I was born in a town called Otjo, in South Africa where I lived til I was five years old. At the age of four, I saw a drum set for the first time. It was a Jazz drummer on a TV show. That was my first contact with the instrument, and the only, for many years. I landed in Brazil in 1977, more exactly in “Foz do Iguaçu”, and, in love with football, I soon started to play professionally, for the town team and so far I was sure that I’d be a great player. But in 1985, with the first “Rock in Rio”, things started getting other dimensions, and that vision I’d had when I was four started making more sense to me. During the festival, I made a drum set with cans, ice cream bowls, gas gallons and I started making some noise on the back yard. One year later, with some school friends, I started dubling a Brazilian band called “Ultraje a Rigor” [see picture]. Since then my life changed and I would only dream of becoming a great drummer. My first drum set was composed of a Snare and a tom (which I’d borrowed from the school band and I never took back), a bass drum, a hi-hat and a cymbal, which was hung on the ceiling.
I remember that, almost every week, we used to go to a TV show, in a new tv broadcaster, and in one of these shows, a ball band called “Tropical Band” saw me playing, actually dubling, and its members found I had the talent. They went to that TV Channel looking for me and invited me to play with them. I went down to the bar, in the same evening, imagining that they’d teach me the songs and everything... I was definetely wrong. After arriving there we had dinner, had a chat and right after, the bar was already crowded and they simply turned to me: “Let’s go, Menudo, let’s play”.
I sat behind the drums and wondered how I was gonna play if I’d never played a complete drum set, neither with those guys. That was how my professional life as a drummer started: Every night I was up there playing and the next day, I would get up at 7h00 in the morning to go to school. That was a tough year but at the same time really useful for my development as a drummer.
The first band I joined with my “huge” drum set was “Stylo Livre” in 1987 [see picture] [listen to song], and the same story repeated, the members of this band saw me playing with the “Tropical Band” and liked my performance, so, in the following week, they invited me to play with them. At that time, everything was recent and new and the fact that we were the only Rock Band in town opened up some doors and gave us opportunities that nowadays an amateur band wouldn’t have. We used to perform in several TV and Radio Station programs as well as be shown in magazines and newspapers.
At that time, an essential fact for my musical directing happened: I listened to “Caught somewhere in time” by Iron Maiden on a local radio station and after that, getting to know all the discography of this band would be a major influence for many years. We all believed in the future of our band, Stylo Livre, and the bass player, really on it, bought a drum set for the band and I could finally play a real instrument. Everything was like a dream until one day, I found out my family was moving to Porto Alegre and I could no longer stay in Foz do Iguaçu. I fought against it until the last day but I really couldn’t stay, I was only 17 (and I still had a lot to do for my life).
As soon as I arrived in Porto Alegre, I got really excited, because there was a local bands movement that were starting to get some space in the country’s musical scene, and I thought I could brighten up my path to success. But, it was much worse than I expected, I couldn’t join any band and I also couldn’t get in any school where I would possibly make new friends and get to know some people in the business. Finally, after some time, I got back to the studies and a guy invited me to join his band because he had seen me beating in class and was wondering if I were a drummer.
The band was called “Nômades de KZAK” [see picture] [listen to song]. We made some performances but the musical differences soon started to show and not so long after, I left the band.
In the beginning of 1989 I started leaving some adds offering myself as a drummer in many studios and finally someone called me, this time the band was “Lucas Scariotys” [see picture] [listen to song]. This band was closer to what I wanted to do: a heavy music without rules. I joined the band for almost two years and during this period we played in many shows and also started to find some differences on what we thought about the band’s future.
I’ve always wanted to work with music and try to live off it, even having to do some paralel jobs while joining the bands. I started to realize that it wasn’t that easy to find the right people to have a band and again, I left the band after watching the movie “The Doors”, as all the band thought we should have that same non-commiting behaviour and after hearing that, I left and was looking for another band. That only made me hate “The Doors” even more...
It was already June 1991 and there I was, again checking the newspaper adds. I had finally found a heavy metal band, “Spartacus” [see picture] [listen to song] and my only doubt was whether I’d have technical conditions to play with them, as it was a respected andwell known band in Porto Alegre.
I had just turned 20 and believing, more than ever, that my future would be the drums and there I was, in auditions, to be chosen.
I was really happy, as I was joining a cult band in town. We rehearsed a lot and started playing some concerts to present our new members, who were well in tune.
