With the resurgence of 80’s glam rock music, fans new and old are getting treated to sounds from an era where long hair, [curly or straight; your choice] bare adolescent skin peaking through billowy poets shirts, tight leather pants/chaps and thigh-high boots ruled the club scene. Mascara ran down the cherub faces of those glistening under the hot lights parading on those dank stages; hips swingin’ to the music… it was a site to see all over the Sunset Strip; watching all those pretty men playing rock n’ roll.
One of the alumni coming back after twenty years of riding under the radar is the band, KIX, formed in Hagerstown, Maryland. The band was known as The Shooze and The Generators before finally deciding on the name, KIX. They were considered quite the party and cover band; in fact they were the top cover band in Maryland until 1981, when they signed with Atlantic Records.
What made KIX a household name in every MTV family living room was their ballad; Don’t Close Your Eyes, from their fourth studio album Blow My Fuse. The anti-suicide song delivered a message with gut wrenching vocals and heart-felt lyrics; vocalist Steve Whiteman brought it all home. Today the song still stands as their sole charting hit, and one could argue that they became solid one-hit wonders but then again, the members of KIX have never stopped performing. Whether they’ve been out again as KIX or working on different projects individually, they’ve never left the game they just hadn’t recorded together in 20 years. 2014 marks the release of their newest project, ROCK YOUR FACE OFF.
For KIX, not recording any new music for two decades has been far too long. Fans have made it known for years that they want new music. And now, the time has finally come. The Maryland band is primed and ready to ‘rock your face off’ with their seventh new album available now on Loud & Proud Records. It’s everything fans know and love them for: a raucous, roaring and real display of rock ‘n’ roll.
Guitarist Brian “Damage” Forsythe took the afternoon off to discuss the new release and the band’s feelings on it all. “Well we are kind of the same except we are older,” says Forsythe, “but as far as the show goes we’re still the same in that area we still put on a good show but yeah, we are older, our lives; of course are going to be a little different it’s not as crazy though there were crazier times back in the old days; but for me personally I got sober back in 1998; I don’t drink anymore or do any of that junk–we’re kind of into healthy living now. You have to start taking care of yourself the older you get. We did get locked into the 80’s but I just see us as a rock band. We’re not really out there to follow a trend or anything so we still sound like we kinda did; we’re not modern sounding but it would sound weird if we came out and changed our whole sound. I believe if we follow any type of trends it will just kill us; it’s not what we’re really about and not really true to who we really are. Yeah! It’s about having fun because that’s what KIX has always been about; we’re sort of like a party band. We’re not here to talk about politics or to change the world; we want people to have a good time when they come to see us.”
When it finally came time to record the new LP, Forsythe stated that they enlisted the help of producer Taylor Rhodes (Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne), with whom they had last collaborated on 1991’s HOT WIRE. It wasn’t just that easy though; first they needed to find Rhodes and then convince him to come on board. “We hadn’t talked to him,” explains Forsythe, “and out of curiosity I just started poking around on the internet at one point; just trying to locate him to say hi. It took me awhile but he eventually popped up on Facebook and that’s how I got a hold of him. I got his email address and sent him an email telling him that we were thinking of doing a record and would love him involved and he was a little hesitant at first cause he hadn’t done it in a while but once I started sending him rough mixes and demos, I guess it sort of sparked his interest and it just took off from there.”
KIX was ready to go but from the time they made that conscious decision to really do it; put out a new record, it took them a year. The recording parts were easy and done within two months but the whole preparation leading up to it was a full twelve months. Once they got going, the first step was demo process. “We did a little of that at first with the demo process just trying to exchange ideas,” explains Forsythe, “but it started with Mark Schenker our bass player, and I. We got together; they had east coast shows so I’d fly in like a week early and I’d stay at his place. We’d all throw in our song ideas and songs. Mark and I just started out going through all this stuff and just weeding through it and when I’d go back home I’d have an idea for a bridge section for a certain song so I’d take it and do it at home here and then email it to him just so he could hear the idea or vise versa and exchange ideas like that but when it came time to do the real recording we did all get together and we did all this at Mark’s house; he’s got a nice house with a great studio. When Taylor came up we did like a week of pre-production. We just went into this little room with little practice amps and just banged out all the songs. So yeah, we recorded all the songs at Mark’s house and booked studio time for like a week to lay down the drums. That was the only part we didn’t do at Marks, we booked real studio time for the drums.”
