“I was hoping not to get cancelled”: Unprocessed’s Manuel Gardner Fernandes talks cyberbullying and new album ‘…And Everything in Between’
Manuel Gardner Fernandes is a player surrounded by monumental numbers. The singer and guitarist of Unprocessed is something of a social media star, his hugely technical shredding earning him 313,000 followers on Instagram, while his YouTube channel has 177,000 subscribers and 22 million views. The only downside is that the 28-year-old doesn’t give a shit.
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“It was in, like, 2018 or 2019 that I posted the first clip [of me playing guitar to Instagram],” the musician tells Guitar via video call from his home just outside Frankfurt, Germany. “I just didn’t stop doing that until a certain point where I could just focus my thing on Unprocessed and doing YouTube stuff here and there. I’m pretty relieved that I don’t have to rely on Instagram anymore, because I hate it. I hate social media in general. I’m not the biggest guy on posting everyday or relying on a social media platform. That’s not freedom for me.”
It’s easy to understand why Fernandes isn’t the biggest fan of social media once you actually sit down and talk to him. While your archetypical influencer is a loud and verbose speaker, he’s the opposite: quiet, introverted and certainly not one for long-winded answers. His shyness is belied, however, by the swaggering and confident progressive metal music he makes in Unprocessed.
Fernandes started Unprocessed as an aggro death metal outfit when he was a teenager, but they’ve since evolved into one of the most tastefully technical bands in heavy music. The frontman’s far from shy about demonstrating his talents (specifically a graceful left hand and stunningly fast picking) during their songs. However, unlike the litany of guitar-based influencers around him, Fernandes’ original music isn’t mindless showing off.
“I want to be remembered as someone who’s very technical and all that, but who focussed on the songs themselves,” the player states. “I want to write a legacy with the songs, not the fast guitar videos. If people remember me as the guy with the fast right hand, that’s sick, but, for me, songs are the focus. If there’s a person in 100 years weeping because of one of our songs, that’s a legacy. I don’t care if that’s a million people or just 10.”
Manuel Gardner Fernandes performing with Unprocessed
On new album …And Everything in Between, Unprocessed temper their marathons of athletics with actual melodies and blunt-force heaviness: stuff that any metalhead, even if they know nothing about guitar, can get behind. Opener Hell rises from roars and down-tuned riffing heavy enough to make Meshuggah drop a bollock up to a gorgeous and infectious hard rock chorus: “Hell is a place within myself,” Fernandes croons.
Thrash recreates the intense percussion of the genre it takes its name from – except it uses lightspeed muted picking as well as actual drums. Then, Glass casts solemn singing and clean strumming against thunderous walls of electric guitar, while Die on the Cross of the Martyr seeks help from two players who, like Fernandes, prefer songwriting craft to mindless flexing: Polyphia’s Tim Henson and Scott LePage.
“Tim and Scott and all the Polyphia guys, we’re friends,” Fernandes says of the team-up. “They brought us on our first UK tour back in 2019 and we made a song with Tim and Clay [Gober, Polyphia’s bassist] called Real. They brought us for the first time to the US and for the second time to the US, and they just helped us. They helped us more than some businesspeople. I wrote Die on the Cross… and I could just hear Tim and Scott on that one, so I just asked them. I showed them the full record.”
Fernandes is something of a prodigy when it comes to music. Not only is he an online star at 28, not only did he start his band in his teens… he first picked up his instrument when he was three years old. “My parents, they gave me this little half-guitar,” he remembers. “It wasn’t a plastic guitar, it was a proper guitar, but it was petite. That was probably the first time.”
Unsurprisingly, Fernandes elaborates that music runs in the family. His maternal grandfather was a guitarist born in Dublin, who then moved to London and “at the age of 15 travelled the world”. Fernandes’ mum is half German, half Irish as a result of these travels, while the player’s dad has a history of playing bass in the German thrash metal scene with a band called Cockroach. After the pair met, they settled in Frankfurt and had baby Manuel in 1995.
