This New Practice Amp is so Stunning, You'll Want to Display it in Your Living Room
Positive Grid's new Spark Pearl – a limited version of their best-selling smart amplifier – delivers both brilliant looks and tones
Picture this. You've just come home from a long day at work. It's time to kick back, plug in, and let off some steam while playing your guitar.
How do you typically play for fun while at home? Lug out your half stack? Grab that tin-y sounding practice amp from the closet that you purchased 20 years ago?
With Spark Pearl, there's a way to practice, jam and record in style – right there in your living room – and sound great while doing it with access to an endless well of inspiring tones. Positive Grid's brilliantly limited version of one of the industry's most popular desktop amplifiers, Spark Pearl offers all of the same crowd-pleasing smart features of the original amp, like Smart Jam, Auto Chords, and access to over 10,000 tones.
Plus, with its snowy white tolex, gold piping and contrast-stitched custom strap, you'll proudly display it in your living room or home studio. (I mean, just look at that thing!) Spark Pearl is a Bluetooth speaker too, perfect for streaming your favorite tunes to liven up any social gathering.
On its own, Spark Pearl offers seven high-quality amp settings to choose from, including hi-gain, clean and crunch. These sounds can be customized further with bass, mid and treble tone stack controls, plus mod, delay and reverb effects. Users can also save up to four tones directly to the amp for later use.
However, Spark Pearl's inspiring tone creation capabilities go way beyond the amp itself. With the companion Spark app, players can access the same tone engine that put the original Spark on the map. Here, guitarists can craft tones virtually using 30 tube amps and 40 effects powered by Positive Grid's BIAS technology, for perfecting that signature tone of their favorite player or discovering a unique sound of their own. They can also share their sounds using Positive Grid's online ToneCloud, which is home to over 10,000 tones created by famous guitarists, session players, engineers and producers from around the world.
Most pieces of guitar gear are designed with one person in mind -- the guitarist. As a result, thousands of amps and pedals have suffered the fate of being banished to basements, home offices and other designated practice areas. With a compact design highlighted by custom white tolex and gold piping, Spark Pearl looks like it could be a piece of modern home décor just as much as a guitar amp. So whether you want to jam in your living room, bedroom, kitchen, or anywhere else in your house, take comfort knowing that you'll look good in the process - so much so that you'll finally not get yelled at for leaving your gear sitting out in the living room!
Watch Spark Pearl’s premiere here.
An extremely limited quantity will be available in late April, and customers can take advantage of special pricing for early orders. Learn more about Spark Pearl at www.positivegrid.com/spark-pearl/ and sign up to be notified when it's available for purchase.
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Matt Pike, guitarist/frontman of Sleep and High on Fire, collaborates with Lace Music on unique humbucker pickups available as a set, neck only, and bridge only.
The third collaboration between Lace and Pike has developed yet another set of distinct metal-tone humbuckers. For the first time, in the Signature Pike humbucker lineup, there is a fourth option of a middle humbucking pickup to join forces with the Firespitters bridge and neck set. Metal guitarists can now blaze away with guitars outfitted with three humbuckers as a Matt Pike optional tone addition.
Firespitters feature the famous Lace patented pickup design featuring barium ferrite magnets. A fine copper gauge wire wound on the Micro Matrix Comb bobbins. Matt Pike specifically designed each of the humbucker size pickups, for the three different positions now available. This new Pike model is only available in chrome and burnt chrome with the Lace method of distressing the finish. A Pike-designed skull with a lyre design is laser etched into the heavy brass pickup covers.
Matt Pike Firespitters pricing starts at $ 142.99 US. For more information, please visit lacemusic.com.
The thrash-metal band returns with a sophomore release, where the battle-tested musicians deliver face-melting, eviscerating tunes on the heels of guitarist Michael Crain’s recovery from cancer.
