|I was born in South Africa in a town called Otjo where I lived until 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 and only contact with the instrument for many years. In 1977 I arrived in Foz do Iguaçu where I fell in love with soccer and soon I began playing professionally for the local team. For a long time I was sure I’d be a great player but, in 1985, with the first “Rock in Rio” things started taking other dimensions, and the drummer I’d seen 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 started making some noise in the back yard. A year later, with some school friends, I started dubbing a Brazilian band called “Ultraje a Rigor” [see picture]. Since then my life changed and I all I did was 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 never gave back – a bass drum, a hi-hat and a cymbal, which was hung from the ceiling since I had no pedestal.Almost every week we used to go to a TV show at a local network and at one of these shows, a ball band called “Tropical Band” saw me playing, or better dubbing, and the members thought I had talent. They invited me to play with them. That same evening I went down to the bar imagining that they’d teach me the songs and what not… But I was mistaken. After arriving we ate dinner, had a chat and right after, with a crowded bar they said, “Let’s go, Menudo, let’s play”. I sat behind the drums and wondered, “How am I going to play on a full drum kit if I’ve never done that before?” That was how my professional life as a drummer began. Every night I was up there playing and the following day I would get up at 7h00 am to go to school. That was a tough year but at the same time really fruitful for my growth as a drummer.The first band I joined with my “huge” drum set was “Stylo Livre” in 1987 [see picture] [listen to song], and again the same thing happened: the members of the band saw me playing with the “Tropical Band” and enjoyed my performance. One week after seeing me they invited me to play with them. At that time everything was new and the fact that we were the first rock band in town opened up some doors and gave us opportunities that nowadays a new band wouldn’t have. We used to perform on several TV and radio shows as well as be featured in magazines and newspapers.At that time, an essential fact for my musical direction was listening to “Caught Somewhere in Time” by Iron Maiden on a local radio station and, after that, I began getting familiar with the complete discography of the band that would be a major influence for many years.I fought to stay behind until the last day but it was useless since I was only 17. So I went to Porto Alegre and as soon as I arrived I got really excited because there was a movement of local bands that were starting to get some space in the country’s musical scene and I thought that this could help pave my path to success. However, it was much worse than I expected because I wasn’t able to join any band and couldn’t enroll in any school where I would be able to make new friends and get to know people in the business. After some time I finally got back to my studies and a guy invited me to join his band because he had seen me thumping out notes in class and was wondering if I was a drummer. The band was called “Nômades de KZAK [see picture] [listen to song]. We played some gigs but our musical differences soon began to show and shortly after I left the band.In the beginning of 1989 I started leaving ads in various studios offering myself as a drummer. One day someone called me and this time the band was “Lucas Scariotys” [see picture] [listen to song]. This band was closer to what I wanted to do: heavy music without rules. I stayed with the band for almost two years and during this period we played many gigs and also started to struggle with differences as to the band’s future. I’ve always wanted to work with music and try to earn a living, even if that meant having parallel jobs. I began realizing that it wasn’t that easy to find the right people and again, I left the band. This happened after watching the movie “The Doors”. The whole band thought we should have that same no commitment attitude and from then on I quit and began looking for another band. It only made me hate “The Doors” even more…It was already June 1991 and there I was again checking out newspaper ads. I finally found a heavy metal band, “Spartacus” [see picture] [listen to song]and my only doubt was whether I had the technical conditions to play with them since they were a respected and well-known band in Porto Alegre. I had just turned 20 and believed, more than ever, that my future would be the drums so I auditioned and got the slot. I was really happy, as I was joining a cult band in town. We rehearsed a lot and started playing some gigs to introduce the new lineup, a very tight team.That same year we recorded a new demo tape and took the biggest step a band with a new lineup can take: a concert with three other bands in an auditorium for five thousand people. To our total surprise the search for tickets was so unexpressive that the gig was cancelled and, with that, our union and desire to continue playing together went up in smoke. The lineup was excellent, but something told me that the timing wasn’t right. At the same time, besides Spartacus, I joined my first cover band, “Raro Efeito” [see picture] [listen to song], which the lead singer from Spartacus joined later on. The band lasted almost two years but the lack of gigs caused it to become history.
The following year, 1992, was 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 I and, because of that, had no commitment at all to the band. I stayed in the band for a very short time also with no commitment, as I was in the band with the sole purpose of not becoming rusty. That year I finally got to watch an Iron Maiden concert in Porto Alegre and, squeezed up front, I looked at them as if they were my own band, as if it were a premonition. I had to go on, I couldn’t give up.
