MARK BARNWELL
Mandala
(Axe Calibre Records)

 

With so many of the finest 21st century Nuevo Flamenco guitarists coming out of California and the desert Southwest of the US, it’s refreshing to find a great new guitarist inspired by that celebrated genre, coming out of Cornwall, England. On his 2016 CD Mandala, guitarist and composer Mark Barnwell has shaped a fascinating instrumental guitar album that is a musical homage to the timeless Nuevo Flamenco guitar style and brings the guitar sound forward into the new millennium. It’s fascinating to listen to Mandala while going over the packaging with its in depth discographical infomation, then to find out the album features Mark with some of the great Nuevo Flamenco guitarists of the day, including the entire Incendio band with Jim Stubblefield, Liza Carbe and Jean-Pierre Durand. Also here is noted U.K. guitarist Al Marconi playing Spanish guitar and yet another top guitarist called Yannaki, on both Turkish saz and Spanish guitar. Speaking about Mandala in the following interview, Mark Barnwell tells mwe3.com, “The whole is greater than the sum is its parts is certainly a phrase which applies to Mandala. I guess you could call it a transatlantic collaboration with people I feel are on the same musical wavelength. We all have different styles... take the track “Incendio”, for example, dedicated to Incendio the band, of course. Jim, JP and I all have our own distinct and unique styles yet, at the time of recording when I hadn’t even met any of them in person, it sounds as if we’re 3 band mates on stage together.” Throughout the ten track Mandala CD, Mark Barnwell’s expertise as a Spanish / Flamenco guitarist is first rate as his melodic approach to composition. Tasteful piano work by Chris Magrath and percussion by Bryan Brock and Ramon Yslas keeps the sound tempos moving briskly, while other players add in flutes, sax, strings and more. Adorned with cover art that is quite stunning to behold, the music is totally fascinating and the CD also features the work of esteemed music producer and mixer Bo Astrup. With ten memorable original instrumental compositions, Mark Barnwell’s Mandala features some of the finest Nuevo Flamenco guitarists recording on the planet today. www.markbarnwell.com

 





mwe3.com presents an interview with
MARK BARNWELL


mwe3
: With so many great players on your new album, would you describe Mandala as a solo album or more as a kind of summit of great, like minded Nuevo Flamenco guitarists? There must be 5 different guitar players on it!

Mark Barnwell: I think you’ve nailed it there with your description. ‘The whole is greater than the sum is its parts’ is certainly a phrase which applies to Mandala. I guess you could call it a transatlantic collaboration with people I feel are on the same musical wavelength. We all have different styles - take the track “Incendio”, for example, dedicated to Incendio the band, of course. Jim, JP and I all have our own distinct and unique styles yet, at the time of recording when I hadn’t even met any of them in person, it sounds if we’re 3 band mates on stage together.

mwe3: When did you write the music on the Mandala album and how do you feel it’s an evolution from your earlier albums? How many albums have you recorded and released?

Mark Barnwell: I started writing and recording Mandala in late 2014 and finished writing and recording my parts for it in late 2015. “Incendio” was one of the first tracks I worked on, which had been a ‘work in progress’ for a few years but was initially way faster. I slowed it down and added a chorus section. I often work in a traditional pop music style - verse / chorus / middle 8 format - when I write music, focusing on the melody first. Then Jim played on it and it evolved organically from there, with Bryan Brock, Liza Carbe and JP (from Incendio) later joining the party to make it complete.

Mandala is an evolution from my earlier albums in a few ways. Firstly, many of the tracks have more of a ‘band’ feel about them. The way they have turned out, tracks like “Surco Latino”, for example, could almost be a live Latin/Jazz outfit performing.

Also I have strived to push myself in terms of the parts that I write and play. When playing those solos with talented musical heavyweights Jim and JP on "Incendio", I really had to raise the bar to keep up with them, it’s great to keep pushing yourself. The whole of “Potchka” too was something that took me out of my comfort zone, and Jonathan the violinist too. I wrote out the music for his part, and hats off to him, he totally nailed it but said at the time, despite being a Grade 8 classical violinist, it was taking him outside his comfort zone.

