Interview: Tony Hernando

Guglielmo Malusardi: Well Tony, let's start by talking about you, and your real beginnings as a guitar player. How old were you when you "started the fire"?

Tony Hernando: I first started studying classical music, theory and liitle bit of singing and piano when I was nine years old at the Conservatory. At that time, I only knew classical music, but I discovered hard rock soon and realized it was not only exciting and powerful music, but good music too!

Guglielmo Malusardi: Who were your biggest inspirations at that time?

Tony Hernando: First it was metal; Iron Maiden, Ozzy, Van Halen and Kiss, but as soon as I heard Yngwie for the first time, that was it! I was captivated! Then came all the "Shrapnel years" - Macalpine, Tafolla and Vinnie Moore, I was deeply into all those albums.

Guglielmo Malusardi: When did you really think, "I want to be a professional guitar player?" Did your family support you in your decision to become a professional musician?

Tony Hernando: At that time, I was about 16 and did not have any help or understanding from my family, who only want me to play classical music. I began to save all the money I could for my music books, videos and I dreamed about going to G.I.T.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Well, let's talk now about your latest release, "III" (his previous releases were "High" and "The Shades Of Truth"). How long was the whole creation process?.

Tony Hernando: About nine months of writing, rehearsal, recording, and mixing - it's a lot of work!

Guglielmo Malusardi: You did your own production on the CD; is because you like that everything sounds exactly as you want?

Tony Hernando: Yeah, I have a pretty finished picture in my mind, but many of the songs develop or grow in a very different way. It depends on the vibe of the musicians with me, changes in our moods, etc.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Let's talk about the musicians that played with you on "III".

Tony Hernando: I called Mike Terrana again, because we are friends, he is one of my all time favs and he is just so professional and has a great energy and character; perfect for my music. I must say that when I'm writing I'm already thinking about his drumming, so when he is actually recording my session I'm enjoying it a lot, because we don't have as much stress; is a very positive feeling, which also makes the music of "III" much more focused and punchier. On bass, I wanted the participation of my actual bandmate Alvaro Tenorio for most of the album, although I called Pepe Bao like I always do. Victor Diez played few keyboards here and there.

Guglielmo Malusardi: William Stravato appears as special guest, with a guitar solo on track 8 - "Sci-Fi To Reality". I personally found the collaboration really amazing. The combination of your personal and different styles could, in my personal opinion, create a very good "duo album". Have you (and William) ever thought about it?

Tony Hernando: Thank you for the comment. "Sci-Fi To Reality" has turned into one of people's favorite tracks on the album! Which I did not expect! I knew it was very different from the rest of the songs, but I still wanted to play some fusion stuff like before, so I just went for it and gave a lot of freedom to the rest of the guys. Yeah, William and I are great mates and we look forward working on something bigger in the future.

Guglielmo Malusardi: You covered a Joey Tafolla track from "Out Of The Sun". Was there any particular reason for its inclusion?

Tony Hernando: Yes! It was my tribute and personal thanks to one of the finest and greatest guitarists, and one of my best friends by the way! As I told you before, I grew up with all those Shrapnel albums, so I decided to pay a tribute to Joey and that whole scene through this song.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Give us some technical information about the recording process - which "toys" did you use?

Tony Hernando: A few Ibanez guitars and a Bogner Ecstasy amplifier, which is just beautiful and inspiring.

interview pic

Guglielmo Malusardi: Was it a process like "good at first take, maximum at the second", or did you play even hundreds before being satisfied?

Tony Hernando: It depends. The feeling, accuracy, tone - so many factors - and we are always trying to have them all in every note!

Guglielmo Malusardi: How do you compose your music? What comes first, melodies? Riffs? Or both?

Tony Hernando: It depends too. There are songs that started with just a riff, like "Into The Black" and "The Awakening". Others sprang from melodies, such as "Now" and "Truer Than Ever".

Guglielmo Malusardi: What about solos? Do you improvise, or you write your solos beforehand?

Tony Hernando: I'd say that 75% are well-writen and rehearsed beforehand, but some are improvised, or built up during the recording takes.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Tell us something about your "relationship" with your guitars. Do you collect guitars?

Tony Hernando: No, I don't like to collect, because I don't have the money and I just want guitars for playing. I feel really bad owning a guitar which has not been even touched in just a week.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Do you practice a lot? Do you have a usual routine?

Tony Hernando: When I was a student I worked hard on exercises and all that, but now I just play or rehearse my repertoire...Although I am also still teaching, so I'm constantly recalling all the old exercises - no way of getting out of them!

