Rodrigo y Gabriela: Fusing Flamenco And Metal The Mexican duo Rodrigo y Gabriela is known for nimble-fingered classical guitar work and a diverse musical background that fuses traditional flamenco music with heavy metal and rock. The pair's new record, 11:11, features 11 songs dedicated to 11 different musical influences in Rodrigo y Gabriela's lives — from Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix to the jazz-fusion band Shakti.
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Rodrigo y Gabriela: Fusing Flamenco And Metal

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Rodrigo y Gabriela: Fusing Flamenco And Metal

Rodrigo y Gabriela: Fusing Flamenco And Metal

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(Soundbite of song, "Hanuman")

GUY RAZ, host:

In the hands of a master, the classical guitar creates a soothing, gentle sound. But in the hands of Rodrigo y Gabriela, those same guitars become weapons.

(Soundbite of song, "Hanuman")

RAZ: Rodrigo y Gabriela started out in a Mexican metal band, but they had to unplug the electric guitars and move to Ireland to find their audience. Their latest album is called "11:11," 11 original compositions inspired by 11 of their musical influences.

Right now you're listening to a track called "Hanuman," it's an homage to Carlos Santana.

Rodrigo y Gabriela dropped by our offices recently. And I asked them to play that song for me.

(Soundbite of song, "Hanuman")

RAZ: That's Rodrigo y Gabriela here in NPR Studio 4A. That piece is called "Hanuman," and it appears on their new album, "11:11."

Rodrigo Sanchez, Gabriela Quintero, thanks for coming in.

Mr. RODRIGO SANCHEZ (Guitarist): Thank you very much for having us.

Ms. GABRIELA QUINTERO (Guitarist): Thank you.

RAZ: Every track on this new record is dedicated to a different musical influence in your lives. The one you just played was inspired by Carlos Santana.

Mr. SANCHEZ: That's right.

RAZ: Can you tell us about it?

Ms. QUINTERO: He's Mexican. He was a role model for musicians back in Mexico that it was possible to do great music and be an international musician. So it is a kind of way to say thank you. But we didn't plan to sound like each of those artists that we made the tribute for.

RAZ: The story of how the two of you got together is pretty unusual. I think anyone listening to the music we just heard would be surprised to learn that you started out in a heavy metal band. But at a certain point, you sort of dropped the electric guitars and you picked up acoustic guitars and you moved to Ireland. Why did you go to Ireland?

Mr. SANCHEZ: It was an accident, pretty much. I mean we didn't want to go to a big city, you know, like London or Spain, like Madrid or whatever.

RAZ: Because the idea was to go to perform there.

Mr. SANCHEZ: No, they idea was actually just travel around. Like, we were backpacking. And our metal band in Mexico kind of expired and we decided just to leave. And we met a friend of ours that she said like, you know, Dublin is a good place to go. I was living there and you should go there. And then, yeah, we were busking around Europe, different countries for a couple of years.

RAZ: You were performing on the streets.

Mr. SANCHEZ: Yeah, totally.

RAZ: And at the time, Gabriela, you guys didn't really speak much English, right?

Ms. QUINTERO: Not at all.

(Soundbite of laughter)


RAZ: How did you get by?

Ms. QUINTERO: We had to learn to speak in Irish-English with all those bad words and just the expressions. And so it was good experience of eight years. We lived there and now we don't live there anymore.

RAZ: Right.

Ms. QUINTERO: We live in Mexico. But we go there.

RAZ: I've read that at times when you were performing on the streets in Ireland, and people would assume that you were playing traditional Mexican folk songs when you were actually performing heavy metal music. What does that sound like? Can you play a little bit of that for us?


(Soundbite of song, "Orion")

RAZ: I imagine James Hetfield and the gang at Metallica would feel upstaged by that version of...

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: ...the song "Orion." That's beautiful. Has Metallica ever heard your version of that song?


RAZ: And what do they say?

Mr. SANCHEZ: They sent us an email through the label, like two years ago when the first album came out. And Robert Trujillo actually wrote it.

