Spirit and Passion

Ghost Note is Taking Cassette Era
Rock to a Whole New Level

Story by Karen Tinsley
Photography by John Liviero

A ghost note is “an ethereal note that’s applied but not necessarily played; it’s what you hear between the notes and what you see between the lines,” according to the six members of this namesake band. 

Meet Simon Zonak (keyboards/guitar/lead vocals/background vocals), Glenn Burger (drums/lead vocals/background vocals), Kevin “Killer” Smith (lead guitar, background vocals), Ernie Austin (bass guitar/background vocals), Matthew Brunke (lead/background vocals, keyboards, percussion/ trumpet) and Scott “Sax” Webster (lead/background vocals/horns).

So, what’s so special about Ghost Note?

First and foremost, an undeniable tapestry of talent. Second, a collective versatility. Each expertly delivered song is infused with high energy and unadulterated joy. Third, all six members of Ghost Note can really sing—turning out rich, resonating solos and captivating vocal harmonies. And finally, this band clearly has fun on stage, each one of them singing with spirit and playing with unbridled passion. 

And then there’s the fact that all six of these guys have been performing for a long, long time. Between them, they have more than a century of combined professional experience—which means they are all top-notch players. Each one shines in their own way and yet, the sum is still much greater than all the parts. The popping percussion, brilliant keyboards, rock solid bass line, killer guitar, sumptuous sax and horns culminate in one beautiful groove. The proof is most definitely in the pudding—in this case, wonderfully executed, smooth-sounding songs that are well-known, well-loved, but not often performed. 

Ghost Note members (l-r): Kevin “Killer” Smith, Simon Zonak, Scott “Sax” Webster, Ernie Austin, Matthew Brunke, Glenn Burger.

Their “right and tight” sound is rooted in a real respect and admiration for each carefully chosen song on their set list. Sax shares, “A lot of thought goes into what we play; we focus on the musical gems that people love and remember, but that haven’t been overplayed to death over the decades. For example, we do The Rolling Stones, but not “Satisfaction” or “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” 

Sometimes, you just don’t remember how good a song is until it’s formidably resurrected years later, creating a few additional or overlooked reasons as to why you found the original so powerful. Committed to playing each song as it was originally performed, Ghost Note offers their audiences opportunities to re-experience those authentic sounds.  

Just try to sit still as Simon flawlessly hits every note on David Bowie’s “Changes”, Glenn gives Ringo Starr a run for his money (both singing and drumming) on “It Don’t Come Easy”, Killer channels Chicago’s Terry Kath on “25 or 6 to 4”, Matthew and Sax make “One Fine Morning” by Lighthouse their own, Ernie lays down the funky groove on the Stones’ “Miss You” or Sax nails the intro to Gerry Rafferty’s  “Baker Street”.

From the first to the final note of the night, Ghost Note’s decade-spanning set list transports you back to the time you heard The Alan Parsons Project or Mott the Hoople for the very first time.  

It all began this past summer with a couple of impromptu porch concerts for family and friends at Sax and Melissa Webster’s South Walkerville home. Then, a ton of rehearsing culminated in their live debut on a packed Tecumseh pub patio under the early September moonlight. It was abundantly clear that Ghost Note had created a buzz, as musicians from many other popular Windsor bands could be spotted checking out the new kids on the block. 

Also abundantly clear was that all their practicing, promoting and attention to detail paid off in spades. 

The joy was palpable—on stage and in the audience. There was no dance floor, so people just danced wherever they could find room. 

Glenn happily recalls, “We were firing on all cylinders that night!” 

Between the Notes

Making music is in Ghost Note’s DNA; playing together is their ultimate reward.    

When asked how they decide what songs to perform, Simon explains, “It’s a long process; the song has to fit the band and we all have to be able to sing it well. We’re sticklers in that regard.”

Matthew adds, “And no matter how popular or beloved a song might be, if it’s not fun for us to play, you won’t find it on our set list.” 

Ernie concludes, “In a lot of ways it’s a marathon as opposed to a sprint; but by the same token, some of our best tunes have happened spontaneously while we were just jamming together.” 

Few instruments are more synonymous with rock than the electric guitar, and Ghost Note’s Killer Smith is a veritable guitar virtuoso. Known affectionately as “The Quiet One” in the band, when Killer launches into a solo, there are no words necessary!   

Between the Lines 

The more performers involved, the more complex the group dynamics. While it goes without saying that professional musicians must possess strong technical skills singing or playing their chosen instruments, so too must they possess strong team playing skills. And when there are six highly contributing performers in one band (as there are in Ghost Note), it can be “a bit like herding cats”, they joke. 

“Democracy within a band isn’t always easy—ongoing, honest communication is essential”, Simon expounds. Glenn adds, “it’s never been ‘hey, here’s a great song for me’. Of course all performers have egos, but we park ours at the door. Whether practicing or performing, it’s always a completely collaborative effort.”

Mark your calendar for December 10—when you can see, hear and experience Windsor’s hottest new band for yourself at Sir Richard’s Pub in Tecumseh. And come early…the band has been playing to packed houses! 

Sax promises, “From Bowie to Bozz Scaggs, from Springsteen to Supertramp, we’ve got cassette-era rock covered from the Camaro to the Yacht!”

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