Ken Davis Story
The Ken Davis Story From 1970 To 2007
Ken picked up his first guitar in the early 1970’s after playing keyboards for five years previously. He purchased his first synthesizer in 1974 a Mini Korg 700S, developing a deep passion for this instrument, it opened up musical possibilities and allowed his creative mind to create sounds previously unheard of in Australia. He continued performing on guitar, piano and synthesizers until the mid-90’s, when he decided to focus more intently on the keyboards.
As a self-taught player Ken claims that becoming a professional musician was always his dream, a big part of that dream was writing, producing and releasing his own original recordings. “Keyboards became the key to that dream,” he notes, “as the keyboards could transform into saxophone , pan flute, flute, cello, viola or any instrument, allowing me to create the beautiful melodies that have made my music so popular worldwide. Ken purchased a recording studio in January 1989 and learnt how to record and produce his own music and produce master tapes often recording live to tape to capture the moments that are so precious when creating this style of music. A home studio allowed him all the creative freedom and time to record his music at the most inspirational times of the day or night. His original studio and keyboards are all still working at his private studio in his house in Sydney. It was also 1989 when Ken formed his company with a global vision calling it Ken Davis Music International Pty Ltd. This was the beginning of the global expansion of his music. In May 1989 Ken approached Australian Geographic as a composer of music for there chain of retail stores. They accepted his music and so one of the most successful partnerships began. It was at this time that Dino Music became interested in Kens music and a series of television advertisements were made after a brief TV campaign by J and B Records that did not go to plan, and so Ken continued with his own unique way of merchandising his music through live performance, selling his cassettes and CDS at live performances. This had proved successful before the offer of a major company became involved. Gary Jones from Dino met Ken in 1991 at Midem in Cannes and a long term relationship that still exists today began. Gary produced the TV ads after he saw the success of Kens live performances and sales of his product at the shows. This worked and so a five year relationship with Dino saw Ken’s music reach Australia wide through the TV advertising. Gary Jones organised all of the Dino strategies and Ken kept selling live at his gigs. This worked for both Ken and Dino Music. Ken’s ability to see and feel the future was another reason for his success as he was always coming up with innovative marketing ideas to create more sales including his mail order side of the business. In 1993-1994 Gary Jones had noticed Kens continuous innovations into the marketing of his music and had indicated to Ken that it was time to start looking to the future beyond Dino music.
It was at this time that Ken had been invited to Holborne Canada by CEO Frank Swain. Ken was invited to visit Canada and met all the Holborne Canada staff Time was also spent with Frank Swain discussing plans for more of his releases.
It was at this time that Ken saw the first prototype display of the music interactive. Ken saw the vision of this new and innovative way of marketing his music in Australia. The first interactive machine displayed 12 titles at a time. A CD player inside the unit played samples of music displayed on a card with CD titles in colour. The samples played when a small button in the corner of the photo of the CD cover was pressed.. The samples were chosen as the best sample to sell the particular CD displayed. Holborne Canada had already designed and was building a thirty two CD rack and this was even more exciting. They later created many different interactives trying out new and innovative ways of selling their music titles. Kens music began to feature on around five hundred music interactives throughout Canada and the USA. Ken on his return to Australia approached Gary Jones to form a company in Australia with Frank Swain from Holborne Canada. Gary Jones had all the experience from Dino Music to run a distribution company and Frank Swain from Holborne Canada was willing to expand his business down under by supplying racks and stock for the Interactive music systems. His close business relationship with Ken and his music gave him the belief to ship all the new music Interactives and stock down under to Gary who started working out of his garage at home, in the early days and so Holborne Australasia was born in 1994.
