fans asking if theres anything new under the sun will need to
hear a 2015 CD release called AEAEA from guitarist Stephen
Duros. One part hypnotica, one part a form of New Age, world-beat
jazz-fusion mix for the 21st century, AEAEA centers around
the inventive flamenco, electric and bass guitars, as well as synth
keyboards, of Stephen Duros. Its a form of aural exotica with
the album featuring unique percussion instruments like charango, riq
and darbuka, that mix in with Stephens guitars, and that are
performed by a range of percussionists. Even with so much exotic accompaniment,
the accent is mainly on Stephens skillful fretboard work. Speaking
to mwe3 about the album and the unusual title, Stephen explains'The
title of the album, AEAEA is a mythological island from the ancient
poem Odyssey and I thought it would be a nice starting
point for the musical journey. Its up to the listener to decide
where the story goes from there. Thats what I like about instrumental
music, there are no words to tell you what the song is about. The
listener can put headphones on, close their eyes and imagine whatever
they like when listening and let the music take them away for a bit.'
Returning a favor from when Stephen played in his band, guitar
icon Ottmar Liebert is also featured, here in a cameo role,
playing electric guitar. The CD features 12 tracks and the album works
quite effectively, perfectly in fact as the artist puts it, To
recount a musical journey or odyssey. The album tells a story, much
like a book does. Being all instrumental, AEAEA is
the perfect soundtrack for guitar fans to feast on. Duros also worked
as concert lighting director for the rock band TOTO, and interestingly,
just after Stephen did the mwe3.com on September 1st, 2015 he was
called by TOTO to come and do the lighting midway through their Summer
2015 tour with YES. Masterful at creating uncanny sonic extrapolations,
Stephen Duros takes the guitar into deep and uncharted waters with
the phenomenal sounding AEAEA. www.StephenDuros.com
mwe3.com presents an
Can you tell us where youre from originally and where you live
now and what you like best about it? Youve done a lot of traveling
in other countries as well as throughout the US so what are your favorite
cities to visit?
Stephen Duros: Im from just outside Chicago and currently
live in Oakland, California. Ive lived in California for over
half my life now, I moved to LA when I was 19 and lived there for
11 years and thats where I got my start in the music business.
Ive always loved living close to the ocean, and loved the California
vibe and would draw from it to write music. Oakland feels like its
very up and coming right now, great energy, a lot of new business,
great restaurants, a lot of great artists and musicians. Ive
met some amazing people and musicians here and its great to
hop across to San Francisco, the whole bay area is a beautiful place
to live in.
Ive done a lot of traveling, been to around 44 countries now.
There have been so many amazing cities and towns its hard to
pick favorites as Ive liked so many of them for different reasons.
Here in the U.S. I always love New York City, the food, museums, just
going for a walk in that city is awesome, there is something to it
that is hard to explain, its just great. I have a lot of great
memories being there on tour playing at BB Kings and The Blue
Note. Santa Fe, New Mexico is another favorite, the food is incredible
and the way the sun light shines there is amazing. Probably my favorite
place to be during the Christmas holiday season. There is nothing
like it in the world. The scent of piñón wood in the
night air, the Kiva fire places roaring with warm fires on a cold
snowy night, the old buildings glowing with twinkling golden Christmas
lights, the colors of chiles. Such a unique and wonderful city.
For international cities, Tokyo, Berlin, and London are some of my
favorites. One of the best meals Ive had was in Lucca, Italy.
Melbourne, Australia is a very cool city. Bergen, Norway, Stockholm
Sweden, Wellington, New Zealand, the list goes on and on. I love to
travel and have been very fortunate in my line of work to be able
to do the traveling I have.
mwe3: Can you tell us something about your new CD AEAEA,
for example how you came up with the title of the album and what
did you set out to achieve with the musical directions on the AEAEA
album? Its very unique sounding and not its only guitar
music right? Its more like a musical soundtrack!
