Kala Ukulele Artists “The Atomic Sharks”
I (Bry) enjoy getting to know ukulele musicians and Kala uke players even more so. I have interviewed several Kala musicians but this is the first duo/band that I have interviewed together. As I also play “island music” and ukulele (as well as playing occasionally for kids)… I was looking forward to getting to know the Atomic Sharks. Thanks, guys, for answering these questions!
Bio: from their website www.atomicsharks.com
The Atomic Sharks are Kris Hensler and Kenny Taylor.
Both Kenny and Kris share a passion for kids and music education. The Sharks were a perfect opportunity for both of them to combine their musical assets into one giant feeding frenzy of fun and mayhem. There’s one thing that the Sharks love as much as making great island music…and that’s teaching kids how to do it too. As musical ambassadors for Kala Brand Music Company, Kenny and Kris love to show kids how to have a great time while playing the ukulele.
1) Where is home for you at the moment?
Both born and bred in Fort Wayne, Indiana… although I’ve (Kris) spent time in Southern California and Chicago. We’ve both logged plenty of miles on the road in the 80’s and early 90’s.
2) What were your earliest/current musical influences?
I started playing drums when I was 4 years old. My uncle was a jazz drummer in and around Chicago back in the ’50’s so I was drawn to performers like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa.
As a teenager I got interested in songwriting and started to study the craft by listening to people like Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, James Taylor, and later on, Sting. The best lesson I learned from those guys was to stay out of the way of a good song. You should be able to strip away all of the glitter and ego and still be left with a compelling statement, whether it be musical or lyrical.
These days I’m a big fan of the Zac Brown Band. Good songwriting and great musicianship.
For pure vocal beauty, I love listening to Darius Rucker. He’s got one of those rare voices that I never get tired of hearing. I always liked him in Hooty but even more now that he’s on his own.
And of course Jimmy Buffet. Even though I love his songwriting and live shows, what I really aspire to is his ability to turn his passion into a viable business. Brilliant!
My earliest influences were the country western music played by my father, a fiddle player, the jazz my much older brother played on records, and seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. Yes, I remember it and I had just turned 3.
3) When did you start playing the uke?
I started playing in late 2002. I bought myself a cheap 50 dollar uke for Christmas. So right at 11 years.
I got to the uke late in life, when I was 30 yrs old. I started with a baritone, then a soprano, and then about 15 more sopranos over the years. I used them for theatrical and studio work. My 1990’s rockabilly band the Blue Moon Boys, featuring Nic Roulette, used the uke on several albums. We toured in a van a lot and a cheap ukulele I bought became the “bandvan” uke. Everybody in the band learned how to play it and countless musicians had a go at it, including cowboy band, Riders in the Sky and Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers (both of whom signed it).
4) What Kala ukes are you currently playing?
I (Kris) play an all Mahogany Tenor with cutaway. The model is K-SMHTE – C.
Kenny plays the Tenor Acacia with cutaway.
We also bring several of the Makala ukes to lives shows so kids can play them. We often do a short session to show kids a few uke basics.
5) Any current musical projects you would like to tell us about (tours/CD’s)?
We are currently working on new material for the Atomic Sharks’ first CD. We’re still working on a title for the CD, although we’ll be releasing several of the songs as singles online before the end of 2013. The first single off the new CD will be “Smile.” It features Kenny playing the Tenor Ukulele like a Lap Steel.
We’re also working with WTIU in Bloomington on a video project. It’s a series of 12 music videos that will be aired on PBS stations in the Midwest as part of a series for kids called the “Friday Zone”.
In addition to that, we’re also producing a series of 10 short music education spots that will air on PBS stations across the country sometime in 2014.
There are a few other projects in the early stages that I can’t talk about just yet. We work with a company called Creative Licensing Group (CLG). Our ongoing relationship with them will help us to extend the Shark brand around the globe in the next several years.
Plus live performances throughout the year.
2014 will be a busy year for the Sharks.
6) Any question that you wished someone would ask but never has? With answer of course 😉
Nobody has ever asked WHY I write music. I hear many people who profess to be songwriters say things like, “well, I just write for myself and if people like it then that’s great.” I don’t subscribe to that at all. And I don’t think too many others really do either. I just think that’s the answer they want people to hear. I write music because I have something that I want to share with the rest of the world. I want to write that ONE song that someone remembers 20 years from now and thinks to themselves…hey, that was a really catchy tune. If that happens even once, I’ll be a happy man.
Parrot Island Band update: It slows up a bit for us in the cooler months but this gives us time to record a few of our original songs. I have a couple of songs to add congas and background vocals and we should have our CD “Parrot Island Ukulele” out early in 2014.
Thanksgiving is only a couple of days away… we thank all of you who have listened to us and encouraged us this year… Have a blessed holiday season and I (Bry) hope we see you in 2014, if not before.
Blessings and beaches,
Kala Uke Artist