Home > Uncategorized > Detritus Issue #644.5 – Interview w/ Kiko Loureiro

Detritus Issue #644.5 – Interview w/ Kiko Loureiro

Mini-Issue #644.5
March 15, 2013

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-Let’s celebrate St. Patrick’s Day weekend a bit early, with a new Pope *and* an interview with an awesome Brazilian guitarist. – Tim

by Neal Woodall (MysticX9@gmail.com)

-Interview w/ Kiko Loureiro
February 27, 2013

Fans of sophisticated power metal need little in the way of introduction when it comes to guitarist extraordinaire Kiko Loureiro as his excellent playing has been informing Brazil’s Angra for twenty years; many may be unaware, however, of Kiko’s skills playing other styles of music, from sensitive acoustic pieces to intricate jazz-rock fusion. If you are not familiar with Kiko outside Angra, I would strongly urge you to check out any of his four solo albums as you’ll surely come away impressed and moved by his blend of melodic, technical and cultural elements. SOUNDS OF INNOCENCE is Kiko’s latest solo venture and recently I had the opportunity to ask him about the album and his unique approach to making music…

DETRITUS: You have a new solo album out called SOUNDS OF INNOCENCE. Can you tell us a little about the album and what the title represents?

KIKO LOUREIRO: Instrumental music is very subjective as you don’t have lyrics to tell what you want to say with the song, so basically when I was recording the album I was about to have my first child so there was this moment of expectation, a new moment in my life; but also every day you go to the Internet and it just gets confused — with so much music coming from all parts of the world and so many great players — so when you sit down with your guitar or piano to compose you think “Well, what should I do now?” (laughs) So you just have to play whatever you feel, get into the mood so the creativity flows — that’s what I play, that’s what I like, that’s what I am. That’s my “innocence moment” — any melody that I like, I believe in that melody, every melody or idea of the song that I like, that I feel is right for me, that’s going to be on the album. So I’m trying to bring this innocent feeling of a child when you play, when you do your stuff without thinking about what people are going to think about it or demands of the market, and just do whatever you feel, not have your creativity blocked.

D: Right.

KL: Because I’ve been recording and playing everywhere, on many albums and stuff so sometimes your experiences block your creativity — you say “I’m not going to play that because I did that already,” or “I’m not going to play that because somebody else did that,” but you just do it, you know? I think any great composer goes through this thought of how to bring your creative flow to make it happen; then after you get into this mood to play whatever you feel, whatever you want, the songs come much easier and then you’re just really happy with the results.

D: How would you say this one compares to your previous solo albums?

KL: I always try to get the instrumental music to have this really good feeling that I feel great about playing. And then of course I want to transmit that to the listener, so with all my albums somehow, I think that is the main point. I know I have a lot of stuff that is quite technical, I know that because I spent a lot of my teenage time…

D: Working on it?

KL: (laughs) Yeah, but all my songs I try to compose like every songwriter would do — “A/B” parts and a chorus, some catchy hooks on the melody, so I don’t go totally to the technical — although I like it, I play fast stuff and add a lot of guitar layers. All my albums have that; some… my second album UNIVERSO INVERSO I did much more Brazilian fusion like Latin rhythms, I love acoustic guitar, Brazilian acoustic guitar, I play a lot of that. In all my albums I have a little acoustic or some songs that are really Brazilian with percussion and the melodies that come from my heart, come from my childhood when I learned Brazilian music. So that’s what I try to do on all my albums, sometimes I’m heavier, sometimes not as much, it depends.

D: The whole album is so good I hate to single anything out but let me ask you about a few of my favorites…

KL: Oh sure.

D: “Reflective” has some great atmospheric parts and excellent melodies…

KL: Yeah that’s like a very innocent song because I did the riff, which is like the main melody, and I just like it, it’s super simple, the harmony, then the solo part and at the end I tried to put some extra chords just to make it not so simple or a little bit more interesting somehow, but I love it!

D: It’s easy to listen to…

KL: It feels good; it’s funny — I mean it’s not funny, it is what it is — but everybody mentions this song because for everybody it has this good feeling. Even Virgil Donati the drummer, who is like well-known to people — this super technical guy — he always tells me he loved to record this song, he really likes that song. So I think it is very important that in my albums I have songs like that to balance out the technical.

