TERRA GUITARRA
Firelight
(Earthsign Records)

 

One of the finest recording acts on the 21st century nouveau flamenco guitar scene, Terra Guitarra returned in 2014 with Firelight. Spearheaded by the guitar duo of Bruce Hecksel and Julie Patchouli, Terra Guitarra create timeless guitar sounds for 21st century music lovers. Every song on Firelight is filled with a passion and love of the guitar. Firelight is a most intriguing instrumental guitar album inspired by the primordial elements of mankind. Commenting on the album Bruce Hecksel explains, “Creating fire was arguably the biggest innovation on the planet. This new music is our way or remembering the old ways and trying remind the world of the importance of the basic elements of our existence - fire, earth, air, water and the sun’. Harmonically and melodically, Firelight sonically fixates the listener with a number of daring and dynamic fretboard moves. Melodically, the title track, “Firelight”, is filled with stirring emotions. Overall, it's a fantastic approach to the twin guitar guitar sound and is clearly a highlight of this album, while the CD closing “Coucher du Soleil” is a fitting finale to a memorable album. Perhaps those two tracks best represent the feel and sound of Firelight. Stylistically, the Firelight album is more like a complete journey rather than a series of short trips. Bruce also proves his worth as a fine painter, and his artwork and paintings in the multi-panel packaging also enhances the music. Further commenting on the album, Julie Patchouli adds, “This recording has a lot of rhythmic diversity and energy, a fiery spirit. We also take the Firelight concept to another level by thinking of our sun as the ultimate firelight.’ The best Terra Guitarra album yet, Firelight is a brilliant step forward for the art of guitar magic. www.TerraGuitarra.com



mwe3.com presents an interview with
TERRA GUITARRA

mwe3: How would you compare the new Terra Guitarra album Firelight with your 2012 Dragonfly album? Were there differences during the writing and recording sessions for the new album? Firelight sounds like the finest Terra Guitarra album yet. The guitar cadences and melodies are really striking on Firelight. Were you going for a more melodic type of album?

Bruce Hecksel: Firelight had a much longer gestation period than Dragonfly. Many of the songs were written right after Dragonfly came out and then we played them live, and simply ruminated on early recordings for year and a half, which allowed us to really hone in on the essence of each piece. Some of the ideas also required time to really execute well, we challenged ourselves with the parts we wrote. We really focused on the melodies and the essence and narrowed down to 13 selections from 25 or so that we really liked. We also really stuck to the idea of the songs evolving from a particular emotion or place and so we chose pieces that really meant something spiritually and emotionally.

We are definitely trying to push ourselves physically, went to the edge and are now coming back. The amount of time we perform is drastic and it has a direct effect on what we’re able to do, but we’ve done enough that we’re trying to only allow what we write from in a spiritual or meditative state. We’re playing the pieces that genuinely come from our higher selves or other places where we’ve “stepped out of the way” and heard the song whole in the ether, either tied to a revelatory moment or simply just inescapably there.

Julie Patchouli: Songs really come to each of us differently, and offers the diversity you hear on the album. I have a lot of favorites on the new album. The song "Sunshower" came while I was restringing my guitar. I wanted to hear a specific rhythm and challenge myself to play it while I was warming up. While I was doing this Bruce heard me playing from outside. At the moment there was a sunshower. Fast forwarding to several months later we were starting to work on the album and while recording that song there was a sunshower. It was so beautiful there was a double rainbow we thought this was a very good sign for the song. To me, during a sunshower, when it's light and dark and raining and sunny, I feel like I am inside a rainbow and it feels like a celebration. this song makes me feel like dancing.

mwe3: As far as the spiritual concept of Firelight you describe an ancient, primordial connection between man and fire. What were some of these and other thoughts that inspired the music on the Firelight album?

Bruce Hecksel: We’ve been studying esoteric spirituality for a long time, and recently some really captivating personal insights are coming from thoughts about frequencies and vibrations and I’m beginning to understand that melodies are literally messages to the soul. The prominence of the sun, which is the firelight, the sunset, the sunshower in this album come straight from those realizations. The sunset is one of those times of day when you are availed of the complete color spectrum, nurtured by it, if you will. The colors intertwine to create, their energies and messages are the totality of matter. Fire is living color it has the power to create, nurture, grow, heal, warm, transform as well as destroy, cleanse and irradiate. So the animus of fire itself represents the animus of everything.

mwe3: How does the Firelight concept enhance Bruce's paintings and artwork of the new album? The music really feels like you’re reconnecting with the sun. You can feel the power of the light and intensity throughout the Firelight album. You also describe the guitar art as a metaphor for the labyrinth of life?

