KAY DAS
Hawaiian Shadows
(KD Records)

 

California based guitarist Kay Das continues making excellent albums with the 2014 CD release of Hawaiian Shadows. Issued on Kay’s 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 there’s plenty of classic Hawaiian friendly music here, there’s 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 Barry’s 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. www.KayDas.me



mwe3.com presents an interview with
KAY DAS



mwe3
: What’s 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 Hawaiian twist.

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. That’s 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: What’s 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!

Kay 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 with both.

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 Floyd’s 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.

mwe3: What’s 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 tomorrow’s 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 1970’s.

I think music makes the world go round, crosses religious and national boundaries, and is constantly evolving per John Lennon’s 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...

mwe3: The next three tracks on the CD include “Three Times A Lady” and a pair of Roy Orbison songs. I always thought Orbison’s songs sounded a bit Hawaiian. It’s 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 Orbison’s 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 Lordan’s 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 couldn’t 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”?

Kay 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 Enya’s 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 1970’s/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 didn’t realize the full episodes of “Adventures In Paradise” are on You Tube. I had no idea that show existed! And what’s 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 Vaughn’s Orchestra by Harry Owens. How did you find that song?

Kay Das: I arranged “ I Am Hawaii” starting with Elmer Bernstein’s 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 very well…maybe a future new genre …..who knows!

mwe3: 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 you’d 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 tomorrow’s standards? (“Guardian Angel”, “Life In The Jungle”, “Look Back On Love”, etc)

Kay Das: I have always loved John Lennon’s “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 1980’s 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.

I 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

 

 
   
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