When you think about the long history of the blues, do you have a favorite decade in terms of releases? I love this music called The Blues, from Charlie Patton to Charlie Parker, from Miles Davis to Muddy Waters and all that came of the nameless progenitors that were before them and all that will come after. Because it is the history and voice of Black American art and experience which I am exceedingly proud and privileged to be a continuation of. I think that Willie Dixon may have said it best, “The Blues are the roots and the rest of the music are the fruits.” From The Blues to Jazz, through Rock to Reggae, from fusion to hip hop and music around the world that has been sired and inspired by those three supposedly simple chords, I love the Blues, every facet, every movement and every moment. It is the sound of the soul and spirit of my people.
For me its the feeling I got when I heard Lou Reed “Walk On The Wild Side” on the radio when i was a boy has never really gone away. It made me love rock so much. I was probably 8 or 9. The song was so exotic. Such a trip far from my world. I was so hooked on this thing that came out of the radio. “Jumpin Jack Flash” on an AM transistor radio in Philly in the early 70’s was pretty magical.
So its escape and energy and fantasy and freedom for 3-6 minutes when tuned in. That feeling is hard to beat.
Also–In the early to mid 70’s all I listened to in my fathers old Jeep were 8 track tapes of, Willie Nelson live, Ernest Tubb, Charley Pride, And Hank Williams.
3.0 – Is there an artist that sets the barometer for you today?
Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and the mid period Rolling Stones
They wrote songs so honestly. “Swinging Doors” what a brutal song. “Black Rose” is hard to top. “Let It bleed” is an amazing release as is “Beggars Banquet”.
The Stones from that 69-73 period is hard to get around. I think all of my songs have a taste of “Torn and Frayed” in them.
I think just did not care how honest and sincere I was. It was my goal to get it right like Merle Haggard done on his classics. Every song is a true story on Untethered. With that it was easy to to be free to let the songs come to life.
I was also very tuned into the detail of the pedal steel and acoustic guitars. The levels and accents of both made it sound the way it does. All of this comes with getting older and being more patient and relaxed.
Many things on this recording were done on the spot in the studio. It was very organic you might say. And with that I let go and let people do what they do best. Very rewarding.
5.0 – What did it take to get the sound you were looking for on the record?
I knew it in my head.
I had a clear vision of what it was I wanted and but at the same time it was not letting that idea take control. The Stones song “Let It Bleed” and that LP was the basis for the entire release production wise. The instrument selection along the way was fun too. Some of my old guitars & mandolins & banjo’s would just step right up and say this song is my song. I then focused on the acoustic track and the snare.
I had a family. My Son was born right after 22 Dollars came out. We had a daughter two years later. So life was busy for me just that simple. In 2011 we moved from an old stone house built in 1926 to a new townhouse. No house maintenance and the kids being older was a real treat. The songs just poured out that summer.
Simplicity and tone.
My live gear is very basic. 59′ Grestch 6120, 58′ Fender tweed deluxe amp and a early 70’s Echoplex. That’s it.
The studio is a real treat. I have been collecting vintage instruments since the mid 80’s when I was in college. Nothing is more fun than bringing these old guitars, mandolins, banjos, steels and amps to life. I want them all to be used and to sing. Let the instruments do their job. I’m just strumming.
Typically its a title or a key line in a song and I build on that. The song “Every Empty Bottle” was originally called “Reinvent The Feel”. I came up with that line one night in my garage and wrote it on the side of a box with a sharpie pen. I looked up at that box for over a year. Then I used the phrase in the song. The idea of reinventing a feel stuck with me. The song wrote itself after that.
“High water” was written during the hurricane we had in august of 2011. The amount of rain was used as a parallel to a past romance I had. The song just spun naturally out with using the vision of a big flood and a tough breakup. The riff was much more rock as I was using barre chords. I changed the feel using the first position voicing.
I have always been somewhat of an outsider with the rockabilly scene. Gas Money was described once as “The Replacements of Rockabilly“. We have never really been embraced as a rockabilly band per se. Nor did I want to be. We play lots of rockabilly but there was something a little wrong about the way we played it in the 90’s.
I have a deep love for rockabilly and I always will. The shit that comes along with the music however is somewhat silly. I have had an odd relationship with the genre for a long time. The music is magic but the scene surrounding it makes me a bit uneasy. Those big rockabilly shows are like Halloween parties.
Playing live now however we do three sets of classic honky tonk and rockabilly. The bars and clubs we play are interested in dancing and drinking not original music. We don’t get paid playing our tunes. The classics are really fun and ya know who else in Philly is playing George Jones “You’re Still On My Mind” with a pedal steel player on a sat night. No one. I think in a way it helped my song writing with playing classic honky tonk songs.
It is true. I have a few pre-war Gibson flat tops, 50’s Gretsch hollow-bodies as well as some pre-war Gibson mandolins and banjos. Each one really is unique and has its own voice and character. As a player I can pick up a guitar at a friends house or at a vintage guitar show and just “feel” it. Especially the pre-war mandolins and banjos. They want to talk and just don’t get out like they used to. yeah old wood is magic without a doubt. It’s intoxicating if you get hooked on it.
