Intervju med Brian "Damage" Forsythe i Kix!
Den tredje och sista intervjun med band som gästar Stockholm Rock Out 10-11 september.
Kix var ett favoritband under det glada 80-talet och plattan "Midnite dynamite" har jag alltid sett som en av de bästa från den eran.
För ett tag sedan hade jag nöjet att ringa upp gitarristen Brian "Damage" Forsythe i numera åteförenade Kix och snacka om en hel del. Det blev en promenad nedför memory lane och minnen av bl a tidiga turnéer, gitarrer, Robbin Crosby, Capital Center i Largo och skulder.
Are you in LA now?
Brian Forsythe: No, actually I´m on the east coast near DC.
Ok. I thought we´d start with going way back and work our way up till today, if that works for you?
Going back to when you first joined Kix, or the band that would become Kix, what were you up to before that? Were you playing in local bands? Had you done anything music wise before that?
BF: Yeah, I was playing in local bands and the funny thing was that… I knew Ronnie and he played in another band at the time and they were all cover bands and we did like Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin, and Ronnie was leaving his band and his band was kind of a well known cover band at the time and I was gonna take his place in the band. I even went and auditioned and then I ran into Ronnie late one night at a convenient store after a gig and he approached me about starting this band with Donnie Purnell and I told him that I auditioned for his band and he said “Ah, you don´t want to join them!” and he actually talked me out of joining that band. It was funny… when he talked to me about it he said “Yeah, Donnie and I are gonna put together this original band and we´re gonna get a record deal!” and it was funny because this band he was coming from was this established band that had gigs and I was thinking “Do I wanna join this band that´s already playing and making money or do I wanna start over?, so I really had to think about it, but luckily I made the right decision.
Was this in ´77 or later on?
BF: Yeah, this was in ´77.
Cool! Where did the nickname “Damage” come from?
BF: Oh, I just picked that up along the way. Actually Beau Hill came up with that when we were doing “Midnite dynamite”. I used to show up in the morning in the studio with a hangover and I´d just be laying on the couch in front of the soundboard. (laughs) And actually before he called me “Damage” he used to call me “Brain”, so he just attached that to the end of it.
Good one! When you started out… is Hagerstown in Maryland?
BF: Yeah! We eventually located in Hagerstown, but when we first started we were in my parents basement which is in Frederick, Maryland. It´s about 20 miles from Hagerstown.
What was the scene like back then? Were there a lot of bands around that time, locally?
BF: There were a lot of cover bands. There weren´t a whole lot of original bands. It was very tough to break into this scene doing originals, so we were a cover band for the first few years. But we would sneak our songs in there. (laughs)
Of course. The town Largo, is that in Maryland?
BF: It´s not really a town, it´s an area. That´s where the Capital Center used to be.
Exactly! I was kind of wondering, did you ever go to a KISS show there?
BF: No, I never saw KISS there, but a lot of other shows.
Alright. There´s a lot of bootleg videos out there because they had this in house tv system, so a lot of the bands playing there were filmed. KISS played there on the “Dynasty” tour and there´s stuff with Aerosmith.
BF: Yeah, I have a bootleg with the New Barbarians.
When you finally, as a band, decided to name the band Kix, who came up with the name? And who came up with the spelling of it?
BF: It´s funny. We were called the Shooze to begin with and the we couldn´t use that name so we changed it to The Generators and the we recorded our record. Our contract was under the name The Generators to begin with and we got the whole thing recorded and we were about to do the artwork for the album cover, when we found out we couldn´t use The Generators either. It was just a spur of the moment thing. It was like “Well, you guys gotta come up with something right now!” and Donnie just said “How about Kix and we´ll spell it K I X?”. He used to be in a band called Jax, so that´s how that came about. It was just really a spur of the moment.
Ok. I just read in an interview with you where they ask you about the name Kix and you mentioned that the name Kix wasn´t actually registered until 2004 or something. It just seem strange that nobody registered it and that nobody owned it until then.
BF: Yeah! Well, we lucked out. We sort of paranoid when we got back together without Donnie and thought it might be a problem.
Did it never occur to you back in the 80´s when you started out, or did you think the label, Atlantic, were handling it?
BF: Yeah, I think that´s kind of what happened. We just figured it got handled at sometime by somebody and didn´t check.
What was it like working with Beau Hill on “Midnite dynamite”? That album was my first with Kix. I heard it on a Swedish radio show in the mid 80´s called “Rockbox” and I remember he played “Bang bang balls of fire” and I just got hooked and went out and bought the album and still love it to this day. What was it like working with that guy? He worked with Ratt and other bands from that era.
