By Ryan Meehan
Antonio Aguirre is a guitarist and songwriter whose live performances range from rock to South American folk music. His unorthodox influences conjure an emotive, organic, and powerful style. Antonio recorded three full length albums before age 17. He has worked with Inca Spirit, toured internationally with Transmit Now and toured South Korea and the British Indian Ocean Territory for Armed Forces Entertainment. Antonio is extremely grateful to perform with The Blue Man Group in Orlando, FL as well as on its national tour, and he’s my guest today in 7 questions.
RM: What was the first instrument each of you became enamored with; and what eventually led you to want to learn how to play other instruments which peaked your interest?
TA: The first guitar I picked up was an old classical guitar we had at my house when I was growing up. I fell in love and for my ninth birthday I asked for an electric guitar! Guitar is still my primary instrument but I learned some other string instruments as well. As a teenager I played in a band with my father called Inca Spirit, it was South American folk music mixed with some other world music influences as well. For a few songs I learned how to play Charrango (10 string South American mandolin) as well as bombo (big drum) and cajon. When I was hired at Blue Man Group I learned the electric zither and Chapman Stick for the show!
RM: The Blue Man Group is a very sensory experience for the audience…Do you at times find yourself a little distracted by all that is going on during that show, or have you trained your own focus to avoid all of the sensory overload occurring around you and just focus on the music itself?
TA: When we are playing I am only listening to what is happening and watching the actors. I do not actively think about what I am playing or what I will play. There is no written music for the show so we have internalized all the parts and play the score as we see it happening. The show is a very sensory experience but I think it only adds to my enjoyment. The band it often saturated in UV (blacklight) but I don’t find it distracting, in fact, it really gets me excited to play!
RM: How did the two of you come to be friends; and with all of the musicians in the world why do you think that this became such an ideal musical companionship for you both?
TA: Blue Man is actually a pretty small world. Dan and I met a few years back and then got cast together on this tour. We both share a love of music and particularly for song composition. Dan had some material that we looked at together and I thought it would be perfect to record.
RM: Let’s talk about The Ridgebacks for a second…What was the reason for creating this project; and how would you best describe the music that you make under that name?
TA: Good question, and one I will try to answer as concisely as possible. We travel a lot and to make it interesting we have travel outfits consisting of bright red track suits. We also had a T shirt printed with our team name “The Rhodesian Ridgebacks”. We are not a real sports team. When we did the Daytrotter session, we had never performed those songs before. Our intention was just to tour the studio and make some friends. When Mike and Sean offered to have us do a session that very night we jumped at the opportunity! We decided on a few songs and chose to name the group The Ridgebacks. The music is songwriter based but has definite rock influence and a very soulful sound.
RM: You guys recently did a Daytrotter session…How did that turn out; and with your busy schedule how often are you able to get into a studio to create new ideas and get them to tape?
TA: The Daytrotter session was incredible. It was such a rewarding experience. I think this sort of thing is what’s missing in music today. With the abundance and ease of home recording software a shift has happened towards recording things one at a time in a world of overdubs and digital editing. Now, there is nothing wrong with that but it is such a different experience to come in and record straight to tape. There is a kind of sound blending that simply cannot be recreated in any other way. There is also a very real sense of performance and emotion that I believe some across very honestly to listeners. It’s a really fun way to all work together to create a piece of music!
RM: What sounds have you experimented with that you haven’t had the chance to fully maximize their potential? Are you more into discovering organic sounds, or the digital manipulation of those sounds you can edit in programs such as ProTools?
TA: I have a side project with some musicians based in Orlando FL. Some of these musicians have very original sounds: theatrical vocals, accordion, violin, theremin. These are really great resources but with my constant traveling it has been very difficult to continue composing and refining songs! I find myself drawn to more organic sounds. This is simply because I prefer the hands on approach to the digital realm. That being said, digital recording and manipulation is a very powerful and useful tool. I know of no other way to record so efficiently while traveling!
RM: If we could flash forward twenty years from now, what do you think is going to be different about the way people produce and listen to music in the future?
TA: I think we are at a very interesting time in music. We have seen in the past 15 years a change from music being a tangible, collectible thing to a formless digital entity. What I see happening now is people and artists trying to find a balance to maximize what is great about both these aspects. Having music able to be stored digitally is so important for enjoyment, sharing, and archiving. The tangible aspect is important too, I see a lot of groups that are selling vinyl that also comes with a digital download. I think in the next twenty years we will find a good compromise.
RM: If you had to condense your musical career down to one paragraph, how would that passage read?
TA: Music makes me happy. For me, there is no more rewarding experience than connecting with people through music. I am so fortunate and grateful to be able to do this as my career, but if it were not my career I would still play because it is my favorite thing to do! I have learned that the most important thing in music is honesty. If you are not honest people can tell, and more importantly, you can tell.
RM: What’s up next for you guys in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
TA: For the rest of this year I will be finishing out the Blue Man Group National Tour and then returning to Orlando FL to spend some much needed time at home! I would like to continue making music with The Ridgebacks so be on the lookout for more tunes.
Official Website of The Blue Man Group: http://www.blueman.com/
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