I love when an interview opportunity drops in my lap and it is someone from a band that one of my personal favorites. When asked if I would want an interview with Keith Nelson, how could I turn it down? Oh yeah, I couldn't!
ToddStar: How are you?
Keith: I’m good man, what’s going on?
ToddStar: Cool. I want to thank you so much for taking time out for 100% Rock today, I know you’re a busy man out on the road, and again we appreciate your time.
Keith: No problem.
ToddStar: Let’s dive right in. You guys dropped Confessions, and this thing debuted at number twenty and was the number one album on iTunes the week of release. Is that something you guys expected in this day and age, when people are doing the singles thing?
Keith: Not at all. It’s always a surprise to us. You get a little bit nervous about it, but ultimately it’s nice to have a good first week of anything, but I want to have a good first year. I just… I don’t know. The commerce of this business is really something that is definitely evolving. It’s so odd to me. I keep coming back to a very basic premise of making the records for the sake of making the records, and not really worrying about the charts. I know it sounds like… you know, it sounds a little crazy, but we don’t really know what the business is doing right now. No one really knows, so ultimately we have to make the records because we enjoy them, and our fans enjoy them, because they certainly aren't selling like they did before, so it’s not like you’re making money off them. So the only reason to make them is because you enjoy making them.
ToddStar: I for one am a huge fan and I’m very glad you guys still enjoy making them, because they seem to get better and better as you guys play this stuff out on the road and kind of cure and feel for what you guys are looking for. As far as Confessions goes, I know this is an album that was a lot more personal to you and Josh, especially because it came from a story and I know you were very involved in… but listening to the album from front to back, including even the bonus tracks, what can you tell us about the disc that you might just not pick up on your first or second listen through?
Keith: You know it’s funny you say, I took that… we had a night off and I rented a car and I drove to see some family, and I had about four hours on the turnpike after a show one night and I listened to the record, and I hadn't really listened to it since we made it. I listened to it from front to back, all the way down through, and I was really struck by how different it sounds to me. The goal was to ultimately make something that sounded different for us, but was still us, and was identifiable to everyone as us. And that’s kind of hard to do. How can you be different but not change?
Keith: So when I listened to it I really felt like we’d achieved that goal. So something that people might not hear the first or second time around, I mean there are so many amazing lyrics, and so many amazing songs. The instrumentation going on in a lot of the songs is a lot. There’s a lot of your basic hard rock guitars, but there is a lot of twelve string guitar, acoustic guitar, triangle and percussion instruments. Things that didn't really pop up on a lot of our previous records. There’s strings, piano… it’s a lot more I think, I definitely went to greater lengths to produce it more, as opposed to just capture the band, which is what I've tried to do on the previous records.
ToddStar: You talk about the different sounds and things, and I found that you guys always have that sexy, funky groove, whether it be live or on the albums. You guys have been able to bring that across, but this album had some of those components where it just really jumped out. You get a tune like Sloth, and you mentioned the piano. It’s just got that cool intro. Or you've got Seven Ways to Die, where it’s just got a super cool vibe going through it, you know just a funk feel to it. Especially even moving into things like Air, there’s just this funk to the disc. How do you guys lay that sound down, because it’s exactly what you guys do live? How do you pull that?
Keith: Because we stand there in the room and play it together. That’s how it happens, you know. So that’s us standing there coming up with riffs and playing them together. A lot of times some of that music will come together with us without Josh in the room. We’ll just be bouncing ideas, and if we can get on a groove or a riff or something like that, then we send the music over to Josh and I’ll write something and I’ll say ‘Help us on a riff man, what do you think? See what you can come up with’. The music to me always has to make it… always has to strike you first. So it’s not just a compliment to whatever vocals are going on. It’s like the base of some song first. So if the music doesn't get you moving then, you know, there’s nothing else. Someone once told me watch the dance floor when you’re sitting there when your line comes on. Before there’s even a vocal, when people hear that guitar and that drum beat and they start moving. It always goes back to that. If the basic music doesn't get you moving then you’re probably in trouble.
ToddStar: I’d agree with that. Listening through it, so many of the songs are very strong. I mentioned a couple of them, then you had Gluttony, the first single which was killer out of the gate, I couldn't get enough of it personally. But going back and listening, are there any songs that you wish in retrospect that maybe came out a little differently. Maybe you wish you guys had done something a little differently with it?
Keith: No, I feel like I finally made a record where I left it all there. There’s nothing left to be done on that record. I don’t feel like there’s any… there’s always been something on one of our records previously where it’s like, I wish I would have…. But not this one.
ToddStar: ToddStar: If you had to pick one or two songs from the catalog that you’d just like to go in and redo, what would they be?
Keith: That would be moving backwards, and I’m not really interested in that.
ToddStar: Good answer, I love it. Again, you guys are always about the forward movement and I like it.
Keith: Gotta stay moving forwards.
ToddStar: I was lucky enough, and I think I’m one of the only photographers that was lucky enough to see your first show of the tour, and that was December 28th up at ??? Casino in Mount Pleasant, and you guys lit that place up, you tour it down, headed a killer set, and then I saw you guys opening the other night for Kid Rock in Toledo, and again you guys just blistered. Do you guys ever have an off night live?
Keith: Not really, you know. Everyone comes ready to play. This is the most important thing that we have going on for all of us in our lives. When the five of us focus on something we’re really unstoppable, you know. We’re just unstoppable.