Of all genres, thrash metal is one where the term “raw emotion” takes on a different meaning. It’s not, for example, raw like the voice of a folk singer baring their heart and soul in a vulnerable ballad, or raw like a live, low-fidelity recording of a blues-guitar legend’s twangs and bends. No, the rawness of thrash metal demands your attention with unflinching aggression—screams, growls, blistering guitar lines, and heart-attack-inducing drumming—and few groups in the modern heavy landscape capture that as well as supergroup Dead Cross, which consists of vocalist Mike Patton, bassist Justin Pearson, guitarist/vocalist Michael Crain, and drummer Dave Lombardo.
The band’s music drips with an incomparable kind of authenticity and visceral intensity. That vitality, you can imagine, may come easily for a band with members that helped weave the very fabric of their genre with Slayer (Lombardo), have pushed the boundaries of experimental metal with the likes of Faith No More (Patton) and Mr. Bungle (Patton, Lombardo), and made grindcore dangerous again with provocateurs like the Locust (Pearson) and Retox (Pearson, Crain).
Dead Cross’ eponymous 2017 debut, produced by Ross Robinson (Slipknot, At the Drive-In, Sepultura), laid out a blueprint of chaotic and frothing metallic hardcore and outsider weirdness. It has an inimitable sound that saw its members’ distinct musical personalities coalesce into something altogether unique—all while sidestepping the classic disappointing-supergroup curse. Now, on their sophomore LP and latest release, II, the band has reunited. Joining forces once again with Robinson, they push their volatile sound to its absolute limits, dosing their hardcore punchbowl with a hearty blast of sonic psychedelics, goth-rock textures, and even more of the twisted sounds one would expect of any Patton project.
II’ssongs have a palpable feeling of urgency and tension that was shaped by a series of life-altering and traumatic experiences, which included the pandemic, but also Crain’s courageous fight with cancer. “I got diagnosed in the summer of 2019 and started treatments in October,” he shares. “This was my first experience with cancer, and while head and neck cancers are the easiest to survive, they can have the worst treatments—and that was certainly my experience.”
Crain, who’s now in remission, continues, “I thought the treatments were going to kill me. Towards the end, I was so fucking sick, but I felt like, ‘Fuck this! I want to live, and I’m not going to leave anything unfinished ever again!’ So, I got a hold of Greg [Werckman, co-owner] at Ipecac and the guys in the band and said, ‘Let’s book studio time now.’ They were like, ‘Dude, are you sure? You’re like half dead right now!’ I said, ‘I don’t give a fuck. Let’s do this. I need this to live.’”
Working on a second Dead Cross record and returning to the studio with a real mission was the very thing that kept Crain going during the painful days that followed his last treatment. “I finished my last round of radiation the day before Thanksgiving, and we had studio time set up for early December,” he elaborates. “I was still very sick and in a lot of pain. It was rough to stand up for hours writing and playing, so tracking was especially tough, but that pain worked itself into the music.”
That it did, undeniably. You can feel it in the claustrophobic atmosphere and clang of “Animal Espionage,” the fuzzy hardcore stomp and acerbic delivery of “Strong and Wrong,” and the absolutely feral-sounding, bad-trip churn of “Christian Missile Crisis.”
Much of the writing and arrangement of II’s songs happened in the studio. And while Crain’s recent experiences certainly brought a lot of emotional weight to the process, working with a famously feel- and psychology-focused producer like Robinson helped tremendously to coax all of it out and inject it back into the music.
Michael Crain’s Gear
Crain’s main guitars are a ’77 and ’78 Gibson SG, classic choices which he uses to deliver blazing riffage.
