Greg Kavna

This Nile Rodgers Obsession has to stop (good bit’s at the end)

Always been a huge Rodgers fan, since I was a kid. I’d been harbouring a feeling for the past few years that music had forgotten how great he is but he’s back on top again with Daft Punk, recreating the Chic sound. For me the DNA for ‘Get Lucky’ is in this track.

compare it with


It’s incredible that he’s doing it again – taking over the world with his sound.

But my favorite Rodgers track on the album is ‘Lose Yourself To Dance’

Which I think is a more even balance between the French Dance maestros and the Disco King but Rodgers does lay in one of his trademark, proven disco warhead fissile tips for chart destruction and domination. Allow me to explain what I’m hearing and why it struck me. A few years back Joe Castellon was helping me finish of my first album and in the process showing me more about recording music that I had learnt in all the time up to then. When we finished up the mixes he sat me down and said, “Listen Greg, I think this is a good album that you’ve made here but before you take my opinion there’s something I have to tell you”. He then told me that he used to help with the string arrangments on Chic songs back in the day and that when Nile Rodgers came in with Freak Out he looked at Nile and said nobody is ever going to like that hook, it’s too late in the bar, on the ‘4 and’ and 1, it’ll never be a hit. (For non-music geeks, although if you’ve gotten this far there’s probably not many of you left, a bar of music in 4/4 time has 4 beats to each bar, 1,2,3,4 and all the music in the piece uses this as the foundation, it’s the heartbeat of the tune. In Le Freak the phrase ‘Freak Out’ happens in a strange place for pop music, bear with me here, if you highlight the beats between the main beats by counting it like this.. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4.. etc you may notice that the word Freak lands on the ‘and’ after 4 and the word ‘Out’ lands on the 1. And then in the rest of the tune the strings do it.). So Joe was impressing upon me that he had managed to get it wrong on one of the biggest selling singles of all time and that I should be careful of his opinion of my work and it’s potential. Looks like he was right about being wrong. But as I was listening to ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’ I could hear the guitar singing ‘Freak Out’ in the same place, have a listen. It’s a more relaxed vibe but it’s there, that magical rhythmical hook is doing it’s same voodoo in this tune too.

I got to meet the great man once, on the plane from Dublin to New York. I had caught his storming show at the Electric Picnic which was a masterclass in everything you need to know about a live show. I was sitting waiting to board and I saw him heading towards the business class door, the hit-maker guitar strapped to his back. I lost it completely, managed to borrow a pen and a piece of paper off the woman sitting next to me, she thought I was having a breakdown, and rushed up to him to get his autograph. Very calmly he informed me that he had to get on the plane right now and that maybe I could say hello to him on board. Obviously from growing up in NY in the 70’s and 80’s he was well rehearsed in talking down approaching lunatics before they got out of hand. Crestfallen and in my place again I slunk back to my plastic seat, returned the pen and was thankful that I wasn’t obsessed enough to think about trying to get into business class to say hello to a major celebrity, because that’s what they let you do on planes right, just wander up and chat to the VIP’s, I mean that’s why they pay a couple of grand for the seat, so we can have more space when we stroll up to tell them that we’re one of the millions of people who like the music.

I took my seat on the plane, the very last one, right down the back, feeling a bit stupid but in a way pleased that I had gotten that excited and laughing at myself for going to pieces when suddenly I spied a familiar figure sauntering down the aisle as only a man with that much groove in him could do.

“No way”, I thought but definitely he was looking at me, “Fuck! He is coming to see me”.

“The last goddamn seat on the plane”, he laughed at me as he rolled up, “The last goddamn seat!”.

I then had one of the nicest conversations, he asked about me, what I thought of his gig, told me how much of a good time he had in Ireland (without having to be prompted by a Late Late Show host) all while signing an autograph and telling the stressed stewardess who was pleading with him to go back to his seat to chill. The man was beyond cool, he was a beautiful person. Me, not being cool, decided to tell him about the funk covers band I played with in in Dublin, Gregory Spade And The Love Tailors .

“Hey you know what”, says I, “I used to make my money playing your songs on a Friday night”. Without dropping a beat he looks straight at me, smiling generously.

“So did I man”, says he, “So did I”.

Ceol and more ceol with the Big City Folk at Ceol

Dropped into Ceol last night in Brooklyn last night to the Wednesday Night Songwriters Club hosted by Niall Connolly, a man with a pun penchant greater than my own, he even managed to extract one from the French language. I was mighty impressed by Folktronicist E.W. Harris and loads of other cats from Big City Folk. Some serious talent in that room last night. Big Ups to Kevin McCormack for bringing me there and shoving me in front of the mic. We’re working on some traditional tunes at the moment so watch this space…             yeh, that one..

Tinseltown doing the right thing?

I was out for something to eat with my friend and he was telling me about this movie he’s a producer on. He told me the story of the director traveling for two days to find the right redwood trees in California to use as a backdrop. Then he showed me the mesmerising storyboard renderings based on that location. I’m always impressed by the dedication of people driven by an idea or by a desire to create something beautiful and enjoy hearing about the lengths they’ll go to. Human spirit and all that. Later on as he got around to telling me the plot I realised that the whole project has human spirit at its core. Go have a look, see what you think.

