KELLY KEAGY/SCRAP METAL
pictures courtesy of Monique Larroux
Hey everybody! I’ll tell you what…I’ve conducted my fair share of interviews, and I’ve read hundreds (hasn’t everyone?), and the majority of them, I’m sure you would agree, tend to reflect a certain degree of structure in their outline-ish, pre-set Q&A form. I know what you’re probably thinking: interviews are supposed to be that way, right? Well, okay, theoretically speaking, I suppose they are, and while I am good to go with the usual background/history questions (always fascinating in their very individual answers), and equally happy to throw in a bunch from readers, I’m not much for boring predictability, so I’m thrilled out of my mind when I find a subject who likes to mix it up as much as I do.
Needless to say, my expectations for a great interview were rather high when I learned that I would have the opportunity to go on the record with Kelly Keagy, best known for his 25-plus year career as Night Ranger’s multi-talented drummer, singer, guitarist,
songwriter….Impressive, yeah? No kidding! How many people
out there can’t walk and chew gum at the same time? Those who can sing lead and
play drums always amaze me…those who can sing lead, play drums and make it sound
as great as Kelly does, blow me out of the water completely!
I was not disappointed! Far from it, in fact. With an incredibly diverse history, from his work with Night Ranger, to The Mob (featuring Winger’s Reb Beach, King’s X singer, Doug Pinnick, and Timothy Drury, with Kip Winger), his contribution to the Shaw/Blades ‘Influence’ project, the intense all-star rock band, Scrap Metal, and a smokin’ solo career, I knew this one was going to be in a class by itself. And, yes, I did start out with the list of requisite questions, which Kelly answered and then some, and if you think all the stuff I just mentioned keeps him pretty busy, you’re right, but that ain’t the half of it! So if you’ve got some time to join us, and you want to check out Kelly’s thoughts on everything from music in the world today to ‘pulling up the weeds of life’….uh, you know what? I’ll let him tell you…come on….
Blast: Okay, Kelly, you’re not going to believe me when this interview is over, but I cut this way down. I could probably fill today, tomorrow, and half of next week satisfying everyone’s minds; there’s just so much to talk about with you, but let’s start with Scrap Metal. What were your thoughts when the idea was presented to you?
Kelly Keagy: Well, about a year ago, when we first did this, I was like, ‘Okay, it’s really going to be fun to work with these guys.’ I’ve known them for years and I’ve never actually gotten a chance to play music with them, and I was thinking that these are all great songs, and then after we played the first show, we all had that look in our eyes. It was like “What are we gonna do now?” You know, we’ve done this thing and now we have this thread that’s running through us all, including all of our guests. They were all wide-eyed too, like “Wow! That was great!” That was what got this whole thing started and, of course, when you have an experience like this, you’re going to want to continue it, but it’s not always possible, because everybody has their own side projects and bands, and their own careers going on outside it. It can be really hard to focus on one thing like Scrap Metal, which is a huge undertaking, when you have all that other stuff going on, so at first, I kind of went along with it, like, ‘Okay, it would be great if we could pull it off’, but as time went by, it became more and more apparent that we were going to be able to do something seriously with this thing. It would be hard for us to focus all our attention on this, until we have a story to continue. We don’t have much history yet, but as long as we keep playing shows, keep turning people on to the music, I think that this thing will only keep growing and it’ll just be awesome.
Blast: It’s looking that way already. The response to that first show at the Wolf Den was amazing and, even now, it’s over a month later and it’s obviously still going strong. People are talking about it at every show.
KK: It’s different musicians with their individual histories, and they’re all interpreting the music that’s been on the record and being played by the bands, to having this texture of influences, bringing their ideas and playing those songs. It’s such an exciting thing!
Blast: Absolutely; 80’s metal fans are so pumped about this, but to listen to them, they don’t seem to regard it in the typical, nostalgic, ‘classics from yesterday’ sort of way. It’s completely in the now; their music from their favorite rockers, and more on the way, right here in 2007. It’s really is pretty cool.