Photo by Raz Azraai
- 1977 Gibson SG Standard (with HomeWrecker pickups)
- 1978 Gibson SG Standard (with HomeWrecker pickups)
- 1970s Gibson ES-335
- Bogner Uberschall Twin Jet
- Bogner Uberschall Twin Jet 4x12 Cab
- Peavey 5150 Head
- 1970s Marshall 4x12 Cab
- EarthQuaker Devices Organizer
- DOD Rubberneck Analog Delay
- MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay
- Ibanez Tube Screamer
- DigiTech Whammy
- Mu-Tron Octave Divider
- EHX Holy Grail Reverb
- EHX Small Stone Phase Shifter
- EHX Electric Mistress
- Boss BF-3 Flanger
- Vintage EHX Big Muff Pi
- Pro Co RAT
Strings & Picks
- Dunlop Electric Nickel (.010–.046)
- Dunlop Tortex .73 mm
Crain, who describes Robinson as the band’s fifth member, says, “He’s all about the performance and emotion.” One prime example of the producer’s uncanny ability to pull the best out of the musicians he works with is “Animal Espionage,” Crain’s favorite track on the record. Most of the song (other than the core riff and pre-chorus) was written on the spot in the studio, with Robinson coaching and pushing Crain to grasp different parts of the arrangement from places of deep emotion. “Ross is the kind of guy that asks you to think about what painful childhood memory triggered the riff for a song,” Crain shares. “He wants you to think about what emotion is actually guiding your right hand and can tell if you’re not feeling it, or if you don’t mean what you’re playing. I learned a lot about structures and arrangements, crafting parts, crescendos, and setting up moments within a song from Ross.”
That emotional attunement drives more than just their songwriting. Though Crain is Dead Cross’ sole guitarist, their music often feels like that of a band with a two-guitar assault—thanks to the interplay and synergy he has with long-term musical partner, Pearson. The two have known each other since Crain was 16, and they played together in Retox. Pearson’s performance style mirrors and dances around Crain’s in a way that’s both tight and loose at the same time, and only comes with years of mutual experience. “Justin and I have just the right combination, where we don’t share the exact same taste in music, and there’s enough difference in where we come from as musicians that it creates something unique when we work together,” Crain comments.
“I was so fucking sick, but I felt like, ‘Fuck this! I want to live, and I’m not going to leave anything unfinished ever again!’”
As for working with Lombardo, easily one of the most important heavy metal drummers of his generation, Crain has been training for the gig most of his life. “Slayer changed my fucking life, and those are totallydrum records,” he says. “Even though I’m a guitarist, I grew up around drummers; my dad plays drums, and my earliest memories were of band settings with my dad. He imparted the advice, ‘If you want to get good at an instrument, start playing with other people,’ upon me at an early age. He was 100 percent right. So, having listened to Slayer my whole adult life, when I finally started jamming with Dave, I locked in with him very quickly; I knew his playing and it felt natural.”
Lombardo’s breakneck-yet-lyrical playing certainly adds to the record’s thrash authenticity, and Crain’s love of the style is heard loud and clear on II. The dexterous riffing on “Reign of Error” is evidence of a player that’s studied the golden era of thrash deeply, and Crain confirms the influence that music has had on him in his formative years.“I really learned to play guitar when I was 16, which was during my Metallica years,” he shares. “That was when I really understood Metallica’s songcraft and their incredible abilities as players, particularly the …And Justice for All period and James Hetfield’s playing. That record was really what got me into metal playing and informed my rhythm style.”
While recovering from painful cancer treatments, Crain got himself back in the studio for the writing and tracking of II.
For the guitars and amps used to create II’sgnarly, dynamic guitar sounds, Crain kept it to a few favorites: a pair of vintage Gibson SG Standards—a ’77 and a ’78—and his ’70s Gibson ES-335. The guitars were all unmodified, aside from their custom-wound pickups, made by HomeWrecker Pickups’ Joshua Hernandez. Crain describes them as “super high-gain, but very classy and articulate.” His trusty Bogner Uberschall Twin Jet and matching 4x12 cab did the heavy lifting on the album, though Robinson’s early Peavey 5150 head and ’70s Marshall 4x12 cab rounded out the guitar sounds and provided some contrast to the Bogner.
Building on these essentials is Crain’s love of heavy guitar effects. His adventurous use of pedals twists metal and punk tropes into something less recognizable on II. Almost every guitar track on the record has some sauce on it, whether it’s a bit of percussive slapback delay in an unexpected place, spacey atmospherics as a brief respite from the violence, or warped, pitch-shifted leads that jut in and out of songs.
