Web Exclusive! Kiko Loureiro on Combining Influences

 Brazilian virtuoso Kiko Loureiro is quietly becoming one of the most versatile and badass guitarists on the planet. Already a legend in his homeland, look for him to take over America very soon. Here he talks about what got him into guitar and how he is able to combine so many styles.—Matt Blackett 

What inspired you originally to take up the guitar?

There was an acoustic teacher who came to my house to give lessons to my sister. I was 11 she was 12. She got bored with it so I took the lessons instead. I wasn't that serious, but I really liked it. I really enjoyed playing acoustic guitar. Brazilian music is based on the nylon-string guitar. You have the Bossa Nova and the classical guitar that came from Portugal with the Spanish culture. So everybody in Brazil has a classical guitar at home somewhere. I started with the classical guitar, learned some classical pieces, but then I really got deep into rock music—Kiss, Iron Maiden, Van Halen—heavy rock. Then I wanted to play electric, so my mom bought mea copy of a Gibson SG. I started learning stuff by Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimmy Page. I really got into guitar then. I was 13. I was still taking lessons. I went to a small school in the neighborhood and the guy taught me some of the secrets of the guitar. I always had teachers. I like the idea of having somebody that knows more than you to give you lessons. Still now, when I have time I take piano lessons. I like to learn. I'm always trying to learn music. At that time it was guitar lessons. I changed teachers and went more into fusion and Brazilian music. I sort of taught myself the rock thing. I listened to Vai, Satriani, Yngwie, Paul Gilbert. I was listening to those guitar heroes. I was really inspired by them.

Were you playing gigs?

I was playing at home mostly. There were festivals at school and I would play those. I was playing rock but I always liked playing Brazilian music. I never gave up the acoustic guitar. I was trying to learn VH licks and Malmsteen licks but I was still playing Bossa Nova and the complex harmonies of Brazilain music--trying to get into the jazz thing at the same time. So I had two ways of learning music with the rock and the Brazilian music. By the time I was 17 I could go out and play clubs and parties. I was playing rock songs like Deep Purple Led Zeppelin.

Your solo record Universo Inverso, your work with Angra, and your No Gravity album all sound very different from one another.

I think as musicians we have to explore everything. I like to listen to all kinds of music and play all kinds of music--I've studied classical, Brazilian music, I've played rock. I'm really into Japanese music, Indian music, Spanish flamenco, tango from Argentina. It doesn't matter to me. Good music is good music. I'm very open to all of these influences and I try to work them into my music. The longer I play the more confidence I have to mix in all these influences into my music. I have my progressive band Angra—that’s more heavy. I did No Gravity which was basically my 80s influences—I wanted to do an album like that. I was really into that 80s playing. I have my friends from the jazz clubs here in Brazil that I play with and they have nothing to do with the rock scene. I love to hang out with those people because it keeps me fresh.