Yet in the same year, we recorded a new demo tape and headed to the biggest step of the band, with the new group, a concert with three other bands in an auditorium for five thousand people. For our total surprise the search for tickets was so unexpressive that it was cancelled and within it, our union and wish to continue playing together were gone. The band was excellent, but there was something telling me that the time hadn’t come yet. At that same time, besides Spartacus, I joined my first cover band, “Raro Efeito” [see picture] [listen to song], which later on, had the lead singer from Spartacus joining in. The band was there for almost two years, and without concerts, it became past.
In the following year, 1992, I had come to a decisive and fundamental year for my career. I joined a band called “Ecos do Silêncio” [see picture], which was composed by people much younger than me and, because of that, had no commitment at all to take the band seriously, they just wanted to play in some school festivals and nothing else. My time in the band was meteorical and also without any commitment, as I was in the band only with the purpose of not losing my practice. It was in that year that I finally could watch an Iron Maiden concert in Porto Alegre and, stuck on the hedge, I saw that, as it was my own band, as a flash of the future. I had to go on, I couldn’t give up.
On the next day I had a serious talk with my sister and I asked her to finance an imported new drum set. The next month, after being a pain in the ass, I got my first imported drums with the mission of getting a new cover band to pay off my debt. The band “Hora H” [see picture] [listen to song], played many concerts and travelled all around the state of “Rio Grande do Sul”. For the first time in my life I started to get some money with music, but I didn’t have a band making their own music and songs and that started bothering me a lot.
I was looking for a new band, but continued with “Hora H” and then I got to know the band I’d most believed so far, “Pistys Sophia” [see picture] [listen to song]. This band had a great potential and, more than that, style and musicians much more experienced than me (the band had Ivan Zukauskas, from the extinct Astaroth – Local Band), and it was then that I felt the necessity of playing with double bass pedal. Their musicality was so great, that years later Hangar would record, in the album “Inside your Soul” a new version of the song “Legions” (which you can listen the demo version of Pystis Sophia above) but now entitled “Savior”. Everything was great, the MTV Brazil had a good spot for the National metal music and the entire scene was getting really hot, searching for new bands and new promises. Among so many promises, the band was under pressure to take the moment and then the famous internal fights started and I was the main target, as I didn’t play very well with the double pedal and they complained that I couldn’t follow the passages and didn’t have the necessary grip for the band (how ironic, huh?). I left the band, decided to only study drum and continue playing in cover bands to make some money.
After seven years playing, I had some classes to deserve the equipment I had bought. I went deep on my drum classes at the age of 21 and tried to get back all the time that I had lost. Firstly, I studied with Mimo Aires, then with Thabba and finally with Kiko Freitas. I have a huge gratitude for these three professionals. Besides teaching me the technical parts, they also taught me to be professional. They prepared me to the market and this knowledge is with me til today. I had one class at night per week and, on the other nights, I would study desperately with a practice drum set in my room. Something else that helped me was that, when my boss traveled, I stayed alone in the office, as I was a kind of “Office Boy” or a “Do-Everything-Around Boy”, and that made it possible for me to practice all day long in a rubber pad and also during a great part of the night. I used to practice about twelve to fourteen hours a day. Two years later, much better technically, I lost my job and went through the worst 8 months of my life. I had left the Cover bands to have more time to study and got a little out of the market and when I needed to return, I already had no contacts, neither a job. I kept on studying a lot, as I had all day free and had to take advantage of it. I had all the time of the world but no motivation, as I was without a band and broke.
It was 1994 when I was invited to play in an instrumental band called “Infra Blue”, [see picture] and trying to play these songs I met a drummer named Deen Castronovo, who changed the way I used to see the drums. I looked for all the records that he played on and also his instruccional video and I started, little by little, to understand the grooves and licks he used to play. Once again, the band didn’t last long, but as a compensation I had met the drummer who I most identified myself with, so, only for that, it was already worth it. Within this band, we were invited (me and the other members of Infra Blue) to join “Apocalipse Now” [see picture] [listen to song], which made music following the line of basic Rock ’n’ Roll and had the idea of being a commercial band with great contacts in multinational record labels and in the musical scene, as a general idea, but, in fact, nothing happened and we ended up leaving the band, the three of us at once, and never played together again.
In the beggining of 1995 I decided that I couldn’t stay without a regular job any longer, I was already 24 and nothing had happened in my musical life, and as the weeks went by, I got more desperate for not getting any job and that was affecting my faith on getting something serious and really big with music. I gave up, promising myself that music would be only a hobby and from then on I would get a regular job and would dedicate to it. I looked for so long that after several interviews and tests, in October, I got a job in a multinational company [see picture], and I was really happy, but there was still something missing and I knew exactly what it was.
