Interview With Andre Matos

Radio Metal: Time To Be Free was your first album under your own name; how was it received by your fans?

Andre Matos: It corresponded very much to our expectations. The album was #2 in Japan, #1 in South America, and it did very well in Europe, where it was released in over 20 countries, Russia included. I think the distribution and the promotion of the album went pretty well. The most important thing is that it was the debut album, so obviously we wanted to show a little bit of everything we were able to deliver back then. This album is very complete. In the end, it played its role in a very nice way. It gave us the possibility to produce more albums, and now the second one is coming up.

In retrospect, do you think that creating a band under your own name was the best thing to do? Did this give you more freedom? If so, what kind of freedom?

In my opinion, it was not only the best thing to do, it was the only thing to do. I took part in three different bands, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I had to come back under a new band name. That would not inspire any kind of credibility to the audience. I think everybody was already expecting something like that. I’ve had questions all over my career, people asking me if I would ever come out as a solo artist. But the format I chose for this is a rather different one. It’s really important to have a real band atmosphere and to have bandmates working together, composing together, taking part in the whole process and playing live shows. It works as a real band, although it’s set under one person’s name. Somehow it allows us to have more freedom, in the sense that it embraces a very vast career. When we play live we can play songs from my very first band, VIPER, songs from ANGRA and SHAAMAN, from VIRGO, and the new stuff as well. It mixes a lot of different things, and that’s what people like to watch. To give you an example, when we were touring with SHAAMAN, the last band I founded and was part of, there were so many requests from people, who would ask: “Can you please play than ANGRA song, or that VIPER song?” It was always a little embarrassing, because we were like: “This is a different band, we want to show our own stuff.” We avoided mixing all these things. Right now I don’t have any problem with any of these things. Besides, I’m happy our current material is so great. There’s plenty of stuff to choose from when we play live!

Would like to make ANGRA songs completely disappear from your future set-lists?

No, not necessarily. There are so many nice songs that I was not used to playing live… When we think that we or the audience are tired of a certain song, it’s possible to replace it with another song that we never played too much on stage. Like I said, we have complete freedom, we can choose whether we want to do it or not, whether it’s something the audience is going to enjoy or not. But I think it’s cruel to come up with a new record and go on tour and to make up shows mainly with the new stuff. People stick to things they already know, and if they go to a show, they expect to hear something they know. I don’t want to deny them that. Also, personally, I don’t have anything against my own songs, and I still have fun when I play them live.

Many people think that, in terms of communication, SHAAMAN suffered from its name, considering that the audience was familiar with ANGRA, and not with SHAAMAN. Now that you’re writing under your own name, has it helped in terms of communication? Do you think more people to your music now that it’s being released under your name?

Absolutely. I think there’s a strong connection between my name and the ANGRA era I was part of until 1999. For those who are familiar with SHAAMAN, it’s also related to that. When people hear about a solo project called ANDRE MATOS, they can expect the same kind of spirit. That spirit is not only about the musical style, it’s also about trying to do something fresh and new, something interesting, to find a good reason to do music. It’s something I’m proud to say has always marked my career from my first band on. I still stick to this philosophy, because otherwise I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing music and offering something to the audience.

You released Mentalize two years after Time To Be Free. Did you start writing this album on the road? Have you already written an album on the road in the past?

Not really, I never did it the way we did it with Mentalize. This is a matter of experience somehow: after a couple of years, you feel more confident and have more trust in what’s coming up in terms of ideas and lyrics and concept and everything. It was different from the first album, Time To Be Free, which was very thought of and took a long time to be finished. It was much faster for Mentalize, it came up much more naturally and spontaneously. That’s the biggest difference between both albums, but that doesn’t mean one is better that the other. I consider the second to be the follow-up of the first. Mentalize wasn’t easy to make, but it was definitely faster. Maybe this album has a little more live energy, it shows a human side: the recordings have not been edited on computers at all, they’re all real. I believe this is something that can make a difference. If you’re looking for some kind of improvement between one album and the other, here it is. Mentalize has a different sound because of the reasons I explained.

Time To Be Free and Mentalize are both names in relation to psychology. Is it something that fascinates you?

Absolutely. I’m neither a psychologist nor a scientist, but I’m really fascinated by these subjects: introspection, philosophy, psychology and spirituality… This album was actually written under a concept. It’s not a concept album, because it doesn’t have a beginning, a middle and an end, but somehow all the songs are connected to the same concept, which has a lot to do with science and fate. I was reading a lot about quantum physics, for instance, and this subject inspired me a lot. It’s the point where science might cross roads with religion.

