Before their gig in Budapest, we had the opportunity to talk to Rafael Trujillo, the fantastic solo guitarist for Obscura.
My musical education… I started playing a lot of different instruments very early. For example, with at the age of five, I started playing flute, and then I started playing piano, drums and classical guitar even. And at one point, I stayed with electric guitar, and when I was 17, I went to Munich Guitar Institute, which is a private university in Munich. I did my diploma there, and I had a lot of different private teachers in this area as well. Then I went to Amsterdam for one semester in conservatory of jazz guitar. And yeah, I also did one semester at Berklee College of Music in Boston… and as I said, I always had different private teachers… even I took Skype lessons from guys like Martin Miller or something.
And why you became interested in guitar, and not say in piano or any kind of other instruments?
I don’t know… I mean, it was my piano teacher back then … when I was 15, she wanted me to actually study piano, but it was so stressful for me. And electric guitar was always something I did for to relax. So I played along, too, because my dad showed me like AC/DC and Iron Maiden, so I played along to those songs and it was so fun for me. At some point… I’ve always wanted to do music as a professional. But then I said, no, I want to keep quit everything else and just play guitar, because that’s what I kind of like the most… yeah, for me it was very, very good at that time.
You are playing both jazz and metal, but I think those genrés are quite different from each other. So how those things are coming together in your mind?
I mean, metal was always something I had from the very beginning of my playing. I was very into Dream Theater and all this progressive metal music. So this was kind of my hobby, but then the education is something different. I wanted to study music and maybe it’s different now, but back then there were only few options: if you want, you can study classical music or jazz music. And I studied a little bit of classical music in my high school, but then I wanted to study jazz music because also all of my guitar heroes studied jazz music, so I was like, oh, yeah, that’s interesting! And that’s also very important if you want to go further with music theory and stuff.
Is the jazz music influencing your metal music and solos, or you just keep those things totally independent?
Definitely! I mean, the sound is completely different. And also the music in general, they are two different things, so I keep those separated. But the theory behind music comes from classical or jazz, and all the knowledge I have from those backgrounds I use in guitar solos and also to write music. I use chords, structures which are used in jazz or in classical music, or songwriting methods which come from that side.
Both jamming and I think improvisation is quite important in blues and also in jazz, but what about improvising in metal?
I mean that’s a different thing because… if you have a metal song which is written out from beginning to end, I see it more as a classical piece which is written out from beginning to end. That’s why I do play written out solos live as well in that band [Obscura]. I would do it different if this was like a rock band or where a jazz band, because there is space, more space to improvise. Everybody else is playing the same as on the record, so I’m doing the same for solos because sometimes it’s just like 8 bars or 16 bars where I have to fill in something. It’s like pop music or classical music where everything is written out… so that’s the way I do it.
So therefore all music of Obscura and all the solos, what you are playing, are static, so they are carved in stone?
Yes, almost. I think there is one in the set, which is a little bit more open. It’s one of the very old songs from the band. I choose to play something different which is on the record. So yeah, I have my licks I use in that solo, but it’s a little bit more open. But it’s the only one.
You are known to be a player of Kiesel guitars. So how are you connected, where the connection is coming from?
Actually, first time when I went to Amsterdam, someone introduced me to Jeff, Jeff Kiesel, the owner of the company, and we kind of get connected there. At that time, at that point, I was looking for a new guitar anyway, so they made it very easy. I tried all different models and they build one for me and it worked perfect. So till then, I’m playing Kiesel guitars.
What are the characteristics of an ideal guitar or a comfortable guitar for you?
For that kind of music, it needs to have a Floyd Rose, and it needs to have 24 frets… I mean, that’s almost everything I need in order to play this kind of music. I need two pickups, obviously, like all the other Kiesel guitars as well. They come like this and you don’t really have to adjust anything, it’s perfect. I mean, they have very good technicians there and they build this stuff, which is very great. I like to use this five way pickup switch because you can switch in the different positions quick, especially for clean sounds… you have a lot of different options. And yeah, that’s basically it. I also tried out headless guitars for the first time and I’ve never owned one before and it worked perfect for me.
So what you hold in your hands, is that the main instrument at the moment?
That’s my main instrument at the moment, it is a Kiesel seven string model. It’s headless, and it has a bird’s eye maple fretboard…
…neck through, I guess…
No, it’s not, t’s bolt on. But yeah, actually this one has a seven piece neck which makes it very stable as well… the Floyd Rose as well. It’s customized and… yeah, that’s it, it works pretty well for that kind of music.
