Kevin Hufnagel of Dysrhythmia Finds Inspiration in Composer John Cage

Whirlwind guitarist Kevin Hufnagel, one third of math-metal trio Dysrhythmia and half of atmospheric duo Byla, has released a beautiful, melancholy collection of solo tunes centered on acoustic guitars and percussion.

On Hufnagel’s new album, Songs for the Disappeared, musical themes come and go as quickly as he works his frets, tossing around swaths of Spanish and Gypsy guitar before reverting back to haunting rock melodies. Prepared guitar gives tracks like “Hunter/Hunted” (heard below) a distorted, effected, and percussive feel, making use of a simple method to create relatively rare sounds.

Online editor Scott Morrow catches up with Hufnagel to discuss his recent drought of solo material, his upcoming projects, and his unusual recording techniques.

Kevin Hufnagel: “Hunter/Hunted”
Kevin Hufnagel: \”Hunter/Hunted\”

How long have these songs been around? What caused the lengthy period between solo releases?

All of the songs on the new album were written during the summer of 2007. Everything came to me very quickly in a burst of much-welcome inspiration.

The lengthy time between solo releases was a combination of a few things. I had been quite busy with my main band Dysrhythmia and some other projects…and also felt a lack of inspiration as well as frustration every time I tried to work on my solo material. It was easy to start ideas but hard to finish them, and I would just end up throwing everything away.

Suddenly that one summer, it all just came pouring out. The good thing is that it’s continued. It shouldn’t be another 12 years before I put out my next solo record.

Can you tell us about the unusual techniques that you used when recording this album?

There are some songs that use a technique called “prepared guitar.”  That is when you stick an object between the guitar strings to change its timbre; the object, in my case, was a nail file. It creates an amazing percussive effect, and you can get all sorts of cool overtones and notes to ring out under it.

My main inspiration for that came from composer John Cage‘s works for prepared piano. I also ran my acoustic through an Echoplex [delay processor] and created a bunch of loops that Colin [Marston, album engineer] and I ran through an army of guitar amps with ambient mics placed all around the rooms.

I think that this effect really came out well towards the second half of “Will They Find Me.” I wanted it to sound like a choir.

Will Nightfloat Recordings be an avenue for your own releases, or will it become a full-fledged record label?

I started the label for my own music only.

Other than the upcoming Dysrhythmia album, what are you working on right now? Does any acoustic material reappear in Dysrhythmia or Byla songs?

Right now I’m writing more solo guitar music and will be rehearsing and recording soon with a top-secret project that should be announced soon, but I don’t think that I can say anything about it yet.

We just finished recording the new Dysrhythmia album, Psychic Maps, and there is indeed a bit of acoustic guitar on the record. That is something I’ve been wanting to incorporate more of in our music for a while, and this time the material really called for it.

– Scott Morrow

Kevin Hufnagel:
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