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





To me in the late eighties for the run of a few classic albums – namely ‘Midnight Dynamite’; ‘Blow My Fuse’ and 1991’s ‘Hot Wire’ Kix was up there with the very best Hard Rock bands on the planet but strangely for a band so popular at home in the US they only twice made it out of the US in their heyday. I finally got to see the two years straight at the 2008 and 2009 editions of Rocklahoma, and ‘live’ they took on a whole new stature – if ever there was a band to see live it is Kix. 2014 sees Kix first album of new music in 19 years – and boy is it damn good and distinctly Kix… We caught up with Mark to find out more…

Mark: Hi, thanks for taking the time to talk to us down here in Australia. It’s not often we get a new Kix album, so we are pretty excited!

Mark S: You know that’s a very good point; nobody has said that to me yet!!

Mark: I think the album is out here on the 5th of August, and we’ve been listening to it for a good few weeks now, its Kix back to their best as far as we’re concerned.

Mark S: Well that’s good to hear, thank you!

Mark: I know you’ve probably been asked this a million times already, but why was now the right time for a new Kix album, do you think?

Mark S: Well, there were a couple of reasons, I think; the biggest thing was the fans kept asking for it. Every time we would do meet and greets, and see fans after the show, and even friends of the band kept saying when are you going to put out a new record? When are we going to hear new Kix music? After a while it started to sound like a really good idea, and the second reason was we had done the Live in Baltimore, DVD, and it did really well, so we thought this is a pretty good indicator of the level of interest, because you never really know the level of interest until you put something like that out. So, we kind of tested the waters a little bit with the Live in Baltimore DVD, and like I said, it did great, so we thought this might be a really good time to do it. Thirdly, we were also able to get Taylor Rhodes involved, and he produced “Hot Wire”, and co-wrote a whole bunch of big songs, he co-wrote, “Cold Blood”, “Ring Around Rosie”, a bunch of really good songs, and he’s a terrific song writer. Getting him involved was like the last little straw that made us really dive in head first.

Mark: I think it’s hard these days as well, I guess when you’re only touring periodically, and doing only festivals, it’s quite a commitment to actually go out there and go to the expense of recording a new album. Were you always writing in the mean time? Are some of these songs from years ago, or are they new compositions?

Mark S: They are all recent songs. I mean, it’s not stuff that’s been laying around for fifteen years or whatever! These were all written in the last two years, I guess it took maybe three years at the most. We are all good song writers to some extent, so we spend a lot of time writing songs, I write songs on my own,  all the time, Steve does, Brian does, he writes songs for his other band Rhino Bucket, we all enjoy writing songs. There were a whole bunch of songs out there that we all had, and when we brought Taylor in to select the songs that most sounded like Kix, that helped us whittle it down quite a bit. We went from thirty songs, down to what you hear on the record, with Taylor’s help, and then there were a couple of songs that were written in the last part of the demo process, so there are some really new songs on there, and that’s good because it feels really fresh to us. We were excited to work on it, it wasn’t just old crap that was lying around!

Mark: You can tell, listening to the album, one of the things we always liked about Kix, here in Australia, was that you sort of reminded us of AC/DC.

Mark S: That’s a very high compliment, coming from Australia! I appreciate that! We are huge AC/DC fans, is there any greater rock band in the world?

Mark: We don’t think so, no!

Mark S: I have to agree with you, I really do, and I think most of the guys in Kix would agree with that as well!

Mark: But, you had something more, I think AC/DC were known for putting out the same album, over and over, and good as it may be, there is more variety in a band like Kix. We loved the video for “Love me with Your Top Down”, to us, that’s just classic Kix, and it had to be the obvious choice for the first single, is that the feeling within the band?

Mark S:  It was funny, when we started talking about a single with the record label, I think initially we were all excited about the title track, “Rock Your Face Off”, because it had some major attitude, we all like all the songs, but that one we thought really moves, and has a cool riff and really works, and as the album developed, and in the mixing stages we got more and more done, I think the focus turned to “Top Down” for the first single and you know the record company steers that bicycle a little bit with their radio consultants and all that kind of stuff. We would have been happy with pretty much any of the songs, there’s quite a few strong ones there that could’ve easily done well as a first single, but that one does have a lot of ingredients that are classic Kix, and it’s a fun song, it’s a cool guitar riff, and it sounds like Summer, so we were really happy with the choice, and really had no complaints about that being the first one.

