Few artists can blend the traditional sounds of Spanish and Latin folk music with their own personal style quite like classical wunderkind Blanco White. After embarking on a trip to Spain to study classical guitar and then onto Bolivia to undertake lessons in the Andean charango, Blanco returned to London to kickstart his career, sharpening his skills as a songwriter and instrumentalist with each consecutive release. With the release of his single 'Mano a Mano', his first Spanish language single ever, we asked Blanco to chat about his nylon-string preferences, his love for the Roland JC-120 and how he honed his taste for Flamenco travelling the world.
"I got into Flamenco guitar whilst living in Cádiz (Spain) in my early 20s, and really fell for the genre. The guitar tradition in Andalucía is remarkable and unlike anywhere else I have visited. Local guitarists in places like Cádiz and Seville stand out as the best guitarists I’ve ever seen perform. I have played more and more electric guitar in recent years, but the flamenco tradition remains my biggest source of inspiration.
"My own nylon stringed guitar is a Prudencio Saez Flamenco guitar that is very playable and inexpensive. As nylon guitars go it is quite bright because of the lower action associated with Flamenco guitars compared with classicals, but also because it is ‘guitarra blanca’ made with lighter coloured woods. It’s a great live guitar with an LR Baggs pick up in it that I’ve had good results with when combined with a nice reverb pedal (I use a Strymon Blue Sky). I felt comfortable installing a pickup in it because it is an inexpensive guitar, but one day I would love to get an artisan made Flamenco guitar from Spain with darker woods for a warmer sound, or perhaps even a classical for even more warmth as I’ve struggled to get the tone I want from my brighter guitar in the studio.
"On bass guitar, when I feel a part needs more bounce, I have an Epiphone arch top with a humbucker neck pick up, and importantly, rubber wound strings. That combination of string, body and pick up gives a real fat and warm tone that also has a quicker decay, somewhere between a regular electric bass guitar and a double bass.There’s something I really love about that natural envelope it has straight up, before you go near a compressor. It doesn’t always work in a song, but when it does it ends up feeling crucial to the vibe. It was the bass used in my song 'Kauai O’o.'
"The electric guitar I use is a Godin Session Custom Class LTD model with a humbucker/P90 neck pickup and a single coil at the bridge which I use much less. It’s quite a heavy guitar, but feels comfortable and the pickup combination is really versatile. My amp is much more important to my guitar sound though. I use a Roland Jazz Chorus 40. I have the larger Roland JC 120 too, but I actually prefer the tone I get out of the smaller model which is half the price. For those that haven’t used one, it’s a stereo amp where the chorus effect is produced by the interaction of the left and right cones, making it tricky to close mic correctly on stage if you’re wanting to hear the same lush chorus as you hear in the room.
"In the studio it’s a little easier because you can use a mic a couple of feet away from the amp to get a full image of the two cones. The magic really comes from close mics on both cones though. It’s a piece of gear that I have really fallen in love with. You can use it in so many creative ways. Personally I think it is a better partner for a warmer guitar like a Les Paul compared with a Stratocaster. It evens out the sound of a warm neck pick up, but needs a bit more of an aggressive EQ with a Strat to get closer to the sound I’m normally looking for from the amp.
"For charangos and ronrocos, get out to South America and find a luthier. You’ll struggle to find music shops that sell them anywhere else. These are truly remarkable instruments that will always inspire you. La Paz, Bolivia is probably the easiest place to search for one. You won’t regret making the trip!"
Blanco White's new album On The Other Side arrives on Friday June 5.