KK: Yeah, it’s so great, and we do have some original songs that we’ve been working on which we need to get back in there for but, of course, the season’s coming up again. Night Ranger’s got two albums coming out, a live one, and a new studio album, ‘Hole in the Sun’ and my solo album is out, so we’re all busy. Gunnar and Matthew have stuff going on, and Slaughter is out there this summer and it’s going to be tough, but we have six songs that we started back around October, that we were working on in my studio, so we have to finish those and make a record.
Blast: Gunnar touched briefly on that when we talked in his interview. Any idea when we will hear some of the new material?
KK: I have no idea! We have so much on our plates right now, You know, we’re filming this NSAI show to finish off our promo for this thing, because we want people to see what this is. It’s not going to be for sale, though. It’s going to be for the promoters, so we can get more shows and get out there and play more for these people.
Blast: There’s a huge demand on the internet, particularly on the band’s myspace page, to see Scrap Metal on tour. While we’re on the subject, what are your thoughts on myspace?
KK: Oh, I think it’s very cool. It puts you in touch with people you would never normally communicate with if you just had a regular website, because people can really talk to you that way. So myspace is a good thing; I love it.
Blast: We’re looking forward to seeing CJ Snare, and several other guests, from what I’m hearing, as part of Scrap Metal. What made CJ a choice to come and work with you guys?
KK: He’s just always been a good friend. Night Ranger’s done 3 or 4 shows with Firehouse, and they’re a great bunch of guys. I’ve always thought CJ was such a wonderful singer, and a great talent, so we thought, ‘let’s call him up and see if he wants to do it,’ and he jumped at the chance. We’re looking to get as many guest stars as possible to keep it interesting. Not necessarily just Night Ranger, Slaughter, or the Nelsons, but everyone who comes in. It’s so important because a lot of musicians don’t get to play as much any more, or they aren’t doing that many gigs, and I think it’s a really great thing that we can promote everybody’s career.
Blast: Are we likely to see any of the other members of Night Ranger as guests at Scrap Metal shows?
KK: I’ve talked to Brad Gillis about doing something like that, and Jack Blades, of course. We’re going to just keep rotating people into it. Jack would do some Damn Yankees, which was also a very successful band, so that would be awesome, and then we’d do some other Night Ranger stuff too, so there’s that, and Brad had a solo career, as well, and I always thought it would be really fun to do some of those songs.
Blast: The possibilities are endless!
KK: Yeah, and this Nashville show is also being filmed as part of a celebrity reality TV show. It’s part of a promo thing that we wanted to do, like a two and a half minute blast of “What is this thing?” These are the people in it, and this is what it’s about. It’s for TV, too. It’ll be about putting this band together and all the things that you go through, trying to make it work, with all the guests being in different states and, in some cases, in different countries. Eventually, we’d like to get more people from other countries in, too. But basically, the TV show would be about the trials and tribulations of putting together a band of different personalities, how things work or don’t work, certain songs and how different people want to play them, like “How could I play that knucklehead idea?” Well, whaddaya mean?” “Well, that’s not right!” …You get the idea; stuff like that and how putting a band together can be hard.
Blast: Sounds like it’s going to be quite a trip. Let’s talk about your solo projects, ‘Time Passes’ and ‘I’m Alive’, both awesome CDs, by the way. Has any of your new music been played live, and are you anticipating playing it at shows in the near future?
KK: Thank you. I’ve grabbed an agent to see if I can set up some dates. I’m doing some in Europe, and some in Belgium in August with Jim Peterik because he helped me write the record, so I’m going to work with him over there, but right now, there really aren’t any plans for me to do anything solo, other than maybe one or two songs from my albums with Night Ranger. We’re going on the tour this summer, and we’re going to pull out each other’s solo tunes and do that as well as the new Night Ranger songs.
Blast: And you’ve got the new live album coming out soon, too?