In November 1997 I formed “Hangar” [see picture] [listen to song], and we started playing covers of heavy metal songs before making our own music. For being employed, we rehearsed every weekend around 8 or 10 hours a day, and as the band had an incredible direction, we were all into it and knew that investing that time was necessary. The carreer of the band in Porto Alegre was thundering and with less than one year of exhistence (really ironic) we were invited to open an Angra concert, band that, two years before, had motivated me to form Hangar. This opening show to Angra had some interesting points that I must highlight: - The band was quite amateur in the scenary and we started hearing through the walls that the promoter of the show was trying to contact us to do the opening, but had no contact at all. As the date of the show was getting close and nothing had been confirmed, I got my car and went to the promoter’s store and when I stopped on the first traffic light, I saw a car in front of mine with two stickers: “Hangar car wash” and “Angra cars”... After that I knew it was just a matter of time to share the stage with the biggest representer of the Brazilian Melodic Metal in the world! The concert happened and, until today, I remember each detail that preceeded our show... But I didn’t know what destine had reserved for me...This concert was definetely the highest point of the trajectory of Hangar so far and right after that, we started recording our first album called “Last Time”, which was released in may of 1999.
The CD was well received by the specialized critics and was followed by a national projection of the band. During the disclosure shows of the album “Last Time”, the first opportunities to play with other artists came. The very first, came from “Tritone” [see picture] [listen to song], instrumental project composed by Edu Ardanuy (Dr. Sin), Frank Solari (Solo) and Sérgio Buss (Solo/ Steve Vai), where I followed these trio of Guitar Heroes on the launching concerts of the new album “Just for Fun and Maybe Some Money”, which was recorded with electronic drums.
In October of the same year, Hangar played in São Paulo in the legendary Black Jack Rock Bar and it was right after this show that I received an invitation to record, with other Brazilians, an album with Paul Di’Anno (Iron Maiden) [see picture] [listen to song].
I started to realize that my dreams were coming true, as I would record a CD with the first lead singer of the band that had been my biggest influence since I had started playing. The CD “Nomad” was recorded in São Paulo, in the year 2000 and right after it, the band went on a tour around the country and I realized that many people already knew my work with Hangar. I remember that, on the first rehearsal of the tour, when Felipe started playing “Remember Tomorrow” (it was on that time that I met Felipe Andreoli, who, later on, would play with me in Angra), I couldn’t believe that was happening: me, rehearsing for my first tour around Brazil with Paul Di’Anno... Too many things happening after such a tough period and that made me believe that my job was starting to be recognized. A tour around the USA was scheduled to follow it and to play on the first and really desired tour outside Brazil really excited the entire band. At that time, I was already living in São Paulo because the company had transferred me, and my boss (the guy was really nice) had arranged for me to play on the entire tour. I was already believing that something really good was about to happen, specially because playing in Paul Di’Anno’s band was bringing an excellent publicity for Hangar.
It was in September 2000 that the first contacts with Angra started. I was in the Music Fair in São Paulo, and Edu Ardanuy (Dr. Sin/Tritone) introduced me to Kiko Loureiro, who talked to me for a while and realized that there was a certain affinity for us to work together. As the tour with Paul Di’Anno had been cancelled due to Visa problems, Kiko invited me for an audition. But I had a serious problem, my drums were in Porto Alegre because of some appointments with Hangar and there was no way to do an audition with any other drum set besides mine. Hangar had scheduled a concert in November again at Black Jack Rock Bar in São Paulo and I told Kiko that after the show I could play for him. They (Rafael and Kiko) told me they were already watching some other drummers and if they found an interesting one I’d lose the chance. At that time, I just said: “Watch as many auditions as you want, but don’t make the decision before watching me playing”. Later on, they told me that this confidence and security that I had passed to them were decisive for them to wait to watch me playing live. On the day of the concert, there they were and also me, really nervous because I knew that my audition would depend on my performance that night and, to make it even worse, the bar was kind of empty and this would make it easier for them to pay even more attention. Right after the show we had a short conversation as everyone in the bar had noticed their presence, and tried, then, to be as discrete as possible not to enable gossips around. My audition was to make new arrangements for a new song and the chosen one was “Running Alone”. I was still working for that Multinational Company and spent two days listening to the cd only with the guitars and the click, and wondering what could fit in that song. When I arrived for the rehearsal, I asked for a few minutes to try some things and then called both of them for the definite audition. On the first time we played the song, I noticed they’d liked it very much because I was worried about playing the song, and not showing everything I was able to do. After that we spent some more time playing for them to assimilate my arrangements. We spent a few more days arranging other songs and I received, informally, the invitation to be the new drummer of Angra, that band that had inspired me to form Hangar and made my will and wish to be a musician rebirth.
