The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
INTERVIEW TOM KEIFER CINDERELLA September 2013

HARD ROCK INTERVIEWS September 2013 - TOM KEIFER of CINDERELLA

 

TOM KEIFER TALKS TO MARK AT THE ROCKPIT

ABOUT THE NEW ALBUM 'THE WAY LIFE GOES', LOSING HIS VOICE and WHAT'S NEXT ?

 

I grew up listening to Tom Keifer and Cinderella and if there's one band from the mid-eighties that has continued to resonate with me it's them. Tom has had a busy year - his first solo release, lots of dates - so much to talk about. So here it is our latest 'in depth' interview word for word as it happened. We talk about the new album, Cinderella (of course), losing his voice and how the industry has changed over the years. We even ponder 'what's next' in the world of technology... The time just flew by.

 

 

 

Mark: Hi, Tom, this is Mark from The Rockpit, in Australia, how are you?

 


Tom: I’m good thanks, how are you doing?

 


Mark: Very well thank you. You’ve had a pretty busy year, this year, out on the road for quite a while, a new album, what’s it like playing the new songs, along with the classics?

 


Tom: It’s cool, it’s been quite a few years since I’ve had any material to perform live, so it’s exciting and a shot in the arm, you know, it feels fresh again. We’ve done a couple of the older tunes, the Cinderella stuff, with like a new twist on them, we’ve added a little creativity to the show, and I’m bringing the two worlds together, the Cinderella stuff and my new stuff, it’s been a lot of fun and I’ve been enjoying it.

 


Mark: You’ve just been playing a few dates with Halestorm, also, how did those shows go?

 


Tom: They were great, really great. We did Atlantic City, York, Pennsylvania with them, it was a blast, they are a great band, I’ve been in to them for a while and it was nice to get to go and see them play live and hear how good they are, they really deliver.  The bands get on pretty well too, we did two shows and we got to do a song together in the encore, I got to sing with Lizzy, and it was a blast, man, they’re great! She’s got one hell of a voice on her!

 


Mark: That’s great. Does it feel very different going out there with your solo band, rather than going out with Cinderella?

 


Tom: It’s a different energy, because it’s different players. But, for me, I kind of have one speed when I perform, and once I get into that zone, it’s just what I do, I’ve been doing it for years!!  I think the first couple of shows, particularly the first show, with the new band, it felt like do I shift gear in to that place like I normally do, is this going to be different? But, the second I got up on stage the gears just started shifting, and I just went to that place where I go when I perform. So, in many respects it kind of feels the same, playing guitar and singing, and I just love to play music.

 


Mark: What’s the best thing about playing live for you, and has it changed over the years?

 


Tom: Well, the best thing is I love the studio, but that’s where you are creating, and live is, that’s it, that’s the moment, and you got one shot at it, and every night’s the Superbowl, in my opinion, and you just go for it, and you try and give your all to the audience, to the song and to the music, and it is what it is when you’re done. I love that exchange with the audience, the energy that we share when we’re out there, for me, it’s my favourite part of what I do.

 


Mark: I think the first time I actually saw you was at the Monsters of Rock Festival, in the UK, many, many years ago!! We then saw you at Rock in America in 2010, and also on a couple of dates with the Scorpions, and to me you are one of those bands that have constantly delivered over the years.

 


Tom: Thank you. I think it’s something that we just enjoy doing, is playing live. Some bands do, some bands don’t, we’ve always liked being out on the road, the interaction with the fans, and I want to carry that on with my solo band. It doesn’t feel any different, I just want to get up on the stage and play my music. The creative process in the studio can be torture at times! If you write a song and you hear this thing in your head, that you want to have coming out of the studio speakers, a certain energy, or sound, or feel, and you know that’s not an exact science, and you are in the creation process at that point. Sometimes things fall out the way you want them to, and you think, that was easy, and then other tracks you really struggle with, and that’s just the process, whereas live, is just reckless abandon!



 

 

 

Mark: The great thing about these days is of course, is even though we are thousands of miles away from you, we get to see everything on You Tube, and I’ve noticed you play “With a Little Help from my Friends” by The Beatles, at your shows, is that a particular song that resonates with you?

