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
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 were able to do, but weve
done enough that were trying to only allow what we write from
in a spiritual or meditative state. Were playing the pieces
that genuinely come from our higher selves or other places where weve
stepped out of the way and heard the song whole in the
ether, either tied to a revelatory moment or simply just inescapably
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
Bruce Hecksel: Weve been studying esoteric spirituality
for a long time, and recently some really captivating personal insights
are coming from thoughts about frequencies and vibrations and Im
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.
How does the Firelight concept enhance Bruce's paintings and
artwork of the new album? The music really feels like youre
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, its 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. Were both very attuned to the signs and
symbols around us and so its also a constant dialogue between
us. Currently there are a number of art shows that Im doing
in addition to our travel and performance schedule and its very
intense, but I really see it as a wonderful gift and opportunity.
Because I have Giclee prints of the artwork for sale, Im really
able to spread the art out far and wide. There are always new sparks
and Im 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
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. Weve always used DAddario
strings, literally thousands of sets at this point but eschew other
bells and whistles so that no matter where we are and where were
performing we can always sound exactly like us. At this
point Im happy enough with my guitars that and wouldnt
know how to improve them. Were realists with our guitars, we
have multiples of our favorites so that there are always backups,
we really dont 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 weve already
stationed our backup guitars in the city were 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 theyll let you stash it in the overhead bin
is just something I dont have time for anymore. The airlines
used to be considerate but now theyve taken this whole security
business as license to harass.
What is the process for putting your music onto CD?
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 Wonders 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. Weve done
this know for about ten years. Its 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 its rarely the
gear thats going to get you what you want on tape, its
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 its just a matter of time before you find out how to print
that sound on tape. Its 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. Its such a lush
Hecksel: Its still in the stages where Im 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. Im 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, weve 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? Whats 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. Its not a means to an end, its 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 doesnt 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.
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 thats why. When Im 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 didnt 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,
its an album created in a time where even in our civilization
were 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.
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: Theres 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 dads 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. Its 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, Im always seeing a western sunset
in my mind when Im playing it. Weve been able to attach
ourselves to it and it really has become a show stopper live. Its
truly one of those pieces that people have a relationship with and
its 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?
Hecksel: Ive 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 Ive 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. Im a sensitive and my sister
is a very multileveled psychic, and Ive experienced the truth
of her gifts for a long time so its 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 its the most incredible experience. I
couldnt possibly choose another life than this.
mwe3: Tell us about the new tour youre 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?
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 Im 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. Weve got big plans, but we have so much
going on, we never know when theyll suddenly take center stage
and get done. Its usually quite spontaneous and presto were
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.