Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero have been playing guitar together for more than fifteen years. Their acoustic, nylon stringed instruments produce a unique sound which is not easy to classify; encompassing influences from both rock and world music. While there are timeless Hispano-classical influences, the fire in the music comes from their joint devotion to the power of thrash metal and hard rock. From the tenative steps of their first self-released album in 2001, Rodrigo y Gabriela have grown in stature to be recognised as an international recording artistes with over one million albums sold; and a string of sold out concert tours around the world.
Rodrigo and Gabriela met as teenagers at the Casa de Cultura (Culture House) in Mexico City, sharing an interest in the music of Metallica and Led Zeppelin. They played together in a thrash metal band called Tierra Acida (Acid Earth) and flunked their entrance to the Conservatory. Tierra Acida enjoyed some local success on the Mexico City thrash scene, and were offered a recording contract. Sensing that this what not their destiny, the duo left the band and with it the hustle and hassle of Mexico City to the more peaceful environs of Ixtapa, on Mexico’s Pacific coast.
After a period of hanging out, playing thrash metal covers cunningly disguised as bossa nova in hotels to unsuspecting American guests; they decided to broaden their horizons and travel overseas. A friend suggested they try Ireland first, as the Emerald Isle was a good place for visiting musicians. Avoiding the obvious destinations (language and temperature wise) of Spain or Portugal, they arrived in Dublin with two acoustic guitars and a few words of English in 1999. Quickly running out of money, they started playing on Dublin’s busy Grafton Street for spare change; and found gigs in pubs, house parties and once again in hotel lobbys. Every day honing the playing skills which would enhance their repute as instrumental virtuosos.
While busking they met singer-songwriter Damien Rice, then emerging as a solo artist on the Dublin scene; and he invited them to support him at one of his first headline shows. As their reputation grew, they released ‘Foc’ as a private pressing to sell at gigs. Management and a recording contract with Irish independent label Rubyworks followed, and they released ‘Re-foc’ in 2003 and ‘Live Manchester And Dublin’ a year later. The latter being the first instrumental album to crack the Irish Top 10 bestsellers lists. Using Ireland as their base, with the help of shrewd international licensing deals and relentless touring in other territories; Rodrigo y Gabriela emerged as exciting new stars on the world music circuit.
With the release of their self titled third album in 2006, their profile blossomed. Produced by John Leckie (Radiohead, Muse, My Morning Jacket); ‘Rodrigo y Gabriela’ was their break-out album; selling over half a million albums worldwide (and counting). The period from 2006 to the end of 2008 was marked by a punishing tour schedule criss-crossing the United States, Europe, Australia and Japan. The band appeared on David Letterman, Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien; and enjoyed extensive airplay on PBS and AAA stations.
A tour souvenir CD and DVD ‘Live In Japan’ was released in 2008, and Rodrigo y Gabriela returned to their new home base in Ixtapa to start work on their new album. It has been a year since the release of “11:11”. The album sees them developing their core sound into something more sophisticated, intricate and varied. At the heart of the sound is still the stunning interplay between Rodrigo’s dazzling lead work and Gabriela’s unique rhythm play; but the base soundscape is now subtly supplemented by percussion, occasional piano and a fresh arsenal of stringed instruments from around the world, including oud and sitar. And – whisper it quietly – the introduction here and there of electric guitar.
Produced by Rodrigo y Gabriela (with co-production from John Leckie on the title track), the album was mixed by Colin Richardson; famed in the heavy metal world for his console work on Slipknot and Trivium. Picked by Rod & Gab for the way he makes guitars simultaneously sing and sting, it’s his desk dexterity that make the sound pictures on “11:11” dance before your eyes and ears.
At the heart of “11:11” lies Rod & Gab’s wish to celebrate some of the great musicians, both past and present, who have inspired them along the way. Each of the eleven tracks is a musical ‘gracias’ to a delicious and diverse assortment of talent. Some are transparent – the ‘Voodoo Chile’ quoting ‘Buster Voodoo’ is a clear nod of appreciation to Hendrix – others are more discreet. Metal God Alex Skolnick of Testament joins them on ‘Atman’, a thrilling Arabesque charge in celebration of Dimebag Darrell, replete with a scorching total shred solo from Skolnick. Elsewhere, Rod & Gab are united with L.A. based acoustic fusion veterans Strunz & Farah, to create a unique guitar quartet for the Paco De Lucia homage ‘Master Maqui’.
Since the release of the album, Rod & Gab’s love of playing live has taken them all over the world: UK, USA, Ireland, France, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Headlining world famous venues like Radio City Music Hall (NYC), The Greek Theatre (LA), Red Rocks (Colorado), The Zenith (Paris) and five nights at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London. They have been joined onstage on a regular basis by some of their musical heroes – Rob Trujillo (Metallica), Zack De La Rocha (RATM), Al Di Meola, Alex Skolnick and L Shankar.
In May of this year they were invited by President Obama to play at the White House at an official state reception with Beyonce; turns out that Barack is a big Rod & Gab fan.
Currently working on film soundtrack scores (watch this space); Rod & Gab see music as a garden with many flowers; and they will continue to move from stem to stem like strumming hummingbirds. In the ceaseless pursuit of the ultimate audio nectar, “11:11” is the latest opportunity for us to sip and share with them.