Venezuela is a country who has been struggling with an economic, social and political crisis due to the rise in power to men like Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro. But while this harsh and difficult situation has led to the country’s most complex period in their modern history, it’s not a true representation of that nation’s finest and brightest.
Here in MusikHolics we have the case of Andrés Guzmán: he has been a mainstay, leader and founding member of the Venezuelan Metal band Grand Bite, one of the first groups to play that music style in that country. Despite difficulties, the obstacles of playing Metal in a country that doesn’t have a lot of tradition in that genre and the aforementioned crisis, Grand Bite is still going strong and Andrés sat with us for an interview to talk about this and a lot more.
Thank you very much for doing this, Andrés. It is a pleasure. Obviously Grand Bite has a long history in the Venezuelan scene, but could you tell the readers of other countries what the band is about?
Grand Bite is a classic Heavy Metal band formed in 1981 with the intention of bringing a message with its lyrics to the rocker public about what we live in our country, Venezuela. In addition to being and playing the rock style that we really feel in our hearts.
What inspired you to play the guitar and become a professional in this field?
I remember that I was only about fifteen years old when, for the first time, a friend showed me the KISS double live album, KISS Alive. It also impressed me the show and photos of the band and it was there where it all started for me in music, deciding that I wanted to be inspired by Paul Stanley. I started taking acoustic guitar lessons, theory and solfege; I remember that I was only two years in that, but in the academy they only taught you classical music and when I talked to the teacher that I wanted to learn to play Rock and I mentioned KISS, he told me to forget about it because for him that it was not music hahahahahahahaha
What are the albums that have inspired you the most over the years?
The albums that have inspired me the most are Heaven and Hell by Black Sabbath, KISS Alive II by KISS, Highway to Hell by AC/DC and British Steel by Judas Priest.
What is your perception of the music world now, after almost four decades in it?
I would speak in relation to Rock, which the style that concerns me, and is that even though there is much more technology there is less feeling; that magic has been lost and I say it for example in the case that corresponds to me as a guitarist: new guitar players are focusing more on speed (many scales per second) than to transmit something, and as for Rock in general I think that it has also lost that human side that it used to be and carry a message in its lyrics, although there are also new bands trying to rescue what was lost.
You’ve been to Grand Bite since the beginning. What are the challenges of being in a Metal band being in a country with little tradition in the genre like Venezuela?
The challenge will be to continue insisting on my country, although it is very complicated since we are aware that we are a Caribbean country where other styles of music are predominant. But our goal is to continue recording, continue to perform concerts and relay bands follow this path until Rock in all its branches reaches an important place of acceptance in our society where media and labels could be interested in Rock.
It must also be said that in addition to a little tradition there is not much platform to promote their work either. Record companies, radio stations, even through Venezuelan music websites. What strategies do you usually take to promote your work?
The strategies are still social networks, because through them you can make the musical and material of each band known.
What is the current situation of Grand Bite and what do you plan in the near future?
Grand Bite remains 100% active and retaining all their band members despite the difficulties facing our country, and as near future goes, we are going to record our eighth album, which will be accompanied by promotional videos.
Your last work was Túnel Hacia lo Desconocido in 2015, and was very well received by critics. Is this a musical direction that you would like to maintain in the future?
Although Grand Bite continues and will continue to be a classic band of Heavy Metal that has almost always been known for presenting this type of lyrics, we cannot guarantee that the new album is going to be the same; possibly our next album is about another topic. En Túnel hacia lo Desconocido, both its cover and its message, despite having been recorded four years ago, remains more relevant than ever.
After so much time making music, how do you stay motivated?
I keep myself motivated through the Heavy Metal music that I play and by saying what I feel, record and play live. I don’t see myself living a life outside Rock music; it is definitely part of my life and although I have tried to retire, it is definitely impossible for me. Until the body cannot take it anymore.
What is the creative process of Grand Bite? Does each one contribute their own ideas; are they more of improvising and developing as time goes by?
The process of creating our record material is first of all to define what the subject will be in the lyrics; hence, each member decides which one or more topics will be made in charge of both music and lyrics; that we took to a pre-production and there we start to work and make adjustments until recording in a home studio and then rehearse them and take them to the recording studio.
The content of your lyrics, especially in Tunel Hacia lo Desconocido, is quite political and makes many references to the situation in Venezuela. What can you tell us about what is currently happening in your country?
I do not consider the lyrics of Tunel Hacia lo Desconocido as political, but more as a regular day that Venezuelans live or those in general that live in our country. The situation we live here now it is complicated socially, economically and politically, and we hope to have a successful exit for our people who are the ones that are paying the consequences of this.
Looking back on your career, what are you most proud of? Any time that makes you say “it was worth it”?
I am proud of what I do, to be with you honest with you. Because it is what I really feel and I have never sold myself to do something different for money. It’s been worth it because of how many people appreciate your work; you cannot imagine how many times I have been told “Andrés, how long have you been there? You will get up on stage with a cane or I will have an ambulance ready just in case at the door of the enclosure” hahahahahahahahaha but when you start playing and you see how many people are singing your own songs, you say “I really do believe that these minutes of glory have been worth it”.
For you, what defines a musician?
For me, what defines a musician is that he or she sends a message through the musical instrument about what you really feel and have a genuine belief in what he or she does.
Thanks for your time, Andrés. One last message that you want to leave for our readers? Where can we follow you and Grand Bite on social networks?
The last message that I would leave to the people who read this interview is that they follow those bands that tell the truth, that transmit what they feel and that they are sincere with what they do regardless of where they come from, where they are and what they do. Don’t be materialistic.
If you want to follow us on social networks, we have the Grand Bite page and mine, Andrés Guzmán, on Facebook.