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Interview: Rodrigo y Gabriela

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Since 2000 Rodrigo y Gabriela, the Mexican acoustic duo, have been creators of a unique upbeat and rhythmic music. Their dynamic attitude, exceptional skill and positive aura are just a few reasons for their current success worldwide, having sold 1.2 million albums last year.  The duo’s new album Area 52 has been their biggest challenge yet, a collaboration of many big names and infused styles that has been a hit so far with sold out world tours in London to Los Angeles, Paris to Tokyo and Dublin to Sydney.

Charlotte Corner caught up with Rodrigo...

Rodrigo Y GabriellaCongratulations, to you and Gabriela on your 1.2 million album sales last year how does that feel?
I feel happy, this is what we do, and it’s part of our life now. I mean I would be happier if I found a way to help more people or to stop suffering, but I’m far from that (laughs). As a musician I am satisfied, and having money is not everything, through my music, I am happy I can help people get along and overcome their issues.

With Area 52 you have toured around to world, which country have you enjoyed most and where would you like to go next?

There are so many different cultures. We seem to have an addiction to Japan and every time we go there it’s great, not only Gab and myself, but the whole crew love it. We enjoy travelling and usually it’s for touring, so every few days we will be somewhere completely different. My friends had always been a little envious; I used to think to myself, if only they knew. I love what I do but travelling does cause a lot of stress and damage to your body.  There had come a point last year where we didn’t want to go out anymore, we just wanted to be back at home; no matter how beautiful the country was.

How often to you manage to go home and also perform?

Not that often, that is the problem. At the end of last year’s tour, we were lucky to be able to play in Mexico City; it was the first time we played in a different state in our own country. So for this year we plan to tour with the band as much as we can, luckily we have that freedom. This album was not actually planned to go on tour but it turned out to be so unique and we loved it. Touring with the band is so different for us and gives us great experience, all seven of us, we tried to reduce numbers; imagine travelling with 15 crazy Cubans.

You mention how stressful touring is; do you often wish to be just at home?

Yeah of course, I love being at home, but this is now part of my life. I can manage to control how I feel somehow by talking to our management, but it is difficult very difficult. Gab and I used to go out more, and if we wanted to travel to different countries, we would but now a lot of people depend on our decisions; but we manager to balance and control what we need to do and what we would like to do. We have been travelling with our crew for seven years and we are basically a family, we laugh, go out together but most importantly also share the same values on music and professionalism.

Whilst Area 52 was being recorded, you had the opportunities to work with fantastic artists like Rage against the Machine, Metallica, how was it working with these people?

Great, but it is also part of our profession to do this, so for us it’s normal in the way to establish yourself within the music industry. In our initial meeting we were amazed, but you realise they are normal dudes, and some; you wish you never met (laughs). With certain people, you just connect to them so well and it can be totally unrelated to music, with a more deeper meaning.  It’s good that we all don’t belong to one genre of music, we evolve and meet people from different music styles like jazz, guitar and trash metal and you have the opportunity to learn from them.

Apart from your music career, have you got any other goals in life?

Football is one of my greatest passions. I play for my home team as soon as I get back home, I rejoin my team again and whilst I’m touring they continue playing in the league. Other than that every other weekend I get the chance to climb, snorkel and scuba dive. For me it is important to be in touch with nature.

‘Tamacun’ is a real rhythmic setter, upbeat and a musical wolf whistle; at what age did you first hold a guitar?

The age of 10, is when I first played the guitar properly, I had wanted to become a drummer, but I didn’t have a drum set, and at home we had a couple of guitars. It was my older brother that introduced me to music; he used to listen to heavy metal albums. We started having imaginary bands, it was fun, but at this point playing guitars was only my hobby. Since I was able to walk I played football and at 14 I joined the national team. When I had to make a decision over music or football, I picked music. That decision surprised everyone. When I was starting out, I had written so many songs but I had no success whilst my old team mates represented Mexico in the World Cup. But now, they have all retired.

What has been the most challenging aspect working on your new album?

I wanted to have some Cuban mixture within the album, and I wanted to reinvent all the original songs, and therefore the work is very unique. It’s typical of me to go over my old songs, wanting to correct and perfect them. Once we got the hang of it, work began to flow and we are just so happy with the end results. The mixture of the sitar playing with the Cuban background and our guitars is really interesting.

Your music has been used in movies such as ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ and ‘Puss in Boots’, was that a bizarre realisation?

I honestly would never have thought about using our music for these, I couldn’t see it; I just laughed and thought why us but they made the right choice. For ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ I really enjoyed working with our friend, Hans Zimmer, it was a whole new experience. Gab and I both love cats so when DreamWorks called and asked us to record music for ‘Puss in Boots’ we agreed instantly.

What can we expect from your next album?

We are very open now, after the films and our new album, I think our next one will be very interesting because we are no longer afraid to experiment and we will make use of any opportunity. Previously we held back, but now, we are fully prepared and ready for it.

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