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Hans Van Even
Hans Van EvenA man with many talents, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, designer and artist all combined in one person, that is Hans Van Even, or simply HVE like the logo on his album. Lead- solo and bass guitar, piano, keyboards and arrangements, Van Even can do it all and he sure does it all, on his amazing album STARDUST REQUIEM. The Belgian turned out to be not only a gifted musician with a rock solid musical education but also as an easy going fellow who is very friendly. A combination I did not want to let go by without asking him for an interview. And here is what the "Belgian Bumble Bee" had to tell.

 U.B., 18.12.2014

We asked...
 Hello Hans, thank you very much for giving me the chance to ask you some questions. I did a review of your first solo album STARDUST REQUIEM and I was really impressed by it. Therefor I am eager to find out more about you as a musician and a songwriter.

Hans: Hello Ulf, thanks for your invitation, great to be on HardHarderHeavy!

Okay, here we go. You were involved in the recording of several albums in the past but STARDUST REQUIEM is your first solo album. Was there more hard work, stress, excitement and satisfaction creating a complete album on your own in comparison to work as a session musician or being a band member?

Oh yes it's definitely different to do your own CD vs working on records for others. Besides composing and playing there's a lot of other elements that come into the process of making a CD, it's not just composing and recording, especially if you do most of the production in-house like for Stardust Requiem. This has been an interesting and sometimes painful learning experience but with a happy ending. :-)

The first solo album is normally a kind of statement. "Look here folks what I am able to do". What strikes me most is the complete package of the album. Great cover artwork, very nice booklet and more than 75 minutes of music with all kinds of different styles. There is Shred Metal, Melodic Rock, Jazz, Blues and World Music, just to name a few, and sometimes a fusion of several styles in one song as well. Only very few guitar players are able to present so many styles in a perfect way. The two Andys, Andy Timmons and Andy James come up in my mind. So your parents should have called you Andy instead of Hans. What is your comment?

Hahaha, maybe yes ... For some reason I never managed to concentrate on one style of music, I was too hungry to learn and discover other music styles and often switched styles. At my home you'll find me listening to classical music, jazz, metal, pop, film the same day, as long as it moves me it's OK for me the CD reflects the way I listen to music.

You seem to be a true cosmopolitan. You were born in Belgium, your second name sounds like your forefathers came from Holland, your first name is German and you live in France. Is that just a coincidence or did this have some kind of influence in the extreme wide range of your musical interests?

We lived quite close to the border of Holland in a small town called "Oud-Turnhout" (Belgium) and I have an uncle who lives in Germany too, no real family in Holland as far as I know so I'm not sure this had an influence on my music. I feel the biggest factor of listening to different styles of music came from my sister Hannelore who had quite a very good music background and introduced me to different music styles. Also back in the early '80s when you wanted to learn music you didn't have all the options we have right now, no Internet or modern music school, you only had classical music schools and as soon as I was aware that I wanted to make my living from music I started learning classical music. This is actually good and the more I listened to classical music the more I liked it, I didn't want to become a classical musician but the basic knowledge I had from my study years helped me a lot during my career. Then when I finished high school I wanted to explore more modern styles and learned about a jazz school called Jazz Studio in Belgium. It was kind of hard in the beginning to learn jazz, but again this helped me to discover new styles and I started to really love some fusion jazz styles. Also meeting Piet Slangen was important for me, he was one of my first teachers and as a theater composer he was into experimental music and I remember we had to play a few concerts with only a tuning fork and electric guitars doing special effects, he invented a really new playing style which was mind refreshing. When I moved to France to join my wife in the 90's I met a few other musicians who had an impact on my playing. My good friend Garlo definitely made an impact on my music. Garlo did "Wind of guitars" on the CD on a few songs and I had to chance to play with him in Japan. So all those encounters helped appreciate different music styles.

When we take a closer look at all your activities and talents I must say you are indeed an interesting fellow. Besides your superb musical skills you also are some kind of artist. You work as a graphics interface designer and were a co designer of the Washburn Parallaxe Series guitars. So it's not a big surprise that you designed the cover artwork of STARDUST REQUIEM. When God gave away talent you took it all and there was nothing left for me, what a shame, I hope you feel guilty! Are you at least grateful that you were blesses with so many talents?

Hahaha, honestly I'm not sure if I'm really that talented, I feel more like someone who's very hungry to learn and I worked a lot, for me it's more like 5% talent and 95% work. But I feel really blessed I had the chance to meet so many mind opening artists in my life. On the graphics side, my grandfather, mother and sister are paint artists, but honestly I'm really bad at painting but I became interested in the design of music software interfaces and started which has been a part time job since more than ten years and helped me to contrast with my music playing.

