Interview: Steve Kaynan

Dan McAvinchey: Thanks for doing this interview Steve, let's start with your early years, when did you first get interested in guitar, and how did you progress as a player?

Steve Kaynan: I first picked up the guitar at age 7. I learned a few open string chords, and then the guitar sat in the corner of my room for a while. Then a bit later, a friend at school got Metallica's self-titled {Black Album} on cassette while at the same time, my father made me a cassette of the first Van Halen album. I remember it like it was yesterday, we were 8 or 9 years old. It was winter - freezing and snowing outside and were inside listening to his tape and my Van Halen tape over and over. I loved everything about the music I was hearing! I picked up the guitar again immediately and never looked back!

My father also made a tape for me with drums and bass on it that I could play along with, which developed my timing. I was constantly playing, learning, and applying myself. I still do! I was also very fortunate to have a couple of friends in school who played drums and we would play music together. We learned and played Rush, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Metallica and so on!

Dan McAvinchey: Jam tracks are awesome; you can get lost for hours improvising over them. So tell us a little about your two albums.

Steve Kaynan: My first album was originally distributed on Digital Nations, a sub-label of Steve Vai's Favored Nations. I believe I sent them a copy of my album and it was approved. They distributed the album and made a few website pages about me. I realized everything they were doing I could do on my own, so after a year, when my contract was up, I re-released it on my own and I have been doing everything on my own since, including my second album, "Multiverse Collision" which was released this past May! I control my royalties, my publishing, and all the recording and performance rights. It's been a great experience and I've learned a lot.

Dan McAvinchey: How would you describe your music to someone who is hearing your music for the first time?

Steve Kaynan: I'd say overall it's hard rock inspired by the '70s, '80s and '90s, with elements of traditional metal, prog, blues, both vocal and instrumental! I'm probably not the best at analyzing my own work! I just do what I do and let it flow. I definitely do not follow trends and I do not follow what is popular or mainstream, nor have I ever!

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Dan McAvinchey: Which of the tracks from "Multiverse Collision" do you enjoy playing the most?

Steve Kaynan: Probably some of the newly written songs, "To Infinity and Beyond," and the vocal songs "Time," and "Mirrors," just because those songs are new and fresh, which is always inspiring. Those vocal songs in particular are the ones also getting a lot of radio airplay! It's beyond cool! But that being said, I usually write and record an album or song, then I'm off to the next album. I have a library in my music room of recordings of originals that I have written over the years. Some are finished songs, some are rough mixes, some are just ideas that I recorded on the spot that are unfinished, or that I save for when I start recording the next record.

Dan McAvinchey: How do you feel about the current crop of guitar-oriented magazines and how they are currently covering instrumental music?

Steve Kaynan: I think it's awesome! None of the local magazines are supporting me, but the national and international rock and guitar magazines have been supporting, featuring me and published some nice things about my music and my playing, which is beyond flattering! Really a huge payoff on the tireless hard work and other things I've endured the last couple of years. Most recent, Fireworks Magazine in the UK and Music Connection Magazine in Los Angeles wrote great reviews on my playing and my original music. I was also featured in Guitar Player Magazine in 2008, and that was a review of one of my original instrumentals. So from my angle I think the genre is definitely being covered greatly, and is relevant.

Dan McAvinchey: Are you using any social media sites to promote your CDs and/or music career?

Steve Kaynan: Absolutely! I've learned a lot the last year in particular and I do my best to keep up with it with everything else I have going on with teaching and cover gigs. I'm always doing something. Though there are less record labels, nowadays you can market yourself with social media and have full control over your music without a label or "middle man" that might rip you off!

Dan McAvinchey: From a publicity and promotion standpoint, what do you find is working best for you at the moment?

Steve Kaynan: I think many of them go hand in hand. All of my social media sites are "synced" together. I would not have the amazing support of radio airplay, media and magazine features that I've had lately were it not for social media - Twitter, Facebook, CD Baby, Reverbnation, Fandalism, and others. People from all over the world write comments on my sites and are following me, buying my music and are supporting me just from word to mouth on social media, and it's all global, not local. In fact, my following is not local at all! It's all national and international. I have gotten more recognition the last six months with my new album being available through social media than I have the last couple of years doing nonstop cover gigs, {120 or more gigs a year!}

I take it as a compliment. I'm getting an audience that want to hear my original compositions as opposed to seeing me play covers which has been flattering! All with no manager, no agent, no label, no representation, no producer - nothing! I'm completely independent and I don't depend on anyone.

Dan McAvinchey: What are your thoughts on why certain music fans prefer instrumental music over traditional vocal oriented music?

Steve Kaynan: Great question! I believe it's all relative. As far as I am concerned, my vocal songs are getting as much support as my instrumentals. As far as the mainstream Top 40 goes, it has become very formulated and repetitive and I think it is finally making people gravitate to something more broad, which is great! Whether that is instrumental stuff, or even a real, great rock band has great songwriting, great lyrics and cool instrumental sections within vocal songs.

Dan McAvinchey: Other than guitar-oriented music, what kind of music do you like to listen to?

Steve Kaynan: I like tons of soundtrack music, most of which have no guitar at all, There is actually pop that I do like, but mostly the great stuff from the '90s. I enjoy a lot of classical music, especially the Romantic era. I have been listening to a lot of Chopin lately. I also enjoy Roy Todd, who writes great piano compositions.

Dan McAvinchey: What's up next for you, what are some of your plans for the future?

Steve Kaynan: I want to put together a line-up for shows to support my two albums! A line-up with guys around my age that are equally hungry and motivated! Then get back to the studio again to record a follow up album. I want the third album to be recorded in the main studio room live together to get that live spirit and feel of the guitar, bass, and drum tracks playing together live like they recorded back in the day! That would be cool!

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Steve Kaynan is a working guitarist who currently gigs weekly and teaches in the Florida area at Beats N' Tunes School Of Music. He taught at School Of Rock for two years, and he has just released his second album (a mix of hard rock, metal, guitar instrumental and blues) on his own label.

Dan McAvinchey recently held a virtual interview with Kaynan, with some questions about his two albums, and discussing how independent musicians like him promote their work.