How world class bassist Juan Garcia-Herreros is making good use of the lockdown restrictions

Juan Garcia-Herreros is also known by his stage name ‘Snow Owl’. Juan is a Colombian-born world-renowned electric bass player, who has been named as one of the world‘s top ten bassists by multiple music magazines. Born in Bogotá, Garcia-Herreros moved to New York aged 21 to pursue a career in music – quickly adapting his skills to suit a diverse set of styles including jazz, pop, funk, salsa, rock, modern, classical and heavy metal, all without compromising his own unique sound. The musician‘s remarkable virtuosity has brought him on stage with Grammy- and Oscar-winning artists of all genres. His music productions have been awarded a Latin Grammy® Nomination as well as 3 Gold Medals of the Global Music Awards.


Lars: Now, let's see, where should we go now? Let's head into deepest Europe. Let's go to Austria, Vienna to be exact and meet my good friend Juan Garcia-Herreros.
Juan Garcia Herreros: Wow, Lars, you really know how to say my name, amazing. '(laughs)
Lars: It's easier for me, to say your world famous stage name, of Snow Owl.
Juan: Thank you, yes, he's always with me.  

Lars: We've interviewed several times now. We've done London, I went out to Austria to interview and then we're back in the UK. You've got so many 
roles though, as award-winning composer, arranger, bass player. I've even seen you conducting.

Juan: Yeah, I'd like to to always surprise people with my hidden abilities. I always 
prefer to be underestimated, than overestimated.  

So those skills you pick up over the years especially from special interest, and just a  desire to always grow, and pursue excellence. So 
that was a nice surprise, when we were recording  the trailer music for Dune, that Hans Zimmer let me conduct the sessions in Vienna at the Synchron Stage.
Lars: It's a lot on your shoulders, that must have been so good. I actually saw you post, not long ago, like a collaboration video, where there's lots of you, playing different instruments as a birthday, happy birthday to Hans, and you're playing a trombone.  

Juan: Well, that's one of the blessings from covid, from this time right now, is to have the time to fulfill musical dreams that I always had. You know, I carried a trombone book with me since high school. I've had this book with me 
my whole life, for trombone etudes, that I used to practice on the electric bass. And I said, you know, one day I'm gonna learn it on the trombone.  

And it happened, the blessing happened, to have the time, that extra time that you wouldn't have from all the traveling that we used to do. And I've dedicated it to learning the trombone and I'm just in love with it. Because it'll develop me even more as, in a melodic sense, in a composer sense, with understanding the 
brass instruments more. So, I love it.
Lars: That's incredible. It's also like the saxophone, all that brassy, it's sort of breathy almost voicey. The underlying theme here, of course, is like 
you mentioned covid has wiped out the live music for a moment and several years building up to that you were touring in Hans's "band",  as they say, with 200 odd people in it, choirs, orchestras, such a massive scale. It's like the bands of the 70s going on tour with Artex lorries following. You must miss that terribly.

[Music]

Juan: Not only do I miss it, it's such a tight-knitted family, also with the orchestra, and I have to mention it in this interview, that people need to realize that our orchestra, that was from the Belarusian Bolshoi opera and they are... Right 
now, Belarus is going through some of the most terrible political turmoil and protests and all my beautiful friends from the orchestra, they really need help right now and support, that people become aware of what they're, they're literally fighting for their human rights and freedom, right now.  
I miss them so much and I hope that with this interview we can also bring a little bit of awareness about what's happening to them.

Lars: During this quiet period, like so many people, I know for a fact you don't like  sitting still. What have you been up to?
Juan: Again, if you look at this sort of world reset button which is happening and if you embrace it, if you accepted it, then you start to look for answers in deeper places that you wouldn't look before.
I've been able to concentrate much more on engineering, composing, especially for soundtracks. My sound design collective that I have with all my friends here in Austria called Totem Warriors has been developing.

And of course the long-awaited release of the Red Road. We will be releasing our next animation video with LaPajarapinta studios from Colombia.  

Little world collaboration there, to follow up from what we did on the Blue Road, with 'She  Became a Thousand Birds'. We will be releasing the first single, 'Hush', the animation video in November, hopefully November 15th, everybody will finally see the video for the next story.

[Music]

Lars: Oh, I look forward to that. I enjoyed the Blue Road immensely, I mean that was quite intricate. How many people were on that?
Juan: Oh, a lot, I think we had about 25 people on that album if I'm correct. We had members of the Vienna Philharmonic and the Radio Symphony Orchestra,   we had African legends, we had Bulgarian legends, we had a mixture of all the tribes.  

And the Red Road will be a huge surprise as everybody already saw from "The Horde", the first single that we released at the beginning of last year.

Lars: Are you primarily on the bass, all the way through that? Or are you playing other instruments?  

Juan: That one is purely electric bass but it's kind of a, it's my homage to all of the heavy metal icons that influenced me, my whole life. Especially Cliff Burton and David Ellefson. There's a lot in that, on that album that people will be surprised at. Because a lot of people knew me for, let's say, fast fingers, 
tapping and slapping, and all these things.  

And I really decided to try to do an album where I'm completely naked with just a pick.

