by Doug Moore
Kevin Hufnagel with Gorguts @ Irving Plaza, June '12 (more by Justina Villanueva)
It's pretty unusual that a metal guitarist deigns to pick up a ukulele, but Kevin Hufnagel of Dysrhythmia, Vaura, and Gorguts does so on a pretty regular basis. Hufnagel has been playing live solo gigs on baritone uke for a couple of years now; not to be outdone by his similarly prolific Dysrhythmia/Gorguts bandmate Colin Marston, he's compiled a bunch of his uke material into an album called Ashland. And unlike some ukulele-based albums, it's actually pretty awesome.
We're streaming all of Ashland over at Invisible Oranges this morning, along with an interview with the man himself. From the interview:
You've been playing solo gigs with the uke for a couple of years now, and versions of these compositions have been popping up on your Youtube account for about as long. When did you start writing these and how long did the compositional process take you?Ashland is out digitally today (10/8) via Nightfloat Recordings; a vinyl version will drop some time in early 2014 via The Crossing. Check out Hufnagel's Bandcamp for access to both.
I began writing material in April 2011. The album features 13 tracks, but at this point I have 25 songs! So it was hard to choose what to use for the record. The compositional process happened very quickly, honestly. Most of the songs are in the 2 to 3 minute range. They are more like miniatures. A melody would appear and I would usually only write about 2 or 3 additional sections to the song. From there I'd add little twists to the melodies when they would repeat, and subtle embellishments. There is something about working with limitations that can inspire and make for more productivity sometimes. That's the way I felt when writing for this instrument. Having small frets and only 4 strings really forced me to try and draw the most out of very little, while keeping it engaging. Sometimes I would further limit my options by placing a capo at the 4th, or 7th fret, in turn having even fewer frets to work with. I really enjoyed the challenge.
On several of Ashland's tracks, you place a wooden file under the ukulele's strings to change its tone and create a percussive sound. How'd you come up with that idea?
That's nothing I thought of myself. Plenty of other players have used that technique throughout time -- people like Fred Frith, and bands like Sonic Youth. I also use a hair elastic and sewing needle in the strings for certain tracks on the album. The idea of "preparing" instruments like that was most noticeably born from John Cage and his use of prepared piano, beginning in the 1930s. Yet, I still feel this is a technique not enough guitarists have explored, with its many textural possibilities. I also can't play drums. By using this technique on guitar or the uke, it allows me to play rhythmic patterns, via picking strings, that sound like percussion. Often the parts still retain overtones of strange pitches and melody. I plan to make my next solo album completely based on this approach.
Hufnagel also has live dates upcoming with both Vaura and Dysrhythmia, plus some solo gigs. As previously mentioned, Dysrhythmia hits Saint Vitus on 11/17 with Zevious and Geryon; tickets are available. Likewise, Vaura's aforementioned record release show is at 285 Kent on 11/23 with Kayo Dot and Psalm Zero; keep an eye on their Ticketfly page for tix. The first of the two solo dates is Wednesday (10/9) at the Spectrum.
Stream Ashland and check out all of Hufnagel's upcoming live dates below.
10/9 New York, NY - Spectrum (8pm)
10/19 New York, NY - Spectrum (2pm matinee show)
Dysrhythmia (all dates with Zevious):
11/2 Richmond, VA - The Compound
11/3 Chapel Hill, NC - Local 506
11/4 Columbia, SC - Conundrum
11/5 Athens, GA - Caledonia Lounge
11/6 Tampa, FL - Crowbar
11/7 Miami, FL - Churchills
11/8 Orlando, FL - Will's Pub
11/9 Tallahassee, FL - Rehab
11/10 Hattiesburg, MS - Thirsty Hippo
11/11 Memphis, TN - Murphy's
11/12 St. Louis, MO - Fubar
11/13 Chicago, IL - Ultra Lounge
11/14 Cleveland, OH - Now That's Class
11/15 Syracuse, NY - Gorhma Brothers Music
11/16 Lynn, MA - secret spot
11/17 Brooklyn, NY - Saint Vitus
11/22 Brooklyn, NY - 285 Kent ('The Missing' CD release show w/ Kayo Dot, Psalm Zero)
11/23 Philadelphia, PA - Kung Fu Necktie (w/ Kayo Dot, Cleric)