It was a very organic process, with the end results evolving into what instinctively felt right for the music. In “Surco Latino”, for example, originally I had a solo, then JP had a solo and as the piece evolved, I met Helen who does a sax solo, and Chris also does a piano solo on it. So the end result for solos was JP / Helen / Chris which was just the right balance. JP’s Gypsy Jazz style was just so right for that piece, so I sacrificed my solo on it. The music must always come first, not the ego… besides you get plenty of me on other tracks! For the other musicians, some of the parts I wrote… flute and some of the violin for example, but letting people ‘do their thing’ and giving them carte blanche is what I love, so for the most part, like percussion, bass, guitar, it was a case of ‘here’s the track, do your thing!’

Mandala is my 5th album. Things have evolved a lot from my first one, Passionata from 2006, which was done on quite a tight budget using lots of loops and synth pads etc. It’s great to see how they have evolved over time. My 2nd release, Exotica, 2008, saw the inclusion of a few more tracks with some live percussion, and now with Mandala we have an album where everything on it is played by a real person, which I feel brings music alive and gives it an organic vibe.

mwe3: Can you tell us something about how the Mandala album was recorded? I heard that guitarist Jim Stubblefield, who lives in California, went to the UK to do some work with you. What was the studio set-up like for recording the Mandala album, where was it recorded and how did you get such a great sound in the end result? Were you recording in the same room with the other players? How would you compare your Flamenco style with that of the sound of Incendio and Al Marconi? Lots of great guitarists and guitar music to be inspired by!

Mark Barnwell: I have my own studio here in my house in Cornwall. For this album I used a variety of guitars, the main one being a 1976 Manuel Conde, and a pair of AT4050 mics, and SE Reflexion Filters. I recorded all my guitar parts plus the sax, the violin, the flute and the double bass as these guys are all reasonably local to me.

Chris recorded his piano as MIDI, which co-producer Bo Astrup later ran through a great virtual piano instrument. Al recorded his part at his home studio, and the rest of the music was recorded in the musician’s various studios in California, featuring Jim, JP, Liza, and Ramon, and Nashville for Bryan.

The majority of players overseas, I had not actually met in person at the time they recorded their parts with the exception of Jim who I did meet before we recorded “Moroccan Skies”. So all parts were recorded in separate locations, often nearly 6000 miles apart – so on “Incendio”, for example, my guitars were done in Cornwall and Jim and JP did theirs in LA. The overall end result was a combination of people knowing how to record well in the first instance, and also mixing it in such a way that the guitars ‘sit’ well together. For example, Jim recorded with a bit of added compression and in a room with a wooden floor which will add some natural ambience to the sound. Furthermore, I used different reverb, compression and EQ settings for each guitar when mixing in order to blend in such a way that they each had a similar vibe, yet retaining their uniqueness.

I think everyone has a unique style. Al Marconi is great at emotive, haunting and moody guitar creations, which he really takes to a new level on his current release, Alchemy… so his style lent itself perfectly to the collaboration we did on “Moonstone”, which is one of my most emotive pieces.

Jim Stubblefield is a real wizard and pulls off some amazing fiery licks and runs. He knows so many impressive ‘wow’ techniques! I love our trading solos thing that we do in “Moroccan Skies” and “Incendio”.

JP has this great, really organic thing going on with a variety of styles, a definite Gypsy Jazz vibe in places, listen to “Surco Latino”, and he can also turn his hand to emotive as on “Endless Rain”, where his solo follows mine, and fiery too. Check out the harmonized runs towards the end of “Incendio”.

Yannaki, with his Greek roots, has this very unique Eastern European / Mediterranean instinct in his playing, where there’s a hint of Greek bouzouki in both his style and sound. He really adds a magical new texture to the music on “Sahara”.

And as for me, I started by taking lessons with Spanish guitar virtuoso Jon Salfield from Cornwall and from there, my own style has continuously evolved and been influenced by listening to a culturally rich and diverse selection of music including Incendio, Jim, Al, Strunz and Farah, Jesse Cook, Johannes Linstead and many others.