Stephen Duros: AEAEA was my baby, I nurtured that album
for 4 years and feel very close to it. It is my most emotional and
personal record. I see it as a musical soundtrack, a musical journey
and not just a guitar-based album. In fact, I wrote the music with
my keyboard and guitar. I wanted to tell a story through music. I
wanted to use some of the flavors from my second album, Thira,
but wanted to write something entirely new and different. I felt that
I couldnt get enough out of a four minute song, so I decided
to write one long song. Like a book, its one story with different
chapters and that was the inspiration for the foundation of the album.
guitar melody on Chapter II was something I had written
at the end of recording my album Thira. I liked the melody
so much that I wanted to save it for another album and base the entire
album off that melody. In AEAEA, that melody makes an appearance
in 3 different chapters. Same goes for a few of the other melodies
on the record. The melodies come in and out at times but its
done in a way that doesnt feel repetitive, more of a moment
The title of the album, AEAEA is a mythological island from
the ancient poem Odyssey and I thought it would be a nice
starting point for the musical journey. Its up to the listener
to decide where the story goes from there. Thats what I like
about instrumental music, there are no words to tell you what the
song is about. The listener can put headphones on, close their eyes
and imagine whatever they like when listening and let the music take
them away for a bit.
mwe3: What other albums have you released and how would you
say your music writing and guitar style has changed over the course
of your different recordings?
Stephen Duros: My first album was Miranda, which I recorded
in 1997-1999. I actually re-recorded all the music and added a few
new songs to it between 2002-2004. The album eventually was remastered
and rereleased on Ottmar Lieberts label, SSRI, in 2008. It was
more of a rumba flamenco based album only with a relaxing kinda vibe.
The song Miranda on there is a straight up rumba song,
one of the few rumba songs that Ive recorded. My next album,
Thira was recorded in 2005-2006 and was a departure into using
more synth and chill techno sounds and using a lot of lead octave
melodies on the guitar along with a lot of ascending and descending
string bending. I felt it gave it a very unique sound right off the
bat. My 3rd album, Urban Flamenco, recorded between 2009-2011
was about traveling throughout different cities around the world in
different times. I really wanted to touch on some of the music I grew
up listening to in the late 1970s early 80s. I played
some electric guitar on there as well.
I think Ive really grown musically over the years writing and
playing wise. I also feel there is a consistency in my guitar playing
where you know its me throughout all the albums and I think
thats a good thing.
What guitars are you playing on the AEAEA CD? Would you consider
yourself as a guitar aficionado or even a collector of sorts? How
many guitars do you have and what do you look for in a guitar? Can
you recommend certain guitars for students of the guitar as well as
performing artists and do you have some favorite luthiers and string
Stephen Duros: I recorded the entire album with a beautiful
flamenco blanca made for me by Lester DeVoe and a Steve Lukather signature
Music Man Luke guitar that Luke gave me back in 2001,
both of which I love. I used the Luke guitar on the solo
at the end of Chapter 8.
I love guitars, I can get a bit obsessed with them at times. Im
not a collector, I go through phases where I only want one electric
and one acoustic guitar but then other times where I would like a
bunch of different guitars. Not for a collection but for different
sounds and tones, kind of like having more paint brushes and colors
to choose from. Someday Id love to have a Fender Strat or Tele,
a Les Paul, perhaps a PRS but Im also very satisfied and thankful
for what I do have.
I also have a 1995 GVR flamenco blanca guitar that Ive had for
almost 20 years, which was my very first flamenco guitar and has a
beautiful tone and feels great when I play it. I have two Jackson
guitars that Ive had since the early 1990s, which are
great guitars, one has neck through construction, which I love the
feel of. I had one of them hot rodded with EMG pickups years back.
I also have an old Hamer guitar. I dont play those guitars often
but I occasionally pick them up and noodle around on them. Sometimes
a different guitar can give you a new song idea just by the way it
I use DAddario Pro Arte normal tension strings, they are
the best strings for me and Ive used those for years. Ive
tried all kinds and always come back to those, very consistent and
work great in the studio and on tour.
There are so many great luthiers out there and have heard many great
things. Im thankful to have a great relationship with Lester
DeVoe and German Vazquez Rubio over the years. I believe German makes
a student flamenco model guitar as well which could be a great option
for someone starting out.
Can you tell the reader that story of you meeting up with Ottmar Liebert
in L.A. and how do you feel Ottmars guitar sound influenced
you both as a guitarist and composer? Interesting that Ottmar is actually
playing electric guitar on AEAEA. How did you bring Ottmar
into playing on AEAEA and what guitar is he playing?
