Jim Stubblefield came to the attention of mwe3.com with his
playing in the guitar trio Incendio. Taking some time out from Incendio,
in 2015 Jim released his sixth solo guitar masterpiece entitled Encantado.
Its a solo CD in the sense that Jim's guitar is front and
center and his music is the prime focus here. With Jim playing all
the steel string acoustic guitars, Spanish guitar, 6 and 7 string
electric guitars and the synthesizers, theres a number of fine
players backing him up throughout the ten track album. Enhanced by
the fine co-production of Jim and Bo Astrup, the Encantado
CD features stellar support and backing from Ramon Yslas (drums),
Randy Tico (bass), Novi Novog (violin and viola), Moksha
Sommer (vocals) as well as added Spanish guitar work by Mark
Barnwell and Eric Hansen. Speaking to mwe3.com about his
innovative guitar sounds in the following interview, Jim explains,
"With Encantado, I immediately set out to do music that would
engage the listener on more than a casual level. I also wanted to
get away from the strong Latin guitar sound that has been associated
with me. I have always loved other styles of instrumental music -
Celtic, classical, Arabic, jazz fusion, etc. It's music that is hard
to put in a box. I'll let the critics and listeners categorize me,
but for now I'll just write stuff and hope people enjoy what I'm doing."
With its stunning crossection of Nuevo-flamenco, World Beat jazz,
neo-classical guitar sounds and superb recording techniques, Encantado
is Jim Stubblefields best solo album yet and is one of the
most intriguing guitar recordings of 2015. www.GuitarraExotica.com
mwe3.com presents an interview
Can you tell us where youre from originally and where you live
now? What are some of your other favorite cities to visit?
Jim Stubblefield: I was born in Pasadena, California and grew
up in the San Gabriel Valley. I currently live 30 miles north of Los
Angeles with my wife Stella and German Shepherd dog Cha Cha. My favorite
major cities are Barcelona and London. But I'm sure I'll be adding
to the list!
mwe3: You released your sixth solo CD, Encantado in
2015. What were the events that led up to the release and how does
the Encantado album represent a step forward for you and your
Jim Stubblefield: I actually remember what conversation triggered
the direction I took with Encantado. A person, not having heard
my music, asked me what kind of music I played. Before I could answer
a friend of mine said, "It's the kind of music you'd hear at
a high-end restaurant." That quote, from a non-musician, basically
changed my perspective. I guess any music could be background music
if turn down low enough and, don't get me wrong, I've heard my music
played as background in many establishments. I'm not complaining.
But with Encantado, I immediately set out to do music that
would engage the listener on more than a casual level. I also wanted
to get away from the strong Latin guitar sound that has been associated
I have always loved other styles of instrumental music - Celtic, classical,
Arabic, jazz fusion, etc. Not constrained by an A&R person telling
me what I should do, I decided to write whatever I felt like. I still
wanted things to feel cohesive, but I definitely wanted to get away
from being characterized as "Background Music for High-End Restaurants".
I always have enjoyed musically ambiguous offerings by artists like
Al Di Meola and Pat Metheny. It's music that is hard to put in a box.
I'll let the critics and listeners categorize me, but for now I'll
just write stuff and hope people enjoy what I'm doing.
Last time we spoke in 2008, you were had just released the Seduction
album with the group Incendio. Are you still working with Incendio
and what are the latest CDs from Incendio? How does the sound of Incendio
contrast to your work as a solo artist?
Jim Stubblefield: Since Seduction, Incendio has released
a guitar trio CD called Vihuela and a full band CD entitled
The Shape of Dreams. Incendio is alive and well and there are
some fantastic things brewing at the moment. I'm a co-writer of Incendio's
material along with Jean-Pierre Durand and Liza Carbé. I'd
say one of the biggest differences between the Incendio sound and
my solo stuff is the approach. Incendio is an extremely high energy,
improvisational, dynamic group that mixes a rock attitude with an
eclectic slew of influences that centers around the Spanish guitar.
There is a chemistry that we have forged after 16 years of playing
together that's hard to define.
With my solo material, especially on Guitarra Exotica and Encantado,
the emphasis is less on the guitar. Don't get me wrong because there
is plenty of guitar on the album, but I also have songs that feature
non-lyric vocals or viola as the main melodic instrument. I approached
Encantado less as a guitarist and more as a composer. Some
of the melodies just sounded better when rendered on a bowed instrument...or
mwe3: Can you compare Encantado sound wise with your
earlier solo albums? Tell us about how you and Bo Astrup co-produced
the album and what were the recording sessions like. What did Bo bring
to the recording sessions as a co-producer and who else helped you
get that topnotch studio sound in the studio and on the CD?