Yes, I remember hearing “Don’t Be Cruel” by Elvis on the Juke Box at YMCA summer camp and I noticed all the girls loved it. Later, when I got a guitar and started to learn folk songs I saw the effect guitars had on girls. By the time the Beatles came along I already knew the basic chords. I was too shy to meet girls any other way. But music turned out to be the best way. As far as an album that shaped my life I would have to say “Freewheelin’” by Bob Dylan because it got my whole generation writing songs. As far as life-shaping events go, I’d guess I’d have to say seeing the Beatles for the first time on Ed Sullivan. It blew my mind, it blew all our minds. You had to be there.
What was the first complete tune you learned to play and sing at the same time?
That would be “Tom Dooley” by the Kingston Trio. I can still remember how proud I was to get up on stage at a coffee house and play it. I learned the 3 basic chords of life and I found out later it fit 90% of all the songs on the radio.
With the revival of Americana and roots music is it difficult to resist the temptation to return to your folk roots and put out KIHN FOLK?
Oh, you wicked, wicked man. The “Kihn” puns just won’t die! The only times I didn’t use the “KIHN” puns for GKB album titles- “Glass House Rock” and “With the Naked Eye” both albums stiffed, so we went right back to the KIHN formula for success. I try to hide ‘em, but my folk roots stand out like Nicki Minaj’s hair color.
How did you get your first break in the music biz, or was it a confluence of events?
Matt Kaufman and Allan Mason were two law students in Baltimore when I was still in high school playing gigs at local coffee houses with names like “The Foghorn” and the “Crack of Doom.” Allan later invited me out to California and let me crash on his floor. Allan wound up working for A&M Records and Matthew started Beserkley Records. When I first came to California I used to play on Telegraph Ave for spare change. I did pretty good, too! About 40$ a day!
What is, hands down, your favorite Greg Kihn record and why?
My all time favorite Greg Kihn song is The Breakup Song because it’s always fun to play, has a great guitar riff, and the lyrics “Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh translate into every known language. That’s why today I can walk down the street in, say, Lithuania or Tasmania and people will point at me and shout, “There goes that uh-uh guy!”
You have found a new home today on radio in San Francisco; is it strange being on the other end of the mic or was radio always something you could see yourself doing?
You know, my ego is so freakin’ huge I don’t care which side of the mic I’m on, as long as the mic is ON! Radio is a wonderful way to communicate with hundreds of thousands of people every hour. I love it! Plus I can do the show in my underpants and nobody would ever know! They can’t see me!
If you had a classic fake radio DJ name what would it be? any suggestions?
When I was a kid growing up in Baltimore, DJ’s had names like Fat Daddy and Commander Hot Rod. Maybe I should change my on-air name to Beef Jerky or Greasy Cheeks or Dash Riprock.
As a horror writer now with several acclaimed books out, have you ever considered writing tunes to accompany your novels on the expanding digital landscape or in your audio books?
Actually I started out trying to do just that. The result was the “Horror Show” CD in 1997. It was supposed to serve as the soundtrack for the novel “Horror Show” and possibly a movie score but I only got 2 songs finished before I drifted off in another direction. The 2 songs were “Horror Show” which you can see on You Tube, and “Vampira” which has no video. Eventually I’ll make the movie of “Horror Show” and write the rest of the soundtrack. By the way, let me be the first to announce the release of my new novel RUBBER SOUL published by Premier Digital Publishing in the spring of 2013. It takes place in Liverpool in the early 60’s and has the Beatles as the main characters in a murder mystery. It follows their meteoric rise to fame and culminates with assassination attempts in Manila in 1966 after snubbing the Marcos Family. As far as I know it’s the first historically accurate truly fictional BEATLES NOVEL. I hope you check it out when it’s released in early 2013. I guarantee it’s like nothing you’ve read before.
Hanging out backstage with the Stones. Mick was very nice and gave me packs of cigarettes (Marlboro Box) whenever I asked, but the guy I most enjoyed talking with was Charlie. He is a very interesting man- knows about history and is an expert of the Civil War believe it or not. He’s got jazz roots. Keith and Ron just played guitars and never said much. Bill Graham introduced me and that did the trick. I was one of the inner sanctum after that. I’m sure Jerry Hall, Mick’s wife at the time, was checking me out. Or maybe it was the drugs… I’ve forgotten. I’ll never forget the rush of walking out on stage in front of 90,000 people!
What are Greg Kihn’s “Ten Commandments of Touring”?
1. Never get separated from the band in a foreign country.
2. Never leave the hotel with a chick who says she’ll take you to the airport in the morning.
3. Never drink in the hotel bar alone, nothing good can happen.
4. You’re better off smoking a joint alone in your room and watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island than going to a local club with some chicks you just met.
5. When singing the National Anthem, start low and sing fast.
6. Never drink from the mini-bar in your room.
7. Never poop in the lavatory on the tour bus, peeing is OK, but defecation is not welcome.
8. Never drink the other band’s beer, steal their women, or smoke their stash, it’s bad karma.
9. Always treat the roadies with respect; they can really make you look bad if they want. Remember, they have their own secret credo from which they never vary- (I’ll tell you but don’t say you heard it from me.) The Roadie’s Credo- “If it’s wet, drink it, if it’s dry, smoke it, if it moves fuck it, if it doesn’t move, put it in the truck.”