Mark: I think you’re right, and I think the best thing about the album is I can’t pick a favourite! Even the ballad, “Inside Outside, Inn” has been getting great reviews, it’s probably the best ballad Kix have done since, the obvious one, which we all know and love!!

Mark S: Yeah, Steve wrote the lyrics to that, and it’s just kind of a conversation to his wife. When I got that song from Steve, I was just blown away by the sentiment of the lyric, it was a great song and so we worked on the music together, and put it together from there. I love the song, I really don’t like ballads, but I love that one! That song I really have quite a feeling for, and it’s probably because of the lyric message that he came up with, it’s just a really nice thing to say to your significant other, and to have those feelings for someone, and to put it in a song, is really significant.

Mark: The track listing is great as well, because that’s nicely contrasted with the next song, “Mean Miss Adventure”, which has a real sleazy groove to it, and so there’s a lot on there for everyone. Do you have a particular favourite? At the moment I’m listening to “Tail on the Wag”, and that’s the one that’s swaying it for me at the moment.

Mark S: I was there for the whole recording and writing process, and so after the mixing and the mastering it changed for me. But typically for me as a song writer, my favourite songs are the last ones that I wrote, so, “Rollin’ in Honey”, “Top Down” and “Can’t Stop the Show” were the last ones that were put together for the record, so right now, those three are really my favourites. But, in the past it has been almost every song on the record! I hear you on “Tail on the Wag”, that’s Steve’s song, and I really like that one as well, that has something that I probably wouldn’t have written, and has a certain attitude that Steve has when he writes guitar riffs, that I don’t really have. It’s just different from stuff I do and stuff Brian does, and that’s the nice thing about everybody being involved in the writing process, you create that variety that it’s still not outside the Kix theme, but there’s enough variety there so that every song does not sound the same.

Mark: As far as live shows go, you’ve got some summer festivals, and next year you’re back on the Monsters of Rock Cruise, is there going to be a tour in the US to support the new album?

Mark S: We would never say no to a tour like that, it’s difficult to go out and do it yourself, not on a package tour. If Aerosmith or somebody came knocking on our door, of course we’d do it in a second! But, as far as doing club tours and stuff like that, it’s very difficult, so we like doing what we’re doing right now, it’s easy for us; we can bring a quality show to the stage, and not have to put five nights in a row together, just to make that bus rental payment. So, it’s definitely possible, and we would love to do it if a band would reach out and grab us and pull us along. I’m sure if the album does well, or the demand to do “fly” dates increases then of course we’ll do them. I always like to tell people, Kix will go anywhere they’ll have us, and that’s pretty much true, so most of the places you see us play, and sometimes they are very out of the way places, for instance a couple of weeks ago, we played, Vernal, Utah, and we played in Idaho, and those guys could never remember playing in Idaho before! It was very out of the way, in the middle of nowhere, so like I say; we’ll go anywhere that’ll have us!

Mark: Kix are a very well-known band down here, a lot of people have heard of them, especially people who went through the whole 80’s scene, but back in the day Kix never really made it out of the US too much. I think you played a handful of dates in the UK, and there was a Japanese tour, why do you think that was? Did the breaks just not come back then?

Mark S: That’s hard for me to say, because back in those days I was just the biggest Kix fan, I wasn’t actually in the band. Hearing everyone talk about it, I think it was just a matter of just really not getting the breaks or not really having a consistent management team to forge those breaks for the band, and not having the full backing of the record company. Kix always seemed to be an afterthought. As a Kix fan I would go out and see other bands, and I remember one incident, where Kix warmed up for David Lee Roth’s band when Billy Sheehan and Steve Vai were in the band, and I thought why aren’t they on tour with these guys? It would make so much sense, the musical styles are different enough, and Kix are by far cool enough to play with Dave, but it never happened for all of those reasons, there wasn’t just any one thing you could put your finger on. They did tours with Whitesnake, Tesla, and with Ratt, but they were never these worldwide blitzes that a lot of bands are that break a record, obviously they did well with “Blow My Fuse”, and did a lot of club dates to support that record but it was a combination of things that just didn’t quite go their way. Some would argue, it’s because Kix didn’t move to LA, they did talk about it, but who knows what would’ve happened if they’d have done that?