“The heavy flange on ‘Animal Espionage’ is one sound that inspired the riff,” the guitarist points out, and says he plugged in a Boss BF-3 for the sound. “We knew that verse was screaming for some swirl action.” He then calls out the song “Imposter Syndrome” for its “heavy [hardcore guitarist] Rikk Agnew-influenced flange setting.” Some of the album’s standout guitar moments feature Crain shifting quickly between octaves with a DigiTech Whammy, which can be heard on album opener “Love Without Love” and the solo on “Christian Missile Crisis.” Crain says he only uses the whammy pedal in the one-octave up or down position, and credits it for helping him to write many of what he considers his heaviest riffs. Also on his board for the sessions were an Ibanez Tube Screamer, an EarthQuaker Devices Organizer, a DOD Rubberneck Analog Delay, and the venerable MXR Carbon Copy, which he describes as his “Swiss-Army-knife delay.”
With countless tattoos and wearing a gas mask, Crain’s image bears a grisly, striking edge that falls perfectly in line with Dead Cross’ sound.
Photo by Becky DiGiglio
“It was rough to stand up for hours writing and playing, so tracking was especially tough, but that pain worked itself into the music.”
While Crain says he was too sick during his cancer treatments to listen to much music leading up to the writing and recording of II, his guitar influences from the goth-rock world proved to be major touchstones for his guitar sounds and compositional ideas—especially those that Agnew used on Christian Death’s records, as well as Daniel Ash of goth-rock architects Bauhaus’ sense of economy.
“Everything both these guys did was in the service of the song, and I’m a huge proponent of that,” shares Crain. “I'm not here to show off, so I always ask, ‘Is this serving the song? Is this helping the main idea? Is this supporting the thesis?’ That’s what’s important. Sure, some guitar tones or lines or players are the focal point of the song, and every song is different, but it’s about the song for me.”
Dead Cross - Church of the Motherfuckers (Live @ PBR Halftime Show)
In this live performance, Crain backs up Patton with melodic vocals and rapid-fire picking on his SG, catalyzing the furious energy that serves the Dead Cross sound.
With another Dead Cross release out in the world and cancer treatment in the rear view, Crain looks back on the process and on how the band approaches making music. While the writing and recording process was an undoubtedly painful, cathartic, and intense experience, he came away from it with more than just a new record, but an affirmation of his artistic philosophy.
“Having listened to Slayer my whole adult life, when I finally started jamming with Dave [Lombardo], I locked in with him very quickly; I knew his playing and it felt natural.”
“There should be no fucking rules. There are no rules! The one place where I don't want there to be rules or laws is fucking art,” he enthuses. “Let it be free! I love trying crazy things, and thankfully, so does Ross and my bandmates. We all love trying crazy, wild shit. Making this record is what helped me heal.”
Rodrigo y Gabriela’s Brave New World
On their new album, In Between Thoughts… A New World, the acoustic duo goes half-electric, plumbs programmed beats, adds slide guitar, and explores nondualism—following a creative path that opened due to the Covid shutdown.
Grammy Award-winning guitar virtuosi Rodrigo y Gabriela started recording what would become their latest album, In Between Thoughts… A New World, in February 2021. At the time, crafting a new album wasn’t the catalyst for making new music. They really just wanted to write, jam, and record without an agenda while locked down during the pandemic.
“It was just something to kill time,” admits Gabriela Quintero, one half of the Mexican guitar duo. “Just to be in the moment and not to think too much about it, even though here in Zihuatanejo it was more like the tropical version of the apocalypse [laughs].”
The other half of the duo, Rodrigo Sánchez, concurs that the pandemic presented a unique set of circumstances that allowed them to be creative without the added pressure of making a record, going on tour, or meeting a deadline. “Musically speaking, it was a very unusual process for us,” he says. “We weren’t really thinking about recording a new Rod and Gab record, and we didn’t really know what was going to happen. It was a really detailed process we never had done before, because we never had this amount of time to record an album.”
Rodrigo y Gabriela - True Nature (Official Audio)"True Nature" is off Rodrigo y Gabriela's first album in 4 years. The album 'In Between Thoughts...A New World’ is available now on limited edition vinyl, CD...
