Interview: Allen Kave

Dan McAvinchey: Allen, let's talk first about the new CD. When you first started getting tracks together for "Thursday Night Laundry Club", what were your objectives?

Allen Kave: Initially Doug Spickler (drums), Denny Reed (keyboards), and I got together on Thursdays just to jam and have some fun. So, our objective was just to reconnect with each other and find some music that we enjoyed playing together. The last time we'd worked together was back in the '80s.We started playing with no intention of putting out a CD. However, we started recording material from the beginning because we rehearse in a recording studio. At first I didn't pay very much attention to the recording itself, because I was more concerned with what we played. After listening to some different tunes, there seemed to be some interesting material. We actually picked out Track 1, "Gentle", and Track 4, "Delicate", first. We thought those two tracks were smooth sounding. After mixing those tracks, I brought up the idea of releasing a CD of all instrumental material. As the recordings progressed we picked the tracks that we thought would be interesting to an audience with repeated listening.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you have any personal favorites among the tracks on the CD?

Allen Kave: My favorite track is "Cool Down", which is track 6. I like it the best because I hear some real emotion in some of the notes. Getting emotion to come out in your playing is the hardest thing to do, but it is the most rewarding thing that can happen when you play. I think that some of the jazzier sounding tunes are my favorites too. I wouldn't pretend to be a jazz player, but from an improvisational point of view, that's the style that fits what we're trying to accomplish. For a more rock tone I like Track 3, "Spin Cycle", especially the section at the end where I went from melody and soloing to chords.

Dan McAvinchey: Tell us a little bit about the guitars, effects and amplification you use to get your sound.

Allen Kave: Well, as I mentioned earlier, we rehearse in my studio, so I have lots of amps, guitars, and effects for myself and clients. I sometimes think I used the studio as an excuse to build up my personal collection of guitar equipment. Currently I'm using a Callaham T-style guitar with Frailin pickups. I'm playing it through a Rivera Quiana 55 W, 2-12 combo. My pedalboard consists of an Ernie Ball volume pedal, line 6 DL4 delay, H2O chorus/delay, Fulltone Deluxe Wah, Fulltone Full-Drive 2, Fulltone Distortion Pro, and a Tonebone Classic. The last three pedals are distortion or overdrive pedals. I decided a couple of years ago to put a pedalboard together that I would love. This one does the trick for me. Also, I believe the tone actually comes from the player. I just tried to refine what I was hearing in my head. The amp is very responsive and seems to fit my style very well. Once I found the Rivera, then I just complimented it with the pedals. I have Boogies, Peaveys, Reverends, a Genz Benz, and I also have a Pod Pro and Sans Amp that I use for direct recording. However, the Callaham played through the Rivera is the amp/guitar combination that was used on the A.D.D. "Thursday Night Laundry Club" CD.

Dan McAvinchey: How often are you able to showcase the tunes in a live setting?

Allen Kave: Unfortunately, we haven't been able to play these tunes in public yet. We are talking about doing a few dates soon. The area where we live doesn't have a lot of venues where this material would be accepted. Again, we hope to do some dates soon and they'll be posted on my web site.

Dan McAvinchey: How long have you been into jazz and fusion?

Allen Kave: I've been listening to jazz and fusion for a long time. I liked the original Return To Forever band, the Yellow Jackets, Jean Luc Ponty, and many older bands from the 70's that were playing fusion when it was brand new. Straight jazz is always interesting and challenging because the musicianship is so high. I like John Coltrane, Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, Pat Metheny, and Mike Stern. There are really too many players to mention without leaving someone out. I remember reading an article in Guitar Player magazine years ago about Pat Martino which included a glimpse into his style. I learned an exercise from that article that I still use to warm up. I love to read about these musicians mostly because they are so intense about music and that's something I relate to on a daily basis. I like Robben Ford because he's able to play straight blues and move to fusion with authority. He is also a sax player and that seems to have influenced his note choices.

Dan McAvinchey: How did you first get started in music and guitar playing?

Allen Kave: My mother was a piano and trumpet player. She'd had a few lessons on the piano and was asked to play piano and organ in the church. She was a huge inspiration and influence. She was the first person I saw play a musical instrument up close. Also, once I started playing the guitar, I could ask her questions about music. It was very cool to have your mother help you with your instrument. A friend of my older brother was playing in a Top 40 band and he was the first guitar player I knew. He had a chord sheet that listed most of the typical chords. He gave it to me and told me to learn the first three columns on the sheet, and that was all I'd ever need to know. Oh, I sometimes still wish that statement had been true. I played in rock bands in high school and college. After college I took some classical lessons for a little while. My teacher was the musical director for a church. He was a great reader, but knew nothing about popular music. He had me play with my thumb when picking. This technique helped me gain independence when running bass notes with my thumb, and picking melodies with my fingers. I really enjoy playing acoustic guitar using this method because the guitar sounds huge, and more like a piano.

I played in lots of local rock bands and eventually hooked up with some guys that were writing and recording their own material. I was added as the second guitar player. That was a great experience. In the late 80's we made a record with John Palumbo of "Crack The Sky" fame as the producer. Watching John work in the studio was amazing to me. Having the opportunity to see someone help arrange your own songs and make them better was very educational. That experience not only motivated me to start my own studio, but gave me real insight into what it took to be a good recording guitar player. I'll never be able to repay that debt to John, except to give him credit when the opportunity comes up. Of course lots of guitar players and bands influenced me. The Allman Brothers Band guitar players; Duane Allman, Dickie Betts, and Warren Haynes have always been a big influence. I also was influenced by Santana, Robben Ford, and by a good friend of mine, Phil Zuckerman.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you find your current work to be more or less creatively satisfying than some of the things you have done previously?