Bruce Hecksel: It has been a true joy to have the the paintings work hand in hand with the music, it’s truly a dialogue. Since the music is coming from “elsewhere” and the paintings are also coming from that source, I look at them both as clues to my personal path and direction. We’re both very attuned to the signs and symbols around us and so it’s also a constant dialogue between us. Currently there are a number of art shows that I’m doing in addition to our travel and performance schedule and it’s very intense, but I really see it as a wonderful gift and opportunity. Because I have Giclee prints of the artwork for sale, I’m really able to spread the art out far and wide. There are always new sparks and I’m looking forward to painting basically as soon as we do a proper job of promoting this new album. To my surprise and relief the front and back cover of the new cd, both came really spontaneously almost immediately following the album's completion. I was just feeling really blessed that I painted exactly what I wanted to frame this album.

mwe3: Are there some new developments as far as guitars and gear for Terra Guitarra? Are you featuring the Taylor guitars on Firelight and how about the classical guitars? How about strings, amps and other studio gear that you use to enhance the sound? What guitars are the best to travel with and how do you care for your instruments when you travel? Will there be a Terra Guitarra signature guitar in the future and what would that look and sound like?

Bruce Hecksel: We have used the same performance guitars the whole time. We do play Taylor steel strings but for nylon I prefer Alvarez. I have tried and tried to get the same tone out of other guitars but I always go back to this one. We really keep it streamlined, we use no amps, just reverb and go for the most natural possible sound we can get from our guitars. We’ve always used D’Addario strings, literally thousands of sets at this point but eschew other bells and whistles so that no matter where we are and where we’re performing we can always sound exactly like “us”. At this point I’m happy enough with my guitars that and wouldn’t know how to improve them. We’re realists with our guitars, we have multiples of our favorites so that there are always backups, we really don’t have time to give any special care other than shove it in the case and whip it in the car. We had to take the scariness out of traveling, we prefer to drive but when we fly we’ve already stationed our backup guitars in the city we’re performing in because we no longer trust flying with them. Flying has become drudgery, and wondering whether your guitar is going to make it throughout the flight or whether they’ll let you stash it in the overhead bin is just something I don’t have time for anymore. The airlines used to be considerate but now they’ve taken this whole security business as license to harass.

mwe3: What is the process for putting your music onto CD?

Bruce Hecksel: We have used Pro Tools for tracking all of Terra Guitarra albums. For the 15 years prior to the first Terra Guitarra album we recorded 15 other albums from our singer-songwriter Patchouli project as well as an older group called Aunt Betsy. We recorded in a variety of studios in all of the major formats from 2” tape to 1/2” tape to ADAT to straight up computer files and various combinations of the above. I was never happy with the acoustic guitar sounds that we ended up with. The 3 previous albums prior to recording the first Terra Guitarra record we recorded ourselves and had Danny Leake of Urban Guerrilla engineers do the mastering and really give us a lot of recording advice and I did a lot of experimenting with microphones and placement to get the sound I wanted. Danny has been Stevie Wonder’s FOH engineer for the duration of his career as well as started in some major studios working with the biggest names around. He uses the perfect combination of super high end digital technology with the best analogue outboard gear you can get, and he knows how to use it.

We track the whole album, have the mixes the way we like them, leaving them as pure as possible and then Danny takes over. We’ve done this know for about ten years. It’s a really good workflow for us because we just do our best in the comfort of our home studio and learn more and more about how to get the sounds we want out of the gear we have. Danny has always taught me that it’s rarely the gear that’s going to get you what you want on tape, it’s knowing the gear you have and how to make it work for you to get the sounds you want. If you like the sound of your guitar and your playing then it’s just a matter of time before you find out how to print that sound on tape. It’s funny because the first studio we ever recorded at in Washington state was called OMB or “one more button”, which kind of exemplified the opposite philosophy.

mwe3: Do you have favorite tracks or even single edits for radio from the Firelight album? Can you tell us something about the CD closing track “Coucher du Soleil”? What is the translation? I know it ties into the concept of the Sun. It’s such a lush sounding track.