Kens ideas of expanding the range of music to all Australian themes and titles and aim sales at the tourists paid off although this led to Frank Swain wishing to sell his share of the company. Kens titles with themes of Australia were selling very well and it was at this time that Gary Jones was working closely with Gene Pierson who had moved to Cairns in Queensland. Gene Pierson began marketing and recording an aboriginal artist didgeridoo player David Hudson. This was a recipe for success Gene Pierson who being very innovative and creative started producing music with Gary’s strong marketing expertise. This combination would become one of the most successful innovative Australian music catalogues of Aboriginal music and videos and DVD’S featuring David Hudson. Gene Pierson had met Nigel Pegrum who was producing at a local studio in Cairns and was looking to expand his horizons. Kens ties and success in sales with Australian Geographic Retail stores led to Holborne Australasia being able to place a music interactive in each of there stores. Australian Geographic have been a major part of the Holborne Australasia success story, as Gary used the success of this venture to get other main retail stores who traditionally did not sell music to sell music through the innovation and proof of sales from Australian Geographic Stores. Gary’s strategy worked and Holborne Australasia placed many hundreds with a final tally in 2005-2006 of over one thousand five hundred racks in all Australian Airport stores, as well as duty free stores. Holborne Australasia became one of the most successful Australian music business’s, producing new music that tourists would purchase whilst visiting Australia. With a large warehouse in Alexandria and a full time staff of eleven people as well as casual employees they distributed product to every corner of Australia and New Zealand .Titles such as “Spirit of The Pan Flute Australia”, “Australia “ Australian Wilderness “Memories of Australia”. Ken continued his role of creating music for the Music Interactives as well as releasing many of the titles world wide through his network of distributors. Australia is one of the most popular countries in the world to visit. You would find Kens titles in nature style stores, airports and healing centres as well as on most airline relaxation programmes world wide. Ken built an international fan base from people worldwide who have been touched by his music. Ken performed regularly at the Sydney Opera House Bennelong during the mid 90’s. Visitors to Sydney would hear his unique calling through his music, including airline staff who assisted in getting the music played on international airlines.” Ken’s music continued to feature for more than twenty years on the in-flight programming from Qantas, United, Singapore, KLM and many others. Ken performed live at universities, shopping centres allowing passers by to be introduced to his music with live performances. Ken performed for fifteen consecutive years at the annual International New Age Trade Show held in Denver Colorado. Ken sold his fifty percent share in Holborne Australasia in 2007 as he wanted to spend more time creating music and travelling the world.
Ken says that his favourite part of being a professional musician is “composing music that people enjoy, that helps them relax. It’s the ultimate job.” For inspiration, Ken spends a great deal of time with nature; whales and dolphins are his passion, as is the rain forest. “When you are at one with nature, you are in balance with life,” he enthuses. “I also love waterfalls, and in the year two thousand released my first DVD release, “Waterfalls.”
Asked about how Ken creates his relaxing sounds, he explains “The melodies of my music come when I play the piano each day. The process usually begins with my early morning piano practice; a melody will come through the chord structures and I’ll feel the excitement of inspiration beginning in my heart. Then I play and play the same patterns, encouraging more melodies to emerge. When I feel intuitively that the music has given all that it can in the structure of the piece, it is logged as part of a new CD. All of my recordings have themes, so I usually work within each theme to completion.”
Unlike the majority of New Age Musicians, Ken has always been at ease with live performance. The entire show would be rehersed and performed within a perfectly organised performance. Later, the confidence that comes from performing live four or five times a week enabled Ken to open up to spontaneity, adding a new dynamic aspect to the shows.
While playing with other artists is inspiring, Ken enjoyed very much the control of being a solo performer; it allowed Kengreater freedom to make decisions about the music, as well as regarding practical items like tour schedules and practicing the routines that improved his performances by watching videos and always looking at improving the live concerts.
Ken balances his work ethic with social responsibility. Ken supported a Ethiopian child from the early age of three till her being accepted into University, a proud moment for Ken. Ken was a member of Greenpeace International for more than 15 years.
Ken performed three Celebration Of Life concerts in Sydney to help create more supportive wards for leukaemia patients,” he shares. “Changing those old hospital wards was necessary, and over $50,000 was raised from ticket sales and donations. The rooms were changed from dull and disenchanting to bright, enlightened places where people felt empowered to be healed. These rooms have been featured on my web site and, for me, it was a great cause. I still visit the ward whenever possible, and talk to the patients.”
This type of endeavour is not unusual for Ken, who believes that “spirit gave me the gift of music.” By following this gift, he says, “my recordings become music for the heart. “I give thanks every day for my gift and never take it for granted, as it can be taken away as quickly as it is given. “This experience of life comes through the music,” he explains. “The melodies in my music encourage listeners to be happy, to follow their hearts and their dreams.
” If life has taught me anything, it is to be who you are, not who you have to be.”
