the 2013 CD release of Dragonfly, the group known
as Terra Guitarra continues to evolve and refine their sound.
Featuring guitarists Bruce Hecksel and Julie Patchouli,
Terra Guitararra are masters at combining finger style and classical
guitar within their mix of instrumental jazz, flamenco, World Music
into a brand of music they call Neuvomenco. The end result
of their fourth album, Dragonfly, is a fluid and sublime
instrumental music listening experience that blends everything good
about the pan-global popularity of modern day nuevo flamenco instrumental
music. Commenting on their timeless guitar-centric sound, guitarist
Bruce Hecksel adds, Our style of Nuevo Flamenco music is incredibly
blissful to play. The melodies are reflective of the earths
energy and vibrations. Although the emphasis is on intricate
Spanish classical and toe-tapping Latin rhythms, the music created
by Terra Guitarra is timeless and healing at the same time. Julie
Patchouli accurately describes the music of Dragonfly as A
spiritual journey of personal exploration and discovery. With
the CD release of Dragonfly, Terra Guitarra reach a new height
in their colorful and rewarding guitar journey. www.TerraGuitarra.com
mwe3.com presents an
BRUCE HECKSEL & JULIE PATCHOULI of
mwe3: Where are you from and where do you live now and what do
you like best about it?
HECKSEL: I grew up near Minneapolis / St. Paul in Minnesota, went
to grad school in Chicago and due to our heavy touring schedule of
200 plus dates a year we call the Midwest home in summer and Florida
home in Winter. We have a house on the Mississippi River on Lake Pepin
which is incredible for its inspirational beauty. Nature is my musical
inspiration and this area has it in abundance, rivers, lakes, streams
and diverse wildlife which really allows us to maximize our down time
by living in such a nest of creative potential.
JULIE PATCHOULI: I grew up outside of Chicago and after living
in several different cities and moving around with music and studies,
we currently call west central Wisconsin home. We live in a little
town on the Mississippi River. This area is called Gods
country because of its stunning natural beauty. Touring
all over the US and playing 200+ performances a year, it is restorative
and necessary to have our days off in an inspiring and beautiful place
that we can rest and play and enjoy the wilderness.
mwe3: After releasing three albums with Terra Guitarra what
kind of musical vibe were you going for on your 4th release, the Dragonfly
album? How does Dragonfly compare, both compositionally
and recording wise, with your other CD releases?
BRUCE HECKSEL: It really was more of a collaborative project
between the two of us and many pieces were composed spontaneously.
Picking up the energy of the places we were performing or playing.
This whole project was aimed a little more globally, and since it
grew over a years time it takes on the character of a journey, very
much like we live our lives interpreting the signs as we go along.
Many of the songs on this album were performed and evolved live before
recording, instead of the other way around for the first time too.
So this album is a very natural emanation for us, its much closer
to the way we actually perform them than the others which inevitably
grow as time progresses.
JULIE PATCHOULI: Dragonfly to me has a variety of guitar
styles and compositions that vary from the other Terra Guitarra albums.
We had been on the road performing a lot of the pieces from the previous
projects adding in songs we were composing for Dragonfly in
front of a live audience. So the compositions changed a bit from feeling
how the songs fit each night before we got to recording them.
The debut Terra Guitarra album was composed completely by Bruce and
I learned my parts to record and perform. The second, The Mother
Night, I had been present in more of the composition time, but
the core of the songs are Bruces. As we came into writing the
music for Dragonfly we took ideas and melodies we had both
been working on. The Swan was a fingerstyle rhythm I was
hearing that I brought to Bruce to lay melodies on. We wrote Janvier
together sitting outside in the winter sun, both sick as dogs with
no voices, but wanted to sing.
mwe3: When did both of you become interested in playing the
guitar and can you give a little background into your early exposure
to the guitar as well as musical studies and how your guitar sound
evolved into the sound and style featured on the Terra Guitarra albums?
HECKSEL: I began piano at 5 years of age and progressed very rapidly
winning state contests and the like, until I was 13 and my piano teacher
told me I was on the concert pianist track and that I should quit
sports forthwith. So instead I quit piano as my impression of a concert
pianist at that age was not something I considered desirable and began
the guitar shortly after. I grew up in a richly classical music house
and was surrounded and involved in choral music and so forth and my
blood was fairly brimming with it. I began in rock and punk but arrived
at the allure of the acoustic guitar towards the end of high school
and college where I gradually became obsessed. I studied with a national
fingerstyle champion for a year where I practiced at least 8 hours
a day ravenously devouring his repertoire until he dispatched me...