Since the release, the first single off the new LP, Love Me With Your Top Down, was released to radio this month and Eddie Trunk did an exclusive world premiere for the song during his “Friday Night Rocks” radio show, originating from Q104.3 (heard in New York City, Long Island, NJ and CT) last month.
KIX still love going out on the road for tour dates but they don’t tour excessively anymore; not like they did when they were all young, dumb and full of c*m. Everybody is a lot older now with different lives and real adult responsibilities. Not everyone can agree on wanting to stay out and ride tour buses all night but the guys have been able to balance the rock life and home life very well. “I think that’s why we really don’t go out and tour like we used to,” states Forsythe. “We had an equipment truck and a van and we used to tour non-stop in the old days…before the tour buses we would just drive ourselves. But like now; Steve has a family and he doesn’t like to go out for any extended periods of time; I don’t have those types of responsibilities I live with my girlfriend and I have my dog so it’s easier for me to just get up and go, which is why I’ve probably been with Rhino Bucket so long cause we just get up and go like we go to Europe every year for like a month or two at a time; I’m still like the ‘Road Guy.’ It’s funny because I was a fan back in the day before I ever started playing with them. When I moved out here in the 90’s I ran into them and just started playing out.”
Forsythe and the rest of KIX are always excited to play home town gigs and why not; they’re loved very much at home as he explains. “We’ve been doing the Ram’s Head Live in Baltimore, which is a nice big club and it’s always good there; it’s always packed to the rafters and I always look forward to those shows of course because that’s our home crowd. Raleigh, NC is a nice place; for some reason…back in the old days we had pockets of spots where the fans were just crazy and North Carolina was one of those; especially around Raleigh. It was like our second home; Baltimore Jr., and then there are the festivals. Actually the cruise now that’s fun! You know when they asked us to do that the first year, we all kind went, ‘hmmm…. I don’t know….’ we just thought it was kind of a weird idea but now that we’ve done it and I’m used to it, I actually look forward to the cruises. It’s really a lot of fun! Oh we play the M3 Festival in Maryland; it’s a big outdoor amphitheater. We’ve been doing that every year so that’s another fun venue.”
Forsythe and the rest of KIX also do the cruise circuit and Forsythe’s colorful description of life on a ship sold me. “Well it’s just a big floating party hotel,” says Forsythe. “It’s scary to think about but it’s actually not that bad because my fear was being trapped on a boat with all the fans and not being able to get away from them but everyone is actually just really nice and I’ve never had any problems. I mean there are certain areas of the boat you want to avoid if you don’t want to get swamped by people but for the most part people are pretty polite like if they see you at buffet, they don’t bug you; they let you eat. It’s mostly the older people from the ‘hey days’ who come out to see us but they bring their kids now too; so there’s a good age mix. It’s pretty non-stop like the music; there’s always something going on so there’s always something for people to do. There’s never really a lull unless they pull into port so we can all get off the boat. And for someone like me that’s like breath of fresh air! Our bass player Mark, scuba dives and so does our booking agent so they all go out when they get to the Bahamas; a scuba diving adventure, which is pretty cool but those waters can get rough!”
“I can’t say that you can’t tell you’re out there because sometimes you can but the thing is so big you’re not even really aware of movement,” says Forsythe, “it feels more like being on an airplane or something like that…every now and then there’s a little bit of roughness in the water but it just feels like turbulence. There was one year that we did run into a little bit of rough weather but it depended on where you were like if you were in the very back of the boat or the very front; that’s where you feel it the most. I know a few people got seasick that time but luckily I don’t get seasick. One night there was a band playing at the back end of the boat and you could just see everyone swaying back and forth with the boat; it was pretty rough!”
For KIX, not recording any new music for two decades has been far too long. Fans have made it known for years that they want new music. And now, the time has finally come. With ROCK YOUR FACE OFF, KIX stirs up their truest statement to date in 2014 and according to Whiteman, “It’s still hot women, fast cars, and great moments.”