Rodrigo y Gabriela Interview

New experiences, new sounds but no New Year resolutions. That’s just a snippet of what I got when probing one half of the hugely talented, acoustic duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. Hailing from Mexico, they have taken the world by storm after a humble beginning just over a decade ago, playing their fast, Latin-infused rock on the pub circuit in Ireland. From there they have climbed steadily, headlining a stage at Glastonbury, playing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in the States and performing for President Barack Obama to name a mere few highlights.

Now as they approach the release of their fifth album (not including a string of live ones) I wanted to find out what it was like recording in Cuba, what music made them tick growing up and the exciting prospect of being asked to write music for motion pictures. Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero are a match made in finger-plucking heaven and 2012 is ready for their return. Mulder and Scully, be afraid; you are now entering Area 52.

AltSounds: Hi Rodrigo, your new album Area 52 is set for release later this month. What’s the meaning behind the album title?
Rodrigo: ‘Area 52’ is a playful suggestion that there is somewhere even more mysterious beyond ‘Area 51’. Cuba was very much an unknown and mysterious place for us to visit, we had never been there before. Musically as well, this was new territory for us to go into.

AltSounds: So, you decided to record the album in Cuba. I’ve been there myself and found its culture and music fascinating. How was the experience working with a Cuban orchestra?
Rodrigo: It was a revelation. Gabriela thought it was like going to music school and she was right! They seemed like aliens to us, extraordinary players, nice people to work with; they understood what we were reaching for in the sessions, and we worked together in an amazing way.

AltSounds: You recently teased everyone with the new flamenco-inspired single ‘Juan Loco’, but can you give us any other idea as to how the new music is different from your past material?
Rodrigo: It’s the first time we have ever been in studio with a big band; a thirteen piece orchestra. A guy called Alex Wilson worked on these new arrangements with us, so you have this new hybrid sound which is part Latin, part Cuban, part Metal. It doesn’t really sound like anything else we have done before.

AltSounds: That sounds awesome! Right, so we obviously know that you play acoustic guitars but do you have a preference for what brand you use?
Rodrigo: We play Yahama and Conde Hermanos guitars.

AltSounds: Last year you were involved in writing music for the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides soundtrack, and now this year you have written tracks for the Shrek spin-off, Puss In Boots. How does writing music for a movie soundtrack differ from writing music for a regular album?
Rodrigo: It’s a very different experience. You have much more control when you are making music for your own album. With films the producer or director has the final say on what ends up on the screen.

AltSounds: So, what music did you both listen to growing up in Mexico?
Rodrigo: A lot of classic rock: Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Sabbath and The Beatles. Then I heard Master Of Puppets by Metallica and got into thrash metal in a really big way – Megadeth, Testament, Slayer.

AltSounds: I heard that you met each other while playing in a metal band called Tierra Ácida! Do you have a favourite metal band of all time?
Rodrigo: Metallica.

AltSounds: Quick decision! Have you got a favourite album at the moment?
Rodrigo: Recently I’m listening to Mars Volta, Death Magnetic by Metallica and Kansas.

AltSounds: Is there anyone that you’d like to work with but you haven’t had the chance to yet?
Rodrigo: We have been blessed to meet and play with many of our musical heroes. I wouldn’t want to put a jinx on any possible future collaborations by putting it out there!

AltSounds: That’s fair enough. I wouldn’t want to be held responsible for any not happening because of my big mouth! I wanted to ask if either of you made any New Year’s resolutions?
Rodrigo: No.

AltSounds: Good plan, they’re so overrated. Finally, what’s your most memorable moment from 2011?
Rodrigo: We will never forget the whole Cuban experience, the kindness of the people and the quality of the musicians. Then at the end of the year we did a back to basics European tour through Greece, Spain, Italy and Germany. Small crew, stripped down production, club venues; it was great fun.

AltSounds: Many thanks Rod!

Download the track ‘Juan Loco’ for free HERE and check out the duo’s Facebook and Twitter for more information. Be sure to catch them (with a full Cuban band!) on their European tour this year, dates are below.

  • Feb 19th – The Olympia Theatre, Dublin, Ireland
  • Feb 21st – The Academy, Glasgow, Scotland
  • Feb 22nd – HMV Ritz, Manchester, England
  • Feb 24th – Brixton Academy, London, England
  • Feb 26th – Cirque Royal, Brussels, Belgium
  • Feb 27th – Olympia, Paris, France
  • March 1st – Les Docks, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • March 2nd – Komplex 457, Zurich, Switzerland

Interview by Candice Haridimou for AltSounds.