Enter The World Of The Black... Tony Hernando Speak Out.
Spain metal act 'Lords of Black' return with their new stunning album 'Alchemy of Souls Pt.1', the bands 4th album which is an awesome album and one that features original singer back to their fold Ronnie Romero, who left the band after the bands 2nd album 'II'.
This 4 piece band have come a long way since their formation back in 2014 putting Spanish metal back on the scene. This band are a melodic but yet write some heavy songs that will appear to such bands like Dio, but with a modern sound that packs a punch.
I managed to chat with guitarist Tony Hernando to find out more about Spain's best kept secret for many years and to talk about the new album as well as a little bit of Ray Alder solo album. Here is what he had to say, so sit back and read on. In the meantime check out their new album.
Welcome Tony to my website, I'd like to start by asking you how the band got together back in 2014.
"Well I met Ronnie Romero back in 2014 and we met a few months before the band was officially formed. We were in other bands and I was in a Ronnie James Dio tribute band here in Madrid and one guy told me about who recently moved to Spain and he could sing like Ronnie James Dio. I really had to hear this for myself as I am the biggest Ronnie James Dio fan in Spain, so I called Ronnie Romero and told him to come to a rehearsal one day as I needed to hear his voice for myself.
I will never forget the every 1st moment that we played together for the 1st time and he was electrifying and we know at that very moment we would make something together in the very near future. We both left our bands and formed 'Lords of Black' in 2014. We wrote the 1st album in a short matter of time with Roland Grapow from Masterplan, former Helloween and it took 3-4 months to record."
What bands were you in before forming Lords of Black? Did you record any albums?
"Yes I had so many solo albums which were instrumental albums and I was known for that and they were like Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, with drummer Mike Terrana (ex Yngwie) and I also played in a band called 'Saratoga' and we did 3 albums. We were very popular here in Spain and in South America and we sang in Spanish and we were nobody outside of Spain and South America, we were huge. I didn't want the band to sing in Spanish but it wasn't my band so I was just the guitar player."
Growing up in you're family household were there any family members who are or were musicians that inspired you to become a guitarist or did you play another instrument before guitar?
"No not really, just me and my sister were into Classical music and my father is a scientist and everything in my place was about culture and reading books etc.. So I was very lucky to so many books and to have a great imagination and so I was never bored in trying things that I wanted to do. In the end I was the only one that showed real interest in music and to become a professional musician. As soon as I became a professional musician everything changed and I became very difficult for me and my father was very open to stuff but when he knew I wanted to be a rock guitarist it was like 'Forget it!!'. It was hell for me and I was 10 yrs old when I 1st picked up a guitar, and it was a classical guitar before electric one and was more Spanish guitar and about the age of 11-12, I got into Hard Rock & Heavy Metal I realized how similar both Rock & Heavy metal were connected to Classical Music. (Ed: I totally agree with you there) not only with the guitars but also the vocals and I remember Randy Rhodes playing 'Mr. Crowley' or Rainbow's 'Gates of Babylon' it was Classical music to me and with more loudness and rawness.
It grabbed my attention at 1st sight because of the way the songs were structured."
Growing up who are you're guitar influences besides Randy Rhodes and Richie Blackmore & Yngwie?
"In the beginning it was Vivian Campbell from Dio and later on I realized I got into Gary Moore, the Thin Lizzy guys too which I loved every much also John Sykes also Brian May and Michael Schenker. (Ed: Have you ever met any of these people?) I have met most of them actually and I had met John Sykes a few times and he is one hell of a player. I also am a big King Diamond fan so Andy & Pete Blakk are one hell of a guitar duo. I also like Michael Denner too from Mercyful Fate and also Uli Jon Roth, he is one of the best musicians in the business and a really lovely guy to talk too."
So moving on now let's talk about 'Lords of Black', did you have any other names for the band?
"Well I had the band name even before we formed and and it was going to be a future project at the beginning and the name had a very simple name and hook that sounded very metal and I knew it was going to be perfect for this style of metal music. I would like to say the name and music is more of a modern style of metal with classic Rock and Metal. We thought the name was a very powerful name and yet easy to remember and the logo is powerful to look at and also the album covers."