Okay, talent is one aspect but I must admit that you worked hard as well. You studied for five years at the High School Of Arts And Classical Music when you were very young, and for three years at the Jazz Studio Belgium. That explains part of your skills to play so many various styles. At what age did you decide to become a musician and dedicate your passion to music?

We had an organ at home so I started experimenting with that when I was 6 and at the same time I became a member of a boys choir at school. When I was 10 I initially wanted to play drums but my parents found that was too noisy. My sister had a guitar lying around and one day I started playing her guitar, and when I broke most of the strings on it my mother decided to buy me my first acoustic guitar. My sister took me to a few concerts and I believe the film Woodstock with the performances from Jimi Hendrix and Alvin Lee had a really big impact on me. When I was 13 I knew I wanted to make a living from music.

Guitar Shred Master Michael Angelo Batio also studied music, he got a bachelor of arts. He studied classical music (piano and guitar) and …. make a guess... jazz! Those studies really seem to pay off. What would you say, how important were your studies on your way to become the musician you are now?

You're right Ulf, I believe the mix of both is interesting. Classical music gives you the right technical basics (learn how to read, write music, music theory & history) and the school we had (RIKSO) was very good because you had 10 hours of music a week with some very good teachers like Raphaëlla Smits, Freddy Vanderkoelen & Marcel Onsia to name a few. At the other side I missed the creative part of music in this school and that's why I'm really happy I learned jazz music at Jazz Studio as it helped develop the more creative and improvising part.

You worked as a guitar teacher at the College of Contemporary Music in Bordeaux between 1993 and 2000. Other famous guitarists do or did that job as well. For example the two Joes, Joe Satriani and Joe Stump. Does teaching in your opinion improve the playing skills of the teacher in any way?

Yes, teaching is probably as important as learning an instrument for me as it forces you to express and transmit your own findings to students. While teaching it helped to develop a few of my own techniques and it's also cool to see a student improve with some of your own approaches.

I already mentioned, there is the artist Hans Van Even beside the musician On the internet I came across an artist, a painter, her name is Hannelore Van Even. Hannelore is like Hans a German name. So I suspected she is your sister. You just told me that she is your sister and it's easy to see that the whole family got talent. By the way I like her paintings, they are lovely.

Good find Ulf. In my family we all got German names and Hannelore is my sister while my brother Herwig was a drummer for a while finally became a DJ. We all had an artistic education from my mother's side. My sister is indeed a very talented painter and all her work had a big impact on my artistic life, I probably wouldn't have been musician without my sister's influence.

On your website ( I saw a photo of two hands with callused finger tips that were also black and blue. I can't find the photo at the moment. Did the photo show your hands? To abuse the finger tips in such a bad way you must practice like a maniac.

Yes it was a pic of my hands, I believe it was taken right after practicing the Flight of the Belgian bumble bee for the record. Nothing bad and most guitarists I know have experienced this after intensive practicing.

On one of the songs of STARDUST REQUIEM Tony MacAlpine plays a guest solo. MacAlpine is famous for Neoclassical Metal and Fusion Jazz. So he must have been your perfect choice for a solo. How did you contact him and was it difficult to convince him to do the job?

That's a long story, Tony MacAlpine has been one of my favorite guitar players since I first heard MAXIMUM SECURITY which literally blew me away. For my CD I immediately thought of him for a duel on the track "Stardust Requiem", but it's one thing to dream, another to realize it. Tony is a very busy musician, I tried to contact him a few times through his website but didn't manage to get in contact with him. For the coincidence part, from my work as a designer I did some graphics work for Nomad Factory and Bernie Torelli the owner was a good friend of Tony MacAlpine who recorded some of the CAB recordings for him, so it was easier to get in contact with Tony. No need to say I how happy I was when he said he really liked the track and accepted to play on the tune. When he send in the solos I must say I had a tear in my eye, he really did an awesome job on it and his solos where the perfect match for the tune. Same for Brett Garsed, both are fantastic musicians and really cool dudes, I'm blessed to have both of 'm on the CD, they made a dream come true.

STARDUST REQUIEM the title of your album as well as the cover are somehow science fiction influenced. Are you a SF fan? Michael Angelo Batio once told me in an interview that he loves SF. Another parallel between you and Batio?

Maybe not a fan but I don't dislike a good SF film. For some reason the mediation behind the CD on the question "where do we come from and where do we go to?" somewhat pushed me into that SF direction. It kind of represents the cycle of life starting with "Angeli ex galaxia" and closing with the "Farewell" trilogy.

On the cover of STARDUST REQUIEM I see some astro signs. Those signs also appear as pearl inlays on the fret-board of your new Siggi Brown HVE Stardust Signature guitar. By now we know about your artist talent and your job for Washburn guitars. Did you design the HVE guitar on your own or were the people at Siggi Brown Fine Young Guitars also involved?

