Intervju med Tom Kiefer i Cinderella!
För en tid sedan fick jag möjlighet att ringa upp Tom Kiefer i Cinderella, detta fantastiskt trevliga band som släppte några riktigt bra plattor när det begav sig på 80-talet.
Tom bor numera i Nashville, som så många andra musiker, och samtalet kom att handla om bl a hans nya soloplatta, tidiga turnéer med David Lee Roth och Posion, krisen i musikindustrin och hans stora problem med rösten.
Tom Kiefer: Hey, how ya doin´ man?
I´m doing good! How are you?
Tom: I´m good, good, good!
Right to it! How´s your voice these days?
Tom: Very, very well! Even stronger than last year. Last year was the first tour we´d done in a number of years, because I had a problem and it felt really good last year. It was a good tour and it feels even better this year. I´m looking forward to it!
Excellent! The stuff that happened with your voice in 91 and then in 2006, did that make you a more careful singer? Thinking more of in the way you sing these days?
Tom: Well, I work with voice coaches, so I do a lot of therapy and keeping in shape. Kind of like the equivalent of working out with your voice. What initially caused the problem was a neurological problem, called pareses, which is a fancy medical term for partial paralysis. What happens is that one side of your voice box doesn´t work right and you have to retrain it and it´s very difficult to do. It´s a condition that in most cases is career ending, so it´s really been a struggle for me. Since 91 it has been, but it got even worse in 2006 towards the end of that tour. I guess part of the problem was not getting the right kind of training, which I learned a couple of years ago. I went through a bunch of different voice teachers and the last one that I found a couple of years ago, who I´m still working with, was just a better teacher and he taught me things about my voice and how to support it and how to make it work. I´m pretty confident this time that it´s behind me, because it feels stronger than it probably ever has.
Tom: Yeah, it´s a relief. (laughs) Planning a tour and going out and singing and playing with the band is actually starting to feel fun again. For a long time it´s been just scary and uncertain and not how it used to be. It´s starting to feel good again in all aspects.
That´s good! I´m happy for you!
The first time it happened, what caused it? Just a random thing?
Tom: Well, the onset was in 91 towards the end of the “Heartbreak station” tour and we didn´t know what it was at first. I went to a lot of different doctors and they were looking for more common voice ailments which were things that they could see with their scope when they look down your throat in their office. It could be like polyps or knots or things that are actually kind of like growths on the vocal cords themselves and more obvious to see. With a neurological problem, that´s the nerves system and it´s signals from the brain to the muscles, telling them what to do. It was the left side of my voice box that generated the signals, putting it in layman´s terms I guess. It just reeks havoc on your voice and it´s not from singing incorrectly or anything like that. It´s actually caused by viruses, something even like a common cold virus if it lodges in that nerve, it can degenerate it. It´s very random and it´s not fun to get if you´re a singer.
Yeah, figures! What can we expect in Stockholm Rock City when you get here? I think the last time you played in Stockholm was in 1987. Is it a greatest hits set?
Tom: Yeah, greatest hits, but we always put in different album tracks and we try to mix it up. We try to not leave out any of the hits, because obviously everybody wants to hear them. We mix a nice blend of album tracks and stuff. We did Sweden Rock last year and we´re changing the set up from that. It´ll be some different songs in the set. Try to keep it fresh. It´ll be the typical high energy rock show that we do.
Great! The thing is that I´m helping out on a book project called “Kissing Sweden” and when you played here in 87, Paul Stanley joined you on stage.
Tom: Yeah, I remember that!
What do you remember from that night? Did you meet him prior to the gig, did you rehearse “Jumping Jack Flash”?
Tom: Well, if I remember it and that´s a long time ago, it was just one of those things where he showed up at the gig backstage and I was like “Wow, what are you doing here?”. (laughs) And “Hey, do you wanna come up and play?” and that happens every now and then. You´ll be somewhere and a member of another band is there and it´s just like “Hey, you wanna come up and play for the encore?”, then pick a song that everybody knows. From my memories of what went down that night, I don´t think we knew he was in town or anything prior. I just think he popped into the gig.
Do you remember if you hung out after the show?