What do you think about the feeling of revenge that drives some musicians and leads to writing an album? Can heavy metal sound right and be prolific under the influence of anger? Did this ever happen to you? ‘Cause heavy metal tends to be a rather positive music…

I guess it can happen to anyone, not only in metal. I could name bosanova composers who were wrote their songs based on this kind of feeling. In Brazil, where I come from, there was a big dictatorship in the 60s and 70s. Most musicians couldn’t express themselves as they wanted because of the huge censorship. So they were writing very nice songs, very nice music, with metaphorical lyrics, because they were not able to say what they wanted to say. I think music in general can be motivated by revenge, you can find this in the works of classical composers as well. There’s something of it in Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. Beethoven 3rd Symphony was first dedicated to Napoleon, then he was disappointed in him and rewrote a big part of the symphony. Of course, metal is a style that deals with the aggressive side of music a lot, but that’s something I try to dose in a good way. You must use the aggressive side whenever it’s needed, but you also have to combine that with more quiet and introspective atmospheres, so you can have a good contrast between both feelings. I may have been motivated to write music due to feelings of rage, but I want to use a very clear example: when a band splits and somebody leaves the band to write a new album with a new band or as a solo artist, this person finds a big motivation to write something he can shove in the face of the people he no longer got along with. That’s OK if good music is coming out of it. But the point is, will you keep doing this, will you still be faithful to that kind of music if that it what you want to do in your musical life? You mustn’t forget that things stay forever, they have a place in history somehow. So sometimes, doing something for one specific reason is no good. In two or three years, you might not be feeling like this anymore.

« I don’t know if I would be able to create different styles of music as well as I do it with metal. This is the thing I grew up listening to and dreaming about doing, together with classical music. At some point, I think I found a way to mix both musical styles. My goal and my dream is that people would start opening their eyes and think: “this is also a very important musical style”. Maybe it will be, a few years from now, maybe it’s a posthumous think. But one thing is certain: as long as I do what I believe in, it’s fine ».
In the past years, it looks like you’ve been trying to put aside the Brazilian influences that ANGRA was famous for on Holy Land. On Mentalize, we can hear a brief return to these influences in songs like “Leading On”, “Someone Else” and “The Myriad”. But in general, although many of your fans are asking for it, you still seem reluctant to make another album in the vein of Holy Land. Why?

Because I think Holy Land was a very unique creation, back in time. It was made almost 15 years ago, and at that moment, that was what really spoke to us, it was the most honest thing to do. It ‘s not because we found something that worked commercially that it should be repeated. I am completely against this kind of thing. In my music, I have to put what I’m feeling at the moment, what really speaks to me, to my heart. Whenever I feel there is room for that kind of thing in my music, that’s OK. So far I haven’t found anything that could inspire a whole album on the concept of Holy Land. Of course, the Brazilian roots are there and I tend to use them here and there, when I think they’re valid and interesting and can bring color to the music. But I don’t see the point of basing a whole album upon some kind of Brazilian metal, just because it worked once. I would like to expand my music away from that, and not stick to that kind of influence only. That’s just one of the thousand influences I have for my music.

Overall, Mentalize is a heavy metal album, and it’s hard for an album to stand out from the mass in this genre. As a composer, how do you manage to keep your music interesting?

Maybe it has to do with the ideology. Sometimes I wonder if I’d have the same opportunity to express myself if I were a classical or a movie score composer, for example. Metal is one of the styles where you can express yourself the best, because it’s very elastic somehow. It allows a lot of variety. Dealing with the aggressiveness and with the more powerful side of music is very similar to what people used to do in the past with in classical music, with symphonic orchestras. I feel very comfortable with metal myself. I don’t know if I would be able to create different styles of music as well as I do it with metal. This is the thing I grew up listening to and dreaming about doing, together with classical music. At some point, I think I found a way to mix both musical styles. My goal and my dream is that people would start opening their eyes and think: “this is also a very important musical style”. Maybe it will be, a few years from now, maybe it’s a posthumous think. But one thing is certain: as long as I do what I believe in, it’s fine.

You’re playing on the fourth AVANTASIA album. Can you give us some clues on what to expect?

