Guitar Lords (Mexico)
Jorge Miranda, Guitar Lords Manager, February 1, 2004
1- The amazing Tom Hess, thanks for your time!
Tom Hess: It is my pleasure, thank you.
2- Please tell us about your personal history and background for the fans at Mexico.
Tom Hess: I began playing 18 years ago as a kid. Def Leppard and Metallica were my early influences, followed by Iron Maiden and Ozzy. Later I heard Yngwie and then the rest of the Shrapnel players (Becker, MacAlpine, Friedman, Gilbert, etc.). In the 1990s I heard Dream Theater and Symphony X and those guys really influenced me too. George Bellas and Andy LaRocque were huge influences on me as well. I listen to a lot of classical music though (Chopin, Bach, Mahler, Wagner, Liszt, Gorecki). Chopin's 24 preludes (Opus 28) really changed my life (musically and personally) forever and to this day are my favorite pieces of all time. I studied music at Harper college, where I met Mike Walsh (the other guitarist in HESS). After graduating Harper college, I studied classical music composition at Roosevelt University to earn the second music degree there.
3- What motivated you to want to learn to play the guitar?
Tom Hess: When I was about 11 years old, I began to like rock music and guitar, I also noticed that the girls at school also did. At the same time, I heard the Def Leppard album, Pyromania, that was the first musical seed that was planted inside me. Over the years, my reasons for wanting to compose, play and record music evolved of course. Now, composing and recording the HESS cds are like my personal diary, they are my thoughts, emotions, ideals, regrets, sorrows, hopes, dreams, desires and secrets.
4- I always figured you could play pretty much any style you wanted, but what do you like to play a lot?
Tom Hess: I don't want to play other styles really. I grew up playing heavy metal music, but the HESS band is more progressive and sometimes neo-classical and Romantic era in style. I studied both Jazz and Classical guitar in college, but I don't play much of either now.
5- Tell us about your technique and how you developed it?
Tom Hess: Most of my technique is based on my right hand (picking hand). My right hand is far more advanced than my left hand could ever be. I use directional picking technique (also called economy picking or inside picking), it allows my right hand to do anything that my left hand wants to do. I had lots of guitar teachers since I first started playing, but the best three were: Randy Pierce, Jack Wilson and the great George Bellas. Those guys showed me early on how to develop my technique to the level it is at today. I really owe all three of them a lot. My vibrato technique was taken from Andy LaRocque and great singers (specifically Fabio Leone - singer of the band Rhapsody).
6- When you were a kid, did you ever think that you would someday be considered one of the best guitar players of the world?
Tom Hess: No. I knew I wanted to play very much, but I wasn't even thinking about how good I might, or might not, become later in life. When I went to High School, things changed a little bit, because I knew I was one of the better players there and I thought that I needed to take music even more seriously and find a better teacher - which I did. It wasn't until years later when I started hearing players like George Bellas and Michael Angelo and Francesco Fareri (all players whom I like and respect) telling me that I was a great player. It was so strange for me to hear these great players saying these things about me because I had thought these guys to be among the very greatest ever. Anyway, I am very very honored that anyone would think such a high thing about me, but it is not my goal to be better than anyone else or to be compared to any other players. I write and play music at a very high level because that is what is needed to express certain things that I wish to express musically.
7- Who are your main influences?
Tom Hess: The most important musical influence for me is Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849). Others are: J.S. Bach, Gorecki, Brahms, Mahler, Wagner, Liszt and Beethoven. As for guitar players: Yngwie (of course), Jason Becker, George Bellas, Marty Friedman, Andy LaRocque and Mike Walsh (the other guitarist in the HESS band) and lots of others too.
8- Who is your favorite guitar player?
Tom Hess: Hard to say because I like different players for different reasons. Here is a short list: Andy LaRocque (for vibrato and phrasing) Jason Becker (for phrasing and improvising) George Bellas (for technique and composition) Mike Walsh (for phrasing) Marty Freidman (for phrasing) Yngwie (well, it's Yngwie so you know he has to be on the list!)
