THE INTERVIEW

The Interview with Kevin was conducted by Matt Crowner from Unsung Hero. Unsung Hero was a monthly publication for musicians that later became an online web magazine that featured Shake when the CD was originally released.



Recipe for Serious Jam

Ingredients:

1 Part Guitar

1 Part Bass

1 Part Drums

Directions

Combine with Serious Chops

Mix well

Let simmer and stew

The Result

Shake. The band.


Homepage excerpt from Unsung Hero Webpage


Kenny Ruyter (Natural Distance), Kevin Burnes (Ragdoll), and Patrick Recob (Gary Primich, Lee McBee) have combined forces to create Shake. This instrumental group, with a taste for improvisation, combines monster individual chops with a down-to business sensibility making you want to intellectualize their music while you shake your butt. My first thought on hearing their music was that Shake manage to walk all over the conventional lines drawn when defining musical genres. Is Shake jazz, rock, fusion, or jamband? Why do we need to place a band into a genre anyway? And how does Dokken tie into all this? To answer this question and to get a better handle on the group as a whole, Unsung Hero recently got the chance to sit down and chat with Kevin Burnes about Shake, their sound, their new CD entitled Shake, and music in general.

UH: You all come from what seems as different backgrounds as related to the bands you played in prior to Shake (i.e.. Ragdoll / Natural Distance/ etc.) Give us a real quick overview of how you got together?

KB: Basically Kenny and I teach music lessons at the same store. Kenny and I both had conversations about getting together for a while and when we finally did things just seemed to click. Initially it was just Drums and Guitar for about a year and a half or so. While we were looking for bass players I think that we were trying to find ourselves and what it was that we wanted to say musically. I think that we both came to the conclusion of keeping freedom in our music...improvisation. Some of the best shows that I can remember going to were ones when the band was playing a song and went off into uncharted improv territory. It was the first time that the band had ever played what they were playing and it was the first time that the audience was hearing what was being played. Everyone was experiencing this thing for the first time together. It does not get much more intimate than that.

UH: How does your prior band experiences reflect on the sound of Shake? Or more specifically, is Shake an offshoot of the direction these bands were headed in? It almost seems to be a different format altogether. Is this intentional or happenstance?

KB: I have always had a strong need to say what I need to say musically. I think that most of my previous bands were there to help me find my voice. I think they were growing experiences then anything else. They all had a purpose of pushing me forward to be what I am now. In 1996 I sent an audition tape out to California to a band called DOKKEN. I got the audition and flew out there to be their new guitar player replacing George Lynch. We were scheduled to do a full-length CD and a 16 month tour. Everything looked great. It was a highlight in my musical career. Shortly after my arrival Sony Music began talks with the band about doing a reunion with all 4 original members and began offering more money for the project. Needless to say more time out there was growing short and the good experience was turning sour quickly. I remember saying to myself on the plane ride home that if I am to play guitar while confined to my room far the rest of my life than I will accept that as my calling. But I will not play another note unless it is saying something that I want to say. Shake is the summation of all of that.

UH: Describe Shake's sound in your own words to someone unfamiliar with the band?

KB: I think the best description that I have heard was something like imagine what would happen if Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsy's ran into John Coltrane and made music together.

UH: Do you mind being categorized as ....let's say..."jazz" or "instrumental rock"...or "jamband" - do any of these labels fit you in your own view?

KB: The CD is very eclectic. It is hard to put a label on it. "Jazz" or "Jamband" or "Instrumental" are all good labels but I feel that it says more than that. It is a very spiritual creation. It is alive to me.

UH: You guys have a background teaching music/guitar/drums? How has that affected your approach to playing music, particularly the improvisational aspect of your live performances.

KB: I think that teaching has always kept me hungry to push myself and my playing into realms that I have not yet been to. Knowledge is one thing but to take it and produce music eventually leads to freedom of the soul of expression.

UH: How about the writing process - how do you as a band approach new material? Do you write out charts, or is it developed out of jams at practice or maybe a mix of both? Is it a formal process for one of you, or do all of you contribute to the songwriting process?

KB: I think that writing is a combination of all of those things. It is a divine intervention of sorts. I have had many ideas that I brought into our rehearsal that then became something. I think that a lot of our material was produced from jam sessions that we went back to later and decided to develop further.

UH: Are you thinking about the improvisation sections of the songs when writing them, or does this come later in the process, I mean how do you structure the improvisational parts of the songs - are you playing across changes ala "Bop" era jazz tunes, or is it modal, or free? The reason I ask is it seems different tunes of yours seem to utilize different styles. "Wood" comes to mind as somewhat of a "looser" approach - where "Stride" is a little more standard in its approach.

