based guitarist Kay Das continues making excellent albums with
the 2014 CD release of Hawaiian Shadows. Issued
on Kays own KD Records label, the 18 track Hawaiian Shadows
CD is filled with wonderful instrumental tracks, all featuring Kay
on his renowned 8 string Steel-o-caster guitar which so tastefully
blends the sound of the steel string / lap steel guitar with a more
rock friendly Stratocaster guitar sound. Clearly, Kay is a huge fan
of both Hawaiian music and the guitar centered instrumental sound
of Hank Marvin and The Shadows and he splits his musical interests
in a very equitable manner on Hawaiian Shadows. Even the title
of the album makes it clear, Kay runs it right down the middle between
the two genres. The Hawaiian Shadows CD features 18 tracks
that are strategically assembled into six parts of three songs each,
as Kay describes in the CD booklet. Even though theres plenty
of classic Hawaiian friendly music here, theres also a number
of Steel-O-Caster cover versions of songs The Shadows made famous
in both the 1960s and the 1980s. These include songs such as Three
Times A Lady and The Power Of Love (from the late
1980s), A Place In The Sun and Chu Chi (both
from the 1960s) only surpassed by a memorable Kay Das cover of John
Barrys greatest composition, You Only Live Twice
(made even more historic by Hank Marvin in the year 2000 on Marvin
At The Movies). Also of note here is a rarely heard instrumental
of The Beatles Rubber Soul favorite, Girl,
given a sublime Kay Das steel guitar treatment that yields excellent
results. On Hawaiian Shadows lesser known tracks effortlessly
merge and join forces with the better known tracks, making for another
fantastic guitar experience by Kay Das. Fans of the greatest songs
of the 1960's, and beautiful Hawaiian melodies as played on steel
guitars, will love this latest masterpiece from guitar hero Kay Das.
mwe3.com presents an interview
Whats new on the West Coast these days Kay? Have you been traveling
or mostly working in your studio? Where are you living now and what
do you like best about it?
Kay Das: Good to hear from you, Rob! I have been doing great.
Unbeknownst to many, Orange County in Southern California, is the
birthplace of the electric guitar, in its many forms, with the existence
of Fender and Rickenbacker within a radius of a few tens of miles
from where I live. I have made my obligatory pilgrimage to the Fender
factory and have wallowed in its history. Unfortunately, Rickenbacker
do not do factory tours. Orange County is also the birthplace of surf
guitar, characterized by the extensive use of the spring reverb
that Fender incorporated into their amplifiers from 1961, and the
use of the guitar whammy bar to bend the pitch of notes
up or down, in fact emulating what can be achieved on a steel guitar
with the steel bar. So, it is a privilege to live here and breathe
the air that inspired these great musical cultures! Dick Dale, The
Ventures, The Beach Boys all hail from Orange County. The Shadows
early influences can be traced to have originated from this lovely
part of the world.
I have been busy with many new projects this past year, with my new
found freedom since retiring from the day job almost exactly
a year ago today. Amongst other pursuits, I have tried to enhance
my musical theory skills; I believe the more theory you can master
the better the musician you can become. I have also made a modest
beginning in learning flamenco guitar, those rhythms and right and
left hand techniques have always fascinated me. There is never an
end to learning in music, is there?!. There are always ideas and influences
to get inspiration from other genres or renditions, combine or develop
your own unique version. I sometimes download several versions of
a tune from iTunes, burn a CD, and listen repeatedly. I Am
Hawaii was one of them.
There is a resurgence in musical gatherings in these parts, with ukulele
clubs springing up all over, and a steel guitar is more than often
welcome in these groups. I also play from time to time in blues and
1960s / 70s groups. I also play in a few Shadows style clubs
and functions in the UK and Italy when visiting those parts of the
world, where I have family. Apart from that I have continued with
recording in my studio. I seem to always have a few tunes, different
genres, in my head at any one time.
mwe3: Your 2014 album Hawaiian Shadows is actually your
16th album. For this album, how did you arrive at the connection between
Hawaiian steel guitar music and the guitar instrumental sound of Hank
Marvin and The Shadows. I do know that Hank has cut some Hawaiian
influenced music but your album is very Shadows flavored with a definite
Kay Das: I think Hank had the sound of a steel guitar in mind
when he first started out. If you listen carefully to his backing
on early tunes like Travellin Light, you can sort
of feel his thought processes: tuneful, harmonious, legato... connected
notes. He, of course, went on to develop and perfect his own unique
technique. His version of Sleep Walk is a revelation.