 


Tom: Well, I actually just posted it on my Facebook that was from a show we did with Halestorm, I’m actually warming to the You Tube thing, because some of them aren’t always that flattering, either the sound, or if they catch you on a bad night! That was a particularly good night for us, and I felt the performance was pretty cool, and the guy actually recorded it quite well, it had some good camera work too, so when I saw it, and I’m on my twenty year anniversary of being told I would never sing again, so that song has taken on some meaning for me. It’s something I feel every night, the support I’ve had not only from my family and friends, over the years I’ve gone through hell, with my voice paralysis, but from my fans too. When I saw the video, I put it on my Facebook, and said this one’s for you guys, and thanks for all of your support over the years because they’ve been there for me through cancelled tours and shows, and surgeries, and nights where I was less than stellar, and they supported me anyway, and it means the world to me. I’ve had a lot of help from my friends out there, so that’s why I put that up.

 


Mark: You have been through that horrible scenario, twice now, back in 1991, and then again in 2008, did you think that was the end?

 


Tom: Well, the first thing in 1991, nobody knew what it was, I just woke up one day and I couldn’t sing, I couldn’t hold a note, it just cracked, and so I started going to specialists all over the country and no one had an answer because they were all looking for something on the vocal cords, and so to cut a long story short, the doctor did a neurological test, and realised the left cord was partially paralysed. This is something that’s not really picked up on the exam, so it’s been up and down since then, I was told I was never going to sing again then at that point in time. I worked really hard, training it and started getting it back to where I thought it was going to work, so we toured with Poison, 2000/2002, and it was really feeling strong again, and I thought “cool” maybe I’ve found a way around this. But, then it started going south again, in 2005/6, when we were headlining a big tour, and it just started to feel weird again, and then we went out on the twentieth anniversary tour with Poison in 2006, which was a huge tour with a big production, but I just couldn’t sing. I refused to cancel the tour and I went out anyway, I talked through songs, gave lines away, I was not going to miss my 20 year anniversary! It was a cool tour, but it was probably the dumbest thing I ever did! I just shredded my voice, I had to have another surgery after that, I then had recovery time, and 2008 came along, and we had a big headline tour that we were going to do, and I got to pre-production and it was just shot, it blew up again, that was the darkest for me because I had nothing, not a note! I finally got introduced to this vocal coach, Ron Anderson, who taught me a whole different way to support my voice, and I’ve been using this technique and been working with him since about 2009, and it’s got so strong, he has saved my career and my voice.

 

 

 

 

Mark: When we saw you, you didn’t miss anything, so does it feel as strong as it always did?

 


Tom: I had been working with Ron, for about a year at that point, and that was the first year back from the total collapse in 2008, and it was feeling strong, still, there was a lot of thought process to it, I had a lot of confidence issues still, but I was able to get through that tour, pretty strong, and then we toured again in2011, and 2012. I am continuing to work with Ron, I’ve been able to utilise what he was teaching me live, and taking it into the real world, there’s a lot to learn, but it’s just got stronger and stronger. I thank God for meeting him, and being able to wrap my brain around what he was trying to teach me, and I’m just glad I can still do this. It feels stronger than ever, really.

 


Mark: So, you’ve had a little time off, are you planning on heading out again soon?

 


Tom: Yeah, we did quite a bit of touring earlier in the year, we wrapped up the first leg of the tour in June, with an appearance on the Letterman Show, in New York, and then we came home. We’ve had a few one off tours since then, we did the NFL Hall of Fame induction, and we did those dates with Halestorm, and we’re looking to put something together later in the Fall, and we are going to continue being on tour and supporting the record through next year.

 


Mark: You mentioned the Letterman Show, and we caught you on Rockline as well, the solo album, “The Way Life Goes” was released on Merovee Records, and just reading through the press, I noticed it was a joint venture with Worldwide Pants, which is Dave Letterman’s company.  Is he a big fan?

 


Tom: I don’t know. Merovee is an independent label, and they just have a relationship with them. He seemed to enjoy the performance on his show!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark: Your album is now out on a limited edition Burgundy vinyl, which is an interesting colour, is there a particular significance for that colour for you? I know when we saw you; you were wearing a burgundy knit!!

 


Tom: It’s one of my favourite colours! I like it, and the title on the album cover is in a burgundy lettering, and it just felt like a cool colour to put it in.

 


Mark: The album itself is fantastic, you’ve put out a couple of singles, “Solid Ground” was probably my favourite, and “The Flower Song” showed us a whole different side to Tom Keifer. Were people surprised by how, “low key” and mellow the sound was, compared to Cinderella?

