Gizmo Varillas has never been afraid to soak up music from all corners of the globe.
A songwriter whose own journeying reflects his tastes, his work draws on South American culture, Nigerian rhythm masters, and so much more.
An adept guitarist and a lyrical of real power, his new album 'Out Of The Darkness' refines this mixture still further.
Out on June 5th, Gizmo sat down with Clash to sift through his Influences...
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Ariel Ramirez - 'Jaime Torres Con Piano y Charango'
Jaime Torres is a renowned Charango player from Argentina. This album showcases how powerful simple arrangements can be, it brings forward the incredible musicianship between Jaime Torres on Charango and Ariel Ramirez on piano.
There's a magical connection between both players, almost like a dialogue between them. Two musicians at the height of their careers in South America which sets the scene for an incredible collaboration.
I have a very strong connection to South American culture even though I was born in Spain and was raised in UK. I've always loved to discover new music from across the globe. In my research for new music I stumbled across the Charango and fell in love with it ever since. Now I use it in my own music and it has become one of my favourite instruments! It's also the main instrument I use on the opening track to the album.
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Fela Kuti - 'Roforofo Fight'
Fela Kuti and Tony Allen were both pioneers of Afrobeat, an incredible fusion of Nigerian Highlife with jazz. And since I moved to London almost 10 years ago, I studied and admired these two legends.
Fela was also a political activist that used his music to send out his message of unity to his people. He inspired me to question the role of the artist, should we only sing about our personal struggles or should we speak out about the injustices that happen around the world? Time and time again music has proven to be such a powerful tool to move masses and with that comes great responsibility.
I listened to 'Roforofo Fight' a lot this past decade, I love this album particularly as it has some of his best work.
Now it is especially important to me because my dream collaboration came true when I met Fela Kuti's musical director and drummer, Tony Allen. We went to RAK studios and recorded his incredible signature drumbeat on my song 'Saving Grace'. After so many years of me admiring his work, I'll never forget sharing that experience my hero.
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Francis Bebey - 'The Coffee Cola Song'
Since I was a kid I've always had an appreciation for tribal culture, and so today I am passionate about indigenous instruments and their role in music. Even though I only just discovered Francis Bebey two years ago, it had a profound effect on me.
It was his 'Psychedelic Sanza' album which blew my mind at the time, it was something like I never heard before. It had very authentic roots that made it so pure and joyous. As the title suggests it also had somewhat of a psychedelic feel to it which is an unusual mix, but I really loved it as it was so different from everything else.
While writing my song 'Out Of The Darkness', I got inspired by the pygmy flutes of Cameroon, which Bebey often uses. I became obsessed with the sound and called up music shops across London asking how I could get those flutes.
Nobody really knew exactly but after a lot of research I found out that it was a single note flute and the special thing behind this instrument was how you play it. It's all about the interaction between the player singing vocal melodies and playing the flute simultaneously.
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Paco de Lucia - 'Entre Dos Aguas'
I listened to Paco de Lucia a lot as a kid and I soaked up all those flamenco influences from an early age. I spent a lot of my childhood in Spain and I started playing flamenco guitar when I was 10. I quickly became fascinated by the rhythms and wanted to learn more. I've always enjoyed the warm sound of a nylon guitar and Paco really knew how to make it sing. He was one of the first people I looked up to when playing.
Listening to him play made me want to practice hour after hour! There's just something really inspiring in his approach to music. As I grow older, I feel like bringing these influences out into my own music is something I need to unveil and explore instinctively.
I try to channel that style in my own songs, wherever I can. In songs like 'Danza de Sombras', I try to recreate that same feeling I get with those classic Paco records.
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Devendra Banhart - 'Santa Maria de Feira'
On a more gentler note, the calming whispers of Devendra Banhart certainly have made their way onto my new album. I love how his soft voice cradles you - reassuring that everything is going to be ok. I generally like to have dynamics in my voice, maybe start quiet and then build the track it into a more epic section, like in my song A Silver Lining. But other times there's no need to... and I enjoy the relaxing feeling Devendra always gives to his records.
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'Out Of The Darkness' will be released on June 5th.
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