Thats a steel guitar tune made famous by Santo and Johnny interpreted
on normal guitar with string bends and use of the whammy bar.
Yes, Hank also composed some Hawaiian-influenced tunes such as Wahine,
Morning Star, and others. On Hawaiian Shadows I
am trying to establish a connection between Hawaiian and The Shadows
guitar instrumental genres, and hence the name
mwe3: Whats your connection to Hawaii and how many times
have you been there? When did you first visit? Also that Hawaiian
guitar sound was huge in India too. I have a number of Indian style
guitar instrumental albums so that whole steel guitar instrumental
sound is an underrated world wide genre for sure. Are you somewhat
of the renowned expert on steel guitar music from all over the world?
But of course Hawaii is still the capital!
Das: Yes, Rob, that is a very intriguing question. I spent my
early years in India. My late mother started learning steel guitar
but then passed the baton on to me. I wish I had asked her how that
interest originated but never did. She was born in a part of India
where the Portuguese had established themselves for long, in fact
had a Portuguese maiden name. She was also exposed to many influences
during World War II. As you may know, Hawaiian music has connections
My earliest steel guitar hero in India was Garney Nyss, who made a
recording of St. Louis Blues and Moana Chimes
on a 78 rpm shellac that I still have. Garney was a student of Tau
Moe, a Hawaiian musician who traveled the world just after the War
and settled for many years in Kolkata in India. In fact, no coincidence,
there have been quite a few steel guitar artists from that city, such
as Batuk Nandy, Sunil Ganguly, Debashish Bhattarcharya and others.
Batuk Nandy was especially responsible for introducing the steel guitar
to an Indian genre called Rabindrasangeet. On the Bollywood
side, the most famous steel guitarist was Van Shipley. The style perpetrated
was the emulation of the human voice and so most tunes were played
on a single string but with considerable left hand skill to emulate
the highly expressive voices of Bollywood vocalists.
With the sound of the steel guitar in my head since early childhood,
I had always wanted to see where it had originated, but I did not
get a chance to visit Hawaii until 1983 when I first came to this
country from the UK. I now visit Hawaii often, am known to the steel
guitarists that live there and do their best to carry on the tradition.
Hawaiian steel guitar was invented by Joseph Kekuku, born in 1874
in the village of Laie, on the windward side of Oahu. He traveled
the mainland, eventually settling in New Jersey but his legacy has
lived on in Hawaii and in other parts of the world. The steel guitar
has followings worldwide, although numbers are much smaller compared
to the regular guitar. I have heard anything from Indonesian krontjong
to blues, gospel, and jazz played on it. Many Latin American tunes
sit well too.
I do not believe that I can claim to be the renowned expert in all
steel guitar matters, but I have a passion for its sound, to me it
is the ultimate analog instrument. Not only do you make
your own notes with the left hand, but you also articulate with the
right. The steel guitar, while remaining quintessentially Hawaiian,
has evolved in many forms. For example, the pedal steel guitar is
often featured in country music from Nashville, the dobro in folk
and bluegrass music , and also in blues and pop music; one instance
being Pink Floyds David Gilmour who featured it in Great
Gig In The Sky and others. The classic steel guitar is played
on a guitar with a raised nut and with a steel bar. Another variant
is the slide guitar where a metallic tube is worn over
the left index finger, playing a normal guitar, to give a similar
glissando effect. Variations feature different tunings and anywhere
from six to ten strings.