BF: Before that record we were kind of fishing around for a sound. I think he´s a really good producer. The only thing with Beau is that he puts his sound on to the band, so a lot of those records you can tell that they´re his records. The only problem that I had with Beau was the fact that he brought in another guitar player to play some stuff. Especially at that time it really bothered me. Not a whole lot of stuff, but enough to bother me. (laughs)
Well, he produced a lot of the Ratt records as well and I remember watching “Ratt – Behind the music” and someone in Ratt was pissed off because he brought in some other guitar player to do stuff.
BF: Yeah, I think that was his thing. Most bands he´s worked with, he´s done that. It was kind of strange, because here is Kix and we have two guitar players. The song that he did it on was “Scarlet fever” and it was a song that wasn´t quite finished when we went in to do the record, so Ronnie and I hadn´t really worked out who was gonna do the solo on the song. So at the end of one of those days when we were working on that song, we decided between Ronnie and I, that Ronnie was gonna do the solo. He went in and he didn´t really have anything prepared and he goes in there and spent like several hours in there trying to come up with some solo and he just wasn´t having any luck that night. At the end of the night Beau goes “So, do you wanna try it?” and I said “Sure, I´ll go in!”. So I go in there and spent like 10 minutes fishing around, trying to come up with something and the way I work is that I like to take the rhythm tracks back to where I´m staying and sort of work on it and come up with something. After 10 minutes I didn´t want to waste any more time and just said “Could you run me off a copy and I´ll take it back to the room and I´ll have something by tomorrow?”. So he gave me a copy of it and I went back and I actually came up with something. Then I showed up at the studio like ten o´clock the next morning to do this and the door is locked to the control room and I can hear somebody else in there playing and that´s really what got to me. I wasn´t told this was gonna happen and I spent all this time working on this and came up with what I was gonna do and never had a chance to do it. So that was my main problem with Beau, that he did it that way.
Did he bring in a total unknown guy or a well known guy?
BF: His name is Mike Slamer and he played with the singer from Kansas (Steve Walsh). I mean, he´s a great guitar player but he´s more along the lines of Eddie Van Halen, which is not Kix. A real nice guy on top of it, so I couldn´t get mad at him because he´s such a nice guy and he just came in because Beau called him.
I understand that Anton Fig (KISS, Frehley´s Comet, David Letterman) played on the album as well. How come?
BF: Jimmy had this pinch nerve thing happening in his neck and it was affecting his hands. He was dropping sticks and stuff and the only time that he could take care of it, so that we could continue touring, was right at the end of the recording. The last two songs we did on the record, “Sex” and “Lie like a rug”. Donnie had known Anton and they´d gotten together a few times to try to write songs together, so we called him in to do those last two tracks. He was really cool too. Anton is a great drummer. He came in there, he listened through the song in the control room and sat there and took notes and then he went out into the studio and pretty much in one or two takes got the song. It was incredible!
He´s been around for a long time. He did a lot of stuff for KISS when Peter Criss was out of the band. When “Midnite dynamite” came out, were you still in or around Hagerstown or had you already moved to LA by that time?
BF: I lived in Hagerstown until I left the band in 1993.
Ok. I read somewhere that the whole band relocated to LA to try out the whole Sunset Strip thing.
BF: Actually, we didn´t even play out there until after that. That´s when we went out to play there for the first time. That was in 1985, I think. Our first gig in LA was at The Troubadour opening for Guns N´Roses. I don´t know if they had officially signed their deal yet. They were just a local band around Hollywood.
Cool! What do you remember from that night? Anything special? Could you see that they would become something or were they just like any other band around that time?
BF: No, I knew it, I knew it! There was a huge buzz around that band. They may have put out an EP (Live like a suicide) or something. They put that out before they did the record. I heard that and I just knew and then when we opened for them, the line was around the block. It was a huge thing and that was about the time Poison was taking off and people were talking about Poison and I said “No, no, not Poison, it´s gonna be Guns N´Roses!”, but of course Poison did too.
After that, did you play a lot in the LA area and all the classic places like The Whisky A Go Go, Roxy and Rainbow?
BF: Yeah! I think the first initial show was the one with Guns N´Roses and the we came back in, I think ´86. We tried to make a deal with Poison, because we knew those guys too When teir record came out, they came back east and did a whole east coast tour opening for us. That´s when they were still on an indie label, I think, and the deal was they would come back here and open for us and we would go out there and open for them, because they were bigger out there. But by the time we got out there, they had already blown up and taken off, so we never got to do that in exchange, so we ended up doing our own tour and took Jetboy out with us on the west coast. We did “Blow my fuse” out there and “Hot wire”, so each time we´d go out to do a recording, we just stayed for a little while.