You can expect a great album. What I’ve heard so far really impressed me, it’s going down the same good path as before. We can expect a very good album, I’m pretty sure about it. I’m happy to take part in an AVANTASIA album again, I’ve been there since the very first one. In 2008, we went on an extensive tour all around the world. AVANTASIA was the headliner of most European festivals and we also played in countries like Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile… It was a great opportunity for all of us, especially since we were between friends. It was a lot of fun. Besides the fun, it was a very professional production, and we were happy to be able to do that together. After this next AVANTASIA release, there’s probably going to be a second tour, that’s what everyone is hoping for.

Will it be possible to do a tour with all the guests?

Maybe not with all the guests – probably not with Klaus Meine, for example. But even if every guests can not join every concert, they might be able to take part in some of them. When they’re not present, we’ll always be able to find a replacement, or someone can sing a little bit more. We try to replace whoever is not able to be present for a show.

The Scarecrow, AVANTASIA’s third album, is very different from the first two. Can we expect something like that, something very different from the rest?

I don’t think it will be very different from The Scarecrow. It follows the same kind of line, with some improvements. In my opinion, The Scarecrow was a very good decision, it was good to make a very different album. It’s not that I don’t like the first two, they’re brilliant, the best thing that happened to metal in many years. But it was important, at a certain point, to go in another direction. Otherwise it would have started to repeat itself. It was very wise to find a different source of inspiration and to give it a new face.

If I’m not mistaken, it’s the second time you worked with Tobias Sammet for his AVANTASIA project. Is the guy easy to work with – honestly?

Yes… and no! He’s somebody who knows what he wants, which is a good quality. You don’t see that too often. Me, Tobias and Sascha Paeth have the same kind of mentality when it comes to work. We have a preconceived idea of what we want, but I don’t think we should be hard-minded. If one of us is able to prove that some changes are important, or that you can do something in a different way to make things more effective, we’re ready to accept it. It’s just that, when somebody know what they want, they can get frustrated if things don’t work out the way they were hoping. However, if you do something as good as what they hoped for, they will be the first to say: “I like it, let’s keep it that way”.

Since you have a background in orchestra conduction and classical music, have you ever considered doing a metal opera of your own? Or even a classical opera?

To be honest, a metal opera is something that never attracted me much in terms of composition – at least not on my own. I would rather turn to the real, classical stuff. It would be much more fascinating and challenging to me to write music exclusively for an orchestra. That’s a project, a dream I would like to realize one day.

« I respect the good image that we left behind and the work we’ve done together. But doing something now would be opportunistic. It would be like: “let’s go back together and make a little money!” It’s not really honest.»
Many years have gone by since you left ANGRA. Have you recently had any contacts with your former bandmates? Would you consider playing with them again in the future, in ANGRA or some other sort of project?

Not really, I haven’t had many contacts with them since we split up, except on some very rare occasions, like celebrations for magazines or radio stations. We met briefly during these events. I don’t consider teaming up with any of my former bands again, it’s not a goal in my life. I think there’s a time for everything, and I respect that time. I respect the good image that we left behind and the work we’ve done together. But doing something now would be opportunistic. It would be like: “let’s go back together and make a little money!” It’s not really honest. Playing together with an old band again is something that must be done out of a strong wish, or if you realize you can’t do anything without those people. It’s not the case. Right now I’m surrounded by very nice musicians, and I’m able to meet extremely nice people and excellent musicians, not only in metal, by the way. So to be honest, music-wise, I’m satisfied with my career. I think the decision to split up came at the right time. It was very important to each and every one of us, to achieve our own destinies. However, there are some side projects, like VIRGO, the one I did with Sascha Paeth. That was a one-record project, but it wouldn’t be impossible to start working on it again and to do a second record. It’s something we liked a lot, and the audience enjoyed it as well. I’ve been asked several times when a new VIRGO album would be released. That’s something I would like to repeat.

I heard Ricardo Confessori is back in ANGRA. What are your feelings about that?

I have absolutely no feelings about it! It’s their decision, it really doesn’t reach my universe!

What do you think of what ANGRA has been doing musically since your departure?

My usual answer to this is that I’d better not make my comments public. Whether I say one thing or the contrary, I would be using my power to influence people. Of course, I wish them the best, I want them to succeed by their own merits, so it’s something I don’t want to comment on.

That’s all, thank you very much!

Thanks very much to you! I like it very much when people go deep into the subject. It seems you have really listened to the record and researched a lot. Thanks a lot for your interest.

Actually, that’s my job!

Some people don’t do their job as they should, so that’s good for you as well!

Interview conducted in january 2010 by phone


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