Email/on-line interview with Chautauqua Star staff Dusten Rader, submitted 4-29-10:
Dusten Rader: Who are Ken Hardley and the Henways?
Ken Hardley: We are three musicians brought together by our lifelong habit of playing music in front of people. I suppose, at our advanced ages, it has become a matter of being comfortable with doing the thing we have always done. Between us, we have almost 100 years of experience on the stage, a statistic to which I am a bit hesitant to attract attention. The good news about that is that we have proven at least adequately proficient to stay afloat in this difficult business. The bad news is that other people now have to pick out our clothes or we’d look like Cheech and Chong hanging out with an old golfer.
My compadre Ernest “Aardvark” Henway plays bass and is the glue of the band. He and I worked together for some time in the 90’s and, after two years of my occasional bribing and haranguing, he finally consented to emerge from his solitary retirement to once again provide the rock solid bottom every rock and roll band needs.
A few years ago I had the good fortune to run across drummer Don “Cliffie” Henway in another musical project (The Hogs). I was immediately struck, as everyone is, by his relentless energy and irresistibly driven, forceful drumming. After years of touring with club bands and a stint with the Greg Allman Band, Cliffie settled in Limestone, NY and consented to join me in this endeavor.
DR: What is your hometown?
KH: I think we consider ourselves based in and around the Jamestown area. I live in the city and it feels like home to me, at least on weekend nights.
DR: What genre or style of music do you play?
KH: The label “classic rock” has become so broad it probably needs a little explanation for each entity it’s attached to nowdays. We are really a dance band and tend to play songs with a variety of danceable rythms, from rockabilly to straight ahead rock and roll to reggae. Part of the benefit of having a monster drummer like Cliffie is that we can pull off almost any rock-ish style with chest-thumping vigor. As a unit we offer an evening of recognizable, much-loved classic rock tunes mixed in with songs that are heard less often but are equally danceable and compelling. There is a station on SIRIUS radio that defines itself as representing “a generation’s musical stash”. I think that suits us. Except that we represent the musical stash of three generations.
DR: Who are your influences?
KH: In a sense, this band pays tribute to almost every aspect of what has made rock and roll lasting and great. Certainly, the mainstream giants of classic rock are influences: Tom Petty, the Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Elvis Presley, Elvis Costello, the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, Van Morrison. But at the same time you’ll get a lot in a night with us by musicians you hear less often in our circles: Link Wray, Jenny Lewis, the Velvet Underground, Johnny Cash, Bob Marley, David Bromberg.
DR: What is your favorite album?
KH: Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” is a work that reveals itself differently with each listening. “Nilsson Schmillson” is pristine and strikes me as almost perfect. Rickie Lee Jones’ “Pirates” breaks my heart every time I listen to it. Tom Waits is my favorite songwriter and every album he made is my favorite. But I have to say Vampire Weekend has just done a cd that really struck me.
DR: What is your favorite song to perform?
KH: Probably Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” because there’s this element of mortal danger whenever we perform it. I think it is my destiny to actually die while playing this song. I thought it happened last month but as it turns out, I just broke my guitar strap.
DR: What is your favorite gig?
KH: The truth is that I’ve played concert halls, parties, wedding receptions, gymnasiums, living rooms, and coffeehouses but I feel most at home in bar venues. From a sociological/anthropological perspective, every bar is a cultural island unto itself. I love the legendary Bullfrog Hotel in Jamestown because it richly displays humanity at its most genuine, confused, lonely, and unpredicable. The Bullfrog is an unashamed glimpse into what it is that brings people to bars – no pretense here. The Double Diamond in Ellicottville is always full of tourists looking for a good time and people who find interesting music something to celebrate. And it’s a great room for sound. Root 5 in Hamburg is great for its dressy, recreational atmosphere. Every bar has its own mosiac of factors that makes it unique and I love them all.
DR: Who is your favorite local band?
KH: For a lightly populated area, we have an astonishing abundance of musical talent. Two original bands stand out for me. I have unmitigated respect for the Bogarts. These guys have fine songwriting, the chilling interplay of two ballsy guitarists, and a truly unique and steady rhythm section. The other is blues-oriented King Rail. My buddy tiny b is the can’t-take-your-eyes-off-him front man surrounded by two of the best (Jamie Trussler and Matt Baxter) in the world.
As for other great local bands, I don’t think there’s a cover band anywhere that surpasses the musicianship and energy of Two for Flinching. I also like to see the fabulous Charity, Allergic Reaction, the Pennsyltucky Peach Pickers, the Steve Johnson Band, and my good friend Cindy Haight whenever I get a chance.
DR: Do you play originals, covers, or both?
KH: We focus mainly on covers but I hasten to add that we make no attempt to sound like the originals. We have our own power-trio ambience and strive to keep it that way. As our bassist, Aardvark is fond of saying, “less is more.” He and I tend to carry that attitude into each song, giving Cliffie the green light to pretend he is Keith Moon (the Who’s near-mythological drummer) whenever he feels like it. It works. We take inspiration from such great cover artists as Ry Cooder and Bonnie Raitt. I’ve never been able to stay away from odd interpretations of other people’s stuff. The band recently added “Ghost Riders in the Sky”. The combination of that iconic guitar riff, a motor-like beat, and the frightening plod forward makes for an almost hypnotic experience.
I’m finding the Henways to be a worthy vehicle with which to experiment and concoct new looks at old material. From a primordial ride through Sonny Bono’s “The Beat Goes On”, to the purposefully moving “Ring of Fire”, to a stomping, leaping version of Weezer’s “Keep Fishin’”, the Henway’s wide conception of rock rhythms seems to be a bottomless pit of inspiration for me.
While only a three-piece band, I’m reminded of John Hartford’s observation. “Style is based on limitations”. This band has a truly unique style and I’m having a lot of fun. I suspect, maybe, too much fun.
DR: Do you have a web site?
KH: www.kenhardley.com Thanks for the chance to visit.