Looking at the covers for the albums remind me of 'Lord of the Rings' in some way, do you agree?
(laughing) "Well I am not really a fan of that, but yes you are right about the covers kind of having some resemblance to the film. The band name is not really a Power Metal band like 'Blind Guardian', who talk about Tolkien and stuff like that. Yes the name and the logo could resemblance it in a way."
On the debut album which was self titled you hooked up with Roland Grapow from Masterplan, who did that come about?
"Well the debut album was released ourselves and we have the rights for that album and we did gigs that were very popular and so was the album. I guess it became a cult album here in Spain and we are very proud of it. I have known Roland for a very long time and I recorded some of my solo albums at his studio and so we got along very well as soon as we met. I knew after he did my solos albums that we would be the right person to do the Lords of Black album.
I knew that both Ronnie and myself would feel comfortable working with Roland as co-producer and mixer for the album. Roland is the 5th member of the band and we trust him to do a great job."
What songs from the debut album do you like and why?
"Well when we play live we usually play 'Lords of Black', 'Nothing left to Fear', 'Forgive or Forget' and that was a single back in the day. Also the song 'When everything is Gone' is a popular song and it is one of them that the bad is known for been an epic song and the ending for the album. It is also one of the best songs to play live and I also 'Nothing left to Fear'."
Moving on to the 2nd album which is just simply titled 'II' why did you deice to just called it 'II'?
"Well at that time any song could of been the title of the album but I just thought it seemed right. I know bands like 'Queen' have done the same thing and the covers are related to each other from the very 1st album cover. The 4 guys on this album cover with the draggers that could represent ourselves as musicians. I think the cover title was very simple and I think it worked for us."
Besides Frontiers Records who else did you approach for the 2nd album?
"Well it was the very same moment that Ronnie Romero and Richie Blackmore's Rainbow started to happen and every label was after us, so in the end we went with Frontiers not because of the money thing but the contract was less complicated and we knew it would take less time to sort things out. Not only that we love most of the bands on that label like Pretty Maids. So we knew we would be in good hands."
Did you ever think that you would get enough promotion with Frontiers as there a big label like Nuclear Blast, you may of not got the support you needed and just be another product within their rooster?
"Well Nuclear Blast didn't seem right for us to sign too because they are one of the biggest labels and with tour support, but it is what it is."
What songs from the 'II' album do you like and why?
"There's some great songs that we play live from that album songs like 'Merciless', 'Everything your Not', 'Cry no More'."
As you know I saw you live in the UK with Jarvi Garcia on bass, why did he leave the band?
"Well he is a great bass player and a nice guy but you need the right chemistry within a band, and things were not working out so he left the band."
Did the 2nd album sell well for you? It must of done so well for you to stay with Frontiers?
"Yes it was a very successful album and so we had a really good run between 2016-2017 and we toured a lot for that album. We toured and opened up for many bands and we went to Japan for the 1st time and the U.S. to play the 'ProgPower' festival in Atlanta. We also did a special V.I.P. show the day after at ProgPower were we played covers for a hour and a half, such bands like Queensryche, Dio, Fates Warning, and the whole crowd went crazy."
How did you feel about Ronnie joining Richie Blackmore's 'Rainbow'?
"Well it was very difficult at the start because and I knew he would give us a lot of promotion for Lords of Black and I also knew it would get a lot more complex not because of the schedules and with ego and money etc.. I also knew that there would be a lot of powerful musicians that would ask him to help them out too. It was a good thing for Ronnie and for this band."
Next came the album 'Icons of the new Days' which featured Diego Valdez from 'Helker' do record this album, how did you meet up?
"Well Diego was working with me for a few months as a replacement for Ronnie and it didn't work out in the end. We worked really good as people but in the end I didn't think Diego was the right guy for the band but we are still friends. He actually co-wrote some of the songs from that album with me and after that I went to a very dark period for several months try to find the right guy for the new album. In 2020 Ronnie and myself had a chat on the phone and to talk as friends and in the end we said we should reconsider doing the next album together."
What songs from that album do you like?
"I would have to say 'World gone Mad', 'Icons of the new Days', 'Tears of a Dragon'."
I read that you did some shows with Ozzy and Judas Priest for the 'Icons of the new Day' album, how was that?