D: Right, good contrast. “El Gujiro” utilizes some great rhythms. Speaking of Virgil Donati, how did he get involved in the project?

KL: Well Virgil I have known for a few years and I always wanted to ask him to record my album and it just came the time now. I did pretty much the demo with the drums programmed and the percussion as well, so my demo was quite clear as to what I wanted for the song, then he could add all his great playing because he is amazing, he made the song even better. A really fun song to play because although I am Brazilian, this is really a Cuban kind of groove, I try to bring the congas, this kind of Cuban, or a bit of Santana — I like kind of being a heavier Santana, I’m a big fan of Carlos Santana and the way he mixes the Latin thing with rock. I try to do something like that, in a different way of course — this song is pretty much that Latino/Cuban thing, that’s why I put the name “El Gujiro” which is a Spanish name for “normal guy.”

D: Yeah I was wondering what that meant! (laughs)

KL: So yeah it’s really representing the Cuban groove, it’s fun — then I put a lot of heavy stuff, tuned down one step trying to be very heavy, it was fun.

D: I’m a big fan of Al Di Meola…

KL: Oh yeah! Al Di Meola is also a very good reference, I’m a bit heavier probably! (laughs)

D: Yeah! (laughs) “Twisted Horizon” seems like a real technical challenge. Is it difficult to play that type of thing live?

KL: Oh yes, it is. This is like a happier song, it’s kind of rock n’ roll in A Major; my songs are really very much minor and melancholic, a Brazilian thing or Portuguese you know, but “Ray Of Life” is another song that is major and happier. Sometimes I like to play a bit slower but I also like to combine parts to make the song work sometimes, just play a little bit faster and that makes everything a bit more difficult to play; the chorus of this song is quite difficult to play. It shouldn’t be that fast but for the song to sound cool in general I had to put a few points faster in the song and it’s quite challenging to play, but it’s fun.

D: “A Perfect Rhyme” sounds like it could be film music. Were you thinking cinematically when you came up with that?

KL: I really like this song. What happened was, the album was done, drums were recorded, guitars were almost all finished. So normally you compose and then you take some time to prepare everything then you start recording; it’s not a fast process. So from the beginning of my songwriting to the proper finishing, like mixing, it was maybe eight months, so my baby was born already, your life changes a lot in eight months, so I wanted to have a song that represented the actual moment I was living. So I thought why not have an ending song that was more relaxed? In all my albums I always like to have an ending song that is more relaxed. Then I sat down at the piano with only that idea — I tried to do something that was more like a lullaby or something for my child — and I sat down at the piano and luckily this song came one night. Sometimes this happens, sometimes not, but I think I wanted it to happen, so it happened. I really liked the melody, but I thought I’m doing this on the piano but it would be cool to have this kind of Jeff Beck “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” — this Thelonius Monk song that Jeff Beck recorded for his WIRED album — it’s not a piano song but I had this in mind, I want to do something like Jeff Beck. I’m not Jeff Beck of course (laughs) but this kind of vibe, his jazzy, fusion time in the ’70s. So that was my concept, it was not a movie track or some kind of soundtrack; but in the end I started doing some orchestration and I said “Wow, that’s cool,” so I’m going to do stuff like that, piano orchestration with the guitar a kind of Jeff Beck vibe. But yeah, it sounds pretty much like a soundtrack, but it’s nice, I would love to do more stuff like that, be hired by someone from Hollywood! (laughs)

D: I think it would work! Do you find with songwriting you get ideas at anytime or do you have to be with your instrument?

KL: I can sing melodies at anytime — it can be in the shower, I can be walking, you know, but I really like to be with acoustic guitar in my hands. It doesn’t have to be in the studio though it can be anyplace, a hotel room, in the kitchen, doing whatever. Actually it is better when I’m doing nothing, just hanging with acoustic guitar in your hand, you’re not like forcing yourself to compose…

D: It just kind of flows?

KL: Yeah, and maybe just a little idea comes and you say “Oh, that’s cool,” then if you have an iPhone around or computer you record that. If it’s a very good idea normally you are going to play that same idea the next day, if it’s something that really catches you, you’re probably going to play again and this melody is going to come back to your mind naturally, and that’s the way to get the first melodic or harmonic ideas. Of course after that you have to sit down in front of the computer and work on how you are going to present the song, and that’s a lot of work!