With the band Angra, I recorded the albums Rebirth (2001), Hunters and Prey (2002), Live in São Paulo (2003), Temple of Shadows (2004) and Aurora Consurgens (2006). In 2004, I still had time to release my first instructional DVD, Inside my Drums [see picture] after which I traveled all over Brazil during 2003 and 2004 doing over 100 drum clinics and workshops. In 2007 I have released my first instructional book called Inside my PsychoBook [see picture]. In the years 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007, I was voted best heavy metal drummer by the main specialized Brazilian magazines and web sites. In Japan, in 2002, I came in 15th place according to Burrn! Magazine, in 2004 in 4th place and in 2005 in 9th (without having released an album that year) in 2006 in 6th, and in 2007 in 6th again in the overall ranking of the 30 best drummers of the world. Many of my idols took part of these elections [see voting]. Not bad for someone who only had dreamed of becoming a professional drummer... However, the year of 2006 reserved much more.
In January, Mapex confirmed my participation at the Drummer Live Festival [see picture], in London, and, in February, I did my first drum clinic outside Brazil. There were five presentations, in countries such as Colombia, Portugal and Spain [see picture]. In Bogota, Colombia, I did a workshop for almost 1200 people, my absolute audience record until today [see video]. In March I decided to really hit the road: I went on my first workshop tour in the Northeast of Brazil with all the backline that I normally use. There were seven dates in thirteen days, a total of 8.500km traveled, and I was on the road almost twenty hours per day to carry out the schedule. The following month, the excellent feed back provided by these workshops in South America helped to confirm four more dates in the continent, three of which in Chile and one in Peru. From May on, I started focusing on the recordings of Angra´s new album, Aurora Consurgens, which began the following month, in Germany. Before this, still in June, Angra did a concert at the Italian festival Gods of Metal with Guns'n'Roses, Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Gamma Ray, Helloween, etc. I reached a great mark in July, with the release of the Aquiles Priester signature drum kit by Mapex [see picture]. This was the first time in the music history of Brazil that a local drummer had a signature kit released by a company with worldwide recognition. And while new drum clinics had been taking place in Brazil, the next month the local Mapex distributor broke all sales records in the country.
As the show must go on, while the other musicians of Angra were recording their tracks for the new album, the first album of the band called Freakeys [see picture] was released. Members of the band included me, Felipe Andreoli, Fábio Laguna and the guitar player of Hangar, Eduardo Martinez. This album brought a completely different musical concept to what I had already released with both Angra and Hangar. Speaking of Hangar, during this month I started recording the new album, The Reason of Your Conviction. At the Expomusic 2006, a Brazilian music fair, which happened in September, Freakeys played gigs for the first time and they were a huge success. At this fair we also did three gigs with Hangar, thus introducing the new singer, Nando Fernandes. During that same month Drummer Live, in London, took place and I finally had a life dream come true when I personally met and played with nobody less than Nicko McBrain [see picture]. In October the album Aurora Consurgens was released and Angra started a new worldwide tour, playing at the Loud Festival Park, in Japan, with bands such as Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax and Dio, among several others. Also in Japan we did a tour with Blind Guardian playing in seven cities. During this same tour, Mapex and Paiste confirmed my first workshops in Japan and China [see picture], in February of 2007. The following month, I did two drum clinics at Paiste`s booth, in the biggest music fair of the world, the Frankfurt Musik Messe, Germany [see picture].
After that I dedicated myself to recording and releasing The Reason of Your Conviction, Hangar’s new album [see picture] which was released at the end of 2007. As Angra had its paralyzed activities temporarily, 2008 was dedicated wholly to Hangar and to my personal projects. Various gigs with Hangar took place in different parts of the country and at the end of the year we re-released the band’s debut album, Last Time – Was Just The Beginning [see picture] in a remastered version plus DVD and bonus tracks.
At the beginning of 2009, Paiste – cymbal manufacturers and one of my most important musical partners – released PST5 Limited Edition Aquiles Priester, my limited signature series of cymbals in the Brazilian market [See picture 1] [See picture 2].
Still at the beginning of the year, it was announced that I had officially left Angra after six years, three studio albums, one EP and one live CD/DVD.
