they never caught on here in the U.S. in a big way back in the early
1960's, The Shadows are still revered by much the rest of the music
world for their fantastic instrumentals, vocals and albums and, of
course, their historic contributions to the guitar world and U.K.
rock n roll music. One guitar player, based on the American
West Coast, Kay Das continues to extoll the wonders of the
instrumental guitar based music the Shadows brought to light over
the past 55 years with his second Shadows tribute entitled Shadows
On Steel - Encore. Were talking steel
as in the pedal steel guitar and the lap steel guitarcousins
to the more traditional electric guitar and instruments that have
long been the instrument of choice among the best country musicians
and a range of Hawaiian music artists. Interestingly, Kay Das cites
the finest steel guitarists among his big influences, including Hawaiis
steel guitar legend Jerry Byrd, country steeler Buddy Emmons as well
as Kay's former guitar teacher Winnie Winston. Unbeknownst to many
Shadows fans and some steel guitar fans, Kay Das actually has produced
a range of steel guitar based instrumental pop and Hawaiian music
albums, including his 2012 Shadows tribute album, the 18 track Shadows
On Steel Encoreand a fine album it is. Backed up by a range
of players, including several of the same musicians who graced his
first Shadows tribute album, Kays 2012 Shadows tribute features
new versions of hits made famous by the Shadows in addition to a range
of other songs instrumentalized by Kay for his Shadows On Steel
Encore CD. Among the Shadows' covers here, several stand out including
Kays steel flavored renditions of The Breeze And I,
Theme For Young Lovers, a new version of the Shads
1981 sleeper Chi Mai and a splendid take on Hank Marvins
1969 classic Wahine, here entitled Wahine Serenade.
Other tracks here Shadows-ized on steel guitars by Kay include Roy
Orbisons Dream Baby, The Beatles Hey Jude,
the Chicago favorite Colour My World and more. Kays
extensive CD liner notes shed light on his story as well as some history
behind these timeless songs. Shadows fans, pedal / lap steel guitar
fans and instrumental guitar fans are strongly advised to track down
and enjoy Shadows On Steel - Encore by Kay Dasa great
guitarist keeping high quality, pop-friendly steel guitar music alive
and kicking. www.CDbaby.com/Artist/KayDas
presents an interview with
mwe3: Can you say something about your early years, where you
grew up and your early exposure to music and the guitar? Also can
you say something about your first guitars and the musicians and guitarists
who inspired you early on?
DAS: I grew up mostly in India. After some years in Edinburgh,
Scotland. I came to England permanently in my early twenties. The
Beatles and The Shadows were the reasons why. I could have emigrated
to the U.S. but did not. My dad was an army surgeon so I am an army
brat. There was not much by way of radio those days, I grew
up on a sparse diet of music from the then named Radio Ceylon; two
hours in the morning and a few minutes in the evening as our radio
did not function too well at the nighttime transmission bands.
My Mum, who had Indo-Portuguese parentage, was the first to introduce
me to the guitar. Dad was musically inclined too; they would both
sing or hum their favorite tunes as they came from different parts
of India. Dad was a World War II veteran (North Africa, Italy, Greece)
and Mum was in the nursing service. They must have been exposed to
Hawaiian music at some stage in their travels. I never asked. One
evening they came home with a battered guitar which had its strings
raised at the nut. They forgot to buy a steel so my father got a table
knife out and, with no prior musical training, started playing a tune.
My mum took up the Hawaiian guitar, as it was known. As
a child I was forbidden to play the new acquisition, and it would
be kept on top of a cupboard. I would climb to get at it when they
were out. One day I was a bit late getting it back, but they did not
chide me too much. Instead Mum began taking me to watch the lessons
she was taking. They later bought me a proper Hawaiian
guitar, which I played at a public school concert. I was ten and the
chair was a bit high so my legs dangled a bit.
first favorite guitarist was Les Paul. Later Chet Atkins, Duane Eddy,
Los Indios Tabajaras, and of course Hank Marvin in my later teens.
Steel guitar had a following (and still has) in Calcutta/Kolkata likely
because Tau Moe, a Hawaiian music pioneer from Samoa, settled there.