Guglielmo Malusardi: Now let's talk about your own gear, are you endorsed?

Tony Hernando: Yes, I've been endorsed by Ibanez for 5 years now, also Dean Markley strings, and I just signed with Bogner last year.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Do you use the same gear in the studio and also live?

Tony Hernando: Pretty much. Same guitars and amps and different effects. We use some delays and reverbs on the album, but I don't use reverb live, just a delay pedal, wah, and maybe some chorus on clean sounds. I've changed my mentality about this issue drastically when I started to play with the Bogner, since it sounds so good that doesn't need anything else. I used to use a lot of useless crap that only screwed up my tone and playing. Thank God that we learn from our mistakes!

Guglielmo Malusardi: From "High" to "III", how do you feel you've changed as a musician through the years?

Tony Hernando: I'm a better writer and producer now. Sure, I'm playing better also, but that doesn't mean I play faster or whatever - just better. Now I can express myself better through my music and playing. I really had this feeling while recording "III", and it is a liberation.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Let's talk now about one of the most interesting events for Spanish guitar fans that, thanks to you, can now admire great players every year: GuitarFest (the bill in 2004 included the Richie Kotzen band, the Tony Hernando band and William Stravato). Where did the idea originate, and will it continue?

Tony Hernando: I started with this idea (a la Satriani's G3) just for helping with the guitar scene here. It is getting better, so it looks like it will continue every year with different and great guitarists!

Guglielmo Malusardi: How is the musical scene in Spain? Is there a good situation for instrumental music?

Tony Hernando: I guess like anywhere else - pretty underground!

Guglielmo Malusardi: Do you also work as a studio musician?

Tony Hernando: When time permits I do some sessions, or arrange and write music for others, but it has to be something I like, or I will not do it. Money is not everything for me.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Do you play in a cover band?

Tony Hernando: No, but sometime I arrange some gigs with some bandmates under the name Classic Rock Band. We play Whitesnake,Thin Lizzy, Ozzy, Journey - just for fun.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Do you teach?

Tony Hernando: Yes I do teach, which I love, fortunately. I normally have intermediate to advanced students.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Some guitar players like to listen other guitarist's music, some not so much, and some others not at all. What about you?

Tony Hernando: I used to listen a lot to learn as much I could, but not that much now.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Which instrumental song would you have liked to have written?

Tony Hernando: Let's see, it would be probably "Hundred Of Thousands" from Tony Macalpine's "Maximum Security" record. Every time I play that song I go crazy!

Guglielmo Malusardi: Tell me the three best guitar solos ever, in your opinion.

Tony Hernando: Steve Vai "Hot Dog And A Shake", Yngwie "Rising Force", Randy Rhoads "Mr. Crowley", John Sykes "Holy War". You said three? The list could go on forever.

Guglielmo Malusardi: I know you always have such good musicians around you, but let's put in this way - if you could have the chance to choose your "dream band", who will you choose to play with you?

Tony Hernando: Ah! Mike Terrana on drums - a dream already came true! Billy Sheehan on bass.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Back to your last release, in a time when it is not so easy to find labels that give you the chance to release an instrumental, guitar-oriented CD, would you like to talk about Lars Eric Mattsson's label Lion Music?

Tony Hernando: It's great! A guy with such a passion for the guitar and he's building a whole new scene!

Guglielmo Malusardi: How do you see the future situation for instrumental, guitar-oriented music?

Tony Hernando: Only time will tell!

Guglielmo Malusardi: In my personal opinion, instrumental music is the highest form of musical art. Every human being from every country, language and even religion can enjoy it totally without any barrier. What's your opinion about it?

Tony Hernando: Any form of musical art is great and respectable, and the best thing is that music is just universal.

Guglielmo Malusardi: What's your idea to help "spread the word" and keep the business alive and maybe (hopefully) increase it?

Tony Hernando: Keeping the good playing and music, keep on improving and contributing with the GuitarFest idea.

Guglielmo Malusardi: What's going on with your musical life? What are you doing, some new project for the future?

Tony Hernando: Yes, sure. You will see hot news soon on my web site!

interview picture
Let's move to Madrid, Spain to meet "the heaviest Spanish thing", Tony Hernando . He recently released his third solo CD, entitled "III", his second recording for Finland's Lion Music. Hernando is also the "Deus ex machina" of the best annual Spanish electric guitar event: the GuitarFest.

Guglielmo Malusardi sat down with Tony Hernando to discuss his latest CD and talk about all things musical.