[Music]

Lars: We've talked before about your dexterity, on your monster bass. Are you still playing the 'Andreas Neubauer model?'
Juan: The Snow Owl bass, which we developed together, I mean my sound doesn't exist without it. And we developed something that is just for me, literally a cultural stamp  of a six string contrabass guitar sound. That is always with me, you see it behind me right there. And next to it, the amazing Fusion 
bag, which, by the way, on your intro, where you mention all the different cities that we have met, I just want to point out that this is the same bag, from day one. Like, I've never had any problems with the bag. The same bag that I've been carrying around the world. It's covered in badges this bag has been with me everywhere. I think it's got to be over 55 countries if I'm correct.
Lars: Good grief, that's incredible. I was going to say, one of the questions I was going to ask you further on and as we're talking about countries now, with the Hans Zimmer band, you tour and tour and tour, and I know that you love the cultural cities, and getting out and looking and getting amongst the people, especially New York, because that's got a big Colombian feel  about it, do you think, New York itself?
Juan: Oh absolutely, we have a joke in Colombia that the capital of Colombia is Corona, New York, because all the Colombians are living there.

[Music]

Lars: 

One thing I didn't mention, in your intro... Award-winning, all that sort of stuff. I think it should be mentioned last year, you were voted best bass player in the world. How did that affect you? Did you just, calm like you always are?

Juan: Well, now you're making me blush (laughs). Music Radar and the Bass Player magazine, Bass Guitar magazine as well, they had this initiative and they nominated a list of,  I think it's 20 bass players, that they thought worthy of mentioning for that year.  

And they asked the public to vote, who do you think is the best one in the world?  

And to this day, I still cannot process the fact that so many people voted for me. Joel McIver,  the editor texted me, he said "do you know  who received, you know, triple more votes than Robert Trujillo from Metallica?", and I mentioned  another bass player, I said, "oh for sure that was, you know Joe Dart, or for sure that was Stanley Clarke, or somebody else", and he told 
me that, it, "no, it's you", and I said that's very funny Joel, thank you for the joke, and I laughed and I said "that's pretty cute, who won?"  

And he said "you won", I said, "Joel, the joke is over, it's okay" and he said "Juan, you won".

[Music]

Lars: That's fantastic and it's well deserved, too. I know we talked a little while ago, you might not  remember, you were teaching somewhere, it might be one of the Berklee Studios, New York, Boston colleges, I'm not quite sure where it was, 
but you said you often get asked by students, "how do we become like you? How do we make money out of this? What do we do?" and you said,  "that's not what you need to do. Think about your best mentors, or who you should be approaching to 'learn from."'

Juan: 

I never entered music as a monetary choice. And I never went about it seeking money.  I went about it, almost as if it would be some form of, like, religion or cult,  where all you want is spiritual enlightenment and in order to get  
enlightenment you need to be surrounded by the masters. And it just so happens, you know,  that if you surround yourself with champions, you will be a champion. If you surround yourself with losers, you will be a loser. It's kind of, you know, the yin and yang of everything.

And it was a beautiful coincidence and circumstance, that people actually would pay us for doing what we love but the intention has never been money. The intention for me has  always been growth, sharing, giving sound to the 
people who could not make sound.

That's basically our role. The mission for me, will always be to keep the integrity of the spiritual path and that has nothing to do with money.

Lars: Brilliant answer, brilliant answer. And like you say, there's that camaraderie with it all.
I was lucky enough in London to get on the tour bus with you. We went 
around a little bit and went backstage,  we did all the backstage stuff. And I could not get over, I said this before, the spirituality and how everybody got on together. 
There was no "I'm louder than you",  the old-fashioned thing. It was wonderful, it's a really relaxed feeling.

[Music]

Juan: We were so blessed to have you with us. You and your lovely wife, that came along, and you came in a very special night, in the O2 Arena. 
Tom Cruise was there, there was a lot of big names there, that came to witness Hans Zimmer's mastery which we so humbly interpret every night.'  

And the reason why there's multiple generations in this band, which all have worked with Hans over the years and there's a generational link between all of us, to speak the sound of our time. And I think that's why it's come across and it's been received so well, by the world.

Lars: Well, let's hope we get back out on the road, and see you performing. Like you said, the Pirates of the Caribbean, the Mission Impossible, fantastic show. I've seen it, it really, really is a good show.
Until then, take care, we'll speak to you soon.  

Juan: Thank you so much, and as always, all my love to the Fusion family. You guys are the bestand I'm just honoured to be a part of this amazing, amazing world that you have created to help us to carry our instruments around the 
world.
Lars: Bless you, Juan. We'll speak to you soon!

Juan: Bye bye! (blows a kiss)


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Lars Mullen

About Lars Mullen

With over 30 years in the music business, Lars Mullen does indeed wear many hats, as a writer, journalist, photographer, press person for his own company Music Media Announcements. As an extensive traveller, he's a familiar figure reporting from music trade shows around the world. Spending many years touring as a professional guitarist, Lars has also interviewed a host of top bands and artists, continues to write articles for magazines globally and still finds time to track down Fusion artists for our Artist Spotlight column and Fusion Virtual World Tour Interview Series.

Bassist Fusion World Tour Juan Garcia Herreros Lars Mullen Snow Owl

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