Zach Kamins: Just Beginning to Explore with An Endless Sporadic
(ShackMan | Posted 2010-07-25)
"Well, one of the first things you should know about me is that I'm not much of a gearhead," says Zach Kamins just over an hour or so before I would go backstage to meet with Jordan Rudess at the Dream Theater concert. I couldn't help but consider the intriguing juxtaposition of the night. On the one hand, Jordan Rudess, already well established in Dream Theater and plenty of other solo projects, and on the other, recent Berklee graduate Zach Kamins, both very much fans of the other's music. However, where Jordan spoke with a steady, thoughtful assuredness on his tour bus, Zach's voice channeled nothing but youthful energy and excitement over the phone, like someone whose brain is still going just a little too fast for him get all of his thoughts out quickly enough.
But even someone who is "not that much of a gearhead" knows what he wants. For Zach's approach, he goes with what works for him and has stuck with it for a while.
"The guitar I use is a Carvin Bolt-T. I bought it when I was 13 and at the time I was very attracted to the idea that I could customize my first guitar exactly how I want it. I trained on this guitar for so many years that no other guitar feels quite right to me now. Even when I try something new and a guitar enthusiast tells me that I'm playing a better guitar, I kind of don't care."
So he's mostly stuck to upgrading his Carvin when he finds that one part that would fit just right to augment his sound. There's certainly something to be said for learning one instrument inside and out, and "It still sounds good enough and has sentimental value." He continues, "After a few years of playing the passive pickups that came with the guitar, I switched them out with EMG active pickups. The neck is flatter than most guitars I've played, too. Kind of like a bass. I can't stand round necks. I like the floating Wilkinson tremolo and the Sperzel locking tuners, too."
For a band with such complex music, it's hard to believe sometimes that Zach actually doubles on keyboards as well, and the bright red Nord Electro 3 and Lead 2x are front and center on his stage setup at every show. "I chose to go with the Nords because the Electro 3 has Organ sounds with digital drawbars, a stunning Rhodes, and fairly good Mellotron samples. The Lead 2x is very easy for me to understand and was the closest synth I could find that acts like an Analog synth but is controlled digitally." And that's that, according to Zach. Nothing else fancy except a laptop on stage. And yet, for someone who seems to run his entire setup on the K.I.S.S. method (Keep it Simple, Stupid), the process before the band takes the stage is a bit more crowded.
Zach elaborates, "None of the gear I use on stage except my guitar and the Mellotron samples I'm running off my laptop were used in the studio. The amp I played through in the studio was a Bogner Shiva. Our DAW was Logic 7 and we primarily used Focusrite preamps. The recording process was pretty standard, otherwise. We first lay down the backing tracks (drums, bass, rhythm guitars). I always have to hold myself back from trying to layer things at the beginning but I have learned it's best to keep moving. Build the frame of the house, then put stuff in it. We tracked together live as much as possible to make it feel as human as we can. Then we would do overdubs. All keyboards were software instruments.
"[When I'm composing, the process] is a mixture of things. Usually an idea comes from something I have been playing on the guitar or piano. I usually then proceed to record it into Logic and then fine tune the idea. While preparing for this last album, I gathered all of my unused ideas and pinpointed where the strongest themes were. My process for fitting all of the ideas together was to move from session to session keeping the most important themes in mind and trying to use them in different ways. Some of the ideas were actually school projects, some of which were initially created with a pencil and staff paper. The piano ideas were actually written 4 years ago but I never knew where to place them."
All this thematic work seems to come natural to Zach, and his education in film scoring at Berklee only furthered that. "When I sit down to write, my mindset is that any combination of real instruments, software instruments, and styles of music can be blended together. Then I just write what I feel like. I enjoy music with vocals very much. I'm just not comfortable writing for vocals just yet." And that's the one word that always creeps its way into Zach's speech throughout our conversation: yet. And a phrase that ends in "yet" is always followed by this little caviat: "I definitely will at some point." He talked about a great deal of other idea for the band's future as well, a variety of ideas that that could be put into practice "at some point."
"It seems silly to me to feel that if you start a band with a particular set of instruments, you have to continue to use only those instruments," he says concerning my questions about something he had said to me earlier, that he's been considering adding a horn section to An Endless Sporadic's fusion of sound, but his thinking is on a very different wavelength than a lot of bandleaders. "I don't plan for there to ALWAYS be a horn section. Maybe one show it will be a string section. Maybe even just 3 acoustic guitars. There are endless ways to manipulate music. Each new version teaches you a lesson. New counterlines become themes for a new song. Different instrumentations trigger new ideas.
"But Zach isn't usually thinking of guitars, basses, drums, and keyboards when he composes in the first place. "I spent a great portion of my time at Berklee studying orchestral music. When I write music for a rock ensemble, I can often relate which parts of the orchestra the guitar, bass, or keyboards is emulating. I think that the writing process won't change at all [when I'm adding new instruments]. All what would change is that I would have a larger palette of sounds to pull from. I'll have to create sheet music but that will be good for me. It's going to be a great arranging lesson. I love the other sounds that are out there and I intend to have fun with them!"
To find out more about An Endless Sporadic, Zach Kamins, and their music, go to www.anendlesssporadic.com or www.youtube.com and search for An Endless Sporadic to hear samples.
James Rushin is a bassist, keyboardist, writer, and composer living and working in the Greater Pittsburgh area. He has performed with Selmer artist Tim Price, Curtis Johnson, guitarists Ken Karsh and Joe Negri, and his compositions have been featured at West Virginia University and Valley Forge Christian College. His contest winning essays and short stories have seen publication in and around the Tri-State area.
Feel free to e-mail James with comments, questions, concerns, at firstname.lastname@example.org.