Stephen Duros: Its interesting how it all worked out
when I met Ottmar Liebert. I was the local house lighting designer
at the Key Club in LA. Ottmar was scheduled to come through the venue
in 2004. I remember not wanting to work the show and asked a friend
of mine who worked there to cover. He thought I was crazy because
he knew how much Ottmars music had inspired me and tried to
talk me into working the show.
You know, its funny, I was in such a musical funk at that time,
it probably sounds ridiculous, but sometimes people get down. Especially
when you work very hard at something for years and you feel like no
one really cares about it. By then I had been turned down by several
record labels and had an entertainment attorney shopping my demos
out and getting no love back from anyone. I think I got to a moment
where I needed a break to recharge and get back in the game, Ive
never been one to quit anything, I work very hard, but I was feeling
the burn of the music business, and at the time I knew I would have
wanted to be playing on stage playing with Ottmar and didnt
want to feel discouraged with where I was at in my life.
But a few days before Ottmars show at the Key Club, my friend
called and said he couldnt cover and that I have to do it. So
I did and remember feeling happy it worked out that way. I think there
was a part of me that was hoping to have a nice conversation with
Ottmar though Im always one to typically leave the artist along.
If anything, I just wanted to thank him for the inspiration he had
given me over the years. I think working that show gave me a lot of
inspiration to keep going and so much to the point that I quit working
at the club a few months later so that I could focus on my music and
finish my album Miranda.
sound check at Ottmars show, I was able to thank him for his
inspiration and we ended up having a very nice conversation about
music. I bought us both a coffee at the local coffee shop. It wasnt
until a year later that I had come back from Indonesia with Toto and
decided to get in touch with Ottmar. Six months later I was on tour
with Ottmar doing the lighting on his Winter Rose tour and
brought my guitar along. That following summer I was playing in the
band! It was an amazing time in my life, I had just started to date
my soon-to-be wife, and was touring with Ottmar. It was like an entire
new chapter opened up. The vibe on the tour was incredible and his
Winter Rose album is by far one of my favorite albums today.
Every time I hear that record I think back to that tour, the snow
on the ground, the vibe in Santa Fe in the winter holiday season and
the food. It was truly an amazing time for me.
His album Opium was always a big influence on my song writing.
He has such a tasteful approach to everything he does, weather its
music, photography, album design, you name it. Ive really learned
a lot from him
hes not only a musician, hes a true
artist. He had played a solo on my Thira album so I thought
that Id love to him as part of the musical adventure and asked
him to play a solo on AEAEA. I gave him the choice of what
instrument he wanted to play and when I heard the electric guitar
solo, I was blown away. It was so unique and trippy, it took that
entire chapter to a new level. Its one of my favorite sections
of the album and one of my favorite electric guitar solos of all time.
mwe3: Tell us about your band on AEAEA and how you decided
on these players. I was also interested in the lush strings sounds
that accompany these tracks, especially on the second track here.
Were the strings synthesized? Did you use some special apps to get
that sound? They sound so real to me. Is working with real strings
something youd like to further explore?
Duros: I had some very talented friends play on parts of the album.
Andrew Reissiger played the charango as he did on my previous album,
which I love
it is such a pretty yet haunting sound. He brought
in Louis Romanos, who he knows to play drums and percussion. In the
last year Ive been playing with an amazing Haitian percussionist,
Jeff Pierre who played conga solo on the album. He and I also have
a band were just starting called Path Of Light. Jeff is also
a great singer so its fun trying something new along with my
solo stuff. All the players really added some wonderful additions
to the album and helped bring it to life.
As for the strings, I used my keyboard and soft synths. I didnt
use anything special, just whats available on the market today.
I would have loved to hire a string section to play the parts or even
one or two to over dub, but working with a small budget, I just couldnt
make that work. I put in some long hours picking out the right string
sounds and mixing a lot of tracks together including brass and woodwinds.