You opened up for Ratt in ´89. Did you get that gig from the connection with Beau Hill or was it just because you were both on Atlantic?
BF: I´m not sure how that came about. I can´t remember. It may have been a little of both.
What do you remember from that tour? Was that all across the US?
BF: Yeah, it was mostly the east coast, Midwest and down south a little bit. That was our first major tour where we got a tour bus and did pretty much the whole tour. Before that we had opened a few times for some bands. Club tours, but never a big arena tour. So that was our first real arena tour and I just remember that it was cool. We went from our club shows which were like and hour and a half to two hours each night, and we would do that non stop. We were a major touring band and we always toured and the when we got on this arena tour, we got a half hour opening slot, so we were done by eight o´clock every night. It was like, weird. Usually you´d be done by 2 or 3 in the morning. Then you get on the tour bus and you don´t have to drive, you just sit around and it was so easy after all those years playing clubs.
Was it a constant party?
BF: Well, Ratt was! (laughs). Right at the beginning of that tour, we had Jimi K filling in for Ronnie because Ronnie went into rehab. When Ronnie came out of rehab, of course he couldn´t party and at that point I was sort of trying not to, so Ronnie and I would room together. We were totally sober at the time. So our first chance to riding in the tour bus and not having to drive, it would´ve been the perfect opportunity party. Luckily we weren´t doing anything because we probably would have killed ourselves.
With Robbin Crosby, did you see anything of his problems back then? I guess he was heavy into partying and stuff like that? He always seemed like a really cool guy.
BF: Oh, Robbin was a super nice guy! Out of all those guys, I think I bonded with him the most. I mean, they´re all nice. I like warren, but I kept in touch with Robbin afterwards. They always invited us back to their place and they´d always have a big blow out party every night and I always declined. Jimi K was there. He´d always take him up on it and he´d go over there and Jimi and I were rooming together. I´d be back in the room relaxing and watching tv and I´d fall asleep and then Jimi comes stumbling in and he´d tell me all the stories, but I never actually witnessed what went on. I know there was a lot of cocaine and a lot of stuff going on. Next day you´d see those guys show up at soundcheck and they´d be looking rough.
But wasn´t that a tough time with all the alcohol and drugs? You must´ve been really strong within yourself to be able to say no and just go back to your room and leave the partying to the other guys?
BF: Yeah, it was rough! It was really hard to do that, especially before Ronnie got back. I mean, after Ronnie came back from rehab it was a little easier because it was him and I. Before that I was just hanging on, just trying not to and a few nights Jimi would come back and he´d have the bottle of Jack Daniels from backstage and he set it between the beds on that little table by the phone and I´d be looking at it and I´d think “Ok, when the lights go out, I could just take the bottle and take a big swig and nobody will no!”, but somehow I didn´t do that and I´m so glad I never did.
When did you pick up the guitar? I read that you were around seven or eight years old and you started playing along to Bob Dylan songs.
BF: I´d been interested in guitars since I was about six. I remember seeing The Beatles of course and it was just something I wanted to do. I pretended to play the guitar as early as six years old, but I started to really learn how to play around eight years old. My older brother played guitar and he was a big Bob Dylan fan and he had all these Bob Dylan songbooks laying around and that´s how I started. I played acoustic guitar for a few years and around 13 or 14 I got my first electric guitar.
Was there a guitar player that you feel influenced you more than others?
BF: Wow, there´s so many! The first one was Eric Clapton when he was in Cream and I loved Cream back then. My older brother always had the records so I´d just listen to his records, but the first record that I really owned was “Disraeli gears”. I guess Eric Clapton influenced me, but later on there were so many others. I was really into southern rock like Dickey Betts from The Allman Brothers and the Lynyrd Skynyrd guys. I think one of my biggest influences is Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top.
Cool! What´s it like playing in Kix these days? Did it all come back when you started playing together again? Is it just like back in the 80´s when it all started out?