 


Tom: I don’t think so, because, well, I think there are moments on the album that are every bit as intense as Cinderella, like “Solid Ground”, “Welcome to my Mind”, and then I think songs like “The Flower Song” and “Thinking Thin” is all within the wheelhouse of things I’ve done with Cinderella too, like “Don’t Know What you got Till it’s Gone”. I think diversity is something that people have come to expect from my writing, and I think there’s just more of it on this album, the extremes are a bit more polar opposites, you know. From “The Flower Song” to “Mood Elevator” is a pretty big distance between those two, so my writing and production style is leading more and more towards that contrast, as I’ve grown in the studio, I’ve learned how to utilise that, I think it makes for better dynamics, and it’s like what I grew up on. I love Zeppelin, and The Stones, where they mixed acoustic and electric, I’ve always loved those kinds of contrasts, I guess the more you grow in the studio you utilise those things to your advantage better.

 


Mark: It was great listening to the album, and I think a lot of people got a lot out of it, especially as there was a lot of time between that and “Still Climbing”, back in 1994. I read somewhere that you first thought of doing a solo album, when you left Universal, back in the early 90’s, are there any songs that date back that far from the album?

 


Tom: No, I wrote a lot of stuff after we broke up, and none of it really felt like me, it was a confusing, dark, weird time, I’d just got the news about my voice, we’d lost our deal, and there were a few other personal things that were going on in my life. So, I was writing and I was a bit confused, I was trying to do something really different from Cinderella, and at the end of the day, it didn’t feel like me, I recorded a bunch of tracks but they are just sitting on the shelf right now. But, a few years later I picked up a pen again and a guitar and started writing again, and I had a little more clarity, I think, I was drawing on all the same inspirations, and emotions and things that I went through, but I think they were coming out a little bit better. So, no, none of that stuff from the mid 90’s made the record, but it was all part of the process of starting over again.

 


Mark: So, now the first solo album is out of the way, are there any plans for something else? Have you thought that far ahead?

 


Tom: Oh, I don’t know, I don’t look that far ahead, man! I try every day to be firmly planted in the now, and take it one day at a time, because every time I’ve tried to figure out life and what’s coming, I usually get a curve ball!! We shall see!

 


Mark; Do you have a particular favourite to play live?

 


Tom: Off the new record, “Solid Ground”, I like that one.

 

 

 

 

Mark: Now with the benefit of a few months behind the release, are you pleased with how it’s been received?

 


Tom: Yeah, so far, so good. The fans seem to like it; I’m having a great time on the road touring, meeting the fans and hearing their thoughts on it. We’re just getting started; we’ll be working it all next year, so I’m very fortunate to have a very committed label.

 


Mark: That’s great news, are you thinking of taking it overseas?

 


Tom: We would love to. Like I said we are going to be out all next year, so we will see where it all leads, but absolutely, yeah! We do have a lot of places to get to here in the States, but after that we’ll start looking to that.

 


Mark: I can imagine there are a lot of people out there who would love to go and see you. I read somewhere that years ago, you were pretty uncomfortable getting out there and singing originally, and that you would hide behind your guitar. Has that changed over the years, do you still need the guitar; would you feel naked without it?

 


Tom: No, as the years go on, I love playing guitar, but I feel freer up there, and I just think if you’re a singer who plays guitar you are cemented to that one place on the stage, and sometimes that feels a little confining. More and more I’ve done songs, 3 or 4 in a show, where I’ve put the guitar down and found more and more that I’ve enjoyed that. Particularly with the voice condition, it takes a lot of concentration to keep it really lined up, I have to remember all the techniques to keep it working, and sometimes the guitar playing is a little distraction from that. In later years, in light of the condition that I have I think I probably sing a little bit better when I’m not dealing with the guitar too. I get to work the stage a little bit more too, there’s more freedom up there, but I’ll never stop playing guitars, I love playing!

 


Mark: As a guitar player who do you look to as your role models?

 


Tom: I grew up in a time where guitars were king, and Jimmy Page, Keith Richards; Joe Walsh is an idol of mine, Bad Company, Foreigner, the guitars were amazing in that stuff. Lindsey Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac, there was a lot of diversity in the seventies when I was growing up, so Michael Schenker was another one; I loved that early UFO stuff. I could go on and on, and Johnny Winter and all that blues stuff, Muddy Waters, BB King, was my first exposure to real blues, some of that stuff sounds simpler than it is; it’s very powerful if you can even get half way close, the way they do. I have a lot of guitar inspirations.

 


Mark: Do you listen to a lot of music in your down time?