Tom: I don´t remember! (laughs) I´m sorry! I don´t want to lie.
Had you played with him before?
Tom: No, I don´t think so! I think that´s the only time we kind of jammed together. I´d met him before that at different occasions, but I think it was the only time we jammed together.
I wanna go back into a bit of your history. What do you remember from that night when Jon Bon Jovi saw you play live? Did he talk to you that night? Did you know he was there?
Tom: I don´t think we knew he was there until after the show, if I remember correctly. What I remember is that he came to the dressing room at the Empire Rock Club, which was a club we played a couple of times a month up there in Philly. Apparently he was in town recording at the Warehouse, which was a big studio in Philly and they were recording their second record, “7800 Fahrenheit”. He came back and someone, a manger or whoever, said “Hey, it´s Jon Bon Jovi!” and we knew who he was because “Runaway” had been a hit, so it was like “Oh yeah, that´s that guy that sings Runaway!”. He wasn´t the big “Slippery when wet” Jon yet. It was just this guy that had a hit. Well, he was like “Love your band!” and it was the first time we ever met and it was just kind of a casual thing with him popping backstage and then he left. Our manager had already been shopping our demos around and Polygram Records already had a demo. The A&R guy that signed Jon, Derek Schulman, already had a demo of ours and apparently, was riding the fence on it. After that gig a couple of days later, apparently Jon had gone into Derek´s office and said “Have you ever heard of this band Cinderella from Philadelphia?” and legend has it that Derek said “Yeah, I´ve got a tape right here, but I´m not sure about it.” And apparently Jon just said “Well, forget about the demo tape, go see them live because I just saw them this weekend and they´re really great!”. From that point, Derek came down and saw the band, but all the A&R guys still wasn´t convinced so he signed us to a six month development deal. Gave us some money to go into the studio and write a whole bunch of new songs and eventually we convinced him and he signed us to a full deal and we made our first record. That´s kind of how it all went down.
Have you stayed in touch at all with Jon?
Tom: Yeah, I talk to him now and then. Since then we did tours together and did a lot of shows together in the late 80´s and early 90´s.
What was the Philadelphia scene like back then? Were there a lot of bands happening and a lot of clubs?
Tom: Not really! Not for bands that were doing originals. When we started nobody really did. There were other kinds of music like Tommy Conwell and The Hooters. There was a different kind of music scene that wasn´t like hard rock, but in terms of hard rock, we were really the first band that decided that we weren´t gonna… there was a big cover scene there and bands would do cover songs. It was a huge market in the south Jersey and Philadelphia area for that. You´d go in and play for sets a night with Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith stuff and no one did originals. Maybe they would throw in like one or two of their own here and there, but we decided when we put the band together that we didn´t want to do that, we wanted to develop our own sound, so we actually didn´t play live for a long time and we all decided to get day jobs. It was just a dirty work, but just to support ourselves and then we´d come home after those jobs and we had a little rehearsal room where we´d go and work on songs and kind of developed our own sound and started doing demos and then eventually… there was one club called The Galaxy that were starting to let bands do all original sets, you could come in and just do your own thing. We were kind of one of the first bands in there that did that and they started developing a crowd there and then other bands started doing it. The scene kind of grew out of that, but we were probably, if not one of the first, the first that kind of fucked the system there and decided to do all of our own stuff. Cinderella never did covers. I mean other than jamming on “Jumping Jack Flash” for an encore or something. We had all done the cover band thing for years and we were tired of it. You get caught up in playing five nights a week and four sets a night just to make money and then you never have any time to develop your own material, so we just kind of drew the line and said “We´re not gonna do that!” and it worked out for us.
Alright! The songs that ended up on the first album, had those songs been around for a while or did they all get written especially for that first album?
Tom: We had done demos of those and recorded them and playing them out at The Galaxy and The Empire, even before Jon saw us. They had been around for a while. A couple of them came out of that six months development deal that Derek signed us to, but the big singles didn´t, “Nobody´s fool” and “Shake me” and “Somebody save me”, they´d been around for a while. I think only two songs came out of the development deal. I think it was “Once around the ride” and maybe “Nothin´for nothin´”. I think they´re the only two that came out of that! We recorded a bunch of stuff and Derek said “Well, Shake me and Nobody´s fool will be the singles!” and we said “That´s what we tried to tell you six months ago!”. (laughs)
A thing like a development deal, does that exist today?
