With a little help from his friends, Len Kahn has launched a new album of original songs in support of two local autism-related organizations.
For 20 years and through various line up changes, Kahn has been the drummer of the GMOs, which he said play a combination of covers and original songs at their live gigs.
It’s that body of original songs that makes up the bulk of the tracks on the new album.
“A couple of times we tried to get them recorded, then we would lose energy or run out of time. Then the band’s lineup shifted and there were those songs still unrecorded,” said Kahn.
Along with a couple of songs he wrote with people outside the band, Khan decided to get a number of local musicians together to record them.
“I ended up with these 13 songs and I thought it would be cool to get all of the people I have played with over the years in some way involved in the album,” said Kahn.
The project was recorded under the name Friends of Len.
The GMOs share all of the songwriting credit. Kahn, who is the drummer, said he mostly contributed lyrically to the band’s catalog.
Once he decided to make the recording, the project took about three years to organize and complete.
“It wasn’t three years of constant work, but it was just finding the time. I think that is a challenge for anyone trying to do something like this while you have a day job,” said Kahn.
A number of musicians contributed to the project, including: Owen Roberts, Rob McLean, Jerry Arpa, Doug Larson, Rob Hannam, Brent Rowan, Andrew McPherson, Adam Bowman, Thomas Hammerton and Noel Webb.
“There’s this really eclectic, talented group of musicians in Guelph and I was able to work with them, which was cool for me,” said Kahn.
The 13 songs on the album reflect a number of musical genres.
“At its heart it’s a little bit rock and roll, country and blues, but there is a be-bop song and a couple of songs I would say are punk-pop. It’s because the people I work with all have different styles,” said Kahn.
Proceeds from sales of the album will go to two local autism-related charities, in an effort to give back to the autism community.
Kahn’s 23-year-old son Jacob was diagnosed with autism at the age of two.
J.O.E. (Jobs, Opportunities and Enterprise) and Kerry’s Place Autism Services will benefit from the proceeds of the album.
“I decided to dedicate the proceeds to those two groups because of our personal connection, but also to help make the community a better place,” said Kahn.
Now 55 years old, Kahn said his musical influences include the Beatles, John Fogerty, Edward Bear and Tom Cochrane, among others.
“The first time I heard the Beatles my life changed,” he notes.
The album is available on all streaming services and Kahn is selling physical copies with full liner notes for $10 a pop.
“I went ahead and produced CDs — even though they are going the way of the dinosaur — mainly because there is still something to be said about having the lyrics. The whole story is in the album,” said Kahn.
He was able to keep a lot of the overhead costs low by recording the album locally and spending a lot of time with musicians in rehearsal to minimize the amount of studio time needed.
“They knew I was producing this and was hopefully going to do some good with it, so people were overly generous with their time,” said Kahn.
Although he plays the drums in the GMOs, Kahn plays on only one song on Friends of Len.
“I was able to step back and actually focus on the production and not play — which took a lot of the pressure off me,” he said.
A live show celebrating the album launch is planned for the spring.