Colonialism is alive and well in the 21st century, but rather than pin helpless natives to the tips of bayonets, today’s conquistadors are building their empires in the ears and minds of young guitarists – everywhere. Brazilian guitarist Kiko Loureiro is one such conqueror whose influence and musical riches are steadily becoming the gold standard among metal enthusiasts around the world. A growing power on the international music scene, Kiko’s technique, talent and energy have garnered him the attention of guitar greats like Joe Satriani and made patriots out of shredders everywhere. This month, the rising emperor of metal agreed to sit with us by the Fireside for a chat…  

1. If you weren’t a musician, what would you be and why?

I did two years of Biology University, so I think I would be working with molecular biology – in DNA and genetics.

2. Honestly, how many hours a day do you practice?
When I’m home, maybe 2 or 3 hours, but sometimes when composing it’s more than that. But that’s not every day because of the constant traveling.

3. What are you listening to lately?
I like to listen to acoustic guitar in general. Paco de Lucia, Yamandu Costa, Marco Pereira, Marco Tardelli and also some jazz like John Coltrane or Wayne Shorter. Jeff Beck – always.
Some bands like Mesugahh, Tool, King Crimson… yes, lots of different stuff.

4. How would you describe the music business today?
Different that what I’m used to; fast changes, and always a lot to learn.

5. Stranded on a desert island, which guitar would you take?
Any good classical guitar to play songs and relax.

6. Should world leaders learn how to play guitar? Why?
I think learning music is important for everybody; world leaders should do it to learn how to work with both sides of the brain, be more intuitive, and to learn that simple things (like learning how to play a difficult song) can make you entirely happy.

7. Let’s talk about what’s going on with you right now, your new album, and what’s next?
I just launched Fullblast my new solo album and Neural Code my trio fusion project. Now I ‘m doing a tour with my band Angra and we’re starting to compose new songs.

Questions submitted from the TrueFire Community:

8. How long did it take you to learn how to shred and can you share any tips on developing speed? – jimiclaptoncarl
It took several years for me. I still believe on the basic advice: play slow with a metronome for all kinds of exercises, be musical all the time and try to play exercises that are excerpts from songs, so you can have fun while practicing.

9. Can you give us some insight into your feelings about building up right hand skills, some warm-up exercises that you work on for example? – Hutch82
For picking technique you should cover all situations that can happen – one note per string for arpeggios, two for pentatonic, 3 for the modes, 4 for the chromatic scales. Then mix all of them fluently and at a good speed. After you’ve done that, practice string skipping. Put the technique into the different scales, arpeggios, pentatonic and stay hours and hours improvising.

10. What does the future of guitar look like in South America compared to North America, is there a difference? – phattyphoom
I think we [in South America] are still very much in the shred era. We didn’t have the 80’s like in North America. Also, here we explore a lot of the local rhythms and grooves which can be a fresh thing for the guitar language of our times.

11. What’s your favorite guitar solo of all time? – ShamusShambles
Very difficult to choose! I like some Van Halen solos like Panama and Hot for Teacher. Also, Entre dos Águas from Paco de Lucia; Cause We Ended as Lovers by Jeff Beck – too many to mention…

12. Any words of wisdom for your fans and fellow pickers?
Take music as a devotion, the most important thing to your life and be happy.
Happy is the man who improvises. Take this to every aspect of your life.

Listen to a few tracks from Kiko’s latest album, Fullblast, streaming for free on his website