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The Future of Music: The Karsten Durand Collective
By Chris Van Loan
(more articles from this author)
2000-05-24
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The core members of the Karsten Durand Collective are guitarist Charles Newman and lead vocalist Karsten Durand. Together these talented artists are creating something special. The Atlanta based group has appeared on WXIA NBC Atlanta's Peachtree Morning TV show, performed in Columbus, Georgia's beautiful Springer Opera House and Karsten has sung the national anthem at Turner Field.

Charles and Karsten took some time off from their busy schedule to talk with me about their music, the music business and their future.

[Chris Van Loan] How did you guys get together and how long have you been working on the Collective ?

[Karsten Durand] On some level I think we've been working together all of our lives. Walking separate yet similar paths that were destined to intersect. We managed to meet about five years ago in a music store where Charles was working. He advised me on some equipment I was purchasing and we made this odd, instantaneous connection. It wasn't until the fall of 1998 when we actually started working together, that we figured the connection was this ideology we share about the integrity of music and what it means to be an artist. After production was completed in May of 1999 Charles asked me a question I didn't have an answer for. He said "what do you want to do with the music now?"

[Charles Newman] My feelings upon completing the CD were "How in the world do we market this, and where do we go from here?" So I posed the question to Karsten, "What now?". We both felt that although the CD has a strong R&B vibe, R&B was really only one facet of the music. Traditional music industry politics would say to market a product like this to more "black" music outlets. To where we stand as artists and as people I felt like that ideal was a load of nonsense. I found my 10 year old stepdaughter would sing "Thaddeus" or "Circle The Moon" repeatedly over & over, and demographically she is perhaps the last person I would have expected to really enjoy the music.

That gave me the idea of what would happen if we formed a band with some wonderful players, rehearsed the material & gave these songs the breath of life that a live performance and live audiences can bring. The Collective was born not only to perform the music, but give the songs a whole new perspective. So far our club performances have been quite well received so hopefully the idea is working.

[CVL] When I listen to your songs I hear strains of the spirituality that I have experienced in the music of Earth, Wind and Fire, Al Jarreau and Bobby Mcferrin. Were any of these musicians influences of yours?

[KD] Not coincidentally I'm sure, the very first concert I ever attended was an Earth Wind and Fire show when I was about six. On top of that I overheard some of the masters of Funk during the "Blue Lights In The Basement" parties my parents hosted. Growing up, there was a jazz station that was played 24 hours a day in my house. I was exposed to phenomenal artists, some of whose names I don't even know and some I have remembered like Jarreau, McFerrin, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Count Basie and Take 6. Other influences include Quincy Jones; Sting; Phil Collins; Curtis Mayfield; Duran Duran; Toto; and of course Stevie Wonder.

[CVL] Who were your primary influences?

[KD] Every singer, songwriter and band that has ever created music before me. Some have served as inspiration. Some have served as a warning. Without getting too 'preachy,' I have to say that my primary influence is the Creator I'm a pretty spiritually guided individual and when lyrics and melodies barge into my psyche and demand to be given a voice I simply follow orders.

[Charles Newman] As I look back at my inspirations I have to say that there are really just a few that stick out in my memory the most: Jimi Hendrix for the inspiration to look inside & find a singular, identifiable voice, Mozart for the art of composition & harmonic sophistication, Charlie Parker for the bebop & the attitude and Zappa for the sheer audacity to destroy all conventional wisdom about what can be musical.

[CVL] I love the lyrics of your songs. Who does most of the lyric writing?

[KD] That would be my alter-ego the prophet MICAH. My Mother says she gave me the name because she knew that it would be apropo.

[CVL] Do you guys share the jobs of writing the lyrics and writing the music?

[Charles Newman] Most of the CD was nearly completed when I became involved, apart from "Last Minute Apology" & "Thaddeus". Originally I was just going to engineer & master the CD, but as I heard more & more of the material it was like I was hearing things I had written, songs I already was a part of. It was rather surreal. The idea was hatched for me to play some guitar on a few tunes, then that snowballed, then Karsten started hearing new ideas, finally we realized we had better finish the thing & keep our egos in check. When all was said & done I had written guitar for 7 of the songs & we had retracked several different things. I wish we had had a little more time to do some more guitar, but overall I was happy with where we stopped. The newer material we have been writing more as a unit, bringing the Collective into the writing process as well as incorporating alot of where we were at during "Stream". I have been contributing more song writing, and Micah has remained the wordsmith.

[CVL] I have to ask you about the song "Thaddeus", the mesmerizing tune about someone so lonely and disillusioned that he takes his own life. Is this song based on a real person?

[KD] "Thaddeus" is based on a thousand real people. It was spawned by several true stories that left the same scars and questions. Sadly the scenario is neither unique nor uncommon.

[CVL] Karsten, you hit some pretty long notes on "Thaddeus". Have you had formal vocal training?

[KD] Not really. Although I did spend a year with the Atlanta Boy's Choir as a first soprano. The rest has been trial, error and evolution.

[CVL] Your award winning song "Circle The Moon" sounds like it would be great for a movie sound track has that possibility ever been explored?

[KD] From your lips to the ears of the various Administrative Assistants to Hollywood Executives. We've sent packets to several management firms and made it very clear that, that is one of the avenues we'd very much like to pursue. Of course we have yet to hear from any of them. But we keep the faith.

[CVL] I noticed that your mp3.com web site has songs categorized under Rock, Groove, Funk and inspirational pop. The KDC excels in all of these styles and I personally love the diversity, I'll never get bored listening to The KDC, but do you guys think that your broad range of talents scare off the big record companies?

[Charles Newman] I think Record companies in general are scared senseless by what they themselves deem "Artistic" music. Then again, explain Peter Gabriel's success. Most A&R these days seem to be searching for the "hit". Developing an artist long term at the major level does not seem to be around anymore, either. I would hope people, whether they are with a label, in a club, or surfing the web can relate to where the Collective & Karsten are coming from. It's about people, loving, sharing, crying, being as one, no color, no barriers. It's about God, it's you & I. This is a music of healing and of strength and conviction. If a label were to really dig what we do, great, but ultimately it's about every individual we can bring a little happiness to. If we reach someone's soul, really touch them in some way then I am satisfied.

[CVL] What are your long range musical goals and what is next for The KDC?

[KD] Touring here in the U.S. and across the great pond. A more aggressive distribution program.

[Charles Newman] Completing the first full band CD, continuing to gain exposure & hopefully a little recognition through touring & promotions. Maybe even make a few bucks (LOL). In addition, we are looking for other artists to work with as part of the goals of our new venture, Zero Gravity Productions.

[CVL] Karsten and Charles thanks for giving me some of your time and for sharing your vision and talent through your music and this interview.

[KD] Thank you for the opportunity. We are honored. Charles: The ultimate thanks to you for offering us this time to share our music.

Linkology

Karsten Durand's Website - http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/62/karsten_durand.html


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