Guided by spiritual practices like Buddhism and nondualism, Rodrigo y Gabriela’s presence-of-mind approach to the guitar has led them on a fantastic, fulfilling journey from their humble heavy metal beginnings in Mexico City, to busking on the streets of Ireland, to performing in front of tens of thousands of people on the world’s biggest stages, opening for Muse and others.
Formed in 1998 out of the ashes of their heavy metal band, Tierra Ácida, Rodrigo y Gabriela left their hometown of Mexico City to pursue their musical ambitions in Dublin, Ireland, where they first began busking with their acoustic guitars on tourist-heavy Grafton Street, mixing elements of flamenco, rock, and heavy metal. In 2002, they released re-Foc, showcasing their virtuosity on guitar and their unique fusion of musical styles—even incorporating elements of the Irish folk music they had immersed themselves in while living abroad. In 2006, the duo released Rodrigo y Gabriela, a mix of original compositions and covers of classic songs by early influences Led Zeppelin and Metallica. The album was a commercial success, reaching the top of the Irish album charts and earning them a nomination for the Mercury Prize, awarded for the best album released in the United Kingdom by a British or Irish act. In 2008, they released 11:11, which featured 11 original compositions—each dedicated to a different musician who had influenced their music. In January 2020, Mettavolution, their fifth album, won Best Contemporary Instrumental Album at the Grammy Awards, cementing Rodrigo y Gabriela’s status as one of the most innovative and exciting guitar duos in the world.
“Gab has seven piezos inside her guitar, and everything is very tight. And I have five piezos.”—Rodrigo Sánchez
Gabriela Quintero’s Gear
Lead guitar provides the flash, but Gabriela Quintero’s right hand is what keeps the party jumping, with a driving, uncommon approach drawn more from traditional Irish music than flamenco.
Photo by Jim Bennett
- Yamaha NCX5 Signature Model
- Boss FV-500L Volume Pedal
- Boss OC-3 Super Octave
- Boss TU-3S Chromatic Tuner
- Dunlop Cry Baby Standard Wah
- Dunlop DVP4 Volume (X) Mini Pedal
- Lehle P-Split III Box
- D’Addario Pro-Arté EJ45 Normal Tension
Self-produced by Rodrigo y Gabriela at their studio in the resort city of Ixtapa, Mexico, In Between Thoughts… A New World reasserts their seemingly innate ability for cultivating a musical repertoire that captures the zeitgeist. And while it may have begun without intention, that doesn’t mean In Between Thoughts lacks direction. Like its predecessors, there’s a familiar and explosive display of virtuosic guitar craft, including all of the hallmarks one would expect from Rodrigo y Gabriela. The powerful, percussive playing of Quintero and the deft melodicism of Sánchez remain the duo’s calling cards. But new, unexpected sonic elements abound as well, including the reverb-drenched slide guitar on “Egoland,” the energetic percussion on “Descending to Nowhere,” the kinetic electronic beats on “The Ride of the Mind,” the passionately chanted vocals of “Broken Rage,” and the dreamy mystique of the robotic vocal effects embedded within “Finding Myself Leads Me to You.”
In fall 2020, while recovering from Covid, Sánchez stumbled upon an online video on nondualism—the notion that there is a “single, infinite, and indivisible reality, whose nature is pure consciousness, from which all objects and selves derive their apparently independent existence,” as defined by author/teacher Rupert Spira. “Advaita Vedanta, or nonduality, is often called the direct path—accepting what is,” explains Sánchez. “We’re not saying that everything in this structure of the body/mind we live in is right. It is just what is, and we cannot really argue with that.”
“The beauty about music is that it’s always expanding.”—Gabriela Quintero
During the early stages of the pandemic, Rodrigo y Gabriela did what many other artists did: They turned to social media, posting short anecdotal performances from their studio. But when they finally got bored of that, they started to write music based on the concept of nondualism without really thinking it would become their new album. “It was just a project,” emphasizes Sánchez. “We were just here in the studio doing things that we would never dofor Rod and Gab. I started to work with electronics, I left my acoustic guitar [at home] and just took my electric guitars [into the studio]. We started writing the music at the same time as we were writing a story based on this philosophy that we were so much attracted to. If we had known that it was going to become the Rod and Gab album, we probably would’ve limited ourselves in terms of not using electronics, or not using too much electric guitar. But we didn’t really think that way. That’s how the album came about.”
