It’s never too late to release new music into the world, as American rock band KIX proved with their resurrection back in 2003. The band was founded as early as 1977 but did not become KIX until 1980. The band’s 1988 release, Blow My Fuse, brought a wider spread fame for the quintet which saw them playing on arena tours and finding heavy rotation on MTV.
Grunge rock entered the scene in the 90’s and became the next big thing as the industry focused less on bands like KIX . The band took a hiatus starting in 1995, and fans were long left wondering if they would ever again hear from their favorite rockers from Hagerstown, Maryland.
Fast forward to 2003 and the fans got their wish. The band seemed to tap into something special when they started playing together again, and that spark brought us Rock Your Face Off in 2014. The album debuted at #49 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart, #1 on Amazon and #17 on the Billboard Rock Chart. The album featured the band’s original lineup, vocalist Steve Whiteman, guitarist Brian “Damage” Forsythe, guitarist Ronnie “10/10” Younkins, and drummer Jimmy “Chocolate” Chalfant, with Mark Schenker as the only new addition on bass.
Now, the band is about to release CAN’T STOP THE SHOW: THE RETURN OF KIX, a two-disc DVD/CD set, October 21, 2016 via Loud & Proud Records. The 71-minute film is an in-depth look into KIX’s decision to record their first new album, Rock Your Face Off, in almost 20 years.
We recently had the chance to speak with bassist Mark Schenker about everything going on in the modern world of KIX.
Schenker began playing with the band when they reunited in 2003. He had previously played with vocalist Steve Whiteman in Funny Money and had held previous personal relationships with Chalfant and Younkins, making it a seamless transition.
“It’s difficult to have a musical relationship without having a personal relationship. Those two kind of go hand-in-hand. You often hear bands talking about how being in a band is like being married. Being in this band, for me, is better than being married. I’ve never been married but we just don’t have arguments. We don’t really have these arguments like you hear about a lot of other bands having. We’re just out to have a good time and play wherever they’ll have us, so it’s been really easy actually,” said Schenker.
After KIX spent enough time playing shows following their 2003 reunion, the die-hard fans told the band they still craved more.
“As KIX started playing more and more and started coming out more and more the second time around, we started to hear from the fans asking when they were going to hear new music. Our biggest driving factor was the voice of the fans over and over saying ‘when are we going to hear new music?’ That was the biggest push and really our biggest motivator to record Rock Your Face Off, I think,” Schenker said.
Looking to keep to their classic KIX sound, the band hooked up with producer Taylor Rhodes, who last worked with the band on 1991’s Hot Wire album, during the recording of Rock Your Face Off. Rhodes has also written hit songs for Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne and Journey.
“Taylor is tapped into exactly what the KIX sound is, so when we were able to get him interested as a producer, he became sort of the gatekeeper on bridging that gap between the last couple of KIX records and the new one and he was able to really push us in the direction that we needed to go,” said Schenker. “Nobody would want to hear a KIX album that didn’t sound like KIX and so with Taylor there, he was able to keep us on track and make sure that we didn’t get too experimental or too heavy or too Lynyrd Skynyrd because there are all these kinds of influences with each one of the band members. We all have different influences and so we all write different songs. So Taylor was the thing that made it have continuity where it is actually comparable to some of the older KIX albums,” said Schenker.
Like many artists in the modern day, Rock Your Face Off was recorded in the privacy of Schenker’s fully-loaded home studio, much to the band’s benefit.
“I’ve recorded in big studios a lot and it’s much more comfortable when you have your own place and your own gear that you’re used to working with and you don’t have to take breaks to be a technician,” said Schenker. “You can just focus on being creative. So that’s how it went with recording there with KIX . Having that option for recording space is really big for a lot of artists these days, and it’s especially big for us to not have to go and spend tons and tons of money in a commercial studio and go into debt for something that, at the time, we didn’t even know if anybody would want to buy it [laughs]. But when we do another record, we’ll do the same exact thing at my place and use all of the gear that we have at our disposal and it’ll turn out just as good, if not better.”
The band will release Can’t Stop the Show: The Return of KIX October 21. According to Schenker, the project came to fruition almost by accident, after the band began being filmed during the recording of Rock Your Face Off.
“We had an opportunity to work with some great filmmakers. As they started sending me clips and I started thinking about it, we thought ‘You know what? There might be a bigger story here, instead of just random clips for YouTube that would be kind of fun for the fans to see.’ We also got some interviews from people and get some other people to sort of star in our documentary along with us. We actually had Brad Divens do the mixing on the live CD. He was actually in a band from our area with Shannon Larkin from Godsmack called Wrathchild America and he was also in KIX for one album. He took Ronnie’s place in Cool Kids when he had some problems. We had him mix the audio CD, as the companion CD to the documentary,” he said.
The DVD offers fans the in-depth story behind their decision to record Rock Your Face Off, interviews with the band, producer Taylor Rhodes, as well as notable rock artists such as Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme, Lzzy Hale of Halestorm, Shannon Larkin of Godsmack, and more, key music industry veterans such as radio personality Eddie Trunk and Don Jamieson of That Metal Show on VH1 Classic.
In support of Rock Your Face Off, KIX will be performing select shows for the rest of the year. And while many earlier-established bands may push aside the performance of newer songs, in lieu of old favorites, KIX is embracing their new music during their shows.
“We’re playing new and old songs. I think one of the things that surprised us was that the new songs were so well-received and we liked them enough to stand them up against some of the classic KIX songs in our set. We decided we were going to play a couple of those songs in our set and we ended up playing like five songs from Rock Your Face Off in the set on a regular basis. The new material stacked up really well with the old material and so we were able to put it in and not have everybody take a bathroom break when we play a new song.”
To find out if KIX is coming to your town, check here.
While the band is planning to release another album in the future, Schenker was quick to remind us of the old idiom, “Good things take time.”
“We’re definitely planning on doing a new record. We’ll probably start kicking song ideas around in the spring,” said Schenker. “There’s no album tour cycle like there used to be in the old days. Taylor has expressed interest in being involved once again so that will put the whole team back together. We’re not interested in putting out one or two good songs and a bunch of filler. With Rock Your Face Off, we thought every song was a strong stand-alone song. We want to have enough good songs together to start recording and put out another record.”
At the end of our interview, Schenker had this to say:
“I just hope that the fans will enjoy the documentary and there are a lot of funny things in there. It’s very entertaining and it turned into quite a bit more than we originally envisioned. The reason to do something like this is for the fans. It’s nice to be able to show everything to the fans and bring them into our world a little more and hopefully they’ll enjoy watching it and pass it along to their friends,” added Schenker.