Allen Kave: The work I'm doing with A.D.D. is the most creatively satisfying work of my career. The material I've done in the past has been written out in advance and sometimes contrived to sound like something or someone else. I guess that happens when a player is forced or for economic reasons decides to play cover material for a long time. The material for A.D.D. is composed and played on the spot. We later pick what we think are the most interesting pieces and they are used on the CD. This project is the most musically challenging and interesting. The key to making this happen is to have players that are committed, and like to have fun at the same time. We also don't take ourselves too seriously. We just take the music seriously. We have great discussions about politics, music theory, family, work, and equipment, but when the music starts we seem to become more than friends and the combination becomes greater than the parts. It just happens! It is so much fun to record this way because the playing seems to flow better. We use no headphones, baffles, and we don't talk about what we're going to do in advance. I would recommend this approach to any guitar player. If you find the people willing to take these kinds of musical chances, lock the door and don't let them out.

Dan McAvinchey: How are you approaching marketing, publicity and promotion for your new CD?

Allen Kave: When I decided that the music was worthy of putting out, I sat down and made a long range plan for three CDs worth of material. First of all, I don't have any connections with any major record labels. I am a member and long time supporter of Taxi, the songwriting placement service located in California. Other than that, I have no connections. I have had some material held by other publishers and had a song recorded by a mid-level R&B artist, Elvin Spencer. None of those experiences really helped too much on this CD, because the music business is a different world today.

I, along with the band decided to have the CD manufactured rather than doing it in house. I used Oasis Manufacturing because they had some promotional ideas involving the internet and compilation CDs that I wanted to use. I knew I'd have to have a website that was capable of directing potential buyers to Guitar Nine and other distributors. I went through Broadjam to set up the web site because I was already using them to send material to Taxi online. I read everything I could about setting up web sites and promoting online and in stores. Since the band wasn't playing when the CD was released, I used an old mailing list from one of my former bands. Word of mouth locally seems to be working. My philosophy is to try as many promotional ideas as possible. For example, the band is donating a percentage of each CD sold to the VH1 Save the Music Foundation. We looked around and thought that supporting the music was the best way for us to give back a little something. It makes good sense to support what we love, plus it gives the CD some publicity, and helps younger players throughout the country. I try to do something positive every day to promote the CD. It could be giving a CD to someone who is interested, hoping they enjoy the music and pass the word to their friends. It could mean doing an interview such as this one.

I look at this CD as the first one from this band. Everything that we learn will be used on the next ones. Promotion is tough, time consuming, and satisfying all at the same time. It is work that is never done, so it's like continuing to learn to play the guitar. It's very cool when you find something new.

Dan McAvinchey: Have you heard any new guitarists that have really caught your ear in the past couple of years?

Allen Kave: I love the blues, so there are a few amazing guitarists that come to mind. These guys aren't really new but they don't get the publicity that a lot of players get. Walter Trout is a great performer and has lots of great CDs and DVDs out. One of the most amazing guitarists to see live is Sonny Landreth, the slide guitarist from Louisiana. He incredible, in that he's able to sing, play slide in counterpoint and keeps it all in tune.

interview pic

Dan McAvinchey: How do you feel about the current crop of guitar-oriented magazines and how they are currently covering instrumental music?

Allen Kave: I have been a long time reader of Guitar Player. I still like the balance of interviews, equipment, and instructional articles that they present each month. I don't think any of the magazines do a great job covering instrumental music. When music is difficult to put in a category, which applies to lots of instrumental CDs, the press has trouble covering it. These magazines are in business to make money and since instrumental guitar music isn't a big seller, it gets short changed quite often. As a matter of fact, finding the Guitar Nine website was a revelation to me. I didn't realize there were so many musicians doing instrumental music. Jazz Improv is a great magazine for reading interviews because they do very in depth interviews, and seem get to the core of each performer's thoughts about their music. That is where the good stuff lives!

Dan McAvinchey: Other than guitar-oriented music, what kind of music do you like to listen to?

Allen Kave: I listen to jazz records from Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and also some Jimmy Smith on Hammond Organ is nice. I really love any music that has great piano playing too. I use those choices as breaks from listening to guitar music.

Dan McAvinchey: Are there other guitar styles you'd like to explore on future recordings?

Allen Kave: As I mentioned earlier, the A.D.D material is pretty wide open and I'm sure we'll do at least two more CDs of the same sort of material. As a matter of fact we have enough material for at least two more right now. I would like to get a little deeper into the jazzier side of instrumental music at some point. Along those lines, I've been getting together with Rick Whitehead who used to play with the Airmen of Note (Air Force Jazz Band) and is currently teaching, and playing with Danny Gatton's old rhythm section. Not only is Rick a great guitar player, he's an incredibly nice person. I'm hoping some straight ahead jazz instruction will help me explore some new areas on the guitar. I am exposed to most styles of guitar because of the studio. Either someone is recording something that requires me to step back to my Top 40 days, or I have to do my best to emulate a country sound for a client. Of course my heart lies in the A.D.D material, because it is me playing like me and not trying to copy anyone else. I would like to experiment with some different sounds on future recordings. However, like I mentioned before the player determines the sound, so I'm sure the phrasing and melodies would give me away no matter what equipment I used.

interview picture
A regular jam session every Thursday among like-minded musicians can lead to bigger and better things. Just ask Allen Kave. The guitarist has recently parlayed a shared love of fusion with his band mates into a recently released CD, entitled, appropriately enough, "Thursday Night Laundry Club".

Dan McAvinchey hooked up with Kave to talk about his jazz/fusion leanings and his promotional plans for his new project.