February 23, 2004
1. According to your bio, HESS's music is described as progressive rock with 19th century romantic music and neo-classical music. How did your particular genre mix evolve?
Tom Hess: I grew up listening to old Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Ozzy, Helloween, Savatage, etc. In high school I heard Yngwie Malmsteen and that blew me away on many levels. In the early 1990s I heard Dream Theater and then Symphony X and George Bellas. Meanwhile, I attended music colleges and studied classical music theory, history, etc. I heard Chopin's (1810-1849) Opus 28 (The 24 Preludes) in late 1994 and that changed my life (personally and musically). Chopin, being a Romantic composer sparked my interest to study his music and the music of other composers from that era (1820s-1900). The uses of expanded tonal harmony, modulations to distantly related keys, expansion of dynamic ranges, pitch ranges, etc. and of course the intense emotion and virtuosity.
2. HESS is also unique by having two virtuoso guitar players. Was that the intention when you started in '95?
Tom Hess: Yes it was. There were two guitarists from the beginning. The player we had before Mike Walsh joined the band was Joe LaBanco (guitarist of Fretfire).
3. Who or what inspires HESS to write and present its' unique sound and do all members share in the writing process?
Tom Hess: I am the composer, the other guys sometimes improvise their own parts, but the basic ideas are mine. The inspiration comes from my own life experiences.
4. What's the audience feedback when performing your material?
Tom Hess: When we first started playing shows, we noticed that some people seemed to be really into the music and the band (loud applause after each piece we played, etc.) And others were more silent. We assumed that everyone who was silent or not showing a lot of outward appreciation for the music must not like it. But after the shows we always had many of these more quiet people coming up top us and saying how much they loved the music, but our music for them was an emotional and thought provoking experience more than an adrenaline rush of entertainment. That's cool for us because that shows that we have connected with at least some of the people on a much deeper level.
5. HESS offers two CD releases, "OPUS 1" and "OPUS 2", what would a listener expect from your offerings to date?
Tom Hess: moments of intense emotion, virtuosity, rhythmic integrity. A tapestry of thoughts and feelings done in a high art way.
6. Any plans for third CD release this year?
Tom Hess: No, not for HESS. Opus 2 was released January 5th, 2004. I am composing Opus 3 now, but it will take more than a year to write it.
7. What has been HESS's greatest success with your music thus far?
Tom Hess: The manifestation of complex emotional and thought content into music.
8. Can you recall a particular event that makes all your work worthwhile?
Tom Hess: The completion of every piece that I write.
9. When HESS isn't recording or out on the road, what do you guys do for fun? (*optional - although these questions are often fun to answer)
Tom Hess: I like traveling to Europe and spending time with my family, that's my fun outside of music. Scott and Mike are into fast cars and drag racing. Mark is into movies.
10. What's upcoming for HESS? Anything in particular you'd like to plug?
Tom Hess: Eventually Opus 3, but that's a long way off from now. We are doing some live dates in Spring 2004, but those dates are not confirmed yet.
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