‘Rock flamenco’ guitarist El Javi to play The Temporary
El Javi may be the king of “rock flamenco.”
The Denver-based guitarist also coined the term, perfected the form and founded this kingdom himself — melding the hard-edged electric shredding style of heavy metal with the romantic folkloric Spanish tradition of flamenco.
“I’m still a rocker,” he said in a recent phone interview.
El Javi will headline The Temporary at Willits with his trip on Friday night.
Raised in Mexico City, Javi was a metalhead as a teen. Inspired by Metallica and Led Zeppelin, he dreamed of life as a guitar hero.
When he came to the U.S. to study at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, however, his bubble quickly burst.
“I was pursuing the whole rock life,” he explained. “But when I was there, I realized everybody else was, too. Everybody was a metalhead and a shredder. I was like, ‘Oh s—.’ I didn’t feel special or unique.”
Disillusioned, he put down his guitar for half a year.
“I was so depressed about it, I was like, ‘I don’t know what else to do now,'” Javi recalled.
He even sold off his guitar and his amps. But, on a whim, he bought a flamenco guitar and started noodling with it. That instrument would help him find his voice as an artist and would send him on a yearslong creative adventure.
He put aside rock and metal and started teaching himself the flamenco technique, listening and playing along to classics like “Friday Night in San Francisco” by Al Di Meola, Paco de Lucía and John McLaughlin.
He then went to Spain in 2004 to study flamenco at the source.
“That changed my life completely,” he said. “When I went to Spain, it became a passion and I immersed myself in it and the lifestyle.”
When he came back to the U.S. and settled back in Los Angeles, Javi had a light-bulb moment that birthed his “rock flamenco” style.
“I was like, ‘Well, this is all nice but I don’t want to be sitting down and playing the guitar,'” he recalled. “I’m still a rocker. I play hard. So that was when I started experimenting combining the essence of rock — the chord progressions, the rhythm — with the flamenco.”
His 2012 album “Self-Portrait” announced the new style.
His most recent record is “A Gypsy Journey, Part II.” Released in 2017, it is the second in a series of albums based on his travels playing music and immersing himself in world cultures. He’s taken an increasingly elastic approach to genre, bringing in elements of jazz with horns, and folk traditions with violin, moving easily between electric and acoustic guitar.
“It’s a reflection of the travels, the people we meet, the places we go and finding inspiration to write music about that,” he said.
The new record includes a tribute to his adopted home titled “Colorado.” Javi has been based in Denver for three years and has become a regular in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley with regular gigs at the St. Regis in Aspen, a summer appearance at the Wheeler Opera House’s Colorado Music Showcase and a spot at the KDNK Hootenanny in Carbondale.
“What I feel I get is more of a small-town, quiet nature,” he said of life in the Mountain West. “That’s something I haven’t ever done — camping and fishing and all this stuff. It’s more about self-discovery.”
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The literary nonprofit Aspen Words is restarting its writers-in-residence program that had been on pause during the pandemic. Residents include “Call Me By Your Name” author André Aciman. Public events begin June 15.