so many of the finest 21st century Nuevo Flamenco guitarists coming
out of California and the desert Southwest of the US, its 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. Its 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
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 hadnt even met any of them in person, it sounds as if were
3 band mates on stage together. Throughout the ten track
Mandala CD, Mark Barnwells 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 Barnwells Mandala features some of
the finest Nuevo Flamenco guitarists recording on the planet today.
mwe3.com presents an interview with
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!
Barnwell: I think youve 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 hadnt even met any
of them in person, it sounds if were 3 band mates on stage together.
mwe3: When did you write the music on the Mandala album
and how do you feel its 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, its 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. JPs 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
heres the track, do your thing!
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. Its 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
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
musicians 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.
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
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 theres 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. Id 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 cant 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. Id known Jim, JP
and Liza for a while, but this was the first time Id 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.
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.
Id 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
Id 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 Floros 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. Hes a great guitar player and also we
share a common interest in UK Crop Circles! Id 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.
are you living in the UK now and what parts of England do you like
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, its very laid back and quiet.
Its 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 its 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 theres 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. Its a
genre/style that doesnt get much attention in the UK, which
is a kind of double-edged sword in that people are not so aware of
it, but theres not many of us doing it, so people, when they
see and hear it for the first time, can be quite amazed as its
very new to them.
Theres 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 youre 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.
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 theres no percussion going on.
I alternate between this and the Conde and the Sanchez on Sahara
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, its
because hes 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 Ive 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.
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! Its 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. Its got a nice tone and adds a
nice bit of sonic texturization to Sundance and Mandala.
No, I dont think texturization is a word, Ive 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
Its amazing how I met these people. Chris Ive known for
many years and weve played gigs together before in Somerset.
Hes been playing on my records since 2008, and his piano skills
are just off the scale. Listen to to song "Mandala". He
background piano and the solo off
the cuff after just one listen!
I met when I was busking in Exeter, she wanted to know what time Id
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
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 Jonathans 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
And Al Ive known for 11 years now. I think were the only
2 people in Cornwall playing the Nuevo Flamenco genre so it was inevitable
we would meet. Hes 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 peoples music, but completely anonymously
so you dont know what youre going to get or who performs
it until after youve 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 Id
also released an album the same year called Exotica. Id
known about Jims 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.
Ive 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.
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 Jims
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
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, its 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
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 its 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 Ive had a really busy weekend of say 4 or 5 long
gigs in a row, for example, which sometimes happens in peak summer
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 Im used to. A few examples
of that from this year are a Flamenco style cover of Mozarts
Rondo Alla Turca and Incendios 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 youve 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
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 theres 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
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 Ive
connected with and have subsequently met, recorded and performed with
are just awesome. That just wouldnt 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 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. Its 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.
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, Ive 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
I later evolved to the Nuevo Flamenco genre, and its 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
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. Im 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 Im 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?
Barnwell: I dont have a particular project in mind, but
when Im feeling inspired, its important to get new ideas
down. I wrote a very impromptu tune with JP in LA, and Ive 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 Im excited to see what will happen
As for shows, I do a wide variety of different types of performances,
weddings, pubs, restaurants, festivals, concerts etc. Ive 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!