Tom: I don´t know! The business is so crippled because of illegal downloading. They´re losing so much revenue. From my perspective and what I see and I know people in the industry who work at record companies, what is suffering the most, is new artist development. When a company or and industry is losing millions and probably billions of dollars, they gotta make cuts somewhere. Is a lot more budgets getting smaller and smaller for new artist or no budgets, like “Hey, bring a finished record and maybe we´ll talk!”. It´s not at all like it used to be. We probably got more money for that six months development deal to develop some new songs, than artists today get for a new record. It´s crazy! It´s sad, you know, and I don´t think people realize that by taking music and not paying for me, it not only hurts the industry and the corporate fat cats or whatever you want to call them, it´s eventually gonna hurt the art and the craft. So many great records that we grew up on, there was a lot of development that went into developing those artists and it cost money to make the records, a lot of talented producers to make these classic records. Kind of like the soundtrack to our lives and I think about the records in the 70´s that I grew up to and they cost some money and I fear that one of the net results of the industry losing all this revenue, is that the art itself and the music itself will start to suffer, because they´re not putting money into development. It´s sad.
Not long ago I talked to Carmine Appice and since he played in Cactus and Rod Stewarts old band, he said the same thing. Back in the 70´s and early 80´s, bands were given like two or three albums just to find their sound, so to speak. These days, if you don´t have a hit, it´s bye bye!
Tom: Yeah, we grew quite a bit over the course of our first three records and I feel bad for artists today. They don´t have the advantage of a label sticking with them and really trying to develop them and help them find their sound and develop their art and craft.
It´s all American Idol these days!
Tom: (laughs) Hey, well there´s some great singers that get out of that.
Sure! When you were playing those clubs before the album, were there a lot of songs that you played in the clubs that never ended up on the album or any other album after the first one?
Tom: Yeah, there was a huge catalog of songs that we picked from for the first record. We haven´t gone back to them. They´re just sitting there. I think the only time we went back was the song “Hot and bothered”. I believe it was from the songs that were left over from the first record. We did that one for the “Wayne´s world” soundtrack. I think that was one time that we´d gone back and looked at that material and said “Hey, let´s cut this one!”, because they had asked us for a track. I think everything else is just kind of sitting, because there was always new stuff that was written and we were in a different place.
Right. Back then for the first couple of albums, were you constantly writing songs on tour?
Tom: Yeah! I wrote “Long cold winter” when I was on tour for “Night songs” and “Heartbreak station” while we were on tour for “Long cold winter” and even some of the songs for “Still climbing” were written, or started probably, on the “Heartbreak station” tour. I find travelling and being on tour very inspirational.
Makes sense since you see different places, different towns and different people.
Tom: Yeah, and lots of different emotions and stuff. Missing home, missing the ones that you love… it conjures up a lot of different imagery, experiences and emotions, so it´s a good place to create. If you can isolate yourself, you know! I remember back in the day I had a road case that we used to call porta studios. It´s funny because you can do a million times more on a lap top, but we had these giant road cases that were like in the bottom of the bus and they were enormous. You could do like eight tracks. You would wheel them off into the hotel and kind of take the phone off the hook and sit there with a guitar and cut work tapes and stuff for songs. A giant case and four guys to move it and just to be able to record eight tracks and now you can walk in with a Macbook under your arm and record a record.
That first tour you did with Poison and Loudness, was that party 24/7?