declaring me done. I briefly worked with a flatpicker as well, but
with that much intensity, the original compositions just started pouring
out of me and I joined a group where fingerstyle was getting lost
so a began crafting my own style of flatpicking, borrowing from jazz,
rock, neuvomenco and even reggae. People like Rev. Gary Davis, Leo
Kottke, Al DiMeola, Paco Delucia, Ernest Ranglin, Don Ross and others
were my biggest influences. As Julie and I began our own duo we mixed
instrumentals with singer songwriter tunes and covered a lot of territory,
but just loved world music in all of its forms. So our style really
blends numerous influences to complement the tunes that come naturally
to us. We try to stay as original as possible and have definitely
created some adaptations of rasquedo, a flamenco fingerstyle, to flatpicking
so that were quite percussive as we play off of each other.
JULIE PATCHOULI: I got interested in guitar from listening
to Bruce play. This was about 20 years ago. I was writing lyrics and
songs acapella style and had an old balalaika I was playing. I had
learned violin at a young age as well as drums/percussion and played
trombone, and I really enjoyed the way the guitar sang out the melodies
and songs. I started searching out guitarists I could see perform
live, and feel their connection to their instrument like Bruce had.
Taj Mahal, Leo Kottke, Earnest Ranglin, Ali Farka Toure, Ani Difranco...
all masters in their own genres of guitar styles. I have always loved
music from around the world, new instruments, voicings, rhythms, expressions.
So when Bruce started working on Terra Guitarra compositions it was
mwe3: You mention some famous guitar names such as Leo Kottke
and Paco De Lucia as big musical influences and theres a great
cover of the John Barry classic You Only Live Twice on
Dragonfly as well. What other guitar and non-guitar influences
as well as other musical influences inspired you early on to want
to play guitar and write music?
BRUCE HECKSEL: As I mentioned I grew up in a classical music
environment and that is simply huge, as well as relatives living in
Mexico and Guatemala. I think that combination really is my backbone
but also people like Randy Rhoads and other rock guitarists have had
an influence. Govi is one of my favorites and I was an early lover
of Tangerine Dream and Brian Eno and Klaus Schulze and a pantheon
of New Age artists, especially William Ackerman and George Winston.
As you mention the John Barry tune, Mantovani was lurking around a
bit of the time as well, and his arrangements are incredibly musical
and Ive heard his records so many times that some of his sensibility
has definitely inspired me as well. With the guitar itself the most
powerful was the folk-rock of the late 1960s / early 70s, Cat
Stevens, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan etc. that really made me gravitate
toward the acoustic guitar. Theres so much hope and warmth in
that era I guess I always wish I could have been there.
The sound of the guitars on Dragonfly were impeccably recorded.
What guitars are you featuring and performing on the Dragonfly
album and what do you look for in a guitar? Some of those beautiful
nylon string guitars are quite expensive. Which guitars interest you
the most and which guitars are best to record with? What guitars do
you record with and what guitars do you travel with?
BRUCE HECKSEL: We have a number of different Taylor steel strings,
6 and 12 and theyre very comfortable and were very used
to working with their tones. My main steel string is an 814CE which
is a jumbo rosewood/sitka combo and its quite soulful for leading.
Taylor's are great on the road as were quite abusive to them
with our schedule. For classical I use an Alvarez as its particular
tone for what Im going for is right on the money versus any
other instrument Ive tried. I also use an Asturias when I want
a really rich sound but for most of the time I prefer the Alvarez.
The beauty of a classical is how responsive they are and how different
they can sound but I find most to be too bright and prefer a real
even sound that is fairly thick in the upper midrange tonally. I find
when recording a classical, that if its too loud and resonant
it doesnt sit as well in the mix, whereas a cedar/mahogany type
combination works best for me to really pull out the melody. Ive
tried hundreds of different guitars looking for that perfect sound
for me, and Ive pretty much settled for now. But its always
a pleasure to look.
JULIE PATCHOULI: I primarily play a Taylor 714CE steel string
guitar for my rhythm guitar parts on the record. It is a beautiful
recording guitar and I tour with one as well. I also tour with an
Alvarez acoustic bass and a Goldtone electric upright bass as well
as a djembe and percussion instruments.
mwe3: Can you say something about the amazing artwork painting
of the Terra Guitarra Dragonfly album? Your artwork, featured
on your web site, is both very guitar-centric and very beautiful in
its own right. What inspires the artwork on your albums and what artists
inspired you to became involved in painting? Are they all done by
BRUCE HECKSEL: Well thank you. Ive been a painter all
of my life as well and my painting style is a highly textured acrylic
based impressionism. The idea first came to me for my guitar
landscapes where every element in the composition is a guitar
based shape, when I was thinking about the first album cover for the
first Terra Guitarra album. The name means guitar landscape and so
it came to me that thats what I should create. Also Julie had
made some watercolors where she had a guitar upside down that appeared
as a figure with its head bowed to the sun and that opened up
the whole anthropomorphic style of guitar birds and people and so
forth. Now that its out of the box, Ive produced around
160 paintings in the last two years averaging around 3ft x 3ft. So
the paintings are now on their own tours at exhibitions around the
country and we bring Giclee prints with when we perform.