Bruce Hecksel: It’s still in the stages where I’m discovering new favorites all the time, there are some really definitive moods, one of the most attached to my heart is "Maya", the first song. I’m carried away very easily by “Firelight” and “Sunshower”, they are buoyant and catchy and full of energy that I love but "Maya" really feels like it takes me from one stage to another and really lifts up my heart gradually.

“Coucher du Soleil” is a French phrase for the sunset. The sun goes to sleep. I was describing earlier how the whole color and vibrational aspects of the sunset figure prominently in the album as well as our personal self discovery right now. But sunsets have always drawn me completely in, we’ve described ourselves as “sunset chasers” for years and I feel that this track really more than others communicates that blissful tension that we feel in the glow of the setting sun. That moment of the lullaby of beauty, the end of the day, the beginning of the night, and the unknown of tomorrow.

mwe3: With so much touring, recording, practicing and painting how do you balance your lives and stay sane? What’s the secret for long term survival and what advice would you give to fellow musicians and aspiring musicians?

Bruce Hecksel: The most important thing is that the journey, the performance, the preparation has to be the spiritual path of your life. It’s not a means to an end, it’s a spiritual practice. The music we create we often describe as hymns to nature and our higher consciousness. The music that we create and perform has to be the balance to the energy we expend in its service. No amount of accolades, money or applause will last a lifetime but the music itself always will. We write music to enable us to reach further to hopefully channel messages from our souls. I think that if that connection exists and if you know your music is a spiritual gift or message, then you can celebrate it blissfully in reverence. If you try and chase a fad, try and create a “saleable product” you will not find contentment.

Music has the ability to be everything you need it to be but you gotta stay out of the drivers seat. The music you need comes to you, not from you. Also find where you want to perform not where you think you should perform or where someone else tells you you should perform. The music industry is an ever changing and evolving organism. Just because things were done a certain way in the past doesn’t mean that it will work in the future... you dream up a path that sounds like the adventure you want to be in, and as our favorite quote from Paulo Coelho reminds us “the universe conspires to help you”.

Julie Patchouli: We are so thankful to get to live this life, one we dreamed up together many years ago and continue to dream up and follow. We have continued to be true to ourselves. What a gift it is to be able to share our music, art, and understanding with people around the world. The responses we get from listeners keeps us connected and gives us a continued breath to fuel the fire, the energy and desire continues to be restored. We lead a healthy lifestyle, trying to keep the balance with nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress, performing, traveling, and putting out our very best each show. We try to tune in often to our bodies and make sure we are treating ourselves with the kindness we wish to be. Remembering how grateful we are really keeps us rooted in all the hard work it takes to keep it going.

mwe3: The title track, “Firelight” is one of the best Terra Guitarra tracks ever. What was the approach to writing and recording the song “Firelight” and how do you feel it captures the essence of the album?

Bruce Hecksel: Like most Terra Guitarra Songs, I heard it in my head first. Then we sat down to record a rough version and the most important parts come from there. Then we came up with this darbuka part that really fit like a glove. It holds completely true to its first inception and I think that’s why. When I’m painting abstracts the best comes from what comes naturally and immediately... if I have to spend time fixing, shaping, and over-painting, it becomes a “salvaged” work to me. I want to put it out there and celebrate the pure magic of randomness.

This piece really came whole and stayed that way, it didn’t require any thinking, shaping or adjusting. I feel like it has a timeless quality that paints the story of countless nomadic peoples and communities that gathered around the fire, to eat, to tell stories, to dance, effectively creating their culture. It represents the flame that draws us in, nurtures us, warms us, makes us feel safe, and instills our sense of wonder. This album is an album that represents those feelings, it’s an album created in a time where even in our “civilization” we’re more and more aware that we are as vulnerable as we have ever been and the future is uncertain, the truth is evasive but we have each other, we have warmth, we have food and we have music. And that is all we need.

