Hugo Ferreira of TantricTantric
By Dave Schwartz
Photos by Sally Schwartz

Long ago it became a fad for radio stations to host concert events. Some of these events are better than others, but there has always been one winner-- the fan. Really, how can you beat a bunch of bands for little money?

This event was KUPD's Summer Scorcher: 15 bands, 12 hours of music and surface-of-the-sun temperatures. It was perfect! And before I go on, I want to make a comment, KUPD did a great job keeping the bands on schedule and making sure the fans had everything they needed. Good Job!

Aside from catching several great bands on stage, my interest on the day was to interview Tantric. Like many of the bands at this event, they had just released a new record and the single was moving up the charts.

Tantric took the main stage promptly at 3:15 p.m. and wasted little time grabbing the crowd's attention. I was impressed with how tight the band was on stage. The songs were crisp, the sound was clean and singer Hugo Ferreira was on top of his game. I was eager to get to the interview and find out more about this band.

After Tantric's set we filled our time watching OT3P on the second stage. A short while later, the cell phone rang and we went to meet the Tantric's road manager, Peter. As he took us back to the band's RV, he apologized and explained that the RV was full of people and he suggested that it may be possible to do the interview elsewhere. As it turned out, everyone was comfortable right where they were.

We opened the RV door and went inside. Hugo Ferreira, lead singer of Tantric, was sitting on the couch across from the door. With him on the couch were three young ladies. Scattered throughout the RV were band members and about a dozen bodies, all enjoying the air-conditioning.

We chatted for a bit as I set up my tape recorder and dug for my notes. I could tell that Ferreira was in very good spirits, and rightfully so, as just an hour earlier Tantric ripped their way through a 30 minute set in the blazing 106 degree Arizona sun and now it was time for Ferreira to relax with friends and enjoy a couple cocktails.

With introductions but a distant memory, I started with the obvious question, I asked about the new record, "Mind Control."

Ferreira started with some background, "We had such a huge span between this and our last record, about 18 months. I think this is our best record. It's that rock record that I always wanted to do, super dark and heavy. Finally now, after 10 years in this band, everything just sort of matched perfectly; the radio, the artwork and the music all just fell into place. I feel really good about it. I'm blessed to be here and I'm having a real good time."

"It does look like you're having fun," I commented.

"What can I say, I'm a hot girl sandwich!" he laughed.

Having just performed in front of 8,000 screaming fans, Ferreira was comfortably relaxing on the couch, still surrounded by several young ladies.

While researching this interview I read about the unusual way Tantric collaborated to write the album. Since the members of the band each live in different parts of the US, the most logical approach to writing was by e-mail.

Tantric"The thing is when I first got signed we recorded our records on 2" reels," Ferreira explained, "These days everyone has ProTools. Bands don't sell as many records as they did 10 years ago, so we try to cut our costs as much as possible. How we did that is, basically everyone has their own studios. When we were demoing the songs, Joe the guitar player would send me a riff, I would dump it into ProTools and then write a melody. Everyone would be sending in riffs or whatever they had,  my house would sort of be the hub. So basically I would piece all these songs together with a drum machine and loops. We had 30 or more songs before we went in to begin recording the record."

Ferreira continued, "We got together for two to three weeks before we began recording and jammed on the songs, saw which ones seem to fit or not. We still didn't lose that thing a band has when they write together, we just wrote the basic structure of the songs and then took the time to gel it together and, as the process evolved, the songs evolved too. It was a cool unique way to write and ultimately it saved us a lot of money and gave us the ability to put out a record quicker and not be a million dollars in debt."

I asked Ferreira if he shared the compiled songs before the band united to flesh out the finished tracks.

"Every time someone would send me a riff, I would write a melody and some lyrics. I would then send it to everybody and they would have a chance to throw in ideas," Ferreira said.

"So you did bounce the ideas around," I responded.

"Yeah, but honestly I just sort of sat there in my house," Ferreira explained. "I sat there for about four months straight and just wrote because I'm really like kind of a dork and when I'm at home I don't even like to go out. I just sat home and played PlayStation! And then when it comes time to work on the music I'll go and put some 'guyliner' on and get in front of the mirror and rock out!"

The group watching the interview were all laughing.

"That's how you know that the music comes from a genuine place because most music doesn't come from the captain of the football team or the cheerleaders. It comes from the outcasts and dorky people like me," Ferreira continued.

"Yes, people in every profession share common quirks," I acknowledged.

"Exactly! I think this band is able write so easily because we don't need to impress each other," Ferreira shared.

When Tantric finally all came together in one room they were faced with a daunting challenge-- they had 30 songs to work through. I asked about the sorting process, choosing which songs made it to the record and which didn't.

"Actually the songs were really, really obvious. I mean it's hard for me to throw stuff out. They're all like your kids, but I had to say, (in a German accent...) 'Alright, I have 12 kids but only six of you are good enough to stay in the house!' You love them all but ultimately you try to balance what you do in music. That's our job. That's what we do. I mean this is our job. It's how we pay our fucking bills and shit. You try to balance to make good art. Don't be a poser and over-try or under-try," Ferreira confessed.