Tom: Ehhhmmm, that was a very short tour! I think we only did like ten dates. It was like a warm up tour and we went from that to support David Lee Roth on the “Eat ém and smile” tour. We were booked for the Roth tour and we got that tour right when the record was released and then these ten dates came in on the west coast that they booked us for warm up. Loudness was the headliner and Poison and Cinderella were the support acts and we flip flopped each night, because we were kind of both unknown, so one night it would be Cinderella, Poison, Loudness and next it would be Poison, Cinderella, Loudness. We flip flopped back and forth. The records had just come out and during the time on that ten date jaunt with Loudness, both our records started to really take off and we both already had bigger tours lined up. I forget who they went to support. We went to David Lee Roth and they went to some other big tour and then both bands just exploded after that. It was kind of cool we got our start together on those first ten shows. (laughs). That´s where we met them and developed our relationship with them and then years later… We never toured with them again in the 80´s and I don´t think we ever even did a show with them after that in the 80´s or the 90´s. Then in 2000 we started touring together again. We did 2000 and 2002 and 2006, which were a blast! Both bands get along really well and it´s a really good relationship.
What was David Lee Roth like? Was it just an endless list of one-liners?
Tom: Yeah, he´s hilarious! We toured with him twice. The first time we were support and the second time was on “Heartbreak station” and we´d been touring the States for a while and I believe he was looking to go out and we were looking to kind of go back to some cities a second time, so the two acts went together as a co-headline in 1991. He´s just hilarious and a super funny guy! Super smart, talented and he´s a blast! (laughs)
Yeah, he seems like a fun guy! “I used to jog but the ice cubes kept falling out of the glass!”. That´s a classic!
Tom: (laughs) I hadn´t heard that one before! That´s a good one! (laughs)
The “Slippery when wet” tour was a long one, wasn´t it?
Tom: Yeah, we went for a long time on that one! That was right after the first David Lee Roth tour. We went straight from that tour to Bon Jovi. By that time our record was really blowing up and so were theirs. It was two bands together that were… I mean, that was a kick ass tour! (laughs). It went on for a long time and it was a lot of fun. A lot of energy and great memories from that tour.
Cool! I was checking out your website and it seems like you´ve got a lot of dates lined up for June, July and August. A lot of dates in the States. Which was the latest show you played now?
Tom. We just did three shows in April, here in the Midwest in Minnesota and Michigan. Kind of like a warm up. We have some new personnel that we had to break in, guitar techs and stuff. We just kind of booked a few gigs and had some fun. We do that from time to time. Usually when we do dates we like to string them all together consecutively like a tour, but once in a while we go out and do some one offs here and there. That´s the last thing we did, in April.
What about a new album then?
Tom: There´s nothing on the horizon right now! We attempted that in ´98 with Sony and John Kalodner and it turned into a big legal hassle and lawsuit, which prevented us from recording the material that they claimed they owned, for five years.
Tom: Even though they didn´t want to record it. It´s typical in recording contracts. It´s called re-record rights. Once they claim they own the songs, you can´t re-record it for five years. They claimed ownership and decided not to make the record. It was like two years of writing and demos of material that we weren´t allowed to record. Needless to say, we had a slightly bad taste in our mouth. We kind of recovered from that and got our heads back together and in the interim everyone was kind of working on their own projects and I started a solo record and Eric was doing something and everyone was doing their own thing. The band just continued to tour and we did two or three more tours after that and then the voice problems hit me in ´06, so it´s kind of been like one thing after another. And for like the last six, eight years we just feel like we´ve been hanging on by our claws and the thing that just always works for us is touring. We go out and we tour and we have fun with our fans and then even that went away in ´06 when that voice stuff came. We were off the road again for four years. Last year was kind of like starting over again and we went out to tour. In terms of a new record, it´s not that there´s a lack of desire, it´s just that we´ve had a lot pushing us down that we´ve been trying to crawl back from. The last four years before the tour last year, I think we were all just more worried whether we were even gonna be a band again, because the stuff with my voice was so serious that the future of the band was literally a question mark. Last year we were getting our legs and we´re getting back on the road now, so… to answer the question of a new record, it would be great to do. I know it would have to be the right situation and a label who is really serious in making a great record and producing it right. You never know! We´ll see if that opportunity pops up. I´m getting ready to put mine out, hopefully this year. I´m shopping for a deal right now. I wanna see that through and you´ll never know what the future will hold, but we are certainly open to the idea.
You´ve never been in touch with Frontiers Records?
Tom: Pardon me?
The Italian label with Black N´Blue, King Kobra, Whitesnake, Journey etc. They just seem like a perfect match for you guys.