KK: That’s going to be on Sony/BMG, so it’s going be everywhere, but there’s no release date it that, yet. It’s a concert we recorded about 3 or 4 years ago in Japan when we were over there. We’re going to be heading back there in June to support it. Actually, the Japanese want Scrap Metal to come over, in fact, we just got that request asking what it would take to get us over there, so we’re negotiating that.
Blast: That’s great, there have been so many requests from all over the world to have you guys play; I’ve seen a lot of people from Australia and India sending them out online, too. That would be one hell of a tour.
KK: I’ve never been to Australia; Night Ranger never played there. I don’t know why, but I’d love to go over and turn people on to the music there. It would be a lot of fun.
Blast: I’m sure you’d be warmly welcomed, especially since they’ve never seen you live. The second Scrap Metal show is coming up in a couple of weeks as part of NSAI’s (Nashville Songwriters Association International) Tin Pan South Festival. Sounds like you’re going to have quite a party on that stage.
KK: Oh yeah. I don’t know if you know this, but we have Artimus Pyle from Lynryd Skynyrd coming in for this show. He’s doing ‘Gimme Three Steps’, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, and ‘What’s Your Name’.
Blast: Wow, people are going to be crazy with this one!
KK: Yeah, a little different line-up this time, because we have more special guests coming in. There’s Artimus Pyle, and Chas Sandford, who wrote ‘Missing You’ for John Waite, and also wrote a big hit for Stevie Nicks called, ‘Talk To Me’, so we’ll probably do those two songs. Also, we have Alex Call, who did that ‘867-5309, Jenny’ song. We’ll get that one in there; it’s going to be a great show.
Blast: I’m so glad I’m not missing it! Now, you’ve also contributed to the Shaw/Blades CD, and several other projects recently?
KK: Right, Mark (Slaughter) and I have a duet we’re doing for this ‘Liberty and Justice For All’ CD, and we’ve also been doing the Rock n’ Roll Fantasy Camp, which is twice a year, in February and August. We’ve been doing that the last couple of years, and there’s the Scrap Metal thing, and of course, Mark’s been out doing some shows with Slaughter, and Gunnar has been doing these cruise shows which are really amazing. I’d really love to be part of that sometime, then we’d have Scrap Metal out on a boat in the Carribbean playing a rock show.
Blast: That would be something. I’d have to catch that one!
KK: Yeah, wouldn’t that be great?
Blast: Absolutely! So, what areas of the States is
Night Ranger playing this summer?
KK: Right now we’re just starting to book shows; we’ve got about ten booked so far, nothing on the East Coast yet. There are a bunch of West Coast dates, and one in Tennessee in September. It’s kind of spotty right now, but it’s starting to fill up.
Blast: Well, we hope to see you back here. I know
the Wolf Den in Connecticut is usually one of your stops on the East Coast.
KK: Yeah, we love playing that place, it’s always a great gig; great people there, too. It’s not just the venue, the place, Mohegan Sun, is awesome; you could go there on vacation!
I’m looking forward to going back with Scrap Metal in November. There’s an arena there, too, I think.
Blast: There is; we’ve got a bunch of shows
happening there this summer. The one that stands out the most, I think, is
Foreigner; they’re coming in June; should be a good one.
KK: Oh, Foreigner’s such a great show. I saw them not too long ago. We actually went to Europe with them back in 1985. What a great experience being with those guys.
Blast: 1985. Hmmm…doesn’t feel like more than two
decades, does it?
KK: Not at all, but you know, I think I feel better now than I ever did, back then. We were always so exhausted from touring; we did one tour that was eighteen months. It was crazy, and management’s just like, ‘go, go, go, go!’ and we’re like, ‘I feel like I’m eighty when I’m twenty five!’
Blast: Wow, a year and a half; that’s a long tour.
It’s got to be pretty tough on your family, too.
KK: Yeah, it was rough on them, and we still never got to Australia! I don’t how that happened!! (lol). On that tour, we did Japan twice, and Europe, then all over Canada and America.
Blast: No kidding; for spending a year and a half of your life on the road, you really should have seen Australia!
So, Shaw/Blades is doing some US dates, also; will you be making appearances at any of them?
