Image Map

Friday, June 14, 2019

Exclusive Interview: Ron Keel on Turning a Difficult Season in His Life Into a Musical Treasure with 'Fight Like a Band'

The Ron Keel Band- Official Photo


When I say "metal cowboy" the first name that springs to mind for veteran rock fans is singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Ron Keel.  Not only has he been a constant on the rock scene with bands like Steeler, Alcatrazz and of course, Keel, but he has sold millions of records and had two albums produced by Gene Simmons. While his resume is impressive it's not complete yet. 

The Ron Keel Band released their first album, "Fight Like a Band" back in February to rave reviews. The eclectic mix of metal, southern rock and a bit of country may make the music tricky to categorize but the quality of the music will keep you listening on loop for quite a while. I had a chance to catch up with Ron earlier this week and his stories behind the making of "Fight Like A Band" make its success that much sweeter. Check it out below.

Ron Keel Promo Shot

Ron Keel on his current band: 

"The Ron Keel Band formed four years ago when we were all hired to be the house band for a major midwest entertainment complex. It was a $70 million dollar business with a pawn shop, a radio station, and a concert venue. As the house band, we would travel around the country representing that brand and we would back up major acts like Paul Stanley and Jack Blades from Night Ranger. The money was fantastic and I was able to put together my dream team. We had one hell of a ride for about a year with the tour bus, the crew, even the pyro (laughing). Then it imploded and we were left with nothing. They pulled the rug out from under us, pulled the plug and we were left with nothing but each other. 

The band was so strong and the chemistry was so great that we decided to stick together and rebrand it as The Ron Keel Band and just keep going. Within weeks of that decision, my wife was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Most peoples' lives have been touched by cancer and so everyone knows that it's a life changer, you're going to war and you've got to be ready to fight. So I had to be there with her through chemotherapy, radiation and seven surgeries. Everyone always asks how she's doing and Renee is great, we had a happy ending to this story but it was hard. The band was my support group and they stuck with me even though we were looking at a year of not many gigs." 

Ron on digging in and creating new music:

"We decided since we couldn't tour that we would get together and write. The songs on "Fight Like a Band" are what came out of that time of hanging tough and hanging together. We were able to create songs that I believe are my best work. I know that I'm supposed to say that with every album you know it's the, 'my kid is the most good looking kid' thing (laughing). In this case, though, it's really true (still laughing), it's my baby and I'm so proud of the end result. I still listen to it every day in my truck because I make music for myself so that I can listen to it and enjoy it. I put it all in perspective a long time ago. I've sold 3 million records and so if you love music as much as I do then come along for the ride.

We spent a long time on the arrangements and how the guitars work together and a bunch of other things that you do to prepare for a session, but I had never sung the vocals on that lead track before with the band. The whole first verse is about fighting like a girl and it was all about my wife getting that diagnosis and deciding to fight and so there I was in the studio just losing it, an emotional wreck while trying to sing that verse. Once I got through that then the rest was fine but it was really an emotional experience singing that song for the first time in the studio. The second verse goes on to tell the story of my life back in the 80's so it's all very autobiographical and personal.

"Good Songs Bad Times" was the first song that we wrote and I don't know how you'd classify it (laughing). It's not country and it's not southern rock, it's just good. These days you kind of have to label stuff so that people know what they're getting but with this new record, I can't tell you exactly what it is other than hard rocking, hard-partying good old rock and roll. I grew up in a time when the term rock-and-roll encompassed everything. I listened to Black Sabbath and The Eagles and both were the same, they were rock-and-roll."

Ron Keel Promo Shot

Ron on how his audience has grown:

"I love that we've got 25-year-olds in the audience just eating it up and loving what the new band is doing without knowing my history or what I did before they were even born. They get to go back and visit where I've been and then they can go along for the ride to wherever we're headed. The old fans have been very tolerant as well. Those people that have followed me since the '80s, that have been around for all the twists and turns that my career has taken and that are still there, just enjoying the music, I'm so grateful for them. 

This record really resonates in the heart of all kinds of people. Rock fans, southern rock fans, and even country fans will enjoy it. It's hard and heavy arena rock, but it is also cowboy rock with screaming vocals, screaming guitars and those thunderous drums. It has a little bit of the wild, wild midwest in there too. We had absolutely no preconceived notions of what the album would be or what it would sound like or the direction that the songs would take. We just got together and wrote the best songs that we possibly could. Some of the songs are very reminiscent of the commercial rock that I was known for in the '80s.

There are always predominant themes in my lyrics and one is the struggle to survive and the right to be who you are and to express yourself. "Fight Like A Band" is really about the struggle to survive and then the struggle to succeed. We're all in the same boat. We all want to be happy and there are so many songs on this record that embody that." 

Ron on his extensive love of music:

"When I first heard the term heavy metal, as it pertains to music, I thought it sounded cool and I wanted to do that. It sounded so exciting and wild to me. The music that I was listening to at the time was Van Halen, Led Zepplin, Sabbath and the other first generation of metal bands. They really struck a note with me and I wanted to hear the music louder, faster and stronger. I love the excitement and electricity of metal and arena rock in general. 

As I matured I needed to explore different musical landscapes. I grew up playing the blues, jazz and even classical music. I was classically trained and listening to all of those British bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. I just love music. I'm never going to write a jazz album or a classical piece, that's not me (laughing), I'm a regular guy. I'm making music for the common man and the common woman. Songs that mean something and make you feel something, and also entertain you. This is entertainment and it's supposed to be fun. You want to make them feel something but you also need to take them away from the daily grind. Music can be an escape and for a lot of us, it's a sanctuary." 

Ron on what keeps him making music after all of these years:

"The same burning desire that I had when I was 2 years old, or when I was 17 years old, I'm the same guy. I'm a little more mature, a little smarter and I've got a lot more experience, but that drive to succeed has always been there. It's what I'm all about. The business has changed completely, it's not the 80's and we're not selling millions of records anymore. It's much more difficult to sell music because people think that it's free. They wouldn't even consider spending a dollar on a song so it's a really tough business to make a living in.  What drives me is the desire to succeed, not the desire to sing and play because I can always do that, I can go right downstairs and grab my guitars and sing and play. I always will do that, but success is the thing. Success for me right now is having a record like this one out, being able to touch the media and the fans, and then still travel the world. I still believe, even at this age, that the best is yet to come. I've got to believe that. I know that father time wins every day and one of these days he's going to catch my ass, but not today.  I know that there is more time behind me than there is in front of me at this stage of the game, but I'm happy, healthy, I've got a great band and we've got great opportunities in front of us."

Check out Ron's official site for updates on everything he's doing, plus info on upcoming gigs. Also, keep an eye on The Ron Keel Band's official site for updates on new music & tour dates.

No comments:

Post a Comment