JIM STUBBLEFIELD
Encantado
(Natural Elements Records)

 

Guitarist 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. It’s 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, there’s 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 Stubblefield’s best solo album yet and is one of the most intriguing guitar recordings of 2015. www.GuitarraExotica.com

 




mwe3.com presents an interview with
JIM STUBBLEFIELD



mwe3
: Can you tell us where you’re 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 music?

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 with me.

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.

mwe3: 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 even sung.

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?

Jim 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 Bo onboard!

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!

Jim Stubblefield: 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.

mwe3: I know you have recorded with the Pedro Maldonado guitar in the past. So what guitars are featured on Encantado and it’s 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.

mwe3: 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 and composing.

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.

mwe3: Tell us how you assembled the band for the making of Encantado and what about the band’s 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 internet.

mwe3: What music do you like to listen to when you’re 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 others.

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.

mwe3: 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 artist?

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.



 

 
   
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