Mike Hernandez, multi-instrumentalist from El Paso, Texas

Mike Hernandez is a musician, composer, high school teacher, and multi-instrumentalist from El Paso, Texas. Hernandez had his first remarkable encounter with music at a very young age. At that very young age, Hernandez had known that he wanted to play a musical instrument. He recalls his very first encounters with cartoon music and how it made him feel deep down as a kid. To Hernandez, it contributed a great deal to become a musician during the formative years of his life.

Early Years

One of the most defining periods in his life was when he would visit his grandmother as a kid. Hernandez would often hear some deafening noises coming out from a section of his grandmother’s home from his grandmother’s kitchen but never really got his mind to figure out exactly what the noise was and where the noise was coming from. However, he opened the door to a room one day and what met his eyes was his uncles rehearsing something that seemed like Black and Death Metal of that time. Hernandez was in awe; the distorted guitars and the deafening drums were just too fascinating for him. At that point, he realized that one of his uncles was a drummer. That was how he formed his earliest fascination for the drums and music, generally. He would also steal some of his uncle’s tapes and listen to Metallica and death metal. Although He had always loved the drums, Hernandez rather started playing the guitar because his mom never wanted him to play the drums. She was against him picking up the drums because of her previous experience with Hernandez’s uncle, who would make so much noise with the drums. According to Hernandez, ‘ he got a guitar as a gift on his twelfth or thirteenth birthday. He started listening and playing Guns ‘n’ Roses, Nirvana, and some Metallica on his guitar at that young age.

Influences

Playing some Nirvana songs and tablatures opened up Hernandez’s mind to new possibilities and horizons in songwriting. According to him, it altered and shaped his overall perception of the art of songwriting at a very young age. He started incorporating influences from metal, punk, and rock of the ’90s into his writings. Hernandez was drawn towards the more melodic punk songwriting approach of the time. He was fascinated by punk rock’s simplicity and complexity, which greatly influenced his overall approach to music and songwriting. Hernandez started writing punk rock in high school, and he emulates some of his best bands of the time. Also, in high school, he started gravitating towards Mariachi and the traditional Mariachi instrumentation when his teacher included him in his high school Mariachi program. This further refined his approach to songwriting as he gradually started fusing Mariachi influences with punk, metal, and rock elements. To Hernandez, high school was such an important factor in his musical development. He could explore and experiment with diverse musical horizons and influences, thereby contributing greatly to the unique and highly synergized sound he currently has as a rock musician.

The Process

Talking about his typical creative process, Hernandez hints that he usually starts with chord progressions; he experiments with different chordal and harmonic movements and derives melodic ideas. He also agrees that he listens to other genres totally unrelated to his genre to get some ideas like bass or melodic lines. The typical creative process for him is to figure out an inspiring chord progression, hum some melodies, and then build up other musical parts like the bass and others. Talking about knowing “when the song is done,” he says that whenever he feels like listening to his song over and over again, then he probably knows it is done. Normally for Hernandez, writing the music to a song often takes not more than two days. Lyric writing usually is done on the third day. Talking about his approach to lyric writing, he also says that it is basically a similar approach to music writing; he builds upon ideas from real life and creates lyrics from it.

Talking about the other artistic side, aside from music, he said he would probably be a photographer or a filmmaker if he weren’t making music. He recalls creating a storyboard during one of his video shoots and taking charge of the entire story-telling process of the shoot. According to him, if he weren’t making music, he would probably be doing filmmaking. He further talked about the changing dynamics of the music industry compared to the ‘90s and how the internet has partially eliminated the so-called “middlemen” and “gatekeepers” in the industry. According to Hernandez, the internet has really played the card in favor of the artist – though not so much in favor of the middlemen and gatekeepers of the industry. He, however, believes that any serious musician should be able to bypass the so-called middlemen and gatekeepers in the music industry, thus paving a way independently.

Personal Feedback

Talking a bit about his personal life, work experience, and his relationship with people, Hernandez remembers what he regards as one of the best pieces of advice he had ever gotten in life. It was from his grandfather, and it was “Never judge people.” He also advises other artists and aspiring artists in the industry that he believes in passion over skills. He doesn’t believe in being the best guitar, bass, or drum player, but rather being passionate and just being good as a person. He gives an instance of being “the worst player” and being “the ‘awesomest’ dude” in the locality. Talking about “what next?” Hernandez says, “the next thing is the next song, the next thing is the next record.” He vows to continue creating music and working with amazing musicians.

Current Project

Mike Hernandez is the founder of “Tribes,” a rock & roll mariachi band from El Paso, Texas. “Tribes” is an 11-piece ensemble that uses traditional mariachi instrumentation driven by a full drum kit. Their songwriting draws deeply from the historic Mexican folk tradition – their energy, volume, and power is tapped out of the indie rock scene. The group is influenced by some of its larger ensembles, including Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene.

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