Kix’s Steve Whiteman Discusses ‘Rock Your Face Off’ Disc, Their Collaborative Reunion + More
Welcome back Kix! The band just released their first new album in nearly 20 years with the full throttle rock release, 'Rock Your Face Off.' The time away hasn't diminished any of the band's ability to deliver a kick ass record as 'Rock Your Face Off' feels fresh to the ears. Loudwire had a chance to speak with frontman Steve Whiteman shortly before the release of the album. Check out our chat below.
How important was it to make this reunion a touring one first before you decided to go in and record a new album?
It was very important to get back together and slowly build it back up to where it is now. It was never really intentional to go out and do festivals all over the country. When we first decided to do this it was more or less because a local promoter offered us stupid money that we couldn't turn down. So we got together and did a show that other people in the area, in our area, the DC/Baltimore area, start coming around, and offering us more money than we had ever made in our careers. So we pretty much kept it to the local area for maybe a couple of years until a national agent gave me a call and convinced me that he could get us back out and doing festivals so the first one he got us was Rocklahoma and the reception was amazing.
It definitely got all of our attention and we hired him as our agent and he's been working with us ever since and the thing has just continued to roll and add more year after year to the point where we released a live CD DVD called 'Kix Live in Baltimore' about three years ago and the label, Frontiers Records, was pushing and urging for a new Kix studio album so that's what kinda got the whole thing rolling and kinda got the juices flowing.
We started to collect our material that we had written individually and we just start throwing it into a pile and that went on for about a year and just writing and listening to everybody's material and thoughts and in the meantime we were trying to incorporate and get involved Taylor Rhodes and we wanted him to be a part of this. We trusted his judgement. He knew the direction of the band and thought he could keep us in that direction and what Kix fans would expect and he did all that. So it all just really came slowly and it was never really the intentional or a conscious effort from the first time we got together.
We knew we had to get a new record out. In fact we kinda fought it in the beginning. I was reluctant. I didn't think the old fans would really care about the new music. They just want to hear the old stuff, and for the main part that is true but it was time to try so we worked really hard on it and we are all really pretty proud of it at this point.
You mentioned Taylor Rhodes in there. Can you talk about what having Taylor resume his role as the producer meant for you in terms of putting this album together?
We really trusted Taylor's judgement on picking the songs. We probably had 30-35 songs that we threw in a pile -- some written by us [as a group] and some written by each of us individually. We trusted his judgement on narrowing down to those twelve. So when we came up with those twelve we all got together to just preview the production with Taylor involved and all of the input that he had really kept us taking out parts that didn't sound like Kix, and taking them out of the song and putting parts that did sound like Kix so the band worked for the first time in a collaborative effort with Taylor. That was the first time we ever got to enjoy something like that with Taylor's direction and everybody else feeling that freedom to contribute is what made that record turn out so well.
You mention the band writing material and this being more of a collaborative process. Can you talk about what it meant to have that input coming from everyone this time as opposed to how it was in the past?
It was a freedom we never experienced before. Back in the old days, our bassist and songwriter, Donnie Purnell, it was his way or the highway kind of a mentality so it was very very hard to get any kind of contribution on an album. I would maybe get one song on a Kix album and that was if I was lucky. And the other boys were just, they just felt stymied by him because we could never come up with something good enough so when Kix called it a career in '96 we all went off and did our own projects. So that gave us our freedom to finally write for ourselves and everyone spread their wings and found out what they could do from that. And then we started putting this material together. Everybody had songs and could trust in their own judgement finally. We all had confidence that we could contribute and make a difference.
'Love Me With Your Top Down' is a great song to introduce this album. If you want to talk a little bit about that track and how it came together in the studio and a little bit of where it comes from?
That almost came near the end. We were finishing up the last couple of days of recording and Mark [Schenker], our bass player, had introduced that song and said if you guys like this, maybe we should consider putting it on the record and we loved it. It had such a great hook. It was a no brainer. Yeah we wanted to record that and add this to the record. That was almost a last minute thought for that song, but what a great contribution to the record.
'Rock Your Face Off,' the title track, feels like a love letter to good ol' straight ahead foot-stomping, fist-pumping rock and roll. It's undeniable. Can you tell me what it was like to feel that song coming together in the studio?
Brian ['Damage' Forsythe] introduced that and brought it in and had most of the music written. Him and I worked on the lyrics. He had an idea. He wanted us to write the song about the days when we were opening for bands in arenas and we would go out and just kick their ass -- the headliner -- they had a hard act to follow. Brian remembers those fans reaction to us and they didn't know who the hell we were but by the time we left the stage, they were on their feet in a frenzy. So he wanted to write about that so we played with the title for a while. We thought 'Rock Your Face Off' was a little immature, but nothing we could come up with was any better than that or could beat it, so we left it alone.
