There are bands, and there are b-a-n-d-s...you know the difference: the ones that perform, and the ones that give you a show that forever changes your perception about showmanship. It only takes one gig to get a fan hooked and if any band exemplifies this it is KIX, the band from Baltimore who took everyone by surprise in the eighties and is back in the groove rocking as hard as they ever did 30+ years later.
With such classics as 'Don't Close Your Eyes', 'Blow My Fuse' and 'Cold Blood' KIX became a part of the hair metal genre alongside bands such as Warrant, Poison and Winger, and like many other bands, when the music industry turned its back on that brand of music, KIX turned to other projects. For a tried and true KIX fan the void was felt deeply, because when you have been baptized by the rock and roll reverend that is frontman Steve Whiteman, you are forever converted to the church of Midnight Dynamite where you will become a disciple and devotee destined to a life of pure dedication to these "Dirty Boys" of rock...and when you leave a KIX show, you "love Kix for what Kix has got"...
Hey Steve! How are you?
Well, I'm a longtime fan, but to get started, for any KIX neophytes out there, could you give us a history o' Steve Whiteman if you will..
Probably, the night I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show when I was about 6 was the turning point in my life...I just saw that and thought this is what I have to do! It was my biggest inspiration and by the time I was older, I was playing drums and I was loving every aspect of music. I played drums throughout my childhood and since I was 13 I have been in bands. Eventually I was doing lead vocals behind the drums, and then the Shooze was looking for a singing drummer and I fit the bill. Shooze, moved to Hagerstown, and then Shooze turned into KIX and Kix got a record deal and the rest as they say is history.
My next question is about the reaction to KIX - for years whenever I have mentioned the name to anyone, anywhere, 9 times out of 10 they will say "Oh I love KIX and the very next sentence is "they are so amazing live". In no way does that detract from your recorded work, but obviously your live shows are what people, especially the fans know you for...so is there a particular approach the band takes when performing live that makes those performances really resonate with the fans?
It's definitely a conscious effort and it has always been our goal from the beginning. When we take the stage we don't expect the fans to adore us automatically, you know? A lot of bands throw their arms up in the air and expect people to love them. We've just never been that kind of band. We like to hit the stage with a lot of energy and humour and have good music to play for the audience. We take every show very seriously. I've played for 6 people in a club and I've played for 16,000 and I perform as hard for the 6 people as I do for the 16,000. That's our approach and I think it comes across. I hear all that time, too - that Kix live is the best, and I think that's great because it's always been our forte. I think it's what has kept us afloat when we weren't getting arena tours, etc. - our fans, especially our East Coast fans have always come out to support us.
So that naturally leads me to my next question which is about the new live CD and DVD - 'Live In Baltimore' - that KIX has just released. Tell us about the process of filming of the DVD - were you trying to capture that live experience we just spoke about?
Yeah, well it wasn't really a planned project - we had some friends who were also KIX fans and they asked if they could come out and shoot us during a show; it was almost like they were using us to get noticed.. <laughing> They came out and shot with three cameras and they did a really awesome job. When we looked at it and listened to it, we thought wow this is really damn good, we should do something with this. It took a couple of years to put it together because we did it all by ourselves. Mark Schenker, our bass player, was really the one that pioneered most of it and we worked with Mark to edit it down and then we needed to find someone to distribute it. We were fortunate enough to get signed to Frontiers Records.
You guys have been at this since the late '70s, what keeps you motivated?
Well we did have a 10 year hiatus when the band officially disbanded in 1996 - the whole music world had changed. Our genre of music, which we got labeled with, the whole hair band thing, when it got flushed, we got flushed along with it. Radio wasn't playing our music anymore, clubs weren't hiring us, and we weren't getting paid what we were used to getting paid, so we decided to put it down, call it quits. So, everyone went off and did their own thing for 10 years. My band Funny Money played a club in Baltimore and Ronnie's band Blues Vultures was opening for us, who happened to have Jimmy sitting in for their drummer, so at the end of the night we decided to give them a little treat and Jimmy, Ron, myself and Mark did a little KIX concert and the crowd just went ape shit. That's when we realized we needed to get back involved so it began to grow into more shows and so on, and honestly it was as big of a surprise to us as anybody.
Interesting...in your opinion do you think there is a hunger now for the tried and true rock that did get dispersed in the '90s; with few exceptions that sound evaporated, but if we use KIX as an experiment with the recent response to the band being back together it makes you wonder if listeners are tiring of the pre-packaged "music".
I think there is a lot to be said for doing it well: when we did these festivals recently there were a lot of kids who didn't know who we were but once they saw us perform it changed their minds - we made it important to get them to know who we are and now we are starting to get multi-generational fans at our shows. It stands on its own, but if someone is just doing it to pick up a check it shows.
What is your approach to song writing?
Well I've written four albums since leaving KIX with Funny Money, and I don't really have a formula or a process of doing it - I may get some good riffs collected and I will take them down to my studio and start putting them together, then I bounce it off the guys in the band. It's not just one person putting it together, it's a band effort. That was something we didn't have in KIX because it was pretty much Donny writing everything, so it was hard to get music of your own through him onto a record. I have a freedom now that I've never known before and I want the rest of the band to know that as well..We have about 25 songs, some I wrote when I was with Funny Money and we are just going to go through all of them and seeing which ones are good enough to be KIX songs.
You mentioned starting out as a drummer and then the drummer who could sing; do you think that early start gave you a different spin on being a lead singer? You didn't start out as a chick magnet but then...
<laughs> Yeah, well it does play into a natural rhythm, and I feel every kick drum beat up my ass, it's the beat I move to on stage. Of course it also made me have to get out in front without having the drum kit as a crutch... <laughing>
My last question is, with a long career and a chance to do what you want to do, what advice would you give someone wanting to be in your shoes?
Perseverance. It's easy to be told you can't and it's easy to believe that you can't but if you're not strong and don't believe in what you want to do, well.. it's a process in the beginning , finding the right people to surround yourself with, and the right band...if you're not strong, and don't believe in yourself it won't work. It's a tough road but if you stay the course and surround yourself with the right people anything is possible.
Awesome. Well Steve our time is almost up, any final words for our readers?
Well I think that's it - we are so looking forward to being on the road and we'll see you at the show!
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