KEN DAVIS MUSIC DISCOGRAPHY
Feelings from Within (1985)
Visual Dreams (1988)
As The Dream Unfolds (1988)
High Energy Music (1988)
Australia Dawning Video (1988)
CDs & Cassettes
Crystal Clear (1987) – Gold
Quest For Utopia (1989)
Ken Davis Live (1989)
Pan Flutes With Nature (1989) Gold
Early Morning In The Rainforest (1992) – Platinum
Daintree Dreamtime (1992) – Platinum
Atmospheres (1992) – Triple Platinum
Tai Chi Music (1992) – Gold
Pan Flutes By The Ocean (1992) – Triple Platinum
Call Of The Dolphin (1993) – Platinum
Spirit Of The Pan Flute Australia (1993) – Platinum
Spirit Of Sedona (1994) – Gold
Dolphin Magic (1996) – Gold
Environmental Ambience (1999)
Celebration Of Life (2000)
Australian Atmospheres (2000)
Australian Wilderness (2001)
The Dolphin Experience (2001)
Waterfalls DVD (2001)
Rainforest Collection Box Set (2001)
Dolphin Collection Box Set (2001)
SPA CD (2006)
Blue Mountains Experience (2007)
Crystal Piano SPA (2007)
Amma’s Love CD (USA Only) (2007)
In Deepest Thanks CD (2007)
INSPIRED MUSIC VIDEOGRAPHY
Pan Flutes By The Ocean VHS Video (1991)
Daintree Dreamtime VHS Video (1994)
Waterfalls PAL NTSC (2000)
Environmental Classic PAL (2002)
Early Morning In The Rainforest (2005)
CELEBRATION OF LIFE – Instrumentation & Guest Artists
All compositions written by Ken Davis; music and sound programming created and performed by Ken Davis using Korg 01 Wpro, Korg i3, Roland Groove Box MC505 and Yamaha Grand G3. Guest artists include: Reudi Homberger on sax, drummer Nigel Pegrum, and acoustic guitarist Wayne McIntosh. Special guest appearance by “living legend” Ash Dargan on didgeridoo.
Nigel Pegrum (drums, percussion, producer, engineer) – Nigel’s recording career began in London as founding member of The Small Faces and, later, Uriah Heep. In 1973, he joined the legendary British Folk Group Steeleye Span, with whom he spent 17 years recording 20 albums and headlining numerous world tours. In the mid-80’s, Nigel formed his own record label and produced 50 acoustic, jazz and early music albums during a six year period. Nigel has also been involved in the production of many TV/film themes and TV/radio jingles. Relocating to Australia in 1991, Nigel designed and built Select Sound Studios in Cairns, Queensland. He has since produced 75 albums, predominantly in the world music vein.
Ruedi Homberger (saxophone) – Born in Switzerland, Ruedi studied clarinet as a child at the Zurich Conservatorium for ten years and made his first public performance at age 12. Soon, he was performing regularly with both classical orchestras and Swiss folk music groups. After expanding his studies of saxophone and piano at the Swiss Jazz School, Ruedi co-founded the Zurich Jazz School in 1976 and began touring Switzerland and Germany with his own Modern Jazz Combo and with a wide variety of acts. Performing many styles from Jazz Ballet to Boogie-Woogie, Reudi nonetheless found time to form a Swiss studio band, resulting in extensive sessions in both Switzerland and Italy for Active Records. In the early 80’s, Reudi travelled to India, conducting and taking workshops with the Om Mandala Project, a union of Indian and Western musicians interested in synthesizing Indian classical music with Western jazz-based improvisation. In 1984, Reudi settled in Australia and began composing a musical about the early gold rush days in the northern territories; his musical was such a success that he became composer and musical director for the Tjapukai Dance Theatre, Australia’s most successful Aboriginal dance company. Today, Ruedi divides his time between performing and recording his own work with serving as a top-call session musician with tenure at the Jazz Department of the Sydney Conservatorium.
Ash Dargan (Didgeridoo) – This living legend is an aboriginal artist descended from the Larrikia people of the Northern territory, Australia; he is one of the most recorded musicians in Australia, with numerous solo performances documented for the Indigenous Australia label, as well as guest performances with many popular artists in live performance and on record. Introduced to American audiences in 1998 through his guest performance on the SEASON OF SOULS top 10 hit album by Tulku (Polygram). A classically trained musician from the Trinity School Of Music in London, England, Ash has traveled to and lived with many diverse world cultures (Native American, Asian, Indian and South American). Through these experiences, he has woven a tapestry of music that has the power to send an audience into Dreamtime states of mind. Ash has worked with Nigel Pegrum for two years creating a series of indigenous “big beat” releases.
