songwriting parts, which I could do during the production of the second album which is almost ready.

12- Talking about your equipment, which equipment do you use live and who are your sponsors?

When I’m playing on André Matos’ band I use the distortion of my amplifier which is a Rotstage CJ100 added to a Dual Driver pedal by Nig, so for the solos I add a digidelay by Digitech and an amp simulator by Nig to “boost” my volume.  All my guitars are built by a luthier named Castelli, the ones I use on the band have the neck connected to the body and it’s scalloped from the 12 fret. The AH-02red is equipped with an EMG 81 and 89 and in the AH-02 Blackburst there’s a Seymour Duncan Blackout also an active pickup. The strings are the ones by Nig, I use the 0.12 gauge on the lower strings and 0.10 in the higher ones to record and I used to go for the 0.10 set live, but I tried the 0.11 on the lower strings during the last tour and I really liked it. When it comes about the fusion part, I just change the Dual Drive pedal for the Shred Pro also built by Nig, and I plug this into the clean channel of the Rotstage amplifier, that way I get a “thinner” tone, clean and defined, which we need for a jazz/fusion phrasing. In some occasions I add a compressor and chorus pedal in a slightly level when I’m using a clean sound.
My sponsors and partners, who I would like to take this opportunity to thank are: Nig strings and pedals, Rotstage amplifiers, Castelli guitars and Digitech effects.

13- Thanks a lot for the interview, please leave a message to our viewers.

I want to thank the opportunity of talking to the viewers of Guitar Clinic, and to say that despite the hard times we can face for being a guitar player in the country of carnival, don’t give up, study and get ready to become great professionals, because that way it will be possible to make a living and feel accomplished. After all, it’s very important to wake up on a Monday knowing that you are about to do what you enjoy the most, getting paid honestly and feeling great at night. Follow my tips! It’s worth it!
A great hug!


About Janus

Janus Aureus is my recently-inaugurated personal blog (written in portuguese, but with some texts in english as well). Fiore Rouge is my old (but still very active - in fact, more than Janus :P) blog (I started it back in 2005). Mentalize is a fan-made website (since 2005). if you wish to contact me for any reason, visit my blog and leave a comment OR see email above (top left) - no, my name's not Andre - actually, I'm not even a guy! LOL Long story... O Janus Aureus é meu blog pessoal - escrito em português - ainda sem muito conteúdo, pois foi começado no final de dezembro de 2011. Já o Mentalize foi aberto em 2005 e está escrito em várias línguas *rs* Privilegio o uso do inglês ali porque o pessoal estrangeiro não tem muitas informações sobre o AM. Quem quiser entrar em contato comigo por qualquer motivo, deixe um comentário nos meus blogs ou use o email que está aí em cima à esquerda (e não, eu não sou o Andre - aliás, sou mulher!).

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