Kenny Serane interview: the metallic revolfusionaryThe super French guitar fusion guitar player, Kenny Serane, started playing guitar at age 14. After 2 years of self directed learning he decide to attend music school, studying the sort of techniques you cover at GIT or Berklee.
Since then he has made a living as a well respected professional guitarist. He has had gigs with a number of recognised French bands and also in his studio based session work, including the Eurovision contest and work for the popular Guitar Xtreme magazine.
In 2003, Kenny founded the band Workshop whose music ranges from electro to metal styles. In 2010, he composed and recorded for many artists, his guitars featuring on more than 40 albums. After a second Workshop album, Beyond The Unknown Territory, Kenny released the splendid Rainbowmaker, in June 2012, all the guitars of which have been recorded with his beloved Torpedo VB-101.
We caught up with Kenny at the release of his new CD to dig deeper and find out a little more about this talented player.
I know you started playing guitar at the age of 14, were you from a musical family and did they encourage you to play guitar?
In fact, my family were not musical at all! But they were always here for me. I can't remember how many times my mother came to pick me up at the end of some late night concerts when I was just 17,18. Arriving at 2AM while, even though she had to wake up at 6 am the next day to go to work. That's funny because when you see my parents, from the outside they appear to be "normal”, tea drinking and down to earth, and yet they keep coming to my shows, even until 4AM in the morning! And, unlike normal parents, they can tell the difference between a planet waves and a monster cable! Yeah they can!!
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Well that is because they must be so proud of you, it takes a lot of effort and dedication to succeed and if your parents are there for you, it must be a great help! Note to self... be more supportive of the Shred kids!!
With your parents being supportive, when did you decide that guitar was going to be something more that some fun, but something you wanted to take further and make a career out of?
I was 14, hanging out with my friends. And this boy played a Lâg guitar (I'm not kidding) in front of me: he plays like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. It was a revelation to me and my friends, I can remember that moment as though it was just yesterday. I do not know if we can say it like this, but I had a love at first sight moment just watching the instrument.
At 16, my parents could see in my eyes that I needed to stop academic studies. I was eating, drinking, thinking guitar all day long, all night long. To be honest I was not a normal teenager. I was not going out with my friends, quite often during this period I locked myself into the dark of my bedroom, and there I worked on my playing, spending time with the guitar, for hours, days, weeks, months! I only left my bedroom to eat or to go to my concerts! Fortunately, that was just a period of my life and now I manage to have a more normal life. But this is the thing... (of which I am sure of) it is necessary to work very hard to learn how to play guitar at a high level.
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There are so many great players in France, players like Patrick Rondat, Chistophe Godin, Jean Fontanille, Stéphan Forté, Richard Daudé, Tristan Klein, Franck Ribiere, Charly Sahona, Kermheat, to name but a few. What is the guitar scene like in France?
Yes, there are many guitarists in France, but not enough places to play. And then in France we do not support instrumental guitar music. This was one of the things Nelly Tadjer and I thought about, when we talked and Nelly originally proposed the concept of the "French Guitar Contest".
Well that seems to be the story globally, it is a niche market, but there is so much joy to be got out of the creative aspects of the art form. I am sure that competitions like "French Guitar Contest" will help raise the profile or draw attention to guitar fans. Looking at my web stats the big fans of guitar are in America and France is number 7. Here’s the list by popularity from the the previous 12 months:
1. United States
2. United Kingdom
One thing's for sure is that this is a global phenomenon, and the really interesting thing is playing translates globally, there are different inflections in playing style, but over all the playing needs no musical translation!
Many players decide that they should go to America, may be go to GIT or Berklee. I know that you did not take that route. So had did you progress musically, how do you advance your musical playing?
I was lucky to have guitar tuition from teachers who had already studied in the USA, and they taught me the methods of playing that are prevalent at these schools. I really think that I was lucky to meet Thierry Pontet and Alain Cahuzac as they made a difference. Thierry Pontet also taught the guitar to Stéphan Forté and many other… But as I said before, the teaching alone will not take you higher, you must practise A LOT!
