By Carl Begai
Back in 2005 Shaman / ex-Angra vocalist Andre Matos’ biggest worry was having to add another “A” to the band’s name for legal reasons. The following year he jumped out of the ship due to internal strife, taking bassist Luis Mariutti and guitarist Hugo Mariutti with him on the way out, and found himself kicking off a solo career. Not at all what Matos had envisioned for his future, but a necessary step if he was to continue as a professional musician. In 2007 he released Time To Be Free, an album featuring material well within the expected confines of Matos’ trademark Shaman / Angra sound. Perhaps a tad too safe given that he was trying to make an attention-grabbing return. The record performed well enough to warrant a second outing under the Andre Matos banner, resulting in the unexpectedly rough-around-the-edges Mentalize. A refreshing listen that been a long time in coming, it showcases Matos in a more aggressive light than the fans are used to while retaining elements of his past efforts.
“Time To Be Free was a crossroads for me,” says Matos. “Shaman split up and I was thinking about what I should do next. It didn’t make any sense for me to start up a new band, find a new name, re-introduce myself again. It would have been my fourth band (Angra and Viper being the predecessors) and I think people are a little tired of all that, so I decided it was time for me to face the challenge of having a solo career. I prefer to call it a solo band, actually, because I look at artists like Ozzy or Dio who used to have steady bands with great musicians that are an additional highlight for the fans. We write songs together and we hang out together; it’s not like I just hire a bunch of musicians and go out on the road. For me it’s very important to have that band feeling no matter what name I’m working under.”
“In some ways it works better now than it did when I was in an actual band (laughs). I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because in this sort of situation the roles people play are defined right at the beginning. There’s no ego tripping in this band, I don’t have to be a dictator (laughs). I think if you take it as a real band with real friendship behind what you’re doing it’ll work because everyone enjoys being together.”
As pleased as he is with the current situation Matos would have gladly stayed with Shaman if circumstances had allowed. Sole original remaining Shaman member and Matos’ former Angra bandmate Ricardo Confessori (drums) has kept the band running, albeit with considerably less exposure and success compared to when Matos was involved.
“That was a big surprise for all of us,” Matos says of the split. “We’d established a new career with a new band and everything was going well, but there were some internal problems that were of a personal nature rather than musical. It didn’t involve me so much, but there were a couple guys in the band that didn’t get along, and eventually it got to a point where things couldn’t be worked out anymore. I think we did the right thing in splitting Shaman up because so many bands just keep going and hang around just because of the career, the success, the money. They’re not happy, they travel around in separate tour buses and airplanes and stay in different hotels, they only meet up on stage, and I don’t think that’s right. I don’t believe good music can come out of that.”
“I wouldn’t want to be lying to the fans like that. If you treat your fans like they’re stupid, you’re going to get your payback some day. If something isn’t working out, don’t force it. Find your own way. A band splitting up is a traumatic thing, and the brave ones are the ones with the balls to face such situations and rebuild.”
Rebuild Matos did, with the Mariutti brothers in tow. An odd move for all involved in that the pair are now seen as having gone from being Matos’ bandmates to session musicians with reserved seats in the background.
“I was actually a bit worried about that in the beginning,” he admits, “because we were partners and then all of a sudden I was sort of like the boss (laughs). But, we’ve been playing together for so many years and there’s a strong friendship there, so we have a lot of respect for each other. Nothing can go wrong when everything is clear to everyone at the beginning. We knew we could trust each other so it was no problem at all. It’s a really nice situation to be in. It’s good because even though the band is under my name it’s still their baby, too.”
“It was absolutely everybody writing together for Mentalize and I wanted it to be like that. To be really honest I’m far away from the point where I say I want to write by myself, get all the credit and all that bullshit. If you look at Ozzy, he always wrote the songs together with his band partners even though the band was officially under his own name. They wrote great songs together, he introduced some great talents to the world – musicians and songwriters – so I look at that and wonder why I would want to miss the opportunity to create something new and fresh with my bandmates.”
Looking back on Time To Be Free, Matos considers it a necessary test of the waters that enable him to create what would become the Mentalize record. He explains:
“When you make a debut album you always tend to be very, very careful about what you’re doing. It’s the first opportunity people will have to judge you, so it’s a delicate situation. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid of that sort of thing, so yeah, I think the Time To Be Free album was a bit more careful, more detailed, maybe even overworked. On Mentalize we took the risk so it’s a bit more fluid, it was composed and recorded in a shorter time. This albums is really what we are, without a lot of make-up on the final product if you know what I mean.”
“I’m proud to say that there are no edits on this record. Okay, there are little things in a solo here and there and with keyboards it takes time to create the proper arrangements, but the basic band arrangements – vocals, guitars, bass, drums – we did several takes of the songs and then chose the best ones. I told Sascha (Paeth / producer) that we weren’t going to use edits because I wanted it to sound not old fashioned, but alive.”
“It’s always my aim to achieve new things every time I record an album,” he adds. “For example, I’d be bored to death if I was still singing the way I was 20 years ago. Even if I try now I can’t; I’m a different person and I’ve changed as a musician. Of course there are things about my singing that remain from that time which are recognizable, and that’s good, but I always try and explore new things. They always come naturally, though.”
While pushing Mentalize over the course of 2010 Matos will also be talking about his part in the latest Avantasia adventure concocted by Edguy frontman Tobias Sammet, a double album entitled The Wicked Symphony / Angel Of Babylon. Matos was asked to take part in what was a hugely successful world tour for Avantasia’s hit album from 2008, The Scarecrow, and he considers it one of the best tours of his 20+ year career. Being able to perform on the new opus is icing on an already huge cake.
“The tour was amazing because we’re like this big family; me, Tobi, Sascha, Amanda (Somerville). The Gate Studios family, really. We’re all among friends, and I got to know people like Jorn Lande (Masterplan) and Bob Catley (Magnum), who have become great friends. It was big fun, but it was also very professional. I learned a lot on that tour even though I’ve been touring for years with my own bands. I think that for every musician involved it was the highest point of their careers in terms of production. Avantasia headlined Wacken, Masters Of Rock and Sweden Rock, and it was a world tour through Japan, Mexico, South America… it was insane. In total we were touring for three months doing these festival shows, and by the end we all knew we were going to miss it. So even though the whole Avantasia thing was only supposed to happen once, it’s at least meant to happen one more time (laughs).”
“I hope we tour for the new album because it would be a lot of fun. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a huge festival headliner tour, though. Just having those people together again and seeing the reaction of the fans, that would be very, very nice.”
Official ANDRE MATOS Website: www.andrematos.net