From then on I dedicated myself completely to Hangar and immediately began working on the album Infallible [See picture] which was composed while the band was isolated at a farm in the interior of São Paulo in Tatuí (considered the music capital of Brazil since it is home to one of the most important music schools of the country). That is where we did the pre-production and recording of guitars, bass, keyboards and vocals with the support of the mobile unit of Daufembach’s studio, under the command of sound engineer Adair Daufembach. As to the drums, these were recorded at The Magic Place in Florianópolis. After that I went to Celle, Germany, to mix and master the album at studio Area 51 along with sound technician and producer Tommy Newton. The album was released at the end of 2009 and was an immediate success with both the public and critics. Click here to watch the video clip of the track Dreaming of Black Waves.
Even before beginning the tour of the album Infallible, at the end of 2009 I recorded my new DVD, The Infallible Reason of My Freak Drumming [See picture], where I emphasize my double bass technique and also present a series of exercises that were the base of my evolution on the drums. I hardly could imagine the recognition and acceptance this DVD would earn throughout the world. The tracks performed on the DVD are basically by Hangar and Freakeys. Now I finally had my passport for the world of international drumming.
Before putting the album Infallible on the road, one more great surprise was in store for me. I was invited by guitar player and composer Vinnie Moore to tour with his band [See picture 1] [See picture 2]. We played a total of nineteen gigs between February 4th to the 26th in Italy, Turkey, Belgium, England, Spain, Austria and Greece. Besides me and Vinnie, the band also counted with singer and keyboard player Mike DiMeo (Riot) and bass player Lars Lehman (Uli Jon Roth). Our chemistry on stage was immediate and during the whole trip we had a great time. It is worth remembering that in 1995, when I still was with the band Infra Blue, we played some of Vinnie’s songs and suddenly fifteen years later, there I was on the drums playing those songs again, but along with their creator, something unimaginable to me at the time. Click here and watch me playing the track The Maze.
The first time we played the track Cinema of the album Meltdown during a rehearsal in Rome, another film went through my head. It was unbelievable that this was really happening. Nothing like one day after the other!
In March 2010 we finally began The Infallible Tour 2010/2011 returning to the place we like best: the road, but with a great novelty not only for Hangar but also for the Brazilian heavy metal market. To allow us to take our whole structure to any part of the country, the band is traveling in a personalized bus that transports not only the musicians but also the crew and all the equipment necessary for an impeccable performance, as is the standard for Hangar. One more dream come true [See picture].
Besides all this, I also found time to complete and release my official biography “Aquiles Octopus Priester – From Fan to Idol” [See picture] at the Expomusic 2010. But many things can happen in one year and my DVD The Infallible Reason of My Freak Drumming and my book on double bass techniques Inside My PsychoBook – 100 Double Bass Patterns [See picture] were released worldwide by North American publisher Mel Bay Publishing Inc. [See picture].
Right after the music fair I had the privilege of being one of the seven drummers chosen throughout the world to audition for the post of Dream Theater’s new drummer, to substitute the great Mike Portnoy. I was very proud and extremely happy to have taken part of the most important audition of world modern music (see picture).
As I was always driven to fulfill my dreams, on March 21st, 2011 I traveled to New Jersey, USA to fulfill the biggest dream a drummer can have: to take part of the Modern Drummer Festival 2011, considered the most important event of its kind in the world [See picture 1] [See picture 2]. To be the first Brazilian heavy metal drummer to take part of the event is a source of pride for me.
But the biggest and most important recognition of my career happened in July, 2011 when I was included in the most important ranking of world drumming, the Modern Drummer Readers Poll 2011. I entered the ranking as 5th best prog drummer of the world [See picture] and my DVD, the Infallible Reason of My Freak Drumming, came 3rd as best instructional DVD of the world [See picture]. This is the first time a Brazilian drummer enters the ranking of Modern Drummer USA magazine, which is published for 35 years.
Another important accomplishment in 2011 was being chosen best heavy metal drummer in Brazil for the tenth year in a row, since 2001. I make a point of sharing this achievement with all of those who have voted and supported my work throughout the years [See picture 1] [See picture 2] [See picture 3].
Today I look back and see that my path to be where I am today was really tough but I always kept the perserverance on believing that the one who really dreams and deserves it, reaches it. I am a regular guy who had a dream and, eventhough it was a tough and painful journey, in the deep bottom, I always knew that this was my destine: Being a musician. Through all these years there were always many superstitions and other things that made me believe that was the way to be followed. Throughout all this, I always kept with me a Chinese proverb, which says: “Where there’s wish, there’s a way”.
If you have a wish, you can make your own way...
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