Mark: That’s right; LA was almost like the epicentre of the rock world back then.

Mark S: Yeah, but in hindsight, you’ve got to think that Kix, have kept a certain attitude probably because they stayed on the East coast.

Mark: Do you think you’ll ever get to Australia?

Mark S: We have had a couple of offers from Australia in the last couple of years, and for some reason they just didn’t pan out with the promoter, but they were real offers, and we were considering it. So, I think Australia is every bit of a possibility as Japan or Europe would be, it’s just a matter of jumping on that AC/DC tour when they do Australia!

Mark: That would be great, we’ve had a few great bands over in the last few years, but they tend to just fly in and fly out, so it’s just a couple of dates.

Mark S: Yeah, that’s what we were offered, three or four dates, and we thought yeah, let’s do it, and nobody in the band has been to Australia! I am dying to go, because I’m a scuba diver and I would give my left arm to dive the Great Barrier Reef!!

Mark: As a musician, if you could compose with anyone living or dead, who would it be? Who’s your primary influence? Whose music really speaks to you the most?

Mark S: Well, as a songwriter, my favourite songwriter is Paul McCartney, I love everything that he’s done, and I am constantly deconstructing his songs and trying to learn the way that he wrote things. If I could write with somebody, I wouldn’t waste Paul’s time by presuming that I could write a song with him, but certainly someone like Desmond Child, or fortunately Taylor Rhodes worked on our record and he wrote some pretty big hits, and I got to write three songs with him, so that was really terrific. He’s written songs for Aerosmith and Bon Jovi, and he’s a seasoned, veteran songwriter and I learned a tonne from him. Anyone who’s had a long career in song writing would be somebody that I would pick, but Paul McCartney has always been my favourite. As a bass player, I’ve always been a major Rush fan, I’ve seen them like 45 times! They’ve always been one of my favourite bands, it’s always been a toss-up between them and Led Zeppelin, depending on what phase of life I’m at.

Mark: Some good favourites there, I’ve just seen Rush the once, unfortunately! What’s the one song that Kix could never get away with not playing live, do you think?

Mark S: That’s a good question because there seems to be more than one! One song that we have left out of the set on occasion due to time constraints is “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”, and boy, do we ever hear about it!! We feel bad, because people come to see the band to hear their favourite songs and once in a while due to time constraints we can’t do it. One of the songs that has been out of the set list for maybe six months is “Cold Shower”, and we really hear about it, “when are you going to bring “Cold Shower back?”. So, we do listen and we are very conscious of what the fans say, they post stuff on our Facebook page, and we do try and change the set list all the time, we put songs from the catalogue back in the set and rotate them, so that every time someone comes to see us they don’t hear the same old crap! Other bands go out there and play the same set list over and over for years and years, and people just get tired of it. We, as musicians, would get tired of playing that, so we made a conscious effort to rotate those songs that people love, in and out of the set, as often as possible.

Mark: So, going back to when you were a fan, what was the one song that you came to see?
Mark S: I think my favourite Kix album is “Dynamite”, and my favourite song was “Cold Shower” because it has a great bass part and it just has a certain attitude, so that and “Midnight Dynamite” were the two songs I used to really look forward to back in the day! They never disappointed!

Mark: If you could have been a fly on the wall for the creation of any great album, at any point in time, what would it be for you and why?

Mark S: I would say without a doubt, “Physical Graffiti” by Led Zeppelin, that is such a massive texture of song writing and sound, and attitude and playing, and when you think about sitting down and working on that record, first of all it’s a double record and there is such a vast variety of things on there, it’s like “how the hell did they do that?” So, I would definitely like to have been a fly on the wall for the making of that record.

Mark: Our final question is the really easy one we ask everyone: what is the meaning of life?

Mark S: What is the meaning of life? Well, I saw a movie once, called “The Meaning of Life” and I really have to go with the Monty Python version!

Mark: I’m with you on that one Mark! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us at The Rockpit this morning, congratulations on the album “Rock Your Face Off”, which everyone should rush out and buy, and I hope to see you guys on the cruise next year!

Mark S: If you’re going to be there let me know, and we’ll get together! Hopefully we’ll get to Australia too, so we’ll get to see you there, which would be even better!

Mark: Sounds great, take care.

Mark S: Thank you for your time, I really appreciate it. Bye, Bye.



Mark spoke to Mark Diggins - July 2014





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