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discover: Electric Gauchos

By Anthony Garone

Improvised instrumental architecture brought to you by several Crafty Guitarists.

We first highlighted Steve Ball in October 2016 after having discovered the kinship of our spirits and aims. Since then, Steve and I have gotten to know each other fairly well. He invited me to join him and several others for a Seattle Guitar Work Weekend in June 2017, which coincided with a King Crimson Friends and Family concert, an interview with KC’s tour manager, David Singleton, and an interview with virtuoso guitarist Alex Anthony Faide. It was a productive weekend, to say the least.

Steve is as prolific as he is kind and generous. He’s one of the hardest-working people I know. One of his many, many musical projects is a group called Electric Gauchos. One of Electric Gauchos’ releases is a 9-CD box set featuring tons of improvised and composed music in studio and live recordings. It’s a lot to digest.

So, we thought it’d be cool if we filmed a conversation with Alex Anthony Faide about the history and releases of the band. And here we are! Enjoy!

Interview video

Interview Audio (Podcast)

(NOTE: hitting the “play” button requires a hefty download of the entire audio file!).

Or, download an mp3 .

Interview Transcription

AG: I don’t know if you want to cover anything in particular or just want to talk about Electric Gauchos  or…

SB: We probably want to start by telling a little history about–maybe building on what Alex just talked about. The fact that we’ve been playing together for 23 years, 24 years.

AAF: Yeah.

SB: We met in Argentina? Or was it Grossderschau?

AAF: No no, it was Argentina.

SB: Argentina first?

AAF: ‘95.

SB: 1995. I was down working with a Guitar Craft  spinoff group called Los Gauchos Alemanes , which–what the hell does that mean?

AAF: Los Gauchos Alemanes. Gaucho is the Argentinian cowboy and alemanes is the Spanish denomination for German people. I think the first name that came out was Les Gauchos Allemandes [French].

SB: Aah, the French.

AAF: Right, the French version. And Los Gauchos Alemanes were a bunch of German immigrants south of Argentina, like 1880-something. Last century. So, Argentine people would call, “Ah! El gaucho aleman! El gaucho aleman gringo.” So, Los Gauchos Alemanes were this pack of–

SB: Dogs?

AAF: Insane people.

SB: Very, very old people, also.

AG: Why were they old?

SB: Well, they’re from the 1800s.

[Laughter.]

AAF: Exactly.

AG: Cool, so what happened? This group spun off out of the Argentina group in the mid-90s?

SB: Actually it spun out of initially the original early days of Guitar Craft. In 1992, everyone was essentially sent home to do application and assimilation of what we’d learned for the last seven years and so, Martin Schwutke from the very early days of Guitar Craft went off to Germany and bought a house in Grossderschau and a bunch of us went there to work and continue playing together.

The original Gauchos Alemanes was formed there with Hernan Nunez, Fernando Kabusacki, and Martin Schwutke. I visited a couple of summers in a row and some Argentinians came up to visit as well. It was clear that Argentina was going to become a next center of gravity for guitar work. So, I started commuting down to Argentina and went down to a level one course there in a place called Gandara, which is outside of Buenos Aires somewhere.

AAF: Yes, like a few miles south into the pampa.

SB: And so, the Gauchos–we took our feeble repertoire  into Argentina and met some incredible players who then changed the expectation and the level of our playing. Some collaborations began and we met and hit it off musically. We did a little spin-off after Los Gauchos Alemanes, playing for a couple years.

I really wanted to play with a drummer. This music we were writing and all the stuff we were doing, to me, was missing a rhythmic element that–I was really hungry to play with a drummer. So Fernando Kabusacki had been playing with a well-known Argentinian drummer named Fernando Samalea, so we got together with Fernando Kabusacki , Martin Schwutke , Fernando Samalea , and I think we went into a studio for a few days and wrote some…

AAF: We went first to Mendoza and we went right into the project.

SB: Ah yeah, Mendoza. We did some writing and maybe a show or two.

AAF: Yeah, two shows.

SB: At Valentina’s dance studio . Some repertoire emerged and we recorded some stuff in Argentina and then a subset came to Seattle and we recorded and we did a live show in Seattle called Globmobalooza  in 1997 at the Broadway Performance Hall with the California Guitar Trio, Trey Gunn , and Tony Geballe. We recorded that and then smushed together a CD that looks like this that includes live tracks from Buenos Aires and from Seattle. A famous show at the Bauen Hotel where I think the encore was a version of Fracture. Wasn’t it?

AAF: Yes.

SB: A scary version of Fracture.

AG: Scarier?

SB: Well, they’re all scary, as you know, Anthony.

AAF: We were also scared ourselves.

SB: Yeah, we were scared.

AAF: Everyone was scared.

SB: So we have a history going back to 1997, but last year I went back to Buenos Aires twice and we did a show at–what is the arts center called?

AAF: Usina del Arte .

SB: Usina del Arte. We did a big show backed by 30-something acoustic guitars as well and we did an Electric Gauchos show with Fernando Kabusacki, Fernando Samalea on drums, and Nathy Cabrera –can’t pronounce her last name.

AAF: Cabrera.

SB: Cabrera on bass, and Horacio Pozzo , who’s also a member of Big Time Trio , which is another Guitar Craft spin-off band. I think of them as the California Guitar Trio  of South America. And did a big show and we actually recorded that as well and then released a CD of that show as well. It includes some odd cover songs you don’t hear very often, including a version of Inductive Resonance , which is an old League of Gentlemen piece.