"It was fantastic, we met all the guys in Ozzy and Rob Halford came to our dressing room and he talked to me for about 30 minutes about music, life in general. He was such a great guy and a gentleman, he was amazing. I also had a good chat with Scott, Richie, and Glenn was around but we didn't get a chance to talk to him due to his condition."
How do you see the 1st 3 albums as a progression?
"I think all 3 albums sound very powerful and very honest and I think our own sound and we are not afraid to show our influences and we love those artist we own them so much. We are also so proud and I think we have been improving on each album with production and song writing. So the core and quality are there. I think the 1st album and the 3rd album maybe a little more progressive then the 2nd and new album."
Before we talk about the new album let's just talk about the Ray Alder 'What the water Wants' from Fates Warning, album that you played on, how did you become part of this awesome album?
"Well Ray is such a great guy, really easy going and down to earth guy. He moved to Madrid and we met through a couple of friends and we just became best friends. We would hang out at either his place or mien to chat and have beers. Ray produced the album and for me been a Fates Warning fan for many years a honour to play on his record and one of the highlights of my career. I hope that we get together to make the 2nd album in the future. Ray teamed up with Craig Anderson on drum who was in 'Flotsam & Jetsam' and one of Ray's other bands 'Engine'. Michael Abdow also played guitar and bass with me on the album."
What songs from that album do you like?
"I like the songs 'Wait', 'A beautiful Lie', 'Crown of Thorns'."
Do you think there are some similarities to you're playing on this record to Fates Warning?
"Yes a little bit because I do like those U.S. bands like Queensryche, Fates Warning have been my many influences with the song writing and Jim is one of the best in Heavy Metal."
Ok moving on now how did you meet Johan Nunez from 'Firewind' to become you're new drummer?
"Well he lives here in Madrid and I knew him from when we played with Firewind and he is a great and powerful drummer and an easy going guy. I knew he was the guy I wanted to join the band if things went south with our old drummer Andy and in the end they did. Andy is ex drummer of so many bands and that's is all I will say about that."
Let's now talk about the new album, why the title 'Alchemy of Souls Pt.1'?
"After the pre-production for the album we felt that the lyric were about catharsis, resurrection, power and the never ending power between good and evil. When I was writing these songs last year I things started to become reality."
How long did it take to record this album?
"Well the album was produced by myself and it was mixed and mastered by Roland Grapow. The song writing took about 4-5 months and recording too about 2-3 months and most of 2019 and it was done as an instrumental as we didn't have a singer at that time and with lock down it didn't help. We later on got everything done in less that one month. It was good to have Ronnie back in the band and I wrote the lyrics before Ronnie came back."
Are you happy with the end results of the album?
"Yes I am, I am a perfectionist and I am never 100% happy with anything but it is just a chapter in you're life (laughing) and I have part.2 in the making right now and it will be even better and the press and have love this new album so we are happy."
You worked with Felipe Machado Franco once again for the artwork , was it a good feeling to be working with him again?
"Yes it was, he lives in Columbia and I have been working with him for many years, and I gave him the ideas and he comes with the some artwork bases on that I tell him. He reads my mind and he is very good at coming up with ideas for me the album covers."
You have released 2 promo videos at the moment for this new album which are 'Dying to live Again' & 'Into the Black', are they lyrical videos or actual band videos?
"They are actually band videos and you can see them on You Tube and they have been very successful and we are about to release our 3rd video this week for 'Sacrifice'."
Since we are in lockdown have you been involved with ay project recording?
"Yes I have, a band called 'Restless Spirits', which is more in the vain of Journey, Bad English, Giant which is also on Frontiers Records."
What do you think of the possibilities to tour in 2021 will happen?
"Well know body actually knows what will happen next year, it is really stupid for bands to book tours and also proponing tours and dates again and again and we don't want to go that way. We also don't want to ask promoters for advance money and tickets etc... as they might need their money for houses or for rent. Time will tell I guess."
Well Tony thank you for the interview, be safe please. Do you have anything to say before we finish off this interview?
"Yes thanks to our fans for their support, we hope you like the new album as much as we do. Be safe everybody and look after you're family and friends."
Thanks to Gary @ Redsands and Tony for the interview.