|Monday, 14 April 2008|
When you talk about Brazil’s greatest Rock singer, the first name to jump into your head will no doubt be Max Cavelara, but it wasn’t him that won the award. It also wasn’t anyone connected with Sepultura, it was former Angra frontman Andre Matos who released his debut solo album ‘Time To Be Free’ back in February.
Having sold millions of records with his former band, and came close to being named Bruce Dickinson’s replacement in Iron Maiden, a job that would eventually fall to Wolfsbane’s Blaze Bayley.
Oh and if that wasn’t enough, when ‘Time To Be Free’ was released in Japan last year it landed at #2 on the Japanese charts, impressive enough on it’s own, but more impressive when you consider the fact that it out sold both Heaven and Hell and Metallica during it’s run on the charts.
Komodo Rock’s Mike Elliott recently spoke to Matos about his new album, the Japanese Chart success and his rock awards in Brazil.
Mike Elliott: Your debut solo album ‘Time To Be Free’ came out on 25th February. Can you tell us a little more about the ideas behind the album?
Andre Matos: The main idea was being able to sum up the various elements and experiences I have had across my entire career, in a rather modern and original way. I’m no friend of rip-offs; I actually dislike when any old established formula gets repeated till exhaustion. And that’s was the biggest challenge – to create a nice balance between past and future.
ME: Could you tell us your thoughts behind some of the major tracks on the album?
AM: Therefore, I’d need to explain what the album concept is about… Time To Be Free is basically talking about the freedom that we must search inside of ourselves. We’re living a moment of extreme transition in the current world; as technology advances, we also feel the lack of certain values which start to be missing on the human aspect. After the end of the cold war and an unbalanced polarization of the economic power, human beings seem to have partially lost their orientation. We tend to stick to the material achievements, considering that such progress may bring liberty… but in a scenario where internet and mobile phones are inserted into the daily routine, from the moment of one’s birth on, freedom starts to become a rather very abstract and unreachable image.
Music is and has always been a powerful tool, able to gather all kinds of people around an universal ideal. That’s the strongest purpose of this album, as well.
ME: The album came in Japan last year, doing exceptionally well. We’re you surprised with the reaction the album achieved?
AM: I have a long term relationship towards the Japanese audience but we never know what reactions will be beforehand. Therefore, I have attended personally to the release date in Tokyo and there I was then able to see face to face the very first impressions on the album. They really surprised me. I knew that the album could somehow fall into the Japanese taste. But what happened was beyond my expectation and once again I must thank them for their extreme care and dedication to my music.
ME: It held onto the #2 spot in the Japanese charts for a month, keeping legendary artists like Metallica and Heaven and Hell below it. Are you proud of that, and did it surprise you that you were able to achieve the feet?
AM: When I was still together with Angra, I guess I’ve experienced something alike in Japan… The surprising factor is having the same status after many years – and as a solo band.
To be honest, every time you work in a new album, you always wish to climb to the top, which may sometimes occur; other times not. But we all know that music is not the only reason to make an album successful: there’s a combination of circumstances that actually determine it. I might have probably benefited from such situation now – although I believe that the music within this album is, on its own, powerful enough to push my career forward.
ME: Are you expecting similar levels of success in other territories with the release of the album?
AM: I’ve just returned from Europe, where the album was now released and, in this regard, I must say I’m even more surprised than in Japan. The record label SPV has promoted many events in different countries, such as acoustic sets, interviews and fan meetings. After all, I have a strong feeling that the fans have never forgotten about my music and that they were hungry for more. The perspectives are rather very positive in Europe, especially considering that the market opens up for some new territories never visited before.
ME: The album was produced by Roy Z and Sascha Paeth, who between them have worked with some huge names including Judas Priest, Kamelot, Helloween and Bruce Dickinson to name but a few. What was it like working with them, and what were they able to bring to the recording process?
AM: Sascha Paeth is an old partner since the early times; we’ve even developed a side project together called Virgo some years ago. He’s somene who I always trusted to be able to produce all of my works – and always with the best result in the end.
Roy Z became a new friend after all. We met in Brazil some months before this production and, by coincidence, he was able to take it over from the beginning on. He’s an absolutely great producer and a talented musician. His presence was vital for this record: together with Roy, I must admit that I have rediscovered about the enchantment of performing in the studio. That’s probably why this record sounds so ‘alive’… On the other hand, the combination between the two producing styles was a perfect one. I guess that each one of them managed to deliver their best to the album in great sympathy. It’s in the end a good compromise between power and atmospheres, density and details. I consider myself fortunate for having had probably the best one out of America and the best one out of Europe together at the same record.
ME: The album’s cover art is very evocative. Can you explain the ideas you had for it, and how it came about?
AM: That was probably one of the very last things to be created, after the music has already been completed. I was never a big found of the idea of having myself on a front cover – unless it would stand there more like as a character. It should be part of the whole and inserted into a context. Under such aspect, I think that the result was one of a great impact – as well as it brings across all delicate elements that fulfill the rest of the album’s concept. In the end, I believe that the artwork really translates what’s behind the musical ideas. I just regret that the artwork hasn’t been released on Vinyl size: that would have been probably an even more adequate format to it!
ME: The band contains three musicians you had worked with previously in both Angra and Sahaaman, whil pulling in Zaza Hernandez, who again you had previously worked with, and the young drummer Eloy Casagrande. When you started the project did you have these people in mind, or was it more finding musicians to complement the music you were writing?