Although Ferreira finds himself surrounded with all the trappings of being a rock star: big tour, songs on the radio, screaming fans, all while sitting backstage in an RV with friends and new acquaintances... Ferreira is quick to point out that he's just a regular guy that happens to make music for a living.

Hugo Ferreira of Tantric"There are so many things people don't know about bands." Ferreira continued, "It's like a glorified high school click that you're in, this whole rock star bullshit. You know, like after we play a show we can't go out and hang with fans. I don't know, we just try to make music that's good and sincere. We'll probably never make Nickelback money. I mean it's a big price to be Nickelback, know what I mean?"

With all of the preproduction that occurred through e-mail, I anticipated that the actual recording process of "Mind Control" must have gone quickly.

"We tracked this whole record in 21 days." Ferreira concurred. "Like I said, all the guys in this band are veterans. We don't need anyone to tell us where to plug something in. We're all like, 'Just get the fuck away from me!' I spent a lot of time upstairs on the couch watching 'Maury Povich.' There were a whole bunch of shows that were like, 'I'm not the father!' When it was my time to sing, I just came downstairs. We have a really cool relationship like that."

"I think that's one of the coolest things about this band." Ferreira admitted. "The most successful time for this band was at the very beginning; we never got lost in success. I mean, it would be great to make $100 million a year, but there's a down side of that. I think the benefit of being just under or above the radar is you have enough to pay your mortgage and shit and you can only afford a used Mercedes with 20s, not 22s and only two of them are chromed. I think the benefit of not being overwhelmingly rich with everything just sitting in front of you is that you still get to keep your character. You stay the same person. Everyone knows who I am right after I finish a show, so I end up signing autographs, but no one knows me at the mall. It's a blessing in disguise. You can still keep it honest. And then the people who actually like your music can get something from it. We don't write songs about fucking a chick in the bathroom."

Ferreira had already hinted to the answer of my next question during the interview, but still, I felt it was worthy of asking. I queried if Tantric enjoyed being on the road and how long they planned to tour on this record.

"We love to tour, but we're also family oriented," Ferreira replied. "I don't have a wife or kids, but I have dogs and cats which I very much miss. If it were up to me, I would have all my dogs in the bus, but my band would be ready to kill me! But we tour, we survive and we do what we want to do. We play music. We're like Hallmark cards, we write about what people feel, but don't know how to express themselves. So then they can say, 'That song, that's exactly how I felt at that moment.' That's what we do and it's important that we take that responsibility seriously. Being in a rock band really isn't about sex, drugs and rock and roll, that image sells records, but you can also promote yourself by having something to say. If I die tomorrow I could stand on the words of every single lyric I wrote."

"You've got to play your music your way," I acknowledge. "You can't try to live up to someone else's expectations."

"Exactly!" Ferreira agreed. " And I would never write something like, 'You'd Look Better with Something in Your Mouth.'"

At this point one of the ladies that had joined Ferreira on the couch chimed in, "But sometimes we do!" The RV erupted with laughter.

Smiling Ferreira agreed, "I'm sure you do and that's a hot thing but..."

He turned back to me and went on, "We're kind of like the blue color rock band, almost famous, famous, almost famous... Some towns we play in have like 2000 people at the show and other towns have 500. We literally played a show where the marquee billed us as 'Tantrum.' I mean, come on, we've had platinum records! But it doesn't really matter to me, I've been in this band or another band since I was like 16 or 17, so to me, it really doesn't matter anymore. I'm just trying to enjoy it and be cool."

Tantric's new single, "Mind Control," is moving up the charts. They are garnering airplay from many radio stations around the US and that's what brought them to Phoenix. KUPD is one of the many stations that picked up the single and the fans are reacting. That reaction was what got the band included on the radio station's end of summer promotion, the Summer Scorcher.

TantricI knew that Tantric had just finished making the video for their new single. I asked Ferreira to tell me about the shoot.

"It was like super-cool man." Ferreira announced proudly. "It's my favorite video ever. The very first video we ever did, we spent $1.2 million. For this video we spent $20k and it's our favorite video. When we first got signed, we got signed by Madonna-- Madonna literally signed us. Her label, Maverick Records, was interested in branding us as a brand name band. They were like, 'Here's a band with some songs, let's build a whole image around them.' We never really had a lot of choice about what we'd do in the videos, I mean like that first 'Break Down' video, the idea that I wrote was some Columbine shit, but when it came out, it was more like Melrose Place. So ultimately there was less money this time, but we had more control. I feel that at some point the two will balance each other out."

With that the interview abruptly ended when Ferreira got up and walked away. He seemed distracted by something else that was happening in the RV and just sort of moved on. He did return after several minutes, but I had exhausted most of my questions. Really, there was only one left to ask, regarding the next single. Ferreira shared with me that it would be "Coming Undone."

I want to thank Hugo Ferreira for talking with us and I wish Tantric the best of luck with their remaining tour.

Check out the band at: www.myspace.com/tantric

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