Bo Astrup, from Los Angeles, also co-produced the album and gave me some great mixing ideas and tweaks that gave the tracks an extra sparkle.

mwe3: Tell us about some of the key events during your traveling to the US and performing with Incendio just a couple months ago in October 2016. Was that your first trip to the US?

Mark Barnwell: That was my first trip to the West Coast. I visited Florida in 1988. California was an amazing experience. The first few days were pretty action-packed. I’d been traveling for a long time and not had much sleep in the nights leading up to the trip. I was suffering from ‘Awesomnia’ – which is when you can’t sleep due to something of great excitement happening imminently. I got picked up from LAX on Thursday evening, and then we had a meal with JP, Liza, Jim and Stella, and a few glasses of red! Friday, I had a little run through of some Incendio tunes with Liza and JP, then we had a show at the Coffee Gallery Backstage in the evening. This was my first appearance with Incendio and I think I was on a natural high for the whole show. We even played my track “Incendio”, which was great to do live. As I do mostly solo and occasionally duo work at home, it was so amazing to play with such a talented and incredibly tight band. I’d known Jim, JP and Liza for a while, but this was the first time I’d met Tim. He is super nice and just a fantastic drummer.

It was a great night… I also loved the appreciative and enthusiastic audience. Another key moment was getting to meet Bo Astrup who worked on mixing and mastering Mandala with me.

Saturday night was at Spaghettini - fine dining & entertainment - in Seal Beach. This was a much bigger venue and tickets sold out. There was around 300 people, a big stage, sound engineer, and we were also joined by Nicole Calzone on percussion which added another dimension to the music. Incendio did the first 5 numbers on their own and then I joined them for the last few numbers of set one and all of set two. I remember sitting down watching the first set and they were on about the 3rd of 4th number and the jet lag really started kicking in with a vengeance. I’d been waking up about 2 or 3 am so had very little sleep over the last 5 days! Jim could see me from the stage, and I think he was maybe a little apprehensive. Anyway, I knew I was on in less than 2 numbers, so got up, grabbed a few complimentary mints for a bit of a sugar hit… I’d already had 2 coffees and then waited at the side of the stage to be called on. As soon as I got on stage and picked up the guitar, the adrenaline and the sheer positive indubitable energy of the band enshrouded me, almost like being enchanted... after all, Incendio is a spell from Harry Potter! I was on fire, more awake and alive than ever before and we had an amazing show. It just goes to show that we are all made of energy and that energy can feed energy. I had so many comments that night that really blew me away, including the “the three of you playing together was just amazing!” When I first bought an Incendio CD 13 years ago, that sort of thing happening was beyond my wildest dreams.

Monday night, 3rd October 2016, was also great and we appeared on Jeff Floro’s All About Guitar show on ‘LA Talk Radio’. This is still available on their website, he always delivers a great show. It went really well and I was amazed people from the UK were up at 4 am listening to it. We all went out for some food and beer afterwards and I met up with some other great LA guitarists, including Dan Sistos, who I already knew online, and Yussi Wenger, who is a new discovery for me. He’s a great guitar player and also we share a common interest in UK Crop Circles! I’d recommend checking these guys out… they are all great guitarists.

The rest of the trip was also fabulous, including visiting Santa Barbara and Vasquez Rocks with Jim, some amazing Mexican and Indian meals with JP and Liza, and another great show the following Saturday at Paso Robles Winery and Resort.

mwe3: Where are you living in the UK now and what parts of England do you like best?

Mark Barnwell: I now live in Cornwall, which is my favorite part of the England. It is full of beautiful scenery, stunning coastlines, diverse wildlife and, outside of the holiday season, it’s very laid back and quiet. It’s very far from London, which is nice to visit but I much prefer rural England and its undeniable beauty. It does mean I often have to do a fair bit of traveling for shows, but it’s worth it to live where I do.

mwe3: You have been playing Spanish and Flamenco guitars professionally since the mid 1990s. When did you first study classical guitar and how are the Spanish and Flamenco guitar styles different for you in some regards and similar in others?

