Now Hear This: Marcelo Paganini

“I believe in magic,” says the French- Brazilian guitarist with the Italian nickname, Marcelo Paganini.

“I believe in magic,” says the French-Brazilian guitarist with the Italian nickname, Marcelo Paganini. “It’s like recording a song with the pick your best friend gave to you. Then, every time you listen to the song, you feel a certain vibe and connection.”

Paganini certainly appears to move through his music career as one of the enchanted. For his debut CD, 2012 Space Traffic Jam—which pretty much came out of nowhere—he managed to bring heavy hitters Gary Husband (John McLaughlin, Allan Holdsworth, Robin Trower), Eumir Deodato, Tony Kaye (Yes), and Billy Sherwood (Yes, Circa) into the studio to perform on ten of his prog-rock compositions. Before the Paris-based Paganini even got to London’s Eastcote Studios to record his dream project, he studied classical music at the Conservatory in Brazil. Then, he attended the Sorbonne in Paris to take musicology classes for three years—writing his first symphony “Belo Horizonte” in 2004—but left before graduating because he feared solemn and committed study might harm his mystic mojo.

“Beyond a certain point, I had to stop being such a ‘studious’ musician,” he says, “because I wanted to leave space in my head for mystery and happy accidents in my musical life. I didn’t want to become a blasé ‘know it all’ or take myself too seriously.”

Paganini plays a left-handed, white Fender Stratocaster strung upside down for a “Jimi in the mirror” effect (strung with Dean Markley Nickel- Steels, gauged .008-.038), as well as a Roland G707 plugged into a Roland GR-700 for synth tones. His amp is a Mesa/Boogie TransAtlantic TA-15 through a Marshall 1960A 4x12 cabinet. Effects included a BBE Soul Vibe, an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, Vox and Cry Baby wahs, and an MXR Dyna Comp.

“The album took two years to complete,” says Paganini, “so the big challenge was not losing focus. I played a lot of the instruments by myself, and I was basically locked in my studio listening to the same ten songs for months. Happily, Gary [Husband] offered to help me with the mixing.”

Though profoundly influenced by Jimi Hendrix and Allan Holdsworth, Paganini immerses himself in tons of different styles to ensure he can cover a lot of ground musically.

“I’m not trying to copy Hendrix, but I am trying to be as free musically as he was,” he says. “I want to try to be the best version of myself and not a copycat. I hear music in my head and I chase the spirit of the moment. And I still listen to my album every day to make sure it happened.”