Rodrigo y Gabriela: Reinventing the Steel
Originally published in Guitar World, 30th Anniversary 2010 issue
Classical guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela create acoustic dedications to Dimebag Darrell, Jimi Hendrix and the other greats that inspired them, on their latest release, 11:11.
"Our musical background, for whatever reason, has been super eclectic,” says Rodrigo Sanchez, one half of the dynamic acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. “It includes everything from metal to flamenco to jazz, as well as all of the different guitarists that have influenced us.”
On their new album, 11:11, those influences come together with musical dedications to 11 different artists that have inspired Rodrigo and his partner, Gabriela Quintero. Says Rodrigo, “For this album, we thought of focusing on our influences and introducing these people to our crowd, because we felt it would be a good contribution to the music that we love.”
Within the scope of each of these specifically composed pieces, the duo boldly demonstrates the guitar virtuosity that has made it one of the hottest groups on the guitar music scene. The album’s opening track, “Hanuman,” explodes with an aggressive burst of hard-driving, highly syncopated rhythm guitar, giving way to flamenco-inspired rapidfire strumming and the type of dark, minor melodies that are most often associated with Spanish classical guitar. At times, it’s impossible to imagine that just two guitars can produce this level of musical density and complexity.
But 11:11 also features a few guitar-playing guests. “Atman,” a dedication to the late Pantera axman Dimebag Darrell, has a blazing guitar solo from Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick, while the accomplished acoustic guitar duo Strunz and Farrah join Rodrigo y Gabriela on “Master Maqui,” a song dedicated to flamenco master guitarist Paco De Lucia. Performed in 6/8 meter at a brisk tempo, the track is a good example of the duo’s brilliant ability to interweave intensely complex and well-defined guitar parts.
It’s something they’ve been doing together for more than 15 years. Rodrigo and Gabriela began their musical association as teenage thrash metal players in their native Mexico City. When they eventually became fed up with the underground metal scene there, they changed directions and devoted themselves to the acoustic guitar, moving to Dublin and perfoming regularly on Grafton Street and in Temple Bar. In 2004, they got a break when Irish singer/songwriter Damien Rice asked them to perform at the big Irish music festival Oxegen.
The group’s first album, Rodrigo y Gabriela, was released in Ireland in February 2006, entering the Irish album charts at Number One. This breakthrough release, which has gone on to sell more than 600,000 copies worldwide, features covers of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and Metallica’s “Orion.” The duo lists Metallica among its primary influences, along with Megadeth, Slayer, Testament and Overkill.
Rodrigo and Gabriela recently stopped by the Guitar World studio to discuss their very unique approach to rock-and-metal influenced acoustic guitar music, while disclosing the idea behind their new release.
GUITAR WORLD On the new album, 11:11, every song is a dedication to a specific musician or group of musicians. How did the concept evolve?
RODRIGO SANCHEZ When we decided to do this kind of tribute album, it was based on the idea that we thought we could introduce some artists to our fans that they potentially would like but have not had access to. That way, we divert the attention from ourselves to something that is much broader in nature.