AM: In my mind it was sure that, when setting up a solo band, I should count on some experienced and well-known musicians, such as my ex-colleagues from the previous bands. It is very important to have a steady team around you, for I believe the team is work is the best always. I could have called some big names from famous bands all over the world in the beginning, but then, the first problem would start as soon as I’d have my first concert booked. Therefore I preferred to stick to best ones which are already around. The same people who helped composing the music are the ones who went in studio and the same ones who are on tour. This way, a good development can be experienced. As for the drummer, he was the last missing piece in the band – and the fact that he’s only a 16-aged drummer doesn’t make him any worse: on the opposite, he’s been already awarded as the best drummer in the Americas two years ago. But what really matters is the band experience and I’m convinced we have a great band for every moment.
ME: Do you have any plans to tour on the back of the album, maybe coming to the UK as well?
AM: UK was a remote dream back then (although I’ve already spent a whole season in London during a certain production) – which now seems to get closer. I think that this new album is being properly distributed and promoted in the UK and it makes me surprised about the great comments and reviews that I recently received from there. It is a very special market in a sense, for it really selects the best out of the best. I’m excited with the possibility of starting a solid work in the UK, it’s somehow a sort of point of honor in my personal experience.
ME: Back in 1993, you were one of 3 finalists in the search for Bruce Dickinson’s replacement in Iron Maiden. Can you tell us a little bit more about what happened, and how it has effected you in the following years?
AM: It actually didn’t affect so much! (laughs!) In fact I really believe it was better not to be the chose one, this way I could develop my own career and become an artist myself. Back then I was very young, I don’t know what my psychological reaction would have been. On the other hand, let’s convey that Maiden is the Britishist of the bands, and I never imagined a Brazilian singer there.
In ’93, as Bruce left Maiden, EMI international started to look for singers everywhere and I got approached by them in Brazil. Then, my material (which consisted basically on 2 Viper albums and the 1st Angra demo) was sent to England where a selection would be made. After some time I was informed that I remained among the three finalists – which I already considered a big victory! The chosen one was Blaze Bailey, from the band Wolfsbane.
ME: While with Angra, you are credited with selling more than a million records. Is that something that you look back upon with pride?
AM: Yes, I think I must be proud of it, although we had no idea back then about the magnificence of our sales. Better than that, what really pleases me is the fact that I still can see everywhere how deep I might have influenced people’s musical life. To remain in History is the real goal. Selling records must be a consequence of it – but the opposite is not always true.
ME: As a classically trained pianist, you infuse your music with certain classical aspects. Can you tell us more about how the piano training aids you with both writing, and as a performer?
AM: Well, piano was my first instrument and still is the only one. I have a personal frustration of not having became a real pianist but there came a time when a decision should be made. And I chose for my career; I still believe it gives me more freedom to express. Nevertheless, playing piano helps me out in many things. First, because I basically compose my songs on the piano. It gives you a wide range of options and colours so the visualisation of the final result is a nearer one. Second, because I’m able to use the piano itself in my songs – which gives the songs some kind of special flavour, I believe. That’s why I always carry a stage piano along while on tour: it shall never miss there!
ME: You received an award from Rock Radio Network in Brazil naming you Brazil’s greatest ever rock singer. How did the award make you feel, and were you surprised by the accolade?
AM: Yes, I was surprised indeed. That’s because I would never expect to beat some of the mainstream singers – especially the ones who sell more and who are considered to be more popular. The music I do is a rather very specific one and only sometimes it broke through the commercial barriers on radio and TV. But actually, in Brazil, that’s the only option for a metal artist: to share the same territory along with the mainstream. That’s the only way to let yourself be known in a country where the underground scene is not as stabilised as in Europe.
ME: Having left Angra back in 2000, and with the band continuing on, do you think there is any chance you might rejoin the band one day, or are you now solely concentrating on your solo career?
AM: To rejoin Angra was never a goal for me, since after I left it. I believe that everything in life has its own circle of existence and the golden Angra times are somehow frozen in the past. I have very good memories from those times and therefore I consider quite dangerous if someone tries to re-touch it with a new reunion.
My absolute priority is Andre Matos solo band. Here I’m able to create the new but also to re-visit the past, which is a big part of my History.
ME: Musically, you obviously have a wide variety of influences, straddling both modern and classical music. Can you explain to us who has influenced you the most, and why?
AM: I raised up living together with both styles: Classical and Rock. Bands such as Queen, Maiden, Priest, Purple, AC/DC, where among the first influences I ever had. My first acquisition in Rock was Van Halen’s Fair Warning, though.
Then I went through various different artists and tastes, to name but a few: Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Sting… But if I would need to name the one and only influence, I believe that Queen would be my all time favourite. They managed somehow to mix up all musical styles together with rock, without losing their own identity.
Later on I joined the music college and made my degree in orchestral conducting and composing. But that has never affected my passion for rock: on the opposite, it has opened up some new horizons let me understand rock in a very special way.
ME: Having released ‘Time To Be Free’ initially last year, are you already looking ahead to what you will be doing next? A followup album perhaps?
AM: Yes, a follow up is in my plans. Before that, of course a world tour should follow the current release. We’re also collecting images for a possible DVD, to be released soon.
ME: Can you give our readers any important Andre Matos related website links please?
A big thank you to Andre for taking the time to talk with us.