Interview by Denys, posted on 03/11/2010
Interview with:Ron Keel (Lead vocals) and Member of Keel.
Myglobalmind: Hey Ron greetings from Myglobalmind Webzine, I wanted to thank you for answering some of our questions for Keel fans and fans of our webzine worldwide. After reuniting last year and playing some festivals, the band comes back with the new record “Streets of Rock & Roll”, how did you know it was the right time to write new tunes?
Ron Keel : Before the reunion, Bryan Jay and I were writing songs specifically geared for TV and movies, two of which ended up being “Hit The Ground Running” and “Looking For A Good Time.” This was kind of a wakeup call, and we realized not only that the creative chemistry was still strong but that we had a couple of potential KEEL songs in the bank! After the very first round of rehearsals, Marc and Bryan went home and started working on songs together and sent me the music for “The Devil May Care” and “Come Hell Or High Water,” which really got my lyrical and vocal wheels turning – those tunes came together very quickly, and suddenly we were sitting on four songs which we felt could be a strong foundation for a new KEEL album and now that dream has become a reality.
Myglobalmind: A long time had passed since the bands first release of “Lay Down The Law” in 1984, what challenges if any did you and the band run into when it came down to writing and recording new material?
Ron Keel: All of the challenges and pressures were internally generated, between us and among us. Once we decided to pull the trigger and create an entire new album, our only goal was to make it as good or better than anything we’ve ever done, and give ourselves and our fans something we can enjoy and be proud of not only now but when we look back on this time a decade from now.
Myglobalmind : Taking a little trip back in time Ron, after the 1987 release of “Keel”, the band split up, can you tell us a little bit more about why that happened?
Ron Keel: The band did not cease being active until late 1989, with the release of the “Larger Than Live” album and the video for “Dreams Are Not Enough.” The two years prior to that were fraught with turmoil – we had a management change, contractual disputes with the label, and the stereotypical issues with musical differences, drugs, women – and Marc left to pursue his creative passions with his band Cold Sweat. It was never the same after that, so the remaining members decided to stay friends and go our separate ways.
Myglobalmind : Can you tell us a bit more about exploring new territory when you formed Ronnie Lee Keel a country outfit as well as the band Ironhorse, a crossbreed between metal and country for lack of better words? How different was that for you in comparison with the usual metal stuff from the past?
Ron Keel: Attempting to master any new skill is a challenge, and I love standing at the foot of a mountain knowing I’m gonna climb that sonofabitch. I have a very diverse musical background, and my childhood influences and musical activities included not only rock and country but blues, jazz, and a lot of classical training. I have enjoyed experiencing other styles as well as learning to play a variety of instruments, and each genre and each instrument has a special place in my life.
Ron Keel: Country music is built around the voice, the melody and lyrics, and allows you to paint a musical picture with colors not available to us in hard rock and metal – instruments such as the pedal steel guitar, fiddle, dobro, harmonica, blended with both clean and dirty guitar tones and piano and organ, all have to weave in and out of each other – huge vocal harmony arrangements are another musical element, one which country shares with commercial hard rock. And the lyrical landscape available is huge – you can sing about fun stuff like drinking, raising hell, and chasing women and then you can sing about the pain and pleasure of everyday real life.
Ron Keel: In the early 90’s, country music saved me in two ways: it gave me an avenue of creative expression after the decline in popularity of bands like KEEL. I could find solace and comfort in a guitar and a song. It was also good business – I became a successful performer and did thousands of shows across the U.S. and Europe, and my songs saw a lot of action in the television and film market. At a time when many 80’s rockers were faced with few or no choices in terms of what to do with their lives, I feel fortunate that I had a means to not only stay creative and fulfill myself through music but to also pay the bills and support my family.
Ron Keel: But in the end, the nomad must roam, it’s just my nature to seek new challenges and uncharted territory – thus the creation of IronHorse, a project that combined the energy of rock and metal with the song sensibilities of country music. A great band, and a wonderful six years full of good times, good friends, and good music, but once again I moved on to the next challenge and here we are with the reunion of KEEL.
Myglobalmind: Explain in further detail the sound of the new record and how does it fit in with previous Keel material from the 80’s?
Ron Keel: Now that the album’s been out for a month or so, I think the fans and the media have already made the answer clear with their overwhelmingly positive response. All I can do is paraphrase what everyone else is saying – that this sounds like and 80’s rock album that was recorded in the 21st century, that it’s the perfect exclamation point to our recording career, and that “Streets Of Rock & Roll” is the album that fans of KEEL and commercial hard rock have been waiting for.
Ron Keel: We didn’t even discuss style or direction – we just started creating music together. KEEL songs have certain elements that define them; the vocals that must be aggressive and powerful, the riffs have to be strong, with multiple rhythm guitar voicings bouncing off of each other from left to right, big heavy rock grooves from the drums and bass, fierce interplay between the two lead guitarists trading solos and harmonizing, huge anthem-type choruses and lyrics about the rock & roll attitude. These ingredients haven’t changed for us, but with experience and maturity come the ability to refine the recipe and put all these elements together into songs that really do it for us.