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[Laurie Monk] You have got a great ear for production. Do you have your own studio and how did you learn the recording techniques?
Yes, that is correct, I do indeed have my own studio. I learnt production skills by looking at the other sound engineers and by testing out the many techniques available. I also bought books on production, studied tutorials on the Internet, and asked many questions in the forums!
[Laurie Monk] You started a project with the Stephane Boutinaud, how did that come about and can you tell us a little bit about the projects that came out of that band and the recording of the albums.
It was a great experience to work with my friend Stephane Boutinaud on these two albums. It is a friend and a musician whom I esteem a lot.
Now, we took each of the different roads, and I go to a much more personal work. Stephane helped a lot me to get over any shyness to the working with the media particularly when I became a musical demonstrator to him!
1. Departure (Introduction) 0:42
2. Spectral Anarchy (feat. Richard Daude) 7:45
3. Fire Kiss (feat. Christophe Godin) 7:31
4. Don't Forget 6:56
5. Speach Recognition (Interlude) 0:38
6. Last Word (feat. Joel Hoekstra) 6:01
7. Without My Soul 6:21
8. Beyond the Unknown Territory (Part I - Leaving Home) 1:24
9. Beyond the Unknown Territory (Part II - Destination) 4:01
10. Retrospection (Interlude) 0:54
11. Black Light
[Laurie Monk] Tell me a little about the amps and pedals that you use live and in the recording studio. You use Torpedo gear right?
Yes, that’s correct, the Torpedo is really a high quality technology. That is really what think about it, the success of the Torpedo gear really speaks for itself. Along with the Torpedo gear I use the Bogner Shiva amp. Indeedm I used the Two Notes Engineering Torpedo for the recording of entire album "Rainbowmaker". Guillaume Pille, the CEO of Two Notes Engineering, is also a great friend for the last 5 years and he has helped me out a lot.
[Laurie Monk] In your opinion, what is the single most important thing that defines your guitar sound?
That's not easy to answer but certainly think that it is my hybrid picking and the fact I use low saturation!
[Laurie Monk] I see you play Lâg Guitars, can you tell us how you got the Lâg endorsement and about the models you use, and what you like about those guitars?
I knew Michel Lâg before we started on The French Guitar Contest. Jeff Dinat had introduced me to Michel about two years earlier. Before that point I used to play with Tom Anderson guitars.
Working with Nelly Tadjer we organised the The French Guitar Contest and she concentrated on putting together the best French guitar industry can offer, and that is why she choose Lâg. Michel and I met many times after that and I visited his custom shop factory in Bedarieux, and discovered how much I love to play with his guitars!
Currently, I play the Lâg a standard model, the Lâg Jet 3000, the Lâg Arkane and the Lâg Imperator custom Bedarieux, plus the acoustic range Tramontane... I said for the moment, because we are working hard on a Lâg signature model. But shhhhh, that's a secret!
[Laurie Monk] Ha, yes, sure... I’ll keep quiet and make sure no one knows... I I know you play many live shows, have you had any disasters when playing live?
I guess I am the same as all guitarists! You know, a cable which doesn't work, or an amp will blow, or a lamp will crash down! Well theses are the things make the guitarists life exciting!
[Laurie Monk] Guitar Addiction - A Tribute To Modern Guitar was one of the best guitar albums of 2011. How did you get involved with this project?
Franck Ribiere, the project creator, and myself have been friends for a long time. We don’t live that far from each other. So we had this idea that the project would feature many great guitarists and that this idea was simply great! Plus all idea was that all the money raised by the record sale went to good causes! (For each CD sold 2 Euros will go to the Red Cross)
[Laurie Monk] You’ve just released your new album “Rainbowmaker”, to much critical acclaim. Can you tell us a bit about this, the recording process and some more details on what you were trying to capture with your playing on this album?