D: I can imagine! (laughs)

KL: It’s part perspiration and part inspiration, like, “Okay, let me sequence the drums, the drums don’t work let me try another one and another one, let me try it with piano and then acoustic or with hard, heavy guitars.” Some songs you have ideas from the beginning but with some songs you’re lost, songs can be presented in so many ways, like Beatles songs, you know when people record Beatles songs so many ways…

D: Different versions…

KL: Different versions but they are all great, doesn’t matter the version. So sometimes when you like the melody you have to work… “How am I going to present this melody to people?” Then it takes time, a lot of time. Then to view the song because you may have a “A” part or an “A/B” part, then you need an intro and an interlude, a solo part, a “C” part, and outro, it takes time…

D: There’s a lot to it.

KL: Oh yeah. And mainly if you are going to do it by yourself, you know programming the drums, playing the keyboards, this takes time. If you have a band you can bring them a starting idea so they just jam and something comes; bands are great. Or if you have a partner you have two brains working on a solution for the songs. But when you are alone a solo album is very demanding, consumes a lot of your mental energy.

D: The album has a great sound. What kind of gear are you currently using?

KL: Thanks! A lot of stuff actually. I use a Laney amp which is this British amp — of course the studio we used in Finland has all the amps so some of the songs we used other stuff, a little bit of Mesa Boogie, a little bit of Marshall but mainly the Laney, a little bit of the Fractal Audio combined with some pedals… I really don’t remember any more! (laughs) But mainly this: you have a lot of toys and you just go for it. The sound that I normally use live is the Laney amps and my guitar which is handmade in Brazil, but like for some songs where I want a Strat sound I have a Fender, I use a lot of Fender on the album. When the song doesn’t need the super technical thing, the tapping and all this, I use the Strat; I use Ibanez as well. But in the studio the guy had a lot of guitars, so sometimes for just for one melody you put a Gibson, for the riffs maybe an Ibanez, a Strat or something else. As I record I put a lot of layers of guitar — I don’t do like a power trio and put just one track of guitar. I double the riffs maybe two or four times then I add overdubs doing guitar with delays or chords with a lot of effects or substituting keyboards, then I double the stuff. I do more like Steve Vai does, orchestrating with the guitar. Some songs are simple, some songs are more complex. So when you’re doing that, you experiment a lot with different guitars just to have this different inspiration to it. Different amps, different pedals, different effects — I think that’s the cool thing about being in the studio.

D: You get to play with all the toys…

KL: Yes!

D: I notice the album is already up on Spotify. Are you familiar with the site?

KL: Yeah, yeah, I was living in Europe — now I am in L.A., West Hollywood — but the last few years I was more in Europe and Spotify has been there for several years; it’s quite a big thing. What I discovered is that it is good, it’s better than YouTube in a way because you can hear the whole album and it’s easier to do some research or just listen to some old albums…

D: That you may not have heard before…

KL: Yeah, so it’s cool, it’s good to be there. If you want to talk about the money part, the pay…

D: That’s no good. (laughs)

KL: (laughs) Yeah, that’s no good; I think the advantage of the streaming site is so I can listen to stuff that I wouldn’t otherwise be listening to, just to see what is there…

D: Experiment…

KL: Yeah, like people playing a bouzouki in Greece. (laughs) Whatever, and you find some cool stuff, very cool stuff. Sometimes practicing guitar or studying music is a lot about research, listening to all this stuff; in this regard the Internet and Spotify are great because you hear musicians from countries that you’ve never been in, you could never have the chance to know these artists, so it’s cool, yeah.

D: Looking at your website I see you have some live dates in Brazil next month. Any plans to do a solo tour here in the US?

KL: Not yet but we are working on that!

D: We’d love to see you!

KL: Yes, I really want to play in the US. I’m based in the US now for a long time so I’m getting more connections here. As I’ve been touring and living in Europe I had more connections there and in South America but I want to do some stuff in the US for sure this year, it’s gonna happen!

D: Well I have to ask you about Angra — any new music coming up?

KL: We kind of stopped for awhile because we had some issues with the singer [Edu Falaschi] and he is no longer with us anymore but we had this invitation for the 70,000 Tons Of Metal Cruise…

D: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that!