One of his disciples was Garney Nyss who has to have been my earliest
steel guitar influence. There was a 78 rpm shellac record that I would
play endlessly on a wind-up gramophone with Moana Chimes
on one side and St Louis Blues on the other, Garney playing
solo steel with The Aloha Boys. I still have it.
mwe3: How did you become interested in the steel guitar and
can you say something about some of the differences between the various
steel guitars and how does that sound compare with the more traditional
electric guitar sound? How about a few of your favorite steel guitar
guitarists and most influential steel albums?
KD: The sound of the steel guitar with the glissando caught
my early attention. And once you are bitten by that bug it is very
difficult to recover! I think Hank was also attracted by that. He
achieved the effect on a normal guitar using the whammy bar
and by string bending.
A lap steel guitar is played sitting with the instrument on the lap,
as the title implies, though I personally prefer playing it standing
up and being mobile with the music. The pedal steel guitar has legs
and needs to be played sitting down. It took a cue from the harp and
introduced pedals and knee levers with a system of pulleys that stretch
or slacken the strings. For example you can get an A chord or an E7
or D chord without having to move the steel bar up or down the neck,
and just operating the correct pedals/levers and picking the right
combination of strings. Some of my favorite steel guitarists are Buddy
Emmons, Hal Rugg, Bobbe Seymour, Greg Leisz ( who plays both lap and
pedal), Paul Franklin, Jerry Byrd, Alan Akaka, Greg Sardinha, Bobby
Ingano (all lap) and several others. I was coached by the late Winnie
Winston on the pedal steel. I play mostly the lap steel, on which
I am self-taught, nowadays as I find it versatile for a larger range
of musical genres including standards and blues. It is also more portable.
not have a particular favorite steel album I can recall. I think I
go more by the artist than an album.
Exactly as in the case of a normal electric, or acoustic guitar, you
pick a guitar for the sound you have in your head. One of my lap steels
is designed for Shadows tunes, as I will explain later...
mwe3: What guitars you are playing on the Shadows On Steel
Encore album? What steel guitars do you use on your albums and
what are some of your favorite guitars, both electric and steel guitars
and how about your choice of amps and favorite sonic effects or guitar
enhancers like pedals?
KD: Okay, you took the cue! I had for a long time wondered
what a Stratocaster would sound played as a steel guitar. So, I had
Bob Littleton of West Coast Guitars make me a custom one. I wanted
to preserve as much of a normal Strat as possible, the main difficulty
being that I needed 8 strings that I prefer on a lap steel... So Bob
built a custom neck (with double struts to take the extra string tension),
had pick-up whiz Jason Lollar wind custom 8 pole pickups. It has the
exact same layout and design as a Strat with three pick-ups and the
5-way selector switch and we named it the Steelocaster.
The only thing it does not have is the whammy bar, as I have the steel
bar to do the glissando stuff. I mainly used the Steelocaster on the
Encore album. I also own a 2005 Strat on which I play
on a few tracks, like Colour My World.
I am a Fender man and own three of them. At pre-Shadowmania last year
I plugged into Vox AC30s... I like them too. I would not go anywhere
else. I tend to be minimalist on the use of pedals while recording
or on stage. The only one I use occasionally is a volume foot pedal
(Boss FV-300L). For my recordings I use an optical compressor into
the mixing board to protect from overloads but I record the steel
with as flat a characteristic as possible and add on-board effects
after, most often a plate reverb. For a Hank-type sound, however,
I do use an Alesis Quadrverb GT before going into the mixer.
What musicians are you playing with on the Shadows On Steel - Encore
album and can you say something about where and when it was recorded?
KD: Shadows On Steel - Encore was a follow-up to the
earlier Shadows On Steel album and I had a lot of fun working
with musicians in many countries, working most often over the internet.
Amazing what you can do nowadays! I do not use mp3 for any recordings,
so we had to exchange files by snail mail, e-mail, or personally getting
together. For both albums I have often, though not always, used backing
tracks like UBHank (Gary Taylor/Trevor Spencer) of Perth or Chick
Holland in Wales. Others I have collaborated with are Derek Kerner,
Ian Plant, Ecca (UK), Charles Campbell (Ireland), Peter Korving (Holland),
Ove Kalander (Sweden) and oh gosh, I hope I have not omitted anybody!