Female Singers

I had a couple of tunes knocking about that I wanted to record in a Motown style to see what would happen, but I wanted a great female vocalist to sing them. I managed to persuade the spectacular Jenna Nicholls to do it, with Spencer Cohen on Drums, Bennet Paster (he’s not as moody as his pic makes him look) on keys, Nic D’Amato on Bass, Tommy Russo on trumpet (just him, he put together an amazing section on his own, the guys a real pro, one of the greatest musicians I’ve ever been in the room with) and myself on guitar. All recorded on the vintage gear at snackytime studios

I had originally had the fabulous Niamh Collins in mind for them, but unfortunately Niamh lost her voice for nearly a year and a half, tough time for the lady but she’s back in top form now. We did manage to record a blues song for a film that never got made with Zamo Riffman on bass and guitar, Dec Quinn on keys, Jordan Perlson on drums and myself on a little lead guitar at the end. Check it out, I like it, the film would have been great too.

Award Winners

A short movie, Angel, that I helped out on has been winning some awards. I engineered the soundtrack, played some keys and came up with a few melodies for Mark Geary who was charged with providing the music for the movie. Congratulations to everyone involved.

Mmmm, the sun goin’ down, boy, dark gon’ catch me here

It behooves me to share a few tales from the road trip Swift, The Red God and myself took from New Orleans to NY. A humble enough beginning with a few nights in the city that doesn’t sleep, with people who needed to sleep, involving the usual high spirits followed by a flight to NO, into the warmth of the southland, where the livin is easy. Easier than NY, for real’s. A trip down Burbon street through the crowds who don’t know why they’re there, know they should be having a good time so keep on screaming that they are and then down onto Frenchman’s street where the locals go for a great time. Soul music in DBA, blues across the street and after that I can’t say here, you’d have to buy me a beer, but the craic was 90+.

We decided to take a trip to Clarkesdale, home of the blues, were Robert Johnson famously sold his sold to the devil for a few tracks on a wax cylinder and a poisoning at age twenty seven. Seems like a bad deal to me, can you enjoy your immortality when you’re not around? The Red God heard we heading into a tornado watch zone and was eager to test his mortal hubris against the mighty storms of the south by chasing one. We sorta went along with him. Heading north, lightning ranged the skies and occasionally, from the blackness, the flashes would silhouette what looked like a large thunderhead against the sky. The Red God knew from his research that this was what he was looking for, he started to get quieter, as did I. It was looking like a spot of trouble ahead. Cut to half an hour later and I have my eyeballs against the windscreen trying to see something, anything, as Thor unleashed a mighty stream of blinding rain, a barrage of firehoses, like being in a carwash. The lights of a truck up ahead and the reflection of the white stripes on either side kept us true, flying on instruments. I was in a strange zen state of OMG, the Red God texted his Queen to say he mightn’t be getting out of this one and Swift, while claiming to be nonplussed, unruffled, implacable even, did chew the top off of a battery during the storm,… just saying. I think we all had our own reaction to the insanity of what we drove though. Nature is more than formidable. At one point, and I swear this is true, lightning bolts hit the ground on either side of our trusty yellow ford fiesta looking like it couldn’t be more than a hundred feet away. I could feel my face tingle after the strikes and at that point was coming to some kind of terms with my maker, although down there in that situation it seemed like the other side was more approachable. The miles to the exit seemed to go on and on, an eternity, but we eventually made it to the second exit after missing the first,  a good moment between navigator and driver, and stopped at the traffic lights at a crossroads and took a moment to take a moment. The rain was still driving and the lightning flashing when Swift realised where we’d stopped, where Highway 61 meets Highway 49, the site where Robert Johnson sold his soul. Hell yeah.

The next morning the Red God looked though his pictures from the night before and went a little pale. What follows are two photos from that moment, the first is the scene as it should be and the second, spookily enough, the Red God managed to capture a bolt of lightning on film. Now for those of you who may not know this, when you see a bolt it’s the light burnt onto your eyeball, the thing itself lasts for 30 microseconds, it’s just so bright it leaves and image on your retina, like looking at a bright light. But a camera doesn’t have a retina, it just takes what it sees so the Red God managed to take his picture precisely during an event that lasts 30 millionths of a second — 30 microseconds. Freak event or a message from the man himself?

Copyright Paul Gallagher. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright Paul Gallagher. All Rights Reserved.

The next night as I stood outside a jukejoint, drinking moonshine from the bottle of the lady who sold me ribs while she was busy pointing out to me where Queen Bessie and King BB had walked along these dusty streets and why his guitar was called Lucille, as the blues poured out into the southern night from the boozy drinking den inside I suddenly occurred to me that those guys weren’t making things up in those songs, they were just writing down what happens here.

The Video

The video made it to the world. Modesty prevents me from enjoying staring at my own face but I appreciate the beauty in Michelle’s work. She captures the landscape. It’s how it was that day. Magical places.

Video is here….

Funnny innit

Feeling strange about this.. Don’t know if I want to let this one go. It’s been too good a drinking companion to send it out the door.