KK: If they come to this area, I’ll probably go out and sing with them. They’re promoting ‘Influences’ right now, which is being sponsored by VH1. Are you going to go check them out?
Blast: Definitely, in fact, I’d love to review that
show. Their first album, ‘Hallucination’ was fantastic; I still listen to it
quite a bit.
KK: Yeah, that was a great album.
Blast: Your head must be spinning, with all this
stuff going on!
KK: Yeah, I’m starting to get overwhelmed, here, I don’t know what to do! (lol)
Blast: So what are you doing when you’re not
KK: Working! (lol)…Really, working on songs, I’m playing with this band right now in Nashville, with four of the biggest country songwriters here; they set up gigs about once a month at the Bluebird Café, so I’ve been playing with them, and I’ve been trying to write with some of the local songwriters here, because I always need songs.
Blast: That sounds like a lot of fun, too, I don’t know how you manage to get it all in. So, what are you doing when you’re not writing songs or playing? When you get some downtime?
KK: Um, I’m getting ready to garden! I’m going to
dig out some weeds in my garden!
Blast: There you go; gardening can be a pretty low-key way to spend the day.
KK: Yes, well it’s kind of metaphoric of life; gotta keep pulling up all the weeds!!
Blast: I would have to agree with you there!
(LOL…am I the only one with a visual of Kelly in gardening gloves, belting out ‘Sing Me Away’ as he’s chucking weeds over his shoulder, one by one?)
Blast: Ok, everybody’s got a pretty solid list of influences. To give these guys a little background, who would you say had the greatest impact on your decision to become a musician?
KK: I grew up in the 60’s, so, of course, the Beatles and the Stones, Cream, Hendrix. Those really flamboyant personalities were what got me going on the road to being a musician. Then not too long after that, I started playing drums, and I knew once I got behind the drum set and realized that I could play the songs, it was like, forget it, I knew what I wanted to do. It was probably right around the ripe old age of eight.
Blast: An early start. Was it the same with singing? Were you singing all the time too, as a kid?
KK: You know, I started singing Elvis when I was about four. I would hear Elvis records and I’d be trying to copy the whole thing he did. The first time I saw him on TV, I was like ‘Wow, who’s that?’
Blast: I want to see pictures!
KK: Actually, I had one up on my site a few years back! I think I was eight, with my hair parted down the side, doing my Elvis thing. (lol)
Blast: What about music today? What do you think of what’s out there right now?
KK: I love All American Rejects and Audioslave, and hard, heavy music like that, with great lyrics. I try to listen to everything. I was influenced by the early 90’s music, too, and those guys who continue their career now, I tend to gravitate towards, like Soundgarden, so I love the music that they all came from. But like All American Rejects,
they have great melodies in their songs, that’s what I like about them. As well as having a young vibe to them, they have really great melodies.
Blast: That’s one of the few questions that I’ll ask in almost every interview, and I get such a huge range of answers, some of them negative, and some very positive. It’s interesting to hear the different perspectives.
KK: I know, some people are like “They all suck”, or, “I don’t know, I don’t listen to any of that”. I think when you’re a songwriter, it’s not a good idea to listen to too much when you’re working, so if I’m writing an album, I won’t be listening to anything but what’s in my heart, and what’s inside of me needs to get out, so I don’t want it clouded by someone else’s ideas. But after I’m done writing, I’ll go back to the radio and check out all the new stuff.
Blast: It’s nice to hear from someone with such an open mind about that, because the phrase ‘three-chord wonder’ is among the negative ones that I hear, fairly consistently, used to describe so many bands today, not just in interviews, but generally speaking.
KK: Well, they said that about the Beatles, and look what happened! I remember back in the day, when everyone was like, “Oh man, these guys are gonna be gone next year!”. The thing is, there’s no reason to be negative; there’s enough room for everybody, and everybody needs to be heard. I think that the most positive thing that could be happening is for all different kinds of music to be heard. I’ve been listening to jazz lately; I was a big jazz fan in the 70’s with Tony Williams, and all these great bands, and I still go back and reference all those bands and their music. I try not to be all tunnel vision; I like listening to everything.
