Graham Reid | | 3 min read
For a man who makes an astonishingly big noise on stage Rodrigo -- the male half of the Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela -- speaks very quietly. Unlike Gabriela who manages a profanity rate on the DVD that accompanies their new album that would impress Ozzy.
Rodrigo is also scrupulously well spoken. He also apologises for having been so hard to locate.
And he has been: the woman connecting the call tried half a dozen numbers before finally locating him in Mexico City.
“Actually we have been at Ixtapa, a beach place on the Pacific Coast, but we came down for a few days to visit family,“ he says.
“We are having four weeks off. When we got here I try to do the minimum of music work. I try to play soccer, I love it and play every time I have a chance.
“I played for a national team until I got to about 14 and had to choose between music and soccer. I chose music, but I regret it really,” he says with casual indifference.
If there is an unexpected success story right now it is not some rock band sprung from MySpace, but this instrumental duo who tour playing to heavy metallers who appreciate the power this pair can haul out of two acoustic guitars.
These former hard rockers may have abandoned electric guitars but haven’t left behind their love of bands like Metallica and Led Zeppelin (whose songs they cover), nor the passionate intensity of that style. If there’s such a thing as acoustic metal, Gabriela y Rodrigo have created it.
And done it their way.
Rodrigo was in a metal band in Mexico with his brother and didn’t have a place for girls in their testosterone-fuelled ranks. But then Gabriela arrived, after a while the band split up leaving Rodrigo and Gabriela -- who have briefly been partners but are now friends -- who tried to get another line-up together. But that fell over.
They went back to the acoustic guitars they grew up learning on, mixed metal intensity and Spanish-style picking, headed off to Europe and ended up in Dublin playing on the streets, were spotted at a gig and asked to record . . .
Now with three CDs behind them -- their 2004 album Live Manchester and Dublin going to number one in Ireland, their current self-titled release produced by John (Radiohead, Stone Roses) Leckie -- they are riding a wave of interest which hasn’t been artificially manufactured.
“The media has taken us very well, but the music doesn’t get onto mainstream radio so it has been really through the internet and word of mouth. We’re not like a rock band trying to get on radio. The success has just happened.”
The pair have been determined to do things their own way -- their holiday at Ixtapa was immovable despite requests to start touring the States as the new album is released there -- and were even prepared to toss out Leckie if he interfered with what they wanted.
“I didn’t know his name when we told about him being interested in us, but then someone said Radiohead and they were massive in Mexico. At night after the sessions we’d have some Indian dinner and listen to the stories he had to tell about everybody from John Lennon to Korn. It was amazing.”
But that is about as starry-eyed as Rodrigo gets.
Yes, things are going well, but he laughs that people in Mexico didn’t know about them until that chart-topper in Ireland: “My mum rang and told me I was in the newspapers here.“
“It’s good to be successful and when I was younger I wanted to tour around the world and all that. But we are 32-years old and it has been long journey. People think we are new we are not.
“We were happy whatever we were doing, even when we were busking. And what we have now came in a natural way. It doesn’t come from trying.
“We wanted to have a break now because we have toured for 18 months. Then the American people and record company want us, but we were getting sick because we had been touring for so long. So we just came here to the beach.
“It sounds great but it is tiring going around the world. Now I just want to have time and see family people and just enjoy that.
“It’s not about fame or recognition. It was once, but not anymore. I want to enjoy people and contribute something.
“My thing is about having a good life.”