One of the great side benefits of good precise backing tracks, apart
form the quality, is that you can go anywhere and the backing is the
same, so you can play the lead almost impromptu. Martin Cilia of Australia
recently visited here and we were able to play Sleepwalk
on stage not having ever played together before! I have similar experiences
in Italy and the UK, where I follow Shadows groups around.
I have a 32 track home recording studio and all the recording and
mixing was done here. My son, David (www.daviddas.com)
did the mastering in his Burbank California studios. I tend to record
over a period of time and then assemble when I have enough tracks
of a certain genre completed. For example, Encore is a
collection of Shadows and Shadows-like tunes recorded over a period
of four or five years. I also have released non-Shadows albums such
as are available on cdbaby.com, amazon or i-Tunes. Leos Den
in the UK also sells some of my CDs.
Your love of the Shadows music is just great. When did you become
a Shadows disciple and what are some of your favorite periods of Shadows
music, favorite songs, albums and even Shadows movies? Have you met
Hank and the other Shadows and other historic musicians involved in
the Shadows illustrious history?
KD: It would have been 1963 I think. I suddenly heard on the
radio the fabulous sound of Hanks guitar and the precise rhythm
accompaniments of Bruce Welch. I think Jet Harris was bass player
then (?), and great drumming by Brian Bennett. Although they have
made several great tracks since, my favorites would have to be their
first ones: Wonderful Land, Kon Tiki, Apache,
The Savage, Round And Round, 36-24-36,
a little later, Atlantis, Little Princess
so many! The thing about the Shads is that they improved
as they went along, you grew up with them. I have seen all Cliff and
The Shads movies, loved every one of them for the innocent sense
of fun they portrayed.
One of the great things about Hank is the utmost care he takes over
every note he plays. He is capable of the most intricate riffs but
when he plays the slow full notes with expression you know you are
hearing the best. In his words, treat every note like a symphony
and that is so applicable to the steel guitar in particular which
has so many dimensions of expression. And the man has so much talent
still unraveled. Hanks Guitar Player was another album
that was something else. I loved Petite Fleur.
funny that you ask about meeting Hank. I have met Hank and yet I have
not. I used to work in the music industry in England in the seventies
for a company started by Rupert Neve. We had multiple orders from
EMI and Abbey Road was one of the recipients of a Neve desk for which
I was project engineer. It would have been 1975 when they were recording
Let Me Be The One for the Eurovision Song Contest. I was
working late at Abbey Road one night, and took a break to make a phone
call at one of those coin phone booths (there was one inside the Abbey
Road studios) to my wife who was in Italy, and it cost something like
one pound sterling a minute. I had expended the first pound in my
pocket when Hank passed by and gave me a smile and a thumbs
up. He must have been on his way out because I tried to find
him after the call to shake his hand. I have been to four Shadows
concerts over the years. I did meet Bruce Welch at Shadowmania last
year. Nice guy. I plan to be at Shadowmania again this year.
mwe3: How many solo albums do you have in print and can you
say something about the various albums you have recorded and over
what period of time were your albums recorded? What are the favorite
albums that youve recorded and would you consider a box set
to shed some further light on your music and are you planning any
other Shadows tributes in the future too?
KD: I have recorded fourteen instrumental steel albums since
the early 2000s, one of them on commission to Pump Audio of Getty
Images. In all I have well over two hundred steel guitar instrumental
tracks. I have never counted. I like to believe that I continuously
improve as I play. Difficult to pick out a favorite, but the two Shadows
On Steel albums rank high. I have recently issued a Hawaiian-only
album called Trade Winds available at cdbaby, amazon and i-Tunes.
Yes, I would consider a box set. Yes, I have recorded more Shadows
and Shadows-like tunes since Encore. When I have enough
tracks completed I will compile a next. Cant think what I might
call it next time round, though!
mwe3: What plans do you have for your music and your other
activities for the remainder of 2012 and beyond?
KD: I am still working the day job, Im an engineer by
profession, and I would like to spend more time on my music, both
recording and playing, when it will be time to consider retirement.
I currently play at regular gigs and also make special appearances.
I may have another album out by end of the year, it usually takes
me six months to compile one. Another Shadows CD? Maybe...
Thanks to Kay