For many, Aquiles Priester was a name that became uber popular after the Dream Theater drum auditions. However, Aquiles has long been a superstar in his native Brazil, and the onetime corporate executive has fast become the world’s most popular clinician. Aquiles is as big a success story as they get, and it was truly an honor to interview the man they call the Octopus.
Aquiles, I read that you are a football player and that you played professionally. What team did you play for and how well did you do?
In fact I was a professional player until I was 18 when I decided to follow music professionally. I played in some local teams of Foz do Iguacu in Parana, ABC, and Guairacá Flamenguinho. I also played in interstate games representing the selection of Foz do Iguaçu, where I lived from 6 to 18 years. After that I moved to Porto Alegre and started to pursue my dream of becoming a professional musician.
Who are your favorite football teams to watch?
Today, I am no longer so tied to football, but I like a lot of European football. I also like to watch the Brazilian teams during the World Cups. Otherwise, I follow the Corinthians, which is the heart of my team that I inherited from my father.
What began your drumming career?
At age 14 I started singing in a Brazilian band of great success in the ’80s called Offence to Accuracy. I started playing the drums at 17 years and my first drum lesson was at 22 years of age.
Please tell me about the drumming industry in Brazil. It appears to be a very vibrant and exciting.
Not so vibrant for those who live our reality. Today there are many drummers working, yes, but there is not much room for everyone to live off music. Most drummers still need other activities to supplement their financial gain.
Tell me about your musical influences. Who inspires you to play?
First, I was very influenced by national drummers of the ’80s—Leospa, John Barone, Serginho Herval, Charles Gavin and many others. Then I had two more definitive influences that are responsible for what I play now—Nicko McBrain and Deen Castronovo. Nor can I forget my teachers Kiko Nuns, Mimo Aires and Tabba. They were responsible for my musical education and I am very grateful to them.
Tell me about your family. Where did you grow up?
My parents were working in South Africa for eleven years. I’ve got two brothers who were born there. I have seven brothers … a large family. After my father lived all these years there, he thought he would return to Brazil.
How did you get invited to audition for Dream Theater?
Their employer contacted Vinnie Moore to get information about me. They wanted to know how I was as a drummer and person. Vinnie reported that we had a tour and we got along very well musically. For me it was a great honor to work with him. After that they contacted me to ask if I was interested.
After you found out you were not chosen for Dream Theater, what lessons did you learn from the experience?
I do not know if the term “lesson” is best suited for this, but it was a great experience. I was chosen to play drums and it was a great honor to be chosen as one of the seven drummers. After this I had the honor of being invited to play at Modern Drummer Festival 2011 and do a European tour with the American guitarist Tony MacAlpine.
What do you do in your free time when you are not playing drums?
I’m always playing the drums, even if only in my mind or gnashing my teeth. I also like going to the movies, reading biographies of other artists, and having a good meal in a restaurant.
What is your practice routine like?
It is very rare that I have free time to ask myself: What am I going to practice today? Always have to worry about upcoming events that I have to do. When I’m composing a new album, I have time to try new ideas, and at such times I have to resolve some technical issues and music to improve myself a little more.
At one time you gave up on a musical career and started working for a multinational company. What happened during that time to redirect your life back to music?
After a long time trying to be a musician, I just chose to work in a multinational company so I could carry on my personal life first. After I was well-off financially and could invest money in my music, I decided it was time to resume my musical life.
You have accomplished much in your career. What do you feel most proud of so far?
I feel very proud of my life story. I started working very early, since the age of 14 and only left a regular job at age 29. A month before starting the tour of the Rebirth album, I left my regular job. My first drum lesson was at 22 years and was playing with the greatest drummers in the world. I was chosen for 11 consecutive years as the best drummer in Brazil. In 2011, I was voted fifth best drummer in the Prog Metal world and my DVD (The Infallible Reason of my Freak Drumming) came in third place as the best instructional DVD of the year—both by Modern Drummer magazine in America. I participated in the most important festivals in the world, including the Modern Drummer Festival 2011. Other than that, I have a signature cymbal with Paiste, which was released in Brazil last year and this year will be released worldwide. In 40 years of the brand Paiste, only eight drummers have a signature cymbal and I am one of them. Mapex released a double bass Aquiles Priester kit in 2006 in South America and now in 2012 will release a Black Panther Aquiles Priester. I share all these achievements with the Brazilian people, who are very hardworking and unconditional supporters of my work.
Do you write songs or play any other instruments?
Yes, I do some work with guitar melodies and harmonies.
How did Hangar form?
Once I was set financially, working in Dana Corporation, I decided that something was missing in my life—a metal band—and that was when I began Hangar in 1997. I just wanted to have a band and play with my friends. Everything that happened was the result of my passion for music and hard work.
Can you tell me about the significance of your mask?
Nothing too special. It’s just my nickname, Octopus. With my experience in the marketing area in the Dana Corporation, I always knew that having a good brand and logo, together with the quality of my work, would be very important and that’s what I did. I created a brand that represents me, and I do not even need to have a picture of me for people to know what I represent.
What do you have planned for 2012?
As soon as I finish the DVD of the Hangar, I will finish my DVD which is already filmed. It goes beyond just songs and exercises. I also have many backstage scenes of the first shows of my life, old and new interviews, workshops, recordings of Hangar, and Angra Freakeys and much new material that was never released.