Stubblefield: Guitarra Exotica (2007) has some similarities
to Encantado in that I featured the viola as a main melodic
instrument on many songs. Inspiración (2010) was super
stripped-down - featuring Spanish guitar, fretless bass and hand percussion.
Encantado is a much "bigger" endeavor than either.
I think the strongest part of the album are the compositions. I really
like every song on it.
As far as Bo Astrup's involvement on Encantado goes, Bo did
not enter the project until mixing began, but his fingerprint is huge.
Everyone on the album put their heart into it and that's something
I'm very grateful for. The best recorded album can fall apart if mixed
badly. I brought Bo in for the mixing and it was a decision I'm so
glad I made. He had mixed Incendio's last CD and I was floored by
what he did. Bo Astrup is from Denmark and had a lot of success back
there as a producer, engineer and recording artist. His mixing chops
are insane. He also helped make key decisions about how the mixes
were constructed and acted as someone I could bounce ideas off of.
I originally thought I'd mix the album myself. I'm glad I brought
mwe3: Tell us about the cover art for Encantado. It
looks like that snake on the cover looks very comfortable on your
guitar. Is there some meaning with the title and the cover? Looks
like you love nature and the naturalness of things!
I'm fortunate to be friends with Ben Woods. Many know him as phenomenal
guitarist. His solo work, his work with the great dancer Arleen Hurtado
and his collaborations with guitarist Luis Villegas are all ventures
people need to check out. I'm particularly enjoying his Heavy Mellow
releases as well as his explorations of playing electric guitar using
traditional flamenco techniques. There is no question about Ben's
musical talents, but few know he is also an incredible visual artist.
One night after an Incendio show, Arleen, Ben, Liza, Jean-Pierre and
I were having drinks and I mentioned I needed artwork for my new CD.
Ben immediately said he could do it for me. We both had a bit to drink,
but we agreed to work together and shook on it!
The album title was suggested by Mark Barnwell. Mark is a British
guitarist that joins me on the piece entitled Phrygian Suite,
Op. 1. Encantado is a Portuguese word, which can mean
enchanted. There are legends in Brazil, that some people who live
along the Amazon still believe in, involving shapeshifting snakes
and freshwater dolphins that turn into humans and lure people to a
paradisiacal underwater water realm called the Encante. I asked Ben
to include a variety of elements in the artwork to represent the eclectic
nature of the music on the album.
I know you have recorded with the Pedro Maldonado guitar in the past.
So what guitars are featured on Encantado and its interesting
to note you also play 6 and 7 string electric guitars as well in addition
to the synths. Sounds like a perfect balance of sound. Can you tell
us what guitar strings you use on your guitars and what amps did you
use in the recording studio or do you mostly use amps in a live setting?
Jim Stubblefield: I recorded almost the whole album with a
2003 Pedro Maldonado flamenco negra cutaway guitar. I used a 2001
Pedro Maldonado flamenco blanca cutaway on Terra e Sole
and a Jorge de Zofia (JDZ) flamenco negra florentine cutaway on Puesta
de Sol (for JDZ). For electric guitars I used a Gibson Les Paul
Custom for the main melody and solo on Odyssey Of Fire.
I also used a Musicman John Petrucci Majesty, a Musicman John Petrucci
7-string and a Paul Reed Smith Al D Prism on the album. The amplifier
I used was a Mesa Boogie Mark V. I also employed my James Goodall
steel-string acoustic on a few tracks. I use tons of different string
brands and I'm constantly switching.
What guitar pieces or exercises do you like to practice to stay in
shape? You really have to know your arpeggios to stay in shape. Do
you have a set practice routine and how do you strive to improve yourself
both as a musician and a composer?
Jim Stubblefield: I don't play much guitar outside of recording
or live performances. When I do play, I really enjoy working on Dream
Theater stuff. It's super challenging and a great workout! On acoustic
I do practice some flamenco right hand techniques and some classical
repertoire. These days, I'm spending more and more time playing keyboards
mwe3: You mentioned before you were a fan of indigenous cultures.
What were the cultural influences in play on Encantado in addition
to the Spanish music influences, which are apparent.
Jim Stubblefield: I'd say there are definitely a few rumbas
on Encantado. Rumba rhythms are part of my background having
listened to a lot of Gipsy Kings. There is no question that Latin
music is extremely varied and is incredibly diverse. But as far as
the Spanish guitar goes, I am not a flamenco guitarist. I might use
certain flamenco techniques on occasion, but that's about it. Encantado
is a jazz fusion album in my opinion. It is a blend of influences
and every piece has a solo section. Beyond The Horizon
is definitely more of an Arabic inspiration, but it has a rumba rhythm.