What about six or eight string ones, are you using them, or you just kept with the seven strings?
For that set we play here, I only use seven strings, but also on the album I played for the solos, I played different guitars. I mainly play six strings for any other music or any other band, but here in Obscura I only play seven strings because most of the stuff is written in seven strings and also tune one step down, so instead of playing E standard is D standard in the way, so that might be different from others.
Are you using normal or multi-scale ones? Are you using multi-scale ones at all?
Not really. I’ve tried a few and I would like to have one, but right now I feel so comfortable on the normal scale, so I’m a little bit scared of changing it, but I would like to explore it more if I have more time.
Well, it’s different for different things. Obviously, for solos, for example, if I have a track… solo is always the last thing. So if I get a track where I have to solo on, I put in the track in my Cubase session and then I loop it and then I play along to it, I improvise on it, I try to find out some ideas. And then I write them down and I learn it… basically that’s how I try to create my solos based on different improvisations of mine. But yeah, for parts it’s different, and I could create them on my laptop sitting there and having fun with Guitar Pro or something, or I sit down with my guitar and and try out different things. Even when I’m practicing, for example, I get ideas of new exercises and that might be the next song or something.
At the moment you’re a full time musician?
Yes, yes, I do. I do a lot of session work as well. I play with other bands, especially in my home area. I play with different bands, I also do a lot of Skype lessons and stuff like that. That’s how I make a living out of it.
Being a full time musician playing in a lot of bands, plus doing the studio, plus doing all the tours and whatever else, is a horribly time consuming thing. So how can you manage it in private connections like with family or wife or girlfriend or whatever else? How is this working?
Yeah, it is very time consuming. My whole life is like that… it’s music all the time. And I try to play as much as possible. But still, there is a lot of other work to do like organization… for example, as a self-employed musician, you also have to pay taxes and you have to write down anything I mean with money, and it’s a lot of work. And that’s also something I have to do… and I tried to make like plans and to do this and then I work my way through it. Also with like family… I mean I see him quite a lot, actually, because I still have some of my equipment with my parents, for example. So whenever I go on tour, a couple of days before that I go to my family because there I have all the gear.
What is inpiring you, where the musical and non-musical inspiration is coming from?
My non musical inspiration… I like to do sports and I get inspired by a lot of different people. Sometimes I even get inspired by watching series or watching a movie or something. And also, as I said, I like to do sports and there are some guys I follow on Instagram or on YouTube, I check them out, and that’s something I like to do. Music wise… I mean I also try to have inspiration from from a lot of stuffs. I listen a lot to what’s coming out recently, no matter which type of music it is and sometimes it’s even pop music, I check it out. Or all the YouTube guitarists or Instagram guitarists, I check them out. And that’s also very inspirational sometimes because I know where the main stream, so to say, goes. But then I’m still very into listening to [Allan] Holdsworth and Greg Hall, like those fusion guitarists. Those are probably when it comes to guitar… I mean, heroes.
Just before moving to the last questions, how you became connected Obscura, so why are you playing with Obscura and not a different band? Where the relationship is coming from?
It started all with Sebastian, the drummer, he came into the band [in 2014], and I knew him already before from other gigs because he’s living in the same area as I did back then. We even played gigs, session gigs together with other artists. And then at some point they were looking for another guitarist, and he called me and he was like you want to play in this band? And I was like, yeah, sure. And then I did some videos for them because they want to see me play their stuff. I think the first where I met them was Steffen‘s house. I went there, we met there, we talked, and it turned out pretty good. So that’s basically the story. Sebastian called me and and it worked out.
I’m really curious, have you learnt Obscura songs by ear, or did you use their guitar tablature?
I mainly use guitar tablature, and I also use like the pdf’s and some Guitar Pro files to reproduce what’s on the record.
The last two questions, what I always ask from everybody, so what does the metal mean to you and what does the music mean to you?
I don’t know… I mean, it’s hard for me to separate those things because metal is always… For me, as I already said in the beginning, it’s a little bit like classical music. Almost everything is written out and it’s very dramatic. It can also be very beautiful. And these are like different kind of emotions… especially the dark sounding thing in metal is probably the main thing I like in these this kind of music. Because, at least for me, no other music can can be that dramatic. I don’t know, it’s a very dark sounding thing, and I kind of like it. But also if we’re talking about music, that’s why I like other music as well, because there is a different thing you can find in other music genrés. Yeah, that’s I guess how I would describe it. Metal is the dark side of music, you know.
Would it be possible to survive with no music?
No, not at all.
Written by Á