I think the first 10 minutes of the album is something like 72 tracks
because there were so many different instruments and sections going
on. For the orchestra sections, I did a lot of volume automation to
get the right feel and different reverbs. It took a lot of listening
and time to get it the way I wanted it. Working with real strings
is something Ive always wanted to do and hopefully some day
will get the opportunity.
mwe3: What was it like working with co-producer Andrew Riessiger
on the making of AEAEA? How did you meet him and what did Andrew
bring to the table musically and vibe wise? What do you look for in
a producer and co-producer to enhance the sound of your album? Also,
who else was responsible for helping you get such a unique sound on
AEAEA, including studio engineers and mastering engineers?
Duros: Andrew is a man of many talents and hes a great friend.
Ive known him a long time now. He plays multiple instruments,
he produces, hes a sound engineer and hes also currently
the Music Program Manager for The Nile Project.
I liked what he played on my last album so much that I knew I wanted
the charango back on this one. It has such a unique sound and I love
the way Andrew plays the instrument. We have a great working relationship
and while I was over in his studio one evening listening to some of
AEAEA he said you know what, you should have my friend
Louis Romanos come in and put some live drums and percussion down
in this section. I thought about what he said and thought, man
that would be really cool, lets try it. And it went on from there.
He suggested I bring my bass over and re-track the bass through some
of his real nice pre amps and get a fatter tone, and while I was playing
bass he had some great suggestions. I think if you have a great and
honest working relationship with someone, and they have great ideas,
its only a win-win situation. In fact, hes the one who
came up with the funky bass part in Chapter 1. I liked
it so much that I extended that entire section and added the flamenco
guitar grooving over it with Arabic style strings. Its now one
of my favorite sections in the album.
We had started to mix in his studio and planned on mixing it together
there but it conflicted with his tour schedule with The Nile Project,
so I brought the tracks to my studio and mixed the record. I had a
very clear vision of the over all sound I wanted when mixing the album
and you have to put as much care and time in the mixing as you do
on the recording end so it can take some time. I had been studying
a lot of audio engineering over the past few years and I felt it really
helped but even then, there is just so much to engineering. I have
a lot of respect for a great audio engineers. Engineering is truly
mwe3: The AEAEA album seems to transcend musical genres
and is a combined a futuristic World Beat kind of album, a flamenco
flavored guitar album and a hybrid of progressive fusion music. How
do you feel about mixing all those genres and descriptions? It very
much sounds like you had the idea to do something very unique and
daring from a musical perspective.
Duros: Yes, AEAEA has multiple styles, rhythms and time
signatures that it flows through and I feel a lot of times they are
not so noticeable, which is a good thing. I learned from drummer and
producer Simon Phillips years ago that you dont want odd meter
to feel awkward, it should be smooth and almost not noticeable. Ive
taken that advice to heart as I have with the advice of the late Jeff
Pocaro and Mike Pocaro. Years back when I was on tour with Toto in
Papeete having an evening hang at the hotel bar, Mike Pocaro, was
telling me that Jeff would always say that its so important
for a guitarist to work on having solid rhythm. Mike was also telling
me to check out horn players to get great ideas for guitar improvising.
Im also truly blessed that Mike had played bass guitar on my
song Cirrus years ago, he and Simon are both on that track.
Its a very special track to me.
As far as mixing all the different styles together through out the
album, I was very happy with how it flowed. It was one of those things
that was either going to work or it wasnt. In a time where a
lot of music seems to be 2.8 minutes for radio I wanted to go in the
opposite direction. I remember sitting down and listening to albums
when I was young, there was just something special about putting on
a record. I miss buying records at a record store. I was hoping people
would sit down, put this on and enjoy an entire album.
mwe3: You also have recently said that you are currently listening
to classical music. How about classical guitar? Can you mention some
of the classical guitarists and albums that have influenced you both
as a listener and a musician? Seems like theres so many genres
of classical guitar and an equally number of diverse genres in the
Flamenco world too. So much great music has been written for the guitar
over the past few centuries! I wonder where the guitar will be in
Duros: Yes, I have been diving into classical music and have a
lot to explore. It is such amazingly complex and beautiful style of
music. There is so much emotion in it. The changes are insane in some
sections, it just bows my mind. Being a nylon guitarist oddly enough
I havent explored much classical guitar though I respect it
very much, its a beautiful sound. There is so much great guitar
music out there and I too wonder where it would be in 2115.
mwe3: How do you stay in shape as a guitarist and a composer?
