Interview: Razl

Dan McAvinchey: Let's talk first about your latest album, "Rotonova". What did you want to achieve when recording started?

Razl: The songs on "Rotonova" were conceived in very different and time separate
moments. Some of them were only small ideas while others were recorded as
they were in my mind at the moment of their inception. The most important thing
for me when it came to record them was that the songs would allow for a high degree of
improvisation - not for them to be static. That is why I didn't give much
direction to the musicians, only a few guidelines and let them play as
they may. It also happens that when you work with musicians like Dean Brown or
Mike Keneally, you know you can't go wrong.

Dan McAvinchey: How do you practice in order to keep your playing sharp and your ideas fresh?

Razl: Nowadays I try to maintain a certain studio pattern, although is not the
same as I used to when I was starting to play, because in those days I wouldn't let go of the guitar even to go to the loo. So I select things that can contribute to my style of playing, mostly from other instruments besides
the guitar, like the saxophone or the keyboards. This makes me see things in
a different way, how other musicians think through their instruments. I
usually practice fixed patterns, something like guitar gym for fingers,
mostly to improve my finger picking technique, since I have stopped
using picks for some time now. I think that has made me express more details in performance that I didn't have when I used to play with a pick, most importantly in regards to string attack, muting and rhythmic patterns.

Dan McAvinchey: What do you think is essential for a great guitar solo?

Razl: I think that it is very personal for each person. What a great solo could
be imagined for some, it definitely is not for others. In particular, a solo
has to synthesize the essence of the guitar player. That is what it makes
it unmistakable. It also has to grab the listener's attention from the
first note and make the solo lodge in the listener's memory
instantly, so that is easily remembered. Lastly, for me, the rhythm, the groove and the feeling are very important. My favorite solos are not necessarily the most complex or fast at all.

Dan McAvinchey: What are your favorite tracks on "Rotonova"?

Razl: I think "Snail Underground" and "Sugus Nectar" are the ones I like them the most
because they synthesize my way of thinking musically very well. "Snail Underground", because it has a lot of things that I find myself identified with - the improvisation, the surprising rhythmic changes, the sense of humor. "Sugus Nectar" because of the great guitar sound, the concept of
rhythm and melody, and because every time I hear it something moves inside
me, and I don't get that from other songs in such an intense way.

Dan McAvinchey: Are you able to perform the songs from "Rotonova" in concert?

Razl: Yes, although in a very different musical format. On "Rotonova" there are musicians and instruments that are difficult, for obvious reasons, to get together in order to perform regularly. You can't always go around with eight or nine musicians to to live shows, because is economically
impossible, although I really wish I could. Reality makes you adapt
your work to the musical format that your economic situation allows. I have
adapted the songs from "Rotonova" to a trio, firstly because of what I have
just said. and secondly because I love trios. I have the most fun in trios
because you have a lot of liberty, and at the same time, a necessity that the
songs be performed with perfection.

Dan McAvinchey: Why do you think certain music fans prefer instrumental music over traditional vocal oriented music?

Razl: I have no idea. In my case, it is quite the contrary, since some of my
favorite records feature vocalists.

Dan McAvinchey: Have you heard any new guitarists that have really caught your ear in the past couple of years?

Razl: Yes, there are many guitarists doing very interesting things. What happens
is that I tend to discover guitarists that have been there for a long time and have many records, but hadn't catch my attention until recently, like Derek Trucks or Alex Machacek. They are also radically different, and I like that.

Dan McAvinchey: Other than guitar-oriented music, what kind of music do you like to listen to?

Razl: I like contemporary music composers like Olivier Messiaen. I am very
interested in that type of composition and I dedicate part of my time to study and analyse them. I usually listen to contemporary jazz, oriented to other instruments other than the guitar, such as brass sections, piano or saxophone. In fact, I usually carry around very different music in my mp3
player - I use the random play mode so I don't always listen to the same thing.

Dan McAvinchey: What's up next for you, what are some of your plans for the future?

Razl: At the moment I am concentrating on "Rotonova", because when one is taking on the roles of producer, manager and record label, you have to dedicate a lot of time carrying the work around if you want to reach the widest audience possible. But soon I will start to develop some songs for a future organ trio recording. People can check my web site to take a look at what I'm doing now, and my projects for the future.

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Dan McAvinchey: Finally, if you could do an album with any guitarist in the world, who would it be?

Razl: With "Rotonova" I have been lucky enough to have that dream come true because,
having Dean Brown and Mike Keneally playing on your record is something remarkable. Thus, I don't think about working with a certain guitar player for a future project, at least short term. I would like to have John Medeski (keyboards) or Stanton Moore (drummer) for a project in the future. These
are the musicians that I like the most nowadays.

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Spanish guitarist Razl's CD "Rotonova" offers intergalactic and dangerously addictive grooves, creative guitar melodies over saturated Leslie sounds, and Zappian environments for weird earthlings. The album finds Razl collaborating with Dean Brown and Mike Keneally on guitar, Bryan Beller (Steve Vai, Mike Keneally Band) and Damian Erskine (jazz legend Peter Erskine's nephew) on bass and Charlie Dennard (Stanton Moore, Quintology, New World Funk Ensemble) on keyboards - just to name a few.

Dan McAvinchey hooked up with Razl to discuss his music, as well as the players and concepts used for "Rotonova".