I have never in my life felt very comfortable with an electric guitar. Even when I was playing electric guitar in a Rock band in Boston I did not really feel comfortable with it. Until this Summer!!
Jon Gagan suggested I should play the electric guitar without a pick, the way I play the Flamenco guitar. And that made all the difference. I seem to be able to get more colors from the strings and playing the guitar feels much more comfortable.
Some people love fancy orchids and I admit that orchids are a marvel.
Some people are into roses (I prefer the ones that also smell wonderful – what’s the point of a pretty rose that doesn’t smell?).
Others admire cacti and I can see why……but me, I like trees.
Give me any old tree and I’ll go on and on about it. I love the high desert piÃ±on in New Mexico. I love oak, ash and maple. I love the Californian Redwoods, the marvelous Mangroves in Florida and I can’t wait to see a really old Bristle Cone Pine Tree in Utah or Nevada….some are over 5,000 years old! I love gnarly olive trees and wish I could grow some in Santa Fe. I love those tall pine trees in Italy with all of the branches cut off except the top so they provide shade and yet leave room for people gathering or playing Boccia beneath.
In February I bought a little box at Urban Outfitters, a Bonzai kit with Japanese Maple seeds. By now I have four maples that are between 6 inches and two feet tall. I don’t have the heart to turn them into little Bonzai trees. Instead I will put them in larger pots next spring and will slowly get them used to the outside. I’ll find them a spot without a lot of wind and not much direct sun and will plant them there.
I think I love trees because by nature I am not a patient man and the trees, they teach me patience.
I have heard from a few people that there is some confusion about a couple of things:
1. Who is Luna Negra and 2. What are those “hearing Aids” everybody in the band is wearing?
Allow me to explain. No, Luna Negra is NOT the opening act and you are NOT getting ripped off because it says on the ticket Ottmar Liebert + Luna Negra and where is Luna Negra, I didn’t see an opening act……. We have been touring since the release of the album Nouveau Flamenco in 1990, and my band has always been called LUNA NEGRA. Most album covers actually say OTTMAR LIEBERT + LUNA NEGRA. The exceptions are: Euphoria because those are all remixes, and Leaning into the Night because we used an orchestra instead of the band. Luna Negra has been a trio and has been as large as a nine-piece in 1997. The name LUNA NEGRA was inspired by a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca I read in 1989. The poem talks about the spurs of the highwaymen gleaming in the light of the black moon.
Hearing Aids: what you see everyone in the band wearing are not hearing aids. They are in-ear monitors. I am not exactly sure about the history of the in-ear monitors, but believe the Grateful Dead were the first to use them in the early nineties. I believe a company called FutureSonics might have been the first to offer them. We started using them in 1994 when we decided to record a live album. You see, until the in-ear monitors became available everyone had to use wedges, big monitor speakers that cluttered up the stage and created sonic havoc with the mix of the music. In order to hear my guitar over the loud drums I used to have two such wedges in front of me. Of course they “bled” back into my guitar microphone and that made the sound of my guitar a lot worse. This of course would also make it much harder to record a band live, because instead of recording the pure sound of the guitar one would record the sound of the monitor wedge amplifying the guitar as well as the guitar itself. Does that make sense?
I hope I am explaining this well enough. Another advantage of the in-ear monitors is that they are in stereo. We intruduced in-ear monitors to my friend Eric Schermerhorn when he performed with us at the Beacon Theater in New York as a special guest guitarist and he instantly fell in love with them. Carlos Santana made fun of our in-ear monitors in 1996, saying that they were like having phone sex instead of the real thing, but was impressed when my monitor engineer showed him what we heard on stage.
Last, but not least the in-ear monitors take up very little space and we can take them anywhere. Instead of carrying between 1 and 2 monitor wedges plus amplifiers per musician on our truck or hoping that the local promoter would supply good monitors, we can fit all of the little monitor amps in one little case. We use ones made by SHURE. They look like little Walkman devices and we wear them on our belts or in my case it is attached to my chair. Mark wears a wireless version so that can move freely between his percussion set-up and the cajon. These little SHURE monitor amps are wonderful because in the mid-nineties we needed a rackmounted amp plus a rackmounted limiter per musician – the limiter does just that – it limits the sound that reaches our ears. If something should break or feed back it makes sure that our ears don’t get damaged. That meant we had to carry one or two heavy racks which were over the airline limit of 70 pounds.
Here is a funny story regarding in-ear monitors:
I heard about a travelling broadway production that used a lot of wireless in-ear monitors for their performers. In order that the sweat of the singers wouldn’t get into the little amplifiers they had to wear concealed under loose clothing or in a belt – they pulled condoms over the packs to shield them from the moisture. I bet some eyebrows were raised when a person had to buy new supplies while on the road and bought 40 packs of condoms……..
E PLURIBUS UNUM
This beautiful latin phrase on U.S. coins means OUT OF MANY ONE……..
And it means integration…..socially, musically, philosophically and in every other way…
Yes, we must cherish tradition and history and yet we also must try to find ways to make the past fit into our TODAY…..the ancient and the modern, the old and the new, it needs to come together, not stay separated. Our thinking needs to be updated yearly, weekly, daily. We need to interpret and re-interpret the world and how we fit in it. Was the discovery that the Earth was one planet of many in the universe – instead of a lone flat disc – the end of society and religion? No, people simply had to adjust and newly integrate their understanding of the universe and religion.
This integration is an endless process. Any success will be only temporary and the next hurdle will be just around the corner.
As Frank Howell told me once: the moment you stop learning you begin to die…..
And when you stop integrating you calcify, you turn into stone……Like the petrified trees on the side of the highway in Arizona……
Tonight we played at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater in Pompano Beach, Florida. Nice audience as always here in Pompano, but I must say the facility is falling apart. There is only one dirty toilet that has to be shared by the local crew, our crew and the band – everybody. There is also only one shower. And today someone from the local promoter’s crew forgot some of the parts for the motor that pulls the lighting rig up…..as a result we had to put our lights on the stage floor and our lighting designer had to spend an additional three hours reprogramming all of the lights to light upward instead of downward. And since there was no light from above we could not see well onstage and were being blinded by the light in front of us. I have no idea how the show looked from the audience point of view.
Wow, tonight was work, not play. Everybody in the band was giving it their all, but it was very difficult….and it certainly did not help that catering was awful today. I am telling you, if a situation is difficult but you’ve had a nice meal, maybe a glass of wine to wash it down with, you can nevertheless gather strength and make the best of it. If the local caterer’s idea of a cheese sandwich is a few slices of Kraft singles on a dry piece of white bread…..you are going to run out of inspiration, you know what I mean? I am glad that tonight’s show is over and look forward to playing in Clearwater tomorrow night. The Ruth Eckard Hall is beautiful and the catering rocks because they use Schmooze Inc…….