Are there exercises and practice routines that you work on everyday
to keep your skills in peak shape? Does music writing influence your
practicing or does the practicing influence your writing more?
Stephen Duros: I used to have a routine where I would practice
with an old wind up metronome almost every morning, I loved that time.
But life gets busy, I have a five year old daughter and another one
on the way! So, there isnt as much a dedicated time to practice,
but I still have to practice, it is very important. There have been
times where Ive put the guitar down for 6 to 8 weeks when going
on a tour with Toto to do lighting. I would listen to music constantly
when gone. I found that there is so much to learn from just listening.
I always feel like practice, practice, practice is stressed,
but youd be surprised how much you can learn from doing some
concentrated listening. Now, I dont recommend going that long
without playing, it takes a week or two, sometimes longer to get back
in shape but I think its important to just listen as well. I
found I would often play better after an experience like that because
of a greater understanding from what I had learned from listening.
mwe3: What artists, bands and guitarists into to these days?
You mentioned working with Lawson Rollins too. How did you meet Lawson
and what was it like working with him on Lawson's Traveler
CD? Speaking of great guitar albums, you guys represent the best of
Duros: Well, thank you very much! I dont feel worthy, I
still feel like a beginner on the guitar, there is just so much to
learn. Yes, Lawson has this amazing technique on the instrument. Ill
sit there and watch him play and then ask, could you slow that down
so I can learn that? Lawson is very a talented musician, he lives
across the bay from me and we get together frequently to get a good
hang and jam session in. Some years back when I was performing in
Ottmars band we played a show in San Francisco. Lawson was the
guest of the percussionist in the band and came down to see the show.
A few days later I had received a very nice email from him, which
I appreciated very much. Within the next year I got in touch with
him and let him know I moved to the Bay Area and was looking to meet
new musicians in the area and received such a nice warm welcome from
him and ever since weve been good friends.
He had heard some of the techno style ideas I was working on and invited
me to co-produce and play on his album, Traveler. I worked
on what he calls the Urban Trilogy section of the album.
It was a lot of fun and he brought me down to Santa Barbara to help
finish the record in the studio where I met and worked with producer
Dominic Camardella. We all had a great time in the studio. Im
very honored he asked me to join his project and it turned out to
be an awesome album.
mwe3: What are the challenges for guitarists to really reach
an audience these days? The internet has shrunk the world but not
the planet. Traveling is even contentious on a range of levels these
days. Having fans of your in remote corners of the country and the
world must seem comforting! Seems like futuristic time travel in centuries
to come will solve that, at least if you use Star Trek as an model!
Stephen Duros: Thats a great question, I think its
really difficult and there are many challenges, even with the internet.
Sure, the internet has opened up a door to give access to people around
the world to new music with a click of a button. At the same time,
it has opened that door for everyone so it makes it more difficult
to stand out, but I do think the way to stand out as a guitarist is
through hard work. Yes, it would be great to be able to beam
up to another country and play a gig.
What do you do to unwind and relax from the pressures of the music
world? Do you have outside interest and hobbies that serve as a diversion
for you or it is music 24/7 all the time? Can meditation help you
be a better musician?
Stephen Duros: There are just so many skills required to stay
afloat in the music business that there has to be some unwinding time
for sure. I love to spend time with my family, I also enjoy a walk
and bringing my camera along. I meditate
meditation is a great
way to unplug. I enjoy reading about audio engineering, the latest
music gear thats out that kinda stuff.
mwe3: Also do you find movies relax you and take you away from
the world? What are your favorite movies and movie sound tracks? Is
the guitar used enough in movies?
Stephen Duros: I love movies, Im a movie buff. On one
of Ottmars summer tours, I think I must have watched Casino
Royale a dozen times or more. Some of my favorite movies are the
Coen brothers Burn After Reading, - I cant stop
laughing throughout that movie, The Game, - I really dig the
Michael Mann movies The Insider and Heat. Any of the
Quentin Tarantino movies, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, LA Story,
any 1980s movies, I love the early 007 movies with
Sean Connery, and the original 1971 Andromeda Strain is great,
Indiana Jones. The list goes on...