Highland Dreams (for Fiona) is unquestionably Celtic in
influence and a song like Terra e Sole is classically
influenced. Then there are pieces like Phrygian Suite, Op. 1,
which is part middle-eastern, part old school Al Di Meola and part
Enya meets Game of Thrones.
Tell us how you assembled the band for the making of Encantado
and what about the bands chemistry in the studio? The sound
on the CD is near perfect and I saw you had Eric Hansen of South Florida
is on a track as well. How did you meet Eric and how did the collaboration
happen? How do you choose your collaborators?
Jim Stubblefield: The band comes from various people I've worked
with over the years. Violist Novi Novog played on Guitarra Exotica
as well as bassist Randy Tico. Percussionist Ray Yslas is the newest
person I worked with although he had done some shows with Incendio.
Ray was just great to work with and he has played with everyone! Moksha
Sommer is the singer of a Canadian band named HuDost. She and her
band are incredible and I've known her and her partner Jemal Wade
Hines for many years. Eric Hansen and I both had music on a compilation
CD back in 1998. The CD was released by Tom O'Keefe on his Neurodisc
label. Eric and I were on it as well as Ottmar Liebert and other "nuevo
flamenco" artists. We have, to this day, never met in person!
For Encantado, I had pretty much finished the album, but I
had also just received my Jorge De Zofia (JDZ) guitar, which was being
built at the time. Eric Hansen had also just received his JDZ so I
asked Eric if he would be interested in guesting on a tribute to Jorge
- the criteria being that we both needed to record with our JDZs.
Puesta del Sol (for JDZ) was the result of this collaboration.
The last guest musician, Mark Barnwell, had discovered Incendio at
a record store in England many years ago. He ended up writing a tribute
piece that he also named "Incendio". I guested on it and
in return I asked him to be on my CD. He accepted the offer and I
subsequently sent him raw tracks to record to via the magic of the
What music do you like to listen to when youre not recording,
writing or practicing?
Jim Stubblefield: I'd say I listen to three types of music
in my free time. Progressive rock groups like Porcupine Tree, Steven
Wilson, Dream Theater, Yes, Symphony X, Kamelot, Rush, Genesis, etc.
Otherwise, classical dominates the house. We have Pandora playing
JS Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi, etc. I also love the music of Howard Shore
(Lord Of The Rings), Hans Zimmer, Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones)
and Bear McCreary (The Walking Dead). I enjoy listening to the albums
of my musician friends - Mark Barnwell, Jason McGuire, Dan Sistos,
Al Marconi, Sam Hardy, Victor T, Ben Woods, Yannaki Arrizza, Strunz
& Farah, Eric Hansen, Guitarra Azul, Robby Longley, Jason Wright,
David Gallegos, David Correa, Luis Villegas, Jose Garcia, Ruben Ramos,
Berto Boyd, Carbé-Durand,The California Guitar Trio and many
mwe3: How do you relax these days when you get some time off
from the rigors of playing and writing music?
Jim Stubblefield: I'm a huge reader. I love post-apocalyptic
stuff, zombie stuff, sci-fi and fantasy. I like to write stories -
usually fiction. I also like to hike, exercise and travel.
What are your live shows like? Do you work off a set list or is it
anything goes in a live show setting? What are some your favorite
venues to play live?
Jim Stubblefield: Currently I'm not performing live as a solo
artist. That will change in the near future. For now, all of my live
performances are with Incendio doing exclusively Incendio material.
mwe3: How about future plans through 2015 and into 2016? Will
you be doing some live shows to further promote Encantado and
what about the future of Incendio as far as new music? What writing
/ recording directions would you like to go in next as a recording
Jim Stubblefield: Incendio has some amazing things in the pipeline
for 2015/2016. I plan on doing live shows for Encantado, but
it's really a financial thing. For me, to do it properly, it will
not be cheap due to the
shear size of the ensemble that I'd want to use. For future musical
endeavors I'm currently working with a fiction writer named Ethan
Platt on an orchestral work that can best be characterized as "conceptual
epic fantasy music". We are calling the band/project Dweomercraft
- an old English word for sorcery. This music is pretty far removed
from anything people have heard from me, but a hint of the sound can
be heard on Terra e Sole from Encantado. I'm certainly
finding a love for writing more cinematic music. For my next solo
album I certainly will be expanding upon what I did with Encantado.