BF: You know, the funny part was when we decided to do this, I hadn´t like listened to a Kix record in ten years and I got all that stuff out and I started trying to remember it and I was like “Oh man, I can´t remember!” and I was struggling with it up until the first gig and there were parts I wasn´t sure if I was playing them right. As soon as we went out, that first chord in the spotlight hit me and it all came back. It was the weirdest thing! My fingers remembered and it was like I´d never left. But you know what is funny? There are little subtle things that keep coming back to me along the way, like just this last December we were playing some shows and there was a part in “Blow my fuse” that I used to do and I totally forgot about it and one night I´m playing it and I just played it and it was like “Oh, that´s how I did it!”. It´s weird. Like after all these years, that little thing came back to me and it´s funny because we did a few re-records of some of these songs for people to use and “Blow my fuse” was re recorded and I totally forgot to play that one little thing. But that makes the rerecord a little bit different than the original.
And I understand that you teach guitar as well?
BF: Yeah occasionally. It´s not a steady thing, because I don´t really enjoy teaching guitar, so occasionally someone will ask me and I wind up giving them a few lessons. I was down to like one guy coming a couple of weeks and then I got really busy and I haven´t even talked to that guy in a while. I give lessons occasionally and I charge a lot because I don´t really want to do it and it weeds them ou a little bit so I don´t get stuck with a lot of people coming just to learn Kix songs. (laughs)
After playing for such a long time, do you still feel like you´re learning new stuff?
BF: Oh yeah, constantly! Especially when I started to try teaching, I realized a lot of the stuff I´ve learned, I don´t really know how to explain it. It´s just stuff that I know and I know where it goes, but I don´t know why it goes there. I know what it sounds like, I know where it goes and I know when to use it, but when I have to teach it to somebody else, it really makes me have to think about it.
Do you have a favorite guitar of yours? Do you collect guitars?
BF: I´ve collected them over the years. I´ve bought them and hung on to them and there´s a few I´ve gotten rid off that I didn´t really care about, so I´ve got around 25. Right now my favorite guitar is my ´71 Telecaster. I use that pretty much all the time as far as live goes, but I still love my Melody maker that I used back in the Kix days all the time. I´ve had that guitar since I was 14, but that guitar is so fragile I don´t want to travel with it because it´ll get broken. It´s been broken three times already, but it still sounds great and I don´t want to push my luck.
I also read that a new Kix album would only happen with Donnie. Do you still feel that way or have you recorded stuff?
BF: It comes up a lot actually because people always ask us that and we have discussed it and I think we´ve all decided to keep an open mind, but we haven´t made any plans do really do it yet. I know that when it first came up I was like “How would we do that without Donnie?” and I still wonder that because Donnie was the main guy and he was such a good song writer. I´m a little worried. (laughs)I´m sure it would be ok, but I don´t want to put out just an ok record. That´s the only reason I would hold back on it a little bit.
How do you feel about that? Putting out records today is a lot different than in the mid 80´s. I guess it´s just a different market these days.
BF: Yeah, it is totally different. It´s almost like you wonder if it´s even worth getting a record deal anymore. It seems like the record deals are just shriveling up and soon there´s not even gonna be any record companies, just for the huge artists like The Stones. Then again, I´m sure that if Kix ever decided to do another record we can always just do our own and sell it at the shows and probably be fine.
Right! I guess that´s what a lot of bands do these days. They form their own record company and release their own stuff and they make it work.
BF: Yeah! I´ve got a girlfriend that I´ve been with forever and we might as well be married. We don´t have any kids or anything. I´m really the only guy in the band who doesn´t have a family. Me and the bass player, but the other guys all have families and kids and are kind of settled down and I don´t think they´re really interested in the whole going out touring thing. We do the occasional festival or weekend gigs here in the States, so that´s another reason why we wouldn´t put an official record out like in the old days and go on tour. I mean, I still do that with Rhino Buckett because that´s all I know how to do. (laughs)
That´s the way to do it! When it comes to the band The Shooz and early Kix stuff and so on, is there old demos and stuff laying around or is it long gone?
BF: I still have a bunch of them myself. Yeah, there´s stuff from before the first record that never was recorded. At some point there was a bootleg showing up on Ebay called “Thunderground” and that´s a collection of demos. A lot of people think that´s a real record but it´s not. It´s all demos.
I should check out Ebay!
BF: (laughs) Yeah, I had to get one of those!
Is it any good?
BF: Yeah, there´s a few songs on there that I´d totally forgotten about and then there´s a few like “Ouuuhhhh, I hope nobody heard that one!”. (laughs)
When it comes to the record deal you signed with Atlantic, which had you end up in debt, are you guys still paying off that or is it all cleared?