Mark Barnwell: I first studied classical when I was about 6 years old. I then reached the age of about 12 and being almost a teenager, got into electric and rock styles. I got into Flamenco back in 2000 when I saw Jon Salfield, my future tutor, in concert and fell in love with the fiery and organic nature of what he was playing. After an intense 6 months of lessons from him, including video-ing things and taking them home to learn, I was ready to incorporate some elements of Flamenco into what I played. Classical guitar is very much aligned with set pieces and reading music, whereas Flamenco has more improvisation and fire in it. What I do now is probably more accurately described as ‘Exotic World Fusion’ – it has elements and techniques of Flamenco and Classical in places, but also influences from all sorts of styles and genres from all over the world.

mwe3: Are you amazed by the timeless popularity of both the Nuevo Flamenco and Gypsy Jazz guitar styles? I know there’s a difference between their styles but it is possible to like them both I think. Would you say Flamenco has its roots in classical guitar repertoire whereas the Gypsy guitar style is more jazz-centric?

Mark Barnwell: The Nuevo Flamenco genre is certainly very popular in the States. I was amazed how much so in California. It’s a genre/style that doesn’t get much attention in the UK, which is a kind of double-edged sword in that people are not so aware of it, but there’s not many of us doing it, so people, when they see and hear it for the first time, can be quite amazed as it’s very new to them.

There’s a definite melting pot of roots and influences in all styles of music – some Flamenco originated from the moors of North Africa, one of my favorite styles in fact, known as Zambra. Gypsy Jazz has a definite French connection, and the Gipsy Kings are of course French and Jesse Cook has French roots. I would say that both Gypsy Jazz and Flamenco could be described as “music of the people” much like folk music is in the UK.

mwe3: Tell us about the guitars you’re playing on Mandala. You have so many great Spanish and Flamenco guitars. What are your favorite guitars and tell us why you like them and how you came to own and play them? Do you have a signature guitar and what guitar do you travel with? Must be a nightmare bringing beautiful and expensive guitars on to a jumbo jet.

Mark Barnwell: I play quite a few different guitars on Mandala, some are more suited to certain pieces and certain parts, plus it is good to get a variety of sounds and textures.

A lot of the rhythm parts were done on a Vicente Sanchez Flamenco as this has quite a light, and a not too bass-heavy tone which is good for rhythm and arpeggios. My 1976 Conde was use for a lot of the lead parts as it has that great balance between tone and low action, and with the amount of fast runs I do on this album, a low action was needed. I also use a Cuenca 70F Flamenco, which has a lovely rich full tone on some tracks. “Potchka” is a good example, as that is quite light on other instruments. It provides a lead sound that takes center stage when there’s no percussion going on. I alternate between this and the Conde and the Sanchez on “Sahara” too.

Most of my guitars I purchase from my fellow Spanish guitar aficionado and friend Al Marconi. He is my guitar tech, and one of the best in the UK, and also very meticulous when it comes to guitars. I know that he will have spent years researching the best ones and then a long time tweaking them to perfection, so when he sells one, it’s because he’s bought a new one, or two, or three! A purchase from Al is always a very sensible one.

For most live shows, I normally use my customized Camps, as it has a great ‘plugged in’ sound due to its dual system (internal mic and piezo) along with acoustic foam to prevent mic feedback. This allows me to get a really nice live sound through a PA even if there is a fair amount of background noise going on.

My most recent guitar acquisition is a 2003 Pedro Maldonado F3 Negra cutaway. This is truly delightful and I’ve been doing some recording with it recently.

For my appearances with Incendio, Liza kindly loaned me her Alvarez Flamenco guitar and associated pedal board, so bringing a guitar from the UK was one thing to not worry about, as JP and Jim are real technical gurus and knew how to get the right sound to fit in with the band, which is of course quite different from the setup I would use on a solo gig at home.

mwe3: Tell us about your fretless Spanish guitar. How did you acquire it and what are some of the details involved in playing it? You also play bouzouki and synths on the Mandala CD right?

Mark Barnwell: Again Al is responsible for the fretless guitar. It was a reasonably cheap but nice guitar, a Freshman that I bought off eBay, and he simply removed the frets, turning a Spanish guitar into a fretless one! It’s a very different style to play and quite challenging. You need to fret the notes exactly where the frets used to be, not between them.