 


Tom; I don’t have a lot of down time, but I try to listen to new stuff, certainly in recent times, the most current things I like, that have really caught my ear, are Magic Dragons, Bruno Mars, I think is just awesome, his voice is insane! I love that piano ballad that he has out right now. As I mentioned before I listen to Halestorm, they are great, great songs, and her voice is pretty amazing! So, there’s a few in recent years that I really like. Going back a few years, I really love the band, Train, Pat’s lyrics and the song writing is very cool, Buckcherry, Jet, that’s other stuff I’ve been listening to. Every once in a while, something just sticks out and you go “wow!” I really love this.

 


Mark: Does that continue to inspire you? A lot of people complain about the state of the music industry, and it has changed immeasurably since the 80’s, when you put out your first record, but there are still some great bands out there, putting out some fantastic music. What’s your take on what’s happening out there at the moment? Where did the industry change so much, everyone cites the 90’s and Grunge, as being a turning point, but really over the last few years with I tunes and digital downloads, it’s knocked the heart out of the industry. What do you think? 

 

Tom: Well, it’s one word, plain and simple, the illegal downloading, obviously there’s nothing wrong with downloading music and paying for it. The impact has changed the industry beyond repair, and the fear is the lost revenues to publishing companies and record companies, and these are the people who develop artists, they go out and they find them and develop them. I was fortunate enough to come up in a time before there were all these streaming networks, who just have created the new mentality that you don’t find music, you just save it to your playlist and listen to it, so that really hits the revenue hard back to the industry, and all the illegal downloading that started way back with the internet, it’s just crippling the industry. The saddest part of it all is how it affects new artists, the income that they can make, they work their asses off, they get a break, and have a successful record, and they can’t even make a living! The other part of that equation is the record companies can’t afford to develop artists over three to four albums, and make sure they have the best producers and studios, and engineers to help them grow. So, that’s all really, really sad to me, it ultimately affects the art itself.

 


Mark: Cinderella were one of my favourite bands, you made the transition very early, from playing clubs, to playing arenas with some of the biggest  bands in the world, like Poison and Bon Jovi. What’s it like now to get out there and play those big stages and festivals, has it changed over the years?

 


Tom: Well, that’s a good question, because oddly enough the live thing hasn’t changed that much. You walk out on stage, and Cinderella has had such incredibly loyal fans for years, and they still are, and we walk out on stage and when I go out with my solo thing too, the same thing, they’re there! But, again that was all grown and created back in a time when the industry invested a lot in the artist to make that all happen. It still carries on through today for us, because that’s what was built, a relationship with the fans, when the foundation was built by the industry, back in a time when they could. I think that’s still there for a lot of new artists that break through. Certainly the dates we just did with Halestorm, it felt like a big concert, and you can’t download that experience! Wait till technology catches up and the I phone can now record a 3D, hologram version of a concert, and then we’re really all going to be in trouble!! You tube isn’t like really being there, so it’s still the same, I think, you still feel the same emotion and energy, whether it’s for an act that’s been around a long time like myself or Cinderella, or a newer band like we just played with, Halestorm, people love live music.

 


Mark: I think that’s the thing that will save the industry in the end, that whole live experience, until of course someone comes up with that technology to take that away from us!

 


Tom: Oh, it’s coming!!

 


Mark: Don’t give anyone ideas!!

 


Tom: There’ll be like an I phone with 6 lenses on it, that you can focus on different places on the stage, and then an app that edits them all together, put’s them all into 3D holograms, it’s coming!!!

 


Mark: Patent that idea!!

 


Tom: I haven’t got the brains to develop that software, but I have the brains to know that someone’s going to!!

 

That’s what’s scary, some of the videos I see now of live shows, it’s almost like being there.

 


Mark: Our time is running out, so one final question, any thoughts on the next step for Cinderella?

 


Tom: Well you know we’ve toured the last three years; we intentionally took a break this year because we felt like we needed it, so I’m sure we’ll tour some time again in the future. Right now, I’m riding out and having a good time, doing the solo thing. In terms of a new record, we’ll see, we’ve had a couple of bad tastes left in our mouths from some record companies, so it’s not a lack of desire on our part, we just have to be in the right situation where we’re with a label and people who really want to do things right.

 


Mark: Sounds great. Well, thanks for your time Tom, the time has absolutely flown by for me, it’s been great, and speak to you soon.

 


Tom: I had a great time talking with you, my friend, have a good day. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

Tom spoke to Mark Diggins 20th September 2013

 

 

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