Wayne McIntosh (Acoustic Guitar) – Considered a virtuoso on the guitar in Australia, Wayne frequently accompanies one of the world’s greatest guitar players, Tommy Immanuel, as well as many of Australia’s most in-demand session musicians. Wayne has worked for many years with Nigel Pegrum at Select Sound, both writing and performing tracks on a wide variety of projects including Flamenco Didge and Jazz Didge two recordings in the Indigenous Rhythm series.
CELEBRATION OF LIFE – Interview With Ken Davis
Q: Your latest release sounds a little different than previous releases; there is a subtle smooth jazz influence.
A: During my frequent visits to the USA over the past ten years, I’ve made it a point to listen to a lot of radio whilst there and have always impressed by the smooth jazz style in LA. I have always loved the melodic structure and relative simplicity of smooth jazz and world beat musical styles; so it was only a matter of time before I tried my hand at integrating those characteristics into my own sound.
Q: Tell us a bit about the individual instrumentals on Celebration Of Life
A. The first track was inspired by music I had composed for my Dolphin Magic release. The melody was so joyous, it brought tears to my eyes; on many occasions, it has bought more tears from people who experience it live.
“Holding Your Hand,” has always been a favourite of mine, so I decided to re-arrange it into the smooth jazz format to give it new perspective and life. “Land Far Away” was inspired by the sounds coming from the keyboard that helped create it; the didgeridoo completed the theme in harmony with the grace and beauty of the piano.
“Atlantis,” has always been one of my favourite themes, but this time I re-arranged it to include bass and drums and bass plus an angelic choir that really brought out the previously hidden beauty of the tune.
Q: You arranged a sax line for Track 5, “Said You Were Wrong.”
A: Yes, I wrote this on the keyboard and created the lead sax line as I always do (create the melody that is inspired by the chord structure behind). Ruedi then played the sax line perfectly to enhance the great chorus melody.
is called “Sugar”. It is a great dance track with strong bass and drums. The creative short sax line and the world beat sound make this a refreshing change of pace.
“Incantation,” features my favourite instrument, the pan flute. I think it would make a great film score theme.
Is titled “L.A. Cool,” and is one of the most inspired pieces that I have ever composed. It is the manifestation of one of those magic times in the recording studio when everything is flowing just right, the sound is great and I got to hit the record button. It is so great when music just happens like that! (laughs) Some people may be surprised to learn that the flute heard on this track was actually played on the synthesizer.
“Shaken But Not Stirred” was composed and recorded live.
Q: What about the title track?
A: Track 10
“Celebration Of Life” has an interesting history. Originally, this song was a very high-powered rock instrumental. But we re-arranged it right back to where most of the original song was stripped, even the drums, then gave it cutting edge instrumentation, including some Roland Groove box. It has turned out to be one of my favourite tracks.
“Spacial Jazz,” is also a departure from my typical sound; it feels like it came from another time and space. Lots of effects went into creating this very unique piece of music. The album closes with
“Sunset Over Bali,” a creation that Inspired me after spending many hours creating this innovation.
Q: What is the theme or basic inspiration of this new recording?
A: Celebration Of Life was inspired by my endeavours to raise money to help assist people in hospital by providing a more positive environment. This led to the theme, with individual pieces starting to emerge during the two years after performing the related benefit concerts.
Q: Are there any special skills of techniques you’ve developed that are
showcased on this new album?
A: I’d like to think that my left hand technique is very skilled; that is, playing sequences with the left hand, not just chords. This ability allows so much more space and melody to come through. Also, arpeggiated chords in rhythm and octaves provide another melodic structure that makes the music more unique. This, blended with the orchestral backing, brings out the best in my playing of the lead melody lines. Most of the tracks were multi-tracked. The engineer-producer is a drummer and highly skilled at his craft; this helped me a lot make creative decisions as to the sound of the finished tracks.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share about Celebration Of Life?
A: This album, for me, encompasses all of the musical skills I’ve developed since I began releasing albums in 1982. I hope it will touch the innermost emotions of the people who listen to it and bring joy and inspiration to them to allow there creativity to abound and make them a better person for having taken the time to have listened top the creative process that created it. CELEBRATION OF LIFE is an expression of my zest to be alive, to be able to make music that really touches people in many ways. I hope this and all my recordings make listeners a little more aware of our fragile environment and how we must all strive to achieve a more harmonious lifestyle that encompasses all of our current luxuries without harming the environment. We need to preserve and enhance what we have left with future generations before we’ve gone too far to undo the harm we have caused to the Earth. Every living creature has its place on the planet has a right to enjoy life, and to participate in the Celebration Of Life.
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