Kevin Ferguson: Well, going way back, I learned to play the violin (badly) when I was 4, took piano lessons for a few years and was in a house with lots of music. My dad played violin and listened to a lot of classical,
especially virtuosi. My mom listened to folk, jazz and boogie-woogie
styles mostly and played folk guitar. My older brother tried lots
of instruments and ended up owning a guitar he didn't play. By the
time I was 11, my brother was listening to lots of hard rock. We
lived in the country where you didn't find this music in the local
stores or hear it on the local radio. I liked the music of Led Zeppelin,
Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Good Thunder, Spooky Tooth, live Grand Funk
Railroad, Edgar Winter, Ronnie Montrose, Deep Purple, etc. that my
brother listened to, but it wasn't until I discovered a college station
in Washington, D.C. (about 2 hours away) that I heard music that
made me decide to learn to play the guitar. Back then, WAMU used to
have a show called "The Rock & Roll Jukebox" for a few hours weekday
evenings. They played music unlike anything I'd heard before, like
ELP's "Brain Salad Surgery" (Toccata is the reason I bought this,
my first album. I found out later it was Emerson's version of
Ginestara's Toccata from his Piano Concerto No. 1, written the year
I was born), apparently rare recordings of Hendrix playing some
of the best tunes I've heard from him, and lots of other, more
About that time, my parents said, "We're thinking of buying a better
piano for you to play." I said, "I'm interested in the electric guitar
now. It costs less. How about you get that instead?" Well, I
ended up working, saving and getting it on my own.
I wanted to take guitar lessons, but there were no teachers in the
area, so I taught myself from books and lots of playing along with
records. When I was 12, I was fortunate enough to take an excellent
music theory and composition class taught by a retired conductor of
Broadway musicals (and former Radio City Music Hall organ player)
who really knew his subject. The class was at night and was very
small, so it was almost like being tutored. It was kind of shocking
to realize how simple the music I liked was, from the theoretical
perspective at the time. Now, I don't care about things like that,
as long as it appeals to me. But back then, I started liking things
that took a moment or two to understand, musically. I started liking
more progressive rock and fusion. When I was about 15, I heard the
Dixie Dregs for the first time. A friend of mine knew what kind of
music I played (outside of the cover band I was in for the money) and said,
"Listen, they're playing stuff like you like to play." It was very inspiring.
Steve Morse is the only guitarist from that time that I still look
forward to hearing new material from. I interviewed him for a local
guitar publication and the interview is on the web
(http://www.teleport.com/~kevinf/morseint.html). I asked him a few questions concerning technique I'd been wondering about for many years.
Anyway, I ended up hooking up with jazz musicians that didn't mind
playing fusion and I had a band that played around NYC for about 8 years.
I wrote most of the material. Then I moved to California and started
making cassette "albums" as demos. I went through about 5 years of
not feeling like I was hearing anything new from anyone, while I wrote
a lot of experimental types of etudes. After I moved to Oregon,
a producer of a low budget movie found out about some video soundtrack
work I'd done and asked me to write the score for his movie. I did
a mini-score for some critical scenes and then the project ended.
It was influential though, because it made me crank out so much
narrowly focused music in such a short time that I didn't have time to
think about how hard the music was to play. I forced myself to play
what I had written (originally away from instruments) to get the job
done. I liked the sound of some of it so much I released another little
cassette "album", and it started selling locally.
By this time I was tired of being a solo act and/or band leader and decided to be more of a hired gun for a while. I played for local band's demo
projects in studios and ended up playing bass for a psycho-rockabilly
punk band in Portland called "Dethro Jethro." It was like Zappa meets
Randy Newman meets the Pacific Northwest. The studio work made me
sight read a lot more (bass, too) and I decided to get better by
reading as much as I could. The local library is a great source of
large volumes of music never seen or heard before. Most of it was
classical piano which isn't very natural to guitar. But the violin
music for the most part was quite playable. After a while, I really liked the
sound of most of it and started looking for more interesting works.
That's what lead up to my last CD.
Currently a musician who is relatively new to me that I like a lot is
Bela Fleck. I really like his "Live Art" CD. Most of my other
current influences are from folk and classical music of other
cultures including South and Central America, Asia & the Middle East
Kevin Ferguson: My main guitar is the Strat I bought when I was 13. It has real bad fret wear now and I'm looking for a replacement in the form of an American Standard Strat. I'm amazed at how much difference there
is in fret shaping and feel among American Standards from the same
To me, less is more these days, so I mostly just use a Fender Stage 112
and mic it through a PA. I use a wireless system, too. Sometimes a delay effect is used, depending on the situation. That's about it.
