Norm Howard, Steve Northover, Ken Walker
June 28, 2014
7:30 pm – $10
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Ottawa’s own sonic scientists, Norm Howard, Steve Northover and Ken Walker invite you to a Hendrix inspired evening of original music. No commercial potential.
Butterflies and Zebras
“How do they come up with this stuff. It’s like, ok, you play a riff on your acoustic and I’ll just beat my guitar with a drumstick for a while.”
Welcome to the sonic world that is “Butterflies and Zebras”. Norm Howard, Steve Northover and Ken Walker are sonic scientists who explore their world in musical soundscapes. Drawing upon folk, rock, blues, free jazz and world influences, Butterflies and Zebras create their own unique sound. “We don’t do covers”, says Norm Howard, “Ok I lied, we might cover a little Jimi”.
Jimi Hendrix had a profound influence on the trio. In his short career, Jimi invented a whole new way to look at the guitar. Jimi was the full package: innovation, melody, avant garde, song writing, psychedelia … the list goes on.
“I like to think that Jimi is up there smiling”, says Steve Northover. Jimi Hendrix had impeccable chops but also played the amp just as much as the guitar. Jimi used feedback and unorthodox guitar technique such as rapidly clicking the toggle switch, dropping “Fuzz bombs” or plucking the springs at the back of his guitar that hold the whammy bar in place. Unorthodox technique, including tasteful use of effects, violin bows, cassette decks and found objects are all part of the Butterflies and Zebras experience.
Ken Walker brings to the equation a wealth of experience in African rhythms and drumming. “It’s all about creating an organic sound”, he explains. The sounds of hand drums and other percussion bring an ordered but under processed element to the mix. But it doesn’t stop there: Ken has his own effects, samples and sounds.
If all this sounds non-musical, don’t worry. Like yin and yang, tonal and free playing are complimentary. Consonance without dissonance is boring. Juxtapose the two in a tasteful manner and the result is magic. Butterflies and Zebras know this and they know their stuff. In order to break the rules, you have to know them in the first place.
Let’s take guitar effects as a case in point. Most guitarists use of effects is heavy handed. The listener hears the effect come on, it over powers the playing and the result is cliche. Butterflies and Zebras use subtle stacking of distortions and pure clean guitar sounds. The wha pedal is used to shape tone, rather than subvert it. Distortion, wha, digital delay, octavia, vibe and reverb, all are used to color sound. These are things that great guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Frank Zappa, Jimmy Page and Ritchie Blackmore understood, but have largely been forgotten.
So consider yourself invited to a ground breaking and innovative BnZ session. Be a fly on the wall and hear original and interesting music being created while you wait. It’s not just the solos that are different each time. From a single musical cue or idea, a whole new piece might emerge.
Email: info @ butterflies-and-zebras.com