Julie Patchouli: I really enjoy playing the "Firelight" song. As the rhythm guitarist I cannot help but "feel" it when I play it. The percussion and tambourines on the recording were so natural to play and it's where the piece started from . I can't help but dance to the song. I feel like it expresses the feeling of being gathered around the firelight, watching it flicker from the glowing red embers, to the hot orange flames to the dancing yellow into white light that moves thru the dark beyond.

mwe3: There’s also a version of “Malagueña” on Firelight that sounds excellent. Can you give some history on that song and why you covered it now?

Bruce Hecksel: I grew up in a classical music household and started piano at age five. I remember my dad’s reaction when I played the “Malagueña” for the first time. It was one of my first experiences where playing a certain piece contained more than just an appealing melody or rhythm... it had a soul and people love it. It’s rare for us to cover songs but fans asked me again and again to do a version of it so I pondered it for awhile until it occurred to me how I wanted to arrange it. I definitely love performing it and feeling its mystery, feeling the orange setting sun streaming through the dust, I’m always seeing a western sunset in my mind when I’m playing it. We’ve been able to attach ourselves to it and it really has become a show stopper live. It’s truly one of those pieces that people have a relationship with and it’s a joy to celebrate that with them.

Julie Patchouli: We had a lot of fun with performing “Malagueña” the first time in front of a full house at a concert in New York last summer. We had been rehearsing it on the tour, but hadn't tried it out on an audience yet. We had a standing ovation and looked at each other and said shall we play “Malagueña” as an encore? The crowd response was overwhelming and we were super encouraged to go back to record it for the album.

mwe3: How does the New Age / healing world affect your sound and vision as artists in 2015?

Bruce Hecksel: I’ve alluded to it a bit in this interview so far. We worked with an energy healer the whole time we were recording this album, and I literally transformed myself from the beginning of the process where I was suffering from tendintious, exhaustion, and had gained a lot of weight to losing 35 pounds and feeling 10 years younger. So we literally healed while creating and recording it, specifically while recording it and that is not a coincidence. We are spiritual seekers and as I’ve mentioned our music lights our path and is our communication with it.

We utilize a number of modalities and spiritualities for healing and meditation and daily life. We made up a word “Thanksenhausen” which is half English and half German which epitomizes our philosophy of living in a state thankfulness. We give out free Thanksenhausen stickers at our shows. For us the practice of gratitude is what keeps us on the path, holds up the reality that this life and every moment of it is a gift. We commonly read, test, and discuss every concept we can get our hands on and see what we can harvest from it. We do yoga and Tai Chi, meditate, work with our chakras, our spirit bodies, work with teachers, healers, and many other tools for spiritual self discovery and healing. It is a part of our everyday process, the same as eating and brushing our teeth.

The way we compose is channeled. I’m a sensitive and my sister is a very multileveled psychic, and I’ve experienced the truth of her gifts for a long time so it’s very easy and natural for me to explore completely the world of our true energy selves. We organize our lives to be open to receiving music and energy that can be healing to ourselves and others and that is the complete reason why we do this. It feels like a complete and fulfilling vocation. I studied theology and was within a semester of a masters of divinity, but I discovered that my education was just beginning and it needed to be through writing and performing music to discover the teaching that was there for me, and it’s the most incredible experience. I couldn’t possibly choose another life than this.

mwe3: Tell us about the new tour you’re planning for 2015? Where will you be playing and where will 2015 bring you musically and beyond and will there be a Terra Guitarra DVD in the future?

Bruce Hecksel: We continue to tour the US as we never really stop touring, but we have some exciting prospects on the horizon, possible residencies abroad and so other possibly exciting directions I’m not at liberty to discuss. We do have plans for a DVD, the concept is fleshing itself out and creating itself as we speak, there will be new live footage released soon we hope. We’ve got big plans, but we have so much going on, we never know when they’ll suddenly take center stage and get done. It’s usually quite spontaneous and presto we’re in the middle of it.

Julie Patchouli: We are beginning 2015 tour primarily playing concerts and festivals all over the state of Florida. Late Spring will bring us up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to the head waters in Northern Minnesota. Summer shows will be from the Midwest US, covering Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa out east to Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and tentatively Ontario and Quebec. Fall will be full of harvest, musically and tour-wise as far as shows, and hopefully in the garden if we get one planted outside the studio. We usually end up recording in late fall as we pick out new songs we've been working on.





 

 
   
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