I also have an old Irish bouzouki, which I bought about 15 years ago for about a hundred dollars. It’s got a nice tone and adds a nice bit of sonic texturization to “Sundance” and “Mandala”. No, I don’t think texturization is a word, I’ve just invented it, I love doing that! I can play some basics on the keyboard, simple things that involve mostly chords, the clever bits I leave to Chris.

mwe3: How about some of the other players on the Mandala album, including the percussionists. Are all of the players based in the UK? Do you have another group called Esperanto? You also mention the Middle Eastern vibe in your sound right and you also have Yannaki who plays the Turkish Saz and the Spanish guitar too right?

Mark Barnwell: Mandala is a pretty even split between the UK and USA for where players are based. In the UK we have me, Chris Magrath (piano), Helen Rimmer (Sax), Jude Whitlock (flute and double bass), Al Marconi (guitar), Jonathan Stromberg (Violin), who is German but UK-based.

It’s amazing how I met these people. Chris I’ve known for many years and we’ve played gigs together before in Somerset. He’s been playing on my records since 2008, and his piano skills are just off the scale. Listen to to song "Mandala". He did
the background piano and the solo ‘off the cuff’ after just one listen!

Helen I met when I was busking in Exeter, she wanted to know what time I’d be finished and we had a quick jam before I packed up and she took over the pitch, and I liked what I heard so got her to play on "Surco Latino".

Jonathan I met when I was playing in a Tapas bar in Plymouth and he and his partner, Dolly, started doing some incredible ballroom dancing to one of my tunes. I chatted to them and discovered they teach dancing and Jonathan is a violinist who plays in a Tango band and also the Plymouth Symphony Orchestra.

Jude is in Jonathan’s band, and plays some fine flute and double bass, and also lives just 9 miles down the road. She joined me about 3 weeks ago for a performance of "Mandala" at a show in Looe.

And Al I’ve known for 11 years now. I think we’re the only 2 people in Cornwall playing the Nuevo Flamenco genre so it was inevitable we would meet. He’s become a good friend and given me so much advice both in terms of guitars and equipment and also introduced me to some amazing music.

Yannaki I met around 10 years ago on a site called Garage Band where you get to review other people’s music, but completely anonymously so you don’t know what you’re going to get or who performs it until after you’ve reviewed it. Yannaki reviewed some of my music and took a real shine to it, and we later hooked up on Facebook, and have exchanged numerous chats and emails over the years. He played guitar on my Ojos de la Tierra CD from 2013, adding some real magic to that, and also plays the Turkish Saz and the Spanish guitar on "Sahara”. Like myself, Yannaki also has a love of Eastern style music and his contribution to “Sahara” adds a new dimension and makes it truly magical.

Jim Stubblefield I met online many years ago… I think he got in touch because I downloaded his Guitarra Exotica album and he found me through the Amazon contact email and discovered I’d also released an album the same year called Exotica. I’d known about Jim’s music since I discovered an Incendio CD in a little Cornish fishing village called Looe back in around 2003, in one of those ‘CD listening posts’ they used to have, before youtube and Spotify took over the world! I was very taken with what I heard so bought the CD.

I’ve got to know Jim over the years via facebook chats and he visited the UK in September 2015. We met up and got on real well and had a great laugh in St. Ives and Tintagel. I soon thereafter, got to know JP and Liza (from Incendio and Carbe / Durand) very well online too, and here we are 13 years later all playing music together, both recorded and live.

Bryan Brock used to play percussion with Incendio before he moved to Nashville, which is a bit far from LA I think! Ramon Yslas also plays on Jim’s 2015 Encantado CD, which I guested on, as well as having played with my other guitar favorites Strunz and Farah plus nearly everyone else on the planet! Jim put me in touch with both of these great percussionists and I was really torn as to which one to employ the services of for Mandala, as I was familiar with both of them, so of the tracks with percussion they play 4 each! Deciding who plays on what was quite easy. Bryan was the obvious choice for the song “Incendio” for example, being an alumnus of the Incendio band. “Moroccan Skies” had to be Ramon as it was his facebook video post from a show with J-Lo in Morocco with the simple caption “Moroccan Skies”, which inspired that piece of music.