Most part is Siggi Braun's and his team design as it's based on his popular O-Design guitar. Siggi is really fantastic to work with. He has very good ideas, is open minded, very patient and fun. I selected the pickups, hardware, inlays & color options and the name HVE Stardust was an obvious link to my CD. Siggi suggested a few other ideas and the wood options based on my playing styles, I never saw someone so passionate about guitar building.

It is almost not necessary to mention that the HVE guitar is one of the most beautiful guitars I have ever seen, awesome design and superb paint job. That guitar does match the Speed Of Light and the Armored Flame by Dean Guitars built for Batio.

Thank you, and I agree with you, the result is awesome. This is the best and most beautiful guitar I have ever played, it's very comfortable and can cover a lot of different styles.

Having your own signature guitar must make you proud. And you are among some well known players endorsed by Siggi Brown like Timo Tolkki, Victor Smolski and Alex Beyroth.

Oh yes, I'm very proud to have my own guitar and be part of the Siggi Braun family. Earlier in September Siggi invited me to come to his 20th anniversary party and this was an amazing experience to see so many happy faces and artists together.

On YouTube I found a video, you play Malmsteens "Triology Suite Op 5", and display Batios over – under technique. The Malmsteen song is difficult enough. How does it feel to show off with over- under, like a motorbike champ who does cross the finish line with a power wheelie?

I think there are two sides on every artist, the first one is into music, but the other one also likes to do some show in front of an audience, Jimi Hendrix and many others have done this & Michel Angelo Batio pushes this to the extreme. It was my job as a demonstrator that motivated me to learn the over-under technique to attract a little more audience and I can confirm it definitely helped ;) I think it's fun as long as it doesn't take over the musicality. I only learned a few licks this way and am definitely not as good at it as Batio at it!

I mentioned your many talents but I should point out that you also play bass, piano and drums. Does learning a new instrument come natural and easy to you?

As far as my own playing goes, we had to learn piano in school, played some drums and bass so I have some basics and I'd love to spend more time on these instruments, but to be honest I'm not such a good piano, drum or bass player at all and fortunately we have computers today to help to play what we hear in our head. Most drum and bass parts have been played by real musicians. On drums we have Philippe Ravez, Leo Isnard, Michel Fourcade and on bass there's the excellent Goran Vujic from Germany.

STARDUST REQUIEM starts with the song "Angeli Ex Galaxia" where your classical music education shines. Next is the title track "Stardust Requiem" that has a superb melody with some powerful killer guitar riffs topped off with shred metal attacks. That is a very unusual combination but it works so well. Was it your idea right from the start to create a song that is completely different and put two Tony MacAlpine solos in the track as the icing on the cake?

I wanted to compose an intro for the tune Stardust Requiem and composed the idea with the Armenian duduk (woodwind instrument) and then found that an older orchestral passage I composed in 2002 was the missing link between the intro and the tune Stardust Requiem. It's hard to say how ideas come, sometimes you force yourself to compose and nothing happens then one day you have a great idea that comes out of nothing, there's some kind of magic in the process that makes it happen and your influences always play a major role here. For this tune mine were Dream Theater, Symphony X, Joe Satriani, Tony MacAlpine Yngwie Malmsteen.

You have several very emotional songs on the album, "N-Land" is one of them. The focus is on your crystal clear guitar playing, a kind of demonstration how great an electric guitar can sound. I bet this is one of your favorite songs.

Yes I really like this one, the name N-Land came from mixing the names of my daughter Enea and my son Erland and shows the more Jeff Beck influenced side of my playing with the tremolo arm.

Rimsky-Korsakovs "Flight of the Bumble Bee" has been a challenge for many musicians. David Garrett played it on his violin and Joey from Manowar turned the song into a thundering bass solo. You could not resist to do your own interpretation and what an amazing one I must admit. High speed tapping with an aggressive humming sound that really reminds me of a bumble bee. Beware of the bee's sting!

Don't forget, this one's a Belgian bumble bee, the only thing you need to beware of it that he drinks beer ;) Seriously, I'm aware that a lot of other players have done the flight of the bumble bee in the past and my version is a natural evolution of the one from Jennifer Batten and Keith Marcello but on a 7 string and 1 tone lower. But the magic part comes from composer Marc Dall'Anese who wrote an absolutely mind blowing arrangement of it for orchestra, I think the mix between the guitar on 7 strings and an orchestra is really special. Marc is a great film composer and I had a lot of luck he did this arrangement for me.