The next day I had a serious talk with my sister and asked her to finance a new imported drum set. The following month, after being a pain in the ass, I got my first imported drum kit with the mission of finding a new cover band to pay off my debt. With the band “Hora H” [see picture] [listen to song],I played many gigs and traveled the whole state of “Rio Grande do Sul”. For the first time in my life I started earning some money with music, but I still didn’t have a band that composed their own music and that started bothering me a lot. So I began searching for a new band without quitting “Hora H” and that is how I got to know the band I’d most believed in so far, “Pistys Sophia” [see picture] [listen to song]. This band had great potential and, more than that, style and musicians much more experienced than me (the band had Ivan Zukauskas, from the extinct Astaroth). It was then that I felt the necessity of playing with a double bass pedal. Their musicality was so great that years later Hangar would record, a new version of the song “Legions” included in the album Inside Your Soul – you can listen to the demo version of Pystis Sophia above – but now entitled “Savior”. Everything was great. MTV Brazil gave good airspace to national metal music and the entire scene was getting really hot in search of new bands and new promises. Among so many promises, the band was under pressure to grab the moment and then the famous internal fights began. I was the main target, as I didn’t play very well with the double bass pedal and they complained that I couldn’t follow the tempo and didn’t have what it took (how about that for irony?). I left the band decided to focus on my drum studies and continued playing in cover bands to earn some money.
After seven years playing, I took some lessons to be worthy of the equipment I had bought. At the age of 21 I immersed myself in my drum lessons and tried to recuperate all the time I’d lost. First I studied with Mimo Aires, then with Thabba and finally with Kiko Freitas. I am very grateful to these three professionals. Besides teaching me the technical parts, they also taught me to be professional. They prepared me for the market and I carry this knowledge with me until today. I had one night class a week and, on the other nights, I would study desperately on 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 handyman, and that gave me time to practice all day and much of the night on a rubber pad. I used to practice about twelve to fourteen hours a day. Two years later, much better technically speaking, I lost my job and went through the worst 8 months of my life. I had quit the cover bands to have more time to study and was out of touch with the market. When I needed to return, I had no contacts and no 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 while trying to play the songs of a drummer called Deen Castronovo, I changed the way I saw the drums. I went after all his records and also his instructional video and began, little by little, understanding his grooves and licks. Once again, the band didn’t last long, but to compensate I had met the drummer I most identified with so, for that reason alone, it had been worth it. With this band, we were invited (the other members of Infra Blue and I) to join “Apocalipse Now” [see picture] [listen to song] a basic rock ’n’ roll band that aimed being a commercial band with great contacts in multinational record labels and in the musical scene. However, nothing happened and the three of us left the band at once. We never played together again.
In the beginning of 1995 I decided that I couldn’t go on without a regular job. I was already 24 and nothing significant had happened in my musical life. As the weeks went by, I got more and more desperate about not getting a job and that was affecting my faith as to getting something serious and really big with music. I gave up. I promised myself that music would be nothing but a hobby and that from then on I would get a regular job and would dedicate myself wholly to it. I looked for so long and after several interviews and tests I got a job in a multinational company [see picture],in October that same year. 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 began playing heavy metal covers before composing our own music. Since I had a job, we rehearsed every weekend about 8 to 10 hours a day, as the band had incredible determination and everyone was really focused, we knew that investing that time was necessary. The band’s career in Porto Alegre skyrocketed and with less than one year of existence (fate’s irony) we were invited to open an Angra concert, the band that, two years before on the same stage, had motivated me to form Hangar. This opening gig for Angra had some interesting points that I must point out: The band was quite new in the scene and we started hearing rumors that the promoter of the gig was trying to get in touch with us to be the opening act, but didn’t have our contacts. As the date of the gig was getting close and nothing had been confirmed, I drove to the promoter’s store. When I stopped at 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 before we shared the stage with the biggest representatives of Brazilian melodic metal in the world! The gig took place and, until today, I remember every detail that preceded our gig… But I didn’t know what destiny had reserved for me…This gig was definitely the highest point of the Hangar’s trajectory 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 the band attained national recognition. During the promo gigs of “Last Time”, the first opportunities to play with other artists arose. The very first came through Tritone [see picture] [listen to song], an instrumental project formed by Edu Ardanuy (Dr. Sin), Frank Solari (solo) and Sérgio Buss (solo/ Steve Vai). I accompanied this trio of guitar heroes at the gigs for the release of the album “Just For Fun And Maybe Some Money”, which had been with the use of electronic drums.
In October that same year, Hangar played in São Paulo at the legendary Black Jack Rock Bar and after this gig I received an invitation to record, along with other Brazilians, a Paul Di’Anno (Iron Maiden) album [see picture] [listen to song].
I began realizing 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 started playing. In 2000 the CD “Nomad” was recorded in São Paulo and the band went on tour around the country. I realized that many people already knew my work with Hangar. I remember that during the first rehearsal for the tour, when Felipe began playing Remember Tomorrow (it was at that time I met Felipe Andreoli, who would later play with me in Angra), I couldn’t believe what was happening: me, rehearsing for my first tour in Brazil with Paul Di’Anno… Many things were happening after such a tough period and that made me believe that my work was starting to be recognized.
