KAY DAS
Marvin On Steel
(KD Records)

 

For his 15th solo album, Marvin On Steel, guitarist Kay Das once again returns to the instrumental guitar sound and vision of Shadows legend Hank B. Marvin. Of course we’re talking about the sound of Kay’s 8 string Steelocaster guitar, a custom lap steel modeled on a Stratocaster. For the 18 track Marvin On Steel CD, Kay’s Steelocaster guitar is paired with fellow guitarist Charles Campbell, who successfully teams with Kay by adding in some of the more traditional sounding Marvin-esque guitar sounds. Several drummers, along with several other musicians, assist Kay and Charles on the album. Musically, Kay’s choice of Shadows-related music is first rate. Just to single out a few—Marvin On Steel includes a number of tracks Hank and The Shadows made famous including the 1960s era classic composed by Hank, “Little Princess” and a new Kay Das version of Richard Hawley’s excellent tribute to Hank entitled “I’m Absolutely Hank Marvin”, which Hank originally played on, two Shadows-esque tributes to Whitney Houston, including “One Moment In Time”, first done instrumentally by The Shadows back on Steppin’ To The Shadows back in the late 1980s. Several Marvin On Steel tracks are Beatles-related too, including “Sunset Over The Kushiara”, a song inspired in part by George Harrison’s “Marwa Blues” and also a surprising instrumental cover here of a relatively recent Paul McCartney song entitled “My Valentine”, which is just dripping with Kay’s fantastic Steelocaster guitar work. In fact, most of the songs Kay has assembled on Marvin On Steel are quite well known and all seem to benefit from Kay’s steel guitar flavored interpretations. When it comes to steel guitar flavored renditions of Shadows style instrumentals, very few guitarists can claim to have the magical touch and finesse of guitar master and guitar enthusiast Kay Das. Marvin On Steel is recommended listening for all Shadows fans, guitar instrumental fans and anyone who loves and admires memorable classic pop melodies. www.KayDas.me

mwe3.com presents an interview with
KAY DAS



mwe3: The new Marvin On Steel CD is great. Was Hank Marvin really the main inspiration behind the 18 track CD? I ask that because there’s such a wide range of music including several Beatles related songs too. What was involved in your selecting which songs to cover for the Marvin On Steel CD?

KAY DAS: Grateful for the appreciation, Rob. Yes, my fifteenth album of instrumental steel guitar music has been inspired by the guitar stylings of Hank Marvin, in continuation with the previous “Shadows on Steel” and “Shadows on Steel – Encore” albums. I think Hank must have had a steel guitar kind of sound in his mind when he developed his unique lead guitar stylings. Hank played a Fender Stratocaster making innovative use of the whammy bar, along with string bending to get the “steel guitar” effect and which also makes a guitar sound more voice-like. An art that he perfected. Hank’s unique guitar sound was originally produced, apart from his exceptional technique, by a combination of the Stratocaster guitar, Vox amplifiers, the Meazzi Echomatic tape, and the Binson magnetic disc. This album represents a completion of the circle, a steel guitar tribute to “That Sound”, plus tracks in some new directions. I believe music never to be static and that new directions evolve all the time with inspiration from the past and present.

I usually record new tracks over a period of time and then sit back and group them to compile an album if I have collected enough tracks on a theme. The music of Les Paul, Chet Atkins, The Shadows and The Beatles, along with some Hawaiian steel guitarists, were some of earliest musical influences. Regarding choice of tunes, no fixed process. I usually have a tune buzzing around in my head and the buzz only abates when I do something about it... like recording it. An 8-string Steelocaster, a custom lap steel modeled on a Stratocaster, as featured on the CD cover, was the lead instrument on many of the tracks.

mwe3: Can you say something about who plays with you on Marvin On Steel and how did you meet Charles Campbell, how did you share the guitar parts with Charles, and who else was involved in the album making, the recording and the creative process?

KAY DAS: Sometimes when you get that buzz and it feels like doing everything yourself and sometimes involving others, both of which I enjoy. I also do a lot of gigs and real time playing with different groups. Doing stuff on your own gives you total control. Doing stuff with others is exciting because you come to close contact with their skills and approach and it is fun to combine, you learn so much. It is also very rewarding to play with my son, David, who is a producer, composer, and instrumentalist in Hollywood.