KL: We felt like “Should we go, or not?” Then we asked our friend Fabio Lione from Italy and he sang the songs great — we were so excited having him so we could be part of the festival, it was really awesome. So we were invited to play the big Live N’ Louder festival in Brazil in April, so we’re going to do it and probably do a small tour just to get the band excited to go on the road again; we’re really happy with that. After that we’re going to sit down and start composing. Of course we are always collecting ideas but it’s different than a solo project, you have to work as a band, not like everyone learning their stuff by computer. We need time as a band; we always work that way and we like that. So after this tour we will probably sit down and compose new material.

D: You have several instructional DVDs out including CREATIVE FUSION. Any plans for more of those in the future?

KL: Not really. I was open to the invitation and I know I’m going to record for a company in the UK called JamTracks Central; they asked me to do some stuff for them so I’m probably going to do that in the next couple of months. It’s not really instructional stuff but they do scores, transcribe and sell the package with the songs. But yeah, when I did CREATIVE FUSION for RockHouse I did record more stuff for them; I don’t know if they are going to release it one day. I really like teaching and talking about practicing so I’ve been doing a lot of guitar clinics as well; it’s fun. I like to show people and talk about music, tell people the way I did it and help them to get inspired, practice, play and enjoy music. It’s a good way to go in life.

D: I really liked the NEURAL CODE album. Will you be doing another jazz-rock fusion project like that?

KL: Yeah that was a project with two friends of mine, amazing players. People don’t know about it much as it was a small project but it was great. Of course we want to do more but everyone is very busy. I’m not living in Brazil anymore so I don’t meet the guys that often but they are super talented, the best guys I’ve ever played with. Well I couldn’t say that because I’ve played with so many great players… But it was really fun to compose together; the three of us had that creative flow we were talking about and all the songs came about one a day. We did a rehearsal with eight songs and recorded it. So yeah we want to do it, it sounds simple but it’s not because you have to get everyone together over many days and it’s not that easy. For me it’s great because I can develop all these skills with guitar and music, it inspires me when I play my solo stuff, it’s fun.

D: I’d like to hear another one of those and an acoustic album, I really like your acoustic playing…

KL: Yeah, acoustic is my dream. After I do that I can die. (laughs)

D: We’ll wait for awhile on that then! (laughs)

KL: That’s something that I really like, to play acoustic guitar at home and for practice. Last year I did an acoustic tour and when you play an instrument, you want to feel you are really a player of that instrument — like, I play piano but I don’t feel like I’m a pianist, I’m just a guitarist who plays some piano; I can sing, but I’m not a singer. The acoustic guitar is the same — I feel I’m an electric guitar player, I don’t feel like I’m an acoustic guitarist, but the last few years I’ve been trying to convince myself that I can be an acoustic guitar player as well. To belong to these kind of people who play acoustic, it is a different kind of relationship, a different music background and you have to be in the circle of people who are really acoustic players — the magazines, the interviews, the instruments, the luthiers — it’s a different group of people, a different mentality. So I did this tour to get into that, I was playing acoustic festivals and hanging with acoustic guys and I had the feeling that “Okay, I can belong to this group of people.” So that’s my goal, to keep practicing and to try to get into the circle of the acoustic people. Then I can be more confident to record an album, because it’s quite serious to record an album and say “Okay, I’m an acoustic guitar player.” I don’t want to be an electric guitar player trying to play acoustic guitar, I want to be an acoustic guitar player.

D: I’m looking forward to hearing that.

KL: I’m working on it! Jason Becker was very important to me, I was talking to him maybe two years ago and he was talking with his eyes, the way he does, and he told me “I love your acoustic guitar playing, you should record an acoustic guitar album.”

D: That’s a great endorsement.

KL: Yeah, so now I have to do it.

D: Well Kiko I know you have other interviews to do, is there anything you would like to add in closing?

KL: I would like people to listen to SOUNDS OF INNOCENCE and take a look at the other albums…

D: I will promote them to the best of my ability — I love all of them, all your stuff is excellent.

KL: Just spend some time with my music and understand what I am proposing as a composer and guitar player, and hopefully keep in contact via Facebook or email to find out when I’m playing in the US. I’m going to be busier doing more stuff in the US for sure. I’d love to play more in the US and show my music there.

D: There’s a lot of people here who would love to see you! I appreciate you taking time to do this interview, I’ll keep in touch!

KL: Cool, great! Thanks!

Relevant links:


Kiko Loureiro

*** OUT ***

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