I think one of my favorite movie soundtracks is American Beauty.
There is just something to Thomas Newmans composing that really
touches me and strikes emotion immediately. I find him to be an amazing
talent and would love to work with him some day. He has this way of
playing one note, or one chord and it can blow me away, there is a
certain touch, and when the melody comes in
Diaries and Babel are also amazing soundtracks.
How do you feel the internet has impacted your music and music in
general? A lot of musicians are complaining that music is too easily
downloaded or stolen with CD sales down in the world do you find that
to be the case or is there a silver lining for artists and musicians
who work so hard to make a good product only to have it downloaded
by a 3rd party? Are there safeguards in place for that thing on YouTube
or is that just scratching the surface? Seems a shame for the artist
to lose control over this!
Stephen Duros: I think the internet has opened doors but I
also feel it has made it more difficult for artists with all the streaming
and illegal downloads. Sometimes I feel like the internet is the wild
west. I think its important to educate people of all ages that
downloading for free is part of a big problem that is killing off
artists careers, or artists trying to start a career. There
needs to be a stronger appreciation for music rather than it being
taken for granted to the point where some people almost feel justified
downloading it for free because they cant afford it. As for
streaming, Im not sure what to think of it at this time, it
would be great if it worked well for financially the artists and the
consumer, perhaps some day but right now that just doesnt seem
to be the case for the artists, at least with my experience. We shall
dont know where streaming is going, Its hard for me to
be excited about it when there is barely any money to be made from
a stream. I understand its convenient but I just dont
know about it right now
I just dont see it working in
positive way for the artist. I hear the argument that its
a great discovery tool and sure, I get that, but is that enough
to justify the price of devaluing music? I also think that line is
right up there with someone not wanting to pay for a song or live
performance and saying Its great exposure for you!!
I think people, companies need to realize they need to pay for music
as much as they do for groceries or clothes at a store.
mwe3: Youre also a well known performance lighting director
having worked with Toto for years. How did you get into that area
of music concert lighting and are you still pursuing that career avenue
or is it mostly music and recording these days, especially with your
new CD out now?
Stephen Duros: When I moved to LA when I was 19 I needed to
find work along with playing guitar. Ive always been interested
in lights. In fact my first word was light. I used to play in a hard
rock band in high school and would always setup our own lights. I
soon got a job working at the Roxy Theatre on Sunset Boulevard, which
eventually lead to me working at Billboard Live, which turned into
The Key Club. I was very good with the timing of the lighting because
I was a musician. I used a very musical approach, not just flash and
trash. And when Toto performed at the Key Club in 1999 I did their
light show and they liked it and offered to take me with them on tour.
The next month they flew me to the East Coast to try me out. 16 plus
years and a few hundred shows later, including multiple countries,
a recent live DVD TOTO - Live in Poland that has my light show
on it and went number 1 world wide, Im glad I took that chance.
Its hard to put yourself out there and do something that youre
nervous about, but once you do it and work through that fear, great
things can happen. I even have a cartoon rendering I did of Steve
Lukather, that is now on his Signature guitar pedal The Luke
from the award winning company Tone Concepts! Its such a cool
pedal and very proud to be part of that.
These days Im really trying to push hard with my music and playing
in a separate project with Jeff Pierre. Ill always be in touch
with my friends in Toto and be there if they need me.
Are you always writing and recording and/or getting new ideas for
music? What directions would you like to go in next as a composer
and recording artist and would you consider taking your music around
the world as a live performing artist? How are you planning to take
the next step forward as an artist?
Stephen Duros: Right now Im trying to figure out how
to get my music out to as many people as possible along with currently
writing and doing a little recording with Jeff Pierre and our project
Path of Light which has been a lot of fun, separate from my solo stuff.
Its hard to say where I would want to go next as a composer,
I feel like Im in uncharted waters at the moment. Ive
been picking up the electric guitar a lot more lately and really want
to dive into something with that as well. I would of course love to
perform AEAEA with an orchestra someday
that is a dream
of mine. As for the next steps, I think I just need to keep working
hard, keep the faith and trust that there is a future in music for