John Kasiewicz is the guitarist from the Connecticut instrumental trio Raisinhill. Their sound is refreshing as they display compositional integrity with hints of jazz and classical influences‚ but they delivered it with rock n' roll energy. With just two years playing together‚ they're continuing to build on their captivating and interesting foundation of sound.
John Kasiewicz is developing his own voice with the guitar. By combining melodic playing with climactic phrasing‚ he displays a fresh and unique approach to the instrument.
I had the opportunity to talk with John in mid-November as Raisinhill was finishing up their fall tour.
Mike McKinley: The trio recently had your Halloween gig‚ how did that go?
John Kasiewitz: Halloween was great. We decorated the Acoustic Café like a high school prom circa 1987 (laughter).
MM: So I imagine you played a lot of eighties' tunes…
JK: That week we learned 11 eighties' tune‚ and of course we had to arrange them for an instrumental trio. That was the biggest challenge. The challenge was to try to arrange four keyboard parts‚ three backup vocals‚ the melody and the guitar parts all at the same time. And at the same time we had to remove certain parts to make the arrangement work and still have the essence of the tune or something cool about it‚ and capture the sound.
MM: Right‚ so the audience knows what's going on…
JK: Right. And also avoid anything that's super cheesy‚ which is tough for 80's material. It was great and it was a challenge. One of the things that was really challenging for me was using guitar looping and trying to use them in a different way. I definitely did that in certain tunes that were just impossible to play without them.
So what we've learned from all of those tunes is about how you can write a three-minute tune and have it express something. The idea of writing a three-minute tune that has real hooky chorus and an interesting bridge. I really like that. So I think that's going to play a factor with the next bunch of tunes we're going to be writing in the months to come.
MM: Really? So you're looking to write tunes that are a little more concise and deliver something that I guess would be considered pop instrumentals?
JK: Yeah‚ kind of‚ I think for the last year we've been discussing how to make things even more concise and express a lot of music in three to four minutes. That sort of presents a problem when you're playing 80's material for Halloween as we learned all these tunes and if you played them side by side you'd have about 25 minutes worth of material (laughs). But I think we're all really into that idea...and that's not to say that seven minute tunes like "The Ridge" will be going away‚ I mean‚ it even surprises me that tunes like "Nameless" are seven-minutes long; it seems shorter than that to me. I like that a lot and that was the type of writing we were doing at the time‚ which was the very beginning. We were writing for the sake of writing and seeing...well‚ not having any expectations of what the final product was going to be like. I think that idea of writing together will never change‚ but I think in the back of our mind we're going to write some songs that are shorter. One of our newer tunes is called "Big Top Cowboy‚" and it is a really short song - three minutes. It has a verse section‚ chorus section‚ a break section‚ a beginning and ending‚ and it's all wrapped up in three minutes. I think that's great. It's totally going against the seven minute intro into a fifteen minute song that leads to a thirty minute jam (laughter). Can we make all those things happen in three minutes? That's the idea.
MM: Right. Is it possible that these songs can open up and evolve in the live setting?
JK: Yeah‚ I think that's the idea as well. This new idea of writing concise songs could lead to opportunities for jams rather than having a long song anyway and then adding a jam on top of that. That might be a good idea too: Combine the idea of writing really short songs but expand our experience of jamming and seeing if we can balance it all out between the two. I like that idea...
MM: I think it's a good idea. You're going to be touring‚ playing this material live in the moment‚ and these songs can develop and take on a life of their own. But at the same time you have a tight three minute composition...
JK: It would be great to have a CD of 30 songs that are two to three minutes long and then when you see us live we play like two of them (laughter).
The way it turned out with our schedule by being so busy earlier in the fall with the tour down south and through the northeast in October‚ it's now being balanced out by three or four gigs for the rest of the year. So we have a lot of time now to rehearse‚ practice and write‚ and that's what we're focusing on in the next few months. We'll be rehearsing together three nights a week‚ and usually these sessions end up being six hours long. So there's a lot of time for us to focus on the material and open the new chapter of Raisinhill. We're really excited to find out what the next CD will sound like‚ what the next tour will sound like‚ and to realize what we've learned thus far as a band and how things will evolve.
MM: I think that's what it's about. You've been on the road playing a lot of gigs and now you have some time to reflect on the growth and the evolution of your playing together. Like you said‚ this is the opportunity to focus on the next chapter...and you're young - you've been doing this for a couple of years…
JK: Yeah‚ actually I think right around now is our two year anniversary. We started playing in November of 2001.
MM: Hey‚ happy anniversary! (Laughter)