Whats new for you in the guitar world, and who have you been
listening to lately? Are you still excited about new music and new
songs changing the world like they did back in the day? Seems like
tomorrows guitarists and songwriters will have some mighty big
shoes to fill so to speak.
Kay Das: I constantly strive to improve my technique, there
is always so much music around, get new ideas. New sounds, yes. I
have been listening lately to Italian pop music (my wife, Adriana,
is native Italian) and trying to interpret some of them on steel guitar.
I find that many tunes are musically rich (also have interesting lyrics).
I have recorded a few on steel and in my opinion, they sit well. I
recently attended a concert by Zucchero, have recorded some of his
tunes. Maybe one day I will have enough quality recordings to publish
an album of Italian pop on steel guitar. Strange but true, Santo and
Johnny were popular in Italy. They actually made an Italian pop music
LP featuring the steel guitar for the local market in the early 1970s.
I think music makes the world go round, crosses religious and national
boundaries, and is constantly evolving per John Lennons imagination.
I recently got to know some rap artistes. While not my favorite genre,
I have to admit to the realization that there is a lot of skill involved
in getting it right just as for any other genre. I look
forward to instrumentals getting popular again. For sure, it will
be in a new direction. Hopefully, the steel guitar will figure somewhere!
mwe3: You group your Hawaiian Shadows album into groups
of three with, as you say in the liner notes, the first three tracks
representing flowers. Say something about Jacaranda, I
Kona and Whispering Sea. Are these tracks Hawaiian
standards and how did you decide to cover them? Did you set out to
express the musical themes on the CD in trios of musical ideas?
Kay Das: It was idea to combine the two genres in groups of
three to give the listener some sense of a musical journey. Jacaranda
is my own composition, and it was inspired by the glorious purple
blooms in Southern California in May and June. I Kona
is a Hawaiian classic, written over a hundred years ago. Whispering
Sea is a steel guitar classic written just after W.W.II. You
will note that the last note of the track is handed over to the whisper
of the sea...
The next three tracks on the CD include Three Times A Lady
and a pair of Roy Orbison songs. I always thought Orbisons songs
sounded a bit Hawaiian. Its amazing that the Shadows earlier
instrumental version of Three Times A Lady was kind of
typical of their 1980s covers. What drew you to Three Times
A Lady and the Roy tracks?
Kay Das: Yes, many of Roy Orbisons songs contained musical
cadences, for example leaps from the first note to the fifth or sixth
note of the musical scale. This also found in Hawaiian music, which
is probably why Roy sometimes sounded Hawaiian. I like
those cadences. They are also present in Three Times A Lady,
where I additionally introduce a key change which accentuates a cadence.
So did Hank in his version of this tune, by the way...
mwe3: The next three tracks on Hawaiian Shadows speak
of sunshine, love and then a dance. Interesting that you chose to
cover the lesser known Shadows classic A Place In The Sun
which was actually written by Jerry Lordans wife? Your cover
of A Place In The Sun does have a bit of a rumba sound
in the rhythm! Also the two other tracks are Hawaiian classics, including
Maui Waltz and Surround Me With Love. Are
they also Hawaiian standards?
Kay Das: Yes, Jerry Lordan and wife Petrina knew how to write
a good song or two! I performed A Place in the Sun with
a bit of a bossa nova beat. Maui Waltz and Surround
Me With Love are both much loved Hawaiian standards. I first
heard the latter on KCCN radio during my first visit to Hawaii, and
the magic still remains. Wonderful tune, wonderful lyrics.
mwe3: The following three instrumentals you say were influenced
by Hank Marvin, including the all time classic James Bond song You
Only Live Twice, which Hank did later cover on his Marvin
At The Movies CD. Funny, I was just thinking about John Barry
yesterday. And I couldnt believe he lived and died in Oyster
Bay. I lived a half hour drive from him and yet I never met him! Life
goes too fast right? How about combining that dose of Barry-esque
spy music nostalgia via Hank with the Enya song Amarantine
and Carillon as well? You dedicated that to Paul Morley.
Can you shed some light on Carillon?