I met Charles Campbell, originally from South Africa, who now lives in Dublin, at the Shadowmania events in 2011 and 2012. We played together last year. He is a brilliant guitarist and, apart from following The Shadows, we share a common interest in home studio recording in which we are both active. The three tracks recorded were worked across the internet with uncompressed audio file transfers. I work with others on a similar basis. You can transfer audio files across the internet with no loss in quality nowadays. Absolutely fantastic! No studio bookings necessary.

mwe3: Interesting that you have a new song on Marvin On Steel called “Sunset Over The Kushiara” which was inspired by George Harrison’s “Marwa Blues”, from George’s final studio album Brainwashed. Tell us something about that track which was also inspired by your roots in India. Are you still influenced by Indian music? I know the guitar is quite a popular instrument from India along, with the sitar. Do you have favorite Indian guitarists and sitarists and what is your favorite album of instrumental Indian - guitar and sitar music?

KAY DAS: I had been reading my Dad’s hand-typed memoirs in which he often mentions the river Kushiara in eastern India on the banks of which he grew up. I had heard George’s “Marwa Blues” before and the tune buzzed in my head for long and I began thinking of it as a cover, which it starts out at, but as I studied the tune I began to get my own ideas and that is how “Sunset Over the Kushiara” was born. The opening bars are much like “Marwa” but it then evolves…

My influence from Indian music is small, and more from pop than classical music. Calcutta (now Kolkata) has a steel guitar following probably because Tau Moe, a Samoan musician who toured the world during the World War II years, spent 14 years in Calcutta. One of his students, Garney Nyss, was my first steel guitar hero with his renditions of “Moana Chimes” and “St. Louis Blues”. I also liked the steel guitar stylings of Van Shipley, who played many Bollywood tunes on steel. He had great left hand control and was capable of accentuating the microtones which are a characteristic of many Bollywood tunes. Microtones got my attention. Van Shipley was followed by others, notably Batuk Nandy and Sunil Ganguly long with a few other superb steel guitarists with albums of their own. The two above would have to be some of my favorites. Batuk has passed away in the prime of his career; I am in touch with his son.

I should also mention that my first public non-steel performance of a Shadows tune was as a teenager in Calcutta. The guitar was a homemade red electric guitar that was imagined to resemble a Stratocaster, as I could not afford to buy one, and it was christened Apache. I played the tunes “Apache” and The Savage” at my first non-steel stage performance. We could not obtain frets for the neck so I had to fashion them out of curtain hem holders suitably cut to fit the width of the neck and embedded into the fretboard. The fretboard was not too friendly and made my fingers hurt. The year was 1965. Great fun!

mwe3: Also from Marvin On Steel, “I’m Absolutely Hank Marvin” is a song that originally featured Hank but was actually a b-side on a Richard Hawley EP. Did that track ever come out on CD? I just see it’s on download. It’s such a great song, can you shed some light on that track and what brought that one to the table for you? Speaking of rare Hank related songs, what did you think about “Life Story”, the final (so far) Shadows song and would you ever cover that or have you?.

KAY DAS: I first heard “Absolutely Hank Marvin” at Shadowmania 2012, played by my friend Derek Kerner and its forlorn melody line immediately caught my ear, and thought it could have a particular interpretation on steel guitar. It was written by Richard Hawley and is from the Coles Corner CD single of 2005. Hank Marvin played the lead on the original recording. The steel on the track and on other tracks in Richard’s albums is almost certainly played by Richard himself; he is known to have a few in his collection. Richard Hawley is unique in that all his CDs are named after Sheffield local areas (Coles Corner, Lady’s Bridge, Lowedges, and his latest album Standing At the Sky’s Edge).

On my version, lap and pedal steel guitars and guitar rhythm tracks are played by me with the Steelocaster, MSA Deluxe XL pedal steel, and a 2002 Stratocaster respectively. The lap steel lead was routed through an Alesis Quadraverb GT with patch setting #51, "Walking on Air". The backing is by Andrew McGarrick. The score for this recording is also credited to him. This is a great tune: the melody arpeggiates notes per a F major 7th chord followed by F minor major 7th triads while the rhythm guitar sequences Am - E chords. Some (regular) guitarists have found the tune disquieting, but I think it sits well with the fluidity of the steel guitar. Maybe the jury is out on this one!

I would love to cover “ Life Story” some day, great and fitting finale from The Shads, just have not got down to it yet… Watch this space!

mwe3: I was always amazed by the Shadows cover of “One Moment In Time”. As great as Whitney Houston's version is, The Shadows version seemed to really capture all the power of the song. Was that why you chose to cover it for the Marvin On Steel CD? Any other insights on that song? I didn’t know it was the anthem for the 1988 summer olympics. There used to be a great You Tube clip of the song by The Shadows, that I found after Whitney’s passing in 2012 but I can’t find it anymore! But there have been a lot of videos inspired by the Shadows version.