Their new album began as a pandemic songwriting and recording project, and took shape almost by accident as they accumulated tracks and tunes.
As for Quintero, she took a slightly more pragmatic approach to the endeavor, particularly regarding nondualism. “I think me and Rod, we share a lot of things that we like, and we feel attracted to, but we process differently,” she explains. “That’s where the nondualism becomes dual [laughs]. I discovered these teachings through a book called The Power of Now [byEckhart Tolle]. To me, that book was incredibly insightful and practical, and such a ‘no rules’ type of thing. I tried to meditate but there was too much discipline with some of the spiritual teachings. I remember when Rod was into Buddhism, and he was meditating a lot of hours a day and learning some mantras that were very strict. And for me, it was too much of a discipline. When I discovered The Power of Now, it was like, ‘Oh great, you don’t have to basically do anything [laughs].’ And then, when the pandemic came in and Rod discovered these videos about nondualism, the way he presented them to me sounded super confusing and too much like nihilism. So, we were constantly having friendly debates here in the studio. And I was going, ‘This is too crazy.’ It felt to me that it was denying this existence. But then we discovered these are the same teachings as The Power of Now, but in different words, in a different way. Then we stopped the debates.”
Quintero, very late into their writing and recording process, asked Sánchez if they were, in fact, writing their next record. “And then she asked, ‘When are we going to record it?’” says Sánchez. “We’d been recording [what we were writing] from day one with quality, and so I went back to the studio that afternoon and I checked all the recordings and all the levels, and we had produced the album already. We had the record.”
“We love flamenco. My best friend in that scene, Vicente Amigo, is one of the best. But no, we never play flamenco.”—Rodrigo Sánchez
As for how they record, Sánchez says it happens all sorts of ways—sometimes tracking together, sometimes individually. Sánchez says the acoustic guitars get picked up by German-made Schoeps MK 4 mics, recommended to him by his close friend, Spanish guitar maestro Vicente Amigo. They also adopted some of what he calls his “old-school metal techniques” for recording. “Knowing that we were going to have orchestra and electronics and all that, I used room mics for Gabs—and instead of just copying her track, I have her record two guitars exactly the same,” he explains, noting he did not use the copy/paste shortcut many musicians use nowadays. “She would do one guitar rhythm and then she would double that to make it sound bigger. Overdubbing the same rhythms and the same parts actually give her much more presence on top of the electronics. And she’s so good at it.”
Due in large part to Quintero’s right-hand technique, which Sánchez recorded so well on In Between Thoughts, “heavy metal flamenco” is a label often applied to the duo. “Ah, the ‘F’ word,” laughs Sánchez. “We love flamenco. My best friend in that scene, Vicente Amigo, is one of the best. But no, we never play flamenco. I understand some people are confused because of Gab’s rasgueado[gesture to invoke her right-hand technique], but actually she’s not doing the flamenco technique at all. She learned most of these techniques from an Irish bodhrán player, Robbie Harris.”
Rodrigo Sánchez’s Gear
Rodrigo Sánchez wears his musical roots on his chest,
in a t-shirt proclaiming his fan status for the Bay Area metal band Testament.
