Rodrigo y Gabriela

////RODRIGO Y GABRIELA////APRIL 2007////

Rodrigo (Sanchez) and Gabriela (Quintero) are a couple of quick-fast and nimble-fingered Mexicans, responsible for creating a completely unique sound only with the use of acoustic guitars. I mean you’ve really got to witness them in action to be able to fully access their skills. I guess for most of us, their style is difficult to define, straddling both world music and rock, often imbued with timeless Hispano influences. The fire comes from a life-long passion for Heavy Metal music. Their story started a long and very committed time ago. After eight years in a Mexican based Metal band Terra Acida (Acid Earth), Rodrigo and Gabriela decided to go it alone, leave the amplifiers behind and up-root their lives to move to Europe for an exploration of new avenues. After a considerable time busking in and around the streets of Dublin, they were picked up by Damien Rice as a support slot for his tour. Since then things have exploded for the duo globally. Recently in the UK they blew away the post Friday night pub frequenters with a blistering performance on Later with Jools – which seemed to really capture the nations attention. Rodrigo Sanchez kindly explains a little bit more about the pair and those Led Zeppelin and Metallica Spanish guitar cover verions, you may well have heard in passing… 

You’ve been in the music business for a long time now without huge amounts of recognition, but I wondered how you feel about your new found fame and your current success in the US – an area notorious to crack?
It has been pretty crazy here for the last few months. But you know it feels as though all the hard work that we put in for the last few years in Europe has laid the groundwork for what is happening here. Without putting in the work before, you know, the busking, the gigs, the touring and the recording, we wouldn’t be having such a crazy time now.

You’ve recently experiened a few visa problems getting into the US…can you tell me a little more about this?
There is a guy also called Rodrigo Sanchez and he’s been doing do some dodgy shit that makes him not welcome in America. We had been touring there and appearing on TV shows, you know like Letterman and Leno, but every six months we have to renew our visas and when we went to renew them this time I was told that there was a problem…..and until it could be proved that I was not the same guy my visa would not be renewed. It went all the way to the FBI.  So Gabriela and I were forced to have a few weeks on the beach in Mexico!

Can we talk about your decision to come to Europe. I wondered why you would decide upon such a colossal move when you could easily have gone to America?
In Mexico we have many things the same as America….the same TV shows…and it doesn’t seem that different to Mexico. Europe seemed more attractive, a different collection of countries and people and also there is something really good about being able to get on a plane and within a few hours being in a completely different culture – you don’t get that in America.

You’ve lived in Ireland for a long time now, do you class it as home?
We pay taxes in Ireland. But Mexico is home. We have spent a lot of our time in Dublin, Ireland over the last few years. But the last time we were in Dublin was last December. When we have time off we go back to Mexico. That is where my cats are….and wherever my cats are…that’s my home

There must be some pretty major cultural differences between Europe and S. America?
That’s hard to say in a quick answer. Within Europe there are so many different cultures and that is one of the reasons that Europe is so special.

What do you miss about Mexico when you are are here in Europe?
My cats, food, friends, the weather, and soccer…

How has your music been recieved by the Mexican people?
We’ve never played there and never released a record there. We started in Europe and now things are happening in America but we’ve never planned to make Mexico a priority….We’d have to spend so much time touring there to make it really work and there are other countries that we would rather focus on before – such as Japan and the rest of Asia really – before we think about working in Mexico

So the ‘F’ word! I’ve picked up from previous interviews, web blogs and sleeve notes that you are both really keen to explain your music is not Flamenco. Why is this?
It is not because we don’t like the word ‘flamenco’. It is because we don’t play flamenco. It is a completely different technique and if someone came to one of our gigs expecting to hear us play flamenco they would be really disappointed. There are some artists out there who say that they are playing flamenco, but they are not, and it is an insult to people who really do play flamenco and to people who love real flamenco.

Moving on to your self-titled debut album. Do you remember how you felt when you first found out John Leckie (My Morning Jacket, Muse, Radiohead) was going to produce it?
We were in talks with some other producers and then our manager suggested him. He flew over to Ireland and met up with us and it just felt right you know.

What do you feel he brought out of you both?
Well he had never worked with people like us, so the whole thing was experimental.  He has a different technique to other people, and the experience was a learning one for all of us. There was a massive difference to our previous recordings – the sound was more similar to how we sound live.

The record features fantastic cover versions of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and Metallica’s ‘Orion’. Have you had any feedback from either camp and also, are there are any other classic tracks that are going to get the R Y G make-over?
Not from Led Zeppelin but I am in email correspondence with Robert Trujillo the bass player of Metallica. We are always experimenting with new covers and originals. We used to have a set list at gigs, but now we improvise and play whatever we feel like on the night. So that could be a new song or a different cover that we haven’t played before. We also like the crowd to tell us what they want us to play…

The release took you straight into the Irish National Charts beating both Arctic Monkeys and Johnny Cash to the top spot…
Yeah it was pretty cool. We were on tour and when we heard that album was number one it felt pretty crazy.

Who else would you like to work with on the production front?
At the moment we are thinking it would be great to work with John again. When we worked with him on this album he had never seen us play. Now he has seen us many times so it could be pretty cool to work with him again

Can we talk a little of Damien Rice… regarding when you first met him? Also, his involvement in getting you from the street to eventually being signed?
We were busking in Dublin, he had just decided to go solo and he met us when we were busking one day and started talking. We gave him some lessons on how to busk. Then we went off busking  around Europe and when we came back things were happening for him and he asked us to support him on tour. I bumped into him a couple of years ago and we went to Barcelona for a break but I’ve not been in touch with him since.

There appears to be an awful lot of attention on you both at the moment, I wondered who you’ve been most flattered by…hearing they were a fan of your music?
We had a message via our myspace site from Alex Skolnick, the guitarist of Testament and that was pretty cool. So we got in touch and invited him to one of our gigs in New York. He joined us on stage at the end of the gig and jammed with us.

What can people expect from one of your gigs?
Well it won’t be a gig where you sit down and watch quiet music in a comfortable environment. We play a mix of rhythms coming from metal to Latin rhythms…call it what you want…..it is a fucking crazy mix of shit.

This style is refreshingly unique and you seem very tight as a duo, but have either of you ever considered adding vocals or any other musicians?
We always consider everything… 

Your origial band ‘Terra Acida’ (Acid Earth) played out as an eight year chapter. Things are clearly going well for you guys, but I wondered what the other members are doing now?
Well my brother Ed is still into music, playing the piano non–professionally. I don’t know what the others are doing…

Heavy Metal is a genre which has obliviously been a big influence for you both. Can you tell us the first album that really blew your mind?
Metallica…. “Kill ‘Em All”. I was into glam rock and stuff before then. But when I heard that….

So if you could have written any Metallica song…
Orion. It is an amazing song with an incredible bridge and so many different parts…

Was there a first live concert that made you want to be a musician?
It was not a concert that made me want to be a musician. It was my sudden and clever choice not to become a pro football player…

Staying on the subject of live performance, please describe the best R y G gig to date?
There is a never a best gig and always a best gig. You come off stage at a festival having played to 50,000 people and at that moment that is the best gig. But then the next day you are playing a small intimate showcase to a handful of people and that is the best gig.

Finally, early days I know, but is there anything penned for the follow-up to ‘Rodrigo Y Gabriela’?
We are always experimenting and writing. We’ll probably be playing a couple of new originals on the UK gigs. 

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