Do you use amplification for your performances?
The majority of them, yes. The reason for this being that - contrary to some perceptions and maybe even romantic notions of a "wandering minstrel" associated with the Spanish guitar - unamplified it is a VERY quiet instrument. Quieter, in fact, than a human voice, and at least 10-20 times quieter than many other unamplified instruments - trumpet, trombone, drums, bagpipes, piano; the list is extensive.
Therefore, with the exception of a small number of scenarios - such as a very small church with no more than 20 people in it and incredibly good acoustics - amplification really is a necessity if anyone is to actually hear the guitar, rather than just see it! There are still a number of options. If it is in a "concert performance" scenario, where the performance will be centred around seats and ticket sales, a silent, attentive audience and a stage, then the Spanish guitar can be mic'd up, thus giving a great natural sound.
In other scenarios, such as functions, parties, weddings, restaurants, festivals etc, this is not a feasible option due to varying amounts of "background noise" that would be picked up by an external microphone. Obviously an un-amplifed guitar in such settings could be easily drowned out by 3 people talking! For these situations I use a unique and highly customised guitar (customised by one of the top guitar technicians in the country) which combines the "plugged in" sound of the guitar with an internal microphone, along with some very specialised acoustic foam to eliminate certain frequencies that cause feedback. Add to this a compact PA system of extremely high quality and a great live sound that sounds like a "real Spanish guitar" is always guaranteed. To quote a member of the public at a recent performance ... "That is THE BEST amplified Spanish Guitar sound I have ever heard in my life."
An important part of my show is that I will endeavour to provide THE best performance, not just in terms of guitar playing but of the overall sound.
What about outdoor events where there is no electricity?
Not a problem; I have a "leisure battery" (essentially similar to a car battery) and a power inverter, thus providing "portable electricity" - enough to last around 7 hours. For smaller occassions (both indoor and outside) I have a high quality 50 Watt portable amplifier.
Do you use backing tracks?
Again, this depends on the type of performance and the requirements - often I will play a number of "solo guitar" numbers (Traditional Flamenco and contemporary), and also a set or two of numbers using backing tracks, which allows for a much greater variety of musical styles to be covered. For example, as well as many of my original numbers, the Gypsy Kings numbers always go down very well - but with there being 7 of them, this wouldn't be very feasible with just one guitar and no backing - well, certainly not with just 2 hands!
All backing tracks used are of the absolute highest quality - no cheap mp3s downloaded from the internet, but the highest calibre of "world class" session musicians, playing real instruments to the highest level, thus ensuring an authentic and real sound full of passion and energy.
What guitar do you use?
I have different guitars for different occasions. For amplified live performances, I used my highly customised Camps Flamenco cutaway - as mentioned in the amplification section. For "mic'd up concert" type performances, I would use my 1976 Conde Flamenco guitar or 2003 Pedro Maldonado. For recording, the guitar will vary depending on the type of song - the Cuenca Model 70F, for example, provides a gorgeous recorded sound for the more 'romantic' type numbers, and the Conde and Maldonado have a more fiery Flamenco edge.
What is your inspiration when you are performing?
For performing, it's great to have the right venue and the right audience. With these factors, you can really get 'in the zone'. When improvising this can take you to a place where passion over-rules the restrictive nature of conforming to a pre-defined and pre-rehearsed sequence of events, and what I play will be slightly different every time.
What is your inspiration when you compose music?
When composing, it's often your state of mind or experiences you have that can inspire you.
From the new Mandala album, "Endless Rain" was written on a grey, overcast, dreary day, with winter approaching, and the end result was a beautiful yet melancholy piece of music. "Moroccan Skies" is also a great example of inspiration - Ramon Yslas (percussionist who plays on Mandala) posted a short video clip from the stage of his Moroccan festival performance with J-Lo. He simply put the caption "Moroccan Skies". And from those simple two words, the song was created in my head. Much like when Ringo once said "That's been a hard day's night that has"... and the rest was history.
My travels have also inspired particular songs. For example, "Matisse" was inspired by my various trips around France, and those many memorable "sitting in a cafe, sipping and espresso, watching the world go by and soaking up the atmosphere" moments. "Imigligos" (from the "Exotica" CD) was inspired by a memorable night in Greece involving a local wine called "Imigligos" and captures that wonderful "spirit of party" that the locals have. Tracks such as "Zaahir" (from the "Ojos de la Tierra" CD) conjure up images of the diverse experiences and sense of adventure that have been encountered from the more Eastern destinations I have visited, including the Souks of Turkey, Tunisia and Morocco.