Photo by Dan Locke/Frank White Photo Agency
- Yamaha NTX5 Signature Model
- Fender Jaguar
- Fractal Audio Axe-Fx II XL+
- Marshall JCM900 4100 Hi Gain Dual Reverb
- Boss DD-3 Digital Delay
- Boss FV-500L Volume Pedal
- Boss OC-3 Super Octave
- Ibanez WH10 V3 Wah Pedal
- Lehle P-Split III DI Box
- MXR M133 Micro Amp
- MXR M234 Analog Chorus
- One Control Minimal Series AB Box
- TC Electronic Ditto X2 Looper
- Truetone 1 Spot Pro CS7 Power Supply
- TWA WR-03 Wah Rocker
Strings & Picks
- D’Addario EXL115 (.011–.049
- D’Addario Pro-Arté EJ46 Hard Tension
- Jim Dunlop Jazz III Black Stiffo
The bodhrán is a frame drum used in traditional Irish music that Quintero learned about when they moved to Ireland. “At the time, I was trying to imagine how flamenco players played their rhythms,” she explains. “I couldn’t figure it out, because back then there was not YouTube—there was nothing. Nowadays, you can go and say, ‘How to play rasgueado flamenco, how to play rhumba,’ and you’ll find something, but not back then. And I always got it wrong. And then I discovered the bodhrán.”
In the old days, the bodhrán was played with hands, not with a stick, as is often seen presently, and she says the Irish kept telling her she actually exhibited the movements of a bodhrán player, but on guitar. “They encouraged me to do certain rhythms. So, just watching them, it was easy to emulate a lot of the movements—it just came organically. The beauty about music is that it’s always expanding.”
“If I came back to a solo bit or something, there was not that beat—people were not jumping anymore, and it was like, ‘Ah, we’re losing the audience,’ so I tried to become more the drummer of the band.”—Gabriela Quintero
After weaning his guitar craft on West Coast thrash metal bands Testament, Megadeth, and Slayer, and New Yorkers Anthrax, Sánchez’s nylon-string style was originally grounded in a lot of the palm-muting he carried over from that style of electric playing. “First of all, I had to translate my palm muting [from electric to nylon string],” he explains. “Then, I used a little bit more of Al Di Meola’s technique, but he was playing steel-strings, right? So, I was like, ‘Okay, how can I translate this into nylon?’ And then I started to listen to Strunz & Farah, and they are incredible. I listened to the way they played, especially Jorge Strunz, who is so clean and so fast. And I started to learn some of his licks here and there, so I was in that zone already.”
They want a whole lotta folk! Rodrigo y Gabriela get down on the Newport Folk Festival’s Harbor Stage in 2014.
Photo by Tim Bugbee/Tinnitus Photography
It’s worth noting that the nylon-string guitars Rodrigo y Gabriela play live are the result of years of practical research and application in collaboration with Yamaha and are not models or designs your average nylon-string player would use, nor are they commercially available. “It’s not like any nylon-string guitar can just go and play in the middle of a festival of 40,000 people,” explains Sánchez. Originally, they were using guitars made by Irish luthier Frank Tate, which they still use at home and in the studio. But the guitars they now use live were specially designed over a 14-year period by Yamaha’s Japan-based Custom Shop for arena-concert environments. “These guitars have a very special system for us to sound the way they sound live,” he says. “Gab has seven piezos inside her guitar, and everything is very tight. And I have five piezos, which is really important for those kinds of shows.”
Within the duo, both players are very melodic and very rhythmical, but Quintero did gravitate to doing more of the beats, simply out of necessity, once they started playing bigger shows. “At the beginning when we used to play together, we swapped all the time—solos, arpeggios, and all of this,” she explains. “Eventually, when we started playing rock festivals, because I was the one who played the chords and the beat, if I came back to a solo bit or something, there was not that beat—people were not jumping anymore, and it was like, ‘Ah, we’re losing the audience,’ so I tried to become more the drummer of the band.”
Jumping from a metal band in Mexico City to an acoustic guitar duo busking the streets of Ireland seems quite serendipitous and grounded in the kind of ideology they eventually discovered via nondualism. Circling back to Quintero’s The Power of Now-influenced, pragmatic approach, she jokes that the decision was really quite simple. “Eventually, we were so internationally non-famous and miserable, we decided we’re going to quit the band,” she chuckles. “But we’re not going to quit music. We wanted to travel the world. So, our new goal was to travel and play guitar.”
While this live performance doesn’t capture the duo’s current blend of acoustic and electric sounds, it does afford a close-up look at their playing technique. In particular, check out Gabriela’s right-hand approach, which is based on the traditional Irish instrument called the bodhrán.