A tour in the USA was scheduled and that really excited the band: the first and much desired tour overseas. At the time, I was already living in São Paulo because the company had relocated me, and my boss (the guy was really nice) had arranged for me to play 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 excellent publicity for Hangar.
In September 2000 the first contacts with Angra began. I was at 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. Kiko then invited me for an audition. But I had a serious problem: my drums were in Porto Alegre because of some previous engagements with Hangar and under no circumstances would I accept auditioning with any other drum set than mine. Hangar had scheduled another gig in November at Black Jack Rock Bar in São Paulo and I told Kiko that after the gig I could audition for him. That was when Rafael and Kiko told me they were already auditioning other drummers and if they found an interesting one I’d miss the opportunity. At the time I just said, “Audition as many as you want, but don’t make the decision before watching me play”. Later on, they told me that the confidence and security I had shown had been decisive for them to wait to see me play live. On the day of the Hangar gig at Black Jack Bar, they showed up and I was really nervous because I knew that their approval would depend on my performance that night and, to make things even worse, the bar was kind of empty which would make it easier for them to pay closer attention. Right after the gig we had a short conversation as everyone in the bar had noticed their presence and we tried to be as discrete as possible so as not to start gossip. My audition was to make the arrangements for a new song, Running Alone. I was still working at the multinational and spent two days listening to the CD with only the guitars and the metronome, imagining grooves that would fit in the song. When I arrived for the audition, I asked for a few minutes to try out some things and then called both of them for the definitive audition. The first time we played the song, I noticed they’d liked it very much. We spent some more time playing and that was the happiest day of my life. We spent a few more days arranging other songs and informally I received the invitation to be Angra’s new drummer – the band that had inspired me to form Hangar and had rekindled my desire to become a musician.
With 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 having traveled all over Brazil during 2003 and 2004 doing over 100 drum clinics and workshops. In 2007 I released my first instructional book called Inside My PsychoBook – 100 Double Bass Patterns [see picture]. From 2002 to 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 according to Burrn! Magazine, in 2004 in 4th 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 polls [see voting]. Not bad for someone who had only 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 overseas. 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. In March I took the workshop tours to the Northeast of Brazil with seven dates in thirteen days and 8.500 kilometers traveled spending up to 20 hours on the road to stick to the schedule. In April, more workshops in South America: three in Chile and one in Peru.
In July the Aquiles Priester signature drum kit by Mapex was released [see picture]. This was the first time in Brazilian music history 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, the first project of the band Freakeys was released [see picture]. 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. Soon after, we began recording the new Hangar album.
At the Expomusic 2006, a Brazilian music fair, Freakeys played live gigs for the first time and these were a huge success. At this fair we also did three gigs with Hangar, thus introducing the new singer, Nando Fernandes. In September Drummer Live took place in London and I fulfilled my dream of meeting and playing with none other than Nicko McBrain [see picture].
In October, while the Aurora Consurgens tour was passing through Asia, Mapex and Paiste confirmed my first workshops in Japan and China in February 2007 [see picture]. In March I did two drum clinics at Paiste`s stand 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 latest album [see picture].The album began being composed in January 2004 and the first demo was only recorded at the beginning of 2005 when Angra embarked on a European tour to promote the album Temple of Shadows. The recording of The Reason Of Your Conviction only began in July 2006 after Nando Fernandes was confirmed as new lead singer, after almost a year searching for a substitute for Michael Polchowicz who left at the end of 2005 due to the new direction the band was taking. This direction occurred naturally during the composition process of the album that is a milestone in my career: everything I wanted to express in my career as a musician and composer can be found in this album. For the first time I worked on all the lyrics of the concept album, besides writing all the vocal melodies along with my inseparable partner Fábio Laguna. After almost three years without a live gig, it was time for Hangar to show the potential of the new songs and also the new live band, which was totally invigorated and ready to embark on one the most audacious projects in Brazilian heavy metal. Whoever attended the gigs would be able to confirm this [see video clip of the song Call Me In The Name of Death].
The Reason Of Your Conviction [see picture] was released at the end of 2007. As Angra had paralyzed its 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 manufacturer and one of my most important musical partners – released the 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. 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 a city called Tatuí home to one of the most important music schools of the country thus being considered the music capital of Brazil. 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 critics [watch the video clip of the track Dreaming of Black Waves].
