Intervju med Ron Keel!
För en tid sedan hade jag nöjet att ringa upp Ron Keel. Bandet är ju aktuellt för den nya festivalen Stockholm Rock Out i början av september och vi pratade om bl a nya plattan, hans namn, Gene Simmons, kommande dvd, kommande bok mm.
Släng nu på "The right to rock" och dröm er tillbaka till tiden då man kunde bära spandex och ändå vara tuffast i världen.
When we started out with our website back in 2001, which was called Metal Shrine, the first interview we did, or actually, we sent you questions in an e-mail. But you were the first one and we were so damn proud that we got you to do that, so I wanna thank you for that! It got us all started.
Ron Keel: Of course. Man, I´d like to read that today and see how much have changed. (laughs) That´s cool! I´m glad I could help with that and I´m glad to be talking to you today.
RK: Almost ten years later, it´s cool man!
Well, getting started here, what was it like getting the band back together again? Did it work out smoothly or were there any rough edges? What was it like?
RK: You know, the hardest part was making that commitment, because we were not going to do it unless we could really focus our energy and do it right. And once we decided to do that, then it was smooth and natural. The very first rehearsal, the very first song of the first rehearsal, it was just like old times. It was like 20 years just melted away and it was fun. The whole thing has just been way more rewarding and gratifying than I ever thought it could be. In terms of how much fun we´ve had working together, rehearsing, recording, writing songs, it was really smooth and natural. Way more that I expected and I think that´s the reason why the shows took on so well. We´ve got good shows, we´ve got a good, strong, new album, “The streets of rock and roll” and new songs and new music and I think that´s because of the people, the guys in the band and because of the energy between each other. We´ve been through a lot together and we´ve stayed friends and we´ve always gotten along and that´s a big benefit.
Was there any special thing or moment that made you decide “Well hell, let´s give it a try!”?
RK: The deciding factor was really the fact that we have someone on our team, a booking agent. His name is Sullivan Bigg and we wanted to do it and the guys in the band always wanted to do it, but it takes more than just the five guys in the band, it takes a team of people around you, that believe in you, that will help you achieve your goals and Sullivan Bigg is a representative of people like Great White, KIX and some of the other bands from our genre and our era. He´s a big KEEL fan and he assured us that “Guys, if you do this, I can get you the shows! I can make sure that you have the opportunity to get back on stage where you belong, on the big stages on some of these festivals!”, and that was really the deciding factor. We wanted to do it, but we didn´t want to play in small clubs or bars. We wanted to get back on the big stage, where this band and the music belongs. And Sullivan Bigg assured us that he can make that happen and he did. He got us great shows last year, Rocklahoma, the South Texas Festival, the Mid West Rockfest and now he has booked our first show of 2010 at the Stockhol Rock Out. So he´s made it happen for us and that was really the deciding factor. The guys in the band kind of always wanted to do it, but we wanted to make sure we could do it right and he certainly helped us to accomplish that goal.
Are you the main song writer in the band?
RK: On this album it´s been a team effort. More collaboration than we ever did in the past. I wrote all the lyrics on this new album, but we all contributed musically in different ways. Marc and Brian both wrote great music on this record and we co-wrote a lot of stuff on this album. I haven´t really counted who´s the main song writer on this album. I wrote maybe half the music, but it really is a team effort and that´s been one of the great pleasures of making this new album, is collaborating with the guys. Marc flew out to my house in Las Vegas. We wrote two songs the first day, the ballad “Does anybody belive” and “Hold steady”. In the first day we started we wrote those two songs. Bryan Jay and I wrote, before we even did the reunion, we wrote “ Looking for a good time” and “Hit the ground running”. We were doing those songs for the Tv and Film Library and realized these have all the characteristics and elements of KEEL music. The big shouting choruses, the driving and thunderous drums and bass, screaming guitars going back and forth. It sounded like KEEL music and once we did that, Bryan put the music together for “Come hell or high water” and “The devil may care”. He sent me the music, I wrote the lyrics for those two and all of a sudden we had four songs that we felt could make a strong foundation for a new album, so that´s kind of how the wheels got turning to decide to make a new record. When we put the band back together we did not plan to make new music. We didn´t plan to create songs or write or record. We simply wanted to do some shows and celebrate 25 years of the band. The new music kind of happened like sex, you know, you´re with somebody and it starts happening and that´s really how it happened. We didn´t intend it and part of the charm and the magic of the new album is that we never intended to do this. It just happened on its own.