Blast: All right, so if we went out to your car right now, what would we hear playing?
KK: Well, I’ve been preparing for this show that I’m going to be doing. It’s a private show, but it’s some of the guys from the Fantasy Camp, like Mark Farner from Grand Funk Railroad, Bruce Kulick from Kiss, Alice Cooper, Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter, and Simon Kirke, and we’re putting together this show that came through the Fantasy Camp, so we’re doing Bad Company tunes, Steely Dan and the Doobey Brothers, and then there’s Alice Cooper, so we’re doing ‘Schools Out’, and we’ll do some Night Ranger songs, too. We’ve got a set that is just unbelievable! I’m going to try to get those guys into some Scrap Metal shows down the road, too.
Blast: Wow, what a line-up in that!
KK: Oh yeah, there’s like twelve songs we’re going to do; the stuff from Farner, we’re doing ‘Closer to Home’ and ‘I’m Your Captain’, and I’m just looking at this list and I have all this stuff programmed in my Ipod; I’m salivating over here!
Blast: Is this for just one show?
KK: Yeah, it’s just one show, and it’s a private event, but I’d love to play more with those guys and I’ll get a chance to when we do the Fantasy Camp thing. That’s a private show, too, but we get to perform as a band like that, and it just kicks ass.
Blast: When I was offered more Scrap Metal interviews, I threw the suggestion box out to the fans, because, it was like, we’ve got this all-star line-up, and I had talked to Gunnar right after the first Scrap show, which was a great interview, and I would love to talk with everyone else, as well, but I had to put it in some kind of order, so I appealed to the masses, and the response from people who wanted to hear from you so fast and in such huge numbers.
KK: Well it’s so cool with something like this, because you see all the different fans come out…you know, some of them are just into the one star that they love, which is great, but then when they see us all standing out there, like when we came out and did the meet and greet after the show, it was great to see all these fans that might not have come out to see Night Ranger, or maybe fans of Nelson or Night Ranger wouldn’t have come out to see Slaughter, but it was great to see them all come together, and I realized that when I met them all. It was just awesome!
Blast: Yeah, they can’t get enough. You know, I had no idea that I’d be at that show, myself, until a few hours before it, and I went down there thinking I’d just enjoy the show and cover the next one. I didn’t have my camera or notebook or anything, and by the end of the first song ‘Rock in America’, I was sitting there watching the crowd absolutely explode, and I was just standing there saying, ‘I can’t not cover this show’, so all my notes and the set list ended up on the backs of business cards and the pictures, get this, on my cell phone; that’s where the one in the review of Eric came from. But I’m so happy to have had the chance to work with Scrap Metal; it’s been such a great experience.
KK: That’s so cool! I know; this thing just took of like wildfire! While I was up there playing, I saw Eric back behind the drum set, where the caves are near the backstage area, before we brought him out, and he was just jumping up and down, like a little kid! He was all set at the beginning of the show; he was just like “I want to come out now!!!” He wanted to be out there for all the songs.
Blast: I think it’s safe to say a Scrap Metal tour would be a success.
KK: Yeah, we’ll probably be booking dates into October, November, December, something like that and we are trying to get an actual tour together, and make that part of the reality recording. It’ll be good.
Blast: Well, I guess we’ll have to save the other ten pages for Kelly Keagy, Part II…keep’em guessing! Thanks so much for taking some time out to chat, this has really been a lot of fun.
KK: Okay, thanks, this was great! See you soon!
Okay you guys, there you have it; Kelly Keagy, Part I. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Stay tuned for part II, where we discuss…nah, forget it, you’ll have to wait! In the meantime, hang with us for the complete review of Scrap Metal’s second show at the Cannery Ballroom in Nashville, as part of NSAI’s Tin Pan South Festival, and don’t forget to check out Night Ranger’s upcoming releases ‘Hole in the Sun’, and a their new live CD.