Yes, I am very happy when I see the good comments and positive critiques of my new album Rainbowmaker! And even more so, because I was never sure If I would ever finish this album! I had composed most of the tracks almost two years ago, and so it was a very long project... The thing is with all the working, I did not have the time to finalise this album, with all of the live shows, studio session work and the endorsement work…
Fortunately for me, my girlfriend kicked my ass and said that I must not let grass grow under my feet! So she helped me a lot with the CD, developing the website, designing the cover.. getting all the artwork to match my musical universe! This is also the reason I recorded a special track, by the composer Claude Debussy, on the album and I dedicated that to her. I think that we don't realise how much wives/girlfriends are good for self-fulfilment. I don't know if it is really rock'n roll to say that but it is the truth!
Clair de Lune - Claude Debussy cover by Kenny Serane (Song for Nelly) RAINBOWMAKER
Then I searched a drummer and a bassist who could really extend themselves musically on this personal project. I think this album really captures, exactly, my actual way of playing, my playing style. The album is less technical in approach and has more on the feeling, more improvisation. This is in direct contrast to the last albums, here I improvise more, listening to the track, rather than spending time precisely writing the guitar solos. I think it’s more more fresh like that.
Plus using the Torpedo (Two Notes engineering) saved me a lot of precious time in the recording process… leaving me with more time for the mix and mastering. I had to do all this aspect by myself.
That’s a lot of hard work and I think it shows, the extra time and dedication has paid off, you have put together a great record and the more organic approach is noticeable. So my congratulations to you for that!
I’m always interested to know what players are listening to. Can you name some top albums that you would recommend musicians and guitar players to listen and that have made a difference to you.
As I have grown musically, and over the last few years, I have been listening less and less to metal music and more and more to Jazz and Funk music. In terms of guitar players, I love guys like Frank Gambale, Scott Henderson or Greg Howe. I have also found a new “golden nugget” the amazing Oz Noy, who inspires me each time I hear him.
What is your view on the use of the Internet to promote your work and what do you think about the illegal downloading situation?
My opinion, (and I know that a lot of people will not necessarily agree with me) is : the world has changed. This means we need to earn more money with playing live concerts. If you like my playing, then come and participate to my master class, buy my t-shirt or a cap with the name of my group. Or be the first to buy a physical CD, like a collector. But if my music is on the net, I think it is better for me rather than worse.
If I try to be "legal" using the pay-per-stream, then on iTunes, if I want to earn $200, then I have to sell at least 20,000 singles! And then with Spotify they will only pay me $0.005 when someone listens to a track from my album! If I put my album in a loop, I can then earn just $50 in a month?… That is the way it is. However, during most of this time the major artists still earn A LOT... And even now they keep earning a lot of money.
Kenny Serane @ Music & You 2010 - Funky Tune
Kenny Serane @ Music & You 2010 - Funky Tune from Kenny Serane on Vimeo.
Yes, it is disconcerting that music, as art, has been so commoditised. I often times feel that the commoditisation of music is one of the main reason why there is so much illegal downloading, there is little or no understanding that there is an individual being deprived of a regular income based on the quality of their art. It’s just some bits of binary data, disposable and throw away.
OK, nearing the home straight. You have just been part of the International guitar competition as a judge, are there plans for more of these, and is this something you enjoyed being part of?
It was very nice to share the jury with Patrick Rondat, Jean-Michel Kajdan, Kevin Cintas and Michel Lâg for the French Guitar Contest 2012. We discovered some incredible talents from everywhere in the world, 47 different countries participated to this French Guitar Contest! So many guitarists deserved to be in the front of the scene, and I had the luck to meet some of the guitarists in Paris, they said to me that being in the French Guitar Contest had lead to people contacting them to offer some gigs.
That's great, it shows that these things are working. Nelly Tadjer (nellyrose.com) is actually working on the next part of the French Guitar Contest, this time may be a little bit different, maybe with a live final, but I am not allowed to say that ;) I hope I will participate in the project anyway.
Well I’ll look forward to that, as I enjoyed French Guitar Contest a lot last time. OK, thanks so much for your time with this interview, good luck with the new album and the live shows.
Thanks to YOU Laurie. I read your blog since a long long time and I really enjoy to read your posts. You make a very good job. See you!