Did you have any thoughts of making it sound like classic KEEL, which I think it does, or were your thoughts of making it more like music is today? Was it just like “Let´s go for classic KEEL music!”?
RK: The cool thing man, was that we didn´t think of it at all! We didn´t talk about it, we didn´t have a band meeting where we discussed “Let´s go in this direction or let´s be this and do that!”. We just started spitting out songs. We didn´t even think about it. Not one discussion did we have about direction. We just wrote the songs, we listened to them and said “Yeah, I like that!”, “Ok, next!”. It was very natural, an easy process and it was all impulse, it all came from the heart and the soul and really didn´t have a whole lot of thought or discussion behind it at all.
Getting this album done, were you shopping it around to different record labels and how come you ended up on Frontiers?
RK: Once we made the decision to record a new album, that´s when we started looking for a home for it. We would have recorded it on our own if we had to, but of course we wanted them to work with us. You know, we´re not a record company, we´re a rock and roll band nad we didn´t want that responsibility. These guys are experts. Frontiers knows what they´re doing. Of course there´s a very short list of record companies in this genre of commercial hard rock, that really can get the job done. It´s not like there are 100 labels out there like Frontiers. There are maybe a handful. Start at the top and we went with Frontiers and told them we wanted to do this and they got behind it emmediately and gave us the opportunity and the budget to do it right. They believed in what we had going. We sent them a few of the demos, we had done some home demo recordings because they wanted to know in what direction we were going in and what kind of style it was and make sure it was classic KEEL. So we sent them a few of the home demos and we got the deal on the spot. They couldn´have turned out to be a better situation for us. Obviously they know what they´re doing with this style of music, with bands like Winger and Whitesnake. They do everything first rate and they do everything right and they gave us the freedom and the budget to make the album that we wanted to do make and we couldn´t have done it without them. We´re very fortunate and it ended up in a great situation.
Is it a one record deal or do you take it year by year? Did you sign on for several albums?
RK: We have some options. Obviously, if this one is successful there will be some demands dor another record down the road, either from the label or the fans. We´re not thinking about that right now. We just want to enjoy 2010, enjoy the success and the response that “Streets of rock and roll” has enjoyed from the fans and the media and everyone else. Just kind of taking it one day at a time and one song at a time. If there´s a demand for another album, maybe next year, we´ll address that when it comes.
Did you produce it yourselves or did you have an outside producer for it?
RK: No, this record was produced by Pat Regan, who´s worked with Deep Purple, KISS and so on, a long list of incredible sounding music that Pat has produced. He´s the guy that we wanted for this project. I´ve been wanting to work with Pat for 20 years now because everything he does sounds great. It literally sounds incredible! He produced a couple of Marc´s Medicine Wheel albums and had worked with Marc before. I first heard some of Pat´s work in the late 80´s when he was producing Black N´Blue. The best that they ever sounded and I always wanted to work with him and luckily we were able to get him And Frontiers were able to pay him (laughs) and he did a great job. The combination of Pat Regan producing the album and the guys in KEEL, we´re still old school man! We learned from guys like Gene Simmons, who produced us in the 80´s. This is how we work and we didn´t want to change that approach, so Pat took that modern recording technology and the ability to make it sound great and combine that with our old school philosophy of work hard, bust your ass and the lead singer´s gotta leave a lot of sweat and spit on the floor. That´s the way it is for me. I don´t know any other way. I don´t like a lot of technology, like photoshop where you can take a photograph and change it. You can even take somebody´s clothes off and put different clothes on or a different head on a different body. They have the same kind of stuff in the studio, where you can really alter and enhance what the musicians do. I think one of the charming things about “Streets of rock and rock and roll” is that is sounds like a real, natural album. It sounds like a bunch of really excited guys playing rock and roll music together. You have to be able to play it in a stereo and listen to this record and the new Judas Priest and the new Scorpions or whatever. It´s gotta sound good like those other records, but it also gotta feel right and it´s gotta sound natural.