Kevin Ferguson: I've mostly been motivated by wanting to hear something that's already in my head. For the classical tunes, I always thought Paganini's Caprice No. 5 would sound amazing on an electric guitar and just really wanted to hear it. If someone else had a recording out first, I probably would have bought it and then just listened to it instead of
Kevin Ferguson: "Strad To Strat" is a CD of fiery classical music composed by violin virtuosi, played on a high gain Strat with full synth. orchestra. It's got tracks like the well known "Flight of The Bumblebee" and
Paganini's Violin Concerto No. 1, "Perpetual Motion" and Caprice No. 5,
Vivaldi's Summer (Four Seasons) and lesser known pieces such as Wieniaski's Caprice No. 4. It also has Sarasate's Gypsy inspired "Ziguenerwiesen," Bach's Violin Concerto No. 1 and the prelude to his Sonata No. 6. I tried to be true to the original work in terms of tempo, voices
used in orchestration, etc. I did write new orchestration for
the Caprices (Paganini's was originally solo and Wieniaski's
had a second violin part) and Paganini's "Perpetual Motion."
It has a rock sounding guitar, but no drums other than the orchestral percussion.
About the time this was released I also had a track on a Deep Purple Tribute/Compilation album (it may have just been a tape, I'm not sure of the details of the rest of the album). This track was a combination of DP's "Woman From Tokyo" and Saint Saens' belly dance music from "Samson & Delilah." It's called "Woman From Gaza."
Currently I'm transcribing music from cultures around the world we
don't get exposed to very much. I plan on having pure transcriptions,
original compositions and a mix of the two included on the next CD.
I'm pretty excited about what's there so far.
Kevin Ferguson: I only composed arrangements for the above. They were done in full score for orchestra. When I write original tunes, much of my best work is done by sitting down somewhere away from any instrument or any sound and writing out the notation of what's in my head. I like to improvise during performances, too. I tend to like the extremes
of well thought out structured music and total seat of the pants
playing. Lately, I've taken such a long break from writing that
I've been just blurting out scads of ideas through improvisation.
I still write lots of it down to keep track of it if I like it.
It's easier than trying to commit it to long term memory if I'm
in the middle of trying to brainstorm.
Kevin Ferguson: Both. Mostly it depends on the project. I only record raw individual tracks at home. Mastering is done somewhere else.
Kevin Ferguson: I'd never imagined getting such a great reaction to this music when I played locally. I knew from the Internet that there were lots of folks that wanted to hear it, too. So, I decided there was enough of a market for me to do it myself. I haven't been very aggressive on distribution, but the project is paying for my next one anyway.
Kevin Ferguson: I think if you like the more obscure things I tend to like you're better off as an independent musician. If you're not independent, you have to wait for other people's decisions, pay them (directly or through
a percent of sales, etc.) for it, deal with the likely compromises.
I've enjoyed learning how to produce a CD on a realistic budget.
If I can pay for my next project with my last, I feel it's a success. I'm free to say no to bogus contracts, etc.
On the other hand, you have to do everything yourself or pay or
otherwise motivate someone to do what you don't. You're probably
less likely to learn directly from others how to improve in any of
the production areas if you do it yourself or can't afford to get
someone really sharp. I probably don't get the publicity or
distribution that I would if there was a solid "machine" behind me.
Kevin Ferguson: I can't speak for what will work for others, but for me, specialty mail order places (like ZNR records) have been ordering from me. They seem to have tapped into an audience. Locals Only (503-227-5000) also sells it over the phone (mail order) and promotes the CD on its own web page with audio samples. They will even play samples over the phone for you if you call.
Most of what I've done I think is pretty standard, like sending promotional copies to radio programs and reviewers (only after having a warm body say they are quite interested in getting it). I have a list of radio and
magazines that is very general, but many may be interested in music CD's.
It's at http://www.teleport.com/~kevinf/magemail.html.
I've also asked other independent musicians that have done things sort of similar to what I've done about ideas for distribution. Usually they've been helpful if they thought there was a match.
Don't limit yourself to the U.S. Probably more CD orders and radio airplay for my CD has been in Europe. Dutch Esquire did a review on a prominent page because The Netherlands (particularly Amsterdam) tends to be interested in new things from the U.S. (very oversimplified generalization, but roughly true). I've had CD's sold to Asian, South American and Oceanic
Countries as well.