“I grew up with rock ’n’ roll and stuff,” Fernandes says of his childhood. He had an especially strong passion for Metallica, to the point that his fascination with downpicking caused some guitar instructors to write the youngster off.
“I started electric guitar lessons [aged 12], but I hated those,” the musician continues. “People tried to tell me that I was playing like balls because I down-picked everything. They were like, ‘Yeah, you shouldn’t do that.’”
Manuel Gardner Fernandes in a studio with a guitar
Do It Yourself
As a result, outside of classical guitar lessons he had between six and 12, Fernandes is an entirely self-taught player. He started playing in pop and metal cover bands in school before, aged “16 or 17”, founding the band that became Unprocessed. It wasn’t until bassist David John Levy and drummer Leon Pfeifer joined in 2017, however, that the musician considered Unprocessed a “serious” band.
“We did everything as a local band,” Fernandes remembers of the early days. “We were a local band for six or seven years and did everything: we drove far away for the most shitty gig and stuff like that. We made business connections with the shittiest people.”
Part of that campaign was, in 2018, Fernandes joining Instagram and beginning to post footage of him playing. The response to his wildly fast and distinct style was immense, and the positive feedback from the online community is when the player truly realised he had a gift for his instrument. He jokes: “I think the first time I was like, ‘I can do stuff other people can’t,’ was throughout the whole Instagram traction, but I always knew something was wrong with my right hand.”
What was the practice routine that helped sharpen those skills, Guitar asks. “I don’t have a daily practice routine, honestly,” Fernandes answers. “I’m probably letting fans down when they hear that, but I barely play guitar for the sake of playing guitar. I just play guitar when I do videos or record some Unprocessed stuff. What I did in the past was just play my favourite songs and, 15 years ago, it was all Metallica.”
Manuel Gardner Fernandes
Sadly, online success also opens the gate for trolls: a fact Fernandes is tragically familiar with. Once his videos started gaining traction in 2019, a high-profile YouTuber called the shredder out for speeding up the footage. He didn’t – he’s just that good.
“I was upset for days,” Fernandes remembers. “I couldn’t even talk properly for days, because I was so afraid I was just finished. I just signed big company contracts and Unprocessed had just got a decent reach with the song Abandoned, so I was pretty afraid: I was hoping not to get cancelled, in a way. But my business partners during that time were super sick. They were like, ‘We believe you, it’s going to be okay.’”
Eventually, though, the guitarist counterattacked with evidence of his legitimacy: “I proved them wrong by playing with people in the background. I even played, like, 30 percent faster just to piss people off.
“We started playing loads of shows so people could see me live,” he continues. “There was lots of pressure around that time because people, they will look at your hands now, just to see you’re legit. I’m glad I didn’t make mistakes every night.”
Hit The Road
Unprocessed will return to touring in 2024, supporting UK prog metal favourites Tesseract on the European leg of their War of Being trek. The band will then headline their own shows across the US and Canada in April and May. Combining these runs with a string of 2023 festival dates, it seems Unprocessed are the busiest they’ve been on the road since the very early days of them taking whatever slot they could grab.
“I want to push the boundaries when it comes to [popularity],” Fernandes declares. “On the other hand, big, long tours are sick, but I’m not a big touring guy. I don’t want to be away from my home for six or 10 months straight. We’re not going to take something that’s not good for us anymore, because of everything we did as a local band.”
Fernandes knows Unprocessed could go far but, at the same time, he’s happy. As our conversation closes, he acknowledges that his band currently has everything that his teenage self ever wanted to achieve in music.
“The dream was always what we are doing right now, touring with sick bands like Tesseract,” he says. “I was a big Tesseract fan and still am. But, as soon as you get to that point, you just want to get bigger and bigger and your dreams get higher. I just want to see where it can all go from now.”
…And Everything in Between is out now. Unprocessed will tour Europe with Tesseract in January and February.
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