Makes sense. When you started the band KEEL, did you come up with the logo for KEEL or was that somebody else?
RK: I came up with the original logo that´s on the “Lay down the law” album, because I came from a band called Steeler and we just kind of took the EEL from Steeler and put a K in front of it, so we could have some continiuity. When we got signed and went to A&M Records in 1985 and we´re doing the “The right to rock” album, I went to the art director at the label and I said “You do whatever you want, just don´t change the logo! Don´t fuck with my logo! It´s really cool and I want to keep it the way it is!”. Of course I come back two weeks later and I see the cover for “The right to rock” and I say “Ok, that´s cool!”. It´s just a beautiful piece of artwork . The guy who did it has done some other album covers and some artwork for film and tv stuff, like Batman and other stuff. He designed that logo so I can´t take credit for that. With the new album we wanted to keep the continuity of “The right to rock”, 25 years later, so I wanted that logo with the sword and the Flying V guitar and the name of the band and kind of age it. Make it look like it´s been through hell, but it´s carved in stone and it´s built to last. It´s got some cracks and some rust and it´s damaged, but it´s still standing strong. That´s kind of the message behind the new album, with the logo being reincarnated in stone.
Right! I was kind of wondering about your name KEEL? What´s the history behind it?
RK: Dude, I don´t really know!
Is it an American name?
RK: The family legends… there´s not much documentation because my family was very poor. My father didn´t even know how old he was. My father was born in a little cabin in the woods. He never had a birth certificate and he never had a passport, so I don´t have a whole lot of lineage. I don´t have a whole generations of culture. I don´t know where I came from, man. All I know is that I´m here right now and I´m ready to enjoy this life. All I have are stories and legends that are passed down from my father and my father drank a lot too. (laughs). I love the guy! My father can tell some really tall tales, so I don´t know. I have no idea where I´m from. I don´t know if I´m Irish, German… I know I´m half Irish because my mother did have some documentation, but I don´t know. I´m just a rock and roll outlaw and that´s how I live my life!
That´s good enough! When you decided to form the band KEEL, using your name, was that the initial thought or did you have other names before that, that you thought of?
RK: That was a business decision. I was in the band Steeler for three years and Steeler was a great band. We were very close to getting a big deal and of course everybody knows that Yngwie Malmsteen was in the band, but Yngwie left and it created an aura of instability, even though we kept the band going for a year after he left, it was not the same and that instability kept me from getting a record deal and I wanted to build something that even if somebody quit or got fired, I could still survive. It´s very strange that it turned out that KEEL was such a band. KEEl has nothing to do with my name, that was a business decision at the time. I had no idea that it would really turn into a band that had that chemistry, that camaraderie and friendship and all that. It was not intended to be that way. It was intended to be my project and a bunch of other guys with me. It wasn´t that way even in the start. That was a business decision and I never wanted to call it KEEL, but I thought that was my best shot at getting a record deal and succeeding. Within nine months of making that decision and calling my band KEEL, we had released to albums, “Lay down the law” and “The right to rock”, we were signed to a major label, we were being produced by Gene Simmons and we were on tour all over the country. It was the right decision for me, but I had no idea that it would turn out to be the way it did.
Back in the day, do you remember the first real gig as KEEL? Was that in LA?
RK: Oh, I remember it very well! It was April 27th 1984 at Perkins Palace in Pasadena. Sold out, 1700 people and we tore it up. (laughs)
Do you know if it was recorded? Audio or video?
RK: We have a video of it, yeah!
Cool! That´s music history!