Let's get to one of my favorite songs ever, not only on this album. "Walking in the air" by Howard Blake was the title track for an animation film. Because the melody is so good some musicians did a cover in the past. I know one by Celtic Woman and another one by Nightwish with Tarja Turunen on vocals. Before I heard your version I would never have believed that the song would work without vocals. Your guitar does replace the vocals and the playing is absolutely brilliant. Your cover is even more emotional and more touching than the original song. The guitar sounds like Gary Moore is back from the good old "Empty Rooms" and "Parisienne Walkways" days. The original "Walking in the Air" never had a happy tune which is unusual for a song in an animated movie, but your version is so, so sad. George Harrison had the song "While my guitar gently weeps". Sorry to say that Mr. Harrison but Hans Van Even can make a guitar weep that makes you look like an amateur. No matter how often I listen to your version Hans it never fails to put a tear in the corner of my eye and goose bumps on my back. You dedicated the song to Hannelore & Herwig.. A while back one of your friends died and you put the song on Facebook in memory of your friend. So you must be aware how sad and emotional it is.

As I mentioned Hannelore is my sister! We often watched the original animation film when we were young with my brother and sister, for me it's a wink to the past. This melody has something very special, melancholic or even sad but it also shows of the tender side of us. It's my favorite melody of all times as well and the perfect example music can tell books better than words. It uses my preferred arrangement from Celtic Woman but with the melody played on guitars, I was really stressed to find the right sound and guitar playing but am very happy with the outcome of it, it's one of my favorites of the CD now.

I am not much of a jazz fan but "Red Sun" and "Glassy Sky" the jazzy tracks on STARDUST REQUIEM have such a vital and elegant lightness that even the eyes of an old Rock and Metal fan like me shine. I think it was a good idea not to have some "over the top complicated jazz pieces" on the album. What do you think?

Yes sometimes in jazz & also progressive music things can sound over-complicated to the listener. I tried to keep it balanced trying to concentrate on the melody. In the beginning I was afraid that mixing so many different styles wouldn't work, I mean, it reflects the way I listen to music but how would other people react to it ? Finally I'm happy with it, most people seem to appreciate the different directions and I'm especially surprised to get so good reactions from Metal oriented magazines like yours, which puts a big smile on my face.

"Still got the Blues" was one of the most famous songs by Gary Moore. After listening to "Hans`Blues" I know that you are also "Blues infected". The song is a kind of Blues jam session with eight guest musicians. Are you influenced by Gary Moore? I bet you are. In the booklet I see two photos where you wear a kind of uniform. Gary Moore used to wear one of those in videos to his album OVER THE HILL AND FAR AWAY.

I love everything from Gary Moore, he was a genius. I've seen older videos where he was doing the kind of stuff Joe Satriani did years later, he inspired a lot of people and was a pioneer much more then people know today. "Over the hills and far away" was a really good album too. It might sound surprising but one of my favorite albums from Gary Moore is "DARK DAYS IN PARADISE", few people seem to know this one, and I think it wasn't a great commercial success but it's definitely one of the more inspiring CD's from him & the guitar playing is fantastic.

"To the Stars" one more melancholy masterpiece is dedicated to your wife. What were her reactions when she heard the song for the first time and learned that this one was for her?

This song was initially a Christmas tune I wrote for her, fortunately for me she likes it a lot!

"Song for Ewena" the title says it all, is for your little daughter. We can hear her in the background. Did you pick this song for her because it's so gentle?

It all started one day on vacation, I didn't have a tune for her yet and she was really having a lot of fun. I decided to record 4 minutes when she was really having fun and then composed this tune for her. Again it may sound a little contrasted between all the other tunes but I think it fits the CD very well and most fun part of it is that her funny voices are listened to worldwide!

I pointed out that STARDUST REQUIEM combines many musical styles. Imagine you work in a CD shop in which category would you put your album, Rock, Metal, Instrumental Guitar? That is difficult.

I would say it's almost impossible, and that has caused me some issues on the distribution and also gig side with this project. The problem today in music business is that everyone one wants to put a style on your music, I really think that's sad and limiting, they don't expect there can be other styles on one CD or that an artist has the possibility to explore other music styles. Fortunately the CD is released under the eclectic label BP12.

You worked as a guitar instructor, what kind of advice would you give a young student? What to do and what is to avoid?

Most important advice I can give is: First, be open minded! Don't limit yourself listening to one style of music. Some music like Jazz or experimental music may take more time than others to appreciate but once your ear becomes used to the new sounds is opens so many doors. Second one is learn from your masters, transcribe as much as possible to master technique, arrangements and musical techniques, then try to explore your own horizons, many well known composers did this in the past. And third, don't be afraid to break rules.

Well Hans, we have reached the end of our interview and I want to thank you for your patience and cooperation. As always, the last words belong to you.

Thank's Ulf for the interview and your time and for being able to express myself on HardHarderHeavy. It's not always easy for us small artists to get our word out and so it's much appreciated.

¬ Hans van Even
¬ 18.12.2014 deu | eng

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