AG: Tough song.

SB: Heptaparaparaparapara–how do you pronounce it? There’s an old League of Gentlemen song with an esoteric title, which I’ll leave it to the reader to look up and pronounce.

AAF: Yeah.

AG: Do you want to attempt it?

AAF: Heptaparaparshinokh .

SB: Pretty good! Daisy, you wanna give it a shot? [Talking to his dog, Daisy.] Close. Okay. So, we have a long history of working together, writing together, improvising, playing live, and when I was putting together a plan for this next year, I thought with a very open mind, “Who would I love to bring to Seattle to energize some of the work that’s going on here?” And three or four names came to mind.

At the top of the list was Alex, building on our long history of work and play together. And Martin de Aguirre  of the Big Time Trio is also here this week. We’re essentially continuing, we’re not just picking up again, but we’re continuing on the work of multiple decades. What are we missing?

AG: Don’t you have a boxed set?

SB: Oh yeah, there is also a 9-CD box set  based upon some other improvised recordings we did a couple years ago.

AG: That was just Electric Gauchos, right?

SB: Yeah. We brought–although there were a few guests as well–we brought a group to Seattle to improvise in the studio for four-and-a-half days. Of that four-and-a-half days, essentially eight CDs worth of material came out of it and it’s ludicrous. But again, I don’t necessarily do music projects based upon what an audience needs or expects or what a label needs or expects.

I tend to follow my instincts about where the music is going. Or, what collaborations might bring if you invite two people who have some investment in their instrument into a room together. It’s like having an interesting conversation and so I’m very interested in capturing the authentic live conversations of musicians who’ve essentially given their lives to their work.

AG: Alex, how would you describe the Electric Gauchos’ music?

AAF: Now?

AG: Yeah.

AAF: [Laughs.]

SB: It’s a trick question.

AAF: Well, it’s instrumental guitar music.

AG: To explore various genres?

AAF: All the time. All day. At the same time, I would say.

AG: What is coming next for Electric Gauchos?

AAF: Well, well well well! I think my feeling is we’re just in a point where my sense, my personal egoistic sense, is that we came to a point where it will be great to throwing a writing period of time to writing a pool of ideas. Well, that’s what I see for the next, say, half year or something like that.

SB: Alex, I’ll speak for him a little bit, but Alex has a series of pieces brewing loosely called Particles Of The Infinite  with a number of evolutions and we’ve done a little collaboration on a couple of them. Just a tiny amount. They’re massive and difficult and probably a little bit weird.

AAF: Yeah, definitely weird. [Chuckles.]

SB: But there’s a seed of something brewing, I think, in sort of the new writing Alex has been doing. There’s no shortage of potential in the members’ writing skills, even, I would say, performance skills. I think the next period may actually be energized by having a new repertoire. There’s little seeds of that already brewing. I spoke to Fernando Kabusacki a couple weeks ago. He and Fernando Samalea and Argentinian singer/songwriter that we played with last October, Marina Fages . Did I pronounce that correctly?

AAF: Perfect

SB: There’s some aspiration to bring this configuration to Seattle as well. Maybe in the next 6-12 months.

AG: As a matter of practicality, if someone were to want to hear this music, purchase it, where would they go? Is it available in all the normal channels?

SB: Generally, yeah. If you just search “Electric Gauchos” in iTunes or Spotify or CDBaby or Groove Music, most of our stuff is out there, including the 9-CD box set. Eight of the nine CDs are on most of the big services. You could also just go to SteveBall.com/EG , which has nice fairly-high-quality playable previews of the box set if you want to get a glimpse of what 81 tracks of mostly-improvised music sounds like. It’ll give you a little sense of what we do.

AG: Cool.

SB: It’s really hard to describe. In fact, is there a–is all the Particles work you’ve been doing, Alex, is that in OST or NST?

AAF: It’s all OST.

SB: So you’ll have to use one of Sophie’s guitars if you’re going to give a glimpse of what that stuff is.

AAF: Maybe later.

SB: Maybe later.

AG: Cool! Anything else you want to say about Electric Gauchos?

SB: I just want to make sure we show off the historical photos that were taken, literally, twenty years ago. This was almost our twenty-year anniversary. This is from a photo shoot that happened at the rehearsal studio  where I used to share a space with Bill Rieflin  and Krist Novoselic . Alex came to visit in 1997 with Martin Schwutke, one of the original Los Gauchos Alemanes members, and Ingrid Pape took this photo. You can’t quite see it, but it’s an old iconic sort of Seattle grunge rehearsal studio on Western Avenue. We haven’t changed a bit, if I actually look at the picture.

AAF: Not at all.

SB: This feels like yesterday. And there’s another picture from that same time frame taken in Mendoza, Argentina with the full Greenthumb Ensemble , which was a group that came together to write and record and play some songs. This includes–there’s a young Alex right up front, Martin de Aguirre, who’s upstairs sleeping right now, and some poor long-haired dude who looks like he just–

AG: Came out of The Matrix ?

SB: Exactly. And there’s Horacio Pozzo, also in the most recent Electric Gauchos and also a member of Big Time Trio with Martin de Aguirre. And Fernando Kabusacki, Schwutke, some famous people here.

AG: Awesome. Cool. Thanks a lot!

SB: Yeah. Hope to see you live somewhere soon.

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