9- What projects are you currently working on?
Tom Hess: I always have multiple things in progress. I'm composing the next HESS CD (Opus 3). Mike Walsh and I have wanted to do a side project and make an acoustic guitar CD together. I have many classical compositions that I would like to have recorded by a great pianist and orchestra and would like to make a cd of those (without any guitar). And I am working on a new project with Joey DeMaio (Manowar's bass player and songwriter). Joey owns Magic Circle Music (a record company in New York) and we are working together on a new heavy metal band with a great female singer- the band is called Holyhell. (actually Guitar Lords is the very first magazine or web site to find out about this - I haven't released this news yet to anyone else)
10- Do you love doing live performances?
Tom Hess: Yes.
11- Where is the line between performer and musician for you?
Tom Hess: In the HESS band, we see ourselves as artists and musicians, not entertainers. In the Holyhell band it will be sometimes art, but mostly a performance/entertainment role.
12- Let's move on to the "Opus 2" record. Was this a particularly challenging album for you to make?
Tom Hess: Yes it was for many reasons. I spent 3 years composing the music, I have the ability to compose quickly, but I wanted the music on Opus 2 to be exactly the way I envisioned it, so I needed to take the time to get it right. From a playing perspective, it was also more difficult than Opus 1 because I am a better player now so the demands on myself were also higher.
13- What?s the meaning of this record to you?
Tom Hess: It is very similar to what a diary or journal would mean to someone except that this is much more artistic and the most deeply personal to me. It is my greatest work so far.
14- What?s your favorite song from this new record?
Tom Hess: I don't think I can choose only one. (sorry).
15- Have you ever done a song or album that you wish you could go back in time and un-do? If so, which one, and why?
Tom Hess: I am generally proud of all that I have released so far, it would have been nice to have had more money when I made Opus 1. Opus 2 has better production than Opus 1 because Opus 1 sales were excellent and that brought in a lot more money for me to make improvements in the studio when recording Opus 2.
16- What are your thoughts on the state of instrumental guitar these days?
Tom Hess: It is better than it was 10 years ago, but I think there are still less opportunities for great players than there was in the mid-late 1980s. However it seems to be getting better now.
17- What do you think about the new crop of talented Guitar players that are currently out there making music?
Tom Hess: I am happy with the new guys out there, there many great players now, my favorites are: Francesco Farerri (he and I are very close personal friends) he is an extreme shredder! Also Rusty Cooley and Tony Smotherman are both amazing as well a lot of the players you can hear at guitar9.com
18- O.K. Time for the heady question that I've been wanting to ask. You are easily one of the most influential guitar players on the scene today for kids that are coming up. How does that make you feel?
Tom Hess: It's a strange feeling actually. It has taken a long time for me to get to this point where I am musically (over 20 years) and I was always the one looking up to my own guitar heroes (Yngwie, Becker, LaRocque, etc.). Now I receive a lot of e-mails and letters from younger players coming up that express their support and appreciation to me (and Mike). It is a very cool and nice thing and I am grateful that I have had the good fortune to inspire others, but it's still hard for me to see myself as one who other musicians look up to.
19- When all is said and done, years from now, how would you want people to remember Tom Hess?
Tom Hess: As the Chopin of the electric guitar.
20- What will be next for Tom Hess?
Tom Hess: I'm in the process of signing a big record deal with Magic Circle Music to join the Holyhell band. There will be a big European tour. At the same time, I am composing the next HESS album, Opus 3. Eventually, Mike and I want to do an acoustic guitar CD as well.
21- And can we expect to see you in Mexico any time soon?
Tom Hess: I would love to come to Mexico to do some concerts and possibly some instructional clinics there too. Currently the HESS band is not known enough in Mexico to make a tour there, but perhaps Holyhell will tour there in 2005.
22- Is there anything else you would like to share with us that I have not asked?
Tom Hess: I wish to say thank you to everyone at Guitar Lords and also to my fans in Mexico for all of their support over the last few years!
Thanks for your time Tom, we really appreciated it!, we wish you all the best!!!
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