Myglobalmind: Production-wise the record is very sharp and crisp, and in my opinion it holds up great with any material that Keel has done in the past, can you tell us a little bit more about the production side of things for the new record?
Ron Keel: While recording technology has changed dramatically since the 80’s, the KEEL method remains very old-school – I personally am not an advocate of programs like Pro-Tools or Photoshop which enable you to drastically alter or enhance sounds and images. I had a photographer once that actually changed a guy’s shirt in a picture by Photoshopping another shirt onto him! I think that’s ridiculous, and call me a relic but I am constantly disappointed by epic movies overloaded with computer-generated animation without a good story to back it up.
Ron Keel: I believe in musicians nailing their parts, and a vocalist leaving his sweat and guts on the studio floor, and that’s what we did on “Streets Of Rock & Roll.” We brought in one of the best producers in the business, Pat Regan, and we combined our old-school work ethic with his brilliant command of modern recording techniques and the result is a very natural, human-sounding rock album with incredible sonic qualities.
Myglobalmind: Ron your voice still sounds great and the guitar combo of Bryan Jay and Marc Ferrari do a bang up job on the new record. How important was it to have these guys back since they are both excellent guitar players in their own right?
Ron Keel: They are, hands down, the best twin-axe attack in our genre. Bryan’s forte is fast and fluid soloing that’s always on the edge, which is complimented perfectly by Marc’s more traditional bluesy approach and melodic sense. What they are able to do is truly amazing, and the incredible guitar playing is a big reason the new album is so much fun to listen to.
Myglobalmind: Coinciding with the release of the new record, Frontiers is commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the release of “The Right to Rock”, how do you think this record still holds up in the scene today and is it among your favorites in the Keel discography?
Ron Keel: It’s cool that after all these years, “The Right To Rock” is considered a genuine classic and it’s really interesting to me how the fans and media still embrace this album and give it a special place in rock history. We’re really proud that we could acquire the rights to this album and deliver a digitally re-mastered CD release that also includes our brand-new recording of the title track featuring special guest vocals from some hardcore KEELaholics.The album obviously has a certain charm, and captures us as we were 25 years ago – young, hungry, loud, raw, and full of ourselves!
Myglobalmind: Obviously to be still involved in the music business and doing what you love to do, well you certainly have to have a passion for it. What have been the highest and lowest points during your long musical career?
Ron Keel: I do love it, I’m passionate about it and I like to think I’m pretty good at it. I’ve found a number of ways to carve out niches for myself so that no matter what happens, I’ll be able to satisfy those passions and continue to make a living doing what I love to do. I have had a dream life, and thanks to my connection to music I’ve had countless amazing experiences, I’ve had the thrill of creating some special music and touching people’s lives, I’ve been partying for 40 years, and I’ll leave my mark when my time is done. Who could ask for more? As for the lows and highs – they occur daily. I equate this life to riding a roller coaster, where one minute you’re exhilarated and the next you think you’re gonna die.
Myglobalmind: What’s your advice for any young up and coming bands or vocalists out there that you could offer from your past experiences in the rock industry?
Ron Keel: While so much has changed in our world, the basic rules for success in this – or any – business are still the same. You gotta have a great product, you gotta work your ass off, and you gotta get lucky. Other than that, my advice to anyone is to enjoy the ride.
Myglobalmind: Where does Keel go from here? Any future touring plans here in the USA or overseas?
Ron Keel: We are gearing up for our first European trip of 2010 as one of the main acts at the Stockholm Rock Out festival, we’re in discussions regarding tour dates in the U.S. and Japan, and we really want to get out there and play. I’d love to make a couple of big announcements now, but our agent has a muzzle on me – as soon as dates get locked down, I’ll scream them from the highest mountaintop as well as all my web sites, Facebook, Twitter and such…
Myglobalmind: Ron a big part of Keel has always been the loyal fans, any especial message that you would like to deliver for all die hard Keel fans out there reading this interview?
Ron Keel: Thanks are not enough. These fans are so special, not only for keeping our music and dreams alive but for being patient with me while I’ve wandered the musical landscape indulging myself. I’m glad we could all come full circle and meet back up on the Streets Of Rock & Roll! I want to play in every city, and I want to personally answer each message and e-mail – I apologize in advance for not being able to do all that I want, but I promise I will do what I can
Myglobalmind: Once again Ron big thanks for taking the time to answer our questions and congratulations on the new record, it should be a big success. Rock on brother!!!
Ron Keel: Thank you for the opportunity and for helping get the word out – you keep throwing fuel on the fire and we’ll keep it burning.
Please visit: http://keelband.com/ and http://www.myspace.com/keelbandand listen to the music.
Myglobalmind Webzine Review for Keel – Streets of Rock and Roll