Das: Wow! So near to John Barry, one of my favorites, and yet
so far! I thought those three tunes complemented each other in the
middle of the album. I have always admired Enyas music and the
way she makes the human voice a musical instrument. Amarantine
had Gaelic influences, so I was careful to not make it sound too Hawaiian,
or even too Shadows.
Carillon was first recorded by Sky, a fusion group from
the 1970s/80s which featured Australian classical guitarist
John Williams. A carillon consists of an arrangement of
bells with unusual harmonic characteristics with prominence of the
minor third. Just about the time I was recording this, I got news
that Paul Morley, an old colleague of mine in the UK whom I had known
for many years, had passed away unexpectedly and it seemed appropriate
to dedicate this rendition to his memory.
mwe3: How about tracks 13, 14 and 15? Where did you find the
track I Am Hawaii? Do you have some more info on that
song? Also I didnt realize the full episodes of Adventures
In Paradise are on You Tube. I had no idea that show existed!
And whats the James Michener connection? Also To You Sweetheart,
Aloha is really from 1935? Wow it must have been one of the
first steel tracks. From Billy Vaughns Orchestra by Harry Owens.
How did you find that song?
Das: I arranged I Am Hawaii starting with Elmer Bernsteins
original score. He had written it for the 1966 film "Hawaii",
based on the novel of the same name by James Michener who also had
a hand in the creation of Adventures in Paradise. This
tune is popular with Shadows enthusiasts and several versions exist
on web sites. It was first recorded by an Australian group, The Atlantics.
The TV series seems to have been very popular in the US, but that
was before I came to this country.
To You Sweetheart, Aloha is one of the most popular tunes
in the circles I frequent here in Southern California. I had just
returned from Waikiki last year where I met a talented group of musicians
and spent many hours jamming at the beach. One tune that kept coming
back was this Harry Owens 1935 hit. Billy Vaughn recorded an instrumental
LP with Hawaiian music in the early 60s, one of my very favorite albums.
I loved the way the twin saxophones harmonized with a steel guitar.
By the way, I have found that saxophone and steel guitar timbres combine
maybe a future new genre
The last three tracks lead us back from Maui to London and a mid period
early Beatles song, the Lennon-esque Girl. I am surprised
to hear an instrumental on Girl. It must be a first. Then
back to the Shadows for Chu Chi. I forgot who wrote Chu
Chi. And then of course back to the Shadows in the 1980s and
another song they came to be known for The Power Of Love.
Do you think youd ever consider cover some of the Shadows originals
of the 1980s? Certainly seems like their lesser known tracks fro that
period art so overlooked. Could they become tomorrows standards?
(Guardian Angel, Life In The Jungle, Look
Back On Love, etc)
Kay Das: I have always loved John Lennons Girl,
had thought about a steel version since long seemed a tune written
for a steel guitar! Chu Chi is credited to Marvin, Welch,
Bennett... and the late John Rostill. Yes, there are a host of Shadows,
and Hank Marvin, tunes recorded in the 1980s that could sit
well on a steel guitar version. One of these days...
mwe3: So, what other plans do you have for 2014 and beyond?
Do you have some ideas on your next musical directions? How do you
plan to keep coming up with fresh musical ideas to keep moving forward?
Are there any other new developments on the music and/or gear side
of life coming up for you?
Kay Das: Rob, I constantly strive for new material that would
sit well on a steel guitar. So many tunes, so little time! Maybe that
Italian album compilation next? There are also new directions in releasing
single tracks rather than albums.
would like to write more originals, though I do love making fresh
interpretations as covers. I am currently pretty set on my instruments
and gear. The steel guitar I play most frequently in recordings is
a custom Steel-o-caster, fashioned like a Stratocaster
and I am pretty much a Fender fan when it comes to amplifiers. I often
use an Alesis Quadraverb GT with some custom patches into the mixing
board. I am a bit of a minimalist in the usage of gear. I hear from
my audiences that I have a distinct sound. I am pleased with it and
have no current intention to change.
Thanks to Kay Das @ www.KayDas.me