Blackout Rock Blog: Hello Thomas! Thank you for your attention and for your time. So, first of all, tell us about how did you start as a musician and what have brought you to heavy metal?
Thomas Zwijsen: Hi! I first started when my parents sent me to music school. My dad used to build guitars himself so there were always guitars laying around the house, so my choice for the guitar was easy. After a few years of music school I really didn't like music anymore, till one of my friends showed me Iron Maiden! The first song I listened to was Aces High and I became an instant fan, I wanted to play Maiden too! When I was 15 I went to a special music high school in Antwerp (belgium) and after that I went to the conservatoire in Rotterdam to study Brazilian guitar! I also studied classical guitar at the conservatoire in Arnhem.
You're about to release a tribute album to Iron Maiden, right? So, how did it start your relation with Blaze Bayley, and how did you got into his band?
Thomas: About one year ago I saw Blaze played a concert in Antwerp close to my house. I was in the middle of the recording sessions for my Nylon Maiden album so I thought it would be a cool idea to have Blaze as a special guest on The Clansman. I needed a Blaze era song on my album and I have always been a fan of both Bruce and Blaze. I went to his show and asked him to sing on my album and he said yes! A few days later (on the last day of 2011) Blaze phoned me and said he liked how we worked together in the studio, so he asked me to come to Birmingham to join him on his new album and tour.
Returning to Nylon Maiden - that have some amazing versions, by the way-, how did came up the idea for the tribute in acoustic format? t's something that comes from your classical training? How your youtube videos drove you to it?
Thomas: Thanks! Yeah actually it really came by coincidence. I was bored on a certain day in 2007 and I just discovered a thing called YouTube.. So I played a classical version of Wasted Years and put it online, just as an experiment. The amount of views and positive comments on YouTube really surprised me so I upload some more arrangements. More and more people asked for an album so you can definitely say the YouTube drove me to do it. Another reason for the acoustic/classical approach is the possibility to play the Maiden songs on your own, to make them sound complete without a band.
Recently you recorded "The King of Metal" which is a traditional heavy metal álbum, and also you have a classical training. So, when do you feel more comfortable - in the acoustic set or the eletric one?
Thomas: I really love both instruments equally. I love the classical guitar music, flamenco, brazilian guitar, but I'm an extreme Iron Maiden fan too! I really enjoyed the King Of Metal tour with Blaze. I feel comfortable as long as the people, and I, enjoy the music.
How was the responsibility of recording the successor of the acclaimed "The Man Who Would Not Die" (2008) and "Promise and Terror" (2010)?
Thomas: To be very honest those are my 2 least favorite Blaze Bayley albums. I'm not really a fan of modern metal.. I guess that's why I didn't even own those albums. Personally my favorite Blaze album is Tenth Dimension, I've been listening to that one since it's release! So when Blaze told me he wanted to go back to a style more in the direction of his old albums (or Maiden albums), I was happy.
Here in Brazil we don't know very much about the Dutch music, how is the rock 'n' roll scene over there? Did you have any influence by the local music?
Thomas: hehe, I don't blame you! We don't really have an interesting music scene in my country. I think Holland has only 2 bands you might know: Golden Earring and Focus. Both great bands! (Maiden covered songs of both bands by the way). I was more influenced by the music scene from other countries like Spain and Brazil.
Every musician start as a fan. In your case, who was your biggest inspiration? Who made you wish to be where you are today?
Thomas: True. And I think most musicians even stay fans as well! I have many musical heroes who inspired me a lot, bands like Iron Maiden, Helloween, Dream Theater, Deep Purple, Edguy, Derek Sherinian, Bruce Dickinson, Blaze and Wolfsbane. Also classical guitar players like John Williams, and flamenco players like Paco De Lucia, Gerardo Nunez and Vicente Amigo. I was also inspired by Yamandu Costa, a crazy Brazilian guitar player. At this moment my favorite guitarist is Pedro Javier Gonzalez from Spain. He also makes great arrangements!
Many bands say that audiences in South America are the best. What are your expectations for the shows around here?
Thomas: Well, after seeing live DVD's like Rock In Rio, Flight 666 and En Vivo I do expect a lot! Also Blaze gave me to Maiden dvd's with him on vocals, filmed in South America. The audience looks great! I think the combination of the passionate people, the nice weather and the beautiful South American girls will make this tour an awesome experience!
As a young and already successful musician, what advice you give for who's starting an instrument?
Thomas: I definitely advice to take lessons and to learn how to read and write music. As everybody will tell you: it's boring in the beginning but in the end you're really benefiting from it! Trust me, this is true. Of course regular practice is important too, and more fun than watching tv anyway.
Thomas, thank you very much for the attention, we wish you the best for Nylon Maiden and your work with Blaze Bayley! Would you like to leave a message for your fans in Brazil?
Thomas: Thanks you very much for the interview and I'm looking forward to meet you all on the road. I really love my Brazilian fans, looking at the YouTube statistics I'm always pleasantly surprised: most of my (almost 2 million) views are from Brazil! You guys rock!