I had the most fantastic pleasure last week to speak with an exceptionally talented young guitarist, composer and orchestrator by the name of Andrew Rubin.
Californian-based Rubin has recently released, in digital format, his first full-scale classical work – Guitar Concerto – written with rock legend Jon Anderson, along with a live concert film and recording of Rubin on guitar performing the work with the San Luis Chamber Orchestra.
His musical background consists of many projects spanning Rock, Pop, Jazz, Electronic and more. Rubin made his debut as a composer with the San Luis Obispo Chamber Orchestra in October of 2015. Guitar Concerto, a collaboration with mentor, Jon Anderson (of Yes), was well received and paved his way to further work with names such as Styx lead singer, Tommy Shaw, and the Contemporary Youth Orchestra.
On with part one of the interview!
Before we launch into talking about your Guitar Concerto project tell us a bit about yourself – who is Andrew Rubin?
Who is Andrew Rubin? You know I’m still kind of figuring that out myself! I started playing guitar when I was 13, and I started playing in a lot of rock bands. I was very heavily influenced by Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and stuff like that. Quite a far different direction than classical music.
So I happened to live near the same town as Jon Anderson (from Yes), and I met him when I was like 14 or 15. He really likes helping young musicians. I started learning this piece, Classical Gas by Mason Williams and I actually performed that, and he saw it and said you’re playing classical, that’s really wonderful, you should try writing in that style. I thought “no, I can’t do that, I’m not that kind of guitar player”, but he kind of encouraged me to start shaping this guitar concerto.
So we started just working on it, on bits and pieces and over weeks, through email and sometimes I’d go to his house. Over the years eventually I started to orchestrate it, my path kind of shifted from this rock ‘n’ roll player to composer and classical guitar player. And now aspire to compose for TV and film one day, so I’m studying to get really good at that.
So the Guitar Concerto – it’s a fabulous full-length work. You were saying you were given the idea to start working on that, what was the inspiration behind the music itself? What inspired you to develop the work?
I really have to thank Jon for that actually because after he saw Classical Gas he said have you ever heard of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez? He showed me a video of John Williams playing it, and that kind of served as the basis of the concerto. We really wanted to base it on something in a Spanish vein, like Rodrigo. So he introduce me to that and we kind of used that as a basis.
There’s so little good guitar concerto repertoire out there, it’s really good to have something new coming into the repertoire.
Yeah, I looked around and haven’t seen too many other guitar concertos. So I hope that this contributes something to the world of music!
And for gigs where you can’t bring 60 or 70 other musicians you can just play along to a backing track! I’m doing that today (Andrew was setting up for a gig as I was interviewing him and was Facebook live streaming the event!).
So is there a score going to be published so others can play the concerto?
I’ve written a score but I haven’t published it yet. Because it was the first score I ever attempted to write there were a lot of beginner sort of mistakes with it, just like little notation things and stuff. So there’s a need to clean it up a little before I attempt too get it published. But I would love to get it published and get it out there, if other people wanted to perform it that would be wonderful.
What part of the process, of writing and putting the piece together, did you most enjoy?
There’s so many different aspects, I mean the whole thing was just a terrific experience. From the very beginning when it was Jon and I on two guitars, and he doesn’t play lead so he would just sing a lot of the melodies. He’d say stuff like maybe you should change keys here, or go up a fifth, or he’d sing something. And when it was just very raw like that with two guitars it was introducing me to this whole new world of classical music that I wasn’t familiar with.
Then I think the second most magical moment was when we were trying to get it orchestrated by a professional orchestrator, but that couldn’t happen, it just fell through. So one day I was like well why don’t I just try doing this myself? Like, what if I try reading on how to write for these instruments and try doing it. So it was then a weak in the summer where I was just in my garage working on the score for like 8 hours a day, on some really basic software. I was working on it for like 8 hours a day because I was just so excited, it was coming together. I said to myself wow I can do this! This is really cool, this is turning into something else!
I think those are the two biggest memories that stand out – working with Jon and also discovering orchestration.
If you were to start the project afresh tomorrow is there anything you’d do differently?
Hmmm, I think the process wouldn’t be much different, but I have much more professional tools now than I did before. I work with Sibelius and I have Logic to record things with, whereas before I just had a little tape recorder and stuff like that. So I’d really start stuff the same, it was really just improvising, and writing parts on the guitar and then building around that, and sculpting it that way. Now I just have more tools at my disposal, so it would be better, faster, easier.
And that’s it for part one of my interview with the talented Andrew Rubin. Be sure to head back this way soon for part two. Ooh and make sure you take a look around Andrew’s website too: www.andrewrubin.net