Combining the painting and guitar compositions with the a common energy
has really been profound for me and continues to evolve rapidly. So
Im painting every chance I get.
JULIE PATCHOULI: The artwork on the albums were created by
Bruce to express the full concept of Terra Guitarra. That the land
around us is singing and depending on where we travel and listen we
hear new melodies new inspiration. The art reflects this beauty and
mwe3: Can Julie say something about her group, which is called
Patchouli. What kind of music is featured in the group Patchouli,
when did the group start and how does it compare with the Terra Guitarra
PATCHOULI: When Bruce and I met back in 1993 we knew we wanted
to play music together whenever and where ever we could. Bruce and
I were touring in another band, Bruce on guitar from 1993-98 and me
on bass 95-98 and when that band ended we were ready to start
out on our own. Patchouli officially started in 1998.
The sound is modern acoustic singer-songwriter, drawing influences
from blues, rock, folk and jazz. Its lyrically driven versus
Terra Guitarra being all instrumental guitar pieces. I come from a
poetry background and the songs express themes of love, healing, joy,
longing, environmental issues, tolerance, history and the open road.
mwe3: Your live shows are renowned for being quite eventful.
What is a Terra Guitarra show like and what is the set list like for
the shows? How does the crowd feel when the show ends? I imagine they
all leave like theyre floating on a cloud. (lol)
BRUCE HECKSEL: They are definitely something that we love.
Depending on the audience we tailor tracks from our 16 different albums
to fit who's in front of us. We dont ever write set lists, we
just go with the flow. For us performing is an entirely spiritual
experience and its straight from our heart chakra to yours.
My main goal in playing is to feel bliss, to float in the beauty of
sound and ride on the energy of ourselves, the music and the audience.
We have always ended by handing out instruments to the audience and
involving them. I think our perspective is much more that the audience
is affected by us affecting ourselves than any kind of calculated
attempt to act like were entertainers or something
like that. So regardless of the audience size I think they feel the
intimacy that comes from what is very pure, and they have the experience
of someone opening up to them.
JULIE PATCHOULI: We perform live in front of an audience over
200 times a year, so we are over all the details of the shows and
tours and once set, we can truly just sink into the performance of
the songs. So we are very comfortable and open to the audience. I
think that is important since they are ready to listen and yes be
transported. My part as rhythm guitarist is to hold it, drive it and
create the Terra for Bruce to let the melodies of the
Guitarra soar. We are so familiar with the musical landscapes
we are creating that we often improvise depending on the energy of
the experience at that moment. One of my favorite things is hearing
and seeing Bruce play. The feel, the new places he goes, all continue
to inspire me to be my best and go for it as well. The audience reaction
to the chemistry we put out is palpable. In addition to dancing, clapping,
tapping, and moving to the music I feel the audience
connect into that wave we are all riding in the piece.
I play a porchboard bass with my left foot, which is a pedal type
instrument that gives an effect of a bass drum, and the percussive
style I play on my guitar gives a snare like quality that,
together between the counterpoint parts we do, creates a sonic illusion
of a drum kit in the music. Many times people have asked if we use
a looper or tracks because they are amazed at hearing that
full of a sound out of only 2 guitar players. The answer is NO...
this is live music!
mwe3: What are the plans for Terra Guitarra moving into 2013
and beyond? Are you planning to tour, write and record new music for
the next album? When is the next album planned for release and are
you planning any other activities, musical and otherwise for the coming
BRUCE HECKSEL: We are currently composing for the next Terra
Guitarra album which could be out before 2014. Weve got some
really great ideas that were working on. Writing and recording
are really huge favorites for us, the moment of discovery of something
new and shaping it into its potential is really an exciting
process. Touring is also a nonstop affair for us so well be
on the road before, during and after, its really a way of life.
JULIE PATCHOULI: We are kicking off our summer tour which is
primarily in the Midwest with a festival out in N.Y. We have a new
CD with our other duo, Patchouli Anything Is Possible, that
just released so well be touring both projects. We are already
writing new pieces for a 5th Terra Guitarra album.
Thanks to Bruce Hecksel & Julie Patchouli @ www.TerraGuitarra.com