Kenny Howes

 

Kenny Howes

Kenny Howes

Interview by Elizabeth Racz

How did you get into being a musician?
KH: I started playing music when I was 10 years old. I was in music programs at school, and started playing the French horn at school, and then played piano and guitar. Pretty much taught myself all about the same time. That’s how I got started.

Who are your biggest influences?
KH: Well, I like the classic British Invasion stuff, the Beatles, The Who etc. Mostly the Beatles. I also like… I think Cheap Trick is a big influence, Guided By Voices, The Smithereens, obviously, and the Monkees, believe it or not. The Monkees’ studio records were really important to me growing up. Simon and Garfunkel. And yeah, I think what I do is a kind of a weird mix of all of those groups.

After your album with The Yeah in 2000, things got quiet for you. What happened? The new LP “Tornadoes Here and Past” was great, but did it take ten years to make or was something else happening?
KH: So, after my album with the Yeah, which is called Until Dawn, it came out in 2000, I moved… The short version of the story is I moved to California and lived there for 7 years working for the Rickenbacker guitar company. And I actually kept pretty busy for a long time. I did do another studio album called Lady Friend, it came out in 2004 and I joined a group called the Ultra Suede, which recorded an album that has not come out. Three of those songs from the Ultra Suede album I re-recorded and put on my latest album.

I also was involved heavily with a project called Hautewerk, which also put a record out. I was the main writer on that album and performed most of the instruments too. So I did keep very busy, but the last couple years I was in California I did actually have writer’s block and couldn’t come up with anything new. After leaving California and eventually winding up back in Atlanta I decided it was time to do a new Kenny Howes album, and like I said before I pulled three songs from the Ultra Suede project that I had co-written and did those, and just had some other little bits of pieces sitting around.

Yeah, it was quite a break between those albums; I guess 12 years difference between the Yeah! album and my latest album Tornadoes Here & Past. But as I said I did do quite a bit in between and eventually re-lit the spark and finished up Tornadoes Here & Past, and it came out in 2012.

Tell me how you got involved in the “Do Ya” project (Jeff Lynne tribute).
KH: In the year 2000 I put out my album Until Dawn with my band Kenny Howes and the Yeah!. We just pressed a small number of CDs and sold them all quick and I thought that was gonna be the end of it. But my good friend Anna Borg who runs TallBoy Records found out that the album was gonna go out of print very quickly, and so she decided to put the album out. The first thing we did before she put out Until Dawn was… she approached us.

She knew I was a fan of the band The Move and she had the concept for the “Do Ya” EP, which is four different bands covering “Do Ya.” She knew that we would be good at doing a version that sounded close to the one of the Move and so we very carefully recorded it and tried to make the arrangement as close to The Move’s arrangement as possible, because the other three artists on the EP were gonna do different things with it.

One, the Linus Of Hollywood version is completely different. And then I believe one of the other artists on there did it closer to the ELO version. So that was a vinyl-only EP that came out around then, around 2001. The fun thing for me was that I was able to participate in the record release show of that at the IPO Chicago in 2002. Not everybody that was on the EP, but most of the people that were on the EP were able to be there. We had a big hootenanny on stage where we had 10 people all on at the same time. Anna handed out little tambourines that said “Do Ya” on them and everybody in the audience was playing tambourines. It was a whole lot of fun. It was one of my favorite shows ever. And Pat from the Smithereens was there that night too, so that was pretty fun. And we were up all night; it was great!

How did you get involved with the Smithereens?
KH: I was a massive fan in the ’80s, and saw them play a bunch. Through a succession of mutual acquaintances I got to know them personally in the mid ’90s, mostly due to the fact that we were all working on separate projects with (producer) Don Fleming. The relationship continued from there over time.

Any new LP in the works? I noticed a lot more guitar acrobatics than your previous albums — any more of that style?
KH: I don’t have a new LP in the works. I have a new single that will come out this year which is a song called “She Knows What I Mean.” That’ll be out later this year.

Guitar acrobatics? There’s actually a lot of guitar acrobatics on my earlier records. *laughs* But, I don’t know, it’s funny. I’m a strange guitar player because I never wanted to be a lead guitar player. I was always more interested in songs and learning lots and lots of chords and things like that. It’s funny that you think that the new album has acrobatics because I think in some ways stuff is a lot simpler. That’s my goal anyways, to try and make things simpler. But yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know what my next record will sound like yet. We’ll see.

Wow, that was a cool interview. Thank you Kenny and Elizabeth.

 

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