Interview: Ken Burtch

Dan McAvinchey: Ken, who influences you musically, and what led you to pick up the guitar?

Ken Burtch: I think having an open mind and being honest about it really helped to develop my musical tastes, which range from jazz to Pantera and back. I didn't drop an influence when they became unhip and I didn't ignore less obvious influences, such as artists like Alanis Morrisette and Kenny G. I still count Yngwie Malmsteen as an influence. Others would deny that, even though he
had a positive effect on their playing when he shook the guitar world. My fascination with Randy Rhoads, and a friend who was willing to show me Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" started my interest in guitar. After that, I was hooked.

Dan McAvinchey: Tell us about your guitars and recording equipment.

Ken Burtch: I have three Ibanez Universes (MC, PWH, BK) and a 7-string Sabre. One of these typically goes into a Digitech Whammy pedal. From there, into an ADA MP-1, then to a Zoom 9120, through a Rocktron Hush IIc and out an ADA Microtube 100 power amp into a Peavey stereo 2x12 cabinet. My home recording gear consists of mostly Alesis stuff with a Fostex reel to reel. For recording, I use an SM-57 into an ART Tube MP to boost the signal.

Dan McAvinchey: What are you hoping to achieve musically?

Ken Burtch: A more intimate relationship with the songs that I write. On my first CD, I felt I had something to prove. A sort of 'rite of passage' if you will. I planned everything out and practiced 'til I was blue in the face. I've proven that I can wiggle my fingers really fast. Now I'd like to explore different textures and work more with a clean guitar sound.

Dan McAvinchey: What are your most recently completed projects and what are you currently working on?

Ken Burtch: My eponymous debut CD is my most recently completed project. I'm wrapping up involvement in a compilation CD with other guitarists from all over the country, possibly the world. I'm sure we'll involve Guitar Nine, so be on the lookout for that sometime in April of '98.

Dan McAvinchey: How do you go about composing your music?

Ken Burtch: Usually at work. I'll get a melody stuck in my head, then come home and work it out. I'll also take several individual ideas and combine them if they fit together nicely.

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Dan McAvinchey: How much of your recording is done at home?

Ken Burtch: I do all the tracking here in my apartment. Then I drag my reel to reel to a local studio and mix to DAT/CD-R.

Dan McAvinchey: What went into the decision to release an independent record?

Ken Burtch: I can't ever remember deciding to release a CD, it's just something I always dreamed of. I think every musician would like to, deep down. I did it for myself, and I suggest others do the same. Don't put out your first CD and expect to get rich, because it just doesn't happen that way. I went into it knowing that I could absorb the expenses with my day job and may have to give my family CDs as Christmas presents for the next 20 years or so if no
one wants to buy them ;-).

Dan McAvinchey: What do you find to be the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent musician?

Ken Burtch: The big advantage for me is total artistic freedom. Combine that with a home studio, and I can record my artistic freedom anytime of the day or night. The disadvantages are many though. I don't know about other people, but my dream of putting out a CD always ended when the CDs arrived. I loved how it turned out, most of my friends bought one, and I lived happily ever after. I got a serious wake-up call when there were still 800 CDs left laying around in my living room. Getting your CDs back is only the beginning. Now you've got to promote and market them without the contacts and budget of a record label behind you. Instrumentalists have it worse than most because radio stations don't know what to do with your stuff, if anything. Ultimately though, holding my CD in my hands is worth ten times the trouble I went through.

Dan McAvinchey: Can you share any marketing or promotion tips for musicians about to release their first independent record?

Ken Burtch: One more time, for those who didn't read the other interviews: GET ON THE NET! Once you're on there, be honest and keep your integrity intact. But being on the Net isn't enough. It's not like someone in another part of the world wakes up one day and says "Hmm, I think I'll search for Ken Burtch on the Net today..." You need a catalyst. Something that a lot of people will search for, and in turn find out about you as well. I started a website about Ibanez Universes because I love the damn things, and I make sure that everyone who visits my site has a chance to listen to clips from my CD and order it from Guitar Nine. You also need support from friends on the Net as well.

I've found that magazine reviews are worthless, and I'm still new to the advertising game. Of course playing live helps, but only if your town has venues to support it and your schedule allows it. Currently, I'm going to start advertising on the Net and in national guitar magazines. Stay tuned...

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Left coast native Ken Burtch, a guitarist and composer, has recently taken the big step from entering guitar competitions to releasing his own record. Fulfilling a lifelong dream, his eponymous debut CD features five instrumental tracks that combine soaring melodies with a blend of contemporary techniques. Like most independent musicians, Burtch is searching for the best outlets to publicize and promote his new record. Not one to stand still, Burtch is already focusing his efforts on future projects, including a compilation CD targeted for mid-1998.

Dan McAvinchey touched base with Burtch to get this 28-year-old's perspectives after his initial baptism into the independent music industry.