RAZ: He's the bassist for the band.

Mr. SANCHEZ: Yeah.


Mr. SANCHEZ: Yeah, of course.

RAZ: Were you nervous when you saw a letter from Metallica on your...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. QUINTERO: Excited, I mean it's Metallica.

RAZ: I want to hear one of the pieces that you guys have on this new record. It's called "Buster Voodoo"...


RAZ: ...and it's written, inspired by Jimi Hendrix, right?

Ms. QUINTERO: Okay. Two...

Mr. SANCHEZ: One, two, three, four...

(Soundbite of music, "Buster Voodoo")

RAZ: That was an incredible performance by Rodrigo y Gabriela here in NPR Studio 4A, with a piece called "Buster Voodoo." It's also on their new album, "11:11." And I should remind our listeners that there are just two humans and two guitars here in the studio...

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: ...creating that sound. Did I hear a few Jimi Hendrix's riffs in there?

Mr. SANCHEZ: Yeah, that's right. That's one of the tracks that we do like a direct reference to the artist.

RAZ: As I mentioned, there are 11 tracks on this album dedicated to 11 different musical influences in your lives. And they run the gamut from Pink Floyd to the Indian jazz fusion band, Shakti. Were there any artists that you sort of haggled over and that you disagreed over?

Mr. SANCHEZ: Yeah. I mean, yeah. A lot like, a lot of times.

Ms. QUINTERO: Yeah, but I don't even remember because...

Mr. SANCHEZ: Well, we actually...

Ms. QUINTERO: ...there were like hundreds of them.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SANCHEZ: Yeah, we said we were going to talk about Megadeth, you know, the...

RAZ: Megadeth.

Mr. SANCHEZ: Yeah, of course. I mean we both love Megadeth but you wouldn't agree with that.

Ms. QUINTERO: And I said Bjork and you said no Bjork.

Mr. SANCHEZ: Bjork. You said Bjork and I said no.

Ms. QUINTERO: I said Bjork. And he (unintelligible).

RAZ: And he said no.


Mr. SANCHEZ: I mean I like stuff that probably has not been that influential, you know, to me.

Ms. QUINTERO: Yeah. And I like Megadeth but my favorite albums are "Rust in Peace," "Countdown to Extinction," "Euthanasia." So the rest, I won't enjoy them as much. You know, so Rod enjoyed each album. He loves...

Mr. SANCHEZ: I just bought it

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SANCHEZ: I just bought a new one yesterday, yeah.

RAZ: Do you guys miss playing heavy metal music?

Mr. SANCHEZ: Well, we play a lot of heavy metal now. I mean we don't have the format of a heavy metal band but we do a lot of riffing, you know?

Ms. QUINTERO: Metal is such a phenomena in the world. Wherever you go, even if you go to India you will find a metal community there.

Mr. SANCHEZ: And I was looking at Creator(ph) Web site. You know Creator was this German brutal metal band, you know, from the �80s. And I mean the tour schedule, it's like, they go from Alaska, they go to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela - nobody plays, you know, those places.

RAZ: Right.

Mr. SANCHEZ: And it's incredible...

Ms. QUINTERO: It's great.

Mr. SANCHEZ: that unites the world, that's been said by John Lekki(ph), actually. And it's actually true.


RAZ: That's Gabriela Quintero and Rodrigo Sanchez. Together, they make up Rodrigo y Gabriela.

Guys, thank you so much for joining me.

Ms. QUINTERO: Thank you.

Mr. SANCHEZ: Thank you very much. Thank you.

RAZ: Can I ask you to play one last song, the one inspired by Pink Floyd?


RAZ: The song is called "11:11," and it's being performed by Rodrigo y Gabriela.

(Soundbite of song, "11:11")

RAZ: There's a video at our Web site of Rodrigo y Gabriela performing in our offices. We call them Tiny Desk Concerts. Just go to

And that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Join us tomorrow for a look at the Salani((ph) Renaissance in the Bay Area and author Michael Chabon on manhood.

I'm guy Raz, have a great night.

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