Tying it all together, in one of the most important roles is Liza on bass. I think Liza was just going to play on one track, then things kind of escalated and she ended up playing on 6 tracks! She did a fantastic job, it’s all about knowing what to play and what not to play. On “Moroccan Skies” for example, she added two tracks of bass, one with high parts, which really adds to the magic and ambience of the music.

JP also plays fretless bass on 2 tracks “Mandala” and “Moonstone” and does an amazing job as well as having guest guitar solos on 3 tracks. I love his style, which sometimes includes these little elements of cheekiness, in many ways mirroring his very addictive personality.

I am also part of a duo in the UK called Esperanto along with fellow Spanish guitarist Jon Boyes. We both have busy solo schedules but play a handful of concerts each year around the UK. Due to the types of places we play, we can both mic up our guitars, which allows a great live sound and the use of whatever guitar takes my fancy that night.

mwe3: How do you stay in shape as a Flamenco guitarist? What repertoire, scales, arpeggios do you practice everyday and do you play with your nails or are you using a pick too? How would you describe your main guitar technique?

Mark Barnwell: I use both nails and a pick. I get my nails lacquered by my nail technician once every 5-6 weeks. Staying in shape I think is a fine balance. Some of the fiery stuff is physically demanding and it’s important not to play too much this style of music in case you injure your hands. I have found that my right hand can ache for a while if I’ve had a really busy weekend of say 4 or 5 long gigs in a row, for example, which sometimes happens in peak summer season.

What I like to do in order to stay in shape is learn new pieces every now and then, which involve new shapes, structures and melodies that are often a bit different from what I’m used to. A few examples of that from this year are a Flamenco style cover of Mozart’s “Rondo Alla Turca” and Incendio’s “Illumination”, both of which involve some quite different runs. This way, practice and incorporating new music can become one and the same and you have something new you can play at a gig and maybe incorporate some of things you’ve learnt into other songs. Most gigs I do a mix of more traditional solo guitar music, which is all done using my fingers/nails and the more Rumba / Nuevo Flamenco music, in which I generally use a mixture of nails and picks for different parts of the music.

I would describe my technique as a fusion of styles, with elements of classical, Flamenco and even rock as and when that style is called for.

mwe3: How do you improve your compositional skills in a genre that has such demanding technique and precision?

Mark Barnwell: I always try and focus on a catchy melody and accompanying chord sequence but for me the key to composing is holding the listeners interest through the song and album. I like to compose in a variety of very different styles. For example, Mandala has many styles of music including Rumbas, New Age ballads, Yiddish folk music, Middle Eastern epics, Latin jazz. Some of my earlier music was maybe more simplistic in parts, which people still like. Just little things, like changing the odd chord or arpeggio to something a bit more intriguing or unexpected can really help compositionally.

For example, in “Moroccan Skies” there’s an arpeggio section in the middle with guitar and cellos, which has some very unusual voicings, perhaps even dipping a toe into Phillip Glass territory. Also if there is a main melody section, then changing a note or two, as in “Surco Latino” when it is repeated, can add another element to the music, and using different instruments to voice the same melody can also be very effective, as in the title track “Mandala”, with the guitar/flute interplay. I try and find a balance in the music I write that has the right degree of accessibility along with the right degree of technique and musical diversity.

mwe3: Has the internet made your musical career better? You must have fans in dozens of countries by now. Can the internet model for selling and buying music be improved upon in your opinion?

Mark Barnwell: Yes, I really believe it has. The people I’ve connected with and have subsequently met, recorded and performed with are just awesome. That just wouldn’t have been possible last century. Mandala would not have been the album it is without the internet, and nor would I have played many of the places that I have, which in recent years includes all over the UK, France and California. Interestingly, despite 99.9% of my performances being in the UK, I have twice as many online listeners in the USA than in the UK!

The current model for selling music on the internet is interesting. Although I have seen changes in recent years in that the likes of Amazon/iTunes and Spotify and other online streaming services has changed the way people listen to music, which has led to a decline in CD sales, the flip side is that your music can reach a much wider audience with services like Spotify and Youtube. It’s possible to connect with people all over the world, both fans, people who want to employ your musical services and like-minded collaborators. There is still, I believe, room for improvement in terms of the percentage artists get on some streaming services though, for example you need around 1000 plays on Spotify to earn the price of a coffee. I personally still like a physical CD with the improved audio quality, the artwork, finding out about the musicians etc.

