Interview with Dave Kain: The most important thing from an artist’s perspective is to just be honest: Video

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Jazz interview with jazz guitarist Dave Kain. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Dave Kain: – I grew up in Pelham, NY. A suburb about 30 minutes north of NYC. I first got interested in music by a couple friends in my neighborhood. Both played guitar and that was the first time I can think of where music or playing the guitar appealed to me.

JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

DK: – I have been interested and/or involved in a number of styles of music. Not just jazz. I feel “my sound” is a constant work in progress and a result of wherever music has inspired or motivated me. I don’t think I really did anything deliberately to develop it if I even have it. If something interests me in any way musically, I try to use it or develop it in some capacity. One thing I did choose not to do early on was to not delve too far into any one artist. I think the ultimate goal is to find “your” sound. Obviously that sound is usually a collective of all your influences. But I’ve heard many musicians whose influences can be heard so strongly in their playing, it’s hard for me to decipher where their influences stop and they start. I’ve just always wanted to sound like me. Good or bad.

JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

DK: – I don’t really have any set practice routine. Depends on what work I have coming up. I do write a lot so it’s very important for me to maintain that as opposed to making sure my “chops” are up. I do try to keep up on my repertoire daily. So, on any given day, I’ll have a tune I like to play or want to brush up on. I’ll work on playing it in a chord melody format. Then I’ll practice improvising over it in time with either a metronome, a backing track or just unaccompanied. Life gets very busy and it’s hard for me to maintain any consistent routine. The most important thing for me is to at least pick up the instrument every day. Even that is not always possible unfortunately. As frustrating as that can be, it also makes the time I have with the instrument that much more enjoyable and cherished. Like many, I use to practice for hours and hours. I think in my younger years it was more about keeping up on my technique and abilities. As I get older, I’m confident I can play. Maybe not as technically proficient as I used to be or want to be but my ability to make music will always be there.

JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

DK: – I just try to keep a relaxed mind set. Usually when it comes time to perform, that’s where my focus is and there’s very little that can distract that. It’s one of the greatest things about performing music. It gets my entire focus and very rarely can anything come into play to interrupt that. It’s a total escape.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2020: <Once Again>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

DK: – I knew exactly what I wanted to play and with who for almost five years. I had the album completely envisioned for a while and when the timing was right, I followed through. I feel like my previous efforts were a little rushed. I would write some music. Play some gigs with that music, record and move on. With this one, I really sat with the material for a much longer time than I did before which allowed me more time to envision each tune completely. So, when it came time to record, I knew I would have very little to regret. I think after you record, there’s always things you wish you did differently or maybe a part, an intro or an ending you added. Those feelings are minimal for me on this recording.

Dave Kain - Once Again - KKBOX

JBN: – Ism is culled from a variety of lives dates with various performers over the course of a few years. Did your sound evolve during that time? And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?

DK: – I had been playing with Ronen Itzik and Peter Brendler for a few years pretty regularly before I left music full time. I had previously recorded with Jon Cowherd on one of my older recordings. I knew the three of them were the people to record this music with as soon as the music was written. They’re all incredible musicians I greatly admire and people whose company I really enjoy. It’s not always just about one’s musical abilities. At least for me. It’s important to surround yourself with people who are simply positive and inspiring people. I find that in all of them. Even Peter!!!

JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

DK: – I think it’s all relevant. I definitely like the intellectually stimulating side of music but I also connect and really enjoy the soulful and romantic side as well. I think the most important thing from an artist’s perspective is to just be honest. Do what you do and showcase your strengths but don’t be afraid to tackle what shows your weaknesses.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

DK: – Again, I think it’s all relevant. Music is something that should be shared. I think there’s a responsibility for both. Artists should keep a listener in mind and a listener should be willing to trust and give an artists work a chance.

JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

DK: – I had to follow a very well known jazz musician at a jazz club in Philadelphia with my group. The headlining act was having a great gig with a very enthusiastic audience. Even though it was all jazz, it was very different from the set I had prepared for the gig. When I noticed how well the audience was responding to the headliner, I started panicking a little back stage thinking that my set would not be very well received. I started changing the set list to what I thought would be more appropriate. I was having trouble trying to figure out what to do and then I had a moment of clarity. I can’t be what I’m not. I couldn’t go out and try to mimic what the headlining act was doing because I wasn’t the headlining act. I had to go out and do what I do. I had to be honest. I wound up playing the set I had originally prepared. Turned out to be one of the best gigs I’ve ever had and certainly a memorable one. I think of that gig anytime I have a little anxiety or nervousness before a gig. I rarely have had that anxiety since because of the lesson I learned that night. You’re never going to be wrong when you’re honest with yourself and just play the best you can.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

DK: – I think you have to write. I can’t stress that enough. I don’t see how you can grow as a musician and build an audience if you’re not bringing new and original compositions to the table. I also think a lot of jazz musicians have to be more open to new music. There are a lot of jazz musicians who seem to not have any interest in anything other than more interpretations of the usual standard jazz repertoire. Knowing that repertoire will always be important but to take the music somewhere, you have to at least be open to exploring new terrain in my opinion.

JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

DK: – That’s a pretty deep question probably best answered by somebody besides me. But I will say there is more to my life than music. Music is the strongest but there are other passions I have. Good food. Family. Etc. I love hearing other people with other passions speak passionately about the things they really enjoy in their lives. I don’t care what it is. If someone has a love for something I’m unfamiliar with, I love to hear them speak about it. I can often relate it to music. I can often learn something from it and maybe incorporate it into something musically. People are creative in many ways outside of music and I want to hear about it all.

JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

DK: – That’s an interesting question given the current pandemic we’re all going through. So right now I’d have to say I wish there were gigs! ANY gigs! In all seriousness though. I’d have to say that I wish there was more of an appreciation for the value of music in general. Not just jazz. It’s unfortunate that so many think music should basically be free. This time of streaming has really hurt the value people put on music.

JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

DK: – I still listen to John Abercrombie and Bill Evans almost daily. I have also been listening to a lot of more fusion or rock like guitar players. Scott Henderson. Matt Schofield. John McLaughlin. Even some country guitar players like Brent Mason and Johnny Hiland. Actually, just guitar players in general. I’ve spent so many years trying to really play jazz. Not just jazz guitar. A wise teacher once reminded me that jazz wasn’t started on the guitar.  So a lot of my listening wasn’t focused around guitar players. I’ve made a real effort lately to find guitar players I like in and outside of the jazz realm. I’ve just really been embracing my instrument lately and it’s become a really inspiring and motivated phase for my development. At least in my opinion. It always odd to me hearing jazz guitarists say they don’t really listen to guitarists. It’s an incredible instrument that’s capable of so many things and I love hearing what other guitarists can do with it.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

DK: – I hope it’s something positive and inspires others to create.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

DK: – Any time when Bill Evans was alive and out playing. I really wish I could’ve gotten to see him play live. Coltrane too! And Hendrix!!!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

 

Dave Kain” by Dave Kain - Jazz Photo

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