KB: It is a wide variety of styles. I think that most of my improvisational approach is more modal than anything. "Wood" has very much a late Coltrane vibe to it. It is a series of melodic ideas that continue to circulate around one another and each time they get developed a little further. It is a bit dissonant but it was a very freeing song to produce. "Stride" is very different. The chord structure is very simple but it allows a bit more modal interplay and the song structure and melody are a little more cohesive. The improv that we do really tends to be similar to the styles of Miles and Coltrane. Coltrane was famous for taking a simplistic idea in the bass line and chord progression and really developing it with his soloing.

UH: The last question leads me to a specific comment about Kenny's style. Kenny seems to have a very light touch that seems to sort of bubble around. It almost seems like to have a melody line going along in his playing?

KB: It is interesting that you say that because I have always told Kenny that he is the first drummer that I have played with that plays the drums like a harmonic instrument.

UH: On to the Album specifically. Sonically speaking, great sound all the way around. Did you guys track it at Eastcoastbands?

KB: Everything was done at ECB.

UH: How did you hook up with Frank Marchand to mix it?

KB: Frank and I go back to 1991. He was the sound guy and studio guy for the band that I joined in on at the time. I looked so forward to have something one day to bring to him that I was proud of and I am so grateful that he decided to be a part of the Shake CD.

UH: How about all the guests - what a line-up of guest musicians (The Almighty Senators, etc.)! The thing I really like is the guest parts work with the songs - its not like you just throw them in the mix to have them there. Tell me a little bit about how you connected with all these great players and got them to sit in?

KB: They were all hand picked. Kenny had met the All Mighty Senator guys when he was playing in his last project. We thought that it would be a great idea to get them to come out and sit in and see what happened. A few of the guys were people that we knew from teaching over the years and the rest were guys that we had seen play at a show and knew that we needed them to interact with our music.

UH: Describe your relationship with Homegrown Music (A grassroots jamband distribution network - http://www.homegrownmusic.net/). How did you come to hook up with Homegrown - has it helped you all?

KB: Kenny and I have been talking with them for a while. They really dug the CD and the more we talked the more we just seemed to fit in with their line up. I am very thankful that they have brought us in to their family. I look forward to things to come.

UH: What can someone expect at one of your live shows? Lots of improv?

KB: Improv is definitely a reasonable expectation to have at one of our shows. I think that it is something I would like to develop further. The songs that we play are close to the CD versions with improv sections through out. I would like to take things a little further though. Our shows have a very intimate vibe.

UH: How do you pick tunes to cover - for example: A Love Supreme - what a tune - how do you begin to approach a song like that? I love it because it leaves so much room for the musician to wind it out - is that what you look for in a tune to cover?

KB: Freedom is something that I look for in a tune and a strong spiritual element. You can't get much better than "A Love Supreme". I am an avid Coltrane fanatic so there is no wrong anywhere in his music. Beyond that I think that the cover tunes should be just as original as the bands music.

UH: How about your funkier tunes - are these a conscious effort to wind the live crowd up a bit - or is it that it's so damn fun to play!?

KB: Yes. We wanted a few tunes that were a bit more tangible and they are fun to play. "Squash" is a fun song. It has a cool beat and a kind of Southern Twang to it. "Tumbleweed" is another that is a great song on the CD. It is a song that seemed to be around the whole time that we were getting things together. I think that every Bass player that we had come out played that song-hence the name "Tumbleweed".

UH: What music are you listening to these days?

KB: Coltane, MMW, Zappa and some guitar stuff to get my fix. Some Bartok and Stravinsky are always in my collection of listening as well.

UH: And finally Word Association time - first thing that comes to mind:

UH: Shake:

KB: Milk and ice cream

UH: Top 4 Guitar Players:

KB: Andres Segovia, Jimi Hendrix, Stave Vai and Joe Satriani the list could go on...

UH: Top 3 Bass Players:

KB: Jimmy Garrison, Noel Redding, Stu Hamm

UH: Top 3 Drummers:

KB: Elvin Jones, Mitch Mitchell, Kenny Ruyter

UH: Top 3 Albums of All time:

KB: John Coltrane: A Love Supreme, Frank Zappa: London Symphony, Joe Satriani: Not of this Earth

UH: Desert Island Album (Pick 1)!:

KB: A Love Supreme

UH: Best Tone:

KB: Steve Vai: Tender Surrender, Jimi Hendrix: anything off of Band of Gypsys and his instrumental version of Born Under A Bad Sign, Joe Satriani: Memories, Rubina and Cool #9

UH: Favorite Food:

KB: Indian any day of the week

UH: Favorite Movie:

KB: Amadeus, Cast Away, Joe Versus the Volcano and L.A. Story

UH: First Concert You went to!:

KB: KISS at the Capitol Center some time in the mid to late 70's. I was about 7 years old. It was so loud that my Father and I had to scream to one another to hear each other speak while on the ride home. I have never been to a louder concert to this day.

UH: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us!

KB: Thank you!



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