Producer/recording artist Nicholas Gunn at Kryptonite

By Molly Fleming

Staff Writer

If the names Nicholas Gunn and the recording label Gemini Sun aren’t familiar, they will be. An international recording artist, Gunn, has moved his recording label to Rockford. Working with Joel Geist and Karen Bishoff, known for their years at the Noise Chamber, Gunn sits atop the music industry ladder.

Gunn, a classical flautist, plays his instrument in an atypical style. What accents his music’s independent sound is that it is played, produced and recorded under his own record label, Gemini Sun.

He met Rockford’s own Joel Geist along his educational journey, and found that the two shared similar interests in music and production. Since then, Gunn has recorded a great number of best-selling albums. Gunn and Geist share a friendship and musical camaraderie that work well in producing Gunn’s new work.

Joining the crew of Gemini Sun is Karen Bishoff, who also worked at the Noise Chamber in Rockford. She will fill the position of product manager, furnishing many contacts and ties to the local music community.


Gunn, who was born and raised in Rochester, England, studied at Great Britain’s Royal School of Music. He is classically trained, but his love for all forms of music (pop, folk, improvisational, etc.) is clearly shown in his work.

Previously, Gunn was working out of California with Geist, and moved to Nashville under the Ryko-distributed label Anagram Records (now Gemini Sun). Gunn has performed mostly in the U.S. and has made quite a reputation for himself as a not-so-orthodox-concert-flautist who spreads his musical wings to a wide spectrum of sound, influence and inspiration. Not only has Gunn perfected the classical C concert flute, but he also experiments with various whistles, bamboo flutes and percussion instruments, lending a new sound and perspective to a traditional instrument.

Seven of Gunn’s albums have hit Top 10 on Billboard magazine’s “Top New Age Albums” chart. He has been affiliated with many prestigious instrumentalist-oriented labels, and he engaged in a brief career in acting; all that in a not-so-very-long life.

Geist, vice president of Gemini Sun Records, has a resumé as impressive as Gunn’s. Some other projects Geist has accomplished in the past have been: co-produced and engineered Silt’s “Lunatic,” (Dude, Where’s My Car? soundtrack); directed the video for the Pimps’ song “Rocket Science,” (Mission Impossible soundtrack); and directed The Livingstons’ (now Yu-Nek) video for “On Time” (shown on BET).


Gunn’s most recent album Through the Great Smoky Mountains, released in May of this year, hit #22 on the Billboard charts last week. The CD will be followed by a song-length video on DVD slated for release at the beginning of 2003. Through the Great Smoky Mountains…a Visual Journey could be described as a “nature video;” but honestly, it’s simply putting musical sounds into visual order. That’s what music videos were originally supposed to do, right? It will be mixed in S.1 surround sound, and is being produced and directed by Geist. It’s an impressive piece that might turn some heads and change some concepts of music videos altogether.

The album itself completes a trio of tributes to U.S. national parks. With a percentage of the revenues from The Music of the Grand Canyon and Return to Grand Canyon, Gunn has donated more than $130,000 of the proceeds to the Grand Canyon Association’s preservation and arts program. When purchasing Through the Great Smoky Mountains, the buyer gets an ageless album of tight rhythms and nature-inspired melodies, plus the pleasure of donating to a great cause.

Style and good company

One of the most interesting aspects about Gunn’s musicianship is his lack of limitations. In a classic contradiction in terms and action, Gunn captures freedom in his liberated playing style. He tempers his free style with truly melodic tunes, and the listener is enveloped in the same zone as the musician.

Musicians he has included on his albums to add to his own diversity include Yanni, Karen Briggs, Sachi McHenry Patitucci, Zavier and John Bishoff, and various vocalists. With a palette of color like that, one almost doesn’t need a video. What could be described as “New Age/Improvisational” by music retailers, is really an invention style.

Listen to a Nick Gunn album before you go to Kryptonite when he performs this week, and acquaint yourself with his music. A good suggestion for listening to Through the Great Smoky Mountains is to close your eyes, and picture the natural environment that Gunn is weaving for you. Then, watch the … A Visual Journey DVD, and find out what Gunn was attempting to convey and see how similar it is to your own.

Gunn’s main focus is on melody and taste, instead of the “obscure,” which is odd, considering the title plugged on to his genre preference. He is one of the few contemporary musicians who recognizes the difference between being “out there” and being “out there” while maintaining musical taste and theme.

Gunn’s nearest similar sound would be the result of a Celtic piper taking a journey to India, and meeting up with Ravi Shankar, who has just returned from a Rahsaan Roland Kirk concert, and they play for a while in some ambient forest.

More music

Albums you should pick up before you go to Kryptonite are Crossroads, The Sacred Fire, and The Music of the Grand Canyon, which are mostly inspired by the Southwest areas of America, with a little Latin American rub-off. Passion in My Heart covers a little more than one localized area. These are just a few, but some of the best that Gunn has recorded over the last decade. You can pick these albums up at Media Play, Barnes & Noble, Borders and other major media-retail outlets.

Don’t miss the show

Go see Nicholas Gunn at Kryptonite. Rockford should be prepared for this musical genre by now, and if not, this performance should open some ears. Gunn has been working hard to spread his musical philosophy and concepts throughout the world. When an artist is producing his own albums, directing his own management and publicity, it’s amazing if he even has time to focus on the music itself.

Gunn’s focus is out there, ready to inspire and give listeners a departure point for meditation. He said of the inspiration for his music, “It is a good time in history to concentrate on the positive effects of nature and our wilderness areas in order to help counterbalance all the negative things going on the world.”

Nicholas Gunn will be performing at Kryptonite (corner of West State & Main Sts.), Saturday, August 3rd, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at Centre Events, 968-5222 and Kryptonite box office, 965-0931.

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