That said, one must continually strive to evolve and embrace an ever-changing market and find ways to work with it and see the positive benefits.

mwe3: Who are your favorite classical guitarists? Were you influenced by both Flamenco guitarists and the classical legends like Segovia and Julian Bream? I also hear a kind of Greek bouzouki style of composition in some of your songs. How about the rock guitar, New Age or Gypsy Jazz guitarists that you listen to?

Mark Barnwell: As for classical guitarists, I’ve seen John Williams in concert a few times. His mum, June Williams, used to visit our local pub back in the 1990s when I played in a rock band there and she ran the local Monkey Sanctuary which is just down the road. I saw John solo and with Paco Pena, in the 1980s and '90s. He is undoubtedly a great player, as is Paco Pena.

2010 was a good year for concerts, within 5 days of each other I saw Paco de Lucia in London and Jesse Cook in Amsterdam! Each very different and very great. I was lucky enough to have a chat with Jesse after the show and he even offered me a spring roll from his plate of crudités. Such a nice guy, we had an interesting chat about his influences and gear.

I later evolved to the Nuevo Flamenco genre, and it’s great to have seen Incendio live and to have been part of the show. There are so many great artists, players and composers in that genre, many of which I have mentioned before: Incendio, Jim Stubblefield, Al Marconi, Johannes Linstead, Jesse Cook, Eric Hansen, Ben Woods, Luis Villegas, Dan Sistos, Strunz & Farah, David Correa, Yannaki Arrizza and many more.

I have visited Greece and the island many times and I love that Mediterranean style of the music too, I am drawn to the exotic eastern scales in my music and writing a lot. I’m sure I had Mediterranean roots somewhere down the line!

As for rock, well the first rock band I was into was Queen. I love what Brian May does with a guitar, he makes it talk, and can turn it into an orchestra. When I was 8 years old I went to see Flash Gordon and those layered guitar harmonies just blew me away and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. They still do today. I was into the 1980s instrumental guitar thing back in the day of course, with Vai, Satriani etc. Back in my rock band days of the late 1980s and early '90s we used to play all sorts – AC/DC, Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Lennie Kravitz.

Gypsy Jazz I’m not a big aficionado of the genre, but I have heard people like Bireli Lagrene, Django Reinhardt of course, and Stephane Wrembel. I actually do a piece in my shows by Stephane Wrembel called “Bistro Fada”, from a great Woody Allen film called Midnight In Paris. There is a quartet I know in the UK and have seen many times called Gipsy Fire, with 2 guitars, violin and double bass. They are just awesome.

mwe3: Are you writing new music and planning any recordings or concerts? After making such a star-studded album with Mandala what kind of album would you like to do next?

Mark Barnwell: I don’t have a particular project in mind, but when I’m feeling inspired, it’s important to get new ideas down. I wrote a very impromptu tune with JP in LA, and I’ve recently recorded that, along with a few ideas that I have, some of which were inspired by my trip to California. I am sure I will work again with many of the people I worked with on Mandala, as I think they really are at the top of their game and so inspirational to work with both personally and creatively.

I would maybe like to experiment more with the combination of the guitar and other instruments, maybe something Indian, and another instrument that I really adore is the Armenian Duduk. More of that would be good in the future. The combination of guitar and violin is also something I love, the interplay on “Sahara”, for example, is exactly what I set out to achieve. My music tends to evolve in quite an organic way, so I’m excited to see what will happen next.

As for shows, I do a wide variety of different types of performances, weddings, pubs, restaurants, festivals, concerts etc. I’ve had some very enjoyable concert-type ticketed gigs in the last month, where the crowds are really listening. Other gigs I do are more laid back and chatty such as playing to Sunday afternoon diners. The music I do is quite seasonal, so the winter is generally a lot quieter, and then April to October a lot busier. The winter is therefore a much better time for being creative!



 

 
   
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