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Friday, April 5, 2019

Exclusive Interview: Steve Whiteman of KIX Talks Teaching, Touring & New Musical Gems to Come




(Photo: Kix Official Site)


KIX was one of the hardest rocking bands to hit the Baltimore music scene in the late '70s and they eventually had a few solid hits like "Don't Close Your Eyes" and "Cold Blood" that were in heavy rotation on MTV. In the '80s, being on MTV every four hours meant that you were part of the crop of rock bands that sold out huge venues and raked in cash from (actual physical) record sales. A lot of people still believe that once you "make it" in the music industry you're sort of set for life if you handle your money properly. The actual truth is that the music business is at best, a harsh place to try and exist. You could be at the top of the charts and playing sold-out shows now and in six months you're back to waiting tables or washing dishes. The only solid guarantee is that everything changes, rising stars inevitably hit some sort of bottom and then it takes talent, timing and unshakable determination to get back up again. 

KIX (Steve Whiteman, Jimmy Chalfant, Brian Forsythe, Ronnie Younkins, Mark Schenker) had a great initial run before deciding to call it quits in 1995. They took some time apart, enjoyed a little breathing room and eventually reunited with a fresh perspective on how to do things. For the last decade or so KIX has done things their way, playing only by their own rules and the payoff has been pretty sweet. I caught up with lead vocalist Steve Whiteman recently and he told me that they're booking as many gigs as they can juggle and new music may even be on the horizon. Check out the interview below!

Cate Meighan: How are you?

Steve Whiteman: I'm doing good, I'm having a pretty lowkey week. Just doing a little teaching and then this weekend we (KIX)  fly out to do the Mohegan Sun in CT and then The Greasy Luck in MA and then we'll fly back home again. We're weekend warriors at this point in our lives and the traveling is really all I've ever known. I have to say, the momentum that KIX has had in the last ten years or so has pretty much blown our minds because we never expected it to come back this big and to have this many dates. The fans still care and they come out to the shows and at this point, we just feel blessed. We really couldn't be happier and I don't know what we've done to deserve it all but we sure do appreciate it.

CM: How do you balance teaching regular students with all of the traveling that you do?

SW: I'm home during the week so I teach two days a week, which occupies me and gives me something to do. Plus I'm helping people who are really searching for help from someone that has been out there and has chosen music as their career. I've been teaching for over 23 years now and when I get a couple of really good students with loads of potential then it's just so rewarding. Every once in a while I'll find a diamond in the rough and that talent is what is really fun to help develop. 

(Photo: KIX Official Facebook)

CM: Was teaching always a goal or is it something that you sort of fell in to?

SW: It was more out of needing something else to do. When KIX decided to call it quits back in 1995, I was like now what the hell do I do? I can sing, I can play drums, and I can play guitar but I really can't do anything else. I figured all that I really could do with these things is take them and share them with other people and at first, it was difficult. It was also a little humbling coming off of the success of KIX, to go to a music store and sit down with a bunch of people that truly were there just to get an autograph and take a picture. It took a while to settle in and have serious people start coming to get vocal training and I also taught drums, guitar, and harmonica. I figured whatever the hell they want, I'll show them (laughing). Sometimes taking a break from a band like KIX gives you an opportunity to do something different with your life and fortunately for me, the band did come back together stronger than ever leaving me feeling extra blessed.

I was actually reluctant to get back into KIX too because I was really pretty happy teaching and doing my other band, Funny Money. That project allowed me the chance to write all the songs and to really perform my own music finally. I didn't get much of a chance to write in KIX so I was enjoying the experience of Funny Money. We were playing really small clubs but I didn't care because I've never had much of an ego, I just wanted to be out there in front of the fans. Some of those shows were so intimate that we were basically playing on footstools because the venues were so small and it never really mattered to me because I love music.  Between that gig and teaching, I was really doing just fine and it took some coaxing to get me back on an airplane and flying all over the country with KIX again. 

CM: KIX currently plays everywhere from small clubs to casinos and then huge rock festivals. Is there a type of gig that you prefer?

SW: I always look at what is in front of me. Like this weekend we are playing at the Mohegan and that's always a great venue. It's a free show so people can't complain (laughing). I also love the hometown gigs where the people that were there 30 years ago still come out and still support us like they did way back when. You can't beat a good loud Baltimore crowd or a good central PA crowd and to play in front of those people will always be very special. 

Back in the day, we were claimed by Washington DC because DC 101 played us. We were claimed by Baltimore because 98 Rock played us, we were also claimed by the Harrisburg area because of the radio station that was there playing us, and then our hometown also claimed us. We had four different areas that claimed KIX as their hometown boys (laughing) and playing in those areas to this day is just really special.

CM: It has been a few years since your last new material, is there anything in the works now?

SW: In 2015 we did put out a record called Rock Your Face Off and it was for our diehard fans. We know at this point in life that new music does not have a chance in hell of getting on any radio stations because corporate radio is not going to play new music. The only way the fans hear it is by coming to the live shows- or the diehard fans will share it. I think artists in our genre have pretty much accepted the fact that if we're making a record it's for ourselves just to stay creative and for those diehard fans. Aside from that we really can't have high expectations for it. 

We do it anyway though because you've got to keep those creative juices flowing so yeah, we are talking about getting together and seeing what we have. We've written music over the last several years and so now is as good a time as any to go back and see if we've written any gems and if we have some then we'll get together and make a record. Plus it's fun! It's fun to create something from nothing, from just a spark in your imagination to be able to turn that into a story with a musical accompaniment. You listen and hope that other people will like it and most of the time they don't (laughing). I mean for every ten songs you write you might have two gems but those gems are precious. I guess we'll probably start talking about the possibility of a new album soon. 

(Photo: KIX Official Site)

CM: You really are loving this phase of KIX, aren't you?

SW: This is nothing but fun for us now. We're too old to have a lot of pressure (laughing) and we get along like brothers. We like being together and we like being on stage together. Since reuniting there has been such a great feeling within the band. We've matured so we know what's important and we focus on that. We also won't allow ourselves to be burnt out. We do what makes sense for us and we do it at our pace. As a singer, I have my limitations now. I can't go out and do 4 or 5 nights in a row anymore and I wouldn't want to. Everybody takes it nice and easy now and that's why we are happy and healthy. 

CM: You have so many fans excited to see you at upcoming events like the M3 Rockfest (Columbia, MD May 3-5), what do you want all of those people supporting you guys to know?

SW: The whole reason that I got into music was that because as a kid loved it and I couldn't get enough of it. I would wear out records and cassette tapes. I spent 8-10 hours a day in my room playing drums and guitar. I mean what are the odds of being one of those few people that pick up these instruments and then actually gets to put out records? I never did it to be famous or to make money, I did it because I love music. Everyone in the band is the same way and that's probably why we are all so grounded and don't have attitudes or egos. It's all about the fans and without them, we wouldn't still be here. We are blessed to have them and blessed because of them.

Check out KIX's official site for news, tour dates, merch & more! Also catch them at the M3 Rock Festival May 3-5th in Columbia, MD!


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