BF: Well, the good thing about the whole record deal thing is, once you´re dropped from the record company, you don´t owe them the debt. They just release you and you´re not obligated to pay that back. A good thing! (laughs) We were way into debt and that´s why we never made any money off record sales. Donnie made his publishing money. The sad thing was… we renegotiated our deal right before “Blow my fuse” and the manager we got was this guy named Mark Puma, who managed Twisted Sister, and he was an expert with dealing with record companies and he was really good at getting money out of the record company. We got tour support, that we never had before and he was also good at getting advances for varies things, but I don´t think Donnie understood. When our manager would come to us with this proposal about getting advance for something, Donnie would always shoot it down, “No no, no advances!”. In Donnie´s mind it was just making our debt worse, but the reality was that that´s the way it works in the record business. If you have an opportunity to get any money upfront, you should take it because you don´t have to pay that back. Even though it goes on your debt and your debt gets worse, you still get the money and then at the end of the day you just walk away from it and you don´t owe any money. He didn´t understand that and we never got to take advantage of any nice bonuses or advances because he always turned it down, which is a bummer for the rest of the band. I don´t know if it was Donnie´s way of keeping us in line or hungry or what. After a while I just couldn´t take it anymore and that´s pretty much why I left. I knew that we were never gonna get to payday.
Strange. And I understand that none of you have talked to Donnie for several years, is that true?
BF: Yeah! I talked to him in 2003 the last time and it was before we did any of this reunion stuff. He´s really cool and it was really good to talk to him and we talked about old times. I mean, Donnie is a really nice guy when, you´re not working with him. (laughs) He´s just hard to work with, but after we got together… like Steve refused to work with him when we decided to do the reunion shows. Now after we´ve done them, of course Donnie isn´t talking to any of us.
If you got the opportunity, would you work with him again?
BF: I don´t know. I´m not sure. I don´t know if he´d work with us anymore.
One final thing. I read that Alan Niven had a lot to do with getting “don´t close your eyes” released as a single. That he kind of pushed Atlantic to release it as a single, because it wasn´t released at first. Is that true?
BF: Yeah, that´s absolutely true. We were on the Tesla/Great White tour and he was managing Great White and Guns N´Roses. He was a huge manager at the time and had a lot of pull in the industry. I remember that every night he would say something like “I can´t believe that´s not a single!” and at that time they had already released a few singles off that record and as far as Atlantic was concerned, that was it. That record was done! And they weren´t gonna do anything else with it. I remember Alan going to Mark Puma and saying “Did you talk to them about that?” and Mark said “Yeah, they don´t want to hear it!” and Alan said “Do you mind if I try?” and Mark goes “Sure, go ahead!”. Alan went to them and said “You´d be crazy if you don´t release that song!”. They actually listened to him and they did it and it just turned out to be the biggest song we ever had.
It´s strange the way things happen. That´s cool!
BF: I always talk about how Kix career seem like nothing but bad timing and we were never in the right place at the right time, but that was one time that it worked out.
I´ve always placed “Midnite dynamite” as one of my favorite records from the 80´s. It was just a different sound compared to all the other 80´s bands that came out around that time and it really sounded like a record that the band had worked really hard with. I still play it now and then.
BF: Yeah! Kix was a really hard working band. When we were on the road, we got together at least four or five times every day and did our own little pre production and worked on songs and we tore songs apart and put them back together. We really worked on that stuff and it showed. I think another reason why that record may be slightly different than everybody else´s, is because Ronnie and I, as guitar players… we weren´t like all those others… I think it was an asset being on the east coast. We weren´t in that whole LA, Van Halen scene. We were more like the blues, Aerosmith guys, so it made us a little different sounding. It was the same kind of music, but it had a different spin on it.
Absolutely! And now you´re coming to Stockholm. Is that your first time here?
BF: Well, actually in Stockholm yeah. I was in Sweden this past February, no January.
Was that with Rhino Buckett?
BF: Yeah and we played a little bit south of Stockholm.
Växjö, wasn´t it?
BF: Yeah, that´s it!
In the middle of the woods, kind of.
BF: Yeah! (laughs) That was my first time in Sweden.
So what did you think? A lot of trees? Cold?
BF: It was a lot of snow! (laughs) Yeah, it was cold.
It was the worst winter ever!
BF: That´s what everybody said when we came over there at that time. That whole first month that we were there, we were in Germany and Denmark and Norway, it snowed every single day.
What can we expect at Stockholm Rock Out? A lot of classic Kix stuff, I guess?
BF: Oh yeah! We´ve got so much to choose from and we´ve put together a set that we just keep tweaking over these first few years, but you´ll get the best of the best.
Excellent! It´s been great talking to you Brian and I wish you all the best with everything!