mercredi 14 septembre 2016

"The guitar solo in Dokken's In My Dreams pretty much changed my life."

Kevin Hufnagel

When I listened to Dysrhythmia for the first time (around 2003), their music made quite an impact on me: this wasn't completely metal (although released on Relapse) but also quite different from all those post-Don Caballero bands. I've always followed the band and discovered years later Kevin's solo music, from the heavily processed guitar to solo baritone ukulele compositions. Kevin's ability to surprise with new and fresh approaches to music just seems endless. 
Dysrhythmia is about to release their new album "The Veil of Control" on Profound Lore Records. He's also a member of Sabbath Assembly. 
Needless to say it is a huge honour to have him on this blog!

So, Kevin, to begin let's go in the past: how old where you when you started to play, and what made you want to pick up the instrument? What kind of memories do you keep from that period?

I first picked up a guitar around age 9 or 10. My mother played and had one laying around the house. I'd just strum and bang on it randomly. Around that time I was getting into heavy metal music, and this was in the mid-80's. I decided to ask for an electric guitar for Christmas after seeing Dokken's "In My Dreams" video on MTV one day. The guitar solo in that song pretty much changed my life. At age 12 I received my first guitar (a Series 10), as well as a small practice amp (wish I still had it and could remember the brand!) and my mom immediately signed me up for lessons. I learned how to read music from those old Mel Bay books, and "House of the Rising Sun" was the first song I was ever taught. I remember buying a Boss delay pedal, and using Fast Fret on my strings, thinking it would make me sound and play faster. At one point early on I would trick kids in my neighborhood by playing them a blank tape with just the solo instrumental guitar break in Led Zepplin's "Heartbreaker" and tell them that it was me jamming in my bedroom. I also remember the thrill of running around the living room with a guitar strapped to me, jumping off the couches to Iron Maiden records when my parents weren't around.

From then until today, can you identify some important steps that led you where you're now?

I had a guitar teacher throughout most of high school named Steve Attix. He dabbled in many different styles of music and would frequently mix up our lessons, focusing on everything from jazz, blues, classical to metal. I was open to it all. Another big step during that time was meeting guitarist Christopher Ladd in high school, who was a few years older then me and more advanced. We started a band together and I learned a lot at a rapid pace playing and writing music with him. Meeting original Dysrhythmia bassist Clayton Ingerson in high school also made a big impression on me, musically. We started a short lived instrumental project called Grey Division Blue. Years later we started Dysrhythmia together. Playing music with Colin Marston, first with Byla and then in Dysrhythmia, and working with a monster drummer like Jeff Eber would certainly count as important steps... as would joining Gorguts and working with Luc Lumay. Every band and person I've played music with for an extended period of time has effected my playing in a positive way. I'm very fortunate in that respect. 

As Gorguts is one of my favorite bands, I'd be really curious to know how Luc and you are working together. I've always seen Luc as truly unique and as someone with his own way to write music, fed by classical harmony. I just can't imagine your music comes from jamming in the rehearsal room. Am I wrong?
You are correct. For most of the material Luc will write a song beginning to end himself, then send me an mp3 of it with a click track running throughout, and even tablature for his parts, so I can see what he's playing. Then I listen over it a few times and start writing my own independent guitar parts over his. On the 'Colored Sands' album I contributed the track "Absconders" and we reversed roles with me sending him my parts and him writing his own to mine. We work very smoothly together.

Gorguts and Dysrhythmia are the most well-known bands you are involved with. Tell me about the others projects; what about Vaura?

Vaura started in early 2010 when I met singer/guitarist Joshua Strawn at a show in NYC. We began talking about music and were struck by the similarities in our musical upbringings and eclectic tastes. He mentioned he had some demos and was looking for a guitarist to play on them. At the time I felt my plate was full with other commitments but I listened to the tracks anyway. I enjoyed the material so much I wanted to form a band with him. Soon after we secured drummer Charlie Schmid and bassist Toby Driver (Kayo Dot), who I had known for years and always wanted to collaborate with. For Toby and I, coming from bands that were more known for being complex or "difficult" at times, we saw Vaura as a vehicle to indulge our more "song-oriented" impulses. Still with touches of experimentation but not to the extent of our other projects. Josh was coming from an opposite angle having just left a band that was more pop-oriented in structure and wanting to do something more intense and experimental. The combination of those elements and that push and pull is what gives Vaura it's sound.

You have developed this wonderful baritone ukulele repertoire. Can you say something about this and about your solo music in general? It's pretty obvious that you have many very different musical desires.

I bought a baritone ukulele originally just to have something easy to travel with. There were no plans to write music for it until a few years later. The limitations of the instrument were inspiring in a way and made me write in a simpler manner. I released my first solo recording in 1997. It was a 3 song cassette called 'While I Wait'. I had started demoing a follow up afterwards (these demos were later released on bandcamp as 'From the 23rd Floor' and never recorded properly) but soon after I started Dysrhythmia and never worked on any solo material again until 2007. Since then I've been steadily releasing something new every year. Recording at home has made this easier and faster for me as well. My last few releases have been focused on writing a piece, recording it, then deconstructing the guitar parts into a million pieces and rebuilding them into something new through extensive editing and/or manipulating/processing in the computer. It involves a lot of trail and error, happy accidents, and chance. 