RK: Yeah, it is! It was a great night. It was supposed to be a Steeler gig. It was originally posted as a Steeler show and I made the decision to move on from Steeler and form KEEL and decided to make that our debut show and we really literally had three to four weeks to put the band together, rehearse and get ready for that first gig and we tore it up, man! A lot of excitement, a lot of fire and two weeks after that we did our first Hollywood gig at The Roxy. All of this is pretty well documented. We´ve saved all the flyers and magazine ads and stuff. There´s videotape of these shows as well so we have a pretty good grasp of our history and those are some very special and magical times for us and I´ll never forget those days.
You should put something together for a dvd?
RK: At some point we would like to do a dvd for our 25th anniversary and kind of document what we´ve done the last year with the big shows, the photo sessions and the recording sessions and the rehearsals and the live footage from back in the day. Hopefully get clips from our broadcast videos, “The right to rock, “Because the night”, Somebody´s waiting” and kind of put it all together in one package. That´s a goal and a dream of mine. We´ve been so busy man! Once we got done with the album, I went on a tour of the UK with Y&T. We did England, Scotland, Wales and I got back in time for the holidays and then the album came out. I´ve spent the last six weeks really doing a lot of interviews and work on the Internet promoting the album, so there hasn´t been a whole lot of time to think about projects or anything else. Maybe we can have something out this year.
Looking forward to it. Have you ever thought of writing a book?
RK: I am writing a book! It would be done by now if I had the time to finish it. I do enjoy working on it and I´ve been working on it for quite some time. My autobiography, the story of all the adventures and travels of my life and my career and I think that so far it´s really good! I think it´s entertaining, I think it´s fun and it´s supposed to be. I hope to have it out this year but I haven´t had a lot of time to work on it. I work on it a little bit every day and I´m kind of enjoying the process of creating and writing it. Maybe I don´t even want it to be done, I´m still enjoying the ride. I´d like to get it out there this year if possible and hopefully the fans will enjoy it. It´s called “Even KEEL: Life on the streets of rock and roll”. So far it´s really good. I´m enjoying the writing and I think the fans will enjoy it, my friends and people that don´t even know me. The intention is that if you don´t even know who Ron Keel is, you´ll still enjoy reading the story. I´ll keep you posted!
I´m looking forward to that a lot! If you ever got the chance to work with Gene Simmons again, would you do it?
RK: Absolutely! In a heartbeat!
Have you stayed in touch in any way?
RK: Yes! I saw him on a recent trip to Vegas. We got to sit backstage for a few minutes, about 20 minutes and talked about old times. We have nothing but love for Gene. He certainly taught me and taught the band a lot back in the day. He was extremely helpful in building our career when we first started out and his presence was felt in the studio for this most recent album. We felt his presence in the studio. I´m still using lessons that he taught me years ago. How to make a great record. His spirit and his presence is definitely felt on “Streets of rock and roll”.
Finally, you´re coming to Sweden for Stockholm Rock Out. What can the Swedes expect from KEEL?
RK: We´re gonna be extremely excited and fired up. It´s gonna kick start into high gear. It´s our first show in Europe in 24 years and the first time ever that we´re gonna be playing some of the new songs. There´s a lot to look forward to and we´re really excited about it. Of course you´re gonna hear all the songs that you want to hear, “The right to rock”, “Because the night”, “Somebody´s waiting”, “Rock and roll outlaw”, you´re not gonna have a KEEL show without playing those shows. That´s what it´s all about! Maybe two or three songs off the new album will inject a lot of energy into the show. A KEEL show is a good time, that´s the adjective. We want you to have fun. We´re there to celebrate our friendship, our music and this genre and this culture with our fans. A lot of energy, a lot of sweat and a lot of good music! We´re really excited to come to Sweden and we really want to thank everybody at Stockholm Rock Out for bringing us over there for our first European show.
It´s been a pleasure talking to you Ron and I wish you all the best and it´s gonna be a blast catching you live in Stockholm.
RK: That´s awesome! Thank you for all that and I look forward to seeing you there!
I´ll be there!