Tom: Well, they licensed the live record, so we have done some things with them. In terms of a studio record though, we´re not at the moment pursuing that.
Well, they should pour some money into Cinderella and get an album out!
Tom: (laughs) Well, maybe someone will!
Your solo album then, what kind of style of music is that gonna be? Is it gonna be a whole lot different from Cinderella?
Tom: No, not really, because being the lead singer and the main song writer and I did a lot of the guitar work in Cinderella, it´s kind of hard to run from my sound. I had a lot of influence over those records so… I´m just doing what I do and that´s hard rock inspired by blues and roots music. What I did in Cinderella is what I love to do and what I´m doing on my own is what I love to do. I try to be true to what I like. It´s similar in that way, you know. Dynamically the records, the Cinderella records, and especially as they went on into “Long cold winter” and “Heartbreak station”, they had a lot of different flavors and colors and dynamics and different types of songs, which I always like because the bands that I grew up on like Zeppelin and the Stones, they really covered a lot of area musically. My solo record does that too and I think it makes for a more interesting record when it´s not just the same song for 14 tracks.
Do you do most of the stuff yourself or are you working with other people?
Tom: Well, I have musicians, local musicians here in Nashville for the rhythm tracks and the drums, the bass and the keyboards. I´d say 95 % of the guitars, I did myself, but I do have a couple of local guitar players that played on it. It´s a mixture of people and I´ve even got Bobby Keys, the sax player that did all the Stones stuff, he played on the record. It´s a cool record and I´m proud of it! It´s been a long time coming and I know that probably a lot of people at this point don´t even believe it´s gonna come out. (laughs) I´ve been working on it for five years, but it really is a record and it´s really coming out! (laughs)
Do you have a title for it?
Tom: No, I don´t!
Is that something that´s hard to come up with?
Tom: Up until now it hasn´t, because with Cinderella we always just went with a song title, that just sounded like it summarized the record. Song titles are harder to come up with, because that´s kind of what you´re writing about. It´s usually what inspires the title or sets the concept and then it´s like “Ok, this is what I´m writing about!”. That´s where it starts for me.
How long have you lived in Nashville?
Tom: I´ve been here since ´97.
I interviewed Kelly Keagy from Night Ranger a few years back and he said that everyone from LA moved to Nashville.
Tom: Yeah! I don´t know about everyone, but a lot of people have. I think it´s just because… I can´t speak for everyone, but I moved here or started coming here in the mid 90´s and after “Still climbing” we parted ways with Polygram… they weren´t interested in being in the Cinderella business anymore, so the band didn´t really have an outlet for our music at that point and no other label were really interested in us or nay other band from the 80´s because the whole grunge thing had come out. We fell apart, not by any kind of animosity or internal problems, we just didn´t have an outlet for our music and everyone just kind of went their separate ways and started doing their own thing. I wanted to make a solo record, so I was coming back and forth between Jersey where I lived down here and writing with people because it´s the song writing capital of the world and the recording studio capital of the world, that´s why they call it Music city, and I was sitting in New Jersey and it was the first time in years that I wasn´t a member of a band and there wasn´t a big music scene in Jersey so I started coming here for the inspiration and to hook up with really talented people to work with. Just a couple of trips coming here and I saw how they do sessions here and how great the song writers were here and I was like “I wanna live here!”. I literally came down here and picked a house in a day and bought it! Seriously! It´s a really inspirational town and there are so many talented people here. It´s not just country music! It´s everything!
Really cool! I´m really looking forward to your solo album and catching you guys live here in Stockholm.
Tom: We´re looking forward to playing there. We had a great time at Sweden Rock and we did Download too. It was the first time we´ve been over the ocean in a while, so it was great!
And I really hope you get to put out another album with Cinderella too!
Tom: I do too. We certainly would like to, but it has to be right. We´ll see!
I just read today that you´ve sold like 20 million records! That´s a lot of records!
Tom: Wow! I didn´t know we sold that many. (laughs) I know we sold a lot but I lost count after around 2022 back in 1985! (laughs)
Great talking to you Tom!
Tom: Good talking to you man!