I'm always frustrated to have so little information on my favorite players practice habits. This is such an important part of one's evolution. What were/are yours? Here I'd like to go deep in the balance between techniques and creativity, tips, error,...etc. Anything that could come to mind.

I was fairly disciplined growing up, practicing for hours a day and taking lessons continuously from ages 12-21. Throughout those earlier years practice consisted of a number of things; studying theory, reading music, writing chord melodies, improvising, picking exercises, etc. I would also pour over the instructional columns of various guitar magazines, and buy those Hot Licks videos. All those hours alone helped develop my technical abilities, and later on my more creative side. I feel I had a breakthrough in my playing when I started to write music in alternate tunings. When I graduated from music school, I felt really stuck "in the box" on guitar. It some ways the years of training were good in that they helped developed my ear in such a way that I could play and write music in weird tunings without ever really knowing what key I was in (if any!) or notes I was playing most the time. But in other ways the years of training felt limiting, and alternate tunings were a way I could feel more creative again, especially harmonically. That's never left me, but I have come back to playing more these days in standard tuning again, and I feel I can have a more creative approach to it these days after being away from it for so long. Currently when I sit down with a guitar I am mainly either writing new music, or practicing something for an upcoming tour or recording. Every once in a while I'll practice improvising to backing tracks just for fun and because it's something I give my own students to do when I'm teaching them about scales/modes/key signatures, and how to solo.

You mentioned jazz when you talked about your first teacher; and now chord melodies, improvisation and using a backing track in order to use scales/modes/etc. This makes me think immediately of bebop, even if there's no direct link! What is your relation to jazz?

My only relation to jazz is that I studied it in school and will listen to it on occasion but I never set out to be a jazz player. It was just another form of music and guitar playing I was curious about. It seemed more advanced to me harmonically than the metal and classical guitar music I was playing in high school. I wanted to take what I found inspiring from it and incorporate it into everything else I was influenced by.

About practicing, what would be your best advice / warning / things you would insist on ? You said you used some Mel Bay books; are there books or methods you would like to recommend?

For me, in the beginning, practicing was fun. It's not for everybody. I think some people can create great music with the guitar and never really "practice" or go the traditional route of learning guitar. First and foremost, when playing the guitar, you have to have a real passion for it, a curiosity for what can be done with the instrument, and i think most of all a desire to create your own voice with it. If I had to give advice on the best methods of practicing, I would say to always use a metronome. Be sure not to take things faster than you can play them. It's easy to fall into the trap of either getting frustrated because you can't lock in with the click, or to think you're keeping up but actually playing very sloppily. I think it's also good to take lots of short breaks and give your hands a rest for a minute. Things can feel easier when you return to them after doing this. I think the Mel Bay books are fine if you want to learn the basics of learning how to read music. It was what I was taught from and it seemed to work for me. I don't know if I would have the patience now as an older person. I'm glad I started young.

We didn't discuss your gear. It's not something i particularly like BUT I saw you are now using a new guitar made by Marc Chicoine? Am I right?

Yes, I've been wanting to have an electric 12-string with a tremelo bar for awhile. That's not really something you see every day. I was in the process of writing the latest Dysrhythmia record with a cheap Schecter 12-string I bought, but wasn't happy at all with the way it sounded. Marc had built a few custom guitars for Luc (Lemay) and the idea came up for him to build me this dream guitar I had been fantasizing about. I wanted it to be in the style of an SG. I had to have the tremelo unit built separately by a company here in the US called RTO, and Marc built the rest. I'm very happy with it. It sounds excellent on the new Dysrhythmia album. Besides some acoustic overdubs with my Taylor 12-string acoustic, it's the only guitar I used on the whole record.

Last one; this is my guilty pleasure: 1- give me your top ten records 2- what are you listening to nowadays?

Top 10:

1. Voivod 'Nothingface'
2. Fates Warning 'Awaken the Guardian'
3. Sonny Sharrock 'Ask the Ages'
4. Arvo Pärt 'Tabula Rasa' (ECM Records 1984 recording)
5. The Chameleons 'Script of the Bridge'
6. Stina Nordenstam 'Dynamite'
7. Swans 'White Light from the Mouth of Infinity'
8. King Diamond 'Abigail'
9. Bob Theil 'So Far'
10. This Mortal Coil 'Blood'

Current listening:

 1. Troum 'Tjukurrpa' (Part One: Harmonies)
2. Depressive Age 'First Depression'
3. Ralph Towner 'Anthem'
4. Bel Canto 'Birds of Passage'
5. Masayoshi Fujita & Jan Jelinek 'Bird, lake, objects'
6. Scald 'Will of the Gods is Great Power'

Pic (c) Jimmy Hubbard

Dysrhythmia's new album, The Veil of Control, is out September 23 via Profound Lore.

Read More: Dysrhythmia Tear Through 'The Veil of Control' |

Visit Us at Dysrhythmia Tear Through 'The Veil of Control'
Dysrhythmia's new album, The Veil of Control, is out September 23 via Profound Lore.

Read More: Dysrhythmia Tear Through 'The Veil of Control' |

Visit Us at Dysrhythmia Tear Through 'The Veil of Control'
Dysrhythmia's new album, The Veil of Control, is out September 23 via Profound Lore.

Read More: Dysrhythmia Tear Through 'The Veil of Control' |

Visit Us at Dysrhythmia Tear Through 'The Veil of Control'

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