Even before beginning the Infallible tour, 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 could hardly 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 to 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 in February 2010 passing through Italy, Turkey, Belgium, England, Spain, Austria and Greece. It is worth noting that in 1995, while I was still part of Infra Blue, we played some of Vinnie’s songs and suddenly, fifteen years later, there I was playing these songs again along with their creator, something unimaginable back then [watch the video of The Maze]. The first time we played the track Cinema – theme of the Meltdown album – 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 embarked on The Infallible Tour 2010/2011 with a great novelty not only for Hangar but also for the Brazilian heavy metal market. So as to take our whole structure to any part of the country, the band traveled in a personalized bus that transported not only the musicians but also the crew and all the equipment necessary for an impeccable performance. It was another 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 as many things can happen in one year, 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 also released worldwide by North American publisher Mel Bay Publishing Inc. [see picture].
Soon after, I had the privilege of being chosen as one of seven drummers 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 1] [see picture 2] [see video]. Even though I was not chosen, soon after the audition I was indicated by John Petrucci – Dream Theater guitarist – to go on a European Tour with world renowned North American guitarist Tony MacAlpine [watch video of The Violin Song] that happened at the beginning of 2012.
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 events of its kind in the world [see picture] [watch vídeo of PsychoSolo]. 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 the following July 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.
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 you who voted and supported my work throughout the years [see picture 1] [see picture 2] [see picture 3].
My activities with Hangar came back to light in 2012 with the release of our first live and acoustic DVD/CD. The album was recorded at the SESC of Ijuí (Rio Grande do Sul) in December 2011 [watch making of] [watch video of Solitary Mind].
Meanwhile, the brands that sponsor me continue to release signature products. In 2012, cymbal manufacturer Paiste released the signature ride PyschoOctopus Giga Bell Ride 18” worldwide [see picture] [watch video], while Mapex, who created the Mapex Limited Edition Aquiles Priester drum set, released the following year, also worldwide, the signature snare Aquiles Priester PsychoOctopus Black Panther Snare [see picture] [watch video].
In 2013 also saw the worldwide release of my acclaimed DVD, Aquiles Priester’s Top 100 Drum Fills, that was indicated by the North American magazine “Modern Drummer’s Readers Poll” and voted best educational DVD of the year [see picture] [see ranking]. In the 38 years of existence of the most highly regarded magazine of the genre, Aquiles placed Brazil in first in the most coveted drum ranking of the world, something unheard of for a Brazilian drummer until then.
In 2014 Tony made me another invitation that really honored me and that was the recording of a live DVD at EMGtv [see picture] [watch video of Tears of Sahara] [watch video of Concrete Gardens]. And in 2014 I still found time to take part of the recording of the albums of bands Noturnall (Brazil) [see picture], Midas Fate (Czech Republic), Blackwelder (USA) and Marcello Pompeu’s – Brazilian singer of the band Korzus – first solo album.
Still in 2014, besides the release of Noturnall’s first DVD, First Night Live, [see picture] [watch video of Hate!], I released another album with Hangar, the compilation The Best Of 15 Years, Based On A True Story [see picture] [watch video clip of the track Let Me Know Who I Am], and also released my first instrumental album with guitarist Gustavo Carmo, Our Lives, 13 years later [see picture] [watch promo video]. And finally, by request of many fans, I released my first play along book called PsychOctopus Play Along [see picture].
Still in 2014 another proposal that really honored me came up: after an audition I was invited to play with German power metal band Primal Fear [see picture]. The best and funniest part of all this is, during Hangar’s first gig, at the legendary Garagem Hermética bar in Porto Alegre on the 23rd of July, 1998 [see picture] [watch an excerpt from the video], we played a cover of Primal Fear’s first album (Tears of Rage) [click here to know the song].
I have many plans for 2015! We’re going to record a new album followed by a world tour. But before, we’ll be playing at some of the biggest heavy metal festivals of the world, such as Monsters of Rock (my first gig with the band in Brazil), Bang Your Head, Wacken and many others.
Today I consider myself more than professionally accomplished. I went much further than Aquiles Priester – the dreamer from Foz do Iguaçu – could imagine. Besides everything you have read, I’ve done over 350 workshops in various countries and took part of the biggest drum festivals of the world such as the Modern Drummer Festival (USA), Montreal DrumFest (Canada), Batuka! International Drum Fest (Brazil), La Rioja Festival (Spain), Laguna Drum Fest (Mexico), London Drum Show and Drummer Live (England), International Summer Drum Camp (France), Thomas Lang’s Big Drum Bonanza (USA), Musikmesse Frankfurt (Germany) and Namm Show (USA).
Today I look back and see that, whoever tough my path to be where I am today was, I always had perseverance to believe that those who really dream and deserve it, can make it. I am a regular guy who had a dream and, even though it was a tough and painful journey, deep down I always knew that this was my destiny: to be a musician. Today I still believe that the achievements of our lives are a daily task and these end up becoming part of our history. Through all these years there were always many superstitions and other things that made me believe that this was the path to be followed. Throughout all this, I always kept a Chinese proverb in mind. It says: “Where there’s will, there’s a way”.
If you have a wish, you can make your own way…