BILL FRISELL AND VINICIUS Cantuária have crossed paths numerous times over the years, including working together in Frisell’s groundbreaking world-fusion ensemble the Intercontinentals in 2003, and appearing on each other’s recordings—but until the advent of 2010’s Lagrimas Mexicanas [EOM], they hadn’t actually recorded and performed an album’s worth of material as a duo. Cantuária contributes seductively rhythmic nylon-string work, tastefully layered percussion, and deeply emotive vocals in multiple languages, while Frisell interweaves gorgeous counterpoint lines, harmonies, and atmospherics with his electric.
Did you do anything differently for this project then you had done when you worked together previously?
Frisell: We began with the title and the basic concept, but otherwise it was wide open. Also, the album was recorded in Seattle, where I live, which was a luxury for me because I was able to use a bunch of the guitars and amps and pedals that I have at home, rather than just bringing a single guitar to the sessions as I usually have to do.
What are a few of the things that you had at the sessions?
Frisell: It is hard to remember, but I’m sure I brought some Telecasters, and a reissue Fender Bass VI baritone guitar, and a toy Tele that’s tuned up an octave. I also used a Jack Anderson 1x12 combo and a vintage tweed Gibson GA-18 Explorer, often recorded in stereo. Effects included several fuzz boxes, some exotic pedals, and a wah, which I rarely use.
Cantuária: I brought a lot of percussion instruments and a guitar, but would up using Bill’s Ramirez nylon-string acoustic on everything. It is an inexpensive student model that he bought at the Ramirez shop in Madrid, but it is a really good one.
What was the recording process? Did you just record together live to get the basic tracks and then overdub the other parts?
Cantuária: Normally, I would record something like a shaker, and then we would play the two guitars together, building the music from there. And we would usually be together as we added new layers.
What’s making that ring-modulator-type sound on “Mi Declaracion”?
Frisell: That may be a Line 6 DL4 delay pedal. By creating a backwards delay and then speeding it up really fast it makes this sort of ring-mod sound. It may also have been a Z.Vex Ringtone TT sequencing ring modulator.
There are some really intense fuzz sounds that are mixed low on a few songs. What made those?
Frisell: They might have been made with a Z.Vex Fuzz Factory, though I didn’t use it much as it is so extreme. They also might have been made by a Fuzz-Stang pedal, which has a really grainy sound.
Frisell (left) and Cantuária plugged and unplugged, respectively.
To what extent was the music composed as opposed to improvised?
Cantuária: We would work out the basic form before recording—this is the intro, the middle, and the end. And we would do quite a lot of improvising as we were working out the parts. In that sense, everything was an improvisation. But by the time we recorded there was a structure, and we played the entire piece from beginning to end. Sometimes we would punch in a fix here and there, but they were mostly one complete take.
Frisell: Some of the things that may sound spontaneous were actually built into the songs, whereas others were just fortunate accidents.
Given the overdubs on the album, how do you decide which are the essential parts when playing live?
Cantuária: I play the basic chords and rhythms on the acoustic guitar, and Bill is free to choose what he wants to play on the electric. Although the essence of the songs remains the same, when we are playing them live there is a lot of improvisation, and we never play them the same way twice. When I play with Bill the music is just so rich. There’s something special there, and we just fly!