ToddStar: I've seen you guys probably a dozen times. A few of them… I saw you open for KISS at Cobo, again you guys always bring the live show, and watching you and Stevie especially play together, you guys have such a different dynamic, yet you guys make it merge. Is that something you guys work on or you just click when you hit the stage together?
Keith: Well we’re really good friends and I think we have a lot of respect for each other as guitar players. So we appreciate that while we’re both rock and roll guys, we both have a little bit of a different take on it, and it’s all really natural when we play together.
ToddStar: You seem to have a little bit of a bluesier feel. Does that come from your roots with rock?
Keith: Yeah, absolutely. I definitely love country, classic rock, blues, that’s my background and I think Stevie is a little heavier, a little funkier and you know, a little faster. So you get the best of both worlds. We cover all the bases.
ToddStar: What guitarist made you want to pick up a guitar? Who were your influences, Keith?
Keith: So many guitar players made me want to pick up my guitar, the music of ACDC and Aerosmith, Joe Perry and Angus Young, Brad Whitford, Billy Gibbons, Keith Richards…
ToddStar: What’s it feel like when a kid tells you that you’re the reason he picked up a guitar?
Keith: It’s really hard to wrap my head around that because I feel like I’m really just getting going with this, but I appreciate it. It’s nice to feel like your music is inspiring people the way my heroes inspired me. I don’t know, it’s really very humbling to hear that.
ToddStar: Let’s say that you could go back in the history of time, what’s one piece of music you wish you had written on or played on?
Keith: Erm…there are a lot.
ToddStar: Or even an album, if there is one album that blows you away top to bottom?
Keith: I mean, Dream Police by Cheap Trick. We were listening to that the other night after a show in the dressing room, and we were just like ‘Man, these guys are insane’. I love Cheap Trick, so underrated. They should be in the rock and roll hall of fame. It’s a crime. Cheap Trick were just amazing.
ToddStar: I’m with you there. Budokan was one of the first albums I ever bought. Other than your own music, what do you listen to? I know you mentioned you listened to Confessions the other night, and Dream Police, what’s the last CD or MP3 that you ran out and bought?
Keith: Well I’m a big vinyl guy, so when I’m home I’m always listening to vinyl on some cheap stereo gear. I’m old school like that. The last record I listened to in its entirety was The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance. I listened to that yesterday.
ToddStar: In mourning? (ed - regarding the recent disbanding of My Chemical Romance)
Keith: Yeah you know, a little bit. Gerard is a friend of mine, we were texting back and forth after the announcement and man, I just love those guys. I met them right before they made their first record, I kind of helped them, I worked on their first record with them. I've known those guys since before anybody really knew about them, and I've watched their career, and I've watched them grow as men and I’m so proud of what they did. You know, you never know what goes on inside of a band and what motivates people and… I just know that they made such great music and I’m still a fan, and I just want to have that experience again. That’s a phenomenal record.
ToddStar: He seems like he’s in a good place. I read his personal release the other day and he sounds like he’s in a good place with it. And I mean, you can relate to it because you guys had a similar situation where you didn't say this is it forever, but you guys kind of took a break a few years ago, made some changes and did some things, and you guys came out stronger because of it, and you can see it and hear it in your performance. So… I think you can definitely get where he’s coming from. That’s why I wanted to get your take on it once you’d mentioned My Chemical Romance.
Keith: Yeah, you know, you never know where it ends up. There are a bunch of really talented guys in that band and I’m sure that they will land on their feet, and hopefully their fans will be grateful enough to support whatever those guys do on their own, you know, and not hold the fact that they were in that band up in comparison. When people come together it creates an energy that’s bigger than any individual. I know that just from my own experience. So… I really wish all those guys the best.
ToddStar: Good. Well how’s the tour with Kid Rock going?
Keith: It’s going great. We've been playing full houses every night. We've been changing the set up every night, including a bunch of new stuff off the new record, and the crowds have been really receptive and it’s been really fun.
ToddStar: What’s it like when you’re getting the full house and then… are you doing anywhere where you did the signing and meet and greet after the show. Are you getting a lot of good feedback?
Keith: Yeah it’s really great to take a moment and shakes some hands with some people that are really supporting us and supporting live rock and roll, and supporting the format of a comeback disc and buying records. No, we’re totally appreciative of it and it’s our pleasure to go out there and say hello to them every night.
ToddStar: That’s awesome, because as a fan it’s good to see bands who still appreciate that. Listen, I've got one more for you and I’ll let you go, I know you've got a busy day ahead of you. What’s the meaning of life, Keith?
Keith: Dale Beiberman. (ed- a GREAT reference to the 80's movie 'St. Elmo's Fire')
ToddStar: Nice reference, I like that.
Keith: [Laughter] You know what that’s from?
ToddStar: That’s why I say, nice reference.
Keith: That’s about as deep as I can get on that today.
ToddStar: It sounds like you might be having a bit of a cold, so I’ll let you get to what you’re doing. I saw you wearing the hat and the coat the other night in Toleto, so you must have been a little chilly.
Keith: I've been sick for a week. But it doesn't stop the show.
ToddStar: Again, you guys tour it up. And I love that they stuck us photographers on stage right and I got to stand in front of you and watch you play all night long. So…
Keith: Cool man.
ToddStar: So it was cool. Thank you so much for your time, we wish you guys so much more luck, I can’t wait to see what happens with you guys and what you guys do through the summer once you get off the Kid Rock tour, and hopefully we’ll see you move through Detroit again soon.
Keith: Awesome man, thank you so much.
ToddStar: Thanks Keith.