KAY DAS: I loved Hank’s version from the 1989 CD album, the last track of Steppin’ To The Shadows and it was the direct inspiration for this rendition. Amazing how Hank can fill a whole auditorium with just well chosen simple notes and with what he does between the notes. Jerry Byrd, noted steel guitarist, once said, “ Everybody can play the notes, it’s what you do between them that matters”. On this track I play the first and last sections with traditional picks and the middle section with a plectrum. The attacks are very different.

mwe3: What made you choose Paul McCartney’s “My Valentine” as an instrumental for the Marvin On Steel CD? It’s an unusual song but it works well under your treatment. Any inside story on that song? It was always amazing to me that the first Beatles song was a tribute to The Shadows called “Cry For A Shadow”.

KAY DAS: This is a version on steel guitar of Sir Paul McCartney's haunting composition, track 8 of his sixteenth studio album, Kisses On The Bottom, released 7 February 2012. Some of the recording was done at Capitol Studios, not a million miles from where I live. Sir Paul performed it live at the 54th annual Grammy Awards. The final day of prep for the Sunday night awards show began with McCartney, who did three run-throughs of this. Diana Krall joined him on piano and Joe Walsh of The Eagles strummed guitar while, behind the three veteran artists, an entire orchestra gave body to the forlorn melody. Later, Walsh sighed when he spoke of the song. "It's a beautiful song, He wrote that for his wife. He just did an album of standards, something he wanted to do for a long time. It's a side of Paul we never really heard before. It's a side he never really heard before. He didn't know it was in him."

Lovely lyrics: what if it rained?/ we didn’t care/ she said that someday soon/the sun was gonna shine./ and she was right/this love of mine,/my valentine……

mwe3: How about track three from Marvin On Steel, a song called “And Wish Her For Me” and the history behind that song? It’s relatively unknown.

KAY DAS: “And Wish Her For Me” is the translation of an Italian tune “ E Salutala Per Me” made famous by Raffaella Carrà in 1978, a “torch song”….talking about unrequited love… She is known in Italy simply as La Carrà and in some Latin American countries sometimes simply as Raffaella. Carrà moved to Spain, doing television and releasing records in the Spanish language. This led her to move to South America, where her records had been heard for some years. She was very well received throughout Latin America, and filled the stadiums and theaters wherever she performed. She returned permanently to Italy in 1982. The tune caught my ear probably due its tonal cadences.

mwe3: How about your cover of Michel Legrand’s “Summer Me, Winter Me”? It sounds like a song that sort of fell by the wayside as far as guitar instrumentals go, but it works quite good as a guitar instrumental. I hadn’t heard it before so thank you for that. Do you have a favorite version of that song and has it ever been done as a guitar instrumental?

KAY DAS: Although I do not always listen first to the lyrics but more often to the notes, this composition caught my ear: “Summer me, winter me/ And with your kisses morning me, evening me…” This lovely tune was the main theme from the motion picture Picasso Summer. Recorded famously by Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Kiri te Kanawa. Laura Fygi and many others, a standard in its own right. Although there are quite a few orchestral and string versions I do not know of any other guitar instrumental version. My favorite is the version by Michel Legrand and Laura Fygi from the CD Watch What Happens….

mwe3: What’s new in the guitar world for you as far as any new guitars, new gear or developments on the technical side of things? How’s your Steel-O-Caster guitar these days? How unique is it in the guitar world and you done any modifications on it and how easy is it to maintain? How about the strings and amps you’re featuring on the Marvin On Steel CD?

KAY DAS: I am told I have developed a characteristic style and sound and that usually means, like The Shads found, that that is what people expect from you. I am stable in my choice of instruments and amplification. I am biased towards Fender tube amps. I recently bought a third, a Superchamp; it is light to carry around, has acceptable tone and Fender amp modeling for small gigs, has a line out. I try to be a minimalist: no foot pedals apart from a swell pedal on occasion. For the recordings on Marvin On Steel I frequently had the Steelocaster in directly to a Quadraverb Alesis GT in series with the amplifier, then the line out into an optical compressor and then into the mixer. For strings, I generally compromise between the higher gauges for thickness of sound and lower gauges for pliability and softness to achieve micro-tones.

mwe3: What does the future hold for you as far as recording and releasing new music and what new directions and what new songs are you planning or looking to explore and record in the coming months?

KAY DAS: Apart from being a Shadows fan, I try to portray the steel guitar in a variety of settings from blues to big band to standards to Latin to surf... and so on. I currently focus in two musical directions: (a) The Shadows tunes, or tunes that might have sounded good if they had played them, and (b) old/contemporary Hawaiian and pop tunes. I just finished recording a couple of tunes associated with James Michener’s “Hawaii”. I wish to make more originals; there will be more of them in the future.

Thanks to Kay Das @ www.KayDas.me

 

 
   
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