I really dig 'All the Right Things.' It's got such a great bluesy guitar opening and for you as the frontman, if you want to talk about how awesome it is to have that guitar attack of Damage and 10/10.
We have the best guitar heroes ever. Those two guys literally love each other. They play so well together, there's no "that's my lead." There's never been any of that. Those guys hear a song and know exactly which one should be playing the solos. They work great together and obviously they are the backbone of the band. Those guys are great performers, great guitar players and we're just lucky that they're still digging it with us.
As far as that track, that was mostly afterthought. That was a song that Mark [Schenker] had introduced to my other band Funny Money, probably about six years ago. When Brian and Mark started to work on that they decided to put that blues guitar on the intro and add slide guitar throughout. That evolved through the collaboration.
I realize this album is still new and not out there for people yet, but I don't know how much chance you had to play some of these songs live. Which tracks you're most looking forward to getting out there for an audience?
We've been opening the show with 'Can't Stop the Show.' This track has been working great as an opener because we use that opening riff to introduce each band member individually. So, Jimmy ['Chocolate' Chalfant] starts with the drums and Mark goes out playing the opening riff with just the base and then Brian comes out with his guitar, Ronnie ['10/10' Younkins] goes out with the guitar then I come out and start singing. So by the time I hit the stage, everybody is already on their feet and just ready to rock. It's a great intro to the song, and we've been doing 'Top Down.' That gets everyone like gangbuster. So far, everything seems positive.
The previous album releases I've always gotten my hopes up so high and then turned into a disappointment. So I'm just happy to be putting a record out at this point in my life. Whatever happens happens. I'm not going to worry about it. If something good happens, great. If nothing happens, I've been there before.
Can you talk about what it's like and how you appreciate the live experience now? Is it any different than when you first started out with the band?
It really isn't. Since the beginning of this band, we've always taken every show very seriously. We never dog it. This band goes out with the attitude of let's have fun and get this crowd on their feet and get them singing. Let's get them dancing. Let's make them laugh. Let's do everything we can to get their attention and keep it. All the little silly bits that I do during the show are usually thought out, almost like a comedian coming up with bits. I come up with things during the course of the show to make them laugh and keep their attention while the boys are drying off or getting a drink. It's all a conscious effort. We're not up there to preach. We're not up there to out-cool anybody. We're up there to have a good time and that's what Kix has always been about and we're just picking up where we left off.
The little tricks you do on stage to keep the audience engaged. Was there anyone along the way when you were coming up that you looked at for inspiration?
No, actually I was just a big turd. I went from behind the drums, I used to be a drummer and lead vocalist. They kicked me out from behind the drums and put me out front. I was just a big old turd. I didn't know what the hell to do. So, I would look at other frontmen for their stage performance, how they moved. It took me a few years to realize I've got a pretty good sense of humor, so that should be my shtick. That's what I should use to separate myself from other frontmen and use that as a strength. That's what I did and that came after our first album when we started doing clubs and we just used these crazy bits. We would play the same rooms like four or five times a week, we would come up with crazy s--t and it was fun and made people laugh and made people come back night after night.
What are some of the biggest changes you've seen since the beginning of the band to where it is now?
The biggest changes are how you make records and how you get the word out. Back in the day when we were with Atlantic, we would make records in New York City and waste thousands of dollars. We'd go to Miami, Los Angeles. We would hire overpriced producers to come in and chop. [There was a] massive debt we could never get out of so by the time our fourth album actually hit we were in such massive debt we could never make a cent. So that's all different now.
We made this record in Mark's studio in his house. We all have pro tools so we could write at home and shoot files to him and he could import it right in. When we got together as a band we really only got together for three days to do pre-production and then we all went in individually and did our parts. That's all different. You used to lock yourself in a studio a whole band for six weeks, it just doesn't work like that anymore. Nowadays with the Internet, the social media, you can get the word out without having to rely on record labels to do everything and have them take all your money.
What's on the horizon for Kix?
I'm sure there will be more tour dates but right now we're going to see where the record takes us. We have dates, anyone can go to kixband.com and see our schedule. We're all over the place. We do these fly dates. We fly in the day before, we do a show, we fly home. We just did that in Minnesota. We're going to continue to do that and see where the record takes us. If it takes us to Europe that would be great. Chicago? That would be great because we haven't played there in a long time. Wherever the record takes us, that's what we're going to do.
Our thanks to Kix's Steve Whiteman for the interview. Be sure to check out and pick up their 'Rock Your Face Off' album, which is currently available at Amazon and iTunes. Catch the band live at these locations.