10. Pace yourself, it’s a long tour.
Visit Greg online at GregKihn.com
How is the European tour going so far, having fun? Well, i’m back at the shack right now, but i’ll be over there again in 3 weeks. confusing, but yeah, we’re having fun.
Any chance of running into Dixie Beauderant over there? Nope.
Do you have a philosophy when it comes to the stage? Yes I do. Bring it absolutely as hard as you can and your night’s “happiness level” will allow.
3 levels of happiness:
High level – band is feeling good, audience is receptive, monitors are happening and you find a flow. we don’t use a set list as i think song selection is a part of the flow of the night. this should make it possible to do a great set. it does not guarantee success, but places the onus on the band.
Medium level – one or two of the above mentioned factors is lacking somehow. Doesn’t matter which ones, but you’ve got work through something to do a good set. this is most shows for all bands. they can be the best nights of all. If you do pull through whatever problems it can really be a galvanizing force, and then you feel like roots-rock superheroes!
Low level – pretty much nothing is going right. the club has you in a hostel, fed you alpo on noodles, inept sound man hates you, monitors are best turned off, it’s a sauna on stage and there are 15 rabid fans there that you really don’t want to disappoint, but you’d really, really like to tank the show. we’ve all been there. Hopefully a certain professionalism will kick in, or your guitarist will go “dan, don’t do it” (geez i wonder if this exact scenario has ever happened). just a suck it up and go night.
So in the end, maximize happiness level, and go like hell.
Any tips to surviving a world tour in one piece? Oh boy, as a band; take care of each other – you’re all you really got out there. To the permanent pain in the ass in the band – stop it now you stupid butthole, we’re all you got.
Individually – rest as much as you can, eat 4 hours before the show if possible so the drummer and singer don’t puke onstage, unless that’s your thang. Make the other guys in the band laugh as often as possible. don’t be the permanent pain in the ass.
It also depends on how old and beat up you are. You’ll need to stop “having fun” as much as you used to. Sorry.
What English players, if any, were you most influenced by? Good grief – too many to list. the obvious Stones, Faces. Steve Marriot, Clapton; it’s endless.
Any plans for a follow up to the rockin’ Dan Baird & Homemade Sin debut? Yup.
Any new tunes or titles you can tell us a bit about? Nope.
How do songs start for you most often; with a riff? a subject? A groove or chord change that talks to me.
What was the first rock concert you ever attended and what do you remember about it today? The original Fleetwood Mac with Green, Spencer and Kirwin. See, there’s some more english guys.. the “Then Play On” tour. they did “oh well” without the hobbit dance theme thingy that was on the end of the record and the audience didn’t like that, so they cranked it up and did “rattlesnake shake”. Whining over.
If you had to blame someone, who really got you hooked on rock & roll? This will be a funny answer – Johnny Rivers. See, when I was 13 and was learning how to do it, I knew I couldn’t be in the Beatles or Stones. I was smart enough to know i wasn’t that cool, but maybe, just maybe i could be as cool as johnny rivers singing “Memphis” or “Seventh Son” and have James Burton play in my band. and then the chicks would dig me. Yes, I identified with a cartoon character when he said “come to butthead”.
How did Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings come together originally?
As a simple continuation of the band Willie & The Poor Boys I put together in 1985
What can fans look forward to on the UK tour starting October 17th?
New songs of the same variety as ever – blues, jazz, soul music, early R&B & Rock ‘n’ Roll, ballads – by a great team – & guest Mary Wilson (Supremes)
It’s like you are on a life-long expedition into the heart of rhythm & blues, Bill Wyman Signature Metal Detector aside, are there similarities to treasure hunting when considering what material to play?
Yes, it’s like an archaeological dig into the roots of music & coming up with some forgotten gems…
What do you think has lead to the recent resurgence of interest in more traditional Americana roots music?
The lack of very few people writing decent songs anymore.
You helped define the stereo-type of the bass player as the unassuming one; how do you like being more up front now in your own band?
I’m not – I stand beside the drums – I only come to the front on a few necessary occasions.
Dynamics have always been a hallmark of your playing, do you vary your amp or bass settings during a show?
Neither – I vary the pressure I play on the strings with my thumb.
Playing the bass vertical was because of my short reach – since I now played short-scale basses it has become mostly unnecessary.
What was so special about the amp you showed up with the day you auditioned for the Rolling Stones and do you recall what became of it?
I showed up with 3 amps & a big bass cabinet with an 18” speaker – I gave the bass amp & speaker cabinet to my old band mates – who later became The Herd (Peter Frampton)
What players were you most influenced by early on in your career?
Duck Dunn – Willie Dixon – Duck Dunn – Duck Dunn – & Duck Dunn – my great mate.
What are your recollections of The London Howlin Wolf Sessions and did the experience have any impact on you as a player at the time?
Good to play with Eric Clapton & Hubert Sumlin & help to put a great album together for Wolf – a man that I became close to later.