JOSH KAY: Variety of Feelings

Interview with Josh Kay

Josh Kay is a multi-instrumentalist, but mainly a guitarist and composer hailing from Portland, Oregon. The music Kay creates is described as instrumental progressive rock, and on his upcoming, third solo album Absence of Time which is due on September 1, Josh very well documents it through a number of compositions. Although instrumental, Josh’s work is very accessible and is intended for everyone who actually enjoys the music, no matter of genre preferences. Besides composing on his own, Kay is a part of a progressive power metal band Tanagra, who are currently working on a new album.

In an interview for Prog Sphere, which is a part of the Prog Sphere Showcase, Josh Kay talks about his mission, the new album, influences, gear, and more. Three tracks off of the Absence of Time album are available for streaming on Bandcamp, make sure to check them out.

Define your mission as a musician.

I essentially write music for myself, as close I can get to the perfect sound in my head. But aside from my own musical selfishness, I do try to make music that caters to both the average listener and the more technical-minded shredhead. Essentially, it has to be melodic and also have moments of more intense guitar playing. The latter should always serve the former, though.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your upcoming, third album “Absence of Time.”

Some of the songs on the album have been in the works for years, others were written much more recently. The main difference between this album and my previous works is that this is the first time I’ve intentionally composed an album. The other two were more of a collection of songs. Absence was written to be more cohesive, for each song to compliment the other.

Being an instrumental release, what kind of feelings does the music presented on “Absence of Time” evoke?

When I listen to back to Absence, I definitely experience of a variety of feelings. Some songs are more energetic and others are darker, with a more somber vibe. But I like to think that all of the music is grand in scope. If the hairs on your neck stand on end after a full listen to the album, I believe I’ve completed this quest.

Josh Kay - Absence of Time

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

I compose all of my music first, before laying down any recordings. I use a program called Guitar Pro, which allows me to arrange everything the way I see fit. I always keep my initial compositions, so I guess you could say that’s my documentation during the writing process.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Yes! I go over everything with a fine-toothed comb. Arranging songs is one of my favorite things to do and I take a lot of time to make sure the flow is proper.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

I recorded all of Absence from my home studio. I use Reaper as my DAW and program the drums/synths. All of the guitars and bass were recorded by me. I’m always tinkering with new plugins and new mixing/mastering techniques. It’s a continued and perpetual learning process.

How long “Absence of Time” was in the making?

Absence has been in the making for a couple years, give or take. It’s sort of hard to pinpoint because different parts in the pieces vary so widely in age. A single song could have a melody that is two years old and the other 90% of said song be written two months ago.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

Oh, one of the most fun questions. Let’s see. I could write pages on this subject but I can probably narrow it down to a few special particulars. I’m majorly influenced by other instrumental guitarists like Guthrie Govan (who here can say they don’t love this English guitar tyrant?), Marty Friedman, Shawn Lane, and Steve Vai. I’m also pretty enamored with artists like Steven Wilson and Spock’s Beard.

What is your view on technology in music?

Technology has truly opened up some incredible doors for musicians. Just the fact that I was able to record an album I’m extremely happy with at home is a testament to the technology available. I consider myself to be a very amateur recording engineer but the tools out there really have helped me achieve my vision. Amplification technology is also becoming very handy. As long as some organic, raw sounds can still be had (such as a simple tube amp), I’m quite on board with these advancements.

Josh Kay

Photo by Sacha Muller

Tell me about the gear you used to record “Absence of Time.”

My setup is pretty straightforward. I use a Yamaha THR10 as a preamp, right into my sweet, decrepit Toshiba laptop. I have a couple Tannoy Reveal 502s for monitoring and a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface. For guitars I used my trusty Carvin ST300 for all electric sounds, a couple different Martin acoustics, and Fender basses. Nothing too fancy.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

I do. I really try to think of it as simply a creative outlet. Everyone has different outlets and something to contribute to the world, and music is mine. But I hope my work does influence others to find what makes them happy and what gives them purpose, and to express this.

What are your plans for the future?

My next big step is to attend Musicians Institute in Los Angeles. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for many years and I finally decided to take the plunge. I’m enrolled in their guitar performance program, beginning in 2017. Otherwise, I’ll be writing my next album and looking to gather musicians to take this music to the live stage.

Josh Kay’s third solo album Absence of Time is out on September 1. For more information follow Josh on Facebook.

Cover photo by Foto Phortress

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